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I find Ross Douthat’s writing invariably interesting, so I am especially looking forward to the release next month of his book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

Here is the publisher’s description:

As the youngest-ever op-ed columnist for the New York Times, Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the most provocative and influential voices of his generation. In Bad Religion he offers a masterful and hard-hitting account of how American Christianity has gone off the rails—and why it threatens to take American society with it.

Writing for an era dominated by recession, gridlock, and fears of American decline, Douthat exposes the spiritual roots of the nation’s political and economic crises. He argues that America’s problem isn’t too much religion, as a growing chorus of atheists have argued; nor is it an intolerant secularism, as many on the Christian right believe. Rather, it’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and encourage our worst impulses.

These faiths speak from many pulpits—conservative and liberal, political and pop cultural, traditionally religious and fashionably “spiritual”—and many of their preachers claim a Christian warrant. But they are increasingly offering distortions of traditional Christianity—not the real thing. Christianity’s place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, Douthat argues, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption.

In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama, he brilliantly charts institutional Christianity’s decline from a vigorous, mainstream, and bipartisan faith—which acted as a “vital center” and the moral force behind the civil rights movement—through the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s to the polarizing debates of the present day. Ranging from Glenn Beck to Barack Obama, Eat Pray Love to Joel Osteen, and Oprah Winfrey to The Da Vinci Code, Douthat explores how the prosperity gospel’s mantra of “pray and grow rich,” a cult of self-esteem that reduces God to a life coach, and the warring political religions of left and right have crippled the country’s ability to confront our most pressing challenges and accelerated American decline.

His urgent call for a revival of traditional Christianity is sure to generate controversy, and it will be vital reading for all those concerned about the imperiled American future.


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9 thoughts on “Ross Douthat’s Next Book: How We Became a Nation of Heretics”

  1. SoSpricht says:

    I think Douthat hits the mark! Thanks for sharing this, Justin.

  2. "lee n. field" says:

    In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama,

    Not a harkening back to a ’50s golden age, I hope.

    I will keep an eye out for this.

  3. Will be interesting to compare this work with Iain Murray’s “Evangelicalism Divided”.

  4. Brian Karlik says:

    I am interested in hearing what Bad Religion has to say about science. Any ideas?

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Does “political religion of the right” mean that it’s wrong for Christians, pastors, and churches to make statements against abortion and against gay marriage?

    If it makes a difference, is it wrong for Christians, pastors, and churches to make statements FOR unborn life and FOR one-man, one-woman marriage?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      No. Douthat makes such statements regularly and eloquently.

  6. Sounds like a great read! Thanks for tipping us off to it. I expect he is going to really hit a chord with many.

  7. Brian Karlik says:

    Pardon me for asking again, Justin. But, in discussing how America has become a nation of heretics, does Mr. Douthart make any reference to science and biblical interpretation? I would venture to say that in the past 50 years, the general church’s acceptance of the popular assumption that the earth is 4.6 (or so) billion years old (and all that goes with that assumption) has dramatically undermined biblical reliability and contributed to the current state or “heresy.”

  8. Brian Karlik says:

    Pardon me for asking again, Justin. But, in discussing how America has become a nation of heretics, does Mr. Douthart make any reference to science and biblical interpretation? I would venture to say that in the past 50 years, the general church’s acceptance of the popular assumption that the earth is 4.6 (or so) billion years old (and all that goes with that assumption) has dramatically undermined biblical reliability and contributed to the current state or “heresy.”

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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