Bad Religion by Ross Douthat
How We Became a Nation of Heretics

72%

17 Critic Reviews

As it turns out, “Bad Religion” is a superb documentation of America’s crisis of faith, and a persuasive apology for the restoration of Christian orthodoxy in America.
-Washington Times

Synopsis

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.
 

About Ross Douthat

See more books from this Author
Ross Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times op-ed page. He is the author of Privilege and Grand New Party. Before joining the Times he was a senior editor for The Atlantic. He is the film critic for National Review, and he has appeared regularly on television, including Charlie Rose, PBS Newshour, Real Time, and The Colbert Report.
 
Published April 17, 2012 by Free Press. 354 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Political & Social Sciences, History. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Critic reviews for Bad Religion
All: 17 | Positive: 12 | Negative: 5

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Randall Balmer on Apr 27 2012

...he misdates the Second Great Awakening, mistakes Puritans for Pilgrims and erroneously traces the disaffection of American Catholics to the Second Vatican Council rather than the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae”...

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Mark Oppenheimer

And Mr. Douthat never sufficiently confronts the way consumerism and disparities of wealth warp meaningful religiosity.

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by David Wilezol on May 18 2012

As it turns out, “Bad Religion” is a superb documentation of America’s crisis of faith, and a persuasive apology for the restoration of Christian orthodoxy in America.

Read Full Review of Bad Religion : How We Became ... | See more reviews from Washington Times

Patheos

Excellent
Reviewed by Ryan Tobler on May 22 2012

Bad Religion does bring at least one charge against America’s heretics, however, that may stick for Mormons.

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The American Conservative

Excellent
Reviewed by Eve Tushnet on May 13 2012

Still, it would be churlish to complain about a book as heartfelt and thoughtful as this one.

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The Aquila Report

Excellent
Reviewed by Tim Padgett on Jun 01 2012

What is remarkable is that with Ross Douthat being who he is and having the prominence that he does, there are a great many people who will take the time to take this in when they otherwise would not come near these ideas with a ten foot pole.

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Christianity Today

Below average
Reviewed by John Wilson on Apr 01 2012

As you may have gathered from my summary of the book, I read Bad Religion with mounting exasperation.

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The American Catholic

Excellent
Reviewed by John Henry on Jun 18 2012

In many respects, Bad Religion reads as an extended and thoughtful reflection on the themes of two of G.K. Chesterton’s best works, Orthodoxy and Heretics, in the contemporary United States.

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The Gregorian Institute

Excellent
Reviewed by Benedictine College on May 25 2012

Douthat’s book should be must reading for all who seek to understand the times in which we live and how we got to this point.

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Commonweal Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Peter Steinfels on May 04 2012

Bad Religion is lively, provocative, informative, and useful as well as simplistic and misleading. It is a good book by a talented author. It could have been a lot better.

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Patrol

Excellent
Reviewed by Adam Caress on May 17 2012

And to that end, Bad Religion is nothing if not a compelling case for a Christian doctrine that transcends time and place — particularly our time and place.

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NYT Examiner

Below average
Reviewed by Marie Burns on Apr 09 2012

I hope Douthat went to confession before Easter and said he was heartily sorry for the falsehoods he was about to lay on New York Times readers.

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All Saints Blog

Good
Reviewed by Greg Grooms on May 31 2012

I hope that in this review I’ve painted a picture of a book that is fascinating, insightful, and very worth reading, for BR is all those things and more.

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Pastor Dave

Good
Reviewed by Pastor Dave on May 28 2012

I highly recommend this book. As Tim Keller has so aptly said, “Everyone who is interested in why the church is faring as it is in the U.S. culture today needs to get this book.”

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The Root

Good
Reviewed by Tom Provenzano on May 16 2012

While a conservative, he avoids polemics and identifies culprits on both sides of the ideological and theological aisle for the present state of religion in America.

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QB's Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Quotidian Grace on May 01 2012

Bad Religion is an excellent book. I highly recommend it to my Gentle Readers who are interested in the intersection of Christianity with American culture and politics.

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Witness

Good
Reviewed by Webster Bull on Apr 30 2012

If I could give this book six stars, I would do so.

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