Torture the words of the Bible sufficiently and any endeavor can be justified. Douthat utilizes this scripture-twisting tradition to select history, authors, and statistics to build his thesis, which is: the only hope for Christianity, (or the ultimate fate of Christianity; depending on the chapter), is a return to the more extreme, self-sacrificing, exclusive brands of old time religion. The swath of destruction that most churches have plowed from earliest history to the present doesn't come up.
The "bad" of 'Bad Religion' is the corruption of the main doctrines (he mostly picks on Evangelicals) from the past 60 years or so. He claims that inclusion of gays, women, divorce, abortion, and even contemporary music, have only ever undermined the foundations of the chapel. I share Douthat's disdain for retrofitting doctrine to bless the vanity and materialism of the times, all the while claiming "religious virtues". However, I take issue with the hypocrisy of that practice. Douthat, on the other hand, is piqued because adherents are just not suffering enough for Jesus.
He further discredits his work by trivializing or ignoring the scholarship of those who challenge the validity or even the necessity of religion. (He thinks the textual criticism of Bart D. Ehrman is lacking, Sam Harris is a lightweight, Christopher Hitchens is barely on the radar, Richard Dawkins got a mention but Mother "No Morphine-No Condoms" Theresa is the Real Thing).
His unspoken conclusions are dangerous. The perfect Douthat World would dial the clock back about 60 years or more for women and civil rights. It would clear the barriers between continued progress and the otherworldly goals of those of the new Right, (those very people that messed up his Catholic Ideal). He also appeared to rationalize racism as a price paid for keeping religions separated from each other; distinct and pure.
Two stars: one for his excellent writing and another for exposing me to an interesting variety of fallacious arguments.
Five stars for Lloyd James' narration. It was so professional and engaging it nearly obscured the medieval ideas he was relaying.
Evidently there are some who respond to, and are motivated by, crass language and patronizing, denigrating lectures. I'm not one of them. I adore the artful use of "Bitch" and "f-censored-" and especially appreciate a speaker who can use a cuss with color. But this book takes it all too, too far. I found "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano to be more inspiring and well-written -- it has more doable strategies for weight loss and maintenance as well.
If Scott Brick (the narrator) were to read this review, every banal word of it would be laden with high drama, full of pregnant, ill-placed pauses. Inane sentences, such as this one, would be saturated with false doom. If I were to write something poignant you'll miss it because Brick reads everything as a Greek tragedy.
I gave the book 5 stars to compensate the author in my small way. His reputedly great story has been aurally massacred. For audiophiles, that's a very sad thing.
Dubus makes a few ordinary people's stories fascinating by showing the (sometimes crazy) rationale behind their choices. It's engrossing from the start but it's no joy-ride.
It opens on a scene that puts the main characters on their personal trajectories and never deviates from those paths, even when they collide. A small part of me held out for a Hollywood ending but I was gratified and truly shocked to see that Dubus held fast to his characters' fates.
I left off a star because the stated reasons for Burdon's commitment to Kathy were weak, borrowed from the lips of a lonely man in a bar; any guy, any bar. He was essential but he never rang true.
It's the sort of story where the plot is revealed through each of the character's choices and if you enjoy that, then House of Sand and Fog will give you a super read.
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