As the youngest-ever op-ed columnist for the New York Times and the author of the critically acclaimed books Privilege and Grand New Party, Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the most provocative and influential voices of his generation. Now 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.
In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama, Douthat brilliantly charts traditional 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 and down to the polarizing debates of the present day. He argues that Christianity's place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption.
Ranging from Glenn Beck to Eat Pray Love, Joel Osteen to The Da Vinci Code, Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin, 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 listening for all those concerned about the imperiled American future.
©2012 Ross Douthat (P)2012 Tantor
In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Ross Gregory Douthat provocatively addresses the drift of Christian faith experienced in the US during the recent past. He links this drift to the current economic, policy, and political malaise effecting the populace. The slow-motion decline of traditional faith and the rise of pseudo-Christian thinking is described and analyzed. One could argue details of Douthat’s arguments, but overall he makes a rather disturbing case for what has transpired. The thought provoking book is generally depressing. The tenor turns upbeat (or perhaps I should say hopeful) in the final sections where he proposes how Christian faith may be turned back to its roots. For my tastes, Douthat reveals his political biases in a number of places. However, Christians of all stripes would do well to at least give Douthat a hearing. The reading of Lloyd James is excellent.
Lloyd James is a compelling narrator as he seems to understand the material and reads the more academic sections in understandable prose. He is by far my favourite non-fiction narrator.
I think that Mr Douthat gives huge food for thought, especially to a non-American trying to understand the political landscape. Although, I do not necessarily agree with all his conclusions he certainly made me think about how I view the institutional Catholic Church, the Pentecostal movement as it is working itself through Africa and the new religion of "self". I would have liked more systematic theological depth as I thought that this could have strengthened some of his arguments. I also would have liked him to make more connections between the history of Church development in the US with the political situation now. However this is my particular bias as Church history in general and the historical development of systematic theology is a bit of a passion.
All in all a compelling "read" and I will definitely be following his views throughout the election period. Not necessarily in agreement but as an interesting point of clarification for my own thoughts.
There are many excellent aspects of this book. It is quite technical at times. This is no easy read so I would not recommend it for your drive to work. You have to listen carefully. I speak 4 languages and still found the vocabulary and references a bit high brow. Also, it is the kind of book that I would like to be able to check the references and footnotes. He makes some allegations, that I am sure he researched, but in a print copy you could check them out and especially the context.
Simplify the language and make it more accessible to the average reader. It comes across as an intellectual tome written for a philosophical elite. The subject is important enough to make more accessible to more people.
I would remind the reader/author of the words of God to a discouraged prophet Elijah, "I have 7000 people in this land who haven't sold out to Baal". I agree there are very serious issues facing the church in the USA. Still, I believe there are many people who despite the sin and imperfections of contemporary Christianity, have not bought the lies and heresy which the book documents.
Challenging, inspiring, and so informative. Ross Douthat seemed really balanced and tried to give you the information and the results so you could make decisions.
No, but I never listen to anything twice
I have never read a book on the topic of relegion like this book.
Very good narrator. His voice and style fit the book.
A history of the 20th century church in America and where it is going in the 21rst
This is one of those books that was hard to stop listening to. I had started listening to audiobooks when I started running out of time to just sit and read. This book, on the other hand, had me stoping just to listen to it. In particular his insights into how the "mainstream" Protestent and Catholic churches crippled themselves by moving away from their respective core values were thought provoking. I am a Catholic who joined the Church as a late middle age adult. Personally I am aware of some of what he talks about in the Protestent churches but have not seen much of it in the Catholic churches. Nevertheless this is well worth looking at and listening too!!
I love non-fiction books about faith, and our Bible study group has had some recent discussions about heresy -- so I thought I'd really love this book. The knowledge and information is outstanding, however the book reads like a very stuffy thesis paper (using words like "thus" and "henceforth" in the narrative). I consider myself to be an above average reader/listener with regard to reading level, but I just couldn't stick with it. I only got a few chapters in. I would've loved it had it been written for a casual Christian reader, but from what I heard, it's more for high-level seminary classes.
Audible is a life saver -- and a life changer!
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.
yes, this is the same reader who read the coming of the third reich. I liked that his voice gave legitimacy to the idea that the new religion is poison.
I appreciated that the positive thinking nonsense has been outed as more religion of the blamed. "Suffering is your own fault"
The author seems committed to not making any point- Only stating things that are obvious as if some greater point is coming up. I Got three hours into the book and I still can't tell you what the book is about- He just keeps talking about how there are many churches in the nation and there are more now than there used to be and they have different points of view and different levels of influence- which is obvious.
I bought this book thinking it was about the atheist perspective of the negative influences of theocracy in American politics- well, the author is a catholic and the book is apparently not about anything- at all! I don't think I am a dummy- I read this genre all the time- even though he said it was not what I thought I still tried really hard to give this book a chance- I think the author is afraid to say what he thinks on such a fragile subject so he says nothing- He just quickly jumps from one subject to another with no rhyme or reason or wit or moral- it's just written on autopilot with any kind of opinion or point carefully edited out.
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