Bad Religion

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of HereticsBad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics by Ross Douthat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really excellent work: modern religious history with points of application for our religion and politics now. Worth reading.

The split of irreligious politics and overly political religion is a sharp insight. Aligning with a political party gets the religious in trouble, as those parties seldom have any objective beyond their own power. While a temporary alliance may pursue the right ends, such as when religious leaders joined some Democrats to achieve the civil rights victory, a permanent alliance never permanently pursues those ends. Whether it's baby killing Democrats or leviathan building Republicans, political parties cannot have wholly sacred goals.
I'm not sure Douthat really lands the argument on what to do about this, i.e. when and how to engage in politics, but this presentation of the problem is worth something.
Meta thought
Thematic reading is one of the emerging themes from my 50 in 2014 project. Connected books teach me. Bad Religion connected overtly (by reference) and in concept at length to books I read earlier in the year. Douthat's general review of 20th century American religion references and responds to much of The American Religion. His meditation on Protestantism, especially mainline at its height, certainly builds on The Christian Century (both the book and the periodical it chronicles). 

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