Frank's Reviews > Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

Bad Religion by Ross Douthat
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Apr 27, 12

Read from April 25 to 27, 2012

Ross Doathat, a New York Times columnist, among other things, hits the proverbial keyboard at full throttle and doesn't slow down until the end of his book Bad Religion. From the beginning he sets the tone "The US needs to recognize...it is not a Christian country, but a nation of heretics." And from this jumping off spot he launches into a reportorial review of American religion from the native American through Puritans to present day. It is not the existence of heretics that concerns the author but the intolerance of heretics for orthodox Christians and the "weakness of the orthodox response." Heretics is not necessarily a bad thing according to the author as long as orthodoxy prevails.

He tells us, "Today's heretics are all eminently American, the heirs of Jefferson and Joseph Smith, Emerson and Eddy,...." And he names names in a true reportorial style as well as religions and cults that have sprung up here and none escape his blazing pen. Much is covered on Catholicism from the runaway affects on America from the Vatican II council and the charm of Pope John Paul to the horrors of priestly sex abuse in the 2003 period. He also uses the example of that little nun in India, Mother Teresa in practicing true Christianity, over American Christianity.

What is the basis of this heretical American attitude? The author says it is from a choose your on "Jesus mentality by ...encouraging spiritual seekers to screen out discomfiting parts of the New Testament and focus only on whichever Christ they find most congenial." And defines American heresy as setting out "to be simple and more appealing and more rational, but it often ends up being more extreme."

He goes into the affects of American religion of foreign persons and entities such as the 14th Dalai Lama's writings and Eastern faiths especially on meditation and spiritual awakening. The American Christianity has embraced much from Zen and Buddhism even to the point of how to make more sales.

He leaves the reader with the hope of recovery of true Christianity but not without a lot of struggle. He sights a report that in 2005 97% of the teenagers studied professed some sort of a divine; but the other side of the coin was that there was no evidence of a recognizable orthodox Christian Faith among them.

This book is full of gems and quotable sayings regarding American religion whether orthodox or heretical. One needs to be prepared to take one's time and mine these gems in order to be part of the recovery of American Christianity and not part of its demise. It is truly an eye opener and the reader will find him/herself nodding acknowledgement of these discoveries.
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