Reviews of Douthat’s “Bad Religion”

Here are a couple of reviews of Ross Douthat’s very interesting, and certainly provocative, book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press 2012).  As one might expect, given the claims in the book and the respective reviewers, the reviews are generally quite negative (one can always sense in a dyspeptic review like Winters’s something more at work than just a straight review of the book; see also his reply to Douthat’s response), though Randall Balmer does have one or two positive things to say.  (Aside: he also has this perplexing line, “institutions, in my experience, are remarkably poor vehicles for piety” — and one wonders why there is a difference of opinion between himself and Douthat about the value of the Church…).  

Though I have not yet read it, one of the key claims in the book seems to relate to the Establishment Clause at least in an indirect way: in the absence of an established national church, Christianity was particularly important for the United States as a cultural binding agent.  That would indeed be upsetting to those who view the primary purpose of the Establishment Clause either in separationist terms or as a way to secularize society.

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