Ross Douthat on Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

October 11, 2012

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Ross Douthat. Photo by Susan Etheridge.

Ross Douthat is a Catholic conservative and the youngest opinion columnist in the history of The New York Times. His latest book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, is a compelling critique of contemporary Christianity.

Douthat advocates a return to authentic tradition and genuine communitarianism in the face of self-centered spirituality (on the left) and wealth-obsessed evangelicalism (on the right). “Both doubters and believers have benefited from the role that institutional Christianity has traditionally played in our national life,” he says, citing Christianity’s “communal role, as a driver of assimilation and a guarantor of social peace, and its prophetic role, as a curb against our national excesses and a constant reminder of our national ideals.”
 
In Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Douthat charts institutional Christianity’s decline from a vigorous, mainstream, and bipartisan faith through the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s to the polarizing debates of the present day.
 
Before joining The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in 2009, Douthat was a senior editor at The Atlantic and a blogger for theatlantic.com. He is the author of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class (Hyperion, 2005) and the co-author, with Reihan Salam, of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (Doubleday, 2008). 
 
Elmhurst College is a leading liberal arts college located eight miles west of Chicago. The college’s mission is to prepare its students for meaningful and ethical work in a multicultural, global society. Approximately 3,400 full- and part-time students are enrolled in its 23 undergraduate academic departments and 11 graduate degree programs.
 
Recorded Thursday, October 11, 2012 at Elmhurst College.