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From a Catholic or (as I have) evangelical perspective, it could be easy to discount the assertions of “Bad Religion” on the trajectory of American Christianity, not because they are inaccurate (they are spot-on), but because they never ascribe the change, rise or decline American orthodoxy to transcendent forces, such as the sovereignty of God in human affairs, or the regnant sinfulness that the Bible insists permeates every aspect of human life.

But Mr. Douthat’s approach proves useful in the worth of “Bad Religion” as Christian apology. Any book that postulates a biblical theology alone to explain the socio-historical decline of orthodoxy will probably have difficulty affecting the intellectual sensibilities of the major prospective audience of “Bad Religion”: the thinking classes of Manhattan and Washington.

The carefully reasoned and documented critiques in “Bad Religion” of America’s heretical Christian practices bespeak an honesty that deftly serves its goal: “to persuade even the most skeptical reader that traditional Christian faith might have more to offer this country than either its flawed defenders or its fashionable enemies would have it believe.”

• David Wilezol is a producer for “Morning in America,” a nationally syndicated radio show hosted by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.