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So there is a hole in the center of American culture. Once filled by the mainline and not replaced by Catholicism, that space has been filled by a kind of extreme individualism; religion is what you make of it, or you can make nothing of it. However, a common civil religion, of a sort, has always defined the American polity, even within its broad wash of tolerance for people going their own way.

As Tocqueville and others have recognized, American religion and American exceptionalism have proceeded together. Now that they have been sundered, other choices present themselves. “An Anxious Age” explains how we can make the best of what confronts us.

Gerald Russello is editor of the University Bookman (