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Episode Info:

I’m Vox’s interviews writer, Sean Illing. Lately, I’ve been interested in the following question: Is the decline of institutionalized Christianity making our politics worse? The answer may be yes, but I’m not convinced it’s for the reasons many people suppose.

Ross Douthat is a conservative columnist for the New York Times who has been one of the more thoughtful writers on this topic. Douthat believes that Christianity’s collapse has not only helped destroy civic bonds in America, it’s also amplified our tribalism problem. As more and more Americans lose any connection to a shared religious or moral worldview, he argues, they’re increasingly drawn to transgressive movements like the alt-right or to the vulgar politics of Donald Trump.

My sense is that Douthat’s view of Christianity is somewhat nostalgic and overlooks the racial hierarchy that undergirded previous eras of American politics. But I’m open to his point of view, and admit I might be mistaken. In this conversation, we discuss the forces behind the decline of Christianity, how it’s fueling tribal politics, and why he thinks the left should really be worried about the post-Christian right.


Book recommendations:
Religion: If There Is No God-- : On God, the Devil, Sin, and Other Worries of the So-Called Philosophy of Religionby Leszek Kolakowski
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

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