Book Review – Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics

I’m not in the habit of offering book reviews here on this blog, this being the first, and I’m not likely to be doing this very often.  However, I am going to make an exception in this case.

Bad ReligionAs Beth and I were preparing for young Samuel’s arrival, I determined that there might be some downtime at the hospital (less than I anticipated, as it turns out).  I had heard a bit of a buzz surrounding New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, and decided it was worth the download.

It certainly was.

In Bad Religion, Douthat examines two predominant arguments concerning what he perceives to be American decline.  The first blames a move away from traditional religious mores and beliefs for cultural rot.  A second argument takes exactly the opposite approach, blaming the America’s corporate religiosity as an anchor that is preventing the nation from progressing.

Douthat offers an alternative view.  “America’s problem isn’t too much religion, or too little of it,” he says.  “It’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities in its place.”

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The Butter Knife Story

As the title might imply, this blog will from time to time look back at stories of my childhood and assorted Rempe lore.  For starters, I thought I would begin with the story portrayed in the above banner—what has come to be known to friends and family alike as “the butter knife story.”

In recent years, some have called into question elements of this account.  The objections generally center around the nature of household current, and its ability to propel small children considerable distances.  To this, I can only say that I remember what I remember, and the images from that Sunday morning remain firmly entrenched in my brain.  Nobody has ever questioned that this is something in which the story’s principals would have participated.  In fact, the story could help to explain a lot about the Rempe brothers and our development (or lack thereof).

With that caveat, and operating under the premise that absolute truth should not be allowed to get in the way of a good story, I offer a cautionary tale – one that will be shielded from my offspring until they have learned the dangers of conductivity.  I give you “The Butter Knife Story.”


It was early on a Sunday morning.  I was about eight years old at time—roughly the age when you start realizing that sleeping in can actually be a good thing.  Alas, younger brothers Doug and Bill had not yet reached that stage in their development.

“Steve!  Get up!  You have to see this.”

Doug was bouncing with excitement.  “You really need to see this!” he repeated.  Before I could protest, he had thrown the covers of my bed open and had pulled me halfway out of the bed.  Knowing that resistance at this stage would be futile, I grabbed my glasses and followed Doug into the living room.

I half-expected some major destruction as I rounded the corner.  Instead, I was greeted with the sight of younger brother Bill, still in pajamas and with uncombed hair, seated on the floor.  His feet were straight out in front of him, about a shoulder’s width apart, facing the far wall.

“What’s he doing?” I asked?

“Just watch,” Doug replied.

There were two things that I had failed to notice upon my entry into the room.  The first was that between Bill’s feet on the wall was a standard two-prong household outlet.  The second was the all-metal butter knife he was holding in his left hand.

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