The new atheist crowd simplifies matters by insisting that all religion is bad religion because religion is bad. Why is it bad? In a word, because it is untrue, which is to say, because it fails to comport with reality, AKA the Nature of Things.
Similarly, the rank-and-file believer simplifies matters by maintaining that his religion is right, while all the others (including atheism) are wrong.
Can it really be this simple? First, what does the atheist mean by "reality"? This is actually a compound question, conflating reality with knowledge of it. In other words, 1) is there an ultimate reality, and 2) can we know it?
But that boat sailed long ago, when Cap'n Kant divided appearances from reality. We can never have real knowledge of things, only of our own categories. Reality is what it is, and we are what we are, and never the twain shall meet. Except maybe in a thoroughly irrational religiosity. But even if religion touches the noumenon, we could never know it. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but we can have only faith, not knowledge.
So: if you believe there is a reality and that man may know it, you are actually on our side, which is to say, the religious side, even -- or especially -- if you are a "scientist." Scientists are not philosophers, but a few of them are beginning to realize -- with great alarm -- that the practice of science is completely incompatible with a leftist metaphysic.
For example, you may pretend one sex is the other, but that's just fantasy, not science -- not reality. You may pretend that illegal immigrants don't suppress wages, or that an unborn human isn't a human, or that women are equivalent to men, or that a high tech civilization can run on solar energy, but these aren't even beliefs, since a belief requires some basis in reality.
I said above that a belief in reality places science on the religious side of the divide. Check me on that. It places science on the orthodox Christian side, as exemplified by Thomas Aquinas. Other religions -- including even post-orthodox versions of Christianity -- downplay or dismiss man's ability to know the truth of reality. And modern and postmodern philosophy are too sophisticated (in the original sense of the term, as in sophistry) to believe such a naive proposition. Deconstruction is simply the reductio ad absurdum of man's exile from an intelligible reality.
And, sorry to say, Protestantism is founded on the principle of man's total depravity, including depravity of the intellect. Just as there is a convergence between orthodox Christianity and science, there is a strange convergence between (original) Protestantism and deconstructionism, in that both would agree that knowledge of reality is an insane pretension.
The separation of intelligence from world results in the separation of truth from will. For Luther, "reason is the devil's harlot" and "can do nothing other than blaspheme and desecrate everything that God speaks and does." For Luther -- as for Islam -- a "rational theology" is an insult to God, since it presumes to enclose and limit his arbitrary will.
This is the original Rupture, and it probably goes back to Genesis 3. What, after all was that about? For Luther our primordial Rupture is complete and total, i.e., man from God and therefore intellect from truth. No longer are there degrees of sinfulness, rather, just Sin and unmerited Grace, either/or. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it, because anything you do is already drenched in sin.
Postmodern philosophy says something quite similar: for example, if you are white, then you are steeped in racism. Pretending otherwise is simply evidence of your bad faith. You are totally depraved by the original sin of racial animus (or sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.).
By the way, none of this is to suggest that this or that modern-day Protestant rejects Thomist metaphysics and is on board with deconstruction. Nevertheless, the first Protestant not only sharply protested the rationality of the Thomist tradition, but insisted that the attempt to reconcile faith and reason was frankly demonic.
Bottom line: if someone claims that faith and reason are incompatible, don't look at me. That's Luther's claim, not mine. In protesting against reason, methinks he protested too much.
At any rate, Douthat begins with two important points, that "every human culture is religious -- defined by what its inhabitants believe about some ultimate reality, and what they think that reality demands of them"; and "American democracy, while formally secular, has always depended on religion to provide a moral framework for its citizens..." As such, "the eclipse of Christian belief has led, inevitably, to the eclipse of public morality and private virtue alike."
As history played out, mainstream American Christianity ended up deviating markedly from Luther. Most notably, the Founders posited truths that are self-evident and rights that are unalienable. Luther would not have been on board with either. Why would he, if man is totally depraved? As he charmingly put it,
Peasants are no better than straw. They will not hear the word and they are without sense.... Like the drivers of donkeys, who have to belabor the donkeys incessantly with rods and whips, or they will not obey, so must the ruler do with the people; they must drive, beat, throttle, hang, burn, behead, and torture, so as to make themselves feared and to keep the people in check.
These goads will continue until morale improves -- which is to say, until faith and will are in alignment. Don't pay attention to the intelligence, which is just a proud and rebellious usurper.
Not to belabor the point, but the mainstream American Christianity of the founders wasn't like that. But now we have the worst of both worlds: purely faith-based religiosity on the one hand, and the power-based metaphysic of the left on the other. Oddly, both are rooted in the will and estranged from the Intellect of the Founders.
Douthat quotes a passage by Auden, who poses the question: "If, as I am convinced, the Nazis are wrong and we are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs?"
Note that there is precisely nothing in contemporary leftism that can anchor any objection to Nazism. Multiculturalism and moral relativism specifically assert that there is no objective way to affirm that one culture is superior to another.
Ironically, Hitler believed that political conflict is a matter of the stronger will prevailing. Once you have jettisoned objective truth, all that's left is power and will. Which is why -- "ironically" -- the only organized form of fascism in America is the quintessentially leftist Antifa movement.