Review: Stephen Prothero, ‘Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections)’

“The approach of this book is episodic rather than exhaustive,” writes Stephen Prothero, author of Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections). This is a generous description. For readers interested in analysis more than the pursuit of an agenda, it is also a warning.

Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University, undertook this investigation after puzzling over the conservative resistance to the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks. American respect for religious liberty and private property weighed in favor of letting the project proceed, he writes, so “why all the fuss?” Rather than pondering the scar left nearby in the Manhattan earth, Mr. Prothero takes the long way around, writing a book misrepresenting conservatives throughout American history and never examining “all that fuss” too closely. The “post-9/11 Islam wars,” he finds, are simply a new iteration of an old war between cultural conservatives and liberals.