Thanks to the leader of NLT’s loyal opposition for this long review (AS can never say anything in 1,000 words when 3,000 or so will do). His basic argument is that D’Souza reveals that there’s ultimately no significant difference between the Islamist agenda and its "Christianist" counterpart. In other words, it is, for the most part, very sophisticated name-calling.
Sullivan doesn’t bother to investigate any of the possible distinctions (e.g., between traditional Christianity and Islam) that would make his insinuations implausible. And, self-professed good Catholic that he is, he doesn’t hurl the same imprecation at Benedict XVI that he hurls at American religious conservatives:
There is a difference only in degree, after all, between Islamism’s view of the role of women and that of James Dobson or Tim LaHaye. Very, very few women control any religious institutions on the religious right. Patriarchy rules there as it rules in Pakistan. There is only a difference in degree between Islamism’s view of the relationship between mosque and state and Christianism’s view of the relationship between church and state. If law cannot be neutral between competing moral ideals, and if it must reflect God’s will regardless of the views of religious minorities, then you can see why D’Souza is so affronted by Turkey’s secularism, and why he sees the Declaration of Independence as an essentially religious document. Any space for non-believers is, in the Islamist and Christianist view, an assault on belief itself. The notion that blasphemy, pornography, or homosexuality should be protected, let alone celebrated, is anathema to Islamists and Christianists alike. D’Souza’s sole sin is to say so publicly in a way no one can misunderstand. He has blown the medievals’ cover.
Since it’s hard to believe that what he says about American religious conservatives wouldn’t apply equally well to traditional Catholics (he mentions Fr. Neuhaus as one of D’Souza’s mentors), including the Pope, it’s a wonder that AS doesn’t draw the logical conclusion. Ah, but there’s the rub: it turns out that Catholicism allows--at least in Sullivan’s mind--for a certain liberty of conscience, which distinguishes it--and the rest of Christianity--from Islam. Kind of a problem with Sullivan’s argument, no?
One last point and I’m done. Sullivan makes much of the fact that D’Souza doesn’t say anything about his own faith and regularly presents religion simply as a means of social control. I met D’Souza once and learned, in the course of a casual conversation, that he was educated by Jesuits in India. I’m betting he’s a Catholic. And I’m betting that Sullivan knows this very well. Let me add something to my characterization of his review: it is, for the most part, sophisticated and disingenuous name-calling. Of course, in describing something written by Andrew Sullivan in that way, I say absolutely nothing new.
Update #2: Ross D. weighs in.