Ross Douthat continues to run interference for American fundamentalists, as demonstrated in today’s New York Times column, “Divided by God: A Nation of Heretics.”

Watch as he foolishly portrays Rick Santorum as a victim of those who oppose his radical extremism.

His traditionalist zeal has made him a bigger target even than Romney or Obama for fascination, suspicion and hysteria. In a nation as religiously diverse as ours, a staunchly orthodox Christianity can seem like the weirdest heresy of all.

Um, Ross, Santorum’s views are weird and they are decidedly Unchristian. Those raising alarms about this extremist candidate are not suspicious and they are not hysterical, as you flippantly suggest. People have read his positions, listened to his speeches, examined his legislative record, observed his bizarre life (fetus in a jar), and come to the undeniable conclusion that he is a sex obsessed creep with backward views. This is a very rational observation based on facts, and it is disingenuous for you, Ross, to pretend otherwise.

Another neat trick from conservatives like Douthat is to spin polls showing liberal unease with Romney’s Mormonism. Douthat is essentially pointing the finger at liberals and saying, “look, you are as intolerant as conservatives!” According to the oft-wrong columnist:

Likewise, while Santorum no longer has to worry (as John F. Kennedy did) about assuaging evangelical fears about Vatican plots and Catholic domination, his candidacy has summoned up an equally perfervid paranoia from secular liberals, who hear intimations of theocracy in his every speech and utterance. (And not only from secularists: The liberal Catholic writer Garry Wills recently resurrected the old slur “papist” — once beloved of anti-Catholic Protestants — to dismiss Santorum as a slavish servant of the Vatican.)

Well, Ross, maybe Santorum is a papist? Can you show us any sliver of disagreement he has with the Pope on social issues? Is it not telling that he is a member of the Knights of Malta and sent one of his children to an Opus Dei school? Is it not a tad strange that Santorum has led the “War on Women” and brought birth control back into the realm of pubic debate? Quite frankly, if Santorum is not an outright Papist, he isn’t more than a few inches away. Douthat continues:

Nor has Mitt Romney’s slow progress to the Republican nomination altered the fact that his fast-growing church is viewed by many with deep distrust. The same polls showing that many religious conservatives don’t want to vote for a Mormon also show that many independents and Democrats feel the same way, and explicit anti-Mormon sentiment percolates among evangelical preachers and liberal columnists alike.

While polls may be similar, they do not have the same meaning. Liberals are opposed to Romney’s brand of religion because they have clearly led to conservative policy positions (at least in the latest etch-a-sketch version of the oleaginous candidate). If there were a liberal Mormon who was not so closely aligned with LDS doctrine, liberals would be supportive. However, religious conservatives who oppose Romney based on his religion do so because they don’t believe he is a Christian. So, liberal and conservative opposition to Romney’s religion are entirely different. One group is rational and rejects Romney’s political positions. The other rejects Romney’s beliefs based on sectarianism and superstition.  Of course, Douthat wouldn’t understand this and thinks liberals reject Romney for the same reasons as conservatives.

Most disturbing of all is Douthat’s continued dismissal of warnings about fundamentalist attempts to instill theocracy in America and throughout the world.

In this atmosphere, religious differences are more likely to inspire baroque conspiracy theories, whether it’s the far-right panic over an Islamified United States or the left-wing paranoia about a looming evangelical-led theocracy. And faith itself is more likely to serve partisan purposes — whether it’s putting the messianic sheen on Obama’s “hope and change” campaign or supplying the storm clouds in Glenn Beck’s apocalyptic monologues

Douthat does a neat little trick here. He draws a false equivalency between delusional right wing fears of an Islamic takeover and legitimate unease with the robust campaign of social conservatives to refashion America in their narrow, intolerant interests. One group, the Christian fundies, has significant political power, while American Muslims remain a small minority. Either Douthat is too naive to be writing for the Times, or he is a toady for conservative religious organizations.

Perhaps, it is time to for Truth Wins Out and others to take a closer look at Douthat to determine whether he is an unqualified pill or simply a shill for powerful social conservative interests. Something just doesn’t add up with his incoherent and deliberately misleading writing and attempts to serve as an apologist for Dominionist Christians.