Mary Eberstadt’s New Theory of Secularization

In her 2013 book How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt takes note of the various attempts to understand the increased secularism in the West and the decline of Christianity. She asks, “How and why has Christianity really come to decline in important parts of the West?” [1] Although we may take into consideration various factors (urbanization, industrialization, technology, and etc.), there still seems to be a missing piece. “It is as if the modern mind has lined up all the different pieces on the collective table, only to press them together in a way that looks whole from a distance but still leaves something crucial out” [2].  

Eberstadt takes the interesting thesis that “family decline. . . helps to power religious decline” [3]. As she explains:

Like the collapse of Christianity in many of the same places, the collapse of the natural family has reshaped the known world of just about every man, woman, and child alive in the Western world today. For years now, secular sociologists have debated the meaning of changes that have diminished the hold that the natural family once had over an individuals’s life. Divorce, single parenthood, widespread use of contraception, legal abortion, the sharp drop in the Western birthrate: these are just some of the prodigious transformations in family structure on which experts train their sights. [4]

The detailed qualifications this book makes are important to the whole. For example, though she intends to “turn the standard account of Western religious decline upside down,” she by no means intends that argue that it is false [5]. Rather, she simply means to show (through various lines of evidence) the sociological, cultural and anthropological significance the natural family has planted on the Western world – and how it has radically changed it.

I would definitely recommend this book for those of you interested in the subject regarding marriage and civilization. You can purchase the book over at Amazon in hardcover for just 14.95. Check it out if you can!

 

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Notes:

  • [1] Mary Eberstadt, How the West Really Lost God (Templeton Press: 2013), p. 3.
  • [2] Ibid., p. 5.
  • [3] Ibid., pp. 5-6.
  • [4] Ibid., p. 11
  • [5] Ibid., p. 21.
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