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How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization Hardcover – April 24, 2013
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“You cannot understand the real philosophical problems of the West–which have been mounting for 40 years—without reading Mary Eberstadt’s new book How the West Really Lost God.”—Jonathan V. Last, author of What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster
“How the West Really Lost God” is a clear, compelling and ultimately convincing presentation of the relationship between faith and family. It’s not a call to action. But it doesn’t need to be. The Church has already told Christians what to do. The book just dispels any lingering doubts about the necessity of doing it. —Emily Stimpson, Our Sunday Visitor
“Every Christian leader who’s interested in engaging today’s culture (and who shouldn’t be?) should have this book on his or her desk. Her research and historical perspectives are fascinating, and I’m confident that she’ll give you enormous new information that will help you engage today’s non-believing culture more effectively.” —Phil Cooke, The Christian News Journal
“A short column cannot do justice to the wide and deep reading and all the evidence Eberstadt has marshaled for her argument, so you are urged to read this book. What is certain is that this is one of those books that will forever change the conversation about why Christianity is in decline in the West.” —Crisis Magazine
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Top Customer Reviews
First, I should share my own family/religious background because I think it's relevant to a book like this. In some ways, I am a person predisposed to agree with Eberstadt's argument and in some ways I'm not.
I come from a mixed family. My mom and dad were both previously married before they married each other. I have 1 younger full sister and 3 older half-sisters (1 from my dad's previous marriage, 2 from my mom's previous marriage).
I was raised in the Episcopal Church by my mom, quit going to church around 6th grade because my mom got tired of dragging 2 kids to church alone every Sunday, and then didn't really go to church at all between 6th grade and my senior year at Princeton. A year and a half ago, during my senior year at Princeton, I converted to Catholicism and am now a devout Catholic.
THINGS I LIKED
1. MAIN ARGUMENT IS CONVINCING. I found Eberstadt's main argument quite convincing. Her basic argument is that the decay of traditional marriage/family is the primary engine driving the decline of modern Western Christianity.
After documenting that these declines in traditional marriage/family and Christian religious belief/practice are actually occurring, she proposes 2 primary mechanisms for her argument, aided by copious (albeit mostly footnoted) social science research.
The first proposed mechanism is that traditional family life is a conduit for the transmission of Christian values and practice. Christianity's strong endorsement of traditional family life, the transcendent experience of conceiving children, the desire for one's children to have religious/moral instruction, etc. are all powerful incentives for married people with children to go to church.Read more ›
Her primary audience is not your average reader, but she writes in an accessible enough fashion that all are welcome. Written from a sociologists perspective and style, not only does she make the case that "family decline helps to power religious decline," she also writes as a Roman Catholic Christian and bolsters the case for the Church (and society as a whole) to return to a robust value of the traditional family by letting the empirical evidence speak for itself. (I am a conservative Confessional Lutheran, LCMS, and did recognize her Catholic dispositions, but I was not too put out by them as she strived for objectivity for the most part.)
Her basic premise is that faith (Judeo Christianity) and the family form an interwoven "double helix." Where one goes, the other is sure to follow. In other words, it is not just as Christianity goes so goes the family. But the reverse as well--as the family goes, so goes Christianity. "What this book means to impress is that faith and family are the invisible double helix of society--two spirals that when linked to one another can effectively reproduce, but whose strength and momentum depend on one another" (p. 22).Read more ›
How the West Really Lost God is a worthy successor to both books. It addresses an issue of huge importance to a culture that is failing because it is abandoning God. Many years ago, the great British Catholic historian Christopher Dawson wrote: "The central conviction which has dominated my mind [is] that the society or culture which has lost its spiritual roots is a dying culture, however prosperous it may appear externally. Consequently the problem of social survival is not only a political or economic one; it is above all things religious, since it is in religion that the ultimate spiritual roots both of society and the individual are found."
Eberstadt hits this issue head-on in this book. The central thesis is an inversion of the way many of us have thought about secularization. Eberstadt argues that family decline is a cause of religious decline. Prior to reading this book, I (like many others) would have argued that religious decline is the cause of family decline. Eberstadt's analysis is subtle enough to acknowledge that the religious decline in the west is the child of many causes. But she makes a thoughtful, persuasive argument that the decline of the family may be the most significant cause.
One of the best things about the book is that Eberstadt ends it on an semi-optimistic note. I, for one, have been very pessimistic about the chances for a revival of religion, but Eberstadt makes a solid case for the idea that, even in this world of scientific secularism, we should not write religion off as a lost cause.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author takes pains to make her case after fairly reviewing other literature.Published 8 days ago by MDeWayne Adams
This is a very good explanation of the importance of the family factor in the decline of western Christianity over the decades. However, the author does miss one element. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Tom Terry
This book is amazing. I learned as much about myself as I did about my society. I continually struggle with how to relate to God on the one hand and church and society on the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Mrs. E is simply as smart as they come. She is the professor you always wished you had in college. It's so passe, and boring, to blame economics, gender, or race on many of the... Read morePublished 10 months ago by James Rich
Really loved "The Looser Letters" and "Adam and Eve and the Pill." This last book was less engaging.Published 13 months ago by Diane H.
A worthwhile read for anyone interested in history of Western Civilization.Published 14 months ago by Max Bville
This is a well presented argument which is both an easy read and maintains the reader's interest. The central contention is that academics and writers who applaud or lament the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Aussie Mark