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How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization Hardcover – April 24, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Templeton Press (April 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599473798
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599473796
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

 
“An absolutely brilliant and strikingly fresh portrait of the ‘double-helix’ of faith and family, coupled with a potentially game-changing analysis of the why and how of secularization, all written with the sparkle and empathy that characterize the work of one of America’s premier social analysts." —George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C.

“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


“Mary Eberstadt’s account of the synergistic relationship between the fracturing of the family and declining religiosity is both chilling and utterly convincing. No theorist of secularization has come close to Eberstadt in sociological insight or explanatory power.”
Mary Ann Glendon, author of The Forum and the Tower: How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World from Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt


“A brilliant contribution to the really big question about the future of the West, and a pleasure to read.”—Rodney Stark, author of The Rise of Christianity


"Mary Eberstadt's  account of the connection between religion and family, showing that the two institutions rise and fall together, is finely written, impressively argued and entirely persuasive. This book tells us much about the condition of Western societies today and reminds us that the atheists and the Nietzscheans owe their influence less to the truth of their views than to the loneliness to which they appeal." —Roger Scruton, author of The West and the Rest: Globalisation and the Terrorist Threat



"Mary Eberstadt is one of the most acute and creative social observers of our time. She is not afraid to challenge received wisdom and her insights are always well worth pondering."
Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man



"In How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt paints a provocative and powerful portrait of the familial roots of contemporary secularization in the West. Recent declines in church attendance throughout Europe and the Americas have been driven in large part by declining rates of marriage and childbearing among their citizens. Apparently, when men and women cease to find their way to the altar and the maternity ward, they are less likely to look heavenwards. As Eberstadt notes, the decline of faith and family have gone hand in hand throughout the West.
 
“This spells trouble for the men and women of the West, insofar as the one other institution besides family and religion that now supports them from cradle to grave is the welfare state. But, from Greece to the United States, the welfare state is running out of money. Eberstadt speculates that the demographic and financial collapse may well spur a revival of the fortunes of faith and family as people come to realize they cannot rely on the state. Only time will tell."
 
W. Bradford Wilcox, director of National Marriage Project, University of Virginia  



"How the West Really Lost God is clear as a bell, beautifully plotted, and the point it makes not only overturns conventional wisdom but strikes far deeper into reality than any rival argument in the field." —Michael Novak, author of The Myth of Romantic Love, No One Sees God, Belief and Unbelief



"Her short, elegantly written book repeatedly shows that strong families help to keep religious practice alive, and that too many people see a causal connection running exclusively in the opposite direction."—The Economist, 4/27/2013

“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
 
“In her deeply insightful new book, How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt suggests that there is a more fundamental cause underlying the cultural loss of religion—a cause that all the previous research has mistaken for just another effect. What if the decline of religion is integrally connected to, and perhaps even a result of, the decline of the natural family?”  —Washington Times


About the Author

Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She has written widely for magazines and newspapers, among them First Things, Policy Review, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. Her previous books include Home-Alone America, Adam and Eve after the Pill, and the satire The Loser Letters.


More About the Author

Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She has written widely for magazines and newspapers, among them First Things, Policy Review, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, and Commentary.

Customer Reviews

If only church leaders would read and teach accordingly.
Lawlor
Mrs. Eberstadt has done a thorough job of research and is very familiar with her material and presents it in an easy format.
Phyllis E. Pierce
"Family culture" in America is declining rapidly and that will bring down America's religiosity.
B Leyden

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

174 of 182 people found the following review helpful By John G. Burford IV on April 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
MY BACKGROUND

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.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lucas V. Woodford on May 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those Christians wishing to gain significant insight into the current state of American culture, this is a must read. Eberstadt's original and highly plausible view on the secularization of America is a significant addition to the sociological conversation. But it is also, without question, a superbly documented and cogently argued commentary on the demise of the family and Christianity, though without leaving Christians feeling utterly hopeless.

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).
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ted Smith on May 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'll admit right up front that I'm a fan of Mary Eberstadt. The Loser Letters is great satire with a serious message. Adam and Eve After the Pill was a highly illuminating picture of the brave new world created by the pill.

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.
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