The first book I’ve finished this year is a game-changer. Mary Eberstadt’s exploration of crucial questions in ‘How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization’ takes all the dots we’ve been connecting together for years and connects them in somewhat the opposite way I had assumed.
We all know, for instance, that America is decreasingly religious and increasingly secular and godless. Similarly, we all know that both the marriage and birthrate in this country is much lower than it ever has been before. And knowing these things together at the same time, the popular theory is that fewer of us are getting married and having children because fewer of us believe in God in any serious way.
But what if the relationship between these trends works in the opposite direction?
Perhaps the reason we believe in God less is related to the fact that fewer of us are getting married and having children. Even just to posit that possibility opens up fresh lines of inquiry we would all benefit from exploring with Eberstadt’s help.
As with most chicken and egg dilemmas, the ultimate explanation is probably comprised of more both/and than either/or. All the same, all of the attention elsewhere has been invested in the other direction, and I am grateful to this book for having gone a long way to balancing the discussion.
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