In How the West Really Lost God, leading cultural critic Mary Eberstadt delivers a powerful new theory about the decline of religion in the Western world. The conventional wisdom is that the West first experienced religious decline, followed by the decline of the family. Eberstadt, however, marshals an array of research, from historical data on family decline in pre-Revolutionary France to contemporary popular culture both in the United States and Europe, showing that the reverse has also been true – the undermining of the family has further undermined Christianity itself.
Eberstadt posits that family decline and religious decline have gone hand in hand in the Western world in a way that has not been understood before. They are – in summarizing her book’s thesis – “the double helix of society, each dependent on the strength of the other for successful reproduction.” She, then, reflects on the ramifications of the mutual demise of family and faith in the West – the enormous social, economic, civic, and other costs attendant on both declines.
How the West Really Lost God is both an account of how secularization happens and a sweeping brief about why everyone should care about the two institutions – faith and family – that have undergirded Western civilization as we know it and the real nature of the relationship between these two pillars of history.
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Andrew T. Walker