“God and Family in the West: A Double Helix of a Mess”



Mary Eberstadt


I’m about half way through Mary Eberstadt’s very important book How the West Really Lost God.  I intend to write a column about it (at the least), in roughly three weeks or so.  In the meantime, here’s an interview with her regarding the book:




Posted from Park City, Utah



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  • GeorgeLocke

    “They’re not lying awake at night mulling transubstantiation or the problem of theodicy, say, and then checking “none of the above” on a Pew survey. No, what’s helping to drive secularization for many people is something a lot less cerebral: the widespread desire to keep biting that apple of the Sexual Revolution — which traditional Christianity wants to put out of their reach. It’s a head-on collision, for sure.”

    It’s an interesting hypothesis. Her support for it seems to be a correlation between marriage+children and religiosity, though I expect (hope) this case is laid out in greater detail in the book.

    Of course, for people like me, trading church for sexual liberation seems like a hell of a bargain ;)

    • GeorgeLocke

      Also, Pinker’s “Better Angels” argues (with lots of statistical support) that woman’s autonomy over pregnancy is a strong indicator of low violence. Again, my impression is that I don’t think we’ve lost much of value and we’ve gotten something very important; pointing to Scandinavia as an example of what horrors await us seems particularly absurd to me.

      • DanielPeterson

        That’s rather a caricature of what she said. And Scandinavia does, in fact, have some genuine problems. And nobody yet knows the long term implications of the Scandinavian model. (Perhaps the very recent riots among Stockholm “immigrants,” brought in largely to keep the Swedish welfare state going as the population ages, are among the harbingers of things to come.)

        • GeorgeLocke

          I’m not sure what you mean. Which position of hers have I mischaracterized?

    • GeorgeLocke

      considering the correlation between religiosity and marriage+children, Eberstadt said, “No, the more logical conclusion to draw is that there is something about living in families that inclines at least some people toward religiosity in general, and toward Christianity in particular.” That is a possibility, but it’s pretty easy to see the causal arrow going the other way. Religious people hold family in higher esteem than the non-religious, so we should expect more of them to want to have families: being religious inclines you to having a family.

      Of course, it doesn’t have to be either/or – being in a family could incline you to be religious, but it’s not clear that it does from what she’s written. My sense is that people have a sense that they ought to give their children religion, and this is why families tend to be more religious. I would also argue that this sense of “ought” is contingent on culture, and a likely cause of variance between Scandinavia and here.

      We can’t expect Eberstadt to lay out her full argument in the context of an author interview, but the case she’s made here is pretty thin.

      • DanielPeterson

        That’s why she wrote the book. She actually had an argument to make. Simply giving an interview without writing the book would, I suspect, have been easier and less time consuming. She must have thought that she had something else to say.

    • DanielPeterson

      The book is roughly a hundred times longer than the interview, and it’s actually filled with relevant stuff.

      We’ll see how the bargain turns out in the long run.