It seems to me, three years after the publication of Mary Eberstadt's How the West Really Lost God, that this book has not gotten the attention it deserves. Because it drove me to read Humanae Vitae, the encyclical which God used to plunge me into the deep truths of the Catholic faith, it is fitting to complete the circle by reviewing it again, this time as a Catholic.
Mary Eberstadt takes all the secularization theories head on: religion as comfort lost with the rise of education and posterity, the eclipse of Christianity by science and rationalism, the enlightenment, the wars, material progress, urbanization, and the industrial revolution. She exposes them for what they are, inadequate partial truths of the reality we are facing in the West—the decline of the Christian religion, and the diminishing of the family. The wise Catholic thinker that she is, she does not throw these secularization theories completely out the window. She justly shows where they are useful, and where they contribute to our understanding of our predicament, but in toto they are deficient, and cannot fully account for our real-life observations—families are disintegrating before our very eyes.
But How the West Really Lost God is not just a regurgitation of the secularization theories with some analysis thrown in. Eberstadt is an insightful social analyst who is offering a substantial development to our modern woes. Namely, that the decline of the family is not only a consequence of the decline of religion, although it is that; it is also the cause of the decline of religion. Using the metaphor of a DNA-like double helix she shows how faith and family are tethered such that a rise in one gives rise to the other, and a decline in one creates a decline in the other.
Read the rest of the book review at The Kindling