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Ed Driscoll

Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute. In the 1990s, she was the executive editor of National Interest magazine, and in the mid-1980s, she worked with George P. Shultz and Jeane Kirkpatrick in the Reagan administration.

In the introduction to her new book, How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization, Eberstadt does not shy away from asking the big questions about life in the west in the first decades of a new millennium. (Say, how are those things reckoned, anyhow?) She writes:

Why was belief in the Christian God and his churchly doings apparently taken for granted by most Europeans, say, six hundred years ago— whereas today merely alluding to the possibility of the existence of that same God is now guaranteed to provoke uneasy dissent in some sophisticated quarters and savage ridicule in others? How much did the Enlightenment and rationalism and scientifi c thinking have to do with this enormous transformation— this sea change from a civilization that widely fears God, to one that now often jeers him? How much did various historical infl uences fi gure into this reshaping of our shared civilization— factors like technology, the world wars, politics, church scandals, the changing social status of women, and more?

These and other large questions will be considered in the pages ahead— including, at the outset, the radical question raised by some scholars, which is whether Western Christianity has even declined in the first place.

It is the contention of this book that just about everyone working on this great puzzle has come up with some piece of the truth— and yet that one particular piece needed to hold the others together still has gone missing. Urbanization, industrialization, belief and disbelief, technology, shrinking population: yes, yes, and yes to all those factors statistically and otherwise correlated with secularization. Yet, even taking them all into account, the picture remains incomplete, as chapter 2 goes to show. It is as if the modern mind has lined up all the different pieces on the collective table, only to press them together in a way that looks whole from a distance but still leaves something critical out.

As Eberstadt goes on to write, her new book “is an attempt to supply that missing piece.” Its Amazon page adds:

The conventional wisdom is that the West first experienced religious decline, followed by the decline of the family. Eberstadt turns this standard account on its head. Marshalling an impressive array of research, from fascinating historical data on family decline in pre-Revolutionary France to contemporary popular culture both in the United States and Europe, Eberstadt shows that the reverse has also been true: the undermining of the family has further undermined Christianity itself.

During our interview, Eberstadt will discuss:

  • What is the relationship between spiritual decline and demographic decline?
  • Is religious belief suppressed in secular Europe and Blue State America?
  • How the rise of “New Age” spiritualism beginning in the 1960s impacted and interacted with the decline of religion in the west.
  • Some background on the book’s publisher, Templeton Press, founded by pioneering mutual fund manager turned philanthropist Sir John Templeton.
  • Could today’s ongoing economic and demographic crises help to strengthen the family?

And much more. Click here to listen:

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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

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MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com, and we’re talking with Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute. In the 1990s, she was the executive editor of National Interest magazine, and in the mid-1980s, she worked with George Shultz and Jeane Kirkpatrick in the Reagan administration.

She’s also the author of a new book, How the West Really Lost God. It’s published by Templeton Press, and available from Amazon.com and your local bookseller. And Mary, thanks for stopping by today.

MS. EBERSTADT:  Thanks for having me, Ed.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Mary, over the last few years, there have been several books exploring the demographic decline that the west is undergoing, including those from authors such as Mark Steyn, Charles Murray, Jonathan Last and others.  What role does the decline in religion or how our religious beliefs have changed in the last century, play in this demographic decline?

MS. EBERSTADT:  Great question.  Well, let’s look at the big picture, for starters, of what’s been going on.  We know that over the past several decades, there’s been a decline of religious belief and church attendance across the western world, most markedly in Western Europe, but also in the United States.

And up until now, there’s been one prevailing explanation for this.  And the explanation comes down from the Enlightenment, and you heard it from the new atheists most recently.  The idea is that religion is a superstitious thing that will eventually die out as people become sufficiently educated and rational and enlightened.  And this is what a lot of sophisticated people believe, obviously.

The purpose of my book is first of all, to hold that explanation up to the light and to ask whether it’s true.  And I argue that it’s not true and it’s not true for several reasons, any one of which would deep six the prevailing explanation.  But just to focus on one.  That explanation would suggest that religion is a function of the lower classes, that belief in God is something that poor people do.  Or if you remember that famous quote from the Washington Post, it was just about ten years ago, that a reporter wrote that the followers of evangelicals were, let’s see, uneducated and easy to command.  Do you remember that?

MR. DRISCOLL:  Yes, easy to command, easily led, yeah.

MS. EBERSTADT:  Easily led.  Yeah.  That beautifully summarizes the stereotype of religious believers as being people who just haven’t gotten the word yet, you know, just haven’t gotten sophisticated enough to get rid of God.

But it’s actually not only not true, but the reverse is true.  In the United States today, as you can see from perfectly secular social science, you are more likely to profess belief in God and to go to religious services, the higher up you are on the socioeconomic ladder.

Now, that is something that a lot of people don’t know, and a lot of people suspect the opposite to be true.  But it’s not only in the United States.  This was also true in Victorian England, for example.  And I quote a bunch of British historians to make this point in the book.  Religious belief was more likely at the top of the socioeconomic ladder than at the bottom.  And it was better-off people who were populating the churches.

Now, this isn’t to say anything about the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.  But the reason this matters is that if this is true, and it is true, then it goes to show that money alone doesn’t drive out God.  And education alone doesn’t drive out God.

So the whole story that is believed widely across the west about how God had been driven out of parts of the west, is wrong.  And what I try to do in the book is suggest an alternative theory that revolves around something much more mundane, but completely overlooked by conventional sociology.  And that is the family.

And what I argue is that the family is the best predictor of Christianity’s fate in the world.  And in times when Christianity is strong, the family is strong.  And in times when it’s in decline, as Christianity is now, you’re witnessing family decline.  Family decline and religious decline don’t happen in a vacuum.  They are side by side.  And the same is true of family and religious prosperity.  And that is the basic message of the book.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Mary, I get the impression from your book, that we’re simplifying things when we say that intellectuals killed off God in the late 19th century, because that implies that it was a static one-time event. And that it’s more accurate to say that religion is being actively suppressed to this day. Could you talk a bit about the difference, and what it implies?

MS. EBERSTADT:  It’s true.  Religious believers have been taking a beating in the public square before the new atheists appeared, but then especially at their hands.  And now, arguably, we have an administration in Washington that is more openly skeptical of religious believers, arguably more hostile to them than any administration in history.

So there’s a lot going on out there.  When we look at Europe we see that Pope Benedict was dogged by protests across the continent when the traveled.  This sort of thing also never used to happen.  So there’s a kind of open hostility out there toward religion that wasn’t there before.

And again, I trace this to — depending on which term you want to use — the phenomenon of family decline, or changing family patterns.  When people turn out to protest traditional — the traditional moral code of Judeo-Christianity, they are protesting the protection and privileging of the family and all the teachings that follow from that, like the teachings against abortion, for example, and the teachings against extra-marital sex, and all of these other teachings that a lot of people object to after the sexual revolution.

So there is no doubt here to, that the open hostility toward religion is tied up with the decline of the family, the changing of family patterns.  And so once again, we see what I call the double helix of family and faith.  We see this relationship between the churches and the family that really can’t be disentangled, because both things are powering each other.

MR. DRISCOLL:  And as you mentioned a few moments ago, conventional wisdom posits that elites are secular and the lower classes religious, but in the book, you believe that’s a rather gross simplification of how the two classes approach religion.

MS. EBERSTADT:  Well, there are pockets of the elite that are far more hostile toward religion than the rest of society.  There — for example, it looks like certain kinds of scientists are like that.  Ivy League campuses, to take an example, are like that.  So the picture is definitely mixed. There’s — you see strength and weakness there.

The picture is also mixed when it comes to the churches themselves, because in a very interesting phenomenon — to get back to your mention of Jonathan Last and that very interesting book of his about population decline, there’s something very interesting going on out there that I don’t think the aggressively secular people in society have taken account of.  And that’s the fact that for whatever reason, secular people don’t have children.  Religious believers do.  And the more religious they are, the more likely they are to have children.

So what this means, Ed, I think, is that down the road, we’re looking at something really interesting that we haven’t seen before, which is an increasingly polarized world, where the children of religious believers are going to be more and more the population of what is, at the same time, this demographically declining western world.  So you’re going to have more aggressive secularism on one side, but more populous religious belief on the other.  And that’s going to make for a very interesting time, I would think.

MR. DRISCOLL:  We tend to think of religion’s decline in America as beginning in the 1960s and the rise of the New Left, and their waging the culture war. But beginning in the mid-1960s, traditional religion began to be supplanted in the west by various forms of new age spirituality. The Beatles discovered the Maharishi, radical environmentalism with a spiritual fervor began to take off, and in his famous mid-‘70s “Me Generation” essay, Tom Wolfe explored the connection between psychedelic drug users and their rather idiosyncratic attempts to find God. How do these new age-style religions factor into the equation explored in your book?

MS. EBERSTADT:  Yeah, that’s a very interesting phenomenon, I think.  Well, there’s no doubt that human beings are theotropic — to use the technical term.  They lean toward God; they lead toward the idea of God.  Obviously, not all human beings.  But throughout history and across cultures, that’s a defensible proposition.

So what you see, I think, in the New Age and other movements, environmentalism, radical environmentalism, et cetera, all the things you named, I think what you’re seeing there is attempts to be religious, but also have the sexual revolution.  Because part of why people found the churches less palatable, was that if you wanted to embrace the sexual revolution, obviously the traditional churches frowned on that and said it was a no-no.

So I think what people being — you know, just generally leaning toward God or gods in one way and another, what they’re — what they’ve been trying to do, is reinvent the wheel and find themselves spiritualities and religions that get around the problem of the traditional Christian moral code.

Now, that’s all well and good.  But what those kinds of expressions of spirituality don’t do is reproduce themselves.  People don’t, as a general rule, become successful purveyors to their children of New Age religions.  And people who — no matter how spiritual they think themselves, don’t tend to hand that down through the generations, so that four generations from now, somebody can point to a rock somewhere and say, you know, that’s where my great grandmother had her first druid experience.

For whatever reason, the churches are a lot better at institutionalizing this sort of thing.  So that’s one big difference between the New Age expressions of spirituality and the traditional incarnation of religion in the churches.  One gets passed down and the other doesn’t.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Does that also help to explain why, if you’re somebody with the mindset of say the late Christopher Hitchens; if you’re say, secular-minded or agnostic or atheistic, why you should be concerned about the simultaneous collapse of faith and family?

MS. EBERSTADT:  Well, I think everybody can be concerned about that one, because first of all, if you — first of all, religious people have extra reasons for trying to keep families intact and keep them productive.  They have religious reasons for doing this.  They’re told this is what they’re supposed to do.

All of society benefits from having people who are taken care of by their families, because otherwise, we have yet more people who need to be taken care of by the state.  And this is another part of the discussion of the book, that I think is actually important to people in America right now.

The welfare state is largely a creation of the fractured family, and it largely bankrolls the fractured family.  If you remember the Julia video from the re-election campaign, you know, the one about being taken care of –

MR. DRISCOLL:  Um-hum.

MS. EBERSTADT:  — from cradle to grave.  That one?  You know, that’s the promise that the welfare state makes.  And the reason the state has to make that promise is that people are not living in families.  Many people are not living in families that can take care of themselves.

So one thing that the religious believers do out there is increase the likelihood of having families like that who are not dependent and who don’t need those same things.  So that’s one thing they give back.

The other reason that I think it’s really shortsighted of the aggressively secular people to attack the believers as much as they do, is that religious believers are also more likely to give to charity, to volunteer, to do good works.  And this is also true across the western world.

So when you get a really secular society like the societies of Europe, as Arthur Brooks has documented, you get people who give very little to private charity.  They just don’t.  And I’m not saying secularists are bad people.  I’m just saying it’s a fact that people who have a religious creed that tells them to give to charity, are more likely to do that.

So there again, we have an example of how what the traditional religious people are doing in the public square actually benefits everybody, whether they are religious or not.  So I think those are two pretty big reasons to think that, you know, we should have more appropriate appreciation of what the believers are doing out there.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Mary, just a couple more questions.  Your book is published by Templeton Press.  Could you talk a bit about the company and the man whose name it bears?

MS. EBERSTADT:  Well, Sir John Templeton was a great philanthropist, and he left a private foundation that does a lot of charitable works, but that also has, as an independent part of it, this press.  And the head of the press approached me to ask if I were interested in writing this book.  And that’s how that all came about.

MR. DRISCOLL:  And last question.  We try to end these things on a happy note, even when we’re discussing a topic as grim as the concurrent demographic and religious collapse in the west. But will the economic and demographic crisis in the West have the unintended impact of reviving the family as the most viable alternative to the failed welfare state?

MS. EBERSTADT:  I think that’s entirely likely.  I think, in fact, that the optimistic scenario is the most likely scenario here.  Because adversity has a way of driving people home.  You know?  We saw this in 2008 when the financial crisis started.  A couple of interesting footnotes happened.  One was, of course, we saw the beginning of the return to the home of many young adults, because they couldn’t afford to strike out on their own.

And this is generally regarded as a bad thing.  But what I see there is that’s an example of how adversity arguably strengthens the extended family, by having people not be atomized and all on their own, but rather back in some kind of connection to the family unit.

A second thing that happened in 2008, divorce rates fell, because divorce, of course, is always expensive.  And in a time of adversity, some people rethought their plans and held off on that.  And divorce lawyers themselves commented that they were seeing less business, because people, in a bad economic time were less likely to go for divorce.

So these are, of course, inadvertent things.  And we don’t hope for a financial catastrophe.  But given how problematic the big welfare states of the western world are right now, and given what’s going on in Europe, and with the constant questions about whether these kinds of states can be sustained by a very small and shrinking taxpayer base, it’s very likely, it seems to me, that down the road, we see a restructuring of the welfare state and with it, a return to the more organic bonds of family and church and small communities that people have not had to go to because they’ve thought that the state could take care of it all.

When it turns out that the state can’t, we’re going to see a very different ball game out there.

MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ Media.com.  And we’ve been talking with Mary Eberstadt, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, and the author of the new book, How the West Really Lost God.  It’s published by Templeton Press and available from Amazon.com and your local bookseller.

And Mary, thank you once again for stopping by today, and good luck with the new book.

MS. EBERSTADT:  Thank you very much, Ed.  Thanks for having me.

(End of recording)

Transcribed by eScribers.net, with minor revisions (including hyperlinks) by Ed Driscoll. Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Thank you for publishing this interview. I have not read the book yet, but I offer this comment in response to the interview.

I would think one must take one step backwards and ask, “What is life?” Most on the Right would answer that it is a gift from the benevolent God. The Left would respond it is a burden to be avoided at all costs.

The MSM could barely bring itself to report on the Gosnell trial and examine what it might mean to the larger society.

I think you also touched on in the interview, perhaps the book goes further, that there is a profit motive involved. By breaking up the family and down-grading the connections whole industries sprang up to do what had been done by families.

This gets to the heart of what we try to say by shorthanded referenced to Judeo-Christian values; you must not treat people as things. “Love one another as I have loved you’ isn’t much fun in the short term, but works best for all long term.

Most importantly decoupling sex from procreation might be the most damaging hubristic action mankind has ever taken.

By putting self at the center of our lives over God, gives rise to a host of things that we are explicitly warned against doing.

Now we reap the whirlwind.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (30)
All Comments   (30)
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>>>The idea is that religion is a superstitious thing that will eventually die out as people become sufficiently educated and rational and enlightened. And this is what a lot of sophisticated people believe, obviously.<<<

Except that it's wrong. Comically wrong. And I can't tell if this is deliberate conflation or pathetic scholarship. Very few people believe this. What they're saying is that belief in fundamentalism (e.g. the world was created 4000 years ago and some dude made a boat and saved all of the animals) will wane as education levels rise. We know this is true. We have couple of centuries of data proving it. It's not even in dispute.

There will always be religion, at least in the forseeable future, and rightfully so; it is of great comfort to many to believe stuff like a dying parent will go to another world/life and taken care of by god. Who wants to deny them this small comfort? Why, *nobody*, of course.

Do any of the religious apologistas ever bother to think this stuff through?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Random,
I find it still refreshing today when some people do realize that weve got a true&living God.Thtat were all created&that nobody evolved as evolutionists keep trying to teach children in our public schools.Happy we have men like Ken HAm&a few other places that can change this problem.Sad part is that many people will die&be judged for the wrongs while still down here.God must be furious with all the babies weve allowed to be aborted.Glad Dr.Gosnell won't be practicing anymore,too!Liz
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>>I find it still refreshing today when some people do realize that we've got a true and living God<<<

That would not be me. Also, learn to get embedment right.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Religion's got nothing to do with it; the more educated people become, the more they question things and the less likely they are to believe in the supernatural. Your boldly saying, in the manner of a political talking point, that "Eberstadt does not shy away from asking the big questions about life" doesn't automatically make them big questions - the real BIG questions seems to me to be "What's for dinner?" and "How could we remain so gullible for so long?" See, the answers to your big questions don't contribute to our evolution, whereas mine deal with what needs to be done to survive and with learning to reason.

In a world in which all the answers quote "God", there's no need for questions!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh wow, "Mr. Superior," I guess you told us!

Jerk. I'm an agnostic too, but for someone who thinks he's more worldy, intelligent and rational than those who believe in God, you come across as primitive and simplistic in your logic. People like you are legion these days, and you are fools. hae a nice day.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Milk comes from the grocery store. Everybody knows that!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I forgot I had already voted on this, but was reminded by PJ Media in red no less, that I already voted this comment up.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
One was, of course, we saw the beginning of the return to the home of many young adults, because they couldn’t afford to strike out on their own.

And this is generally regarded as a bad thing. But what I see there is that’s an example of how adversity arguably strengthens the extended family, by having people not be atomized and all on their own, but rather back in some kind of connection to the family unit.


The fertility rate went down as well. You see, if you can't afford to live on your own, you're not about to even consider having kids. Rather, you live the slacker life-style and finance it by living off of your parents. This is what young adults do in places like Japan and Europe. Now their doing it here.

Also, consider that striking out on your own was considered a milestone of maturity and adulthood, especially in a pioneering-oriented society like that of the U.S. Living at home with the parents is considered a hallmark of immaturity and being a slacker.

Now, does anyone still think this is a positive trend?

More disturbing to me is the implication that a general reduction in economic opportunity and prosperity offers social benefit. Economic opportunity and prosperity is always a good thing. Nothing good could ever come out of a reduction of it.

Do you still think this is a good trend?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for publishing this interview. I have not read the book yet, but I offer this comment in response to the interview.

I would think one must take one step backwards and ask, “What is life?” Most on the Right would answer that it is a gift from the benevolent God. The Left would respond it is a burden to be avoided at all costs.

The MSM could barely bring itself to report on the Gosnell trial and examine what it might mean to the larger society.

I think you also touched on in the interview, perhaps the book goes further, that there is a profit motive involved. By breaking up the family and down-grading the connections whole industries sprang up to do what had been done by families.

This gets to the heart of what we try to say by shorthanded referenced to Judeo-Christian values; you must not treat people as things. “Love one another as I have loved you’ isn’t much fun in the short term, but works best for all long term.

Most importantly decoupling sex from procreation might be the most damaging hubristic action mankind has ever taken.

By putting self at the center of our lives over God, gives rise to a host of things that we are explicitly warned against doing.

Now we reap the whirlwind.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
What killed God was the crisis of belief. The problem is Christians always insisted that literal belief in specific historical events and particular doctrines was essential to salvation. Since men tended to differ on those beliefs and interpretations the Church felt it had to settle these disputes by force. Out of these disputations and persecutions came an attempt to solve the conflicts by use of reason and argumentation; out of which grew science and the enlightenment. Eventually science and enlightenment (secularism) became dominant because people were no longer able to believe what seemed to be absurd in the light of reasoned examination. Too bad the Christians couldn't understand their parables and myths as spiritual metaphors, as, for example, the dharmic religions tend to do. Because of the religious wars and persecution of the 16th and 17th centuries we have developed the idea of religious tolerance which, along with science and reason, are the great strengths of our civilization. It is those qualities that most enrage our enemies, the Muslims. They don't like Christians and Jews, but they REALLY don't like freedom of thought and liberation of women.

I don't think that non-believers should disparage and denigrate believers--those new atheists are pretty much empty drums, recycling the same tedious arguments. But it is also up to Christians to come up with a view of Christianity that doesn't offend the sensibilities of reasonable people by asking them to believe in fairy tales.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are a reasonable, but unfortunately, mis-educated individual. The church did the best it could given the state of knowledge at the time. For example, it was entirely reasonable to believe the sun and planets revolved around the earth, because that is how it appears. As science advanced, the church had a dilemma. How to reconcile the new found knowledge with faith, while not losing the trust of the people, who expected the church to be correct in everything. By no means was the church anti-science, in fact many early scientists were priests and monks, like Copernicus. The church had no problems with Galileo's verification of Copernicus' theories, the problem was that Galileo was a jerk, and that is what got him into trouble.
It is simply wrong to think that science came into being in spite of Christianity, or is irreconcilable with belief in God. Rather, it is the opposite. Prior to Christianity, there was no logic in the world. Yes, there were the Greeks, but their logic was still hampered by the presence of various gods who could be arbitrary and capricious in their actions. By contrast, the christian god was logical, and encouraged a logical view of the universe. The merging of Greek logic and the rational Christian worldview led to the creation of our (formerly) great universities by the Catholic Church, where science flourished.
Your history of religious wars is also sadly misinformed. As for Muslims, they have been at war with Christianity from their beginning, which dates centuries before the Enlightenment which you believe enrages them. Read the Koran. It is quite explicit regarding who their enemies are. As for the internecine christian wars, many of these were merely vehicles by which kings could strip the Church of the considerable wealth it accumulated. Or in the case of the Church of England, because the Pope would not grant
King Henry a divorce.
As far as the "fairy tales" you refer to, it is all too easy for secular people to dismiss what they do not want to believe as fairy tales. Take the resurrection of Christ for example. There were numerous eyewitness accounts, but someone who does not want to believe can simply say "fairy tale!", as if that settles the argument. A good modern day example is the Shroud of Turin. 90% of all tests either reinforce it's authenticity, or at least do not undermine it. Yet, a single flawed carbon 14 test - on an object that was in a fire in 1532 - was enough for the unbelievers to stand up and shout "Fake!"
While the "scientific" atheists out there like to consider themselves rational and wag their fingers at the irrational Christians, in reality it is the christian community that is more open minded while it is the non-believers are more "religiously" illiberal in their beliefs. Need a present day example? Here it is in just two words: "Global Warming"
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do agree, however, that the Church wasn't consistently anti-science. It generally did its best to integrate Greek and Roman learning into the Christian intellectual framework. Same goes for scientific discoveries. Most early European scientists were believers, not skeptics. The idea of a backward, tyrannical Church working furiously to keep the faithful in a state of ignorance is an old piece of humanist propaganda that can be refuted by just about any decent medievalist.

But I think that gradually, the apparent contradictions and inconsistencies between the findings of science and the "revealed" truths of Christianity became too numerous to ignore. It got more and more difficult to fit what science was telling us into the Christian narrative. Eventually, a lot of people could no longer stand the strain. The point came where it seemed necessary to choose a path: the spiritual or the scientific.

No conspiracies, just change.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
That formulation is wrong. The Church was in fact pro science and instrumental in it's development. Christian metaphysics in fact is one of the drivers of the development of science, and why science exploded in Christendom like no other culture/population on the Earth. There are exceptions to that rule, but that is the rule.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just playing devils advocate because I lack the "believing" gene: Who vouches for the eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection? Why do we automatically assume - based only on their testimony - that they are telling the truth? Because their stories all (more or less) agreed? Don't get it.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, while believers can point to thousands of bits of evidence, that evidence is usually dismissed out of hand by those who did not witness the event for themselves. I can understand that. But unfortunately, that same logic does not apply to areas close to an atheist's heart, like evolution. There too, the evidence is elusive. So, the atheist does not believe in God because of a lack of evidence, yet believes in evolution not because of supporting evidence, but rather out of a belief that since a non-existent God did not create life, it must have evolved from lifeless matter. By contrast, the Christian is neither compelled to believe in evolution or a literal interpretation of the Bible (although admittedly some do) Instead, the Christian can accept the evidence as it develops without violating the principles of either God or science.
I think the best the Christian can do is try to get a non-believer to view things with an open mind.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think we have here one of the major contradictions of Christianity: that the spiritual is confused with the material. The spiritual view of God and Heaven is not on the same level as the material scientific view of evolution and other physical sciences. It's apples and oranges. The nature of the physical world should not matter to the insights of spirituality. So life evolved: so what? Why do christians insist on arguing over a question of physical science? Only because of an attachment to literalism.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is an old argument and isn't going to go away. Galileo was reputed to have said something to the effect of "I will tell them how the heavens go, and you will tell them how to go to heaven." It wasn't received well then, either.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I don't think that non-believers should disparage and denigrate believers"....and then you do.
Your comments indicate you see no core truth in Christianity, just mythic fairy tales that all "sensible and reasonable" people should reject so smart people (the one's who evidently have not completely rejected God yet?) will not be "offended". We should all be more like the dharmic religions, whose core belief system of karma and animism, is a more "sensible and reasonable" faith that doesn't offend people....really? Which is a bigger fairy tale: believing in endless reincarnation and spirits inhabiting rocks, trees, etc., or that Jesus lived and is God incarnate? No need to answer - I don't want to offend your sensibilities

I am more of a 'glass half full' guy on this issue: At the end of the day, the demographics of believers, their reproductive instincts and desire to continue the family structure, will override the death cult of secular humanists and atheists. Read Spengler's "How Civilizations Die"'; even the Muslims aren't immune.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am not trying to disparage Christianity, I'm trying to point out why I think Christianity is losing ground. You may disagree. I notice too that religious communities often have a vitality lacking in our secular populations where liberalism is rampant. I notice that these secular communities are rife with superstition, intolerance and pseudo-religions such as extreme environmentalism and various other utopianisms. I am arguing against literalism. The ascendence of belief over understanding.

Church doctrine once decreed that unbaptised infants could not be admitted to heaven. Beliefs like this and many others equally absurd were insisted upon under penalty of death for way to long in the history of Christianity. That is what I mean by literalism.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You say Christianity is losing ground yet it's now in China and converting a record 10,000 souls a day over there. Which may explain why they are doing so well despite their lousey government.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, you're saying that in 3rd world hellholes and other backwaters where starving illiterate ignorant peasants who would look forward to eating dog food reckon christianity could represent a possible improvement of their lives?

Quelle surprise!

Stick to the point. In the western world where reason and the enlightenment and science has solved basic stuff like eating on a regular basis, christianity is losing ground.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Elegantly stated! The dilemma within Christianity is a very old one, i.e.

“If they [non-believers] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the Kingdom of Heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason?” ---from "The Literal Meaning of Genesis" by St. Augustine (5th century AD)

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I once read a bood that made the case that in the first part of the 20th century the left started to separate people from God by using health codes to take the churches ability to bury its parishioners on church property. One reason people went so regularly to church was so they could visit their loved ones after church. Grandma & Grandpa were there, as well as Aunt Mildred and Uncle Ernie. Health codes forced families to bury their loved ones in mega graveyards which began to put that wedge between the church and familes.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, so decline in family equates to decline in religiosity, and vica versa. The same correlation = causation that the climate crowd engages in. Oh look, there are two variables that track, one must cause the other! The commentariat here treats that version of climate science with the disdain it deserves, and likely swallows the same thinking because it dovetails with their beliefs.

The notion that religion tracks socioeconomics is also dubious. This is and has been true for the basic job classifications that survive in small towns (e.g. running the local variety store or insurance agency) due to the fact that church also functions as social gathering place. Take away the easily reproduced job classifications and small towns, apply this to high tech and science and big twns. Whoooops. Data falls apart.

FAIL.

This article and book is the echo chamber at work. It is not scholarship.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's not get too excited. "Correlation does not imply causation, but sometimes it's a pretty good hint."

Personally, I think cultural change and climate change are both too damn complicated for anyone to fully understand. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try. We should just beware of anyone who claims to know The Answer - especially if he asks us to vote for him, send him money, or shave our heads.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a lot of stuff that degrades or changes a culture, e.g. jobs started shipping overseas in the 50's; by the 80's it was difficult to buy consumer electronics made in the US. When the left began to notice this they blamed George Bush for the offshoring (conveniently ignoring the rust belt phenomenon of the 70's) and the right blamed Clinton then Obama. Then there were *millions* of job losses created simply by the use of technology. All of these thiings conspire to create or exacerbate societal upheaval like divorces, alcoholism, moving to the east coast just to get a job etc. having widespread effect on families.

Blaming all of this stuff on turning one's back on god or losing religion is about as useful as blaming it on climate.

Articles like this one shilling books that look at sociopolitical data tuned specifically to religious issues and otherwise ignoring the effects (good and bad) of technological change are not just useless, but worse than useless. As I said all this does is look at a couple of variables and attempt to draw conclusions based on the assertion these are strongly related (i.e. correlation coefficient that could not happen otherwise.)

Let's see the math.

If I can spot the glaring holes this fast then you don't want actual (secular, usually) scholars or experts (statisticians) looking at it. They'd tear it to shreds.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a good enough short answer to how the West really lost God. The Left.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
People always forget that if you believe in God then you have to believe in the devil - and he hasn't been sitting on hos hands.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
And perhaps a complacent right and an ignorant mass in the middle.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not just complacent, but rocked back on it's heals conservative right. On the defensive, unconfident, and guilt ridden....on the defensive.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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