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Nationally-recognized author, cultural critic discusses new book at Blinn College

Mary Eberstadt says the decline of the family unit has led to an ebb in faith

April 8, 2014

Mary EberstadtNationally-recognized author and cultural critic Mary Eberstadt told Blinn College – Bryan students and faculty that the decline of the family unit has led to an ebb in faith during a speech Monday in the College’s Barbara L. Pearson Banquet Room.

Eberstadt, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., was addressing ideas presented in her new book, “How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization.” The event was sponsored by Blinn’s Social Sciences Division.

In her new book, Eberstadt uses historical data on family decline in pre-Revolutionary France in addition to contemporary popular culture in the United Stated and Europe to argue that the diminishing family unit has led to a decline in Christianity. This opposes the common belief that society’s decline in faith has led to the decline of the family unit.

“What’s going on behind the trend?” Eberstadt asked. “Secularization seems to be a linear process. As more people become more educated, more prosperous, humanity begins to see God as a superstition, as more of something like the tooth fairy rather than a deity.”

Eberstadt refuted the argument that secularization intensified after the two World Wars, contending that countries that hadn’t experienced wars saw similar patterns of secularization. She addressed the post-World War II baby boom that brought with it a religious revival of sorts not only in the U.S. but countries, including Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

“This didn’t just happen randomly,” Eberstadt said. “There is something about living in families that make people more likely to believe and go to church…Christianity is familial. There’s sanctity in the family. The story of Christianity begins with a baby in a holy family.”

Societal trends today, including marrying and having children later in life or not at all, makes relating to Christian family fundamentals difficult to relate to, Eberstadt said.

“On the upside for those concerned, the historical timeline doesn’t say there’s an inevitable decline. This comes and goes,” Eberstadt said. “The picture is not all dark. It just hasn’t been seen before. It’s going to take a while to figure out how and why.”

Eberstadt served at the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under president Ronald Reagan. She is the author of several books relating to American society, culture, religion and philosophy and has written for a variety of publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.