Friday, June 08, 2007

"How the West Really Lost God" Article of Note

This morning I read a very interesting article in at the Hoover Institution website called How the West Really Lost God By Mary Eberstadt. Essentially, it challenges the commonly held assumption that marriage and child birth, the standard family, is an outgrowth of religious faith rather than the other way around. It's a bit complex, but worth the read. What strikes me about Eberstadt's hypothesis is that perfectly corresponds with the idea of marriage and family life as a sort of living metaphor or general revelation. This quote from the article captures this idea:
"It appears that the natural family as a whole has been the human symphony through which God has historically been heard by many people"

The idea that the most compelling witness to the world might be the support and existence of a healthy family challenges my own prejudice towards more classical apologetics.


Candy Minx said...

Hi, this was a handfull alright. But I'm glad I persevered.

First, i am familiar with the research and theory behind declines in fertility and decline in religious faith.

I think that there is very little doubt about that sequence...but what brought about the decline in fertility?

Evidence shows fertility declines for a couple of reasons more than what the article listed...

One...the more educated people they tend to have less children.

Two, the more money people make they tend to have less children. (unless they are wildly rich they they often have many children, think of Hollywood families, having many children, adopting children Spielberg has about five kids, Gibson has seven, Willis has three, Mia Farrow has eleven...and this is because they can AFFORD to have so many children)

Three materialism. In order to compete with conspicuous consumption, have extra cars, a house, several toys and many many appliances, people sacrifice number children.

There were a couple of things I didn't agree with, the article says that children in adopted homes, suffer and have more problems than biological families because children need their actual biological parents. This is not why adopted children may have more is because their biological parents are sometimes substanse abusers and the child adopts addiction and mantal helth issues. I believe a home with steady loving care givers, adoptive parents regardless of whether they are gay or not biological.

I think there is another element in relation to the lack of profound emotions surrounding caring for children and faith.

The most ancient religious and spiritual practices arose with our hunting, treating and handling of food. Humans had to reconcile the need to kill what they loved...fellow animals. Religious rituals and sacrifice and honoring the spirit of animals for us to live is a powerful agent.

Since industrialize food production our experience with animals and food ahs become almost non-existent. Having to kill an animal is a profound duty and many hunter gatherer societies have serious rituals surrounding animal life and food.

I think that may be the first step away from a connectedness humans have with the earth...then with large families.

But great stuff!! i am glad I read the article.


noneuclidean said...

Congratulations on finishing the article, it's a beast. But, as I think you, as I, found it to be well worth the time and effort.

You bring up some really good points, most of which would have to be dealt with by extensively checking the author's research. For example, I believe that data shows that there is a correlation between education and fertility, but is it a cause and effect relationship? I'm sure some sociologists believe so, but is it a fairly accepted relationship? That, I don't know. Which leads me to say that I can't be certain of the veracity of the author's research, but if it is valid, the hypothesis is very interesting.

I like what you said about the animal sacrifices. I would expand the idea to death in general however. One of the reasons the killing of animals might elicit or encourage a religious belief is that it reminds people of the fragility of life. In our modern culture, our separation from nearly all death, except when it is mediated, allows us to stay comfortably far from the reality of death. Which reminds me of something McCarthy said about not understanding writers who don't write about death. I can't remember the quote exactly, I think it's from the one interview I don't have, the Vanity Fair one.

Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to reading that transcript.


Candy Minx said...

Hi...yes, I thought it was interesting what McCarthy said about not understanding writers who do not write about death....

The thing is almost all classic novels from 1930 and back...the best of them do in fact write about death. McCarthy dismisses Heny James...which I found unfortunate because Henry James wrote incredible claustrophobic settings and there was almost always death.

I agree with you that I would extend the issues of faith and belief being associated with hunting and killing deah of humans. The reason hunter-gatheres are reverent about animals lives is because their creation myths and belief system often have animals as metaphors and equals to humans.

The idea that people are taken away to hospitals to die, or retirement lodges to live out their last few years...separate from the family may also have beena connection to loss of faith. People are notified someone has passed opposed to the family gathering and being with the palative care situation.

It is also important to note that only 15 percent of people die away from their that is hopeful.

I understand that sometimes independance and social life is beter for elderly people in a lodge...I'd like to see more facilities inside the urban setting where falmilies could easily walk down the street to visit parents and relatives who need extra care in later years.

Well, there is much to think about...

Consider looing into the study Willian Sims Bainbridge did on fertility and decrease in faith.

Frotunately or unfortunately...I believe when you want to find answers with humans "follow the money" I believe a lof of human decisions and changes involve how it affects personal economy.