Confessions of an Armchair (Moral) Geologist

Confessions of an Armchair (Moral) Geologist

Mary Eberstadt, newly Senior Research Fellow at FRI, asks what turns societies that once feared God into societies that now jeer Him?

Note: On March 15, Mary Eberstadt, prolific and varied thinker about our social situation, officially became a Senior Research Fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute, the parent institution of The Catholic Thing. Many readers will, of course, recognize her name and the contributions she has already made in several fields. But we also thought it would be useful for Mary briefly to explain what she’s achieved and what she hopes to do. We expect ever greater things, and ask you to welcome and follow her in the days to come. – Robert Royal

When Bob Royal started The Catholic Thing several years back (with the merry band of Hadley Arkes, Ralph McInerny, Brad Miner, Michael Novak, Fr. James V. Schall, and others, I was pleased and honored to become one of the first regular contributors. Since then, the Faith and Reason Institute’s projects and my own have generated synergy so often that formalizing the ties has come to seem a logical conclusion.

So I’m delighted to be joining the Institute now as a Senior Research Fellow, and to extend these public thanks to Bob for his continuing comradeship and shared vision. With this column, I’d like to give readers of The Catholic Thing a preview of some of the work to come from our new fellowship.
image During the past ten years, one puzzle has repeatedly preoccupied my research and my thoughts: What causes secularization? What turns societies that once feared God into societies that now jeer Him? What, exactly, catapults some modern men and women out of religious orbits, and into secular ones?

Transparent though they may seem, these and related wonderings have proved a challenge to wrestle into print. For starters, the questions are radical ones: they uproot the conventional ways of looking at secularization handed down to us by Karl Marx, Max Weber, Auguste Comte, and other modern titans of theory who have long dominated thinking on these matters. These and like-minded custodians of social thought have long asked the question the other way around. They’ve put religion in the petri dish, and started from the premise that it’s belief – not unbelief – that is in need of “explanation.”

Some of my written work, to date, has worked to turn that model upside down. It asks instead: given that most of humanity is, and always has been, theo-tropic, what are the forces that pull some of today’s people away from God – and uniquely, at that?

Through essays and books of the past ten years, I’ve been trying to illuminate the new tectonics out there from different lines of sight.

Click here to read the rest of Mary Eberstadt’s column . . .

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