The Dead Sea of Faith

The Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore…
But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.
(Matthew Arnold, ‘On Dover Beach’)

Mary Eberstadt, How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularisation

How is it that 500 years ago it was impossible not to believe in God, while today for many people God’s existence seems scarcely credible? According to the standard theory of secularisation, intellectual and scientific advances, beginning with thinkers like David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, have made faith increasingly improbable. Yet this account fails to explain a number of features of secularisation. If secularisation is due to scientific and philosophical advances, then why are the highly educated more likely to believe in Christianity than those with less education?

The standard theory also cannot explain why levels of belief and church attendance fluctuated so widely since the 18th ... Read More