The Catholic World Report publishes a depressing interview with Mary Eberstadt, author of How the West Really Lost God.
For one, changing Western legal codes have made it easier for people to view “family” as an optional arrangement based on voluntary association, rather than as a permanent institution formed by elemental biological ties. Once upon a time, whoever was your sister-in-law remained your sister-in-law for life. Today she might be replaced at any time by other sisters-in-law or sister-in-law-type people, depending on her and your brother’s intentions. That’s a new and potent social fact. … From the very beginning, after all, the Church has stood as a sign of contradiction for so many things that pagans could have and Christians couldn’t: infanticide, artificial contraception, abortion, and the rest. And from the very beginning, insistence on that strict code has not only made some people hate the Church (though of course it has). It’s also made other people love the thing, including some of the finest converts in history. … We modern people have less familial experience than those who came before us. We have institutional substitutes for the family from cradle to grave, daycare to nursing homes. That’s part of why Western society is less religious than it used to be, I believe—because if it’s hard to be an atheist in a foxhole, it’s also hard to be one in the nursery, say, or when contemplating an open grave. The fact that so many Western people are alienated in different ways from these primal experiences is part of what’s going on in so-called secularization.