Another look at Eberstadt’s book

Michael Brendan Doughherty over at The Week writes an interesting review of Mary Eberstadt’s book It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies.

This is a good complement to the David P. Goldman link I provided yesterday. Dougherty writes:

But what is most interesting about this book is that Eberstadt proposes novel ways of understanding what is really at work in this phenomenon. On the one hand, this pattern of fear and light hysteria about religious people has a familiarity to it. The sharing of lurid and unrepresentative portrayals of religious people — think documentaries like Jesus Camp — or the fear that Christians present a unique threat for corrupting the government — the theocracy trend of the last decade — or that they are uniquely dangerous to children and minors — the suspicion of homeschoolers and Christians as child abusers — show all the signs of being a classic moral panic. These are the same kinds of accusations that in earlier ages were hurled at suspected witches, or at suspected Communists, or that fueled the fear of Satanists at daycare centers. Eberstadt suggests that more people would recognize it was a moral panic if it were aimed at any other religious or ethnic group. Because it is a moral panic, many people now participating will be embarrassed about it in the future.

If Eberstadt is right that this is a moral panic, that would be a considerable relief for the orthodox Christians who are reading her book. A moral panic tends to be a moral fad, and to burn itself out in a decade or two. Although some, like the witch trials, can consist of recurring panics over centuries.

But I wonder if Eberstadt’s moral panic analogy doesn’t conflict with the other novel suggestion in her book, that the post-sexual revolution ethics and anthropology that progressives are championing in the culture war is becoming a religion itself

I am veering towards the “is becoming a religion itself” mode.

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