Book Review: It’s Dangerous to Believe by Mary Eberstadt

Mary Eberstadt’s new book It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, New York: Harper (2016) would be a great read for the women of WSFT, and their friends. (Hint: have a book party to discuss it! Include friends of different politics and religions where possible!!)

Some of Eberstadt’s theses include:

1- The biggest enemy of religious freedom today in the U.S. is a quasi-religious belief in any and all nonmarital, consensual sexual behavior (WSFT was founded on this conviction in 2012; this confirms that we are working at the heart of things!);

2- The secular-progressive religion of “anti-religious-freedom” has the fervor, the tactics and the irrationality of the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism;

3- The drive to eradicate Christianity especially from the American landscape is being pursued not only via intolerant laws and judicial decisions, but behind closed doors – in meetings wherein religious students’ college applications are rejected or employees’ religious commitments are disparaged. This is darkly threatening to religious folks.

Eberstadt includes a strong list of reasons why anti-religious orthodoxy is blatantly irrational and socially harmful:

-basic moral convictions of Western society depend upon especially the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition – everything from the just war theory, to the notion of radical human equality, to the necessity to assist the poor;

-the loss of religious charitable institutions would be a severe blow to the poor;

-the poor benefit from Christian sexual morality and have suffered disproportionately from the sexual revolution; young women too have generally suffered from an environment affirming sex as merely mutual use for pleasure;

-when religious freedom is lost – with collateral damage to the rights of free speech and association – the society is prone to all sorts of repression, violence and irrationality.

Eberstadt also lists signs that even some leading thinkers are beginning to question secularist progressive orthodoxy on these terms. But they are drowned out by a larger number of activists and acolytes.

Her proposed solution? Be Jeffersonian, and be like the first judge to recuse himself from the Salem Witch Trials. In short: demand concrete evidence to justify the slurs against believers. Be rational about the consequences for everyone if anyone’s religious liberty is squelched. Demonstrate the irrationality, intolerance, hatred for diversity, and even violence and hate… present and active in the campaigns against religious freedom; and urge its current leaders to begin to alter their direction. Get both sides to acknowledge the humanity both of the believers “on trial”, and those leading the anti-religion campaign.

The women of WSFT are well familiar with many the stories and the thinking Eberstadt chronicles. We’ve been talking to each other about these matters nearly every week for four years. Her book, however, could awaken and convince a larger group of Americans unfamiliar especially with the virulence of anti-religion tactics, and with the rational case for religious freedom in a modern America.

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