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Full Version: Ross Douthat's Decadent Society book (review)
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Ben Sixsmith from Quillette reviewing the NYT's resident Catholic conservative's newest book, The Decadent Society.

At the end of the book, with what strikes me—possibly unfairly—as embarrassment, Douthat writes that he would be “a poor Christian if [he] did not conclude by noting that no civilization—not ours, not any—has thrived without a confidence that there is more to the human story than just the material world as we understand it.” I see Douthat’s problem. He does not want his non-Catholic readers to be turned off by excessive religiosity, still less to think he is rationalising faith-based prejudice. All of his diagnostic arguments are scrupulously secular, and his argument for renewed faith ends with the slightly underwhelming claim that it “shouldn’t surprise anyone if decadence ends with people looking heavenwards.”

Frankly, as much as I enjoyed and agreed with most of The Decadent Society, I would have welcomed hotter, fiercer religiosity. One assumes that as one of the West’s more prominent Catholics Douthat thinks religious revival, however improbable, would be the answer to alienation and sterility, so he should have made that case. I might not have agreed, and others might have been outraged or disdainful, but it would have made the book more challenging and invigorating. After all, features of Western societies that non-religious people may find sad or dangerous, like reductive materialism, family breakdown and abortion, seem dramatically worse from a Catholic perspective, so philosophical neutrality is futile. Ironically, in what I suspect are his attempts to not be pigeonholed, Douthat has not quite spread his wings. (
excerpt)
(02-23-2020, 08:56 PM)Fionnchu Wrote: [ -> ]Ben Sixsmith from Quillette reviewing the NYT's resident Catholic conservative's newest book, The Decadent Society.

At the end of the book, with what strikes me—possibly unfairly—as embarrassment, Douthat writes that he would be “a poor Christian if [he] did not conclude by noting that no civilization—not ours, not any—has thrived without a confidence that there is more to the human story than just the material world as we understand it.” I see Douthat’s problem. He does not want his non-Catholic readers to be turned off by excessive religiosity, still less to think he is rationalising faith-based prejudice. All of his diagnostic arguments are scrupulously secular, and his argument for renewed faith ends with the slightly underwhelming claim that it “shouldn’t surprise anyone if decadence ends with people looking heavenwards.”

Frankly, as much as I enjoyed and agreed with most of The Decadent Society, I would have welcomed hotter, fiercer religiosity. One assumes that as one of the West’s more prominent Catholics Douthat thinks religious revival, however improbable, would be the answer to alienation and sterility, so he should have made that case. I might not have agreed, and others might have been outraged or disdainful, but it would have made the book more challenging and invigorating. After all, features of Western societies that non-religious people may find sad or dangerous, like reductive materialism, family breakdown and abortion, seem dramatically worse from a Catholic perspective, so philosophical neutrality is futile. Ironically, in what I suspect are his attempts to not be pigeonholed, Douthat has not quite spread his wings. (
excerpt)
As we discussed Douthat a short time ago, I thought this post might spark some consideration. Oh well. I post with a look forward towards whomever might scour these archives, who knows when, to see what "we" were like once upon a tumultuous time.
Actually, I was going to comment and in the 'busyness' of blogging, etc., I forgot to do so. I think one of Douthat's problems, that Sixsmith alludes to in his review, is that he is the token Catholic conservative on the staff of one of the bastions of anti-Christian, anti-Western liberalism, the NYT.

I think he must be walking a knife's edge, wondering what he can get away with without losing his bully pulpit.  As A.J. Liebling, of The New Yorker, once said,

[Image: quote-freedom-of-the-press-is-guaranteed...-53-03.jpg]

and I'm sure Douthat is fully aware that he doesn't own the NYT.  :D