Battle of the Babies

From The New Humanist:

NewHumanistbabycoverNEW Whenever demography is the subject a panicky headline usually follows. Generally these take the form of anxieties about overpopulation. “Are there just too many people in the world?” asks Johann Hari in the Independent. “The World’s population is still exploding,” confirms the Optimum Population Trust (patron David Attenborough). Though equally they could be about the opposite. “Is Europe Dying?” queries Catholic apologist George Weigel (before answering his own question: “The brute fact is that Europe is depopulating itself”). “Falling birth rate is killing Europe says Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks” is the Guardian’s offering. To these hysterical headlines let’s add another, especially for you secular folk: with birth rates of seven babies per women fundamentalists will take over the world. And here is the kicker: it’s all secularism’s fault.This grim prognostication comes courtesy of political scientist Eric Kaufmann, a reader in politics at London’s Birkbeck College, and the author of the new book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, out in March from Profile Books. If, like me, you skip the six dense chapters of politico-demographic analysis, in the very last line of the book you can find his answer: “The religious shall inherit the earth.” There is, of course, an “unless” and we’ll get to that later, but let’s just let the idea sink in first.

What Kaufmann is arguing is that the secularisation thesis, the assumption that modernity leads inexorably to a lessening of religious belief and a day when we are all rational humanists, is wrong – at one point Kaufmann approvingly quotes Rodney Stark and Roger Finke’s view that this is “a failed prophecy”. Further he is saying that there is something about our current form of liberal secularism that contains (here’s another headline) the seeds of its own destruction. Since the birth rate of individualistic secular people the world over is way below replacement level (2.1 in the West), and the birth rate of religious fundamentalists is way above (between 5 and 7.5 depending on sect), then through the sheer force of demography religious fundamentalism is going to become a much bigger force in the world and gain considerable political muscle. Literalist religious conservatism is being reborn and we secular liberals are the midwives.

More here.