June 5, 2007

Gimmie That Ol' Time Religion...

Hatched by Sachi

This post was from an idea by Sachi, who did the initial research; it was written by Dafydd.

My best counterargument to the gloom and demographic doom of Mark Steyn's thesis in America Alone -- that the West is non-breeding itself out of existence -- is that Steyn has a bad habit of engaging in a brazen form of static analysis: he assumes that a myriad current trendlines will remain unchanged... the quintessential "if this goes on" conjecture.

The following is pure speculation. I suspect it's provable; and I suspect that it will seem true at the gut level to most readers of Big Lizards. But I'm not willing to do the research necessary to prove it conclusively. (Nor will I apologize for my laziness; take me as I am!)

Birth of a correlation

In particular, any argument of death by demography must assume the fertility rate remains the same, where total fertility rate (TFR) is the number of children per woman per lifetime.

For those of us who do not actually want to see a depopulated Europe taken over by its Moslem immigrants and turned into a sharia continent, the fertility rate is our escape clause: If we can noticibly improve the native-born European Christian TFR, we can forestall the dire consequences that Mark Steyn predicts. (I'll explain why "Christian" matters towards a bit later, but what I really mean is "non-Moslem.")

So what might raise a fertility rate? Well, what lowers one? In Europe, it seems to me that the plummeting fertility rate is directly linked to the lack of belief in the future: If a person sees a bright future, he tends to invest. Children are one of the most satisfying investments in the future; when tomorrow looks better than yesterday, it makes sense for parents to scrimp and save, delaying gratification today so that the kids will have a better life than their parents.

That is the norm. However, if the future looks grim and uncertain, if tomorrow seems like it will be worse than yesterday, then I believe potential parents tend to put off childbearing. Why bother? Why bring a kid into such a rotten world when it's getting rottener by the day?

Instead, I believe a lot of potential parents decide not to have children... instead, they party like it's (still) 1999. The corollary to monetary investment holds: If a market looks like it's headed downward with no hope of recovery anytime soon, a very, very large number of potential investors rationally decide not to invest in that market.

All right, we've reduced the Steyn Dilemma from "inevitable demography" to "raising the fertility rate" to creating a future bright enough to induce people ambivalent about having children to do so. So... how do we go about creating that bright future?

(I really am going somewhere with this; it's not just "turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down.")

The proposition that "tomorrow will be significantly better than yesterday" is, quite obviously, unprovable. (For one possibility, the Sun could go nova, killing everyone and destroying the planet.)

So if people are to believe in the future, they must do so as an article of faith. Faith, then, is an irreducible component of belief in a better future... and if the rest of my speculations are correct, faith is therefore a necessary component for a society to have a strong fertility rate. But -- faith in what, exactly?

Looking around the real world, societies (or subsocieties) that are strongly Jewish, Christian, or Moslem tend to have a high fertility rate; but so does India, which is mostly (82%) Hindu. According to this paper (page 21), the TFR for India as a whole declined from 3.4 in 1992-1993 to 2.9 children per woman per lifetime in 1998-1999. The fertility rates of both Hindus and Moslems declined over that same period: Hindus dropped from 3.3 to 2.8, and Indian Moslems dropped from 4.4 to 3.6.

Moslems are still growing faster than Hindus, but their rate of growth dropped more sharply: Moslems shed 0.8 over the same period that the Hindus shed only 0.5; put in percentages, the fertility rate of Indian Moslems declined by 18%, while that of Hindus declined by only 15%. "If this goes on," to be Steynian about it, eventually Indian Moslems and Hindus will have the same fertility rate.

What about other religions or quasi-religions (belief systems)? There is no indication that Buddhism or Shinto encourage large families, nor (obviously) does Communism. But considering the demographic trends, it seems the worst culprit is Euro-leftism, which is a faith-based belief in social-welfarism, self indulgence, and nihilism: Some European countries, such as Spain, have fertility rates of 1.1 ro 1.2, about half the bare replacement rate for a society. The United States has a fertility rate of 2.11, just about replacement; because of immigration, our population is growing.

(The highest TFRs tend to be in African countries with large animist populations; but they also have huge infant mortality rates, which somewhat cancels out the fertility rate. The case is atypical and can be ignored for our purposes.)

Looking at the relationship, however subjective, between culture and fertility, and between religion and fertility, I would argue that the best thing for Europe's population decline is a religious revival.

But of course, they're already getting one: Immigration into Europe is primarily Moslem. This particular religion, however, is expansionist, intolerant of dissent, theocratic, ambivalent about terrorism, and narcissistic to the point of believing the only proper function of infidels is as slaves to the faithful. Not every Moslem supports each of these elements; but especially among Moslem émigrés from the Middle East, Algeria, Somalia, and Indonesia, toleration of each of these elements (especially for sharia law) is disturbingly high. Thus, even though such immigration marginally improves the overall fertility rate of European countries, it's a very dangerous deal to make.

Fortunately -- some may say amazingly -- there is a revival of traditional religious worship underway in a number of European countries at this moment...


According to the French embassy in Australia, the last fifteen years saw a significant drop in religious practice:

  • Christenings fell from 95% to 58%;
  • Religious weddings dropped from 85% to 50%;
  • Belief in God fell from 66% to 61%;
  • Disbelief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus rose from 37% to 43%;
  • In 1960, there were 45,000 French Catholic priests; today there are 22,000.

But in the last few years, this trend has begun to reverse itself; more Frenchmen, particularly French youths, are turning (or sometimes returning) to the religious tradition of France:

But despite these symptoms of decline, there are also hints of renewal. For several years now, the number of prayer groups with a mixed membership of lay people and people devoted to the religious life has been rising, and there are now said to be 3,000 of them. Organised pilgrimages to places like Chartres attract bigger and bigger crowds (of 20,000-30,000 people), as do Church rallies for young people. Millions of people visit the most sacred Catholic sites such as Lourdes or Lisieux; and thousands visit abbeys or stay in monasteries. There has also been a rise, in recent years, in the number of adult baptisms (12,000 in 1997, compared with 8,000 in 1993 and 890 in 1976). Similarly, the number of lay Church representatives in secondary schools, hospitals and prisons has shown a steady rise. Finally, we should remind ourselves of the outstanding success of the JMJ (Journées mondiales de la jeunesse or World Youth Days) in August 1997, during which as many as a million young people gathered in Paris to meet Pope John Paul II.

But has this increase in Catholic religiosity affected the fertility rate of Catholics in France? According to French-language sources cited by Wikipedia, total fertility rate (TFR) in France dropped steadily in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, hitting a nadir of 1.66 in 1993 (remember, 2.1 is replacement rate in civilized countries). From that point, it began inching upwards again at a rate of increase of 1.3% per year for six years.

But then in the year 2000, TFR jumped up 8% to 1.87; it held steady until 2003; finally, from 2003 to 2006, TFR increased at an annual rate of 3.7% per year and is currently at 1.98.

The total rise in recent years -- I arbitrarily define that as when the bigger rise began in 2000 -- has been nearly 0.2, which is about 10.6%. But wait... could the higher fertility rate be due solely to the Moslems population of France?

Moslems compose 7% of the French population; what would the Moslem fertility rate have to be to fully account for the increase from 1999? For 7% of the population to fully account for a rise in TFR of 0.2, the fertility rate of French Moslems would have had to rise by nearly 2.9 children per adult woman.

But this is absurd: Taking the Indian Moslem rate as more or less a baseline, that would mean the Moslem fertility rate would have had to nearly double in the last seven years. Even assuming a slight rise in the percent of Moslems in the population, such an increase would still demand that Moslem fertility in France skyrocket -- while it was shrinking elsewhere.

So mathematically, it would be difficult not to conclude that there was a significant rise in total fertility rate among Catholic French families since 1999... which coincides very neatly with the rise in religiosity. This is not a proof, of course; but it is a strong indicator that our initial supposition was correct: A rise in traditional, religious beliefs, at the expense of atheism, Communism, or secular social-welfarism, tends to correlate to an increase in fertility rates.

This finding fits with studies here in the United States that show that religious families tend to have significantly more kids than irreligious families.

I don't have fertility figures for Germany or Italy, but there is evidence of a religious revival there, too...


The Christian Science Monitor, hardly a right-wing publication, has been keeping track of the rise in regligion in both Germany and Italy:

  • Head of state Angela Merkel - the daughter of a Protestant minister - this month renewed calls to include a specific reference in the EU constitution to Europe's Christian heritage.
  • There are more theologians in the German parliament than in any other Western parliament, including the US Congress. And when the last government cabinet was sworn in, nearly every member -- instead of the usual 50 percent -- opted for the religious version of the inaugural oath, according to Karsten Voigt, coordinator of German-American relations at the foreign ministry.
  • In a recent survey gauging the perceived credibility of different professions, pastors were ranked in the Top 5.
  • German students must take either ethics or religion classes, though Berlin recently made ethics compulsory, and religion optional. Mr. Voigt reports that "more and more" high schoolers in the state of Brandenburg are opting for religion too.
  • Church attendance is no longer declining, and in one state the number of young churchgoers is going up, says Voigt.

The process is not as pronounced in Germany as in France; but Germany has the legacy of the Soviet Union and its satellite, East Germany, to overcome.


Another article in the CSM discusses religious revival in Italy, home to Roman Catholicism:

Sister Cristina is one of 550 young Italian women who joined the country's 7,500 cloistered nuns in 2005 - a dramatic increase from the 350 who became nuns in 2003. Vatican officials say the sudden rise in Italian monasticism mirrors a resurgence in Catholicism among young Italians during recent years....

Vatican officials say young people's thirst for moral direction is driving a resurging interest in Catholicism. "There's a reawakening after a time of secularization," says Sister Giuseppina Fragasso, vice president of the Vatican's association for cloistered monks and nuns.

The number of Catholic clergy has dwindled worldwide since peaking in the late 1960s. In particular, it's getting harder to attract new blood to the priesthood. According to the Vatican's statistics office, monasteries have been closing too fast for their researchers to keep track. While other Christian sects attract priests by allowing them to marry and by inviting women to ordination, the Catholic church still prohibits such activities.

But the tide is turning in Italy. Nearly half of adult Catholics attend mass at least weekly, up from 35 percent who did so in 1980.

Clergy credit much of young people's interest in Catholicism to the late Pope John Paul II, stressing the impact of the World Youth Days he started in 1984. Catholic fervor reached a crescendo with his death in April 2005. "This pope really brought the faith closer to young people; there was a strong bond between him and us," affirms Giovanna, a young biologist praying by John Paul II's tomb in Rome.


For some reason I have never been able to fathom, it is always tempting to hunt for a negative trend, extend it beyond all reason, and then use it as an excuse to despair. But this is a misuse of the science of demography: You cannot just extrapolate wildly, willy nilly, based upon a few data points. Mark Twain summed it up well in chapter 17 of Life On the Mississippi (1850):

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period,' just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

I won't say we've turned a corner in Europe; but we're definitely peeping around it and starting to make our turn. Traditional Christian religion appears to be on the rise on that continent; and in one country where we have data, this rise correlates to a rise in fertility rate as well.

I can even see a mechanism at play: As more Moslems pour into Europe and begin demanding separate regions under sharia law, arrogantly demanding that Christian "infidels" accomodate Moslem beliefs, and threatening non-Moslems with violence and lawlessness, angry and frightened Christians may well turn to the religion of their youth (or perhaps of their fathers and mothers). Thus, Christian religiosity in Europe may be rising directly in response to the Moslem onslaught.

So take heart; Steyn notwithstanding, there is no reason to believe that current bad demographic trends will continue as they are indefinitely. Western culture is the most malleable, adaptable culture on the planet, and we can respond to crisis better than any other civilization. I still have full confidence that if the radical Moslems push jihad too far, we'll go Mediaeval on them.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 5, 2007, at the time of 8:16 PM

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The following hissed in response by: lsusportsfan

I think you are very on to something. Wht is happening in Italy is soemthing else. THe current Pope is really making changes. We see that in just increased numbers for his Wednesday audiences

Soemthing incredible happened a few weeks back in Italy. IN Italy there were proposals to weaken marriage. Well the Bishops of Italty wanted the laity to respond. THe were going to have a demostration. A success would have been 100,000 showing up. Over 1.7 million showed up in Rome in defense of their faith. THe counter Demostration had just thousands

HEre are the links that tell about this



The above hissed in response by: lsusportsfan [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2007 10:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: louie2

I think you are on to something. Strength in fraternal organizations seems to be increasing - the Masons (at least in the South) are gaining members rapidly and the average age of members decreasing.
I surmise a return to traditional values is involved - family, support of each other, religion, and trying to live a "traditional" lifestyle while maintaining freedom of choice.

The above hissed in response by: louie2 [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 5:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: louie2

I think you are on to something. Strength in fraternal organizations seems to be increasing - the Masons (at least in the South) are gaining members rapidly and the average age of members decreasing.
I surmise a return to traditional values is involved - family, support of each other, religion, and trying to live a "traditional" lifestyle while maintaining freedom of choice.

The above hissed in response by: louie2 [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 5:09 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

Fortunately -- some may say amazingly -- there is a revival of traditional religious worship underway in a number of European countries at this moment...

I understand some of the African Churches are sending missionaries to Europe.

Full circle it appears. ;-)

Missionaries in about-turn as African priests go West
Africa could ease the acute shortage of Catholic priests in Europe by sending clergy to "re-evangelise the West" under new proposals that have received Pope John Paul's blessing.

Europe has been hit by falling vocations and growing secularism in contrast to the thriving church in Africa, once the proselytising target of Western missionaries.

Just 18 priests have been ordained in England and Wales this year while about 5000 men are training to be priests in Nigeria alone. "I believe priests from places like Nigeria can re-evangelise Europe," said Archbishop John Onaiyekan, president of the Council of Bishops' Conference of Africa and Madagascar.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 5:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Keep your eye on the religious aspect, the author known as Stengler, over at AsiaTimes, found two strong factors that correlate to the fertility rate; literacy and religion. Literacy has a negative correlation, and religion has a positive correlation. Hence America has a fertility rate almost returned to break even, while Europe is dying. (America still has a high percentage of religious people, while Europe has declined to ~16%)

A religious revival in Europe is their only hope of survival, but the EU Elite (just like our elite) loathes Judeo-Christianity and already has laws in place to suppress it.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 8:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: phil g

The writer in Asia Times known as Spengler writes a lot about the connection of religious faith and fertility. He has not yet picked up on, or has at least not written about, any evidence of change or tipping point in Europe. This is an interesting subject to follow more closely.

The above hissed in response by: phil g [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 10:57 AM

The following hissed in response by: Eilish

Very interesting post. It does confirm some of my own experience traveling throughout Europe in 1999.

I was raised in a Reformed Protestant Church and easily found refomed churches in much on the Netherlands and Germany, but I generally attended Catholic services in Italy, France and Ireland. In Italy and Ireland particularly (hard to tell in France, as my French is not that good) I found the homilies to be very vigorous and lively, sharing the Gospel message and applying the scriptures to everyday life. I was extremely impressed with the priests (who were mostly quite young) and the churches, even in small towns were fairly well attended by a range of different ages. In one town in Italy, the guest musicians for mass were are group of young nuns from the Philipines, singing praise music in Italian! Everyone enjoyed it immensely.

I certainly hope that this is a trend that has continued. I do wonder whether or not this rise in young church attendance has had an influence on the trend toward more capitalistic and conservative governments France and Germany.

The above hissed in response by: Eilish [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 11:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

The biggest issue, on topic, is whether or not this change is big enough and soon enough.

Styen is not the only one to think Europe is done for.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2007 11:34 AM

The following hissed in response by: JGUNS

This post got me thinking. I wonder if it is that one of the few positives to come out of the war on terror is that MORE people respond by becoming more religious. It seems to me that I have read that there is a positive trend in the United States for Christianity, with church attendance up and even a push towards more orthodox or strict denominations and AWAY from the more liberal faiths. It makes sense to me that with all this talk of Islam that it could have the result of pushing western society towards "their own" religions. It would seem to me that in the case of secular progressives, their pandering to CAIR and mollycoddling of Islamic Fasicsts is actually serving to undercut them in the long term. For the longer they delay addressing the jihadists, the more they are going to be daily news, thus the more religious conservatives, thus the LESS power they have. Hmmm...

The above hissed in response by: JGUNS [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 7, 2007 10:49 AM

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