April 7, 2010


Shall the religious inherit the earth?: Quite likely, on current demographic trends, argues a British political scientist in a book just published in Britain. (Eric P Kaufmann, 6 April 2010, MercatorNet)

A new book may explain why leading secularists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are so strident in their campaign against religion: it is not a question of driving the last nails into the coffin of religion but of desperately trying to ward off the inevitable resurgence of religious faith as a factor in political life. In, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, political sociologist Eric Kaufmann predicts the reversal of secularism around mid-century and asks what this will mean for societies. Here he responds to MercatorNet’s questions about his book. [...]

MercatorNet: Your book is based on the fact that religious people have a demographic advantage over seculars. Can you give us some examples of this? What about nominal adherents to a faith -- do they make any difference demographically?

Eric Kaufmann: The paradigm cases are closed sects like the Amish and Hutterites, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have 3 to 4 times the birthrates of their co-religionists. Conservative evangelicals and Mormons have 50 per cent more children than liberal/moderate Protestants. However, even practicing Catholics have an advantage: in France, white Catholic women who practice average a half child more than secular white women (a 25 % advantage) and that advantage has grown or been steady for decades.

MercatorNet: Several writers have predicted that Europe is on course to become Eurabia this century -- are they right?

Eric Kaufmann: I address this in some detail in the book, as well is in a recent article in the April issue of Prospect magazine here in Britain. The short answer is that I don’t foresee a Muslim-majority Europe in this century or in the next. Why? Mainly because Muslim birthrates are plunging both in Europe and the Muslim world. Already, Iran, Tunisia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and several other Muslim countries have replacement-level fertility or below. In the UK, Bangladeshi and Pakistani fertility has halved in a generation and is now under 3 children per woman. This means their long-term growth will begin to tail off. The other part of the equation is the rise of non-Muslim immigrant groups (African and West Indian Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and other Eastern faiths) who are also increasing and therefore making Europe more plural and, in the process, rendering it harder for Muslims to increase their share of the population.

That said, Muslim membership retention and in-group marriage is exceptionally high (over 90 per cent) and they are a much younger population than the host society. So they are on course for steady growth. My colleagues and I expect their fertility to fall to host levels by 2030, but they will still make up 5-15 per cent of most West European countries by 2050 and 10-25 per cent by 2100. This is a major change from the 2-6 per cent levels of today. [...]

MercatorNet: What trends do you see in the Christian population of Europe and the West generally? Is it still succumbing to secularism?

Eric Kaufmann: This is a complex picture. We see strong secularism among the mass of the population in most Catholic countries, such as Spain or Ireland; we find some of this among state Protestant churches like the Lutherans in Germany and Anglicans in England. On the other hand, the rate of secularisation has flattened to zero in most of Protestant Europe and France – the places where secularism began early and religious observance is low. By 2050 we should expect to see the end of secularisation in northwestern Europe and a slow, gradual rebound of Christianity (and other faiths). Finally, Christian immigration and fertility has arrested secularism in major cities like London, where Christian attendance is almost the same today as in 1989. This is an illustration of how demography affects secularism, but part of what we are seeing is an exhaustion effect whereby secularism has creamed off those most partial to leaving while the remnant remains increasingly resistant to its charms. Immigration then helps shift the wind in a religious direction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 7, 2010 5:40 AM
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