Monday, December 18, 2006

Quo Vadis?

As the comments for my recent post on political and religious socialization show, many people are still convinced that they world is becoming a secular one. I have received emails echoing the conventional wisdom that religion is on the way out and that non-believers are destined to rule. Even amongst many researchers and pundits who see the future as one that will be increasingly Christian, they focus on the Southern hemisphere and the growing trend of southern Muslims converting to Christianity. They almost to a man ‘write off’ Europe as being, eventually, all secular, all the time.

A few people, though, don’t agree, mainly some demographers and sociologists that are specifically watching trends in religion in Europe. As I have mentioned before and will again, religious women have more children, overall, than secular women. Again, the more devout a particular woman is, the fertility continues to increase. I will also repeat that children of religious people (especially religious mothers) are quite likely to be religious themselves. In the end, the argument over whether Future Europe will be religious or secular boils down to two questions: first, are religious women having more children in great enough numbers to be meaningful in the near-term (in this case, 100 years); and, will enough of these children of the religious stay religious?

Let me introduce you to Eric Kaufmann, a professor with Birkbeck University of London. Mr. Kaufmann is a demographer researching, among other things, religion in Europe. While everyone from me to Mark Steyn seems to be pointing out that religious women are certainly having enough children to overcome the moribund fertility of the secular, Mr. Kaufman is focusing on the second question by researching the combined effects of fertility and apostasy on future generations in Europe. His results are very interesting. While he does agree with the conventional wisdom that Europe is still becoming more secular, he points out that this is a trend that will end. By about 2035 Europe will be as secular as it will ever be, at about 55% non-religious (this is also, I would like to point out, almost exactly when world population will peak). After that, the secular population will begin to literally die off, leaving the religious. In the end, Mr. Kaufmann predicts, the Europe of 2100 will have a population more religious than the Europe of 2000. He points out that it will be a much more socially and politically Conservative continent, as well.

Just to recap; demographers predict that the Southern Hemisphere will continue to become more religious. Current research shows that Europe will become more secular for 30 or so more years, then rapidly reverse and end up more religious than they are now.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Europe will be more religious.

It will be Muslim.

This is hardly comforting.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I sincerely hope you are correct. I can't get much worked up about projections that far in the future, though. Too many variables. Life expectancy increases are likely to change the equation.

However, watching the dramatic increase in Christian converts in China and SE Asia, gives me hope for increasing religiosity in the world culture.

I raised my children to expect a post-Christian world, hoping to provide some steel in the backbone. So far, so good.

Anonymous said...

Need your Deep Thought on the Muslim issue, raised by the first comment.

Not sure how to do links....but found above googling "european muslim population increase". They have lots of babies, too.

Anonymous said...

Eric Kaufmann's "study" that you cite (and base your entire premise on) is a research proposal describing what he hopes to do, if he can find funding. It is not a study in any sense of the word.

Deep Thought said...

Please visit more than one link. Prof. Kaufmann has done a number of papers on this and is preparing for publication. yes, the proposal is in there - is is the working notes and first draft. And dozens of other articles.

Anonymous said...

Deep Thought, no offense but I looked at all your links. I couldn't find one of Eric Kaufmann's that was anything other than a research proposal describing work he hoped to do in the future if he found funding.

The Newsweek mentioned no citation to an actual study that had already been completed -just referred to material in the proposal.

Could you post here an actual study please?

Nice blog, btw. (for some reason, it won't let me sign in with my blogger account though.)

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking of this argument some more, and realized it contains a logical fallacy. I'm embarrassed I didn't spot it sooner.

Basically, this argument says that because a certain belief system belongs to a group which produces more offspring, then that belief system will increase in number. The flaws in this argument become apparent when one considers the following:

400 years ago, everyone believed the earth was flat and the sun revolved around the earth. Everyone had lots of kids.

100 years ago, most people believed slavery was just peachy. Most people had lots of kids.

70 years ago, most everyone believed women did not need the right to vote. Most everyone had lots of kids.

'Nuff said.

Speaking of voting rights, I'm sure you're aware of the old saw, "no athiests in foxholes"? Well, by the same token, there aren't any christian wives in the voting booth. They really should stay home and let the patriarchy deal with world affairs; otherwise they're just hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you miss some things - like socialization rules and the role of education.

Also, 400 years ago, almost no one thought the world was flat.

100 years ago slavery was banned in more nations than it is today

70 years ago women had the right to vote throughout Europe and America and the birth rate was only 50% higher than today

'Nuff said. Moron.