Stricter Religion == More Reproduction. Reform and Secularism die off.

From Michael Barone:

In the 2004 presidential exit poll, 74 percent of voters described themselves as churchgoers, 23 percent as said they were evangelical or born-again Protestants and 10 percent said they had no religion.

This is in line with longer trends. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark in “The Churching of America 1776-1990” used careful quantitative analysis to show that in America’s free marketplace of ideas, the religions and sects that have grown are those that make serious demands on members. Those that accommodate to secular critics and make few demands decline in numbers. The Roman Catholic Church continues to grow in America; the Assemblies of God and the Mormon Church grow even faster. But mainline Protestant denominations, which spend much effort ordaining gay bishops or urging disinvestment in Israel, lose members
Who inherits the future? In free societies, each generation makes its own religious choices, but people tend to follow the faith of their parents. Secular Europe, with below-replacement birthrates among non-Muslims, could be headed for a Muslim future, as historian Niall Ferguson suggests.

In the United States, as pointed out by Phillip Longman in “The Empty Cradle” and Ben Wattenberg in “Fewer,” birth rates are above replacement level largely because of immigrants. But, as Longman notes, religious people have more children than seculars. Those who believe in “family values” are more likely to have families.

In other words, if your parents had fewer children, chances are you will too.


One Response to Stricter Religion == More Reproduction. Reform and Secularism die off.

  1. ooghe says:

    I remember reading a statistic that claimed that one summer, a popular beach experienced a surge in shark attacks. As the rate of shark attacks grew, so too did the consumption of ice cream. In a free market of ice cream availability, increased consumption of ice cream = more shark attacks. Maybe eating ice cream causes people to attract sharks, or maybe the trauma of a shark attack caused more grievous beach-goers to eat more ice cream.

    Or maybe it was just a hot summer.

    Like so many in the business of political science, a dynamic gets stated as causal relationship. Barone doesn’t actually quite do it, although in your next post you begin with ‘Free markets favor the religious because they can keep their flocks together and decide how they want to operate their societies with less imposition from the government.’ which is a surprisingly cart-before-the-horse kind of interpretation.

    Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the Reformation, Counterreformation, and the century of bloody war that surrounded that period- a period in which religion and governance were politcally congruent- would find that statement absurd. The implied rationale used to make it are presupposing the forces that are doing the interpreting- i.e. that there exists both ‘a free market’ and ‘government’ independently of the social order we’re discussing. Or, in another sense- how different would this critique seem if it had phrased the same point as “Canada, Europe, and the blue states of the US are among the most economically prosperous in the world, and also the most secular. An average immigrant Irish Catholic family in 1900 was much larger, poorer, and more religious than their descendents today- therefore demonstrating that an economically healthy world will look a lot more secular with condensed family sizes.”

    Whether a future European immigrant population, inundating with people calling themselves devout Muslims today, might wind up being a lot more secular after fifty years of exposure to a completely different socioeconomic context (and if history is any judge, the height of Arab civilization in the past was already also it’s most secular period), seems less Barone’s point than that ordaining a gay bishop is the road to civilizational extinction, (and perhaps, therefore that acceptance of homosexuality is associated with civilizational collapse- y’know, just sayin’)

    Part of the problem is the word secular is being used almost as if it were synonymous with atheism. The 74% of Americans who are churchgoers, he implies, are not “secularists”. Barone seems to take relish in assuring us that religion has not disappeared off the face of the earth in the last fifty years when ‘secular liberals were confident that education, urbanization and science would lead people to renounce religion.’ Really? I thought the battles liberals engaged in during the Civil Rights movement had more to do with changing social structures that were justified on conservative religious ground through appeal to a secular legal structure. Forty years ago plenty of southern christians would have quoted chapter and verse to support the inferiority of the blacks as ordained by God. Southern Christians today may have larger families, but they may also sound a lot more like a 1960 era liberal (unless you’re Trent Lott).

    Religion, like any secular ideology, is a way that people express their morality and a way they wish to see society function- but it’s also a formalization of inherited social conditions. Thirty years ago Africa was a continent teetering between Marxism and capitalism. Now it’s a battle between Islam and Pentecostalism. Whether we’re discussing the exportation of an ideology or the evangelizing of a religion, it all comes down to how well these various power structures can support themselves, and how reflective they are of the ‘flock’ they purportedly instruct.

    I agree with you that society is much more liberal than it has been in the past. I, alone among many, take Bush’s call for a constitutional ban on gay marriage to be one of the surest indications that within twenty years there will indeed be gay marriage. What I am wary of, though- are political arguments based on specious reproductive appeals.

    The canard of many a reactionary right wing political movement has been an undue fascination with sex lives.

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