Religion and Demographic Trends

I’ve lately been coming across many demographic arguments suggesting that religion is gaining ground and nonbelief is declining. It seems to be a conservative talking point lately, and I’ve even come across some “heh heh we’re winning because we’re outbreeding the infidels” crowing among intelligent design proponents, such as this post by Denyse O’Leary.

There are some serious arguments to this effect as well. Eric Kaufmann, for example, argues that European secularization is bound to be reversed, because religious populations have more children and a higher rate of growth even after allowing for children who end up going secular later in life. But then, apparently the situation isn’t quite that clear. Gregory Paul responds in Free Inquiry (and if you don’t have a subscription to Free Inquiry you should). According to Paul, in the advanced Western countries, the trend is still that religion is losing ground.

I’m not a social scientist, so I have a hard time figuring out who’s more credible here. It is, however, an interesting debate.

Of course, I’m tempted toward cynicism as well. Since there’s good reason to believe that the planet is not capable of supporting the number of humans (especially rich humans) we have now, it’s particularly disturbing to see people cheering on high population growth rates. Then again, secularists (in the person of mainstream economists) are perfectly capable of being extremely stupid about population growth as well.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • beepbeepitsme

    I am also shocked about the delight that some people seem to get in thinking that if they outbreed groups they oppose that everything will be ok.

    Outbreeding your competition a few thousand years ago might have seemed like a reasonable plan, but in a world where we understand the concept of finite resources, surely population explosion = population crash at some stage.


  • David B. Ellis

    yeah, but when you are confident the end times are right around the corner overpopulation isn’t a worry.

    Just one of the consequences of “harmless” unsupported beliefs.

  • Steven Carr

    Are people who call themselves Christians to be counted as Christians?

    Yes, when it is politically correct to emphasises how important Christianity is, and how much political muscle religious leaders should be granted.

    No, when it is theologically correct to avoid classing Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, JW’s etc as Christians.

    So the number of True Christians in the world varies enormously.

  • Freudian Slip

    It’s so hard to get a true feel for this. Media is skewed, studies are skewed by however prepares the data, etc.

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