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My last column did its job. I was trying to highlight some of the reasons why conservative Christians are reluctant to join in the struggle against global jihad. And this is a problem, because–apart from Muslims, the only groups who are having children and passing along their beliefs almost undiluted to the next generation are conservative Christians and ultra-orthodox Jews (plus the Amish–who probably won’t be relevant to this conflict). Witness what secular demographer Philip Longman has to say on this subject:
To be sure, in countries rich and poor, under all forms of government, birth rates are declining across the globe. But they are declining least among those adhering to strict religious codes and literal belief in the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran. Indeed, the pattern of human fertility now fits this pattern: the least likely to procreate are those who profess no believe in God; those who describe themselves as agnostic or simply spiritual are only somewhat slightly less likely to be childless. Moving up the spectrum, family size increases among practicing Unitarians, Reform Jews, mainline Protestants and “cafeteria” Catholics, but the birthrates found in these populations are still far below replacement levels. Only as we approach the realm of religious belief and practice marked by an intensity we might call, for lack of a better word, “fundamentalism,” do we find pockets of high fertility and consequent rapid population growth.
Nor do all the many children of those true believers lapse into secularism, as previous generations did in the past:
When confronted with the fact that they are being outbred, secularists often respond that many if not most children born into highly religious families will grow up to reject the faith of their fathers — such is the assumed allure of freedom and individuality. This thought comports with the life experience of the many members of the Baby Boom generation, who shook off the bonds of traditional authority in the 1960s and 1970s, and who cannot imagine why the rest of humanity will not eventually catch on and catch up. Arguing against this proposition, however, are some stubborn demographic facts. Among fundamentalist families, it turns out, the apple does not fall far from the tree. And the more demanding the faith, the more this rule applies.Only five percent of children born to the most conservative Amish, for example, move on to other faiths or lifestyles. The defection rate is higher among New Order Amish, Mormons and other comparatively less demanding fundamentalist communities, yet they still hold on to the majority of their children. Moreover, what defections they may experience are more than offset by converts, with the net flow favoring conservative faiths, according to poll data gathered by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Thus we see 21 percent of converts leaving liberal and moderate denominations for more fundamentalist ones, and only 15 percent going the other way. There are many swirls and currents that affect us all as individuals, but between higher fertility and more successful indoctrination, the main demographic tide of history is clearly flowing in favor of fundamentalism.
Now, I reject the term “fundamentalism” as tendentious and pejorative. If you want to describe people who actually live according to the official tenets of their own religions, the word “orthodox” serves perfectly well. What Longman shows–and what Eric Kaufmann demonstrates at greater length in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century–is simply this: Orthodoxy, fertility, and fidelity (from one generation to the next) are powerful weapons. Serbian émigré Milica Bookman, in an unjustly neglected study The Demographic Struggle for Power shows how these weapons can be decisive.
Indeed, the Muslim birthrate, and their resistance to modernization and secularization are very weapons they will use to dominate the cradle of Western civilization. The secular liberals of Europe are not having nearly enough children to replace themselves, nor are they passing along a vital, fighting faith (in anything at all) to those few they do produce.
Given how intellectually backward, culturally alien, and externally repugnant Islam seems to most secular Westerners, we have long been able to fool ourselves that it has no real future–that modernity will prove a sufficiently potent acid to eat away this creed, as it eroded Christianity so quickly in the 20th century. That lie our parents told themselves is what allowed them to invite millions of Muslim immigrants into Europe, and permits them today to lobby for Turkey’s inclusion in the E.U. Because many of us could never imagine choosing the religious beliefs and attitudes toward childrearing that marked our grandparents’ generation, we blithely assumed that young Turks or Algerians growing up in our midst would make the same choice; once little Ahmed met the likes of Samantha Jones, surely he wouldn’t settle for one of those hijabed women who hang around at the mosque–or hordes of little mouths to feed, when birth control was available?
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