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Losing Faith and Secular Dhimmitude

Posted By Roland Shirk On December 21, 2010 @ 12:02 am In FrontPage | 8 Comments

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 √©migr√© 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?

It turned out, we were wrong. Those of us who were grateful at having escaped the cultural ghettos and “suffocating” creeds of our forebears projected our own attitudes onto the aliens in our midst–and too many of us are unwilling to admit our mistake. We pretended to ourselves that showing Muslim immigrants sensitivity training films about gay couples, or trying to otherwise integrate them into secular modernity, will dissolve their orthodoxy, depress their fertility, and dissipate their fidelity–turning the angry, resentful, power-hungry Muslims who throng Europe’s banlieues into soccer-playing, pot-smoking, heteroflexible liberals. It turns out that cultures are a little more resilient than that.

At the very heart of the problem in Europe is the absence of any countervailing force to Islam, such as Christian Europe used to provide. Men like Christopher Hitchens, or the late Pym Fortyn, may do yeoman’s work resisting Islamic expansionism in the short run; but these are not the kind of people who will save the continent, if indeed it is to be saved. That must come from an equally vital force, with the same competitive advantages as the enemies of the West.

Likewise in America, it will not be the New Atheists, driving their 1.2 children to Rudolf Steiner schools in their Priuses, who provide the manpower and muscle to keep America un-Islamic. It will be the large, homeschooling families who read the Bible aloud instead of watching television; who march on Washington every January 22 to protest Roe v. Wade; who sacrifice vacation travel, disposable income, and leisure time in favor of reproducing themselves. Secularism, for most people, creates a spiritual and psychological vacuum–which is typically filled by some form of utopian liberalism, of a multicultural, socialist or feminist variety. The percentage of secularists willing to face the ugly truth about Islam will always be relatively low; too many of them are still engaged in fighting the last war, against the Christianity or orthodox Judaism of their parents. People who think that Eisenhower’s America was an intolerable Christian theocracy aren’t ready for the real struggles we face in the next 50 years against global jihad. And if they persist in asserting that the tolerant Christianity which dominated America for 200 years is in principle no better than Islam, the Christians who should be their allies will stand aside–convinced that the Turkish-style secularism favored by these anti-religious crusaders is in principle not much better than sharia.

To be clear: Neither I nor any significant Christian group in America favors legislation based on religious revelation. Instead, we argue from natural law, as Amherst professor Hadley Arkes explained quite brilliantly, speaking at an event of Thomas More College–the school that sponsored Robert Spencer’s debate with Peter Kreeft. As Arkes said:

In my own teaching I’ve found no clearer model of natural law reasoning than that fragment Abraham Lincoln wrote for himself when he imagined himself in a conversation with an owner of slaves, asking why he was justified in making a slave of a black man: Was it intelligence – that the black man was less intelligent than the white? “By this rule,” said Lincoln, “you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.” Was it color – “the light having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be a slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.”The upshot was that there was nothing one could cite to disqualify the black man that would not apply to many whites as well. Some of us simply used the same mode of reasoning applied to abortion: Why was that offspring in the womb anything less than human? It didn’t speak yet? Neither did deaf mutes? It had no arms or legs? Other people lost arms or legs without losing anything necessary to their standing as human beings to receive the protections of the law. And the upshot: there was nothing one could cite to remove the child in the womb from the protections of the law that would not apply to many people walking about well outside the womb.

But I’d point out further that nowhere in this chain of reasoning is there an appeal to faith or revelation. The teaching of the Church has been a weave of moral reasoning joined with the facts of embryology. In other words, one doesn’t have to be Catholic in order to understand the argument on abortion – and that has been precisely the teaching of the Church: The argument depends simply on that discipline of moral reasoning that forms the ground of the law natural for human beings.

What some doctrinaire secularists seem to want is a reading of the Constitution that disenfranchises religious believers, and deems moot the ultimate questions they consider important–such as the beginning of human life, the nature of marriage, and the meaning of the family. If my opinion about such issues is grounded in reasoning that in any way connects to religious faith, I lose my vote. So state and federal courts can strike down democratically enacted laws restricting marriage to heterosexual couples, based on arbitrary, recently concocted theories of sexual identity. Can laws against polygamy be far behind? The secularism that dissolves the cultural substance of American law under the acid of utilitarianism will equally remove every barrier to colonization by faith-filled foreigners. Having scraped America’s womb clean of anything vital or human, they will come to see that it is, instead, inhabited by a monster: the bastard child of multiculturalism and Islam. This rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches toward Brussels to be born.


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