Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Faith, No Faith, and 2.1 Babies

By Philip Jenkins
February 15, 2012

What has faith got to do with fertility? To see the answer, we can usefully look at Europe, where fertility rates began to collapse from the late 1960s onwards, as part of the much discussed demographic transition. Rates reached lows unprecedented in human history: 1.39 currently in Italy, 1.41 in Germany, 1.47 in Spain, and even lower numbers in Eastern Europe (1.28 in Ukraine, 1.26 in the Czech Republic). Falling fertility has coincided so closely with massive secularization that we must at least ask whether the two phenomena are related, even if not in a neat one to one relationship.

But linkages are highly probable. Fertility is likely to fall when women move into the workplace and become independent social and political actors, who are reluctant to heed the church's strictures on their moral conduct, particularly in matters like divorce, contraception and abortion. Also, the reason why people have fewer children in the first place is often because they no longer feel subject to the demands of religion and family pushing them to reproduce as their ultimate goal in life. Society becomes atomistic and individualist rather than organic and traditional.

A society in which people regard relationships as intended chiefly for companionship and mutual satisfaction is also more open to unconventional sexual arrangements, and to innovations such as gay marriage. Finding themselves in constant disagreement with church stances on politics -- seeing the churches apparently on the wrong side in all the incessant culture wars -- people become disaffected from organized religion.

Moreover, the fact of having fewer children is itself a powerful secularizing force. the rest-Excellent!


Post a Comment

<< Home