Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?- book launch


by Rumbold
24th March, 2010 at 9:03 pm    

This looks like an interesting book launch. It’s tomorrow, so apologies for the late announcement. Press release below:

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Eric Kaufmann – Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth: Demography and Politics in the 21st Century – Book Launch

Eric Kaufmann will speak about his new book followed by a drinks reception. The book will be available at reduced rate.

Thursday 25th March 6pm Room 403 Birkbeck Main Building, Malet St., London
Free and open to all

[Synopsis]

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have convinced many western intellectuals that secularism is the way forward. But most people don’t read their books before deciding whether to be religious. Instead, they inherit their faith from their parents, who often innoculate them against the elegant arguments of secularists. In the race for souls, demography counts for more than eloquence.

And demographic reality is very much slanted against secularism: what no one has noticed is that far from declining, the religious are expanding their share of the population because secular birthrates have plunged below replacement. Based on a wealth of demographic studies, Kaufmann shows that the more religious people are, regardless of income, faith tradition or education, the more children they have. Religious countries have faster population growth than secular ones which is why immigrants are typically much more religious than their secular host societies. The cumulative effect of immigration and religious fertility will be to reverse the secularisation process in the West.

Not only will the religious eventually triumph over the non-religious, but it is those who are the most extreme in their beliefs who have the largest families. Within Judaism, the Ultra-Orthodox may achieve majority status over their liberal counterparts by mid-century. Neo-fundamentalist and neo-traditional Christians look like they will eventually follow suit in the United States and Europe. Islamist Muslims have won the culture war in much of the Muslim world, and their success provides a glimpse of what awaits the Christian West and Israel. Drawing on extensive demographic research, and considering questions of multiculturalism and terrorism, Kaufmann examines the implications of the decline in liberal secularism as religious conservatism rises – and what this means for the future of western modernity.

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(Hat-Tip: Random Variable)


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  1. Ismaeel — on 24th March, 2010 at 10:37 pm  

    Sorry which western intellectuals have they convinced? Both of their books against religion are academically sloppy and philosophical weak. Only an already committed atheist would really be convinced by them.

  2. KJB — on 24th March, 2010 at 10:57 pm  

    This sounds both depressing and terrifying. Also, believable. I’d really like to go, but I can’t…

  3. Abu Faris — on 24th March, 2010 at 11:18 pm  

    Shall the religious inherit the Earth?

    God, I pray they don’t.

  4. Dalbir — on 24th March, 2010 at 11:38 pm  

    Whether anyone likes it or not, the Western dream of a Godless society isn’t coming about anytime soon. The religious are here to stay, for better or for worse. Probably a bit of both actually.

    What’s the big deal? So we’ll kill each other over beliefs instead of resources? (actually we’ll conflate the two…hee hee…no big change there!)

  5. Naadir Jeewa — on 25th March, 2010 at 12:18 am  

    @4 . It’s not religiosity that’s the problem. It’s the fact that it’s the most extreme variants within each religion which are the fastest growing.

    Conflict over resources becomes all the more problematic when defined by religion.

  6. Smirnoff — on 25th March, 2010 at 3:36 am  

    There’s just one teensy little hole in his logic … if religious extremists are so good at taking over, why haven’t they done so already? Religious extremism has been around forever.

    In reality, the last few centuries have yielded huge gains for liberalism all over the world.

  7. cjcjc — on 25th March, 2010 at 8:10 am  

    Frightening if true.
    Though he does have a book to sell.

    So, this or the Faith debate at the British Library tonight?

  8. Random Guy — on 25th March, 2010 at 9:08 am  

    Funny how he implies that the Religous shall ‘inherit’ the Earth – its obvious that they never dis-inherited it in the first place.

  9. Cjcjc — on 25th March, 2010 at 9:16 am  

    Unfortunately

  10. douglas clark — on 25th March, 2010 at 10:26 am  

    The case that Eric Kaufman makes appears to be based on the arguement that even a little religion makes you fecund.

    See here:

    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2006/11/breedingforgod/

    I’m not at all sure there is the direct correlation he claims. Still and all, it’ll sell lots of books…

  11. Laban — on 25th March, 2010 at 11:01 am  

    I’ve been blogging this for what seems like forever.

    But it seems impossible to get it into the thick skulls of your average secular liberal that if they can’t be bothered to breed themselves, the future will belong to the children of those who do.

    In Jonathan Sacks words : “Europe today is the most secular region in the world. Europe is the only region in the world experiencing population decline. Wherever you turn today the more religious the community, the larger on average are their families. Parenthood involves massive sacrifice: money, attention, time and emotional energy. Where today in European culture you have consumerism and instant gratification because you’re worth it.”

    There was no room for sacrifice for “the sake of generations not yet born” in such a culture.

    Or as Lionel Shriver puts it : “We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don’t especially care what happens once we’re dead.”

    The funny thing is that secular liberals claim to be optimistic about the future, whereas crusty born-again righties like myself have a most pessimistic outlook. Yet it’s secularists, especially educated ones, who aren’t breeding. Most odd.

    (PS – if Breeding For God, Kaufman’s previous work, seems like anathema, what will you make of ‘The Coming Patriarchy’ ?)

  12. Dalbir — on 25th March, 2010 at 1:16 pm  

    “We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don’t especially care what happens once we’re dead.”

    So what are we saying? That the consumer driven, shallow, self focused, poncey brigade will eventually dwindle to nowt?

    I’ll bring the champagne!

  13. Random Guy — on 25th March, 2010 at 1:36 pm  

    Laban @ 11: So Secular Liberals are basically un-breeding themselves to their own extinction, and mainly because of their values? If that isn’t irony I don’t know what is…

  14. sonia — on 25th March, 2010 at 2:27 pm  

    Sounds interesting – please report back if you’re going :–)

  15. magistra — on 25th March, 2010 at 4:43 pm  

    I’ve seen similar arguments before about why conservatives in the US are going to outbreed liberals and I’ve blogged about why it’s rubbish. Basically, because it completely ignores ‘cultural reproduction’ – where people inspire others who aren’t their literal descendants with their values, especially via the educational system. Religious groups which want to live solely in cultural ghettos can avoid this outside influence, but only by themselves losing all wider influence in society.

  16. Naadir Jeewa — on 25th March, 2010 at 5:43 pm  

    Yeah, I agree with most people who complain that it’s a rather static model of cultural reproduction. There’s some eyebrow-raising passages in the parts of the book I’ve read so far.

    Given that secularisation happened quite rapidly in many parts of Europe in the post-war period, it’s not impossible for the children of fundamentalists to secularise in an equally rapid fashion.

  17. Don — on 25th March, 2010 at 5:52 pm  

    Good point, magistra. Being a secular liberal is not genetic. And if the most religious do tend to have the largest families then the selfish, consumerist, gratification-seeking yadda yadda characterisation of secularists is not the only interpretation.

    Larger families are also a characteristic of lower educational and economic attainment.

    Take Ireland, for example. A significant increase in secularism (even before the current scandals in the RC church) and a significant decrease in family size both followed greater prosperity and educational improvements.

    While a simple cause-effect relationship can’t be asserted, it does seem to be the case that some characteristics tend to co-exist.

    Poverty – religiosity – large families – low education

    Prosperity – secularism – small families – high education.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/114211/Alabamians-Iranians-Common.aspx

    Rather than urging seculaists to breed more, perhaps it would be more useful to focus on raising prosperity and education in areas where the religious are busily breeding.

    Within Judaism, the Ultra-Orthodox may achieve majority status over their liberal counterparts by mid-century.

    How economically productive are the Ultra-Orthodox? Isn’t it the case in Israel that they are largely financially supported by more liberal counterparts? Could that be maintained if they became a clear majority?

  18. Jai — on 25th March, 2010 at 6:26 pm  

    Islamist Muslims have won the culture war in much of the Muslim world,

    This is a completely false assertion by Eric Kaufmann in relation to the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the various countries comprising the Indian subcontinent, especially those who actually live in India itself. The majority of Muslims in that part of the world aren’t “Islamists”, and the dominant interpretation of Islam over there isn’t “Islamist” either in terms of that region’s prevalent Muslim culture.

  19. Dalbir — on 25th March, 2010 at 7:02 pm  

    Naadir: It’s not religiosity that’s the problem. It’s the fact that it’s the most extreme variants within each religion which are the fastest growing.

    The truth is that it is only the fundamentalists in the Muslim and Christian world that are growing rapidly (the latter mainly in the US). Hindus should probably also probably be added to that.

    I don’t see the “extreme variants” of Buddhism, Sikhism, Ismailis, Bahais etc. etc. growing like suggested.

  20. Dalbir — on 25th March, 2010 at 7:24 pm  

    Hindus should probably also probably be added to that.

    Classic! :)

  21. muslim — on 25th March, 2010 at 8:49 pm  

    Jai

    “This is a completely false assertion by Eric Kaufmann in relation to the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the various countries comprising the Indian subcontinent, especially those who actually live in India itself. The majority of Muslims in that part of the world aren’t “Islamists”, and the dominant interpretation of Islam over there isn’t “Islamist” either in terms of that region’s prevalent Muslim culture.”

    True and this is shown by the poor showing of Islamic parties in the subcontinent. However its undeniable that in the Islamic heartlands (eg the middle east) “Islamists” are popular and in many countries would and have won free elections.

  22. muslim — on 25th March, 2010 at 8:51 pm  

    The article fails to mention that the sucess of religious parties is almost always a result of secularism and secular parties having failed to deliver (and vice versa ). Recent Iranian history is an illustration of this phenomonon from both aspects.

  23. Laban — on 25th March, 2010 at 9:37 pm  

    Magistra – “it completely ignores ‘cultural reproduction’ – where people inspire others who aren’t their literal descendants with their values, especially via the educational system”

    I think you’re describing what’s been happening in the West over the last 40-50 years, where previously Christian societies have de-Christianised. I would not assume that to be a default model.

  24. magistra — on 25th March, 2010 at 9:58 pm  

    I think you’re describing what’s been happening in the West over the last 40-50 years, where previously Christian societies have de-Christianised. I would not assume that to be a default model.

    The forms of cultural reproduction change, but the phenomenon is very common throughout history. Monasteries thrived throughout the Middle Ages even though the monks were (mostly) celibate – because they were able to win new recruits. Many people over the centuries have adopted languages, diets, costumes, burial customs, music etc different from those of their forebears, not because they’ve been forced to, but of their free will. (We’re not having this discussion in Middle English or Latin, after all).

    In particular, in any society where the ‘godly’ end up having less money and a less exciting sex-life than some of the ‘ungodly’, there are always going to be some ‘godly’ youth wondering whether they really want to stick to their parents’ religion.

  25. Naadir Jeewa — on 25th March, 2010 at 11:42 pm  

    Ok, the talk was extremely brief, but there are a few responses to some of the critiques:

    @18 / @21 – One of Eric’s claims is that Islamist demands in the Middle East have been partially dampened because authoritarian rulers come to adopt social conservative policies as a form of appeasement.
    I think Giles Kepel has making similar arguments in Beyond Terror and Martyrdom.

    @22 – This is kind of the major point in the book. Kaufmann is a follower of Daniel Bell’s thesis on the “cultural contradictions of liberal capitalism” Secularism and capitalist pluralism sows the seeds of its own destruction. The background theory of religious polarisation is given by Stark & Iannacone’s demand-side approach. Briefly put – states where there’s a free market of religion (as opposed to state controlled) will see bigger, more strict churches, as these help differentiate themselves from their competitors by retaining followers and raking in the cash.

  26. Kismet Hardy — on 26th March, 2010 at 9:22 am  

    Religion is the coward’s version of hope

  27. Dalbir — on 26th March, 2010 at 12:47 pm  

    Religion is the coward’s version of hope

    What, and atheists are paragons of bravery then? Don’t make me laugh.

  28. earwicga — on 26th March, 2010 at 1:05 pm  

    @ 24

    Monasteries thrived throughout the Middle Ages even though the monks were (mostly) celibate – because they were able to win new recruits

    They certainly weren’t mostly celibate and neither were any other religious. They were ‘able to win new recruits’ and thrive because there was very little difference between church and state, and the myth of celibacy gave clerics a false superiority over the laity.

  29. Ismaeel — on 29th March, 2010 at 1:02 pm  

    The idea that european societies only starting secularising 40-50 years ao is ahistorical rubbish. Europe has been on the road towards secularisation for centuries.

    Also the idea that the Muslim world and Hindu/Buddhist countries aren’t already deeply secularised societies on the whole is also completely blinkered. There may be many in those societies who are against it- but the reality is secularism is a fact in all but a handful of those countries.

  30. douglas clark — on 29th March, 2010 at 1:56 pm  

    I am quite swayed with the idea that folk are:

    Basically, because it completely ignores ‘cultural reproduction’ – where people inspire others who aren’t their literal descendants with their values, especially via the educational system.

    Else, why do we debate here?

    I have been persuaded by some of you, sometimes. I hope I have persuaded some of you, sometimes.

    It is not realistic to assume that biology is the only criteria.

    Is it worth saying that there are quite a lot of folk around here that are a lot brighter than me?

    They know who they are…

  31. douglas clark — on 29th March, 2010 at 4:02 pm  

    Ismaeel,

    Also the idea that the Muslim world and Hindu/Buddhist countries aren’t already deeply secularised societies on the whole is also completely blinkered. There may be many in those societies who are against it- but the reality is secularism is a fact in all but a handful of those countries.

    I think you should be asked to write a post on that. For it is interesting. There is an assumption that secularisation is merely a Western phenomenon. You appear to be saying otherwise…

  32. sean_vn — on 31st March, 2010 at 11:12 am  

    What has changed radically in the past 40 years is the availability of effective contraception. From an evolutionary point of view the contraceptive pill is an ultra-toxin. Nature is of course finding a way around it by selecting for the less intelligent religious fanatics who will not take it. To test the idea you would have to look for changes in the relative proportions of genetic markers for human intelligence since the introduction of the contraceptive pill. I doubt science can do that yet, and if the argument is true then maybe science never can.

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