Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics at the University of London wrote a book with the title, Shall the righteous inherit the earth?, in 2010. Whilst I’m still ploughing my way through it but already can heartily recommend it, the main idea he presents is that (p)eople are increasingly failing to reproduce themselves and the openly non religious among them are displaying the lowest fertility rates ever recorded in human history: sometimes less than one child per women (p x). He points out that religious people whatever their religion are having more children. He says:

Secularisation  mainly  erodes  unconscious  religion:  the  taken-for­granted, moderate faiths that trade on being mainstream and established. This explains the rapid decline of religion in Europe and, increasingly, the United States.  On the other hand, religious fundamentalists have mobilised against secularism and moderate faith, self-consciously warning their members of its influence . Pronatalism and segregation, the core features of endogenous growth sects, are catching on: we already see conservative Christian theologians advocating these strategies. Mainstream fundamentalist Christians have above-replacement  fertility  rates  and the most theologically zealous are considerably more fecund than average…. (F)undamentalists, combining both high retention and fertility rates, are the demographic equivalent of a coiled spring, whose energy has only recently become apparent. (p 253)

If we (I speak as a confessional Presbyterian affirming inerrancy, etc) can put aside our distaste for the term fundamentalist for a moment I suggest the people we have in our churches – generally, though not necessarily all – are the kind of people that Kaufmann describes. Our young people for the most part marry young and have children, not waiting too long and more like 3,4,5 or more children rather than 1 or 2 (always exceptions for various reasons!). Most of us selected faith based schools for our children or else home schooled – how segregated is that!

Certainly it is one of my burdens that in the church we recognise the utterly corrosive influence of secularism, including popular culture: music, drug scene, TV, films. Parents need to be discerning for their children and teach them discernment in turn. Family worship should be a given. Personally, I rate the correct order to be: public worship, family worship, then lastly but certainly personal quiet time.

I grew up in a Sydney (evangelical) Anglican church in a new area in the 1960’s. We had a smallish youth group, taught the Bible, played games, had an annual houseparty and did all we could to bring young people to faith in Christ. The nearby Presbyterian Church in contrast ran dances which were immensely popular. Today that Anglican Church is a large church with many people whilst the Presbyterian Church went into church union and no longer exists.

Kaufman identifies himself as an atheist and secularist but clearly sees the future belonging to the religious, with secularism having entered a period of ideological exhaustion – – he is taking the long view, say 50-100 years ahead.

Kaufmann has some very quotable statements:

….notwithstanding the New Atheists, one has to admit that religion is more rational than unbelief… As a utilitarian, I believe that the maximization of collective happiness is the proper end of humanity, and on that score, religion seems more rational than irreligion. A growing body of research suggests that the religious live longer and are happier than skeptics. (p 266)

Having attended the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, April last year I thought the atheists attending lacked any of the joy found among Christians and the only excitement was when one of the Great Ones slagged off at religious faith or when one of their dirty minded comedians (think Catherine Deveny) told a particularly salacious story (I avoided Deveny, she was one step too far).

Here’s another quote:

Dry atheism, even with the leaven of humanism and modern art, can never compete with the rich emotions evoked by religion. (p 260)

How interesting that Kaufmann has come so close to faith himself…..

So, all you Presbyterian and other fundamentalists, do you think Kaufmann has overstated the argument (possibly for devious purposes) or do you think he is right? BTW he sees the ongoing vigour of Christianity as coming largely out of the global south.

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