Thursday, January 8, 2009

How 6 turns into 13.1 million

(hint: it's not lack of condoms.)

Anthony Gottlieb, in Faith = Fertility, manages the most offensive interpretation of simple demographic data EVAH!

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, Winter 2008

If a Martian were to look at a map of the Earth’s religions, what he might find most surprising is the fact that such a map can be drawn at all. why? does religion work differently on Mars. Is it in any way surprising that people with similar beliefs and values tend to live close to one another, if possible? Do Martians prefer the opposite? How strange--he might say to himself--that so many of the world’s Hindus are to be found in one place, namely India. uh, where hinduism was born? why would that be surprising? And how odd that Muslims are so very numerous in the Middle East. again, where muhammed was born and spread his new faith? how peculiar. With the disconcerting curiosity that is so typical of Martians yeah, it's not cute, give it up, he might wonder what explains this geographical clustering. see above. Do people move countries in order to be close to others of the same faith? Or do people simply tend to adopt the religion they grew up with? The answer, of course, is the latter--on the whole. again, this is so obvious not even the hypothetical martion should be surprised by it. There are exceptions: Jews moving to Israel, for example, and there are many other cases of religious migration.

Still, the huddling of the masses yearning to be free? faithful is mainly explained by the fact that religion runs in families. If you have a religion, it is probably the same one as your parents. Earlier this year a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly three-quarters of American adults professed the religion in which they were raised. not surprising. But instead of finding this glass to be three-quarters full, newspapers preferred to notice that it was one-quarter empty. It was the minority of Americans who either switched religions, or abandoned religion altogether, who were highlighted in reports of the survey well duh. they're the oddballs, and oddballs are interesting. when was the last time you saw an article about people doing totally normal, boring tasks that everyone does? okay, the onion, but not satire?(“Poll Finds a Fluid Religious Life in US”, ran a headline in the New York Times).

Plainly it does not count as news that religion remains largely a family affair. Yet it should do be? "do" doesn't make sense here, because of its largely unnoticed consequences. dum dum dum! Some religious groups are dramatically outbreeding others, in ways that have an impact on America, Europe and elsewhere. the brown people are coming! the brown people are coming! Consider the Mormons, who grew from six people in a log-cabin in upstate New York in 1830 to 13.1m adherents around the world in 2007.

okay, i hate mormons. their religious book is such an obvious forgery it's ridiculous, they hate gays, and they endlessly proselytize. It's obnoxious. But, the above sentence, in context, makes it sound like 6 family members having endless incestuous sex eventually created 13.1 million people. Physically impossible, and rude to imply.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Mormons were a fringe sect in America, with decidedly unusual beliefs. as compared to what? i find their beliefs no more odd than anyone else's. yeesh. (They officially hold that God once had a body; that people exist as spirits before they are physically conceived; and that Jesus will one day commute between somewhere in Israel and somewhere in the United States. why is that last one strange? has this guy consulted his own beliefs lately?) Today Mormons are about to overtake Jews in America da dum, da dum, da dum; in fact, they may already have done so. And they almost had their own presidential candidate, in the person of Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts. no they didn't have their own presidential candidate. he would have been all republicans' candidate. that's how that works, asshat. The rapid rise of Mormons in America, growing by an average of 40% every decade in the 20th century, is mainly due to their large families. The American state with the highest birth rate is Utah, which is around 70% Mormon. In America, on average, Mormon women have nearly three times more children than Jewish women. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, however, do have plenty of offspring. because they're not allowed to use birth control. what do you think will happen when you combine sex with no birth control? in a healthy woman, a baby every year or so. This fact is changing the face of Israel, where such families have three times more children than other Israelis. As a result, at least a quarter of Israel’s population of under-17s is expected to be ultra-Orthodox by 2025, according to Eric Kaufmann at Harvard.

A similar but more gradual increase in the religious right has been taking place in America for decades, and not just because of Mormons. Conservative Protestant denominations as a whole grew much faster than liberal ones in 20th-century America, and it has been estimated that three-quarters of this growth is due simply to higher birth rates. again, sex+no birth control= lotsofbabies Were it not for the fact that Evangelical Christians reproduce faster than other Protestants, George Bush--who attracted most of the Evangelical votes--probably could not have made it back to the White House in 2004. and now i'm pro forced sterilization.

Like other demographers, Eric Kaufmann expects western Europe to become markedly more religious in the course of the 21st century, as a result of the relatively low fertility of unbelievers and immigration from more pious places pious, huh? not religious or observant? pious? does he really count mulsims as pious?. Not only do denominations with traditionalist values tend to have higher birth rates than their more liberal co-religionists, but countries that are relatively secularised usually reproduce more slowly than countries that are more religious. According to the World Bank, the nations with the largest proportions of unbelievers had an average annual population growth rate of just 0.7% in the period 1975-97, while the populations of the most religious countries grew three times as fast.If they want to spread their gospel, then, one might half-seriously conclude that atheists and agnostics ought to focus on having more children, to help overcome their demographic disadvantage. i dont have a gospel, asshat! i have the lack of a gospel! and i don't want to spread it, i want you to leave me the fuck alone!

Unfortunately for secularists, this may not work even as a joke. securalism is not a religion. and why "unfortunately"? are you finally admitting that you intend to kill us all, or at least remove our right to vote? Nobody knows exactly why religion and fertility tend to go together. Conventional wisdom says that female education hey, i can say no!, urbanisation, falling infant mortality it was not uncommon for a woman 80 years ago to have 15 children, only 10 of which made it to adulthood., and the switch from agriculture to industry and services all tend to cause declines in both religiosity and birth rates. In other words, secularisation and smaller families are caused by the same things. makes sense. Also, many religions enjoin believers to marry early make bad decisions while you're too young to know any better! and no divorce!, abjure abortion and sometimes even contraception "sometimes even"? how about "frequently"? how about "as long as men don't have to carry a baby for 9 months and then spend 36 hours giving birth, we don't need no stinkin' birth control"?, all of which leads to larger families. sex+no birth control= lotsofbabies.

But there may be a quite different factor at work as well. Having a large family might itself sometimes make people more religious, or make them less likely to lose their religion. chicken, egg? egg, chicken? Perhaps religion and fertility are linked in several ways at the same time. sociology is like that. Mary Eberstadt, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California, has suggested several ways in which the experience of forming a family might stimulate religious feelings among parents, at least some of the time. She notes that pregnancy and birth, the business of caring for children, and the horror of contemplating their death why, under normal circumstances, are people contemplating their child's death?, can stimulate an intensity of purpose that might make parents more open to religious sentiments yeah, and lack of sleep will make you delusional. Many common family events, she reasons, might encourage a broadly spiritual turn of mind, from selfless care for a sick relation to sacrifices for the sake of a child’s adulthood that one might never see. because atheists are incapable of sacrifice and selflessness. we're teh evul.

Eberstadt argues that part of the reason why western European Christians have become more secular is that they have been forming fewer stable families, and having fewer children when they do. or the other way around, it's hard to say. also, in western europe, and the US, life is simply too expensive for people to afford 10-15 kids, especially with only one spouse working and the other staying home to raise them. this may be affordable in india or the middle east, but it's not here. This, she suggests, may help to explain some puzzles about the timing of secularisation in certain places. In Ireland, for example, she notes that people started having smaller families before they stopped going to church. And, she argues, if something about having families can incline one to religion, this might shed some light on another mystery: why the sexes are not equally religious.

According to Rodney Stark, an American sociologist of religion, the generalisation that men are less religious than women “holds around the world and across the centuries”. In every country--both Christian and non-Christian--analysed by Dr Stark, based on data from the World Values Survey in the 1990s, more women than men said they would describe themselves as religious. There is no agreed explanation for this striking difference. Perhaps the fact that women play a rather larger role than men in the production and rearing of children has something to do with it. If family life does contribute to religiosity, then having larger families might backfire on unbelievers. It might make them more religious. And since faith is still largely a family affair, their children would then be more likely to be religious, too. so, either way we're screwed. have lots of babies to beat the fundagelacists at their own game and end up a fundagelacist. fuck it. i'll stick with none, thank you very much.

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