Last March The Iona Institute hosted a talk by Dr Eric Kaufmann entitled “Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?” Based on his book of the same name, Dr Kaufmann's thesis was that, as religious believers tend to have more children, the future of Europe, and the West generally, was likely to be more religious, not less, over the long-term.
His thesis echoed the theme of a book by Dr Philip Longman, The Empty Cradle, which showed that fertility rates across the globe, not just in Europe, were shrinking rapidly. Dr Longman also pointed out that those practicing religion tended to manifest significantly higher fertility rates.
Both Drs Kaufmann and Longman also hold that the stronger the religious belief, the more children people are likely to have.
Now another study confirms this thesis. Dr Michael Blume, a German academic who specialises in the study of religion and fertility, has found that all over the world and in many different ages, religious people have considerably more children than non-religious people.
Blume took data from 82 countries measuring frequency of worship against the number of children. He found that those who worship more than once a week average 2.5 children while those who never worship only 1.67 - again below replacement rate. That’s a difference of 0.8 children per couple.
Interestingly, he found that the trend lines even matched up in some instances at a national level.
For example, he found that, in Germany, while the overall fertility level was lower than the global fertility rate, religious practice was correlated with higher birth-rates.
Globally, the data showed that, between 1981 and 2004, women who never attended religious services had 1.67 children, while in Germany, the equivalent figure was 1.39 children per woman. At the other end of the scale, the data showed that worldwide, women who attended religious services once a week or more had 2.5 children on average, while in Germany, the comparable figure is 1.98.
Blume said: "What I found was the complete lack of a single case of a secular population, community or movement that would just manage to retain replacement level. Recent examples of such demographic breakdowns include the Lebensborn movement in Germany during the Second World War, where German woman were encouraged by the increasingly desperate Nazi movement to have more children, and Communist Romania, where the state tried to repress religion while exhorting women to have babies. The results of such policies have always been disastrous."
There is an irony here, which Blume does not fail to note, in that evolution, which they believe is solely responsible for creating humanity, ends up penalising non-believers while favouring the religious.