Colson has an interesting article discussing the different fertility rates for conservative Christians vs liberal nonChristians in the United States, a difference of between 40% and 80%, depending on how the groups are defined. Colson supposes this to be an encouraging sign for his fellow conservative Christians, and I suppose it is. It is also quite a disappointment for those of us hoping for a more rational society of the future. However, what caught my attention is the lynch pin assumption in Colson’s reasoning, a fact so devastating to the idea of Christian truth that it is remarkable to me that a conservative Christian would admit it:
”...kids tend to grow up to worship the way their parents do. In a generation or two, we are going to have a bumper crop of conservative citizens. Candidates who appeal to Christians will win more elections simply because of demographics.”
Yes, indeed they do. The religion of one’s parents is the single greatest predictor of one’s religion. And while this certainly supports Colson’s population argument, it completely exposes the intellectual weakness of religion. For if one’s views on religion are so highly correlated with one’s parents views, and given the wide range of religious views around the world, the question begging to be asked is: what then of all the claims that one’s religious views are based on any sort of reasoning or evidence? How can one’s views on something claiming objective, nay, eternal truth, be determined by genetic lottery and have value?
Consider, for example, a society who believed one should never wear red hats, that this represented an eternal truth anyone can come to accept. Now consider their neighbors, who also believe one should never wear hats of a certain color, because of their search for the eternal truth of hats, except that the color they forbade was blue? Imagine that 95% of Red Hattists had Red Hattist parents, and 95% of Blue Hattists had Blue Hattist parents, etc. Doesn't this lay waste to the insistence by some that they reasoned out their views on hats, and just happened by sheer coincidence to draw the same conclusions their parents did? Clearly the various Hattistisms are mere social convention, rather than some sort of universal objective truth. How is religion different?
As Richard Dawkins revealed in an entertaining speech, when one looks at science around the globe, many consensuses can be found on many issues, even in our areas of ignorance. For example, the prevailing theory of the killer of the dinosaurs is the impact of a comet approximately 65 million years ago. But imagine if only the people in the US thought that, but Canadians thought it was the rise of the mammals, Africans believed it was the ice age, and Asians that it was solar flares? That is how religion looks, and that’s why Colson’s analysis is hardly something to celebrate.
He also ends with a rather disturbing comment that one would think impossible in this day and age:
”For the last half century, Western industrialized nations, fearing overpopulation and despoiling the planet, have made slowing population growth one of their top priorities. So now we are in the middle of what one observer calls a ‘global baby bust’—except, that is, among devout Christian families, those who take seriously the biblical mandate to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ It shows that when Christians live out the biblical worldview, we not only survive, we thrive. “
Uh, sure Bob, you’ll get to dominate an overpopulated despoiled planet. Congratulations. And when you are asked why you didn’t do anything to deal with those problems, you can point to your Bible and whine that there is nothing in there about any of our modern problems. I’m sure that will make it all right. Or maybe, just maybe, instead of relying on the words of ignorant desert tribesmen writing before we even knew 1/3 of the world existed, we could recognize now that there is nothing in that book, or any ancient tome, to aid us in our battles against the problems of population, disease, extinctions, asteroids, climate change, resource depletion, and all the other threats to our very existence. We can turn instead to more enlightened ways of knowing for our guidance. We can put our trust in replicable experiment, rather than blind faith. Better a few live Christians than a lot of dead ones.