Thursday, July 12, 2007

Atheist birthrate.

This article states:
"Ms. Eberstadt is more cautious in her text than in her title, but she advances the engaging and arresting hypothesis that the decline in fertility is the cause of secularization-- rather than, as often is casually assumed, vice versa."

Interesting. Tell me more.
"Certainly, religious couples are apt to have more children than non-believers. No doubt, many people attribute this to the backwardness of believers. Though it's not always clear exactly whom Ms. Eberstadt is disagreeing with, she is in any case right that there is a widespread assumption that loss of the faith is the natural result of enlightenment and progress.

Um. *thinks* Okay. *waits for the anvil*
"Her article is in part a reply to the wave of books by militant and articulate atheists, especially Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. It is hard to tell whether this crusade is an expression of rage that religion has failed to die or is a final push for atheist victory, deploying recent discoveries in genetics as if these were as decisive a weapon as the nuclear bomb was in August, 1945. But Ms. Eberstadt seems confident that atheism will not prevail.
*Blam goes the anvil.*

"Though she is evidently friendly to religion, she attributes less causative power to it than those she opposes. Rather than praising religion for encouraging fertility, she argues that the experience of becoming parents opens up human beings to a richer consciousness of what is beyond themselves, and thus to religious belief.

Huh? Becoming a parent, four times- I might add, didn't open me up to anything supernatural. Having four children *did* lead me to question the purpose of existence and the bigger questions in life, but I certainly didn't have a religious epiphany when my milk came in. In fact, the more children I had, the more I questioned the religion of my childhood. Life was beautiful enough without mucking it up with dogma.

"The conclusion Ms. Eberstadt heads toward is that secularization is not inevitable or irreversible, because people will start to lose their taste for childlessness when they see the bereftness of old Baby Boomers in nursing homes. So, with more children, religion will revive.

Holy mother of fuck. *rolls eyes* I know a few childfree couples and their religious beliefs are pretty irrelevant. And, who the hell has kids just to safeguard themselves from a retirement home?! That's a lame-ass reason to procreate. And, how is it a logical progression to assume that more children will revive religion!? Hey! I have four children, Ms. Eberstadt! I'm an atheist. "I'm n ur' data,..fuckin' up your statisticz!"

"The evidence for Ms. Eberstadt's hypothesis is tentative, but she makes out a good prima facie case.
To the first part of this sentence, I say; "Ya' think?" "Tentative" is kind.
To the second part of this sentence, I say; "I don't think so."
Prima facie arguments present the hypothesis on the first appearance of evidence. If I remember correctly, prima facie means "at first glance". At first glance of the evidence (a declining birth rate and a rise of vocal atheists), I do NOT immediately draw the conclusion that the fall of the second will correct the decline of the first.

"As it stands, Ms. Eberstadt considers France, Britain and Ireland, arguing that the decline of birth rates had set in "for some time before secularization as we know it -- loss of religious faith and of such habits as churchgoing."
So many problems, so little time...

"Essentially," Ms. Eberstadt writes, "the Irish stopped having babies and families -- and shortly afterward stopped going to church."
Or, maybe they (the Irish public) started realizing that their birthrate was exceeding their sustainability? Maybe Irish-Catholics started wondering why the Church promotes unchecked numbers of children, but does NOTHING to help support the parents and families that it commands? Maybe they didn't like theologically ordered poverty? Maybe people just had other shit they wanted to do!?! Either way...HOW does a lack of large families in any way suggest that atheism will decline?

I've read the article a few times now and I feel like I've got to be missing some key point. Am I?


Sara said...

Totally off topic.
What are your ten most favorite songs? I was thinking about you today and wondering what P-momma listens to. Great article btw.

Saurian200 said...


It seems that her resoning was that since the argument she was objecting to involved religion and childbirth rates that any argument that replaced it also had to have those elements.

What it seemed to me was that she wasn't studying trends and then coming to a conclusion but rather there was an argument that she didn't like, the article wasn't entirely clear on what that argument was, so she invented a new argument based on the first data point she could find.

It wasn't evidence in search of a conclusion so much as a conclusion in search of evidence to support it. Any evidence would do no matter how little it supported the conclusion.

That's why the trends she points to don't seem to truely point to her argument and why other arguments are ignored, apparently, all together.

I don't think I did a good job explaining myself. I hope that made sense.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Would like to examine her article. It seems a week argument to me.

April said...

It seems to me, that Eberhardt (or somebody) ignores all of the studies that show that the poor and uneducated tend to have higher birth rates, as well as more religious fervor.

So maybe the west's "loss of God", as it were, has more to do with the amount of education, womens' control over reproductive rights, etc. than parenthood instilling some kind of deep religious belief, and then ensuring Christian belief for future generations.

Cogito said...

I can't read the whole article, but it certainly seems she's confused. Is she not aware that a decline in birthrate has no necessary link to an increase in childfree people? If couples start having one or two children instead of seven or eight, the birthrate goes down, yet everyone still has the, er, wonderful mystical opening experience of parenthood.

Also, I busted out laughing at the assertion that the birthrate declined in Ireland prior to secularization. The birthrate in a Catholic country is NOT going to decline without enough secular influence to convince people they can use birth control, despite what the Vatican says!

I can get behind what April is saying, though - having fewer children might make people better off financially, allowing better education for the children they do have, which tends to coincide with less religiosity.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Holy mother of fuck. *rolls eyes* I know a few childfree couples and their religious beliefs are pretty irrelevant.

I'm and atheist and my wife is a non-believer of sorts. We are not having children and I can say 100% it has zero to do with the previously stated facts. It had everything to when we got married, our current age and at the time our financial situation (wife injured her back and was out of work for about a year). I'll admit that I wonder who is going to take care of my grumpy old ass when I get to retirement age but it hasn't prompted me to throw out the wife's birth control pills.

I get sick and tired of people making totally baseless assumptions about our decision to not have kids. This is a prime example of that.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

and = an

"everything to do with"

Bottle of wine last night and no coffee yet. Sorry.


Chuck C said...

"I'm n ur' data,..fuckin' up your statisticz!"

Ahh... there's my morning chuckle: thanks!

Kazim said...

It's worth pointing out that I covered exactly this topic when I did a show entitled Atheist Parenting. Unfortunately, the audio quality on that show is so bad it's almost totally unwatchable.

I think I said that fewer atheists do seem to have children, in my experience, but only because the ones who don't want to don't feel so pressured to have kids.

But of course, ideas like atheism and theism evolve more memetically than genetically. If that were not true, then there wouldn't be any celibate priests left.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing inherently wrong with us taking more control of our over-population issues. How many countries in the West have populations that are exploding?

Perhaps I ought to write a half-assed article that conjures up statistics that claim that religion is "unsustainable" because it causes population explosions that will cause catastrophe.

But then, what's more important? Having lots of children you can't feed, or having one that you can feed? In the West, I doubt it's the latter.

Ami said...

My militant Christian brother believes that fewer Atheists are reproducing, and that means that once again, conservative Christians will RULE THE WORLD.
He praises God for this.

I love my brother, but he's an ass.