Friday, November 16, 2007

Chicken, egg, religion, family

Mary Tedeschi Eberstadt of the Hoover Institution has a fascinating essay about the relationship between family size and religion, "How the West Really Lost God." She explains the conventional wisdom of the anti-religious class , that large families result from religious belief and, not quite so explicitly, that the diminution of religion has resulted in the shrinking of the family - especially in Europe, where the birth rate has plummeted in just the last generation or two.

But Mary stands this thesis on its head and posits that the demographic data of Europe and America show just the opposite: that religion is inculcated by large families, and that the decline of religion in Europe generally and in certain American demographic classes has followed rather than preceded shrinking family size.

Southern Baptists are worried about their birth rates, as are other denominations:

It is time for us, as Southern Baptists, to recognize that our success can kill us. As a denomination that once was derided as "redneck" and backward, we're now invited to the Rotary Club meetings. We're being elected to Congress. We're not in the trailer parks anymore. Our young men are successful, suburban, and careerist, and our young women are too. And we think that's a sign of health. Meanwhile our baptisms go down, and our birthrates do too. It turns out keeping up with the Episcopalians can have a downside.

John Ballard has some commentary on Eberstadt.

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