From the mighty Ed West over at the Telegraph:-
An interesting article in the Guardian today by philosopher Julian Baggini, which begins in cracking form:
I have one, and only one, firm and sincere desire about what quality my grandchildren should possess: non-existence.
The central question he asks is this:
The issue for me is rather one about the possible forms of the good life. I just cannot understand why it is that the vast majority of people seem to think breeding is a vital component of a flourishing existence.
Baggini is a prominent atheist and has written several books on the subject, including Atheism, A Very Short Introduction, and while I’m sure his work will be read long after he’s put in the ground, I wonder will he have as much of an influence on mankind’s future as this woman?
The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” the Krishevsky family follows quite closely. Last Saturday, the great grandmother, Rachel Krishevsky passed away at the age of 99, leaving behind no less than 1,400 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren.
Krishevsky got married to her cousin, Yitzhak, just before turning 19. The couple brought seven sons and four daughters into the world. In accordance with haredi custom, Krishevsky brought up her children to see children as a great joy. Her children subsequently adopted her outlook and produced 150 children of their own.
The nature of Israeli society is changing because religious Jews such as Mrs Krishevsky have far higher fertility rates than secular Jews, but it is not alone – the same is true in western Europe, as Eric Kaufmann wrote about in his famous article, Breeding for God:
In an analysis of European data from ten west European countries in the period 1981-2004 I found that next to age and marital status, a woman’s religiosity was the strongest predictor of her number of offspring. Many other studies have found a similar relationship, and a whole school of thought in demography — second demographic transition theory — suggests that fertility differences in developed countries are underpinned by value differences, with secular men and women unwilling to sacrifice career and lifestyle aspirations to have children and have them early.
Data is rare in this area, but what they do have suggests that atheists are a dying breed. Austria is the only country which records the religious belief of parents but their figure, of 0.85 children per atheist woman, is far below replacement rate (2.1) and below even the most barren European country’s average rate, which is about 1.2. And since most people inherit their parents’ political and religious world views, this is bad news for Team Dawkins.
Personally I find the New Atheists’ anti-Christian aggression tedious: criticising people for their privately-held religious beliefs shows a lack of class and maturity, and besides which this sudden outpouring of bile against Christianity seems clearly motivated by a secret fear of another Abrahamic religion. But I wouldn’t want to live in a world without atheists – if I was Julian Baggini I’d be trying to get Guardian readers to breed more to ensure the world in 50 year’s time isn’t populated entirely by religious crackpots of various shades.
Then again, why should he care? He’ll be dead by then.