Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century Paperback – Apr 19 2011
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"Brilliant and provocative. . . .A book every liberal should read."John Gray
"Kaufmann is controversial, highly informative, and thought provoking. A not-to-be-missed contribution to one of the most pressing and complex debates of modern time."Morning Star
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The question in the title, "Shall the religious inherit the earth?", is answered in the book's final sentence: "The religious shall inherit the earth."
I tried to figure out the author's personal religious viewpoint, and I came to feel that he believes in the possibility of a God of some sort; but he is basically a secularist, with the standard secularist outlook on such things as abortion and gay rights, and even global warming. This means that he cannot be accused of promoting a piece of religious propaganda - in fact, he seems distressed by his conclusions.
His principal focus is on three areas: the religious right in the US, fundamentalist Islam, and ultra-orthodox Judaism. This last area is particularly fascinating and contains much that those outside the Jewish world will be unfamiliar with.
There is surprisingly little mention of Catholicism, and in fact he seems to make an error regarding the Catholic Church. On page 23 he says, referring to Vatican II, that it "helped bring Church policy on contraception and birth control into line with the liberal practice of many modern Catholics...". This is completely wrong. Has he never heard of Paul VI's encyclical Humanae vitae, which caused such an uproar?
He mentions (page 94) the American patriarchal movement, Quiverfull, and quoting the work of the journalist Kathryn Joyce, says that Quiverfull rejects even the rhythm method of birth control. But does anyone still use the rhythm method? As I understand, the Billings method has long ago overtaken the rhythm method as a far more reliable technique of natural birth control.
Secularists ought to read the book to gain some idea of what may be coming. If they are older they will not live to see it come to fruition, but if they are younger, they very well may. Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that history contains many sudden and unforeseen changes in direction.
It contends that the Haredim in Israel ( The ultra-orthodox religious population) will be a majority in 2050. It contends that extremist religious groups in the United States, such as the Amish and Mormons will be a far larger share of the total population than they are now. This is happening as America is according to the author going through a delayed secularization process which is making a larger percentage of its population more secular than before. The author also deals with the growing insular Islamic population in Europe though he seems not to sympathize with the claims of Melanie Phillips, Bruce Bawer, Mark Steyn and others about this population converting the continent into Eurabia.
Is he right?Is the world moving to having a larger percentage of 'too true believers'?
Of all the societies studied I know most about what is going on in Israel. It is correct to say that the ultra- orthodox are a rapidly increasing population. I am not sure however it is right to say that their growth will continue at the present pace, that other groups including the more moderate Orthodox, will not work to maintain their own positions in the society. Israel which has been a society desiring immigration may too be able to increase its secular population that way, though at the moment this looks unlikely.
So I cannot really judge the validity of the overall thesis. What I can say is that this is a very interesting and thought - provoking work, one which should be read by all those interested in the overall condition of humanity.
Kaufmann's master-stroke is when he proves that fundamentalism, despite claiming an ancient provenance in many cultures, is itself a creature of modernity. 21st-century fundamentalists use modern technologies to prop up the boundaries between their world and a secular world seen as profane, creating their own shopping malls, schools, beaches, media, etc. As a somewhat religious person myself, I was glad Kaufmann didn't turn the work into an outright demonization of religion. He notes that religions help people with group cooperation, that secular ideologies just don't have the same appeal or staying power, that a secular world would not necessarily be more peaceful than a religious one, and that it might actually be societally useful if the decadence, selfishness and laissez-faire morality of current Western civilization were curbed by a revitalized religious tradition.
He is unflinching in pinpointing the role of Islam in global conflict. His historical insights into the rise of extreme Islam are very insightful vis-a-vis the failure of postcolonial secular nationalism in much of the developing world, the role that Saudi oil money plays in prodding global Muslim populations to adopt Saudi-style Islam, and the fact that Western governments often supported fundamentalist-Muslim regimes as a counterpoint to their fear of Communism and the Soviets during the Cold War. We bet on the wrong horse when we did that, to put it mildly. I often wonder how things might have turned out if we hadn't backed fundamentalists; during Soviet rule Afghan women had unprecedented educational and social mobility.
Anyway, he covers a variety of ethnic groups. I have seen many of the social phenomena he is describing. I have seen the young Orthodox Jews admonishing their secular elders, and the young Muslim girls donning headscarves while chiding their mothers. His commentary is astute and the book is worth a read just for noting the progress of human cultural evolution, which is not nearly so linear and tidy as we Westerners often suppose. Kaufmann's research is well-done and not apocalyptically gloomy in its conclusions, since he notes that different ethnic groups have different behaviors, everyone is intermarrying, and the demographic wheel is still in spin. But it's worth a read.
P.S. As a Catholic by heritage, I wanted more on Catholicism! He had great historical perspective on the higher birthrate of Catholic immigrants, Catholicism's relationship to ethnic nationalism in many countries, early American anti-Catholic sentiment, Vatican II and the secularization of 1960s American Catholics.. but what about more modern developments in Catholicism? That's my only quibble with the book, really. Where are my people? LOL.
Their days are numbered.
There is little future in general for secularists; Kaufman points out that they "have a low fertility rate 1.64" (p 92) while the religious marry and have children.
The news is even worse for those who claim to be atheists, whose reproduction rate may be the lowest in the world, at .85. From the statistics, atheists have no future at all (according to the research children tend to take on the beliefs of their parents).
In Europe, statistics bear out that the religiously devout reproduce, while the nonreligious are, apparently, more interested in making sure their lives are full of pleasure instead of full of diapers and toys. "Today, evangelicals, Pentecostalists and charismatics make up more than 8 percent of the European population, twice as numerous as Muslims, and they are increasing at the same rate," (p 159).
Statistics also bear out that "those without children tend to leave church as they enter adulthood, but those with children remain in the pews" (p 163).
This situation is starkest in Israel, where the religious Haredim will eventually overwhelm the secularist Jews.
This was an eye opening book. Anyone interested in the subject will also want to read Goldman's "How Civilizations Die" which covers the demographic decline world wide, including the Muslim and less developed areas.
Here is a snip from my review of that book: The ancient world clearly suffered from shocking population declines, which many have argued caused their eventual ruin. Sparta according to Aristotle "'sank under a single defeat: the want of men was their ruin'" (p 120) since their original population of 10,000 had fallen to 1,000.
Female infanticide was common. Archaeologists found that a survey of 79 families in Miletus there were "188 sons but only 28 daughters...Another survey at Eretria...reports that only one of twelve families had two sons, and almost none had two daughters" (p 130).
Without women, and without children, how could their civilization continue?
And, of course, famously, the emperor Augustus tried to force the elite to marry and bear children, another sign of a similar problem for Rome.
For a while, perhaps, the new rich from other countries could repopulate the elite. But as Mommsen wrote about Rome, "'Celibacy and childlessness became more and more common, especially among the upper classes'" (p 132).
Christianity, as Judaism had before it, insisted that infanticide was a grave moral evil, and forbade abortion and contraception. Perhaps it is no wonder that Christianity eventually took over the empire.