Is the Only Way to Increase Western Birth Rates Religion?

And if it is should secular conservatives accept that the vast majority of Westerners are better off under governments that actively encourage religiosity?

Jefferson remarked as follows on a post about Rushton’s theory of r/K selection:

TFR correlates almost perfectly with religion. Chassidim in upstate NY have 12 kids on zero income, SWPLs with 7 figure incomes maybe adopt an African kid in their 40s.

To which I responded:

Well, not perfectly, but very, very strongly.

Stalin eased up on restrictions against Orthodox Christianity after Hitler invaded, both to motivate soldiers and increase the birth rate. It seems soldiers were not ready to die for the philosophical intricacies of dialectical materialism and women were not willing to replace the losses of the Red Army only for the sake of the mighty dictatorship of the proletariat.

So are we secular conservatives left with having no hope of raising Western birth rates short of sponsoring Christianity – with the exception of Israel which sponsors Judaism and has the only elevated birth rate among its desirable populations in the West?

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22 thoughts on “Is the Only Way to Increase Western Birth Rates Religion?”

  1. Religions is the most obviously measurable correlate of modern fertility. But it’s really about status. The way traditional religion works is by assigning status to mothers. By contrast our dominant religion assigns probably the lowest status ever assigned by any religion to mothers. Women are supposed to be like men; stay-at-home mothering is feminine and as such, pathetic.

    I submit to you that getting the state to be neutral on the status of the feminine would be a big improvement. So long as women are believed to be equal to men, this won’t happen.

    Another thing worth mentioning is the economics of children. Status is always constrained by economic reality. We’ve really barely scratched the level of incentive necessary to make motherhood competitive with working for the female homo economicus. The sort of pro-fertility spending that modern western states offer accrue mostly to the child, and not the mother, and they only serve to partially offset costs that the child creates. So, for example, in the USA we spend on average $12000/child/year for education. Obviously, the mother gets none of this herself, and furthermore the child is still a huge cost on net. (Average cost to raise child to 18 in America, $240000.) So unless you perceive children as a good in themselves, you won’t have them; and they have be a good that is more attractive than all the other goods on offer. Revealed preference is that moderns do value children — but not enough to get to replacement fertility. After 1 or 2, we prefer our cars, iPhones, eating out and travel.

    Now imagine a society in which a mother owns 10% of her children’s lifetime earnings.

  2. A religion, functionally, is about formalizing status arenas and putting caps on any one status vector (at least theoretically). That’s what enables a society with a solid religion to out-compete it’s rivals. Torah is littered with examples of these restrictions, and the Christian bible in many ways is a tightening of the restrictions on status through wealth and warfare. Religions that aren’t solid in these areas (like modern Unitarianism/Cathedral secularism) become decadent and stop reproducing. The per capita GDP correlates powerfully and inversely with TFR in most places for this reason. Islam gives status through violence primsrily, and will eventually die exactly as one would expect (and its TFR is going down in most areas). It remains to be seen whether a religion that shuttles 75% of its men into overt holiness signalling competition will be competitive in any arena outside of the womb (and really, this is primarily a function of the religion doling out sufficient status points to make all its men higher status in the eyes of its women*). Torah seems pretty explicit in favoring a balanced and diverse set of status arenas (multiple forms of agriculture, multiple types of herd animsls, and diverse arboroculture), so I suspect it ends poorly, but maybe not this time. If we want to solve for fertility, we want to prioritize easy status for men with regards to their women.

  3. I would add that most men are fine with living in a shipping container with a wife and 10 kids, but would be considered too low status for the dramatic majority of modern women. Not a problem for Chassidim, though.

  4. Yer right about the shipping-container, Jefferson. The family wouldn’t actually hang out in there, though — it would just be for sleeping in. So men feel high-status when they’re actively involved in directing the gang’s operations (Stalin basically lived in a shipping container; he didn’t give a fuck), and women feel high-status when they have a big velvet nest? But having a big velvet nest is only a status-thing insofar as other women are noticing. Why does this matter to women? I know it does, but why? I mean, in Darwiny terms.
    An aside about pickup-artists. Having become acquainted with one at my gym, and remembering what sorts of boys the girls were into in Junior High School, I’ve decided that PUAs aren’t even perceived as “alpha” by the girls, let alone by the men. Rather, the girls go for them because they seem safe and fun; there doesn’t seem to be any need to get deeply involved with them so that one would have to grow up and be a Mom and make sandwiches for everyone. PUAs are cheerful, puckish people, not barbarian warlord-types. The barbarian warlords have steady (yes, hot or hottish) girlfriends that I’m pretty sure they’re longterm-committed to (again, this is based on my gym-experiences).
    Um, okay, so I don’t think the revival-of-Greek-religion-idea will work. But what about the Moral Equivalent of Religion — outer-space colonization or some equivalently awesome Project extending into the indefinite future? (Yes, TUJ, I know, we’re not there yet; but we can move in that direction. That would be RELIGIOUS! People would want to have babies for the asteroid-palaces and interstellar arks of the future.)

  5. But it’s really about status. The way traditional religion works is by assigning status to mothers. By contrast our dominant religion assigns probably the lowest status ever assigned by any religion to mothers. Women are supposed to be like men; stay-at-home mothering is feminine and as such, pathetic.

    There is status associated with motherhood in traditionally Judeo-Christian cultures, and it has served to push women into having kids.

    But women also seem to need a transcendental moral justification to reproduce beyond status and worldly pressure from masculine leaders. Japanese culture is still patriarchal, but their women feel no need to reproduce because their society is atheistic. Macho Russian culture can only boast of a moderately higher birth rate than Japan.

    The sort of pro-fertility spending that modern western states offer accrue mostly to the child, and not the mother, and they only serve to partially offset costs that the child creates.

    Very well and true. There is also the reality that, whatever increase in births is attributable to the welfare state, it has been to raise births among undesirable populations.

  6. Torah is littered with examples of these restrictions, and the Christian bible in many ways is a tightening of the restrictions on status through wealth and warfare. Religions that aren’t solid in these areas (like modern Unitarianism/Cathedral secularism) become decadent and stop reproducing.

    It”s interesting to compare the results of Judaism and its very well-marketed spinoff religion, Christianity, with other ancient religions. As I mentioned to Garr, the Romans and Greeks barely believed in their own deities. Their lack of faith in gods whom it would be hard to have any faith in even if one did believe in their existence (the Olympian deities were essentially dysfunctional human royalty gifted with supernatural powers) led to fertility dips in Greece and Rome.

    Caesar Augustus, in one of the earliest eugenics programs, raised taxes on decadent, childless male aristocrats, but the policy seems to have failed.

    The cost of raising children is high no matter what time period one looks at. It is only the Christian and Jewish traditions, with faith built around a God that is not only temporally but morally superior to humans and who promises a better afterlife in exchange for neglecting worldly pleasures, that truly inspires women to look forward to child bearing.

  7. But what about the Moral Equivalent of Religion — outer-space colonization or some equivalently awesome Project extending into the indefinite future?

    It will, and does, earn the attention of nerds. But how to get women interested?

  8. Women aren’t actually interested in anything anyway. What they want is to see that men are collectively interested in something. The Space Colonization Project will certainly interest non-nerdy men, because it will involve huge machines and Space Marines in mech-suits.

  9. What they want is to see that men are collectively interested in something.

    Since space age technology, in all probability, requires at least another century before it can become reality, women in the meantime may be distracted by a slick marketing campaign about it decades before enthusiasts will have to produce results.

    Interesting…

  10. Hey, if theocracy defeats the left, then theocracy it is (although I’d probably leave the country).

    But it’s not all down to religion. China has never been very religious, but still had high birth rates prior to the one-child policy. Poland and Russia are much more religious than Western Europe, but have abysmal birth rates. The same examples show that wealth isn’t exactly a clear influence either.

    I think the left is right on this one. Birth rates go down when women are too educated. They get their heads filled with careerism, and combined with the vapid pleasures of consumer culture, being wife & mother begins to sound like the end of fun, youth, and freedom. Happens to men too, but it seems to hit women harder. Given human nature, these forces are unlikely to reverse until things start falling apart.

  11. Poland and Russia are much more religious than Western Europe, but have abysmal birth rates.

    Their birth rates, 1.5 to 1.7, are mediocre, but not terrible.

    Nor is Russia as religious as Poland. Soviet occupied Poles never took to atheism with the same enthusiasm as the Russians.

    Birth rates go down when women are too educated.

    True. The only effective counter against this trend in developed nations is religiosity. Mormons and, to a lesser extent, some Modern Orthodox Jews, have high female labor force participation along with healthy birth rates.

  12. Just to clarify, status should never be given directly to women for anything other than having well raised children. Family must come first, otherwise a culture ends up with an IQ shredder.

  13. Just to clarify, status should never be given directly to women for anything other than having well raised children. Family must come first, otherwise a culture ends up with an IQ shredder.

    The vast majority of them would be comfortable with being judged entirely on having well raised children, but not all. Some of them, especially the most intelligent women, might find more satisfaction in a career. But if intelligent men – of whom there are proportionally more at the right tail of the distribution than there are women – find somewhat less intelligent, but satisfied, wives, the dysgenic impact of having some women enter the workforce should be minimized.

  14. A birthrate of 1.5 to 1.7 is pathetic. How can you say it’s not? And Poland and Russia aren’t at all religious, even if they have higher rates of sham. Nobody believes in Roman Catholicism anymore, because the Pope, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Priests obviously don’t believe in it. It’s probably the same with Russian Orthodoxy.
    Jason Liu, the Chinese don’t need religion because only 5% of them are conscious beings. The great majority of this 5% consists of the Chinese women who marry Westerners and the Chinese men who comment on Jewish blogs.

  15. A birthrate of 1.5 to 1.7 is pathetic. How can you say it’s not?

    I can because there there are nations in worse shape. Taiwan’s rate is under 1.2.

    Nobody believes in Roman Catholicism anymore, because the Pope, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Priests obviously don’t believe in it. It’s probably the same with Russian Orthodoxy.

    Very few is not zero. As for the leadership of Roman and Eastern Christianity, I will be charitable and assume that the percentage of them with actual faith is more than “Very few”.

    Jason Liu, the Chinese don’t need religion because only 5% of them are conscious beings.

    You’ve introduced racism to this blog.

  16. “You introduced racism to this blog.” — don’t be silly; in your very first post you’re like, “Blacks are dumb and annoying and can’t hang out with us, except maybe for the smart non-annoying ones.” I don’t have anything against unconscious beings; it’s not as though I go around kicking coffee-makers and cars. Anyway, I’m sure that a small percentage of Chinese are fully conscious, including Jason Liu and his parents and siblings and my brother’s wife. And the Chinese aren’t a race — duh. 97% of Japanese are conscious beings. Trump is not a conscious being, so not even all NWEuropeans are conscious.

  17. The Chinese conquest of Africa suggests an idea for a comic-book series: Apes vs. Robots.
    (Jason knows I’m kidding, since he’s conscious.)

  18. “You introduced racism to this blog.” — don’t be silly; in your very first post you’re like, “Blacks are dumb and annoying and can’t hang out with us, except maybe for the smart non-annoying ones.”

    I denied being racist or embracing racism – an ism implies an ideology. I like Lincoln simply view returning black Americans to Africa as a precondition to true cut-throat capitalistic nationalism, militarism, and theocratic tyranny.

    You, on the other hand, have endorsed racism.

  19. The Chinese conquest of Africa suggests an idea for a comic-book series: Apes vs. Robots.

    They don’t need to conquer Africa – just occupy certain isolated zones for resource extraction organized with corporations and defense personnel, and sanctioned by their central government.

  20. “I denied being racist or embracing racism – an ism implies an ideology.” You assert (and believe) that Blacks are, on average, stupid and unruly; I assert (but obviously don’t believe) that Chinese are unconscious. How is the latter an ideological statement and the former not? If a statement is “ideological” due to its central role in an all-embracing worldview, well, neither statement is ideological, because the ideas of Black stupidity/unruliness and Chinese unconsciousness don’t play central roles in our worldviews. If a statement is “ideological” due to the supposition that it has policy-implications, then your statement is certainly ideological; we discussed the policy-implications of Black stupidity and unruliness on a previous thread.
    “Chinese are unconscious beings” was a ridiculously exaggerated way of saying that Chinese people don’t feel the spiritual unease and yearning felt by Westerners. Or, at any rate, that most of them don’t, or not to the same extent, or something along those lines.

  21. You assert (and believe) that Blacks are, on average, stupid and unruly; I assert (but obviously don’t believe) that Chinese are unconscious. How is the latter an ideological statement and the former not?

    Because blacks are stupid and unruly, Chinese are not necessarily unconscious.

    My statement is one of fact, yours is an exaggeration.

    If a statement is “ideological” due to the supposition that it has policy-implications, then your statement is certainly ideological;

    Some policies are so obvious that they don’t not require an ideology to justify it – Mayor Daley said snow plowing is not partisan because a government should always clean up snow.

    Likewise, deporting black “Americans” to a Liberian penal colony is so obviously correct that I don’t need to choose an ideology to make the case. And if you doubt me, honest Abe would second me. You wouldn’t dare call Lincoln racist, would you?

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