Essay: A Third Open Letter to a New Zealand atheist

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The SS New Zealand Atheism going down in the 21st century.

Despite the ship taking on more and more evangelical Christians, religious Filipinos, born again Christians and Muslims according to one of his favorite websites Wikipedia, the New Zealand atheist continued to deny the ship was going down as it disappeared under the sea.

His last words were "In a world of globalization, New Zealand will NOT become desecularized. Stop talking about religious immigrants."

I previously wrote these two essays as a part of a dialogue with a New Zealand atheist:

In this open letter, I point out his recent factual errors plus show that he is being unreasonable.

The New Zealand Atheist recently wrote back:

And his latest screed is all wrong. He blathers about Europe for some reason which NZ isn't a part of and uses a 2008 university survey to justify his mad rantings which only returned 1027 responses instead actually using the last census data (2013) which is far broader (approx 3 million respondents) and more accurate showing a trend. The highly religious are definitely growing in NZ (evangelical Christians and Filipino/Muslim immigrants) - nope. His second open letter is completely wrong.

User: Conservative , stop talking about immigration as it isn't relevant. What is relevant is what the actual statistics of religiosity in NZ. Which is trending lower and lower. Those are facts - the only argument you seem to make is that there is more migration therefore higher rates of religion. You are wrong as the data clearly shows...

[User: Conservative], religious belief is becoming less and less in NZ as per the census. (bolding added for emphasis).[1]

My initial response

Here is an excerpt from the 2013 New Zealand (NZ) Census:

*Protestant not further defined (Protestant but with no denomination specified) – up 26.4 percent
  • Evangelical, Born Again, and Fundamental – up 11.2 percent
  • Christian not further defined (Christian but with no denomination specified) – up 6.1 percent

The number of people affiliating with the Muslim religion increased 27.9 percent since 2006 (from 36,072 people in 2006 to 46,149 people in 2013).

Of those who affiliated with Islam in 2013:

  • more than a quarter (25.7 percent) were born in New Zealand
  • 21.0 percent were born in the Pacific Islands
  • 26.9 percent were born in Asia
  • 23.3 percent were born in the Middle East and Africa.[2]

So the NZ census data in large part disagrees with you about evangelical Christians and Muslim immigrants not having growing populations (Evangelical Christians, born again Christians and Christian fundamentalists have many of the same beliefs and tend to be very religious).

As an aside, some of the Protestant no denomination specified cited on the NZ 2013 census could easily be nondenominational Christians. Nondenominational Protestants are often highly religious. The same could be said about Christian no denomination specified, but perhaps to a lesser degree.

Second, please read about NZ's sub-replacement level of births at: Births, deaths and fertility rate of NZ : Year ended December 2017

Third, please read and pay particular attention to the portion dealing with nations with sub-replacement levels of births and religious immigrants (one of the sources mentions NZ): Postsecularism and New Zealand in the 21st century

My overall response

A few points:

I also have a few questions which I hope you would have the decency to answer (the questions are bolded).

1. You wrote: "stop talking about immigration as it isn't relevant".

  • Does New Zealand have a sub-replacement level of fertility? Yes or no? A replacement fertility is 2.1 birth per woman in a society due to infant mortality, etc.
A baby in the womb.

According to the NZ government: "In 2017, the total fertility rate decreased to 1.81 births per woman, the lowest total fertility rate ever recorded in New Zealand."[3]

According to the NZ government:

In 2017, the total fertility rate decreased to 1.81 births per woman, the lowest total fertility rate ever recorded in New Zealand. The total fertility rate has dropped below 1.90 births three times before – to 1.89 in 1998 and 2002, and to 1.87 in 2016.

Fertility rates decreased for most age groups in 2017 compared with 2016, specifically women aged:

  • 30–34 years – down to 117 births per 1,000 women, from 120 (this group has had the highest fertility rate since 2002)
  • 25–29 years – down to 94 from 97
  • 35–39 years – down to 67 from 69
  • 20–24 years – down to 55 from 58.

The teenage fertility rate has dropped to its lowest ever, with 15 live births per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2017 – just under half the 2008 rate of 33.

In 1962, when fertility rates were highest for women in their twenties, the teenage fertility rate was 54 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19. While rates dropped for women in their twenties throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the teenage rate increased to a peak of 69 births per 1,000 women in 1972. The teenage rate then decreased to 30 births per 1,000 women in 1984.[4]

According the website

The reduction in birth rates since 2008 had largely been driven by trends among women aged 15 to 29.

The lower fertility rate could lead to reduced population growth if it stayed below the replacement level of around 2.1.[5]

The Week declared in November of 2018:

Global fertility rate has halved since 1950, leaving scores of countries including the UK with birth rates below levels needed to maintain population size, new research has found.

The annual Global Burden of Disease Study, published in The Lancet, shows that 91 of 195 nations now have fertility rates below replacement level - currently defined as around 2.1 children per woman - leaving them facing a so-called baby bust.

According to the latest data from the US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), the 2018 worldwide total fertility rate is 2.4 births per woman, down from around five in the 1960s.

However, the new study, led by researchers at the University of Washington, found drastic differences between fertility rates across developed and underdeveloped countries.

In Niger, Africa, women are having 7.1 children, on average. At the other end of the scale, in Cyprus the average is only one child per woman, with similar rates in South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Latest figures from the UK Office for National Statistics puts the rate in Britain at 1.76.

In less developed countries, a lower birth rate is cause for celebration, because it indicates fewer children are dying and more opportunities for women outside the home. However, in developed countries, it is a cause for concern.[6]

The BBC declared in November of 2018:

There has been a remarkable global decline in the number of children women are having, say researchers.

Their report found fertility rate falls meant nearly half of countries were now facing a "baby bust" - meaning there are insufficient children to maintain their population size.

The researchers said the findings were a "huge surprise"...

The fall in fertility rate is not down to sperm counts or any of the things that normally come to mind when thinking of fertility.

Instead it is being put down to three key factors:

  • Fewer deaths in childhood meaning women have fewer babies
  • Greater access to contraception
  • More women in education and work

Without migration, countries will face ageing and shrinking populations.[7]

The fallacy of exclusion is a logical fallacy where "Important evidence which would undermine an inductive argument is excluded from consideration. The requirement that all relevant information be included is called the 'principle of total evidence.'"[8]

Given what the BBC and others I cited in my previous two open letters indicate about migration and the sub-replacement level of births in NZ, isn't your demand that I stop talking about immigration unreasonable? You are engaging in the fallacy of exclusion. This is especially true in light of the information I gave you regarding immigration and desecularization in my previous two open letters to you.

2. The global market share of the religious is rising.

Atheism is in decline worldwide. See: Global atheism statistics

Scholars have commonly referred to it as the "resurgence of religion". See: Desecularization and Global atheism statistics

On December 23, 2012, Professor Eric Kaufmann who teaches at Birbeck College, University of London wrote:

I argue that 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious.

On the other hand, the secular West and East Asia has very low fertility and a rapidly aging population... In the coming decades, the developed world's demand for workers to pay its pensions and work in its service sector will soar alongside the booming supply of young people in the third world. Ergo, we can expect significant immigration to the secular West which will import religious revival on the back of ethnic change. In addition, those with religious beliefs tend to have higher birth rates than the secular population, with fundamentalists having far larger families. The epicentre of these trends will be in immigration gateway cities like New York (a third white), Amsterdam (half Dutch), Los Angeles (28% white), and London, 45% white British.[9] [10]

The Descent of the Modernists cartoon by E. J. Pace. It portrays modernism as the descent from Christianity to atheism. It was first published in 1922. See: Fundamentalism

At a conference Kaufmann said of religious demographic projections concerning the 21st century:

Part of the reason I think demography is very important, at least if we are going to speak about the future, is that it is the most predictable of the social sciences.

...if you look at a population and its age structure now. You can tell a lot about the future. ...So by looking at the relative age structure of different populations you can already say a lot about the future...

...Religious fundamentalism is going to be on the increase in the future and not just out there in the developing world..., but in the developed world as well.[11]

See also: Growth of religious fundamentalism

Question: Is the global market share of the religious rising? If not, why not?

Question: Is religious fundamentalism rising in the world? If not, why not?

Question: Do religious fundamentalists have significantly more children than than the irreligious/nonreligious? If not, why not? See: Atheism and fertility rates

3. In the absence of a religious revival, NZ will have to have immigration from a world that is becoming more and more religious.

As noted above, the BBC indicates, "Without migration, countries will face ageing and shrinking populations."[12]

These factors leading to NZ having a sub-replacement level of birth are unlikely to change unless NZ becomes substantially more religious.

  • Fewer deaths in childhood meaning women have fewer babies
  • Greater access to contraception
  • More women in education and work

So when it comes to the fate of NZ as far as religion/irreligion in the 21st century, why shouldn't I consider immigration? Is the BBC wrong when it said, "Without migration, countries will face ageing and shrinking populations."

Are you engaging in magical thinking and believing that the "atheist stork" will save the day? (rhetorical question that you need not answer).

4. Secularization rate in most of France and Protestant Europe was reported to be zero in 2010. The Guardian said in 2017 that the UK may have hit peak secular

In 2010, Eric Kaufmann reported that the rate of secularisation flattened to zero in most of Protestant Europe and France.[13]

The Guardian published an article in 2017 entitled Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?[14]

As far as British secularism/atheism, The Guardian published an article in 2017 entitled Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’? which declared:

But, Bullivant told the Observer that the “growth of no religion may have stalled”. After consistent decline, in the past few years the proportion of nones appears to have stabilised. “Younger people tend to be more non-religious, so you’d expect it to keep going – but it hasn’t. The steady growth of non-Christian religions is a contributing factor, but I wonder if everyone who is going to give up their Anglican affiliation has done so by now? We’ve seen a vast shedding of nominal Christianity, and perhaps it’s now down to its hardcore.[15]

Please see: European desecularization in the 21st century

Given France's past and Europe's past, what makes you think what happened to Europe in terms of secularization and religious immigration will not happen in NZ in the future? Why do you believe that NZ will escape the fate of France, UK, Sweden and the rest of secular Europe?

5. The 2013 census data, previous census data and the highly religious in New Zealand

I have no reason to dispute the NZ census data you cited. It is not like NZ has a neighbor like Mexico with illegal immigrants pouring in.

I will point this out though taken from the NZ Herald in 2018: Immigration New Zealand budget blowout kept overstayers in NZ. And in an aging population, I am guessing that NZ's budget is probably going to remain tight.

Whether or not the NZ census counts illegal immigrants I don't know.

The more important point though is that the census data source you provided does NOT say that the highly religious population (evangelical Christians, Filipinos, Muslims) is falling or is not rising and I did provide sources indicating that they are rising. Even Wikipedia which you cited indicates HERE that Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist Christians are rising and Muslims have risen from 2001 to 2013. So why do you continue to deny that the highly religious are rising in NZ? Why do you cite Wikipedia in your response when Wikipedia itself indicates via reliable sources that Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist Christians are rising and Muslims have risen from 2001 to 2013?

Filipinos at an annual Christmas parade in Hamilton, New Zealand. Irreligion in the Philippines is particularly rare among Filipinos.[16]

By the way, according to Wikipedias article Filipino New Zealanders:

The 1936 New Zealand census recorded six New Zealand residents born in the Philippines. The country's intake of Filipino students began to increase in 1960, under the Colombo Plan; however, even as late as 1981, there were only 405 Filipinos in New Zealand. It was not until the 1990s that highly populated regions such as Wellington and Auckland (especially the suburbs of Henderson and Mount Roskill) began to see exponential growth in their respective Filipino communities.[2] The communities themselves are known for their many Philippine-related celebrations, particularly the celebration of Philippine Independence Day every year on the Sunday nearest to the 12 June. In April 2008, New Zealand's embassy indicated that they would like to increase the intake of nurses and engineers from the Philippines.[3] In 2013 the Census recorded 40,350 people, or 1.0 percent of the population, Filipino New Zealanders[17]

And as I mentioned previously, according to Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia founded by an an atheist and agnostic), irreligion in the Philippines is particularly rare among Filipinos.[18]

Mr. NZ Atheist, are Filipinos seeing population growth in NZ? If not, why not? Are Filipinos highly religious? If not, why not?

And as you know, I used other sources showing that the highly religious (evangelical Christians, Filipinos and Muslims) are growing in NZ (Please see: Irreligion in New Zealand).

In secular Europe, there was secularization for a period of time where liberal Christianity/Catholicism lost members to the irreligious/nonreligious, but now the secularization rates are down to zero due to evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, Muslims and devout Catholics growing (See: European desecularization in the 21st century). So while the numbers of religious people in NZ may overall be seeing a temporary fall while the highly religious population increases, it is not unreasonable to think what happened in Europe will happen in NZ especially given what is happening globally in the world in terms of religion/nonreligion/irreligion.

Phillip Jenkins published the book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

Chuck Colson, citing the work of Jenkins, writes:

As Penn State professor Philip Jenkins writes in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, predictions like Huntingtons betray an ignorance of the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West.

For instance, in 1900, there were approximately 10 million Christians in Africa. By 2000, there were 360 million. By 2025, conservative estimates see that number rising to 633 million. Those same estimates put the number of Christians in Latin America in 2025 at 640 million and in Asia at 460 million.

According to Jenkins, the percentage of the worlds population that is, at least by name, Christian will be roughly the same in 2050 as it was in 1900. By the middle of this century, there will be three billion Christians in the world -- one and a half times the number of Muslims. In fact, by 2050 there will be nearly as many Pentecostal Christians in the world as there are Muslims today.[19]

In 2011, a Pew Forum study of worldwide Christianity found that there were about 279 million classical Pentecostals, making 4 percent of the total world population and 12.8 percent of global Christendom Pentecostal.[20]

The American sociologist and author Peter L. Berger introduced the concept of desecularization in 1999.[21][22] According to Berger, "One can say with some confidence that modern Pentecostalism must be the fastest growing religion in human history."[23] See also: Growth of pentecostalism and Growth of religious fundamentalism

Mr. New Zealand Atheist, given that I showed you were clearly wrong in terms of your facts (the highly religious in NZ are growing (evangelical Christians, Filipinos and Muslims) and given your unreasonable insistence that I forget about immigration, it's time you clearly admit your error. In short, in a world of globalization, NZ is going to become more religious in the 21st century. And I have the religious/irreligious demography scholars and the data clearing supporting me.

Questions to all of the readers of this article

Will the NZ atheist finally admit that "Evangelical, Born Again and Fundamentalist Christians", Muslims and Filipinos are seeing growth in NZ (even Wikipedia which he used as a source to defend a point of his admits this)? Liberals/leftists do have a reputation for doubling down. And atheists do have a reputation for being proud (see: Atheism and arrogance).

See also



  1. Atheist wiki created in response to Conservapedia
  2. [ NZ 2013 census
  3. Births and deaths: Year ended December 2017
  4. Births and deaths: Year ended December 2017
  5. New Zealand’s birth rate at record low
  6. Why global fertility is in decline
  7. 'Remarkable' decline in fertility rates, November 2018
  8. Stephen's Guide: Fallacy of Exclusion
  9. London: A Rising Island of Religion in a Secular Sea by Eric Kaufmann, Huffington Post, 2012
  10. 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
  11. Eric Kaufmann - Religion, Demography and Politics in the 21st Century
  12. 'Remarkable' decline in fertility rates, November 2018
  13. Shall the religious inherit the earth
  14. Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?, The Guardian, 2017
  15. Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?, The Guardian, 2017
  16. Irreligion in the Philippines, July 2018, "Irreligion in the Philippines is particularly rare among Filipinos...".
  17. Filipino New Zealanders
  18. Irreligion in the Philippines, July 2018, "Irreligion in the Philippines is particularly rare among Filipinos...".
  19. How Christianity is Growing Around the World by Chuck Colson
  20. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (December 19, 2011,), Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population, p. 67.
  21. Journal of Church and State, Desecularization: A Conceptual Framework by Vyacheslav Karpov, 2010
  22. Peter L. Berger, “The Desecularization of the World: A Global Overview,” in The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics, ed. Peter L. Berger (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999)
  23. Pentecostalism – Protestant Ethic or Cargo Cult?, Peter Berger, July 29, 2010