Difference between revisions of "Essay: The future of religion/irreligion in New Zealand"

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Revision as of 17:52, 19 May 2019

Dear New Zealand atheist,

It occurred to me that I did not explain certain matters sufficiently in relation to the 21st century desecularization of New Zealand that is expected by religion/irreligion demography scholars (see: Postsecularism and New Zealand in the 21st century).

I argued that what is happening in Europe and most of the rest of the world will inevitably happen in New Zealand also (see: European desecularization in the 21st century). Why did I assert this concerning New Zealand?

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."[1]

In a previous open letter to you, I pointed out that like Europe, New Zealand has a sub-replacement level of births and is relying on immigration to make up the demographic deficit (In 2016, New Zealand had 1.87 births per woman and demographers agree that and average of 2.1 births per woman is a replacement level of births). This is very common in nonreligious/irreligious developed nations (see: Atheism and fertility rates).

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.[2]

According the website HealthCentral.nz:

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.[3]

So what is happening in the world and in Europe?

Consider the facts below.

In 2019, John Feffer wrote at the left leaning The Nation:

In the Americas, the Trump tsunami has swept across both continents and the 'pink tide' of progressivism has all but disappeared from the southern half of the hemisphere...

In this planet-wide rising tide of right-wing populism, the liberal left commands only a few disconnected islands — Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Uruguay... Worse, crafty operators with even more ambitious agendas stand ready to destroy the liberal status quo once and for all."[4]

In September 2018, Pew Research indicated: "Due to the decline of the center-left across much of Western Europe and the comparative steadiness of the center-right, most Western European countries are led by center-right parties, as measured by the party of the prime minister or other head of government."[5] In June 2014, Forbes reported that it is undeniable that politically right wing parties are ascendant in Europe.[6]

Atheism is in decline worldwide, with the number of atheists falling from 4.5% of the world's population in 1970 to 2.0% in 2010 and projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020.[7] See: Global atheism statistics

On December 23, 2012, Professor Eric Kaufmann 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.[8] [9]

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.[10]

See also: Desecularization and Growth of global desecularization

In 2010, Kaufmann reported that the rate of secularisation flattened to zero in most of Protestant Europe and France.[11]

Concerning the future of religion/secularism in Europe, Eric Kaufmann wrote:

We have performed these unprecedented analyses on several cases. Austria offers us a window into what the future holds. Its census question on religious affiliation permits us to perform cohort component projections, which show the secular population plateauing by 2050, or as early as 2021 if secularism fails to attract lapsed Christians and new Muslim immigrants at the same rate as it has in the past. (Goujon, Skirbekk et al. 2006).

This task will arguably become far more difficult as the supply of nominal Christians dries up while more secularisation-resistant Muslims and committed rump Christians comprise an increasing share of the population.[12]

The Guardian published an article in 2017 entitled Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?[13]

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.[14]

Concerning the future of evangelical Protestantism in Europe, in a paper entitled Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, Kaufmann wrote:

What of European Christianity? The conventional wisdom holds it to be in free fall, especially in Western Europe. (Bruce 2002) This is undoubtedly correct for Catholic Europe, while Protestant Europe already has low levels of religious practice. Yet closer scrutiny reveals an increasingly lively and demographically growing Christian remnant. Several studies have examined the connection between religiosity - whether defined as attendance, belief or affiliation - and fertility in Europe. Most find a statistically significant effect even when controlling for age, education, income, marital status and other factors...

Moving to the wider spectrum of European Christianity, we find that fertility is indeed much higher among European women who are religious...

Today, most of those who remain religious in Europe wear their beliefs lightly, but conservative Christianity is hardly a spent force. Data on conservative Christians is difficult to come by since many new churches keep few official records. Reports from the World Christian Database, which meticulously tracks reports from church bodies, indicates that 4.1 percent of Europeans (including Russians) were evangelical Christians in 2005. This figure rises to 4.9 percent in northern, western and southern Europe. Most religious conservatives are charismatics, working within mainstream denominations like Catholicism or Lutheranism to ‘renew’ the faith along more conservative lines. There is also an important minority of Pentecostals, who account for .5% of Europe’s population. Together, charismatics and Pentecostals account for close to 5 % of Europe’s population. The proportion of conservative Christians has been rising, however: some estimate that the trajectory of conservative Christian growth has outpaced that of Islam in Europe. (Jenkins 2007: 75).

In many European countries, the proportion of conservative Christians is close to the number who are recorded as attending church weekly. This would suggest an increasingly devout Christian remnant is emerging in western Europe which is more resistant to secularization. This shows up in France, Britain and Scandinavia (less Finland), the most secular countries where we have 1981, 1990 and 2000 EVS and 2004 ESS data on religiosity...

Currently there are more evangelical Christians than Muslims in Europe. (Jenkins 2007: 75) In Eastern Europe, as outside the western world, Pentecostalism is a sociological and not a demographic phenomenon. In Western Europe, by contrast, demography is central to evangelicalism’s growth, especially in urban areas. Alas, immigration brings two foreign imports, Islam and Christianity, to secular Europe.[15]

Conservative Protestants have relatively high fertility rates.[16] (Picture: Protestant church pulpit in Europe)

In 2011, a paper was published entitled The End of Secularization in Europe?: A Socio-Demographic Perspective. The authors of the paper were: Eric Kaufmann - Birkbeck College, University of London; Anne Goujon - World Population Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA); Vegard Skirbekk World Population Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).[17]

An excerpt from the paper by Kaufmann, Goujon and Skirbekk:

Conservative Protestants, a much larger group than the Mormons, also benefit from relatively high fertility. Hout et al. (2001) find that three-quarters of the growth of conservative Protestant denominations against their liberal counterparts is due to fertility advantage rather than conversion.

In Europe, there has been less attention paid to fertility differences between denominations. However, several studies have discovered that immigrants to Europe tend to be more religious than the host population and — especially if Muslim—tend to retain their religiosity (Van Tubergen 2006). Though some indicators point to modest religious decline toward the host society mean, other trends suggest that immigrants become more, rather than less, religious the longer they reside in the host society (Van Tubergen 2007). All of which indicates that religious decline may fail at the aggregate level even if it is occurring at the individual level (Kaufmann 2006, 2010). This article thereby investigates the hypothesis that a combination of higher religious fertility, immigration, and slowing rates of religious apostasy will eventually produce a reversal in the decline of the religious population of Western Europe.[18]

Research indicates that among ethnic minority immigrants religion is a source of group ethnic identification which makes them more resistant to secularization.[19] In most countries, with the exception of France, Muslim immigrants have nearly 100% retention rates for the second generation.[20]

The prominent historian Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, indicates that he believes Christianity faces a "bright future" worldwide (See also: Global Christianity).

According to MacCulloch, "Christianity, the world's largest religion, is rapidly expanding – by all indications, its future is very bright."[21]

The prominent historian Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, indicates that he believes Christianity faces a "bright future" worldwide (See also: Global Christianity).

According to MacCulloch, "Christianity, the world's largest religion, is rapidly expanding – by all indications, its future is very bright."[22]

In 2012, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) reported that every day there are 83,000 more people professing to be Christians per day, 800 less atheists per day, 1,100 less non-religious (agnostic) people per day.[23][24]

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.[25]

So I would argue that as the supply of nominal Christians/Muslims dries up in New Zealand (this population will eventually dry up like they recently did in Europe), the more religious Christians/Muslims/Hindus will remain and they will grow. And Europe and the rest of the world indicate that these more theologically conservative Christians/Muslims will continue to see growth in your country due to various factors (higher fertility rates, immigration and a higher resistance to being secularized). For example, in the article Irreligion in New Zealand, I pointed out the Muslim, evangelical, Filipino and Hindu populations were growing in New Zealand.

I would also argue, that since global Christianity has a bright future for the foreseeable future, that a substantially percentage of future immigrants to New Zealand will be Christians.

In addition, as the Muslim population grows in New Zealand, they will likely grow more militant as their percentage in the population increases since this is what has occurred in other regions of the world (see: What Islam Isn't - Dr. Peter Hammond). Of course, this could easily help spark right-wing nationalism as it did in Europe so the secular left could easily decrease in New Zealand - especially given immigration and right-wing nationalism is growing in most of the rest of the world (see: Decline of the secular left).

Notes

  1. Births and deaths: Year ended December 2017
  2. Births and deaths: Year ended December 2017
  3. New Zealand’s birth rate at record low
  4. Combating the New Right by John Feffer, The Nation, May 13, 2019
  5. Swedish election highlights decline of center-left parties across Western Europe by Kyle Taylor
  6. Europe's Deep Right-Wing Logic By Robert D. Kaplan
  7. Global Study: Atheists in Decline, Only 1.8% of World Population by 2020
  8. London: A Rising Island of Religion in a Secular Sea by Eric Kaufmann, Huffington Post, 2012
  9. 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
  10. Eric Kaufmann - Religion, Demography and Politics in the 21st Century
  11. Shall the religious inherit the earth
  12. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann
  13. Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?, The Guardian, 2017
  14. Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?, The Guardian, 2017
  15. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann
  16. Religious immigrants will alter the religious landscape of Europe
  17. Religious immigrants will alter the religious landscape of Europe
  18. Religious immigrants will alter the religious landscape of Europe
  19. Eric Kaufmann - Religion, Demography and Politics in the 21st Century
  20. Eric Kaufmann - Religion, Demography and Politics in the 21st Century
  21. Historian predicts 'bright future' for Christianity
  22. Historian predicts 'bright future' for Christianity
  23. Globally the worldviews of atheism and non-religious (agnostic) are declining while global Christianity is exploding in adherents
  24. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary - Status of Global Missions
  25. How Christianity is Growing Around the World by Chuck Colson