A Baylor University professor has argued that fertility rates are linked to religious belief in a new interview with Regent College in Vancouver, British Colombia.
Philip Jenkins, the professor of history and co-director of the program on historical studies of religion, stated that it is demography that determines a country's religious beliefs, which then, in turn, drives the number of children a family tends to have. He argues that African countries are highly religious and also have much higher fertility rates than the more secular countries of Europe. Therefore, he concludes, the number of children a typical family has can be a window into the religiosity of the country.
Jenkins said, "There is a close correlation between a fertility rate of a particular society or nation and the level of religious involvement or participation in that society.”
The average country has about 2 children per family, according to the professor. He says this rate is considered a stable rate for childbearing. But, he says, one of the biggest problems facing the world today is a collapse in fertility rates. He says the trend correlates strongly with the introduction of secularization into the global society.
Jenkins believes the correlation is so strong that one can use the declining fertility rates to determine whether a country is becoming hostile to religion. He says this is due to children being an important reason to continue to attend religious institutions, such as church services.
"You might argue that as you take children out of the picture there are far fewer links connecting families and people to institutions. ... Take children out of the religious picture and see what happens," he said in the video interview.
Although there seems to be a correlation between these two things, Jenkins himself reminded viewers that, although two things may correlate, it does not necessarily mean one causes the other.
Other scientists have attempted to figure out the reason for the decline in fertility rates correlating with secularization. One of the theories includes urbanization, which often includes more social isolation, which makes it much more difficult to find a spouse and then have children. Another looks at how advances in technology have discouraged having children. Yet another theory asserts that it is simply a mix of all three.
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John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.