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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
About the Author
Eric Kaufmann, an American academic, is currently Reader in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London. In 2008-9, he was a Fellow at the Belfer Center, Harvard University. He is a frequent contributor to Prospect and other publications.
Studying the (on average) higher fertility of religious populations from an evolutionary perspective for some years, I have been somewhat sceptical about applying such observations in the contemporary field of political analysis. But Eric Kaufmann did the job. Making clear his own, rather secular position, he is nevertheless avoiding biasses or polemics, but is informing the reader. He does this by patiently combining available demographic data, historical descriptions and case studies on a wide range of populations as i.e. Haredim Jews in Israel, Mormons in the US, strong Calvinists in the Netherlands, Salafist movements in the Muslim world and many more. Although he is discussing projections and problems, Kaufmann doesn't fall into the trap of mindless alarmism, carefully weighing further options for secular und moderate religious movements, too. Although my interest started from the purely empirical side, I began to like the book for its political and philosophic clout in presenting tough questions and tentatively probing for new answers. For almost any reader, this will be a captivating and thought-provoking read and for scientists from different fields a chance to discuss, test and revise or expand sound observations and hypotheses.
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The idea that secularists have few or no children, that the religious have lots of children, and that this will lead to a lessening of the influence of secularism, had occurred to me from time to time, especially with regard to Europe. I am grateful to Eric Kaufmann for clothing this idea with facts and figures, and producing a very thought-provoking, as well as readable, book. The author's assertions and conclusions, especially in his last chapter, will give rise to dispute, but they cannot be ignored.
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?Read more ›
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The fundamental thesis of this book is that the religious are going to inherit the earth. The secular liberal democratic societies now tolerate fundamentalism in their midst. The secular liberal democratic populations are at less than replacement level. As opposed to them the closed religious groups are multiplying at very rapid rates with five and more children per family. This work studies the populations of Israel, the United States and Europe. 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.Read more ›
This book was timely and entirely on point. Kaufmann's thesis is that the low fertility rate of seculars, atheists and liberals and the immigration of more religious people to the West will reshape the West- and the world- in a religious image. Yet it's more complex than that; the showdown between fundamentalism and secularism is tearing moderate religion to shreds and causing a strange kind of ecumenism in which denomination matters little, and religious people of all sorts will have more in common with each other than secular people of all sorts. The ultimate sorting-out will be between those who accept the Enlightenment's worldview and those who reject it.
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.Read more ›