Saturday, December 31, 2011

Connection between religion and civilizational survival

Thirty some years ago I acquired a computer game called Civilization.  It was the global version of Sim City where you started as an aboriginal and gradually developed your tribe, region, and entire civilization.  Growth and success involved trading with neighboring tribes, inventions, exploration, and one odd component I really didn’t see a legitimate purpose for at the time:  religion.  To be successful in the game, to advance your civilization, there needed to be some measure of religion.  I never progressed much in the game because I didn’t understand and thus ignored that civilizational advancement prerequisite built into that game.

Fast forward to today.  I just completed a book called “How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is dying too)” by David P. Goldman.  For internet junkies, Goldman wrote for First Things under the name of Spengler until early 2011.

Goldman explains that civilizations die because they  cease believing in a reason to perpetuate their existence.  As their belief in the future dies, they lose hope.  As their birthrate and thus their populations decline they lose influence in their region or in the world, and are eventually overrun by more motivated, enthusiastic thronging hoards, however civilized or uncivilized they may be. He developed convincing cause and effect evidence that the lack of religion creates this sense of purposelessness and hopelessness of a culture or nation.

He asserts that the current decline of Europe is due primarily to the decline of Christianity.  And the decline of Christianity in Europe, he demonstrates, is due to an inseparable alliance of Christianity to the political systems of their  nations rather than coming from the bottom up through spiritual belief and motivation of individuals within those nations.  This creates the situation where if the nation suffers difficulty for any reason, be it war, a bad economy, famine, the faith of the people suffers equally.  The nation is the god as much as the religion’s god.  This reasoning sounds circular because it is; because religion and state are bound together so tightly.  In recent centuries individuals in those nations, for the most part, lacked the deep and personal religious belief  that is held in other parts of the world, especially by most in the United States.

Goldman makes a convincing case for the connection of cultural spiritual vitality with birth rate.  Where spiritual vitality is strong, birthrates are higher.  Where spiritual vitality is lacking, birthrates are lower.  Birthrates of native Europeans are below the level of sustainability.  The higher the level of education and social and economic attainment, the birthrate and the level of spirituality are both lower.  This runs true across all national lines except when governments intervene to limit child-bearing, as in China.

The case of Islam is interesting, because popular wisdom tells us that the birthrate among Muslims in Islamic nations is high.  Goldman has discovered demographic trends that indicate younger Muslims are not maintaining the birthrates of their parents.  This indicates a longer term, 20+ year trend of Muslim birthrates declining to levels approaching barely sustainable levels, and declining further thereafter.  Goldman believes these rates will continue to fall because Islam will prove to be a failed religion.  Why?  First, because Islam is an unadaptable religion (actually a “political ideology.”)  Second, for the same reasons that Europe's religion is failing.  From its inception, Islam has been an authoritarian, top down religion.  It is a political religion that demands submission, whether one actually believes the religion or not.  And whether people are outwardly religious or not, they will not have the motivation to reproduce if their reason for existence and hope for the future is lacking because of their own spiritual deficiencies.

Europe’s Christianity of the past several centuries has been nationalistic, top down, not from the heart and soul.  Likewise, the recent return to Islamic fundamentalism results in a top down imposition of that faith on its people.  The heart and soul of most Muslims will not be in it.  Their spirit, confidence, and hope for the future will die along with their birthrates and civilizations.  That is the view of Goldman.

However, as Goldman further points out, Islam will not go away quietly.  As it realizes its decline and death are on the horizon, like a wounded animal, it will violently lash out.  Which it is certainly doing today.  There is a realization among some of its mullahs that the Islamic-driven culture is in desperate straits.  And out of desperation, they are doing desperate acts.

The problem is compounded further for the west because not only is this what typical wounded and dying civilizations usually do, but the historic, fundamentalist behavior taught, promoted, and practiced by Islam demands the type of supremacist, warring aggression as part of their ideology.   Consequently we should expect a uniquely motivated hoard of roaring banshees emanating from Islamic cultures, both foreign and domestic, in the coming years unlike that experienced in centuries.

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