Demography & destiny chronicles

The world in 2060 will be different from the world today. How it will be different we don’t know yet; but what self-respecting demographer will let it stand at that?

For some reason I cannot fully explain to God, I’ve been glancing through the latest prognostications from Messrs Pew Research. They do “global” better than the other funny-number companies, and have some interest in the religious factors at play. People make a difference, sometimes, and I think being founded by a devout Presbyterian (J. Howard Pew of the Sunoco fortune, 1883–1971) begins to account for this. A graduate of the Shady Side Academy — the preparatory school for Christian plutocrats in Pittsburgh, full of Fricks and Mellons, back in the day before they admitted the “Shady Ladies” — he left five billion to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Add this to his enthusiasm for Liberty, and the Athabasca Tar Sands, and we had a mover and shaker for the lighter shades of grey.

As I will be past my centenary in 2060, I hope to take the developments in stride. Demographic change is not new to this planet, and Christians have been challenged for the lead before. The first odd thing I notice is that the Muslims still will not have caught up. They’ll need the rest of the century for that, at their current pace.

Why, back in my preferred century (the thirteenth), the Christian population was still less than 70 million. This, according to the best pseudo-authorities I have seen; and note it was before the Black Plague. The Muslims must have been ahead of us then, one would think; except they almost certainly weren’t. This is because they were still a minority in many of the populous lands they had conquered. And to this day, I doubt the veracity of many a national census which, typically in Muslim countries, likes generally to inflate population, and counts specifically as Muslim anyone who isn’t explicitly something else. By the same tactics, Canada could be counted as a Catholic country, and 96 percent of Americans are Christian. Let me tell you a few things about Indonesia.

On second thought, let me not.

Based only on longer-term trends in birthrate, deathrate, immigration, emigration, conversions, reversions, and other supposedly quantifiable things, the demographers at Pew tell us what we already know as a media cliché. It is that Islam has been moving ahead by birthrate alone. However, Christians are almost keeping up, with the second-highest birthrate (2.6 per woman compared to 2.9), and making some of the difference back in conversions. The biggest stories, as we ought to know, are in Sub-Saharan Africa and farther Asia; we just look at the West. Hindus will be holding their place in third, and everything else will be proportionately declining, should everything continue as it was from the imaginative baseline of 2015.

Bad news for “nones” and atheists. Their current numbers are much higher than gentle reader might estimate, owing chiefly to the many in China. But there, as everywhere, they don’t breed. They have the world’s lowest birthrates — lower even than Buddhists, and far below replacement levels. Their only real hope is for a fresh spurt of faithlessness thanks to Capitalist and Socialist excess. Who, from information available in 1915, could have predicted the situation in 1960?

While it is not in the latest Pew mega-report, or I didn’t notice it, I think it worth mentioning that the Muslim acceleration dates only from about 1950. It is historically anomalous, and can be explained by several obvious external factors. All trends are reversible, as I like to say.

My bet is they can’t keep it up.