“There’s a belief, often amongst political scientists and social scientists, that demography is somehow passive and that it doesn’t really matter,” said Eric Kaufmann, author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth: Demography and Politics in the 21st Century and professor at Birkbeck College, University of London in this interview with ECSP. “Part of the message of this book is that demography can lead to social and political change.”
“In this case what I’m looking at is the way that demography can change the religious landscape,” Kaufmann said. “It can actually enhance the power of religion, especially religious fundamentalism in societies throughout the world.”
“Purely secular people, who have no religious affiliation, they are leading the move towards very low levels of fertility, even down to the level of one child per woman,” Kaufmann said. On the other hand, fundamentalists are reacting to this trend and deliberately deciding not to make the demographic transition, he said. “In doing so, the gap between secular and religious widens” and is actually more pronounced in places where the two groups collide.
“You can see this in the Muslim world,” said Kaufmann. “If you look at urban areas such as the Nile Delta and Cairo, in those urban cities, women are who are most in favor of Shariah have twice the family size of women who are most opposed to Shariah, whereas in the Egyptian countryside, the difference is much less because they haven’t been exposed to the same modernizing pressures.”
These dynamics affect the Western world as well, especially when you factor in migration, said Kaufmann: “The fact that almost all the world’s population growth is occurring in the developing world, which is largely religious, means that a lot of people are moving from religious parts of the world to secular parts of the world,” he said. “That effects, for example, countries like the United States or in Western Europe, which are receiving immigrants, and it means in the case of Western Europe – which is a very secular environment – that immigrants bring not only ethnic change but on the back of that, religious change; they make their societies more religious.”