Will Demographic Shifts Boost Christianity and Hurt Atheism?

A British geneticist is saying that atheism could face a decline in Europe as Christians continue to experience a growth in population while Europe's atheist populations decline.

Steve Jones, a professor in genetics at University College London’s Galton Laboratory, spoke at this month's Hay Literary Festival where he pointed out that Europeans have a falling birth rate while Christians in countries like Africa have a rising rate.

Europe, Jones notes, is not doing well at "replacing its population."

"We atheists sometimes congratulate ourselves that the incidence of religious belief is going down," he said.

"But religious people have more children," Jones continued. "Where are people having the most children? It’s in the tropics and in Africa. It’s clearly the case that the future will involve an increase in religious populations and a decrease in scepticism. We may not need more scientists but more theologists."

The decline in Europe's population has been a much-discussed topic. Author Joel Kotkin, for instance, wrote, "Europe’s economic disaster is both reflected – and is largely caused by – a demographic decline that, if not soon reversed, all but guarantees the continent’s continued slide."

Columnist Mark Steyn has also written about this "demographic time bomb" in his 2008 book, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It.

Professor Jones, however, is not one of those militant atheists who oppose religion tooth and nail. In fact, Jones has recently written a book, The Serpent’s Promise: The Bible Retold as Science, that attempts to meld science and religion into a unified theory for how to lead one's life.

"The Bible is a handbook for understanding Nature and, in its own way, it succeeds," the book's publicity release states. "As a factual account, of course, it is out of date, but many of its statements can be rephrased in modern terms."

Jones also says he recognizes the importance of Christianity. During his comments he said the "New Testament was one of the greatest political documents ever written." He then said, "Our entire society is based on tenets of the New Testament."

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.


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