Monday, August 22, 2011

Religion and Overpopulation

This is a new idea that I want to explore: a possible correlation between religious belief and overpopulation. This isn’t something that I think is really happening to a large degree right now, but is just a thought.

1) If the ultimate aim of a religious belief such as Christianity is for humanity to end up in heaven (wherever a particular sect believes that to be), then I can see a strong link between religious belief and having large numbers of children. In fact it is common among conservative Christians and Catholics for having large families already. This may be due to other factors, such as disdain for contraception and abortion, but a view that having children is inherently a good thing could also be a factor. There is also the matter of the explicit command in Genesis 9:7 to: “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.

2) If a religious belief has an element of this tendency to overpopulate in it, then the religion to me seems strongly anti-conservationist. If procreating and making more children to go to heaven, even if not the primary goal is seen as worthwhile in and of itself then the wellbeing of our ecosystem and future of our planet and longevity of our species is being put at risk.

It is undeniable that earth is facing a population crisis; the global human population has doubled in the last 50 years, and will double again in the next 50 years. In current news, the Brazilian government tried to pass legislation that would allow them to cut down substantial portions of the Amazon rainforest. Undoubtedly, this is a flow on effect from a demand for space and resources for a growing population.

C) If a religious belief is anti-conservation, even if indirectly by encouraging having lots of children, then that religious belief is in my opinion detrimental to humanity.

Note: This is not the logical fallacy known as an ‘appeal to consequences’, as this argument stops short of declaring that because of the consequences it is false. I am merely drawing the conclusion that religious belief that includes an advocacy of bearing large numbers of offspring is detrimental to the future of our planet and species.


  1. One predictor of birth rate is women becoming educated. In places where women are not allowed to go to school the population would be expanding, and religion is one reason why women wouldn't go to school.

    I think Christian fundies don't believe that it's worth protecting the ecosystem because the rapture will happen before we run out of resources. They're also cranking out kids to win the numbers game against non-whites, erm... non-Christians.

  2. I agree with you and Lady Atheist. Population in 3rd world countries, like my beautiful Philippines, is going thru the roof. If they keep their women barefoot and prego, then they will not have a chance to get an education.

    I think there is a direct relationship between doing Gods work and overpopulation. And why would they care about life on erffs when getting to heaven is the goal. Pretty pathetic.


  3. Yeah, I was going out onto potentially shaky ground with this argument, which is why I included the note at the end regarding the fallacy of appeal to consequences. It may not be true of all religious movements, but it certainly applies to quite a number of them.

  4. The Earth's population is not even remotely going to double in the next 50 years. Almost all countries outside sub-Saharan Africa now have birth rates below replacement level -- even much of the Middle East has lately crossed that threshold. What population growth continues is the overhang effect of a disproportionate number of people in many countries being in their child-producing years, but the trend is clear. The population explosion as a permanent phenomenon is over.

    This is, of course, the result of economic development, better education (especially of women, as LA points out), and above all of rising secularism -- which is credited with, for example, Mexico's birth rate dropping from 7 children per woman to 2 per woman over the last 40 years. That's probably why sub-Saharan Africa remains an exception -- it's the least-advanced region in all those ways.

    This supports your overall point about religion and over-population being connected, but it's important to keep up with how things are trending in an increasingly-secularized world.

  5. Thanks for the comment Infidel. I guess that's good news!
    Although even if we simply maintain this population level, increasing consumption is still a huge problem for planetary resources, but this has nothing to do with religion (unless you're talking about dominionists, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms!)

  6. Brazil is not cutting down its rain forrest for space, the country is doing it because they are in debt, so they sale wood since they have plenty of it!

  7. and to make way for cattle farmers!

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