Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Ceiling for Diaper-Evangelism

There's so much in the news to talk about, but it would take so very long to write out that I should probably put it off until I have more time to really do it all justice. In the meantime, I thought I would share a recent epiphany that I've had regarding an interesting phenomenon -- a phenomenon which, arguably, is the very reason religion is so pervasive among us, even today.

Childhood indoctrination. It is the heart and soul of every major religion. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." So says Proverbs 22:6. Christians who ignore everything else the Bible might say will at least obey that particular passage of scripture. And why? Because it is the most successful means of evangelism ever known! Hard numbers are hard to verify on this point, but at least 80% of all children raised in a particular faith will hold to that faith as adults.

Now that's effective preachin'!

And the fact that this works so well is even more impressive, given that being raised in a particular faith is undoubtedly the worst reason for embracing it! What, your religion assaulted you while you were still in the cradle, and so you're prepared to believe its tenets? Are you NUTS?!?!

Well, no, people who believe what they were raised aren't nuts. They're just caught up in a particular aspect of human psychology which was probably designed through evolutionary processes to help us survive. As Richard Dawkins points out, a child who refuses to accept an adult instructing them not to play in the open field because there are leopards, or not to swim in a particular river because there are crocodiles, is a child who probably won't live long. As such, children may disobey from time to time, but they generally embrace what their elders teach them wholesale. As such, a child who is raised to embrace certain ideas ends up becoming an adult who simply does not question them.

And here is where I try to explain something to people, and they often don't realize the scope of what I'm telling them: Because if you raise a children to believe in pink unicorns and feathered elephants, send them off to pink unicorn & feathered elephant Sunday schools, put them in pink unicorn & feathered elephant private schools, and raise them in an environment where all their teachers, peers, friends and immediate family all believe in pink unicorns and feathered elephants, then those children will grow up to become young adults who will argue and argue with their college professors about why there really are pink unicorns and feathered elephants! Yes, it's really that insanely powerful!

(At this point, the reader must ask, are there any pink unicorns or feathered elephants I believe in?)

Now, the fact that certain religions take full advantage of this flaw in human software, and the fact that they prey upon the youngest and most vulnerable in order to do it, are both very obvious displays of the inherent weakness of those faiths. Yet shame does not factor into the equation for such creeds, and the most successful religions in the world utilize this tactic with frightening efficiency. The Catholic Church, for example, emphasizes the lack of birth control to the point of maniacism, precisely because they know that Catholics who have large families are the key to the survival of the Catholic Church in the future. The Mormon religion evangelizes almost exclusively using this technique, because in spite of sending out hordes of 18-year-old missionary boys every year, it is through the large families that they raise that they truly make their converts. Thus, the Mormon church grows at an impressive rate, in spite of being the biggest joke in terms of veracity. And let's not forget the Muslims, whose current plan of conquest involves settling in every nation of Western Europe and literally breeding themselves into political prowess. So far, it's working! Already, there are enough Muslims in Europe to turn even Amsterdam on its head!

It's a frighteningly effective tactic. Just do the math. A religious family that has only five kids effectively doubles the number of people in that faith in one generation. If repeated the next generation, it doubles again. Repeated again, with each of those kids having five or more of their own, another doubling in size. In only several generations, this can amount to a gargantuan number. 2 x 2 = 4. 4 x 2 = 8. 8 x 2 = 16. 16 x 2 = 32. 32 x 2 = 64. Over 150% in less than one century! And consider: Most religious families of the variety named above have way more than just five kids! If trends continue along these lines, the future will be a clash of three civilizations: Catholics, Mormons, and Muslims.

And here we come to my epiphany, because while these numbers are staggering, they come at a time in our world history when our population has nearly reached maximum possible size. Our globe can only handle so many people, and if global warming trends continue, it may be that we will lose a significant amount of farmable land, meaning that we've already exceeded our maximum population size. Granted, we don't feel the pinch of the population crunch in this country for the simple reason that we're so damned wealthy. But third world nations know the pangs of hunger caused by too many mouths to feed all too well! We're about to bump our collective heads on the population ceiling.

Well, that population ceiling will turn out to be a ceiling on diaper-evangelism as well. People will bitch and moan about reproductive rights and the oppressiveness of governments forcing sterilization, contraception, and the limiting of family size. But we simply will have no choice at some not-too-distant point in the future. Faced with forcing population controls or watching billions starve, the nations of the world will collectively band together to cap the size of every family. It's as predictable as night following day. Count on it!

Well, my friends, WHEN, not if, that happens, weakass religions will no longer be able to force their hapless faith upon as many poor defenseless preschoolers anymore. Only so many children per household will mean that the populations of religions will be capped, every bit as much as the populations of everything else. And those who question and depart from their faith will take a steadily increasing percentage of each generation until a natural equilibrium point is reached. Advantage: Agnostics/Atheists! And what's more, once religion is lost, it tends to STAY lost, meaning that the natural equilibrium point favors the non-religious more than the religious. Advantage again: Agnostics/Atheists! Eventually, with religions no longer able to breed themselves into prominence, the natural state of populations will be non-religious, and peer-pressure and societal expectations will render religion a thing of the past!

Thus I prophesy!

Of course, it's just possible that religious nuts will succeed in dismantling our hard-won democratic freedoms before this happens. It's possible that the planet will be driven into anarchy by the population crisis, and thus any governments capable of enacting the all-saving population controls would collapse. It's possible that religious chaos will win over secular order. Whether or not this happens will largely depend upon how strong and populous the secular, freedom-loving population is at the time it occurs.

So, basically, it's a foot-race. Who will win? Will the secular world be able to maintain order long enough? Or will religious insanity out-breed and overpopulate us fast enough to overturn everything we've worked so hard to build? I don't know the answer. But I do know this: the non-religious spread by horizontal transmission (that is, adult ideas competing with other adult ideas) rather than vertical transmission (adult passing ideas onto child). That means those atheists who are getting in people's face just a little bit more, such as Dawkins or Hitchens, are engaging in exactly the right tactic, at exactly the right time!

We won't appreciate it now, but they may well be the salvation of us all.

Eric

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