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← Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: Europe is dying from secularism

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: Europe is dying from secularism - Comments

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 1 by Szymanowski

Like the people of ancient Greece, Europeans were unwilling to marry or to bring up children.

“That is where Europe is today. That is one of the unsayable truths of our time. We are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it.”

Why does he consider marriage and childbirth to be such good things? Or even matters of morality at all?

Someone cynical might say it's just another religious leader getting his knickers in a twist about the empowerment of women.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 17:47:00 UTC | #411415

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 2 by Cartomancer

The decline of Greece in the third century BC? Due to reductions in birth rate? Well that's a new one on me.

Obviously my tutors at Oxford failed me completely, and that Alexander of Macedon fellow had nothing to do with it...

Oh. Polybius of Megalopolis. I see. I hate to pull rank or anything, but one of my undergraduate tutors, the late, great Peter Derow, was perhaps the world's leading expert on Polybius of Megalopolis. In his esteemed opinion Polybius was so witheringly pro-Roman and anti-Greek that he'd say just about anything to raise the esteem of his Roman hosts at the expense of his Hellenic homeland. He might have helped to streamline Aristotle's model of constitutional change, but his abilities as a demographer and predictor of cultural change were sorely lacking. He was also writing in the second century BC (his dates are c. 203 - 120 BC) and, surprise surprise, mostly just coming up with bizarre theories from his imperfect knowledge of Greek history to back up his conviction that the future was bright, the future was Roman. The fact he was, for the majority of his life, a political prisoner of the Romans (the pro-masculinity, anti-effeminacy, highly conservative Romans) has nothing to do with it I suppose.

And in the current climate of massive world overpopulation, it seems that having children is the very selfish act now. How dare this bearded, homophobic, misogynistic lunatic try to pass off the wasting of the world's already overstretched resources as the moral thing to do?

No, what we need is to export secularism to the rest of the world. And we will only have succeeded when intellectual nobodies like the chief rabbi are no longer given the slightest credence when they spout their vile anti-human rubbish.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 17:52:00 UTC | #411417

George Lennan's Avatar Comment 3 by George Lennan

Check out the comments following the article in the Times. Sacks has shot himself in the foot here - even Times readers are under no illusion that population decline is a bad thing.

On a related note, I was just thinking that the Abrahamic practise of chopping a bit of a lad's cock off should be encouraged, right to the far end of the John Thomas if possible, thus contributing further to both population decline in general and population decline in those religions in particular.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:02:00 UTC | #411419

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 4 by Jos Gibbons

the rise of secularism had made people too selfish to have children.
The biology of selfishness mandates the exact opposite. You're decades behind science. The reason we don't have 14 kids each, like African families, is because our women aren't slaves to reproduction. Unless you get your way.
Comparing its decline to that of ancient Greece in the third century of the pre-Christian era, he said the answer lay in the rediscovery of the continent's Judeo-Christian religious roots.
Judaism and Christianity began in the Middle East, and from a European perspective are imports. If people needed religion to not go extinct, we wouldn't have existed long enough to invent it. Greece didn't go extinct, either before or after Christianity destroyed all its intellectual achievements.
Either we win or the fundamentalists win ... [If the latter] I wouldn't hang around too long.
What about the non-religious winning? Or a stable equilibrium? Besides, if anyone will make us have more kids than necessary it'll be fundamentalists.
think-tank Theos
Sacks said Europe was the world's most secular region and the only one experiencing population decline.
Good. There are too many people in the world. Europe is hardly going to go extinct.
neo-Darwinian attacks on religion - typified by Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion - were leading to a population crisis
So after 5 years of book sales people don't want kids any more? He seems to think these books' secondary effects exceed their observable effect in reducing religiosity. For one thing, only people convinced of atheism by the books would in turn be convinced by them of anything else allegedly connected to it, like women's reproductive rights for example.
The only serious philosophical question is, why should I have a child? Our culture is not giving an easy answer
Maybe we should have fewer kids then. There are plenty of other important questions too, like how we should treat others. If Sacks thinks otherwise, then he could not condemn genocides. If he's anything like rabbis I know, he'll manage to make at least one exception to that.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:07:00 UTC | #411421

j.mills's Avatar Comment 5 by j.mills

Population reduction = death of civilisation? If he really believes all that double-talk hogwash, he's an idiot. If he doesn't, he must think the rest of us are.

Fucktard. Because sometimes, only ad hominem will do...

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:08:00 UTC | #411422

bertie wooster's Avatar Comment 6 by bertie wooster

The only problem with a lower birth-rate, one of the few ways to achieve sustainability is that mass immigration is not only replacing Europeans but adding to them by their high birth rates.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:15:00 UTC | #411425

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 7 by hungarianelephant

What a horrible, confused mess of a piece. One hardly knows where to begin.

How about some things Sacks doesn't appear to have considered at all:

(1) The availability of contraception. In earlier generations, children weren't really much of a choice if you were to have any kind of normal relationship. They were just a fact of life. The advent of effective contraception has led to a steep decline in the number of children per family. And of course it is more easily available in a Europe which happens to be largely secular - any causal link remains to be shown.

(2) Economics. In an agrarian society, it's essential to have lots of children to help work the farm. The additional cost is marginal. In urbanied societies, there is little economic gain from having children, but plenty of additional expense where space and food are premium resources.

(3) Welfare states. Plot birth rates against the extent of welfare states - guess what you see? Put bluntly, in a non welfare state, you have to rely on your children to provide for your old age. In a welfare state, you can rely on other people's children instead.

(4) The relative decline of misogyny. No need to keep popping out sprogs until you get an heir and a spare any more.

(5) Redefining selflessness. For much of its history, Europe was dominated by the Catholic church. Which demanded that its priests not have children because ... that was the selfless thing to do. Some inconsistency here, perhaps?

Oh, screw this. It's not worth the trouble.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:16:00 UTC | #411426

Logicel's Avatar Comment 8 by Logicel

This guy is so scary and insane that I might now be frightened of men with beards!

All I can say is Hans Gosling. He showed with his perky graphic stats that because of better education/declining birth rates, poverty/hunger is getting smashed all over the globe. Suck on that, you pathetic, selfish piece of fear-mongering, guilt-pushing merde.

In addition, Europeans are still having children, they are just having LESS. What a maroon.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:25:00 UTC | #411427

Corylus's Avatar Comment 9 by Corylus

He argued that neo-Darwinian attacks on religion – typified by Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion – were leading to a population crisis in Europe.
Blimy, look what RD's gone and done now!

A risible article generally, but saved from complete inanity by an original accusation. It's not the feminists and teh gays messing up traditional breeding practices after all - it's Richard Dawkins.


Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:28:00 UTC | #411429

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 10 by Stafford Gordon

The worst thing we could do is go on increasing world population; that's the most selfish, irresponsible and dangerous thing to do.

There's no logic in what he says; it's simply regurgitation of received dogmas.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:29:00 UTC | #411430

sdando's Avatar Comment 11 by sdando

It is simply offensive and quite wrong to equate (as so many religious leaders do) not having children with selfishness and having children with selflessness.

People have children because they WANT a little replica of their own DNA. They WANT a little replica of their own DNA because that's what natural selection has favored for so many years. It's selfish behavior not selfless behavior (not meant to be a value judgement on the rightness or wrongness of procreation).

This is just another case of the religious not understanding the evolutionary basis of cultural and religious traditions. It also smacks a bit of racism and "in group" favoritism since the world population, as a whole, continues to expand (but don't use condoms Africa cause they make you get more HIV...) but he is worried that the Judeo-Christian Europeans will lose market share and influence if they don't breed enough to keep pace with the developing world.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:32:00 UTC | #411431

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 12 by Mr Blue Sky

Apparently that strident fellow's outpourings and publications are having a bigger effect than we thought!! Go RD !

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:36:00 UTC | #411432

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 13 by hungarianelephant

11. Comment #429741 by sdando

but he is worried that the Judeo-Christian Europeans will lose market share and influence if they don't breed enough to keep pace with the developing world.

This actually happened to the Episcopalian church in the US. It preached a rather more ecological approach instead of "go forth and multiply", and was rewarded with its decline.

Though the biggest threat to Judaism is probably people marrying out.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:41:00 UTC | #411433

Gobby's Avatar Comment 14 by Gobby

My head hurts...

What does he mean by "dying"? Can he provide some objective measurements? And what the hell does he mean by "winning"? Who is keeping scores? The lingo reminds me of Bush.

He argued that neo-Darwinian attacks on religion – typified by Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion – were leading to a population crisis in Europe.

Damn. So Europe had a positive birth rate before Prof. Dawkins released his book? Is he suggesting that The God Delusion is the most effective contraception?

If Europe is in crisis, in some sense it is in my personal view, it is because nutjobs like Sacks somehow rise to "respectable" positions and earning "titles", and as such they are exempted from questions and forums are automatically given to them. If I were the editor of the Times, I'd publish this piece only if there is a following rebuttal by any sane academics.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 18:51:00 UTC | #411437

carbonman's Avatar Comment 15 by carbonman

He's been called on to give a keynote speech, couldn't think of bugger all to say and thrown this stuff together. Start from the popular assumptions that religion = nice warm fuzzies, and secularism = selfish and nasty, put in a few kids for added big-blue-eyes appeal, shove it all in a sentence or two and open fire. Fred Bloggs on his soapbox in the park would be ignored. The Chief Rabbi is published, because he's the Chief Rabbi.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:01:00 UTC | #411439

mlgatheist's Avatar Comment 16 by mlgatheist

There is the problem with the more intelligent people having few to no children. It is the less intelligent people that will have decendants in the future to rule the world.

That is why I think that here in America the religious nuts are taking over congress and the courts. They have out bred those of us who are not religious. They have the votes to do what they want. Even the Democratic party is being filled with religious people, more so than any time in the past.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:03:00 UTC | #411441

mlgatheist's Avatar Comment 17 by mlgatheist


"People have children because they WANT a little replica of their own DNA. They WANT a little replica of their own DNA because that's what natural selection has favored for so many years. "

Unfortunately the very religious have children to obey their "god" and to have more children to do the will of their "god". The more children that they have the more they believe that they are pleasing their "god" and so expect to have a better "after-life". Now that is selfish as well.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:06:00 UTC | #411442

ukantic's Avatar Comment 18 by ukantic

To paraphrase Mencken - People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need more kids.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:10:00 UTC | #411443

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 19 by Stafford Gordon

Comment 11 sdando:

Your argument is fine, except that wanting children without taking into account the environment is dangerous.

It was reading Thomas Malthus's On Population that provided Darwin with a vital clue about about natural selection; I think I'm right in saying that it was the correlation between population and envoronment which brought about the dawning of the idea for his theory.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:24:00 UTC | #411444

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 20 by TIKI AL

Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
Go forth and multiply with your 3rd member.

Happy GF day to my friends across the pond.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:28:00 UTC | #411446

Rikitiki13's Avatar Comment 21 by Rikitiki13

The article says the Chief Rabbi expressed (about Europe) "Its loss of a tolerant religious culture made it vulnerable to the advance of fundamentalism, he argued."

Uh - 'tolerant religious culture'£ Not if you read their books they're not...

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:35:00 UTC | #411447

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 22 by the great teapot

Yeah if you don't want to be governed by the religious you better drop all this secular nonsense.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:43:00 UTC | #411449

noelbroadhead's Avatar Comment 23 by noelbroadhead

The underlying message I get from this piece (of sludge) is "OK, so there is no god, but we still need religion because it's good for us".

The bit that I take from that (and agree with) is "there is no god".

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:44:00 UTC | #411450

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 24 by Sally Luxmoore

Another religious beardy in the House of Lords...

I think it's a backhanded compliment that secularism is seen as a threat to religion. They're on the back foot.

Still, being "selfish" is preferable to Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor's view of us as not really fully human. (I'm not going to forget that one in a hurry).

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:48:00 UTC | #411454

David Blackwell's Avatar Comment 25 by David Blackwell

Now, how come people like this have "Lord" in front of their name? I'm becoming increasingly wary of the mere fact of someone being a British lord or knight.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:55:00 UTC | #411456

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 26 by the great teapot

Quite frankly I am suprised we let Jews become Lords, it is against the christian tradition of the country.
Hell, if he can be a bigot then why can't I.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:59:00 UTC | #411458

jaytee_555's Avatar Comment 27 by jaytee_555

Some of the greatest thinkers the world has produced have been jews. How on earth have British jews ended up with this cretin as leader and spokesperson?

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:06:00 UTC | #411464

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 28 by the great teapot

He is not a spokesman for British Jews, he is a spokesman for the jewish religious community.
(and probably not all of them)

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:15:00 UTC | #411466

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 29 by Stonyground

The Rabbi JS has a long track record of lies and distortions thanks to Radio Four's daily 7:50am God slot. As for this article, it is basically just stuff that he made up of the top of his head.

An interesting point is that the non religious don't need to breed like rabbits to stay around because religious people are giving birth to atheists nowadays. I myself am living proof of this.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:17:00 UTC | #411467

Dave Crossley's Avatar Comment 30 by Dave Crossley

Only a madman or economist thinks that unrestrained population growth is a good thing.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:20:00 UTC | #411471