The rise of fundamentalists

It’s the atavistic fear of Northern Ireland writ large – the fundies are outbreeding the rest of us. It’s not about race, it’s about religion according to Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann, reviewed by the son member of the father and son team of climate sceptics Dominic Lawson. Now it’s “hyper-breeding Muslims” and the distortion of the politics of Israel and the Middle East by the over-fertile ultra-orthodox Haredim, to put it in crude Malthusian terms.

“Liberalism’s demographic contradiction — individualism leading to the choice not to reproduce — may well be the agent that destroys it…I cannot see a way out,” wails Kaufmann. The Bible-bashers might observe that their secularist opponents possess the seed of their own salvation from this demographic annihilation — if only they had not forgotten what it is there for.”

But where do we fit in?

Generations of Protestants (notably in Northern Ireland, but also in North America) believed that they were doomed to be driven into demographic oblivion by the uncontrolled breeding of Roman Catholics, and discriminated against them accordingly: but across the world, and for all the Vatican’s strictures, there is now very little distinction in the birth rates of these two great rival ­Christian tribes.

Cut the welfare budgets and breed more seems to be the gist of Lawson’s message but I don’t think he has NI in mind. Kaufman’s thought is that breeding patterns of one generation aren’t necessarily repeated next time round. Neither quite describes what the problem is: is it oppression by numbers alone or more by belief and culture? In either case, why no discussion of the Chinese or Indians? Locally, is this a slowly dying debate or does it still lie behind every move in politics?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London