conchitaEverywhere one looks today, it appears that proponents of secular liberalism are celebrating another social victory lap. While eighteen states plus the District of Columbia currently allow so called ‘same-sex marriage,’ the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional may have effectively redefined marriage for the entire country. The first openly gay football player, Michael Sam, has been drafted into the NFL, and the public criticism tweeted subsequently by the Miami Dolphins’ safety Don Jones resulted in a mandatory fine and sensitivity training. The popular social media site Facebook now has over 50 self-identifying gender options, such as ‘gender fluid,’ ‘genderqueer,’ ‘agender,’ and ‘bigender.’ Several states have passed ‘gender neutral’ public restroom laws, and the annual Eurovision Song Contest crowned as its 2014 winner Conchita Wurst, a bearded transvestite.

It is therefore certainly understandable that so many in the media sympathetic with such developments are interpreting these current events as the wave of the future. Christine Brennan of USA Today hails Sam as the most important football player in the nation, while Cyd Zeigler in Time argues that history will look back at his drafting as that moment when professional sports changed forever. And across the pond, the newly crowned Eurovision diva declared to the world: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are! We are unity and we are unstoppable!”

However, there are several significant indicators brewing under the surface that demur dramatically from such triumphalistic prognostications, suggesting a considerable gap between the rhetoric and the reality; the future, as it turns out, is actually rather dire for secular liberalism.

According to University of London scholar Eric Kaufmann’s detailed study on global demographic trends, we are in the early stages of nothing less than a demographic revolution. In Kaufmann’s words, “religious fundamentalists are on course to take over the world.”[1] There is a significant demographic deficit between secularists and conservative religionists. For example, in the U.S., while self-identified non-religionist women averaged only 1.5 children per couple in 2002, conservative evangelical women averaged 2.5 children, representing a 28 percent fertility edge. Kaufmann notes that this demographic deficit has dramatic effects over time. In a population evenly divided, these numbers indicate that conservative evangelicals would increase from 50 to 62.5 percent of the population in a single generation. In two generations, their number would increase to 73.5 percent, and over the course of 200 years, they would represent 99.4 percent. The Amish and Mormons provide contemporary illustrations of the compound effect of endogamous growth. The Amish double in population every twenty years, and projections have the Amish numbering over a million in the U.S. and Canada in just a few decades. Since 1830, Mormon growth has averaged 40 percent per decade, which means that by 2080, there may be as many as 267 million Mormons in the world, making them by 2100 anywhere from one to six percent of the world’s population.

In Europe, immigration is making the continent more religiously conservative, not less; in fact, London and Paris are some of the most religiously dense areas within their respective populations. In Britain, for example, Ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Jews constitute only 17 percent of the Jewish population but account for 75 percent of Jewish births. And in Israel, Haredi schoolchildren have gone from comprising a few percent to nearly a third of all Jewish pupils in a matter of five decades, and are poised to represent the majority of the Jewish population by 2050. Since 1970, charismatic Christians in Europe have expanded steadily at a rate of 4 percent per year, in step with Muslim growth. Currently, Laestadian Lutherans in Finland and Holland’s Orthodox Calvinists have a fertility advantage over their wider secular populations of 4:1 and 2:1 respectively.

In contrast, Kaufmann’s data projects that secularists, who consistently exemplify a low fertility rate of around 1.5 (significantly below the replacement level of 2.1), will begin a steady decline after 2030 to a mere 14 to 15 percent of the American population. Similar projections apply to Europe as well. Kaufmann thus appears to have identified what he calls “the soft underbelly of secularism,” namely, demography.[2] This is because secular liberalism entails its own “demographic contradiction,” the affirmation of the sovereign individual devoid of the restraints of classical moral structures necessitates the freedom not to reproduce. The link between sex and procreation having been broken, modernist reproduction translates into mere personal preference. It thus turns out that the radical individualism so celebrated and revered by contemporary secular propagandists is in fact the agent by which their ideology implodes.

Now some may think that this demographic deficit can be compensated for with mass conversions, enticing the children of religious conservatives to break away and join the ranks of the secular. However, this is highly unlikely. The more conservative and vibrant the religious commitment, the more incentives there are for the next generations to remain faithful and concomitantly strong disincentives to leave. With clearly delineated social boundaries and identity markers, conservative endogamous groups are generally very difficult to break up. And Kaufmann’s data suggests that the more conservative the group, the greater the demographic discrepancy as compared with secularist procreation.

Such statistics coalesce with the current population growth in the non-Western world. Indeed, while the West, including Russia and Eastern Europe, comprised 35 percent of the global population at the turn of the last century, it has fallen to 17 percent today and will most likely dwindle further to a mere 10 percent by 2050. And what needs to be understood is that this growing non-Western world asserts its classical religiosity as an indispensible mechanism of social boundary and resistance against what is perceived as the ‘westoxification’ of globalism. In recent years, the West has actually begun to split along the lines of this emerging global culture war. There has been a self-conscious distancing from the West by Russia, drawing inspiration instead from a resurgent neo-Byzantium, what U.S. Naval War College professor John R. Schindler calls a “Third Rome” ideology, which involves “a powerful admixture of Orthodoxy, ethnic mysticism, and Slavophile tendencies that has deep resonance in Russian history.”[3] Along with India, Islamic and African nations, Russia has publically and legislatively rejected what they consider the civilizational suicide of LGBT activism and feminism. Even many Eastern-European countries that feel threatened by Russia’s recent militarism, such as Georgia and Moldova, consider Western secular values far more threatening. Actually, it appears that secular liberalism has a terminus point even within Western and Central Europe, as exemplified by Northern Ireland’s defeat of same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation in May of this year, the third defeat in eighteen months, and Croatia’s national referendum to permanently ban same-sex marriage, which passed by a two-thirds margin.

Moreover, the Western academy appears to have forecasted a gradual turning away from secularism with the advent of so-called ‘post-secular studies.’ It has become increasingly evident that secularism represents a value system that is necessarily constituted by religious processes such as sacred myths, rituals, and theologized law systems, thus undermining its central claim to religious neutrality.[4] In short, post-modernism is morphing into post-secularism: not only are religions resiliently adapting and rearranging themselves in response to secular norms, but the norms themselves are gradually losing their plausibility. The one value system that prohibits the imposition of one’s value systems on others cannot long maintain its monopolization over the public square.

And so, the rhetoric of the secular modernist predicting the inexorable global triumph of the sovereign individual seems little more than a chimera, a pipe dream that is itself the product of self-centered aspirations and ambitions. Since social movements do generally play themselves out, we should expect the next few decades to be characterized by an unprecedented period of cultural degeneration in the West. But by the same token, demographic, global, and academic trends suggest that the dominance of secular liberalism is in fact on the verge of collapse. It does appear that religious conservatives, not secular liberals, will inherent the world after all.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found at The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore


1. Eric Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (London: Profile Books, 2010), ix.

2. Kaufmann, Shall the Religious, xv.

3. John R. Schindler, “Putinism and the Anti-WEIRD Coalition”.

4. See, for example, Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, et al (eds.), After Secular Law (Stanford: Stanford Law Books, 2011).

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12 replies to this post
  1. Modernism and liberalism are charades; they are designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the masses, ending the biblical influences in our society and the rule of a law that could be corrected with it. Behind it all, stands people who are mad, a madness identified in Eccles.9:3. The only thing that will save us is a Third Great Awakening with a corresponding new burst of freedom and cultural creativity. I fear the Imaginative Conservative represents an element of that charade, a front for the madness. Not a very comforting thought. However, God has other plans.

  2. A fine article. I would however like to mention the increasingly substantial numbers of conversion from Islam to Christianity which are taking place from Iran to North Africa, and from Kosovo to South Africa. I also would have liked to hear about the bottoming out of fertility in some Islamic societies, like Iran. The mention of E. Europe was strange also, since countries like Moldova and the Ukraine have even lower fertility rates than, say, France or the UK.

  3. Agree, Dr Willingham. Every time I see the latest insanity of secular liberalism, the Ancient Greek saying comes back to me: Whom the gods would destroy, first make mad. And it’s not just “mad” in the sense of insanity, but also “mad* in the American English sense – angry, hysterical, rabid.

  4. It would appear that any social trend, if allowed to go effectively unchecked, will at some point grow into a non-viable grotesquerie.
    In the meanwhile, other trends, countering the wave, will be gathering strength, ready to push to the forefront when the monster tumbles and lays in shards.
    And, so the process begins again.
    This is not a Marxist/Hegelian dialectic, since the result of “Thesis” and “Antithesis” is not likely to be a “Synthesis”. It is, however, a recognizable social dynamic, limited in part by the law of diminishing returns, and the unfortunate consequence of triumphalist metaphysical inbreeding — that the well of ideas is exhausted with no replenishment from the outside.
    Victory may not always come to the side with the heavy artillery, but that is the way to bet. The same goes for demographics and destiny.
    A people, a faith, or a political group which roils in sterility will always lose, no matter how much destruction they cause first.

  5. An article like this should also talk about the failures of secular society and the sociological wreckage that will discourage those same “mass conversions”, especially in the US where relatively little of that religious growth comes from muslims.

  6. A beautifully written, lucid article. You are very gifted. Even a benighted secular humanist, such as myself, can see that.

    However, after giving the devil his due (please pardon the phrase, I’m sure you are a nice person – and thanks for following me on twitter) I do have to ask if you have factored in all the relevant data.

    Yes, undereducated and impoverished masses will cling to their violent and socially cohesive – if repressive – dogmas. Yes, they tend to breed like rabbits. But nevertheless, I don’t think we are going to go down the rabbit hole anytime soon.

    I think this is because of two factors: first, the powers that be are overwhelmingly secular. Intellectuals, pundits, scholars, scientists and the political and wealthy elite tend to be sophisticates in their outlook and their influence is felt overwhelmingly in the architecture of our society.

    The unwashed masses may be predictably and reassuringly “traditional”, but they have never been anything more than cannon fodder and sheep for the shearing for those who wield the power.

    As people become more educated and women become more liberated, incomes go up, procreation goes down and cultural mores shift towards inclusionism and secularism. There is a definite counter-pull towards our side. It’s influence is far-reaching and has been for centuries.

    After all, it was not the religious who brought us our modern world, who lifted us out of feudalism and the Dark Ages. The Renaissance, classical Greek culture, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, say what you will, these were high points in culture and progress and were not brought to you by religious nut jobs, but enlightened, cultured sophisticates. Sorry. Progress is made by people who throw off the yoke of dogma.

    Lastly, religious fanatics in Africa, Russia and the Middle East are vastly destabilizing forces in the global theatre. There is a strong impetus for those shaping policy to do whatever is in their power to educate and improve the lot of these people. We are a well-educated and affluent people, so there is much less religious fundamentalism here in the US. If we can succeed in helping impoverished people improve their lives, the extremist viewpoints and the birthrate will concomitantly dwindle.

    I think we are on the cusp of seeing the trends you report in your article begin to be edged out by this emerging trend which will be gathering momentum in the years to come.

    Already, trends around the globe point to a shift in wealth generally. For what it’s worth, do you suppose that all those newly affluent Chinese are embracing Christianity now that they can afford cars and designer clothes?

    Well, I’m not an expert in this at all, but these are just some ideas that spring to mind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Kindly show me where you’re getting the information to make these erroneous assertions of yours. You claim that the elite are secular yet it is my experience that most religions that do not have the backing of everyone (not just the masses but also the elite) tend to fail. A religion for the masses is nice but I’d rather have a religion where everyone is welcome regardless of social class.
      “I think we are on the cusp of seeing the trends you report in your article begin to be edged out by this emerging trend which will be gathering momentum in the years to come.
      Already, trends around the globe point to a shift in wealth generally. For what it’s worth, do you suppose that all those newly affluent Chinese are embracing Christianity now that they can afford cars and designer clothes?”
      What trends are you referring to? All the trends that I’ve seen point to a rapid rise of Christian faith in China. China is even expected to become the world’s largest Christian country by some sociologists. Why do you think the Communist Party is so worried? It might also interest you to know that most Chinese Christians are affluent and educated. Do you honestly believe that Christianity in China can survive without access to adequate resources? Who do you think provide those resources, the poor? No, it’s the rich and middle-class that allows Christianity in China to survive and grow.

  7. Great article! I’ve only been able to read a preview of the book on but from what I’ve read it’s quite informative and should be the nail to the secularization theory’s coffin. One gripe I have about the book though is its author’s secularist tone. He seems to think that the world would be better off without people like me but unlike his fellow secularists at least he acknowledges the practical advantages of religion. He states that those who are religious are also happier and live longer lives. He also acknowledges the failures and weaknesses of secularism such as its inability to inspire as well as the fact that it has lost much of its steam. Another gripe I have about the book is that he sometimes have no idea about certain religious teachings. For example, he claims that Catholicism capitulated to liberalism when it gave the green light regarding contraception. Apparently he never heard of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. The nerve of that guy! He dares call my religion liberal?! Joking aside, the book is overall, a good read.
    I can make a solid argument that the world today, despite what secularists like to claim, is more religious than the world during the 20th century. The 20th century was more secular with atheistic regimes such as the Soviet Union as well as communist movements hostile to religion or even the notion of theism. Today, despite liberal “victories”, religion has seen a resurgence in every region, no matter the demographic or the social class of the person. While we will never be able to predict what God will do, Kaufmann’s book does lend credence to the saying that “God is in the details”. In this case, we’re talking about demographics and population growth.

  8. Leslie,

    Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, they are but remnants of the conceptual rhetoric constituting the secularization theory initiated by Durkheim and Weber, which very few sociologists take seriously today.

  9. I am a traditional Catholic. We have 6 children ages 43-36. Four are atheists. 1 attends church, the sixth is agnostic. My church is a sea of grey hair and very few children. I see the same in Catholic churches all over the country. Even though the Chuch frowns on birth control very few have large families. I think your prognisis is false. The only religion passing the views on is Islam. God help us all.

    • I suggest you look at the bigger picture and not just at your local church. All across the globe, people are becoming more and more religious. I recommend reading Rodney Stark’s “The Triumph of Faith” for you to realize that the secularization thesis is basically a dead end.

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