Feature by Ed Vitagliano
April 12, 2006
(AgapePress) - Anyone know where we can find some Etruscans?
You know, members of the Etruscan civilization that existed in
ancient Italy, predating even Rome?
Well, there aren't any. The Etruscans were absorbed by the
Roman civilization and ceased to exist as a distinct people.
Ominously, if a growing number of experts and cultural
observers are right, it's entirely possible that the same
question may be asked 100 years from now -- only about Italians
or Spaniards or Russians.
As writer Mark Steyn glumly put it in The New Criterion,
"Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive
this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within
our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European
A Birth Dearth
What could possibly cause such a cataclysm? Another world
war? A nuclear confrontation? The devastation of a plague,
similar to that caused by the Black Death in the 14th century?
Nothing quite so dramatic, say the experts. Rather, Europe is
slowly dying simply by refusing to have enough children to
replace the people who die each year.
Catholic scholar George Weigel, a senior fellow of the Ethics
and Public Policy Center and author of The Cube and The
Cathedral, says Europe is "committing demographic suicide,
systematically depopulating itself."
For any population to remain stable, it must maintain a
birthrate of 2.1 births per woman. That rate provides a
replacement for both mother and father, while the .1 covers
infant and child mortality. When the birthrate falls below that
number, a population goes into decline -- unless it invites in
large numbers of immigrants.
"The 'birth dearth' is what demographers call plummeting
birth rates in most of the industrialized world," says culture
critic Chuck Colson. "Throughout Western Europe and East Asia,
the birth rate is well below 2.1 births per woman ...."
Sociologist Ben Wattenberg, author of Fewer: How the New
Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future, puts this
birth dearth in historical perspective. "Never in the last 650
years, since the time of the Black Plague, have birth and
fertility rates fallen so far, so fast, so low, for so long, in
so many places."
According to U.N. figures and other projections, Patrick
Buchanan states in The Death of the West that by 2050
Europe (from Iceland to Russia) will see its population drop
from 728 million (in 2000) to 600 million -- and perhaps 556
million. And if current trends continue, by the end of the
century Europe's population will stand at 207 million.
Collapse of Family Values
Why has this happened? As it turns out, a variety of factors
and trends have combined to create, as it were, the "perfect
World magazine's Gene Edward Veith sums it up this way: "Why
the population decline? The worldwide collapse of what are,
literally, family values. Thanks to contraceptive technology,
sex has become separated from childbearing. With women pursuing
careers of their own and men getting sex without the
responsibility of marriage, why bother with children? For many
women and men, pregnancy has become an unpleasant side effect,
something to prevent with contraceptives or easily treated with
a trip to the abortion clinic."
Abortion comes in for particular blame in Veith's view. "The
dirty little secret of the population implosion, one seldom
mentioned by demographers, is that the world is aborting its
future generations," he says.
Pro-family groups in the U.S., for example, rightly bemoan
the abortion rate here, where Veith says one-third to one-fifth
of all pregnancies end in abortion. Some European nations are
far worse, however. "In Russia, the average woman may have as
many as four abortions in her lifetime," he says. "There are two
abortions for every live birth. That is to say, Russians kill
two-thirds of their children before they are born."
All this is symptomatic of a pervasive hedonism that
permeates the West, "a complete philosophy of pleasure,"
according to Allan Carlson, president of The Howard Center for
Family, Religion and Society.
"Everywhere in the European Community and Anglo-America, real
attention focuses on the consumption of food (alternately rich
and fat-free), frequent sex, and raucous fun," Carlson says.
"Relatively few are pestered these days by children. Fertile
young adults rely on mechanical devices and chemical agents to
thwart the designs of nature. In places as culturally different
as Spain, Italy, Denmark and Germany, the sexual experimentation
starts early, but hardly anyone brings forth a child."
Despite efforts on the part of some European nations to
increase the desire of adults to have children -- such as tax
breaks or cash incentives -- some experts think the pursuit of
personal fulfillment will triumph.
Joseph Chamie, director of the U.N. Population Division,
says, "No demographers believe birth rates will rebound. How
much will it take to convince a woman to have four children?
People are concerned about their appearances, their education,
What's ironic, however, is that this pursuit of personal
pleasure and personal wealth may result in economic ruin.
"When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is
the nearest thing to hard numbers," Steyn argues. "If only a
million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million
adults enter the workforce in 2026 ...."
Veith lists but a few of the ramifications of population
decline. "Citizens are not just consumers but producers," he
says. "Having fewer people can wreak havoc on an economy,
creating both a labor shortage and a shortage of buyers. A
government with a shrinking population faces a smaller military
and fewer taxpayers. Dwindling populations have always signaled
cultural decline, with less creativity, energy, and vitality on
every level of society."
These explanations do not go far enough to suit culture
critic and columnist Don Feder, who sees Europe's abandonment of
its Christian heritage as the true root cause of its population
"It's no coincidence that central to the new Europe ... is a
refusal to acknowledge the continent's origins," says Feder, who
is Jewish. "The proposed constitution for the European Union (a
document of over 70,000 words) contains not a single reference
to Christianity. Thus more than a millennium of European history
is effectively erased."
The abandonment of Christianity in most European countries
has been well-documented. For example, author and journalist
James P. Gannon says that in five key European countries --
France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy -- over the
last 30 years regular church attendance has fallen from roughly
40% of the population to about 20%." As Weigel says, Western
Europe has become a "post-Christian society."
Feder believes there is a clear link between a lack of faith
and the loss of that sense of duty to the future that leads
people to conceive and bear children. "Having lost their faith
and embraced an ethic of radical autonomy," he says, "Europeans
stopped going to church, stopped taking the Bible seriously,
stopped believing in the future and stopped having children."
Maria Burani, president of the Parliamentary Commission for
the Family and Infancy in Rome, told Citizen magazine
that faith is a foundation for the kind of lifestyle that
parenting requires. "If you don't have inside your head great
religious and ethical principles," she insists, "you're just not
going to want to go and have these kids because it's a
Beyond that, of course, is the fact that religious principles
also restrain the often selfish behavior that grows out of the
"radical autonomy" that permeates Europe. "Among the
consequences of Europe's abandonment of its religious roots and
the moral code that derives therefrom is a plunge in its birth
rates to below the replacement level," says Gannon. "Abortion,
birth control, acceptance of gay marriage and casual sex are
driving the trend."
Islamification of Europe
However, the prognosis for Europe gets even worse because
many of the nations there have chosen a risky path for making up
for their population shortfalls: immigration. Because North
Africa and the Middle East represent a relatively convenient
source of cheap labor, millions of Muslim immigrants have been
flooding the continent for a half century.
"Western Europe has gone from a Muslim population of 250,000,
50 years ago, to 20 million today," says Feder.
Unlike Westerners, however, Muslims typically have large
families. According to Robert S. Leiken, director of the
Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center,
higher Muslim birthrates combined with Muslim immigration have
led the U.S. National Intelligence Council to project that
Europe's Muslim population will double by 2025.
As a result, Colson says flatly, "[d]emographics may bring
about what the Moors and Ottoman Empire couldn't: a Muslim
But so what? Isn't such hand-wringing about Muslim immigrants
nothing more than utter bigotry?
Hardly, say concerned Westerners. The Islamification of
Europe would bring incredible cultural changes to Europe. "In 50
to 100 years, the Europe of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo, the
Europe of Rembrandt and Bach, the Europe of Churchill and Karol
Wojtyla will exist only in textbooks and museums," Feder says.
"Or, perhaps the remnants of Christian Europe will be subjected
to the fate of Afghanistan's Buddhist statues, demolished by the
Political changes would also be inevitable, Steyn insists.
"Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic
character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political
It is a rhetorical question, of course, and Steyn predicts
that by 2050 many European nations will be forced to apply
Sharia -- Muslim law -- to Muslim communities. He notes the
results of a 2004 poll that found that over 60 percent of
British Muslims want to live under Muslim law -- while living in
the United Kingdom.
At first, most European governments would probably resist the
demands of an increasingly assertive Muslim population. But in
response, it would not be surprising to see an escalation of
what has already begun to transpire: terrorist bombings in
London and Madrid; the 2002 assassination of conservative Dutch
politician Pim Fortuyn, who campaigned on a platform of limiting
Muslim immigration; the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in
2004 for allegedly insulting Islam; rioting by Muslim youths
throughout France in 2005; and rioting this year in response to
political cartoons that were deemed offensive to Muslim
Steyn thinks Europe will see more such unrest -- and soon.
"It seems more likely that within the next couple of European
election cycles, the internal contradictions of the [European
Union] will manifest themselves in the usual way," he says, "and
that by 2010 we'll be watching burning buildings, street riots
and assassinations on American network news every night."
In any case, Carlson says, "the Great Party [of Western
hedonism] will not last much longer. There is an iron law in
history: the future belongs to the fertile. Just as the
clan-centered, child-rich barbarian tribes of the Germans swept
away the sensuous and sterile Western Roman Empire, so shall new
Scripture teaches that God rules over the nations, and the
future of Europe looks increasingly like that of Israel when its
prophets warned of impending chastisement and judgment. Are we
on the brink of God's chastisement of Europe, even after a
century of wars and other atrocities failed to bring the
continent back to Christianity?
How ironic it would be that a European culture that demanded
unlimited personal freedom might wind up living under the
repressive heel of Muslim totalitarianism. Or that a culture
that rejected its Christian heritage might, instead, be
subjected to Islamic fundamentalism.
Cultures have disappeared before. Just ask the Etruscans. If
you can find one.
Ed Vitagliano, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is
news editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the
American Family Association. This article, reprinted with
permission, appears in the April 2006 issue.
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