Finding Our Way Out of the Forest
The following is a speech given by Don Feder to the
Moscow Demography Summit. It is entitled: “Finding
Our Way Out Of The Forest - Faith, Family And Fecundity”. It can also be found at grasstopsusa.com.
Imagine that you’re walking in
the forest. There’s a layer of fresh snow on the ground. Suddenly you realize
that you’re lost. You’re cold. You’re tired. You’re hungry. If that weren’t
enough, there are wolves howling in the distance. This is beginning to sound
like a Russian novel.
What do you do? The easiest
course is to retrace your footsteps, to return the way you came. So it is with
demographic winter. To get out of the cold, bleak, barren landscape where we
find ourselves, we need to retrace our steps, in other words, to reject the
ideas and reverse the trends that got us into this mess.
Worldwide, the Total Fertility
Rate (TFR) - the number of children the average woman will have during her
lifetime - fell from 5.0 in the mid-1960s to 2.7 today, a decline of almost
50%. We’re told that 59 countries, with 44% of the world’s population, now have
below-replacement birth-rates, in some cases, well-below replacement. The rest
are heading in the same direction.
Such dramatic changes don’t
happen in isolation but are the result of powerful forces long at work. We live
in a manifestly anti-marriage, anti-child, anti-procreation culture. But these
are symptoms. As any pathologist will tell you, the disease precedes the symptoms.
While abortion, contraception,
divorce, unmarried couples living together, children born out-of-wedlock, the
culturally instilled desire for small families and the relentless drive to
normalize homosexuality all have an impact, in some cases a pronounced impact,
on declining birth-rates, they are results not causes.
However, they are connected.
In the United States, the
deconstruction of Judeo-Christian civilization has preceded in stages - from
the introduction of oral contraceptives in 1960, to taking prayer out of our
public schools in 1963, to the legalization of abortion in 1973, to no-fault
divorce in the early 1970s, to the rise of cohabitation, illegitimacy and
single-parent families, to the institution of so-called same-sex marriage in
the past decade. In many ways, it’s a logical progression from one devastating
assault on society’s moral foundation to the next. One overthrown norm is used
as a staging area to attack the next.
The Sexual Revolution of the 60s
triumphed in the decades that followed, when sex was severed from marriage and
Now, for the first time in
history, just under half of the world’s population uses some form of
contraception. Break the word into its component parts: contraception - against
conception - that which prevents life from happening. And this we are supposed
to celebrate as liberating, part of the great march of human progress.
Worldwide, there are
approximately 115,000 abortions a day or 42 million a year. That’s roughly
twice the number of military deaths in World War II, the bloodiest conflict in
human history, except, instead of a country’s soldiers killed in battle, these
are casualties a nation inflicts on itself, on its own people.
From a population perspective,
we’re not just losing 42 million people annually to abortion, but also their
children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and distant descendants, down
through the ages. The loss is incalculable. We are, quite literally, aborting
Families are having fewer and
fewer children. The culture presents children as inconvenient at best - an
impediment to the good life (as the Italians say, la dolce vita). If you must
have children, have one - two at the very most - society seems to say. Large
families are viewed as freakish, the result of ignorance or religious
All of these trends flow
naturally from societal acceptance of certain fundamental or axiomatic
concepts, first by elites and then by the masses - ideas relentlessly promoted
by the news media, cinema, celebrities, politicians and even music.
The disease can be traced back
to the French Revolution, the 18th century source of everything wretched and
evil that has happened since.
The underlying causes of
declining fertility are:
1. A loss of faith: Not so
much the idea that God is dead as that He is irrelevant to our lives, that He
has nothing to do with our destiny, and that the Bible is a collection of
stories (alternately interesting, amusing and terrifying), rather than life’s
2. Radical autonomy: In place
of God, the deification of self - the worship of an individual’s desires and
If you believe you have no
higher purpose on this earth than the pursuit of pleasure (self-gratification),
you are led in one direction - one that ultimately leaves you lost in the
forest, tired, cold and hungry, with wolves howling in the distance. If, on the
other hand, you believe that you were put here not for self but for service (to
fulfil a higher purpose), you will live quite differently.
To cite a very relevant
example of how this works, there is a direct correlation between birth-rates
and religious observance. In America, the states with the highest weekly church
attendance also have the highest fertility.
Conversely, Europe is both the
most secularized continent and the one with the lowest birth-rates. In the
United States, we’re told that 47% attend religious services weekly, and the
birth rate is 2.06 - slightly below replacement.
In Western Europe, weekly
church attendance is only 5%. In the European Union, the birth-rate is 1.5 -
well below a replacement-level birth-rate of 2.1. Empty churches equal empty
hearts and empty cradles.
Let’s go back to those
underlying causes of demographic winter. If you believe in God (not casually,
but seriously) you behave one way. If you believe in nothing higher than yourself,
you behave in another.
It all follows logically. If
you believe in God, then you must believe in the family, which is divinely
ordained. You must believe marriage is a covenant, not merely a contract
between two people. You must understand that sex has a spiritual dimension,
that it’s connected to the concept of holiness. Procreation must be seen as a
commandment, not a life-style choice.
If you believe in yourself,
first and foremost, then everything becomes a matter of choice. When, where and
under what circumstances you have sexual relations is a personal decision.
Whether or not you get married is a choice. Whether you keep your unborn child
or kill it is a choice. Whether your life is focused on accumulating material
possessions or caring for a family, which helps to assure humanity’s
continuity, is a choice.
My point is not that
childbearing is a grim obligation for the religious. An obligation it most
certainly is. But it’s also life’s greatest joy. Going through life without
children and grandchildren is like having a limb severed. (Besides, your
Ferrari won’t cry at your funeral.) Ultimately, it’s about optimism versus
The most depressed, not to
mention depressing, people I’ve met are those who believe that existence has no
According to this worldview,
we exist due to an accident of fate (a fluke of nature) - natural selection,
the random collision of molecules. As long as we’re here, we might as well
enjoy ourselves. From oblivion we came and into oblivion we will go.
On the other hand, there’s no
greater comfort than the realization that our lives have meaning - no matter
who we are, no matter what we accomplish in this brief span of existence. This
gives us the courage to do things that count, including having and raising
It all comes back to faith.
Those who have faith in the future have children. Those who don’t, don’t. Where
does faith in the future come from? It comes from faith: from religion. The
metaphorical forest in which we find ourselves is far more menacing than the
real thing, however dark and gloomy.
The forest in which the snow
of demographic winter falls is a lonely place. Fewer and fewer children are
born. Like the elderly, society slows to a crawl.
Instead of bringing life into
the world, medical science is dedicated to keeping it out - by creating sterile
wombs and aborting the future.
Soon the mighty industrial
engine we’ve built over the past two centuries will grind to a halt and rust.
They’ll be fewer and fewer us to care for it or to give it purpose. Retracing
our steps doesn’t just mean having more children, larger families, though
that’s essential if civilization is to endure.
It means wanting to have more
children. It means fighting the forces of social decay that keep us from having
more children. It means reconnecting to the source of life. It means discarding
the shallow and the hollow. It means rediscovering the essence of joy: faith,
family and fecundity.
Don Feder is
a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant.
He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.
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