This post about Jim Bob Duggar (Christian conservative, former state legislator who served in the Arkansas House of Representatives, father of 17 children) reminded me of a similar story about some friends of my parents. This couple are messianic Jews (i.e. Jews that converted to Christianity), and they had two children. After that he had gotten a vasectomy. But, after their two children were grown and left the house, they decided that Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply” meant that they were supposed to have more children. So, he had his vasectomy reversed and they had three more children. After my dad told me that, I asked him if he thought maybe that scripture was meant specifically for the ancient humans? (Of course, I don’t believe the scripture was divinely inspired at all, but if I’m going to speak to my parents, I have to do it within their own belief system. Telling them the verse wasn’t divinely inspired would simply end the conversation.) I asked him if maybe it was a bad idea to continually add more and more humans to the planet – without ever taking account of how many people were already here. He just kind of shrugged. I suppose many Christian fundamentalists think Jesus will return before any of that happens. (I recall one Christian fundamentalist saying that Global Warming isn’t happening because God wouldn’t allow us to harm the planet that badly.) It’s difficult to do any real long-term planning when so many fundamentalist Christians think Jesus will return in their lifetime, or will intervene before anything too terrible happens. This kind of logic seems like a setup for a train-wreck. Now, I wasn’t arguing that we already had too many people on earth, but I find it hard to believe humans can add more people to the planet on an indefinite basis and not run into trouble. And their interpretation of Genesis 1:28 is simply “multiply indefinitely”.
I could’ve also pointed out Paul’s recommendation in the New Testament:
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. (1 Corinthians 7:27)
Paul’s advice – which, according to Christian fundamentalists, is 4,000 years more recent than Genesis 1:28 – is to avoid getting married, and being entangled with all that marriage and children stuff so that Christians can preach. And in an example of the Bible’s inaccuracy, he says this is because the end of the world is near – so those things don’t really matter anyway (“the time is short” and “For this world in its present form is passing away.”)
That’s one of the hard things about religious people – they seem to cherry pick the words of their religion with alarming regularity. Even if we assumed Christianity were true, it would be the equivalent of a few billion people navigating their lives by holding a map upside-down.
I remember reading an article a while back about falling birthrates in developed countries, and how fundamentalist religion acts as a buttress against those declines in birthrates. (Case in point: Mormons have the high birthrates in the US. Palestine and the Saudi Peninsula have some ridiculously high birthrates. The fundamentalist country of Yemen has an average birthrate of 6.7 children per woman. Fred “God hates fags” Phelps had 13 children. His daughter followed in his footsteps with 11 children, and her children are crazy fundamentalists, too.) Unfortunately, upbringing is probably the best way to indoctrinate people. And higher birthrates means they’re increasing the percentage of fundamentalists in the world (although that’s mitigated by the fact that children do leave the fundamentalist religions of their parents – like I did).
I remember a friend of mine commenting that she would tell people to have lots of children if she created a religion — because they’re converts by default. And that would mean more and more believers as time went on. So the Catholic churches’ policy against contraception means more and more Catholics each generation. Mormonism explicitly says that a person’s rank in heaven will be partly determined by the number of children they have. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a reason the religion of the Shakers is virtually extinct (hint: they believe in strict celibacy and never getting married).
The difficult part is that responsible people know its not a good thing to continually add people indefinitely to the planet, but if they have fewer children, then the planet will be made-up of the children of fundamentalists – who will disproportionately reflect their parent’s backwards views on religion and birthrates.