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If I can lower the tone for a moment, I have this thing in my mind. It is a scene in one of those Hollywood films where the hero is trying to escape from one car to another. He reaches out and puts his hand and his head in another car. His head is in that car and his legs are in the other car and they’re going along in parallel. Suddenly, there’s a traffic island in the middle of the road and the two cars have to go on either side of it. That is what is happening to religion in society. For most of the time, we were able to have our feet in society and our head in religion or the other way around. But today the two cars are diverging. They can’t be held together any longer. Those two voices told us in advance that this was going to happen and that is what I call cultural climate change — the walking in opposite ways of religion and society.

Now I simply want to ask: how does this affect us in the contemporary world? The answer lies in three dimensions. First, family. Second, community. Third, society. What happens to family, community, and society when the West loses its faith, its religious faith?

The first one, family. I’m sure you know that in England, certain people believe that God is an old man with a white beard whose name is Charles Darwin. He is the patron saint of atheists. One of the great ironies of cultural climate change is that if Charles Darwin were alive today, he would be one of the most passionate advocates for religion, not against religion. How is that? Because for Darwin and natural selection, what is the test of adaptive fitness? The answer is reproductive success. You hand down your genes to the next generation. That for Darwin was the mark of fitness. Today, the most secular area in the world is Europe. It is spectacularly failing to hand its genes on to the next generation. For a population to remain stable, the birth rate must be 2.1 for every woman of the population. At 2.1, you have stable population, zero population growth. Not one country in Europe has been anywhere near 2.1 for years. Throughout Europe the range is between 1.8 and 1.3, in some cases 1.2, the lowest of them all in Germany.

This is not only happening in Europe, where it has happened for two or three decades now. It’s even happening in the United States: recent figures from the National Centre for Health Statistics showed that the birth rate in the US is currently the lowest on record. The US is not quite where Europe is, but that move has begun. In the US, the fastest-growing religious category is the “nones”, the young people who say “of no faith”. Why is this so? Why does religion make a difference to birth rates? Well, it’s fascinating. People say that the most fulfilling dimension of your life, if you’re privileged to have that good fortune, is to be a parent. But did you know that people who have children are less happy during the child-bearing and child-raising years than people who don’t have children? That’s the paradox, because as the Jewish saying goes, “Without children, what would we do for aggravation?”

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Dissapointed
September 12th, 2017
5:09 AM
What starts as an interesting article descends into the classic 'it doesn't matter if you believe it or not, but it's better to believe' acts of proselytization.

Jose Carp
September 9th, 2017
9:09 AM
Rav Sir Jonathan Sachs who I admire immensely, omits the fact that the world population has quadrupled in the last 40 years. This has certainly contributed to more ignorance and the dispersion of religions into various sects (some more redical than others).

J Dale Debber
September 8th, 2017
2:09 PM
Rabbi Sacks has put words and meaning to the identification of precisely what is happening In the 21st century world. Moreover he outlines the choice of paths that both societies and individuals have.

North West Johnny
September 1st, 2017
1:09 PM
Rabbi Jonathan Sachs is seriously one of the greatest thinkers of our time. He needs to come home to the UK and speak from every corner of our island to give the silent majority a voice and some direction. The decades to come are going to be dark if we do not break the growing threats to our society.

ron hurtAnonymous
September 1st, 2017
4:09 AM
Quite brilliant analysis. Reminds me of the late Francis Schseffer

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