Pharyngula

Donohue rants some more

Bill Donohue, the vitriolic cranky grandpa of the Catholic League, has a guest column in the Washington Post. It’s not very interesting — it’s more of Donohue’s tedious yapping about communists, godless libertines (that is, those wicked gays), and how the ACLU is out to smash Judeo-Christian culture — but it ends on a strange note I hear a lot lately.

The culture war is up for grabs. The good news is that religious conservatives continue to breed like rabbits, while secular saboteurs have shut down: they’re too busy walking their dogs, going to bathhouses and aborting their kids. Time, it seems, is on the side of the angels.

Where does this nonsense come from? It’s wishful thinking and weird stereotyping and a kind of desperate hope that, while they may be totally outclassed on the intellectual front, religious conservatives can find solace in mindless rabbity procreation. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have my children propagate by way of the wastefully prolific r strategies. They are human beings, and they shouldn’t aspire to be lagomorphs or rodents or blatellids.

Also, when I recollect the many godless people I have known, most are fairly conventional middle class couples (self-selection, of course — most of the people I know are like me, conventional and middle class); most have a small number of children; most are concerned with raising those kids well. I also know gay atheists, atheists who are unmarried, atheists who are young and getting married, atheists who are in childless relationships by choice, etc. It’s true, I don’t know any atheists who have chosen to breed like rabbits.

Strangely enough, though, I also know a number of ordinary Christian people, and they all seem to have roughly equivalent demographics: middle class, some with kids, some without, some heterosexual, some homosexual, all diverse and following their own paths. I did know a few Mormons who bred like rabbits in Utah (one woman I knew had 15 kids!), but that was also correlated with a weird kind of poverty that was deeply dependent on government support, and wasn’t a model for family life that I was ever tempted to follow.

I suspect that the whole of the difference in reproduction rates that people like Donohue find so essential to propping up their self-esteem has nothing to do with atheism or religion at all, but is more a matter of affluence: people with wealth and education choose to have fewer children and invest more in the few that they have, and also people with more education tend to abandon conservative religious beliefs. That’s the real enemy of religion that Bill needs to rail against: intelligence and material success.

Which leads to my deepest wish for Bill Donohue and all the people like him. May your children and grandchildren be prosperous, healthy, and happy, and may they all succeed in finding wisdom in learning. And if my wish should come true, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be more like me than like you. Godlessness is cultural, not genetic.

Oh, and in a final ironic twist, I am a fellow of perfectly ordinary conventional morality with a family and three healthy, well-adjusted, and well-educated children. Mr Donohue is divorced and has two children. Despite my radical secularism and cultural nihilism, I’ve managed to outbreed him!