Are You Doing Your Part in the Baby War? | Religion Dispatches

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The American family is “under attack,” or so the leaders of the Christian Right have often declared. I’ve come to think that they have a point (even if it often seems they are the ones doing the attacking). These reflections came to mind when I picked up Lauren Sandler’s latest, One and Only: the Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One, released this month by Simon & Schuster.


Why, Sandler asks, are prejudices about “selfish” and “maladjusted” single kids (and their parents) so widespread in our culture, despite much evidence to the contrary? Part of the answer has to do with myths about the happiness of singletons and their families, which Sandler debunks, but the book has a broader scope that makes it worthwhile for anyone interested in government policy and contemporary American culture.

Single-child families are on the rise, particularly in blue states, driven partly by personal choice and partly by economic pressure. Other developed countries such as Sweden, the U.K.and France, witnessing the same falling birthrates, have taken steps to alter the economic equation with paid parental leave, free or subsidized daycare, and other benefits. Here in the U.S., such benefits are in short supply. 

Now here’s where religion factors into the equation. Fundamentalist groups and organizations are especially interested in having their own sect members reproduce, and they supply resources to make that possible. Sandler tells the story of Karma, Steve, and their five children, who receive prodigious assistance from their church in the form of childcare, clothing, meals and other services. “Imagine what Steve and Karma’s family would look like without the help their church has given each of the five times they’ve brought a new child into their increasingly crowded home,” she writes. “They can’t. ‘Yeah, right! It would be impossible!’ says Karma.”

Where do those helpful resources come from? Some are donated by members of the congregations themselves. But a substantial amount come from the government in the form of tax subsidies. One University of Tampa professor estimates that religious entities receive approximately $71 billion dollars per year in tax benefits and exemptions from the government, thus tilting the economic equation in favor of churchgoing families with the effect that they will eventually produce more voters. 

Written By: Katherine Stewart
continue to source article at religiondispatches.org

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  1. As I write the G8 summit is happening in my country. Last time (eight years ago in Gleneagles), there were all sorts of commitments to “make poverty history”, and most countries signed up to pledging 0.7% of GDP in international aid. Britain, alone, has delivered on that. America manages 0.19%.

    Another 0.5% of US GDP would equate to about $75 billion, roughly commensurate with the amount America pisses away annually on tax breaks for religion. And that sum, year in year out – especially if the rest of the OECD hit the target – perhaps really would make poverty history.

    Is that not a slightly better ambition than subsidising Karma, a relatively rich American, to continue to be a breeding machine?

    • In reply to #2 by BigDyTerminator:

      Hmm, perhaps someone should start a charity for scientists who choose to have more than three kids.

      We must win evolution!

      Right sentiment, wrong strategy, it is far faster to teach good science to a 100 children, than to breed 100 children (who may still turn out to be not what you want). Evolution of memes by artificial selection.

      On the other hand if I were given money to copulate with smart women …………………….’..

      • Yes I know, but I couldn’t help it. Even atheists can be silly. Your very reason is why I do volunteer work in schools. Though I’d still like to have a second kid.

        In reply to #3 by old-toy-boy:

        In reply to #2 by BigDyTerminator:

        Hmm, perhaps someone should start a charity for scientists who choose to have more than three kids.

        We must win evolution!

        Right sentiment, wrong strategy, it is far faster to teach good science to a 100 children, than to breed 100 children (who may still turn o…

    • In reply to #2 by BigDyTerminator:

      Hmm, perhaps someone should start a charity for scientists who choose to have more than three kids.

      We must win evolution!

      Well I’ve got one plus twins – but no more! (Does that count?)

      • Sure, why not!

        To do one better, volunteer in a school, especially if you are a scientist. Something as simple as having “real scientists” judging the school science fair can get kids excited!

        Of course since you have one plus twins I’m gonna assume you have no time, so maybe when they are in college?

        In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #2 by BigDyTerminator:

        Hmm, perhaps someone should start a charity for scientists who choose to have more than three kids.

        We must win evolution!

        Well I’ve got one plus twins – but no more! (Does that count?)

        • In reply to #10 by BigDyTerminator:

          To do one better, volunteer in a school, especially if you are a scientist. Something as simple as having “real scientists” judging the school science fair can get kids excited!

          I was in a lot deeper than that! I used to teach science. I was also chair of governors of one local school for 7 years and a governor of another for 5years. These were the (top-rated) primary and secondary schools my children attended. Making budget decisions and being on appointment panels for teacher appointments can make key differences.

          I was also a parent governor representative at the local education authority of the metropolitan area for several years, on a committee scrutinising the work of the education department . I am now semi-retired.

          Of course since you have one plus twins I’m gonna assume you have no time, so maybe when they are in college?

          They have been there. One does work in retail, one will shortly be a fully qualified lawyer, and one is head of development at a software company.

          • Lady/Dude, you are awesome.
            I can only hope mine does so well. He is not quite 1 so I’ve got awhile!

            Thanks for getting up and doing something rather than waiting for someone else to do it!

            Also, may I ask, what is your field? I’m molecular bio myself, I credit my high school bio teacher with getting me on that path!

            In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #10 by BigDyTerminator:

            To do one better, volunteer in a school, especially if you are a scientist. Something as simple as having “real scientists” judging the school science fair can get kids excited!

            I was in a lot deeper than that! I used to teach science. I was also chair of gove…

          • In reply to #14 by BigDyTerminator:

            Also, may I ask, what is your field? I’m molecular bio myself, I credit my high school bio teacher with getting me on that path!

            I started off with wide view biology – ecology, geology, agriculture – the environmental Earth sciences – and then expanded into the wider view of planetary and space-science, as the space-age took off. (You may have seen me hammer climate-change deniers in some earlier discussions) I try to watch the frontiers of human knowledge, new technologies, and scientific aspirations, encouraging depth of understanding in others.

            My children for example, wrote/authored their first interactive stories on computer (text, drawn/pasted pictures, pasted sound-effects), at the age of five. (Using the very first children’s multi-program authoring software) One of my sons was showing his teachers how to use computers by the age of seven. (They would send a message to his class for him to come, when they had a problem.) He now (20 years on), writes software which tracks £billions worth of business worldwide.

            While the religious memes are trying to spread by promoting cult breeding, science needs to spread healthy mental development and education.

  2. “My life is much harder, not easier,” says a woman named Judy. “We had originally planned not to have kids, but now we have to do our best to repopulate the city with Christians.”

    What an absolutely despicable attitude! Do you think she’s going to tell her kids that she had them for the purpose of populating the city with Christians? Oh, how loved they will feel.

  3. Has anybody else seen the film Idiocracy? Do you remember the opening scene??
    Although education is primarily a class based thing, if there is a small average genetic variation in intelligence in those that go to college and have fewer if any kids compared to somebody who starts popping them out at 16 and doesn’t stop, its not too difficult to see how that could snowball over a few generations. After all, natural selection doesn’t select on how bright or talented a person is, in the long run its about how many offspring you have that make it to adulthood.

  4. Oh, ok, I get it. So, Christians have more children that they can raise Christian. So, the do indoctrinate their kids? But I thought we all know god, and just choose to deny it/him. Hmmm. Confusing.

  5. One consequence of this empire-building strategy can be seen in any debate the Xtian right has with gay rights groups on any internet forum.
    I’m noticing a meme which crops up again and again in a lot of discussions in which fundie Christians present themselves as metaphorical Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae “Holding back the Persian hoardes”.
    The reasoning runs something like this – “Those Persian hoardes have lots of babies you know, and we can’t have ‘them’ outbreeding ‘us’. Ergo, if you’re not breeding at all, you’re a traitor to your race and your religion (which is christian by default because you were born in the western hemisphere). And you’ll regret it once the Persian hoardes have outbred us cause they don’t like gay people anyhow. Is that what you want? And don’t tell us it’s not a competition cause it SO is”.
    They rather miss the point that gay people generally don’t side with religious fundamentalist wingnuts of any stripe, and that oppressing gay people slightly less than the ‘other team’ would [in theory] is not a winning argument. They also miss the point that the earth can’t sustain this kind of intensive breeding one-upmanship and is already massively overpopulated.
    Rather than buy into their shortsighted empire-breeding strategy I prefer to tell them where to stick it.
    Besides, my boyfriend is ‘Persian’ which makes their assertion somewhat laughable!

    • Wait, I’m lost. Are the Persian hoards gay folks? Please tell me they aren’t trying to outbreeding gay folks!

      I’m guessing they are actually representing some immigrants.

      In reply to #16 by Flapjack:

      One consequence of this empire-building strategy can be seen in any debate the Xtian right has with gay rights groups on any internet forum.
      I’m noticing a meme which crops up again and again in a lot of discussions in which fundie Christians present themselves as metaphorical Spartans at the battle…

  6. @BigDyTerminator

    Wait, I’m lost. Are the Persian hoards gay folks? Please tell me they aren’t trying to outbreeding gay folks!

    To clarify, I think it’s a misguided “Divide and conquer” strategy.
    A certain stripe of reactionary fundie Xtian will present this so-called argument on a gay discussion board, hoping to scare gay people straight with this doomsday prophesy of “the muslims are outbreeding us”.

    They hope that in doing so they might guilt-trip/ intimidate gay people into renouncing gayness, accepting Jesus into our hearts and breeding like rabbits.
    What they don’t get is the whole ‘turning straight and following Jesus’ deal is a non-starter as far as we’re concerned, partly because fundie Xtians have already burned all their bridges with us by blocking gay equality at every turn.

    They have no leverage.

    More importantly, we couldn’t ‘choose’ to be straight if we wanted to, as the failure of ex-gay therapy organisations such as Exodus proves.
    Going through the motions of a sham straight relationship to bolster the ranks of fundies who wouldn’t normally give us the time of day ain’t how we roll.

    I would imagine any interfaith dialogue with Muslims is the same sort of alarmist BS with the roles reversed… if I had to guess – “The gays are recruiting your kids” – another fundie meme that’s been doing the rounds.

    • Wow. That…that’s just a level if stupid that I’ve never run into personally.

      I live in NYC and our particular brand of xenophobia tend to be more…subdued.

      I am also flabbergasted by their attempts to bully gay folks into pairing up and breeding Christian children. That’s just…I mean…sigh. I see now why I’m not a fundamentalist. Their tactics just don’t make sense.

      Oh, and you’re preaching to the choir on the “it’s not a choice” front. I don’t ever remember choosing to be straight, I just like men. I don’t think I could suddenly be all about boobs if I just changed my mind.

      And for the record I’d rather the gay folks “recruit” my son than fundamentalist “insert religion here”. No brainier that one.

      Thanks for clearing everything up! Sadly it just seems like an even dumber idea now.

      In reply to #18 by Flapjack:

      @BigDyTerminator

      Wait, I’m lost. Are the Persian hoards gay folks? Please tell me they aren’t trying to outbreeding gay folks!

      To clarify, I think it’s a misguided “Divide and conquer” strategy.
      A certain stripe of reactionary fundie Xtian will present this so-called argument on a gay discussion b…

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