Pat Robertson Watch: No Babies = End of Time?

|

I know, I know. I just can't help citing the wacky religious broadcaster. He's just so damned quotable. In his latest installment on the 700 Club (which my cable company doesn't seem to carry), Robertson opines about declining birth rates in Europe:

Studies that I have read indicate that having babies is a sign of a faith in the future. You know, unless you believe in the future, you're not going to take the trouble of raising a child, educating a child, doing something. If there is no future, why do it? Well, unless you believe in God, there's really no future. And when you go back to the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, the whole idea of this desperate nightmare we are in—you know, that we are in this prison, and it has no hope, no exit. That kind of philosophy has permeated the intellectual thinking of Europe, and hopefully it doesn't come here. But nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is right now in the midst of racial suicide because of the declining birth rate. And they just can't get it together. Why? There's no hope.

Just a couple of months ago, Robertson hinted that recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes could be signs indicating that Jesus' Second Coming is imminent.

"What was called the blessed hope of the Bible is that one day Jesus Christ would come back again, start a whole new era, that this world order that we know would change into something that would be wonderful that we'd call the millennium," he continued. "And before that good time comes there will be some difficult days and there will be likened to what a woman goes through in labor just before she brings forth a child."

When asked if the world was approaching that moment, Robertson said, "It's possible. I don't have any special revelation to say it is but the Bible does indicate such a time will happen in the end of time. And could this be it? It might be."

The fertility rate is down in the United States too. Could Robertson's views on the imminence of the eschaton have demoralized Americans? After all, if the end of time is nigh, why bother having babies?

NEXT: "Please Recognize our Progress"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Paging mr gaius, paging mr gaius! 🙂

  2. The trouble with Robertson’s idea is that the more well educated and affluent people become, the less children they tend to have. Does that mean that education and affluence breed hopelessness? Hmmm…..

  3. Isn’t going after Robertson a little like shooting fish in a barrel, at this point?

  4. But, as I understand it, educated, affluent men in Saudi Arabia still want to have gigantic broods of offspring.

    I think education and affluence correlate with lower birth rates, but on the societal, not individual, level. Most people have roughly the number of kids that their society deems normal at the time. It’s distance from pre-industrial, agricultural society (measured in generations) that matters, not the individual wealth and education of parents.

  5. What has Pat Roberston been smoking, and is Reason in favor of legalizing it???

    I think it’s funny that he’s concerned about “racial suicide.” I know he’s an asshat and all, but criminy, high birthrates among Africans (high infant mort aside), South Asians and Latinos just ain’t enough to keep the earth fruitful???

    how many little Roberstons are out there, anyway? Are they as crazy as their dad?

  6. Robertson is wrong about at least one portion of Europe; France (the birthplace of Sartre) does not have a declining birth rate, instead it is undergoing a baby boom (and no this baby boom isn’t being driven by the Muslim population of France).

    As to existentialism being at the heart of the issue, all I can do is laugh. First most Europeans could not tell you anything about Sartre, second European birth rates reflect the effects of prosperity on human choices.

  7. When will Comedy Central start airing The 700 Club?

  8. “Isn’t going after Robertson a little like shooting fish in a barrel, at this point?”

    Depends. Do you think it would be fun to shoot fish in a barrel?

  9. Hakluyt: I’m confused–the latest fertility rate for France is 1.85 children per woman over the course of her lifetime which is well below 2.1 replacement rate. Do you have different figures?

    Douglas: As long as they keep putting those fish in the barrel, I can’t help but shoot them. 🙂

  10. And when you go back to the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, the whole idea of this desperate nightmare we are in — you know, that we are in this prison, and it has no hope, no exit.

    Well, Ol’ Pat doesn’t really get the difference between existentialim and nihilism. Can’t say I’m surprised by that little fact. But, moreover, Sartre did see a way out if life sucks that much: suicide. I say go for it, Pat. Please. For the children.

  11. The trouble with Robertson’s idea is that the more well educated and affluent people become, the less children they tend to have. Does that mean that education and affluence breed hopelessness?

    And if she weighs the same as a duck, she’s made out of wood. And therefore…?

  12. What I want to know is this: If Jesus comes back will Mohammed come back too? Will they duke it out in a winner-take-all grudge match? If Mohammed wins will I have to wear a turban and give up bacon? I live in Florida and those turbans look uncomfortably warm. And they’ll make my head look too big.

  13. People who are worried about declining population are as much chicken littles as those worried about increasing population.

  14. he may have the wrong reason but he is at least right about the declining birth rate. and it WILL translate into economic and political decline. i saw one projection that said albania is the only european country that will increase its population this century. another said europe’s percentage of the world population will fall from 12% now to 7% in 2050.

    thankfully america will not face the same economic and political decline. the US population should reach about 450M by 2050. our birth rate may be declining but immigrants (legal and illegal) will continue to flock to our shores and will be the major factor keeping our economy growing at triple the rate of the EU countries. thank god for immigrants!

  15. Ronald Bailey,

    If you can read French, see here: http://www.lexpress.fr/info/france/dossier/demographie/dossier.asp?ida=432860 (the graphs should be helpful by themselves even if you can’t read French)

    It seems that women who put off having kids are now having a lot of them in their 30s. According to the French government the birth-rate is currently 1.94 and is expected to reach 2.1 soon.

  16. Isn’t going after Robertson a little like shooting fish in a barrel, at this point?

    My thoughts exactly, Doug. My thoughts exactly. It used to be fun to make fun of him. Now it’s just so easy.

  17. Ron,

    Oh, and France is expected to have a population of 75 million in 2050, as opposed to 62 million today. That’s quite a bump and it will allow France to have a larger population than Germany for the first time since the decades after the Napoleonic era (France just never experienced the population boom in the 19th century that Germany and Britain, which is probably a sign of its overall higher per capita prosperity at the time – giving the old German saying “Living like a God in France” some merit).

    jimmy,

    i saw one projection that said albania is the only european country that will increase its population this century.

    You’re wrong on that. Both France and Britain are expected to see net population increases into 2050. Then again, given your knee-jerk anti-European attitude your ignorance is not surprising.

  18. And how many billion people living in the world have never flipped on a light switch? Oh yeah, clearly the world needs more people. When birthrates decline, whether you’re looking at an entire country or a single family, it means there are more resources available for the people who are already here. Of course it sounds callous, but why should the laws of supply and demand apply any differently to human beings than they do to any other resource? Those of us in the job market see it already. What the world doesn’t need is a few million more people who aren’t qualified to do anything but stand in one place. We have machines that can do that now.

    If you’ve got two college-educated professionals with an upper-middle-class lifestyle, they want their kids to have at LEAST that level of lifestyle. That costs time and money, so in order to ensure that each of your kids gets a few new clothes each year and an education, you limit the number of children you have.

  19. “Isn’t going after Robertson a little like shooting fish in a barrel, at this point?”

    Depends. Do you think it would be fun to shoot fish in a barrel?

    Absolutely…if they’re anything like Pat Robertson then I’ll bring the AK.

  20. The population goes up, it’s bad news. If it goes down, it’s bad news. If it stays the same, it’s bad news. The hell with it.

    (BTW: Does Rev. Robertson still plan to televise the Second Coming? And will Joan and Melissa be there to comment on His wardrobe?)

  21. What the world doesn’t need is a few million more people who aren’t qualified to do anything but stand in one place. We have machines that can do that now.

    That might work in a “Logan’s Run” world where we don’t permit old, retired people to exist. But in the real world, declining healthy populations means a whole bunch of oldies with not enough young whippersnappers around to take care of ’em.

  22. declining healthy populations means a whole bunch of oldies with not enough young whippersnappers around to take care of ’em.

    But is it a good idea to have children solely to provide the future with bed-pan emptiers?

  23. Jim Walsh,

    Well, wholely inaccurate predictions has never been a reason to turn away for true believers (witness how popular Hal Lindsey is today for example).

  24. Malthus just won’t die, will he? Pesky old bastard.

  25. verw?hnt wie gott in frankreich

    i believe, Hak, that the expression had to do with how the aristocracy lived, btw…

    timothy: yeah. cholesky bought it, but a whole lotta good that did us.

    we still have his decomposition and that $#^$^&$@ QR factorization… yar! (what would that be in MATLAB, i wonder….. i wonder……..)

    more evil!

  26. Why do people still take Pat Robertson seriously. He’s an obvious idiot, and the people who watch and follow him are obvious idiots too. I just don’t see the point about getting worked up about idiots.

  27. Ben:

    Because they are idiots with influence?

  28. VM,

    It was a commonly used phrase by German military personnel during the occupation of France. Part of it of course was that occupied France )or even Vichy France) was a far more liberal place than Nazi Germany had become.

  29. “declining healthy populations means a whole bunch of oldies with not enough young whippersnappers around to take care of ’em.”

    “But is it a good idea to have children solely to provide the future with bed-pan emptiers?”

    I remember reading somewhere that the overwhelming majority of old folks never do need anyone to “take care of them,” which also seems true based on my own personal observation. Many of them might choose to move into a condo or an assisted-living facility, but mostly they continue to take care of themselves and live independently.

    Of course you might be referring to government wealth transfer systems like Social Security, but screw ’em. If you want to retire and not work, save for it. Otherwise, keep working. Wal-Mart is always hiring greeters.

  30. …declining healthy populations means a whole bunch of oldies with not enough young whippersnappers around to take care of ’em.

    Which is utter tripe. Oldies are staying healthier longer and thus remaining in the workforce longer.

  31. Of course you might be referring to government wealth transfer systems like Social Security, but screw ’em. If you want to retire and not work, save for it. Otherwise, keep working. Wal-Mart is always hiring greeters.

    Gee, I thought I was the only one callous enough to think that way.

  32. Oh, and France is expected to have a population of 75 million in 2050, as opposed to 62 million today.

    I dunno, but I think trying to project population 44 years in the future is kind of a mug’s game.

    I remember reading somewhere that the overwhelming majority of old folks never do need anyone to “take care of them,” which also seems true based on my own personal observation.

    Then why do I have to fund their pensions via Social Security and their health care via Medicare? I’m certainly taking care of them financially, even if I’m not personally wiping their asses.

  33. R.C. Dean,

    I dunno, but I think trying to project population 44 years in the future is kind of a mug’s game.

    Of course it is, which is why predictions of doom and gloom for Europe (from a demographic standpoint) as a whole are also a mug’s game. My original point though was that France is undergoing a baby boom right now.

  34. Then why do I have to fund their pensions via Social Security and their health care via Medicare?

    Because FDR, JFK, and LBJ say so.

  35. Robertson isn’t even being original with this bit of dimwittedness. Mark Steyn published an article last month in the New Criterion called, I think, “After the Suicide of the West” which asserted that white Europeans were going to die out to be replaced a screaming horde of Muslim lunatics. He blamed falling birthrates on feminism mostly, including a suggestion that women were foolish to focus on our rights when the Turbanned Peril was going to impose veils in about 30 years. Among the facts he cites was that the countries with the highest birthrates in the world are Niger, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Sudan. He follows this information with the rhetorical question “what do they all have in common?” I presume the answer he seeks is “they’re Muslim,” but “they’re the four worst places on Earth” would also be a correct answer.
    He didn’t consider that number of babies born in one year might not equal the number of soldiers available 18 years later. I have to wonder if either Mr. Steyn or Mr. Robertson would be as happy if miserably poor illiterates in North America or Europe had the same birth rate as Niger?

  36. He blamed falling birthrates on feminism mostly, including a suggestion that women were foolish to focus on our rights

    People like that make me furious. I read about Japan, where birthrates are falling because women are no longer interested in being the traditional Japanese mama-san (which is far, far worse than anything Betty Friedan ever wrote about), so some male politician started griping about that. But was his solution to address the reasons why Japanese women don’t want to become mothers? No, of course not–he just wanted to yell at them and try to guilt-trip them into a lifestyle they don’t want.

  37. But don’t you realize that it’s your duty as holders of the womb to have tons of little genespawn! Geeze, get with the program!

  38. France and Britain may not be so bad off due to immigration and high minority group birthrates, but there are in general a large group of countries with super-low birthrates. Japan, for example, is already experiencing population decline. A number of Asian and European countries are not far behind. Birthrates are falling rapidly in almost all places outside of Africa, which admittedly is a mess.

    The world population will level off by the end of the century, and at some point, we will be talking about population decline and what to do about it.

  39. As to existentialism being at the heart of the issue, all I can do is laugh. First most Europeans could not tell you anything about Sartre

    my thoughts exactly. i’m having a hard time picturing joe average french guy or dick and jane german doing some family planning, then thinking about sartre and existentialism, and then deciding to forget the whole thing.

  40. Chad,

    France and Britain may not be so bad off due to immigration and high minority group birthrates, but there are in general a large group of countries with super-low birthrates.

    As I wrote above, most of France’s population growth is not coming from immigrants (be it in the form of migration or having kids). There is something of a boom of thirty-something white women in France having kids; those who held off are now having children in other words.

  41. quoth Timothy, “But don’t you realize that it’s your duty as holders of the womb to have tons of little genespawn! Geeze, get with the program!”

    oh, but of course I realize this point. i have figured out to counter the effects of Federline SuperSperm, I need to pump out twice as many kids as Britney. I’m 25 with an IQ above 140 and I have wide hips. This should be cake. muWAHAHAHAHA

  42. Now that I’m home, I can post using my full name. No need to piss off the boss any more than necessary.

    Timothy: I have already produced my required two children. (Both boys.) I’ve decided to go with the quality over quantity thing. In fact, my older son is that endangered species, a boy who reads really well. (The four-year-old isn’t reading yet, but he does recognize letters and can copy his name.) They’ll be the only males in college by the time they go, and, if they survive that much fun, can walk into any CEO position they want. (Please read the above with a strong tinge of irony.)

    Jennifer: I find it really ironic that the wingnuts never seem to notice that feminism never really touched Japan, which has the world’s lowest birth rate. Japanese women didn’t stop being mama-san to pursue fascinating careers, they just started playing golf a lot instead of being powerless domestic drudges. If Messers Steyn and Robertson really want to increase the birth rate, they need to encourage men to take up laundry.

  43. Pat Robertson? Isn’t he the guy who thinks there’s a spaceship hiding behind a comet that’s going to come out of the sky and take us away? No wait, wrong cult. Robertson thinks some guy that died 2000 years ago is going to come out of the sky and punish all the bad people (like gays) and reward the good people that donated regularly to the 700 Club.
    Being that a “person of faith” is someone that has elaborate belief systems requiring no evidence, why would anyone pay any more attention to him that a madman babbeling on a street corner?
    Roberson and his ilk should leave Eschatology to the professionals, like myself.

  44. high birthrates among Africans (high infant mort aside), South Asians and Latinos just ain’t enough to keep the earth fruitful???

    Fertility rates in many developing nations are falling quickly as well. I think the UN expects the world’s overall population to begin declining at some point during the second half of the century. Which brings to mind a quote from the Matrix:

    Agent Smith: I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus.

    Maybe Mr. Smith was off the mark. Maybe at some collective/subconscious/Darwinian level, there’s a growing sense among us humans, particularly those of us in densely populated locales, that it might not be a good idea to keep breeding so rapidly.

    Though the pill probably has something to do with it as well. As might the rise of social security/pension systems, which have reduced the impetus for couples in relatively developed nations to have many children in order to guarantee that they’re taken care of by them in old change.

  45. The whole world’s birth rate is dropping dramatically. Has a lot to do with improved infant mortality rates, longer life expectancies, increased women’s education/opportunity, and movement from farming communities to urban centres (where children go from being an asset to a liability.)

    People in highly religious nations have been outproducing us for decades and the end of the world hasn’t arrived yet.

    For the record, this mentality about ‘racial suicide’ isn’t limited to nutbars like Robertson. I hear this kind of crap all the time.

  46. Tanya: “racial” suicide may be crap, but what about “cultural” suicide? For example, I live in Japan and love the culture. I sure hope it still exists in some format in a few generations. At the rate it is going, it might not. However, Japan will probably save itself by importing a large number of southeast Asians such as Koreans, Phillipinos and Thais. Will it still be “Japanese”? Probably close enough.

    However, can the same be said of Europe, when a third or a half of its population is Muslim? Will it still be “European”? Will it still even be “Western”? I sure hope so.

    Personally, I don’t worry about Europeans-of-Arab-decent, Japanese-of-Korean-decent, or Americans-of-Mexican-decent, as long as they become Europeans, Japanese, and Americans respectively. In the latter two cases, there does not seem to be a big problem. In the case of Europe, I think we do have cause to be concerned.

  47. Jennifer: Japan is terrible in how it treats women. I often tell my Japanese coworkers that they are a generation behind the US with respect to women’s rights. I am lying. It is closer to two.

    Women in Japan are not given important jobs, because “everyone knows” they will just quit when they get married and have kids. To no one’s surprise, that is exactly what they do – because their salaries are low, because they have unimportant jobs. Duh.

    For the women who try to buck the system and stick with a good job, they are sexually harassed by American standards daily and have to work more than the men (who already work insane hours) to prove themselves. This implies, of course, that children, or even dating, are nearly impossible.

    The biggest problem of all is that the current boomer generation, the first generation of wealthy parents in Japan, spoil their kids rotten. Traditionally, children live with their parents until they get married. Well, most Japanese Gen-X’ers quickly figured something out – if they don’t get married, they get free rent and food forever. I could’t tell you the number of 30-something Japanese I have met who live like parasites off their parents, waste all of their money on travel and fashion, and have taken no responsibility for their futures whatsoever. Why bother?

    Combine these things together, and you produce today’s normal Japanese 30-year-old woman: single, crappy office job with no prospects of advancement, lives with parents, no serious plans about the future, no responsibility, and no reason to change a darned thing.

    The net result: no children

  48. Tanya: “racial” suicide may be crap, but what about “cultural” suicide?

    Cultures don’t tend to have the same degree of static that races do. That said, while a nation’s culture might shift and wane with the introduction of mass numbers of foreigners, if the underlying constitutions (et al) are upheld, culture shouldn’t be too threatened by immigration.

    What worries me about the racial suicide hysteria is the inevitability of pressure on women to revert to traditional roles. The rise of the Religous Right on the south side of my border isn’t helping my concern. Ironically, I view this dilemma as another form of cultural suicide.

  49. I think you vastly overestimate the power of the Religious Right. I grew up with such people. If I was in a pinch, I would bet on them covering my ass long before I would trust most of the people I met at university or as a professional. The vast majority of them are wonderful people; unfortunately, the loudest, most ludicrious ones get on TV, as the rest are pretty booring.

  50. Chad,

    Regarding “cultural suicide,” cultures change over time, so they are bound to commit suicide if by that you mean they evolve into patterns quite different from the past. You can’t stop it and at most it makes you look like someone clamoring to preserve the “pure” form of a language.

  51. Chad,

    If I was in a pinch, I would bet on them covering my ass long before I would trust most of the people I met at university or as a professional.

    The religious right make books like A Handmaid’s Tale seem possible. The reaction to gay marraige in Mass. is a good illustration of why this is so.

  52. Regarding “cultural suicide,” cultures change over time, so they are bound to commit suicide if by that you mean they evolve into patterns quite different from the past. You can’t stop it and at most it makes you look like someone clamoring to preserve the “pure” form of a language.

    Really? They change? No wonder I can’t find any samurai running around town. We still got Geishas though.

    That being said, I find things like democracy, religious tolerance, and freedom of speech cultural traits worth preserving.

    The religious right make books like A Handmaid’s Tale seem possible.

    And the secular left makes the annihilation of Tibet possible. I’ll take the fiction over the fact in this case.

    The reaction to gay marraige in Mass. is a good illustration of why this is so.

    As silly as their opinions are, I am far more worried about the major flaws in the other 99.999% of the government, such as the impending collapse of Social Security, or a nuclear armed Iran.

  53. Don’t let them immanentize the eschaton.

    That used to be a campaign button, WFB I think.

    It could be brought back against Iran.

  54. “Well, unless you believe in God, there’s really no future.”

    Is this guy an idiot are is he just insane? Is there any importance in making that distinction?

  55. “Well, unless you believe in God, there’s really no future.”

    Is this guy an idiot or is he just insane? Is there any importance in making that distinction?

  56. Traditionally, children live with their parents until they get married. Well, most Japanese Gen-X’ers quickly figured something out – if they don’t get married, they get free rent and food forever. I could’t tell you the number of 30-something Japanese I have met who live like parasites off their parents, waste all of their money on travel and fashion, and have taken no responsibility for their futures whatsoever.

    This sounds exactly like most of the native New Yorkers (male and female) of the same age that I have encountered.

  57. Chad,

    That being said, I find things like democracy, religious tolerance, and freedom of speech cultural traits worth preserving.

    Sure you do.

    I’ll take the fiction over the fact in this case.

    I’ll take vigilence over blindness.

    As silly as their opinions are, I am far more worried about the major flaws in the other 99.999% of the government, such as the impending collapse of Social Security, or a nuclear armed Iran.

    So, gay marraige is silly? Is that what this rather confusing statement is supposed to tell me?

  58. Declining population sounds good to me. The West will have a smaller, but wealthier, more intelligent, better educated, more efficient, population. Who cares if the rubes outbreed us? The idea that they can overtake us by military means is ludicrous. Where are they going to get the resources when they have to feed so many people? Where are they going to get the brainpower if they’re all a bunch of illiterates? Modern warfare seems to favor brains and efficiency over brawn and sheer numbers.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.