Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/09

8

Going to school v. going to church

The teen birth rate has started climbing again. As usual, it’s highest in red states and states with high black and Hispanic populations and lowest in New England blue states. In 2006, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas topped the list, with 68, 64, and 63 births for every 1000 female teens, respectively, compared to 19 births per 1000 female teens in New Hampshire and 21 in Vermont and Massachusetts.

Will more religion cure this scourge? Not by itself. Mexican-American teens have the highest birth rate—93 births per 1000 girls—compared to 64 births per 1000 black girls and 26 births per 1000 white girls. Decadent secular Europe and non-Christian Asia lag far behind. In 2003, Japan’s teen birthrate was 3.9 births per 1000 girls. Italy’s rate was 6.9 per 1000, and France’s, 10 births per 1000 girls.

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14 comments

  • kurt9 · January 8, 2009 at 11:02 am

    These statistics about teen birth rate illustrate a primary reason why many “techno-libertarian” types are so hostile to religion. Except for the protestant work ethic, which is expressed best by Episcopalians, religion does not really seek to empower the individual. It does not promote getting a good education, getting a good job and career, and general financial and professional success. Rather, I think, the purpose of religion is to get people to live their lives and find their happiness within the fixed life pattern (conventional life cycle).

    I was raised by parents who were Episcopalians. Many of the kids who attended our church went on to be successful career professionals. The parents really placed the emphasis on us kids to do well and school and to create good futures for ourselves. Some of the kids rebelled (as kids do) but most of us (including myself) did not. There was little for people like me to object to with regards to religion. My childhood social culture was the classic Episcopalian WASP culture.

    After college, I moved to SoCal and had quite a social life. It was at this time that I encountered people (especially women) who were of religious backgrounds that were not of the WASPish work ethic character.
    I went through an “Ayn Rand” phase during this time as well. To top it off, this was my first involvement with cryonics and life extension. This was literally the first time I ever encountered religion that was not of the WASP work ethic nature. This is when I first developed a loathing hostility towards the other branches of Christianity and, eventually, towards religion in general. Aside for Episcopalianism, it seems to be the nature of religion to push people to live within a “fixed parameter space” rather than to help them make “great” accomplishments. It is no coincidence that transhumanism and conventional religion do not mix.

    This issue is the key to teen pregnancy. The social conservatives are upset with teens getting pregnant, not because it limits their personal and financial future, but because of its association with non-marital sex. If the teens get married and the guy get a job at the local plant or store, the social conservatives not only see no problem with this, but think it a good thing. Educational and professional success do not matter to the social conservatives. “Blue state” professional types would be horrified by this, because the kids educational and professional prospects would be needlessly handicapped.

    This is the fundamental problem with non-protestant work ethic based religion. It does not promote excellence. It promulgates a second-rate society and, as we know well, second-rate societies do not fare well in a competitive, globalized economy.

  • Polichinello · January 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

    If the teens get married and the guy get a job at the local plant or store, the social conservatives not only see no problem with this, but think it a good thing.

    Depending on the teens, it very well could be a good thing. Not everyone is cut out to be a lawyer or a doctor. There are plenty of very happy blue-collar workers. If two people are in this category and want to get an early start on their family, more power to them. After all, they’re going to have the kids out of the house with plenty of time to enjoy their adult lives.

    Educational and professional success do not matter to the social conservatives.

    That’s simply not true. My parents were Southern Baptist social conservatives, and so were their friends. All of them were eager for their kids to go to college, even in cases where college might not have been the best option. Remember, a lot of college these days is four years of alternating between keggers and make-work b-school or communications classes.

    “Blue state” professional types would be horrified by this, because the kids educational and professional prospects would be needlessly handicapped.

    Unfortunately, that attitude has lead to what Steve Sailer aptly terms the “Yale or jail” option for working class and minority kids.

  • Polichinello · January 8, 2009 at 11:21 am

    The social conservatives are upset with teens getting pregnant, not because it limits their personal and financial future, but because of its association with non-marital sex.

    Again, no. They don’t like non-marital sex for moral reasons, true, but they’re not oblivious to consequences, either. The problem with illegitimate children is that these kids are raised with a half a family, and that translates into less support for them in life, such as having a connection to get a job or a loan. Then, of course, there’s the mundane issues, like paying for clothes, food and diapers.

  • kurt9 · January 8, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Depending on the teens, it very well could be a good thing. Not everyone is cut out to be a lawyer or a doctor.

    This is certain true. One can make decent money in the trades and the trades are way more “portable” than most professions.

    However, one can skip the kids, live a fiscally conservative (“studenty”) life style, and do a lot of budget “lonely-planet” style travel all over the world. That way, you have enough money to pull a “Fred Reed” by age of 40 and retire to some cheap tropical paradise in S.E. Asia or Latin American. This is certainly more appealing than the big house, expensive cars, 2.1 kids, and the life-time of wage slavery to support it all. Of course, the religious conservatives don’t often bring up this option.

    Remember, a lot of college these days is four years of alternating between keggers and make-work b-school or communications classes.

    I’m not very familiar with this as I studied my arse off for 4 years to get my B.S. in electrical engineering (I hated college so much I was not about to take more than 4 years to do it). College is what you make of it. Of course, the blue state liberals don’t often mention this point.

    In addition to being into radical life extension, cryonics and a libertarian; I don’t like being encumbered. I am what George Soros called the “unemcumbered” individual some years ago. Religion seems to be about encumbering people which, of course, is why I don’t need it or like it. However, you may have a point that this is what some people need.

  • Polichinello · January 8, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    However, one can skip the kids, live a fiscally conservative (”studenty”) life style, and do a lot of budget “lonely-planet” style travel all over the world. That way, you have enough money to pull a “Fred Reed” by age of 40 and retire to some cheap tropical paradise in S.E. Asia or Latin American. This is certainly more appealing than the big house, expensive cars, 2.1 kids, and the life-time of wage slavery to support it all. Of course, the religious conservatives don’t often bring up this option.

    Of course social conservatives don’t push this view. If they did, there wouldn’t be a society to be “social” in.

    You can’t possibly want to recommend this across the board. I mean, if everyone did it, who’d underwrite your retirement?

    In addition to being into radical life extension, cryonics and a libertarian…

    Well, they say libertarianism is the ideology of childless immortals.

  • kurt9 · January 8, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    You can’t possibly want to recommend this across the board. I mean, if everyone did it, who’d underwrite your retirement?

    The plan is not to be retired, but to be self-employed in such a manner that I can live this kind of life. Being economically productive is an integral part of a post-mortal’s life style. One of my best friends has spent the past 9 years making six-figure income translating financial documents from Japanese and Chinese into English, all from anywhere in the world where he has internet connection.

    Import/export is another option. INC magazine had an article about this kind of life style in one of their issues about a year or so ago. They profiled an insurance guy who spends much of his time mountain climbing in Canada and a graphics artist who spends time on various beaches.

    Society is like college. It is a resource to be utilized to go where you want to go. The expression we used to use in high school was “Do what you can with what you can”.

    Well, they say libertarianism is the ideology of childless immortals.

    I have no doubt that this will turn out to be true.

    Speaking of which, this does bring up the question that is supposed to be the purpose of this website. That is, how to define a concept of “conservatism” that is neither religious nor libertarian. This brings up another question. That is, what is the purpose of this? Is it to create a new philosophy, or is it the more practical objective of creating a political coalition to win national elections against the liberal-left?

    For starters, I suspect that the social conservatives are correct when they say that a religious-less version of “conservatism” is not much distinguishable from libertarianism and that we might as well be libertarians. However, the more practical issue of forging a political coalition to effectively compete with the liberal-left remains an open question. I would say that the social conservatives and the libertarians need to cooperate on the basis of what they have in common, which is economic policy. This, of course, being free markets and limited government. I think it is on this issue that future electoral success may be found, especially if the Keynesian policies of Obama and the liberal-left lead to significant deficits and inflation in the next few years.

  • Susan · January 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    The birth rate for unmarried teen girls is higher now than it was in previous generations simply because there’s no social stigma attached to out-of-wedlock pregnancy any more. I don’t think religion ever had much to do with it. Fear of being a pariah–as well being forced to drop out of school and marry the baby’s father, who also had to drop out of school and go work in a gas station–was a much more powerful motivation than fear of God, I think.

  • Donna B. · January 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I don’t think it’s possible to look at those statistics and not ask how both culture and religion affect them. Hispanics are more likely to be Catholic and blacks are more likely to belong to less mainstream religions. It’s likely that the culture of both groups do not emphasize education as much as other cultures.

    Of course, as with all generalizations, there are many exceptions.

  • Author comment by Steel Phoenix · January 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Women with careers are far less likely to just pop out babies like there is no tomorrow. Some will choose housewifery, while others will put career first. This causes havoc with equal pay statistics. It will also likely keep the population in check. I would like to note the word career rather than job. It implies directed ambition and acquired skills.

    The same concept applies to foreign policy. Trade and career are a nice alternative to oppression and war, even if they do make our economy more challenging.

  • gene berman · January 8, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Kurt9:

    If you investigate, I think you’ll find far less of a connection between “Protestant work ethic” and either Anglicans or Episcopalians than with, specifically, the denominations (Presbyterians being the prime example) denying “free will.” It was the theme of Veblen’s THEORY OF THE LEISURE CLASS (and here I’ve got to remember more than 55 years to high school, because I certainly didn’t read it) that, firstly, it was necessary to read scripture for one’s own sake (thus requiring literacy) and to seek therein and in one’s own life for the signs of “grace” (salvation). If I understand aright, you don’t get down with the ethic as a route to salvation–but if you’ve got the ethic and the material prosperity that’s it’s likely to entail (especially if you’re also frugal and sober), well, you just mi-i-g-ht be among the “elect.” Episcopalians didn’t need that sort of thing–they already had “their shit together.”

    The “work ethic” idea is not primarily concerned with education or the pursuit of a profession; rather (and here I’m guessing a bit) about maximizing one’s wordly position by “doing one’s best,” regardless of station and maximizig result through avoidance of waste, excess, or vice. Of course, for the brighter and more financially able, that did
    suggest education. But back to the original point, it was the actual Protestants (to whom Episcopalians are just a kind of Catholic) with whom the “ethic” originated. And so, because of these people, the entire U.S., whether Protestant, Catholic, or Jew–or anyone else, for that matter, is a country built on the “Protestant work ethic.” And the very same people (Puritans and derivatives spread from New England west along the northern tier) later were influential in agitation for public education (especially to combat the deterioration of public morality certain to accompany the immigration of so many Irish (and other) Catholics.

    If I had to guess, it’d be that the characteristics you observe in Episcopalian society have more to do with a positive IQ differential between Episcopalians (or the particular racial stocks from whom Episcopalians are descended) and other groups. It’s like the Yidische Momma braggng about “my son, the doctor (or lawyer, or physicist, etc.) except no longer notable–by long acceptance as a natural part of the scenery.

  • Clark · January 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    It’s slightly up but across the board it’s down dramatically over 15 years. 34% which is a huge change when you stop and think about it.

    New England does do well as does the midwest (if we stretch it to Nebraska) and Utah does pretty well as well. While Delaware isn’t really New England it sure is an outlier with how high it is.

    If there is a slight increase I suspect it has less to do with social stigma than the fact all the fear and education about sex ed during the heights of the AIDS crisis has passed. People are simply more complacent and it’s being reflected among the young.

  • kurt9 · January 8, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Gene Berman:

    My assumed connection between the Episcopal church and the protestant work ethic is based entirely upon my personal experiences with such, nothing more. The social background I was brought up is was very conducive to personal goal setting and accomplishment. It was later, as an adult, that I encounter those of religious background (e.g. RCs, baptists, etc.) where the religion served in a manner as to limit their personal ambitions in life. This, of course, was (and still is) profoundly alien to me.

    Why anyone would subscribe to a world-view that would limit what they can become in life is completely incomprehensible to me.

  • Donna B. · January 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    The elect and predestination in conflict with free will is one area that made me initially question Christianity. If the free choice to do and be “good” didn’t matter, of what worth was religion?

  • Clark · January 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Donna, not all forms of Christianity buy into that. Not everyone is a Calvinist.

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