The Demographic Death of Islam

In his 2011 book, How Civilizations Die, David P. Goldman (a.k.a. international columnist Spengler) writes that most societies do not end due to external conquest, but through internal suicide. He describes what he calls “Spengler’s Universal Laws,” which teach that despite the fact that the mortality rate is 100% for humans, most of the history of mankind can be summarized as a search for immortality. This means that most individuals in a society seek to perpetuate their own beliefs and views, rather than someone else’s. This makes obvious sense, but Goldman focuses more on the opposite side of the cultural equation:

Humans are the only animals whose sense of continuity depends on culture as much as it does on genes. Unlike men and women, healthy animals universally show an instinct for self-preservation and the propagation of their species. We do not observe cats deciding not to have kittens the better to pursue their careers as mousers.

His fifth universal law maintains that humankind cannot bear mortality without the hope of immortality. By this he means that a civilization without unifying religious beliefs (whatever they may be) will soon be on the downward spiral to death. He writes: “When men and women lose the sacred, they lose the desire to live.” In other words, despair leads to societal insignificance, which leads eventually to societal death. And Goldman believes that this is precisely what is happening to Muslim countries.

It seems counterintuitive, but what Goldman is saying is that what we are seeing in the world today—what with the meteoric rise and prominence of radical Muslims—is the beginning of the end for Islam, rather than the end of the beginning. Much like a cornered tiger, Goldman believes that Islam is on the way out, and that its leaders well know this, and that what we are seeing on the world scene is the last hurrah of a dying civilization, not the first signs of a global re-birth.

How can Goldman say this, despite all of the world news that seems to indicate the expansion of Islam? First and foremost it must be remembered that the media’s portrayal of what is really happening in the world is seldom the accurate one. Second, Goldman points to the one sure indicator of cultural longevity: birth rates. It is a well-known fact that birth rates among Muslims have been declining rapidly for decades. Despite the media fascination with the terrorist cells of Islam, moderate Muslims have been quietly birthing fewer and fewer children; and fewer children mean fewer Muslims. Goldman argues that this apparent “rise” of Islam is nothing more than a dying gasp of a defeated foe. Islam, at least according to Goldman, did not do enough to instill the hope of immortality into its mortal followers and now the mortals no longer care about immortality. They are lining up for a shot at financial well-being in the present, rather than having scores of children—future warriors—at home to help fight the future war. Islam lost the battle for the future for the simple reason that it never took much interest in it. Goldman believes its leaders now recognize this “demographic shortfall” and are doing what they can to prolong the inevitable.

Time will tell if Goldman is correct in his assessment, but his book makes it clear that his predictions are far from unique.