By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 21, 2005
During the 20th century the "mainline" congregations-- Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian-- lost their majority status among American Protestants. The more conservative Evangelical congregations now outnumber them.
Conventional explanations have focused on the more demanding theology and more vigorous activity of the Evangelical groups. But a study in Christian Century proposes a different explanation: plain old demography.
Evangelicals, you see, have been busy having children-- who, not surprisingly, tend to become Evangelicals-- while the mainline Protestants have been busy visiting the drugstore.
“Or to put the matter differently, the so-called decline of the mainline may ultimately be attributable to its earlier approval of contraception.”
To be sure, Evangelical congregations also proved better at retaining members, while the mainline denominations saw steady attrition from the ranks. But that was a less important factor, the researchers claim; 70% of the difference can be attributed to comparative fertility.
The Christian Century study evidently sees no connection between theology and fertility-- between the tendency to take the Scripture literally-- including, say, Genesis 1:28-- and the tendency to have children.
From our perspective, it seems that this study proves that what's true for an individual woman is also true for a religious denomination: When you buy the Pill, you become less fruitful.