“If you want to see the face of Europe in 100 years, barring a miracle, look to the faces of young Muslim immigrants.”
In response to Europe's continued declines in fertility and church attendance, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput issued this warning last week at the annual Napa Institute Conference in California.
“Islam has a future because Islam believes in children. Without a transcendent faith that makes life worth living, there’s no reason to bear children. And where there are no children, there’s no imagination, no reason to sacrifice, and no future.”
Chaput’s warning echoed that of Italian Archbishop Carlo Liberati last January, when he told the Italian Catholic journal La Fede Quotidiana that:
“In 10 years we will all be Muslims because of our stupidity. Italy and Europe live in a pagan and atheist way, they make laws that go against God and they have traditions that are proper of paganism.
All of this moral and religious decadence favours Islam.”
These alarmist prognostications raise an interesting question: when, exactly, will Europe have a Muslim majority? Will it be in 100 years, as Archbishop Chaput claimed? Or will it be as soon as 10 years, as read in the complaint of Archbishop Liberati?
It’s a well-established fact that Europe has been experiencing a demographic crisis for decades now. Its elderly population has been rising while birth rates have been falling. The replacement level for a country is 2.1 children per woman. In 1957, all of the 28 countries that are now part of the European Union had a fertility rate above replacement level. Now, none does. The EU average is currently 1.58 children per women.
At the same time, the Muslim population in Europe has been increasing. The graying of Europe’s population has forced its countries to accept millions of Muslim immigrants each year so that it will have enough able bodies to sustain its economy. And these Muslims on average have more children than Europe’s Christian populations.
However, as the Pew Foundation reports, the European Muslim population has only been increasing at about 1 percentage point per decade. In 1990, Muslims represented 4% of Europe’s population; in 2010 it was 6%; and by 2050 it’s projected to be 10%.
At this rate, of course, it would take centuries until there was a Muslim majority in Europe, even given the higher replacement levels among European Muslims (see chart below).
But there are several other factors that could alter these demographic predictions toward bringing about a Muslim Europe sooner rather than later. Wars, for one. Another world war could dramatically shrink Europe’s Christian population. Plus, Muslim populations are predicted to grow faster than any other religion over the next 45 years, and could represent a greater military threat to Europe. Then there’s also disease, natural disasters, mass migrations, and political and economic catastrophes that could be game changers.
That said, it seems like the demographic deck is stacked against a Muslim Europe anytime in the next hundred or so years. Secularism and a higher standard of living have been shown to consistently lower fertility rates, even in the Muslim world, and it’s presumed that the fertility rates of European Muslims will resemble other Europeans within a couple of generations.
And at this point, Europe’s stark secularism means that mass conversions to Islam are unlikely in the near future. In fact, reports this past spring are that large numbers of Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity.
A quote attributed to the historian Arnold Toynbee reads that “civilizations die from suicide, not from murder.” Barring unforeseen cataclysmic events, it appears that the greatest threat to Europe’s future is not Islam, but Europe itself. For the time being, the fear that Europe will be majority Muslim in a few generations may be an effective rallying cry for apathetic Christians, but it’s probably not based in reality.