Anti-natalism and religion

Global anti-natalism is the position that it is always morally wrong to have children. It’s not wrong to adopt, but it is wrong to bring new people into the world.

There have been various arguments for this conclusion; however, contrary to what some groups on the internet think, none of the arguments for global anti-natalism are “knockdown” arguments. In other words, for example, the arguments for global anti-natalism aren’t anywhere near as strong as arguments against factory farming.

One problem with anti-natalism is when it comes to religion. How is an anti-natalist going to convince a religious person that anti-natalism is correct? Generally, the religious person believes various things that entail there is nothing wrong with having children. For instance, they believe in an all-powerful and all-loving God. God created us, and God (in various religious texts) says to be fruitful and multiply. Afterall, it would seem that life might very well be intrinsically valuable if God exists. If God exists, we can realize our deepest good as finite beings, which is to be in a relationship with God. A relationship with God is perhaps even an infinite good. At the very least, a personal relationship with a perfectly loving being is such a great good that it’s not obvious that it doesn’t outweigh the negative things and suffering in life.

Not to mention, it seems that global anti-natalism presupposes that there isn’t an afterlife. If there is an afterlife with various great goods, including a relationship with God, it would seem that it isn’t wrong to always bring someone into existence. Even if someone’s life on earth was really bad, one can easily see how the goods of an afterlife will eventually outweigh the suffering.
The obvious objection is that some people will go to hell, according to various religions. But, not all religious people sign up to the existence hell.

So, for a lot of religious people they have a collection of beliefs that looks like the following:

1. God exists
2. If God exists, God is perfectly loving, all-good, and all-powerful
3. If God exists, an afterlife exists
4. An afterlife exists
5. Life is intrinsically valuable
6. God not only allows us to have children, he even commands it
7. God created us
8. Everyone will eventually get into heaven

Given these set of beliefs (give or take some beliefs), it looks like anti-natalist arguments will be of little use in convincing many religious people. Hence, if the global anti-natalist wants to convince religious people, they are going to have to try and refute the religious beliefs themselves.

Even if a religious person became convinced that an anti-natalist argument was compelling, they might just give up a certain religious belief. For example, if a religious person believes in hell, they might give up believing in hell, but they won’t necessarily give up the belief that it is generally/sometimes morally permissible (perhaps even morally obligatory) to bring new people into existence.

The upshot is that global anti-natalism seems to assume various things that are not obvious to a lot of religious people. And, perhaps, anti-natalism assumes things that are not obvious to a lot of individuals who are not religious too.

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#Global anti-natalism #Global anti-natalism and God’s existence #Anti-natalism and an afterlife #Anti-natalism and heaven #Global anti-natalism and an afterlife #Anti-natalism and the intrinsic value of life #Global anti-natalism and the Bible

7 thoughts on “Anti-natalism and religion

  1. VeganAntinatalist

    Interesting article but I think there is an argument to be made that having a child as a religious person is even more egregious than as a person who believes in no god or no afterlife. Most religions teach that even though god supposedly is an all-loving god, there is still the possibility of an eternity separated from his love in hell. This seems like a much worse consequence that living a finite life, even if it was full of suffering. So the stakes are much, much higher for the religious believer, for they could be responsible for another person’s eternal damnation. Abstaining from having our own biological child is always the better choice because it is the only choice that guarantees that we won’t cause another person to be subjected to the possibility of an eternity of suffering. (Note: this does not apply to adopted children because in that scenario someone else made a poor decision and we are altruistically helping a child who was already unjustly thrust into existence).

    1. Sphinx

      Yes, but they believe god works in mysterious ways, so when they have children, they simply leave it to god to sort them out, you know, god’s will and all.

      1. Yeah, Sphinx. I can see the “skeptical theist” saying something like, “We are in no position to say that having children is wrong, all things considered. Perhaps, God had a good reason to bring us into existence. Perhaps, creating other people leads to some unknown goods that outweigh the sufferings of this life. We have no reason to think that the goods we know of are representative of the total goods there actually are”

        Of course, it would take me a whole blog post to explain what’s wrong with that.

    2. Thanks for the response. I think you’re right that one could run a (pragmatic?) argument from the possibility of hell for anti-natalism. The question is how plausible the (possibility) of the existence of hell is to each religious person; if it seems very implausible, then it’s not obvious to them that they would be doing something wrong by bringing someone else into existence….at least given their other beliefs.

      I will grant that there is a big chunk of religious people who are in a bad position when it comes to anti-natalism precisely because of their stance on hell.

  2. Thomist K

    Anti-natalism falls apart under theism, even if the idea of Hell is posited. At least in Thomism, being itself is seen as an intrinsic good, especially since the defining act of God (the classical theistic god) is his perfect, flawless existence, which sets him apart from the groundless shadow of nonexistence. Even Hell, which comprises eternal suffering, is seen as objectively better than nonexistence even if nonexistence may seem subjectively better for the one in Hell.

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