Sometimes old practices are worth looking at with fresh eyes.
I plan on posting several short pieces in the next few days, asking if it's time to do one thing or another differently than we've done it forever.
This time, let's look at the injunction to "be fruitful and multiply."
This Biblical commandment appears several times in Genesis, for starters. In its most relevant to us, in Genesis 1:28, speaking to the first man and the first woman, God says, "Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” (All Biblical citations are from the NET Bible, available here.)
I don't think it can get any plainer than that. We human beings are to populate the earth, and subdue it.
Are we there yet?
After the Biblical Flood, which completely decimated the earth, except for the eight human beings that survived in the Ark of Noah, the Lord God spoke to Noah and his family thus: “Come out of the ark, you, your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you all the living creatures that are with you. Bring out every living thing, including the birds, animals, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Let them increase and be fruitful and multiply on the earth!” (Genesis 8:16-17)
Even allowing for that depopulation and subsequent population explosion, are we there yet?
There are roughly 6.5 billion people on this planet right now. Have we been fruitful enough?
I wonder if it's not time to recalibrate our reproductive urge. Six and a half billion people are a lot of people.
Large families have been a mainstay of many Christian groups for centuries. They're found in Judaism as well. Other faiths may have large families as an ideal. This is particularly true in poor countries, where large families can be an insurance policy that some children will live to adulthood and can care for their aged parents. As people move to cities in these developing countries, though, family size begins to shrink.
Is it time for those groups that encourage large families to begin discouraging them?
My own view is that we reached that point some time ago. I don't know what the earth's carrying capacity is, but I suspect when it's reached, the effects from exceeding it will be traumatic. On top of everything else we're experiencing today, do we want to have to look forward to that as well?
So, here's the question: Do we continue popping out babies like there's no tomorrow, or do we rein in the reproductive urge and start having smaller families?