I have never
had children. I have raised a child, a boy from my wife's
first marriage; however, I have never created one of my own.
It's not that I don't like children. It's just that I have
never felt the need to project my genes down the corridors
People sometimes ask me if I regret never having had any children
of my own, and the answer is still "no". However,
a related question has been niggling at me for some time:
Is there any moral justification for having children in the
first place? In other words, is procreation inherently immoral?
I haven't dared ask this of any of my friends and acquaintances
for fear of their (probably intemperate) reaction. So to research
the question myself, I entered "morality of having children"
into an Internet search engine. I was disappointed by the
results. Virtually all of answers added an extension to the
question, e.g. "morality of having children if you are
too poor to properly care for them", "the morality
of having children if your country is over-populated",
the "morality of having children if so doing would risk
the life of the mother", and so on. But no one seemed
prepared to grapple with the fundamental question itself.
Is there any moral justification for having children, whatever
I am certain that other people must have thought about this;
however, they seem to be keeping their opinions to themselves.
Or perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the presumption of having children
is so ingrained in the human psyche that asking such a question
really hasn't occurred to anyone else. If this is the case,
stand by to make history because here come my thoughts on
There are two fundamental ways of approaching the question,
from the religious point of view of religion and the non-religious
point of view.
Religious Aspects of Procreation
Not being a religious scholar, I am going to limit this
part of the discussion mainly to the Judeo-Christian
concepts of religion. People brought up in the Judeo-Christian
traditional all know about God's biblical injunction
to "be fruitful and multiply". And we certainly
have been doing so.
Human population growth over the past hundred years
has been truly phenomenal. The world's population, which
stood at only 2.5 billion in 1950, had doubled to 5
billion by 1990, and passed 6 billion just before the
end of the century. As of March 2009, the estimated
world population had already reached 6.8 billion. In
other words, we have already added another 800 million
souls in less than ten years.
in the Judeo-Christian tradition are also aware of the biblical
assertion that we are all born into sin and that this sin
must be expiated. If we are successful in doing so, we ascend
to eternal bliss in heaven. If not, we descend to eternal
torment in hell.
Most Christians are convinced that their children will of
course ascend to heaven. However, this is by no means certain;
every soul that comes into the world must inexorably face
the prospect of being cast down into hell. I know that Jesus
is supposed to have died for our sins. I also know that unless
we believe this and accept Him as our personal savior, we
cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Clearly, not everyone
believes this, which means that each day thousands of babies
come into the world for whom heaven will be eternally barred
and hell will be eternally open.
While most loving parents shudder at the thought of exposing
their children any kind of physical danger, they seem perfectly
willing to expose them to the greatest danger imaginable,
eternal damnation. Can this possibly
Non-religious Aspects of Procreation
Suppose you don't believe the stories of heaven and hell.
What then? Even if you don't take responsibility for a child's
eternal well-being, you must still take responsibility for
his temporal well-being. Once again, the prospects are disconcerting.
Even before he is born, a child faces the possibility of physical
malformation, mental retardation, or congenital disease. In
some parts of the world, the risk is very low; however, there
is always a risk. Any loving parent would surely prevent a
child from eating a piece of candy picked up off the ground
for fear that it might make him ill. Yet the self-same loving
parent perfectly willing to risk a lifetime of illness for
the child by virtue of forcing him to be born.
As the child grows, he must constantly face the prospect of
violence, war, poverty, oppression, drought, famine, pestilence,
and the hundreds of other ills man is heir to. Even if he
is lucky enough to escape all of these, he still must confront
the aches, pains, feebleness of mind and body, and other distasteful
attributes of old age, unless of course he is fortunate enough
to die young.
In short, whether you are religious or not, the decision to
procreate would seem to be an act of high insensitivity, if
not actually immorality. To repeat, I have never created a
child of my own. Given the foregoing considerations, I am
not fully certain of what I feel about people who have created
a child or children of their own; however, I am strongly leaning
Because I am now in my seventh decade, the thought of procreating,
while still technically feasible, would seem highly unadvisable.
Instead, I am ineluctably thinking more and more about what
I might wish to have inscribed on my tombstone. I haven't
yet made up my mind, but I am leaning towards the following:
Dear God, if God there be, Know this to be my legacy, My sins
were many, Yet blame I shun,
For I have never inflicted life on anyone.