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Recommended Reading: Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment - Comments

eh-theist's Avatar Comment 1 by eh-theist

Odd. I was brought up that society couldn't survive without god. Was I lied to?

What is so important about a book like this is that many "believers" firmly believe that non-believers are murderers, rapists, thieves, etc.

I know this isn't news to any of us, but this book goes a LONG way to show 1.) how secular these societies are and 2.) how much better they are for it.

Great book. Just ordered a copy for a friend too!

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 10:27:00 UTC | #255279

bjornove's Avatar Comment 2 by bjornove

As a Norwegian I can confirm that religion play a less and less role in the Scandinavian society.
Crime rate has always been low in Norway, and murder rate has even gone down the last few years

Although this is definitely a little too, well.. glossy, even for us Norwegian (we still have a loads of problem to solve and we do have crime too), it's definitely true that a good social and political system, not religion, is the best way to create a good society for everyone

By the way, I am a biology teacher in high school here, and although there's creationist here too, teaching evolution is generally no problem. I don't mind discuss creationism in science class if the issue comes up( in order to show it's non-science of course) but it's almost a non-issue here. In fact, people accepting evolution here in Norway is actually all time high now. Around 82% which fully or partially accept evolution. Of course, some of these are theistic evolutionists.Only 1 out of 10 completely deny evolution. And these polls have gone on for more than 20 years now.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 10:43:00 UTC | #255287

RHR's Avatar Comment 3 by RHR

I live in Norway, and in all my life I have only had one friend that's religious. Of course he belives in evolution and supports gay marriage and such, so by american standards he's not much of a christian. As for my other friends, religion just isn't much of a topic other than the occasional rant about crazy fundamentalists they have read about in the news.

In general I just assume that everyone I meet is non-religious, and if someone reveals themselves as christians they're usually very quick to ensure me of how liberal they are.

Strangely enough, of all the various educational institutions I've been through, the group with the highest rate of christians was my class at university, studying natural sciences.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 10:46:00 UTC | #255290

jeggers's Avatar Comment 4 by jeggers

I've been considering moving to scandanavia from the uk for precisely this reason. but is it just a matter of time until immigration brings with it the baggage of religion and it starts to impinge on their society? its about £8 a pint which could be the deciding factor.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 10:47:00 UTC | #255291

Laith's Avatar Comment 5 by Laith

Here is an interview with Phil Zuckerman on Danish TV:

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 10:48:00 UTC | #255292

RHR's Avatar Comment 6 by RHR

#268890 bjornove:
I attended a christian high school in Norway because it was convenient for me as it was only a 5 min. walk from my home. Even there I never witnessed any hesitation to teach evolution and other science topics. I can also add that in my class, less than half were actually christian, even though it was the only christian high school in the region.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:02:00 UTC | #255304

godskesen's Avatar Comment 7 by godskesen

I'm from Denmark. I'm surprised that Zuckerman didn't choose to interview anyone from Norway as it has the highest rate of irreligion of the Scandinavian countries (if I remember correctly). Norway is also the richest... surprise surprise.

I think the rates of irreligion were around 30-40% in Denmark and Sweden with Norway about 5-10% higher. Can anyone confirm this?

Testing for acceptance of evolution in Denmark has all but ceased since it has been stable at around 80 % for ages. I'm guessing that interest will be renewed though ...
To be sure, as the number of Muslims increase due to immigration, acceptance is likely to go down.

With regard to crime: Rates for most crimes are falling or stable in Denmark. The important exception is severe violent crimes.
So, of course, Denmark is not without it's problems as well.

I think you're right - it's just a matter of time before religion begins to play a bigger role. At least the religion of Islam. But if that time comes, I'm guessing religious hatred is just going increase and Muslims will be thrown out in large numbers (in spite of EU-law - we do have a tradition of ignoring it anyway). It'll be a shame if it comes to that sort of thing though...
My recommendation is: Move to Australia instead. The surf's better.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:12:00 UTC | #255308

jenlaferriere's Avatar Comment 8 by jenlaferriere

Sounds like a great read.

I'm just not sure that it will be read by those that need the message. I can imagine the fleas now: Society with God, Society Possible Without God?... etc.

Those will get read by the christian right.

I live in what is commonly referred to as the Canadian Bible Belt (Alberta) and coming from a city like Ottawa, the seat of Canadian governemnt and one of the most secular and progressive cities in Canada I often get into conversation with evangelical christians, who are not interested in learning that their views are so wrong... I doubt this or any other book will get to them. Unfortunately.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:19:00 UTC | #255313

jeggers's Avatar Comment 9 by jeggers

Comment #268912 by Kraes85
well as long as they're not as weak kneed as the british government Ill move anywhere.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:20:00 UTC | #255314

fides_et_ratio's Avatar Comment 10 by fides_et_ratio

Looking at the title I expected to see something about North Korea or China rather than countries with Christian constitutions. Strange that.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:23:00 UTC | #255316

bjornove's Avatar Comment 12 by bjornove

Comment to #268907 RHR
I was actually teaching science in a christian private school several years ago and can confirm what you say here. Many of these private schools are actually very good and I know many non-christians who choose these schools for this very reason and also because it's just convenient as was your reason

By the way, although I agree with Dawkins on issues on religion I am not preaching anti-religion as a teacher. I would certainly not hesitate to challenge anyone's belief (any belief , religious or secular) if the issue comes up in class. But I will always try to do it in a respectful way. I teach the evidence for evolution and if someone choose not to accept evolution or be a theistic evolutionist, I have no problem with that. I present the science as best as I can. It's up to people themselves to decide what they want to believe.

I was brought up as a pentecostal christians (no wonder I am atheist now)and have christian friends and family which I hold very dear. Challenge their faith, Yes, but mocking, No!

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:25:00 UTC | #255319

RHR's Avatar Comment 11 by RHR

I don't know the exact numbers, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if what you say is true. My own experience certainly supports it.
Statistics about religious affiliation in Norway can often be a little misleading because of the state church. Quite alot of people are members of it, many of them probably without knowing it. I was babtised so even I am a member of it! You can of course stop being a member, but most people(like myself), don't really bother.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:25:00 UTC | #255318

alabasterocean's Avatar Comment 13 by alabasterocean

Sweden rules!

Made in Sweden, Dennis

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:28:00 UTC | #255320

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 14 by kaiserkriss


Just goes to show that logic CAN overcome ignorance and intolerance.jcw

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:33:00 UTC | #255325

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 15 by Peacebeuponme


Looking at the title I expected to see something about North Korea or China rather than countries with Christian constitutions. Strange that.
We have to compare like with like, so demoracy to democracy, dictatorship to dictatorship.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:35:00 UTC | #255326

jeggers's Avatar Comment 16 by jeggers

14. Comment #268929 by kaiserkriss
I know it was a passing comment but I'd disagree. In recent times surely Scandanavia hasn't been presented with such a challenge. If more aggressive strains of religion get a grip will liberal attitudes allow it to embed itself Da'wah style before the society is forced to lose its spine to save its neck.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:42:00 UTC | #255330

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 17 by nalfeshnee

Looking at the title I expected to see something about North Korea or China rather than countries with Christian constitutions. Strange that.

Interesting point. I went and checked the constitutions of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.


Denmark Danish constitution is fairly "religious", specifying e.g. "The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State." and also "The King shall be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church." Mind you, the "Freedom of Religion" section is excellent: "No person shall for reasons of his creed or descent be deprived of access to complete enjoyment of his civic and political rights, nor shall he for such reasons evade compliance with any common civic duty." Note the last bit!

Sweden is, as far as I can see, utterly secular. No mention of the words "Christian" or "church" in connection with the state. It allows freedom to practice religion and that's it.

Norway is similar to Denmark, stating that "The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same." and "The King shall at all times profess the Evangelical-Lutheran religion, and uphold and protect the same." But it goes further than Denmark. Astonishingly, it also states that "More than half the number of the Members of the Council [i.e. "Cabinet"] of State shall profess the official religion of the State." And, perhaps to be expected, "A Member of the Council of State who does not profess the official religion of the State shall not take part in proceedings on matters which concern the State Church."

Conclusions? Dunno, really.

Basically, though, it seems as though the religiosity of a Constitution has little to do with the interests of its citizens.

My sources:

Those interested in the constitutions of North Korea and China can look here:

Both mention religion far less explicitly, interestingly enough.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:48:00 UTC | #255335

jonaseriksson's Avatar Comment 18 by jonaseriksson

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #255340

Janus's Avatar Comment 19 by Janus

I thought those countries all had a significant Muslim minority.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #255341

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 20 by nalfeshnee

Oh, and my favorite constitution must be the Russian one:

Article 14 [Secularity of the State]

(1) The Russian Federation is a secular state. No religion may be instituted as state-sponsored or mandatory religion.
(2) Religious associations are separated from the state, and are equal before the law.

I wouldn't want to import the whole thing, but I don't think anyone could argue with Article 14 - even if they were religious. In fact, especially if they were.


Wed, 22 Oct 2008 11:59:00 UTC | #255346

blakjack's Avatar Comment 21 by blakjack

RHR wrote from Norway:

[quote]In general I just assume that everyone I meet is non-religious, and...[/quote]

Now that's a very positive attitude that I will try to adopt henceforth. Instead of curbing my tongue for fear of offending sensibilities, maybe I should just say what I think and sod the fact that I might upset someone who follows strange religious myths.


Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:07:00 UTC | #255352

Henri Bergson's Avatar Comment 22 by Henri Bergson

As a quasi-Swede I should like to add a few points (this is the hard truth!):

1. Swedish (and Danish, Norwegian) liberalism comes from its inherited Lutheranism. I.e. Scandinavian liberalism is a legacy of Northern Christianity.

2. This extremist social democratic liberalism is destroying Sweden: it lets in and supports immigrant muslims who are destroying its culture and raping its women (look up the post-immigrant rape stats).

3. All prescriptive morality is a delusion, like religion, and as such is a faith. Utilitarianism, socialism, contractarianism is all bullshit.

4. The Swedes are irreligious yet moral - but their morals are destroying them (being too soft) and are based on nothing and so will ultimately in the long term not be able to sustain itself.

5. Muslim immigrants should be deported from Scandinavia so as to maintain the unique Scandinavian culture.

6. Swedes are thus completely brainwashed in extremist Leftism: I was never given grades for schoolwork as it was deemed immoral to award grades to all pupils in case some did not do so well! Reduction to mediocrity.

7. The vikings must return!!!!

8. Wake up Sweden, smell the coffee, worship THOR and ODIN rather than Trotsky and Marx you bloody wimps! Your viking forefathers would be ashamed of you.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:12:00 UTC | #255358

FatherNature's Avatar Comment 23 by FatherNature

Here's a good article co-authored by Phil Zuckerman called "Why the Gods Are Not Winning".

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:26:00 UTC | #255372

RHR's Avatar Comment 24 by RHR

Not only are you saving yourself the trouble of tiptoeing around the topic of religion, but you're really giving them a compliment by presupposing that they're rational grown-ups who don't belive in fairy-tales.

For me though, it's really just a matter of experience. Especially with young people, the chance of someone in the room actually being religious is small enough to justify not taking any special considerations.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:29:00 UTC | #255377

polestar's Avatar Comment 25 by polestar

All this comment about religion or lack of it may be rather irrelevant to social behaviour, consensus and cohesion: economics is much more important and, particularly, property rights and the rule of law (hence stability), both very strong for centuries in these countries.

As nalfeshnee points out, the Russian Federation (like its Soviet parent) has a secular constitution whereas two of the Scandinavian countries are explicitly Christian - but we all know where we would be safest.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:30:00 UTC | #255378

Janus's Avatar Comment 26 by Janus


I can't figure out which parts of your post are jokes are which parts are not. Please help.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:36:00 UTC | #255384

Henri Bergson's Avatar Comment 27 by Henri Bergson


All is true, but 7 & 8 are speculative!

But I would love to see Marx' face smashed inwards by Thor's hammer, were it possible.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:41:00 UTC | #255389

polestar's Avatar Comment 28 by polestar

As is so often the case, this book and its issues are only interesting or surprising to Americans. Few Western European countries (but some Eastern) care much: even Spain, the real home of Roman Catholicism, has church attendance around 3 per cent, about the same as France or England.

The Muslim issue is a separate one but is the one that matters: it is a genuine, current, active and internal threat that has already undermined freedom of speech, the rule of law and national security in the UK. I very much liked jeggers's line (16. Comment #268934) about losing your spine to save your neck.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:41:00 UTC | #255390

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 29 by Peacebeuponme


Utilitarianism, socialism, contractarianism is all bullshit.
So how should we go about things?

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:45:00 UTC | #255393

jeggers's Avatar Comment 30 by jeggers

Comment #268994 by polestar

believe me i'm not the first to use that phrase. some daniel harris fella used it in a well received sermon.

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 12:47:00 UTC | #255394