Sunday, March 01, 2009

When Atheism Is the Norm

 
The Friendly Atheist has posted an interesting comment on what's it's like to live in Denmark or Sweden [What Happens When Atheism is the Norm Instead of the Exception?].

His comments are based on a recent article in The New York Times that discussed that topic [Scandanavian Nonbelievers, Which Is Not to Say Atheists].
Anyone who has paid attention knows that Denmark and Sweden are among the least religious nations in the world. Polls asking about belief in God, the importance of religion in people’s lives, belief in life after death or church attendance consistently bear this out.

It is also well known that in various rankings of nations by life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality, standard of living and competitiveness, Denmark and Sweden stand in the first tier.

Well documented though they may be, these two sets of facts run up against the assumption of many Americans that a society where religion is minimal would be, in Mr. Zuckerman’s words, “rampant with immorality, full of evil and teeming with depravity.”

Which is why he insists at some length that what he and his wife and children experienced was quite the opposite: “a society — a markedly irreligious society — that was, above all, moral, stable, humane and deeply good.”
This is a very important issue. You should read the article by Peter Steinfels and the posting by Hemant Mehta. I often encounter otherwise intelligent people who try to tell me that religion is here to stay—it will never disappear. Those people really need to get out more. We already have societies today where religion, and belief in God, are minority views.

As you might imagine, there won't be too many attempts to teach creationism in Danish and Swedish schools. That's not because their courts are good at keeping religion out of the schools, it's because the hearts and minds of the people have changed. Rationalism is winning over superstition.

It could happen in America. I think it is happening.


5 comments :

  1. I hope you're right about religion losing its grip, but it's hard to see where I live in the deep south.

    I'm surrounded by people who can't even have a coffee together without holding hands and mumbling to their sky fairy.

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  2. So, Larry, you believe in convergent evolution and the notion that human-like intelligence is "inevitable," given that it has evolved once? If not, why do you think cultural evolution will inevitably lead to more societies where religion and belief in God are minority views (even assuming the evolutionary psychologists are wrong and religion is not genetically favored)?

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  3. John's right - what makes you think we're going in Sweden's direction? They are a different culture. Other cultures are moving in other directions. One thing I think will always exist though, and that is: conflict and change. And without those two things, you'd have a boring blog anyway ;)

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  4. 1) He didn't say it is inevitable.

    2) He said that his opinion is that it is happening. I tend to agree, simply due to the rapid increase of out and out atheists, evolutionists, etc. There are many pieces of data we could look at to see a general leftward movement. However, I also think it could just as easily slide backward. That is - I wouldn't find myself shocked to find such a thing.

    The key behind my own opinion is that I believe that robust education (not in facts, but in critical thinking) inevitably leads to less religiosity, and certainly less fervent religiosity.

    But one can easily see how badly our education is broken here in the US, and how it could swing either way.

    Regardless - his point is that non-belief in a supernatural being does not equal immorality.

    Just my humble 2 cents...

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  5. anonymous asks,

    John's right - what makes you think we're going in Sweden's direction? They are a different culture. Other cultures are moving in other directions.

    If "we" refers to Canada, then we have evidence. Evidence is good when you're making claims.

    The percentage of people who don't believe in God has risen from about 2% in the early 70s to over 20% today.

    You can see a similar trend in the Northern States in the USA.

    When it comes to changes in society (gay rights, gun control, capital punishment, assisted suicide, abortion, good public education, birth control, universal health care, civil rights, social assistance, anti-militarism, legalization of marijuana, metric system) the USA may change more slowly but eventually it does catch up with the other Western industrialized nations.

    I don't see why it should be any different with religion. Do you?

    Do you think that American society will drift more toward those in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran instead of Canada, France, and Sweden?

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