Sociologist Phil Zuckerman believes that religion is not necessary to a moral society. His reasoning is based upon 14 months spent in Scandanavia, one of the least religious portions of the Western world. Here he found people generally not afraid of death, content with their lives, and “life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality, standard of living and competitiveness” all near the top of First World nations.
The article is very interesting. The people do not consider themselves atheists; most were baptized and married in the state church. Yet they do not think about the nature of God, Heaven, and Hell, finding such topics embarrassing to discuss. They further do not care much about life’s meaning, which Zuckert claims negates an often-stated opinion that men are naturally and unstoppably religious.
However, the article seems to gloss over hard questions. The people still consider themselves Christians, though they deny most of the basic doctrines of the faith. The author even describes their position as a “cultural religion.” The article then closes with this quote from a native: “We are Lutherans in our souls — I’m an atheist, but still have the Lutheran perceptions of many: to help your neighbor. Yeah. It’s an old, good, moral thought.” Though it is not truly Christianity, this society seems to have more basic religious thought than reported.
Both Zuckert and the article’s author seem to not understand the claim that men are inherently religious. Just because we feel the desire to worship does not mean we will do so toward a “god” properly understood. Romans 1 tells us how men’s sin-tinged desire to worship can make anything into a god. The absence of thought about God and the afterlife do not mean a lack of religion. Instead, one would likely find a belief grounded in the material things of the here and now and a deity no farther away than one’s own mirror.
Their moral behavior also has Biblical explanations. The Law is written on all our hearts. Even worship of self through some form of humanism could result in people treating each other with some amount of dignity. And the small but remaining influence of the church and the invocation of the Golden Rule show that Christianity’s influence might be small and contorted but not entirely gone.
This article doesn’t prove men can live without religion. It just shows the lengths they can and will go to run from the true God.