Peter Steinfels writes all about it in The New York Times.
Phil Zuckerman spent 14 months in Scandinavia, talking to hundreds of Danes and Swedes about religion. It wasn’t easy.
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.
Zuckerman writes all about his findings in the book Society Without God.
How weird is this alternate non-religious universe?
Thoughtful, well-educated Danes and Swedes reacted to Mr. Zuckerman’s basic questions about God, Jesus, death and so on as completely novel. “I really have never thought about that,” one of his interviewees answered, adding, “It’s been fun to get these kinds of questions that I never, never think about.”
This indifference or obliviousness to religious matters was sometimes subtly enforced. “In Denmark,” a pastor told Mr. Zuckerman, “the word ‘God’ is one of the most embarrassing words you can say. You would rather go naked through the city than talk about God.”
One man recounted the shock he felt when a colleague, after a few drinks, confessed to believing in God. “I hope you don’t feel I’m a bad person,” the colleague pleaded.
Are you shitting me? This is so not fair. In my world, religion has the power and we still have to argue about evolution and gay marriage.
We find out that Scandinavia was “a society — a markedly irreligious society — that was, above all, moral, stable, humane and deeply good.” We find out “many of his interviewees spoke of death, without fear or anxiety, and their notable lack of existential searching for any ultimate meaning of life.”
They didn’t like the word “atheist,” though. And why would they? Why would they need a word to describe something that is so obvious to everyone? It’s what Sam Harris was alluding to a couple years ago in his remarks at the Atheist Alliance International conference when he said we need to drop the “a-word” label.
Scandinavia has kept some of the cultural aspects of religion — baptisms and marriages in church — but without any of the superstitious beliefs that go along with them. I’m ok with that.
How long will it take for America to become more like Sweden and Denmark? (And why do I even have to ask that question?)
(via Secular Right)