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Thread: Book recommendation: Society without God

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    Thumbs up Book recommendation: Society without God

    In the US, many people believe that a "society without God" would be full of immorality, chaos, crime, murders and rapes. In other words, hell on earth! Most Americans wouldn't vote for an atheist as president, as they doubt the morality of atheists.

    The Scandinavian countries are among the most prosperous and have some of the lowest crime and murder rates in the world. So an American would think that the Scandinavian must be very god-fearing, since they have so peaceful and well-functioning societies. But that is not the case! On the contrary, the Scandinavian countries are the most secular in the world. Less than 30% of the Danes believe in God, and only 12% go to church once a month or more.

    The American sociologist Phil Zuckerman moved to Denmark and lived there for a year, studying the Scandinavian societies for his book "Society without God". He found out that a society can be extremely civilized, even though it's very irreligious, which may be a big shock for most Americans.
    Quote from the book:

    ----

    "The United States is arguably the most religious Western democracy. Denmark and Sweden are arguably the least religious Western democracies. Isn't it strange and rather noteworthy, then, that it is in proudly religious America that guns are plentiful (especially handguns and semiautomatic assault weapons), the penal system is harsh and punitive, the death penalty is meted out on a weekly basis, drug addicts are treated like criminals, millions of children and pregnant mothers lack basic health insurance, millions of elderly people go without proper care, social workers are underpaid and overworked, people suffering from mental illness are left festering on city streets, and the highest levels of poverty of all the industrialized democracies is here.
    But in relatively irreligious Denmark and Sweden-two nations that most Americans would consider fairly "godless-guns are nowhere to be found; the penal system is admirably humane, merciful, and rehabilitative; the death penalty has long been abolished; drug addicts are treated as human beings in need of medical and/or psychological treatment; every man, woman, and child has access to excellent health care; the elderly receive the finest care; social workers are well-paid and given manageable case loads; people suffering from mental illness are given first-class treatment; and the country boasts the lowest levels of poverty of all the industrialized democracies. I wondered how and why this is so."

    ----

    In addition to that, I recommend this radio interview with the author: (I'm sorry, I can't post URLs yet)

    Part 1 on YouTube
    Part 2 on YouTube

    I strongly recommend this book to anybody, who are interested in how a godless society can be well-functioning and civilized. Especially Americans could learn a lot from this book!

    Buy the book here

    So do you think the Scandinavian countries are successful BECAUSE they are secular, or is it just a coincidence? Does a society always need religion, as many Americans would say, in order to be a moral society? I doubt it. Scandinavians live happily without God.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 25-11-09 at 20:40. Reason: links

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    I agree with you. Another good example is Japan. Very few Japanese people really believe in God. Buddhism doesn't have a god in the European sense of the word. Shintoism has spirits of Nature, of which there are millions and which have no particular power. So the vast majority of the Japanese could be considered (weak) atheists, and Japan could very well be the safest and most peaceful country in the world.

    Overall, most of Europe (Balkans excluded) has a much lower crime rate than the USA, and Europeans overall believe much less in god and are much less religious than Americans.

    The most religious and god-fearing countries tend to be the most violent and war-prone. Look at the Middle East and Africa...
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCaptain View Post
    In the US, many people believe that a "society without God" would be full of immorality, chaos, crime, murders and rapes.
    These views really piss me off every time I come up against them. The most common being atheists are immoral. The strange thing is give bible thumping zealots the real statistics they always go quiet. One of the best are divorce rates in the US, atheists and jews have the lowest. The highest are for Born Again Evangelicals. give them that little stat and the silence is deafening. Reality is something these people can't seem to handle.

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    These conclusions are based on the understandably attractive premise that religious adherence bestows on a person, in some way, an automatic and immediate ability to become better than everyone else. Such a premise is based on a superficial understanding of what it is that people actually do when they adhere to a religion. To take the example of Christianity, which is the only religion I know anything much about, I would have said that it would be very rare to find a Christian who claimed themselves to be automatically better or more moral than others, just because they are Christians. Indeed it is one the central factors of their faith that they expressly do not put themselves "above" others, but rather put themselves in the service of others. They are, of course, expected to try to improve the quality of their lives, and to build relationships based on love, trust and virtue, but it should not come as any surprise if they sometimes fail.

    The attraction of religion is that it can often be a really fun activity, where you get to meet and relate to all kinds of nice people, and you also get to have a relationship with God, which is an experience that is second to none.

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    Technically There are many society's living Without God and functioning well much better than ours ! However do not mistake it its not becuse they resent God but becuse they're tought to respect the authorities and order. Look at Japan for example Japanese society is peacufull well disciplinised and strongly organised Their Authorities have full potentials and are extremelly strong and respected. However its not becuse of the God but more exactly becuse of the cultural impact their programs have !
    Typical US teen rated content shows us that In order to be a worth living we need money our individual value dosen't matter unless its in our pocket money can be achived
    by work but only loosers do it heroes steal it couragessly defying law and order ! Smart students are geeks its better to break your neck while doing stunts on a skateboard then to be a geek becuse a geek is a looser ! A SUBHUMAN !
    SEX IS OK ITS PERMITTED IN FACT IF YOU DON'T HAVE SEX YOU'RE EITHER WEIRD SICK OR A COMPLEET UGLY LOOSER ! YOU SHOULD BE A SEX MACHO or A SEX BLONDINE IF YOU'RE NOT LIKE THAT YOU DON'T MATTER !!!

    TYPICAL Japanese content shows a superheroe a demon sometimes trying its hard and best to live a normal human life to be accepted into a society imagen this Vampire Girl trying to make friends in school not sucking everyone from blood a monster does not create a stupid masacre but lives peacufully sometimes defying its own kind but showing us true things even a badguy there isn't completely bad they're are killings but not masacres a vilian reframse from killing a child !

    Its just simple why Japanese are more respectfull to their authorities than US
    Wanna knowwhy Scandinavians are like that look at their Tv content you won't find druggs ,sex abuse like in other Eropean countries where people actually understand what Morality means play Witcher ! If you can you will understand !

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    Would good economics not be more important for a civil society than the general populace belief in God? Take Norway for example a large geographical land mass with plenty of natural resources, relatively small population and energy self sufficient. They can afford to stay outside The Eu Union and provide a very high standard of living to their citizens. Should the oil run out will people turn to God?

    I have no doubt that religious people have committed massacres throughout world history but are any on the scale as our more recent atheists, Hitler, Stalin or Mao?

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    Yes, economy trumps everything; economy gives us full belly, electricity and computers, so we can waste our time posting here. :)
    Take away economy and the world is collapsing and we are back in caves. We still would have religion though, and a government even if it’s one guy.
    Actually the best times for Europe started when capitalism showed up, and now free global market. It took time and some evolution of capitalism to fully blossom, but hey life is good now.
    No religion, charities, believes, emperors, political and other economic systems, etc, did so much for human kind as capitalism and science combine. Thanks to big production of goods, high GDPs, we can enjoy prosperous lives. We don't need to attack other countries to get their gold, food and slaves to improve our lives, we just produce. Thanks to production we all can have homes, cars, toys, clothes, food, etc. We can afford social services for the unfortunate, health care, and there is still enough to send to the poor in other countries. Why would anyone want to go to war with full belly and life rich in pleasures?
    But if someone comes to my country to take it away, I will kill.
    Cheers

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    Blaze Master, be careful what you wish for! Can you name to very disciplined nations that started WWII? Obviously it's so much easier to manipulate disciplined people into doing mas genocides, order is order. And what was the rebellious nation that save world's but?
    Also do you know what country the most successful and richest geeks come from?
    And yes, they were rebellious too, they succeeded in spite of old establishments. Maybe rebellious means creative too. Maybe we need a healthy balance between discipline and creativity to be the most successful?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    And what was the rebellious nation that save world's but?
    You have me confused. Are you talking about the French or the Brits ? The French are definitely the most rebellious (the kind of people who take the street in protest every time they have a slight disagreement with their elected representatives), but the Brits are more individualistic, free-thinking and eccentric.

    I suppose that you were actually referring to the Americans. But I cannot think of a stricter, more rule-obsessed police society than the US in today's developed world. Where else do cops stop your car when you are driving slightly above the speed limit, and sometimes go as far as doing a full body search and car search ? Where else than in the States do restaurants and bars strictly apply the minimum drinking age ? Where else will they send you to jail for possession of cannabis or having sex with a hooker ? Sorry but that's not a free and rebellious society. That's a psychotic, hyper-controlled police state.

    I have been to both China and the USA and I can tell you that I felt less threatened by the police in China.

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    lol, I have a feeling that you only posted this to show your displeasure with USA, and probably bordering with phobia. If we only knew what they did to you...
    Writing "rebellious nation" regarding USA, as probably you realise, I meant compering to Japan, Germany, Sweden, and by no means I meant the most rebellious of western countries. And it's good for them, as I said the most important is a healthy balance between order and rebellious, and it worked to them beautifully for last 200 years.
    I'm not saying the USA is perfect, and it never will be. But don't make the perfection an enemy of the good. In whatever way their country is different than yours, that just makes life more interesting, but at least they proved that they've done something that works well. To build prosperous, strongest and most influential country in the world is not a small thing. So if Americans glow a bit more than others with pride, and it bothers you a lot, than it's only your problem to deal with.

    You said:
    "That's a psychotic, hyper-controlled police state." referring to USA
    I advise you to read book Gulag by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksan...ol%C5%BEenicyn
    I'm pretty sure, after finishing it, you'll be honest enough to come back here and tell us how wrong you were.

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    lol, I have a feeling that you only posted this to show your displeasure with USA, and probably bordering with phobia. If we only knew what they did to you.
    I like many American things, and I admit that most of them come from or are related to California and New York. But when I see the high level of religiosity in the States, especially in the countryside and everywhere in the South, I feel that this isn't a modern nation but a medieval one, closer to Yemen and Afghanistan than Europe or Japan (no wonder that the US' foes are countries such as Afghanistan ).

    I am appalled at the low level of education of people in the world in general, but when I compared industrialised nations, the most ignorant people I have met were all American (ok, the Australians and Japanese are often not very knowledgeable about things beyond their own borders, but at least they don't pretend to teach other countries how they should rule themselves).

    I am quite annoyed (and dismayed) when Americans claim that their country is freer or more democratic than the rest of the world, especially towards Europeans. Unfortunately you see this kind of behaviour all the time on the Internet. It's not just people like Bush who think like that, but the average citizen too (usually those that have never set foot outside America).

    Almost everybody here had a good opinion of the USA and Americans until the 1980's or 90's. Things started to change when Americans became arrogant, kept reminding the French, or Belgian, or Dutch or Brit that they helped them in WWII, forgot that France never lost to Germany in WWI (I hear so often Americans claim that the French lost to Germany in WWI and that the USA liberated the country, which is total bullshit, as the US almost didn't do anything in WWI).



    Writing "rebellious nation" regarding USA, as probably you realise, I meant compering to Japan, Germany, Sweden, and by no means I meant the most rebellious of western countries.
    Since when is Japan a western country, and since when aren't France and Britain ? Americans aren't as independent-minded as northern Europeans. I have travelled enough as a backpacker to know that Americans almost always travel in organised tours with other Americans and almost never on their own. Even the Japanese are less group-oriented. When travelling around Australia, for instance, I met hundreds and hundreds of European backpackers in their late teens, twenties, thirties, and some even retired, but only one American girl, and that is because she travelled with her boyfriend who was German. This is not because Australia is nearer to Europe (the US is nearer) or Americans have more difficult to get visas, or because Americans speak less well English than your average Dutch or Scandinavian (well, now that I think about it ). It's because Americans are lost when they leave their country.

    At home Americans are much more sociable than northern Europeans. They speak to strangers in queues (sorry, lines), in lifts (sorry, elevators), in cafés, and so on. Here only beggars and sales people accost strangers in the street.

    Then there is the problem of poverty. I have actually been to the US a few times, in addition to reading a lot about the country and seeing it from every angle on TV. It's hard to believe that some people can be so destitute. Between 13 to 17% of Americans live below the poverty line. In some countries in the South and Midwest, it exceeds 40% !! Can you believe that ? In Europe we would call that ghettoes for African immigrants or war refugees. Unfortunately poverty strongly correlates with religiousness, ignorance and violence.



    And it's good for them, as I said the most important is a healthy balance between order and rebellious, and it worked to them beautifully for last 200 years.
    Beautifully, huh ? In light of what I have said above you might want to paraphrase that.


    I'm not saying the USA is perfect, and it never will be. But don't make the perfection an enemy of the good.
    On my scale of perfection, the average for the USA is lower than almost anywhere in Europe outside the Balkans. If California, New York or the 6 New England states were independent they would be the in the Western European league. But that's just a tiny part of America. Alabama would rank closer to Kosovo or Lebanon.


    In whatever way their country is different than yours, that just makes life more interesting, but at least they proved that they've done something that works well. To build prosperous, strongest and most influential country in the world is not a small thing.
    Most prosperous and influential ? That's only a matter of size. If you count the EU as a single country, the GDP is considerably higher than the USA. In terms of general influence (politics, medicine, fashion, arts, cuisine, sports, etc.) just Western Europe easily beats the USA.

    So if Americans glow a bit more than others with pride, and it bothers you a lot, than it's only your problem to deal with.
    If it was justified I would be fined with it. But when someone who lives in a rickety wooden house (you know, those that get blown away whenever a hurricane comes), refers to the Bible all the time, doesn't speak a single foreign language (and write a sentence in English without spelling mistakes), can't name the capital of Finland (or most Us states, come to that) and is grossly overweight, start telling me how American lifestyle is so much superior to anybody else... well, first you are in disbelief, but after a hundred times it can get on your nerves, believe me. It's just like when a Jehovah witness rings at the door to try to convert you. You know that it's no need to try to argue with them because they will never be able to understand why they have no chance of convincing you.

    You said:
    "That's a psychotic, hyper-controlled police state." referring to USA
    I advise you to read book Gulag by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksan...ol%C5%BEenicyn
    I'm pretty sure, after finishing it, you'll be honest enough to come back here and tell us how wrong you were.
    Cheers
    I know the USA better than most Americans. Not only can I name all the states and draw a nice US map from memory, but I have studied in details enough statistics about differences between states, from the ancestry and language variations across states to the GSP, unemployment rate, church attendance rate, and hundreds of other socio-economic factors. And I can compare them with other countries. You will say that statistics is not the same as knowing the country first-hand. But I have been there and talked to hundreds (thousands ?) of Americans in my life. In fact I probably know better the US than many European countries, despite all the things I have already written on this website about Europe.

    And how comes you defend so much the USA when you are a Pole living in Canada ? When is the last time you went to Europe ? What do you know besides communist-era Poland ? (which I admit was much worse than even Alabama, although things have been improving fast in recent years)

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    LeBrok, our discussion reminded me of a passage of Bill Bryson's book The Lost Continent. While easting at a restaurant in Idaho, he overheard the conversation at the next table between a Swedish exchange student and her host family. At one point they asked the Swedish girl whether she preferred Sweden or America. Although embarrassed, she answered 'Sweden', to the dismay ans surprises of the Americans.

    Bill Bryson, who is himself from Iowa, then explains : "People in middle America always ask that question. When you grow up in America you are inculcated from the earliest age with the belief - no, the understanding - that America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth because God likes us best."

    I think that it says it all about the way most Americans feel about their country as opposed to the rest of the world. But he carries on : "It has the most perfect form of government, the most exciting sporting events, the tastiest food, the amplest portions, the largest cars, the cheapest gasoline, the most abundant natural resources, the most productive farms, the most devastating nuclear arsenal, and the friendliest, most decent and most patriotic folks on Earth. Countries just don't come any better. So why anyone would want to live anywhere else is practically incomprehensible. In a foreigner it is puzzling; in a native seditious. I used to feel this way myself. In high school I shared a locker with a Dutch exchange student and I remember him asking me one day in a peevish tone why everybody, absolutely everybody, wanted him to like America better than the Netherlands. 'Holland is my home', he said. 'Why can't people understand that it's where I want to live?' "

    Bill Bryson of course moved out of the US because he realised that the UK is a much better place to live. He did go back to the US after 20 years of living in England, and write Notes from a Big Country, where from the beginning to the end he keeps ranting about how awful everything is in the States. His English wife even asked him to tone down his criticism while he was writing. But he admits that while growing up in Iowa he thought that America was simply the greatest place on earth. Easy thing to say when you don't know anything else.

    It's true that American serve the amplest portions of food, but the tastiest would only be true if you grew up in Tibet or Mali. American cars are indeed the largest, but they are so bad that they don't sell much outside America. Apart from the Ford models redesigned for Europe, you hardly ever see American cars in Europe. The Japanese make excellent cars, but they do import a lot European cars too - and almost never American ones. GM is now filing for bankruptcy, and it is not just the economic crisis (in fact, other car makers in Europe, Japan or Korea are doing fine now). The US only has cheaper gasoline than Europe and Japan because its tax level is lower. Go to Indonesia or Egypt, or about any developing country, and gasoline will be cheaper. Hardly a thing to be proud of when global warming is on everybody's agenda.

    Sports is also an amusing topic of comparison. I find it odd that Americans should be such huge sports fans, dedicate so much free time to watch it, and yet the most popular American sports are pretty much confined to the States, as if the immense American cultural influence over the world left everyone else immune to the joys and merriments of American football or IndyCar racing. Soccer is popular all over the world except in the USA. Formula One, which has been the top-rank racing event in Europe, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Japan for decades, did not please Americans (because they didn't have any good pilots ?), so the US withdrew. Since then, F1 has taken over the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore and China. Only Americans live in their own little world, playing all by themselves. Only Baseball managed to get a bit of international attention, thanks in part to Japan who fell in love with it 100 years ago. Ice Hockey, tennis, golf, athletics, etc. are European sports that became popular in the USA, not the opposite. Even basketball is Canadian originally. I have been an NHL fan myself as a teenager, but although it takes place mostly in the States, it can hardly be considered American when over 80% of the players are European or Canadian and the two best teams are Canadian (Montreal and Toronto).
    Last edited by Maciamo; 02-12-09 at 13:47.

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    Basketball was invented by a Canadian, but he was living in Massachucetts at the time. Hence both the US and Canadians often argue about whose game it is.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_basketball

    I don't understand the obsession with baseball, once discribed to me by one of my Canadian cousins as the most boring game on the planet, as it is a boring game to watch, and I occassionally watch cricket!

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    Maciamo, I appreciate you taking time to write very long responses. You either like me and want to pull me to the “good side” or you just love writing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    And how comes you defend so much the USA when you are a Pole living in Canada ? When is the last time you went to Europe ? What do you know besides communist-era Poland ? (which I admit was much worse than even Alabama, although things have been improving fast in recent years)


    For the balance of things Maciamo, for the healthy balance. I find your posts regarding USA, in many threads, influenced by negative emotions to this country. Even when you compare USA to Europe, you dwell mostly on negative aspects of USA with longer descriptions, when all positives (and you not getting too creative to find many) are just mentioned. I got the impression, reading USA related posts, that the America is so culturally different that it can be barely tolerated (as sort of weird friend), and it doesn’t compare much to culturally advanced Europe. Maybe you don’t realize but you are quite Eurocentric, and I mean it literally. When you compare USA to Europe, by Europe you mean: Belgium, France, and Germany. Europe is so diverse North/South, West/East that you have to generalize or exaggerate to create some uniform profile. I don’t need to go on limp to say that USA has more similarities with Great Britain than Belgium with Albania or Russia.

    I know you are a very logical person and I admire your analyses in many threads. But when it comes to USA something is not right. I have a feeling that it is just sentimental for you and fashionable thing for most others to do. Most people in Canada don’t like USA like most in Europe. Funny thing is that most of them can’t express clearly why!
    Most likely it’s a psychological phenomenon than anything else. Not many like a proud Goliath type thing.

    Once again, I don’t mind anyone criticizing anything. I love reading different points of view on any subject. I cherish analyzing pros and cons, causes and effects, and statistics.
    I also like giving dues when dues is earned and valid, and it is true in USA case.

    Regards

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    For the balance of things Maciamo, for the healthy balance. I find your posts regarding USA, in many threads, influenced by negative emotions to this country. Even when you compare USA to Europe, you dwell mostly on negative aspects of USA with longer descriptions, when all positives (and you not getting too creative to find many) are just mentioned.
    ...
    I know you are a very logical person and I admire your analyses in many threads. But when it comes to USA something is not right. I have a feeling that it is just sentimental for you and fashionable thing for most others to do.
    I just adapt to my interlocutor. You obviously seem to know everything about the positive side of the USA, so why should I waste my time mentioning everything, when there is more than the negative side ? As you said, my replies are already long enough.

    But don't be fooled, I do know what is good in the USA. I guess my point was more: there are two USA, the developed coastal areas (Lakes included), and the backwards countryside, especially the Bible Belt. Whatever you say the difference between New York and rural Mississippi are as big as between, say London and Albania in Europe. But you live in Canada, right, that's a long from away from Mississippi, so you may have no idea what I am talking about.

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