Skip to comments.If McCain wins, should we all move to Scandinavia? (atheist alert)
Posted on 10/22/2008 5:18:01 AM PDT by RDTF
Imagine the unimaginable: Todd Palin picking out curtain patterns for the vice-presidential mansion. In such an eventuality, whither shall we flee?
Four years ago, Democrats made a lot of noise about Canada, but as political statements go, there's not much sting to "I'm so mad at America I'm going to move a few degrees of latitude northward." Tina Fey has suggested we leave Earth altogether, but at the risk of reviving a discredited rubric, I'd like to propose a "third way." Actually, I'll let sociologist Phil Zuckerman propose it. In "Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment," he tells of a magical land where life expectancy is high and infant mortality low, where wealth is spread and genders live in equity, where happy, fish-fed citizens score high in every quality-of-life index: economic competitiveness, healthcare, environmental protection, lack of corruption, educational investment, technological literacy ... well, you get the idea.
To a certain jaded sensibility, what makes Scandinavia particularly magical is what it lacks. "There is no national anti-gay rights movement," writes Zuckerman, "there are no 'Jesus fish' imprinted on advertisements in the yellow pages, there are no school boards or school administrators who publicly doubt the evidence for human evolution ... there are no religiously inspired 'abstinence only' sex education curricula ... there are no parental groups lobbying schools and city councils to remove Harry Potter books from school and public libraries ... there are no restaurants that include Bible verses on their menus and placemats, there are no 'Faith Nights' at national sporting events ..."
Not to put too fine a point on it, there's no God. At least none that would pass muster with evangelical Americans. As few as 24 percent of Danes and as few as 16 percent of Swedes believe in a personal deity. (In America, that figure is close to 90 percent.) In Scandinavia, belief in life after death hovers in the low 30 percent range, as opposed to 81 percent in America. Some 82 percent of Danes and Swedes believe in evolution, while roughly 10 percent believe in hell. Their rate of weekly church attendance is among the lowest on Earth.
"The notion that religious belief is childish, that earnest prayer is something that only children engage in, and that faith in God is just something that one dabbles with in childhood, but eventually grows out of as one becomes a mature adult, would strike most Americans as offensive," writes Zuckerman. "But for millions of Scandinavians, that's just the way it is."
To speak true, Zuckerman's research boils down to 149 formal interviews, conducted entirely in Denmark and Sweden (and mostly in English), and his convenience-sample methodology -- talking "to whomever I could in whatever social situations I found myself" -- greatly limits his ability to extrapolate from his findings. Still, in his own impressionistic fashion, Zuckerman (who has explored the sociology of religion in two previous books) has managed to show what nonbelief looks like when it's "normal, regular, mainstream, common." And he's gone at least partway to proving the central thesis of his book: "Religious faith -- while admittedly widespread -- is not natural or innate to the human condition. Nor is religion a necessary ingredient for a healthy, peaceful, prosperous, and ... deeply good society."
This will come as a surprise to cultural conservatives, who for a long time have pointed baleful fingers at the atheist dictatorships of Albania, North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union. But as Zuckerman argues, there is a significant difference between imposing atheism from above and absorbing it from below. The majority of Scandinavians, he writes, "stopped being religious of their own volition." It may be they never started. Although Christianity was first introduced to Sweden and Denmark in the 800s, it took centuries to become fully entrenched, and given that this process was shaped less by missionary work than by royal fiat, Zuckerman questions whether Danes and Swedes were ever truly as devout as some of their European brethren.
As for faith being the cornerstone of personal morality, Zuckerman would remind us that Scandinavians rank near the top in charitable giving to poor nations, that their murder rate is among the lowest in the world and that the safety net they've created for their poorest citizens puts the U.S. welfare state to shame. And all this has been accomplished without God breathing down anyone's neck.
Indeed, the baldly secular outlook Scandinavians take toward their own deaths rivals Zeno for stoicism. "I think we will be earth, you know," a Danish woman tells Zuckerman. "I don't think anything will happen." "It is as it is," says a 75-year-old Stockholm publisher. "You just have to live every day," says a 43-year-old father of two, "and make nice days."
And to judge from Zuckerman's reportage, there's nothing but nice days in Scandinavia. A simple walk through a Danish town becomes a romp through Arcadia: "I saw beautiful women and handsome men walking about. I saw children holding hands and chatting with one another ... I noticed a few seagulls fluttering above an expressive mural of a colorful mermaid painted on the side of an old building ... The water was calm, moving steadily out to the nearby harbor and then on into the sea."
Even the water, apparently, is calmer. Zuckerman isn't quite so eager to bring up the dark undercurrents of Scandinavian life: dismal weather, a heavy tax burden, low fertility, high alcoholism, a suicide rate twice that of America. (Maybe godlessness has its downsides?) Nor does he spend a lot of time wondering how the placidity of Scandinavia's insular and homogenous societies will bear up under the influx of highly religious non-Western immigrants.
As for the Nordic worldview that Zuckerman describes variously as "gentle agnosticism" ("No, I don't believe in God ... but I do believe in something"), "benign indifference" and "comfortable blankness," I see a rather profound incuriosity. To judge from Zuckerman's dispatches, Scandinavians are not so much agnostic or atheistic as congenitally skittish around the topic of religion. "You can do whatever you want," says one Danish man, "just you keep it to yourself." "In Denmark," a pastor remarks, "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 needn't be a Christian to wonder: Are Scandinavians really in the vanguard of religious thought? Or have they simply sealed themselves off from it? I can certainly understand wanting to step inside their bubble -- or else have some of it blow across the Atlantic. Imagine living in a nation where presidents don't sprinkle rhetorical holy water on their wars, where the average citizen declines to believe that Noah's Ark is a historical event, where the term "intelligent design" can be entirely expunged from civilized discourse.
Well, we'll have to imagine it because America will never be that country. And Zuckerman has come up with some good reasons why: our Puritan ancestry; the increased religiosity associated with immigrants and the poor; the mad proliferation of faiths that forces churches to compete for worshippers. In my mind, there's a larger reason. Despite the religious skepticism of our Founding Fathers, the exceptionalism that has marked America's character from the start has always demanded divine corroboration. Take away God, and our destiny doesn't look quite so manifest. The shining city on a hill becomes just another city, just another hill.
Not all atheists are flaming Leftists. :)
If Obama wins, the Czech Republic might look pretty good.
I’m looking at Switzerland.
If any on the left wishes to emigrate to Scandinavia after they lose the election:
Use the remaining cash in the bailout program to pay the moving expenses, it is a better long term use of the money for the health of this country.
No mention of gang rapes by imported muslims
Guess the author missed that part of Scandinavia
IF only these whining socialists would actually keep their word and get the hell out of the country like they promised the last two presidential elections ...
I wonder why he didn’t mention the fact that the Mohammedan fiends have pretty much taken over most of Scandinavia. Government policies, generally, are designed to suppress expressions of faith - except, of course, the faith of The One.
I staying right here.........God closes a door but opens a window...we just gotta find it.........with all due respects to my athiest bothers and sisters ;)!!
Iceland is having a going out of business sale.
The American Left: We believe in tolerance, to the extent that we accept porn in our libraries for schoolchildren, homosexual marriage, and partial-birth abortion. We believe that women can do anything at all in the workplace, and that they should be allowed to rise just as high as men there. We teach our children that "Hate is not a family value." And we respect the "differentially enabled."
Then, we turn around and make the husband of a potential womyn vice-president sound like a mincing in interior decorator because we think we can score some points with it, in one fell swoop attacking the homosexual lifestyle, working women, and a mom who struggles to hold down a demanding job and also support her handicapped child, along with the rest of her family.
The American Left: Equal rights for all, except for the people we hate.
He’s confused on “God” versus “Jesus.”
North Korea has no Jesus. I wonder why he didn’t use that nation as a shining example.
In China there’s no Jesus. You’ll find little baby girls dead on the street because they weren’t wanted.
Stalin had no Jesus. I hear that was a wonderful place to live.
And Cuba is paradise I hear.
The list of nations with no Jesus goes on and on. Iran has God.....but no Jesus. Iran is a wonderful place to live I hear.
And pretty much all the Muslim (No Jesus) countries.
So lump in countries with no Jesus as being the same as countries with no God and that’s what you have. The worse places to live in the world.
I wonder why he didn’t mention any of those nations.
My wife keeps asking me where we will go if Obama wins. I keep telling her I won’t give up my country.
The left SAYS that “open mindedness” is a virtue.
Sorry, but I’m not “opening” my mind to lies, like “homosexual lifestyles are equivalent or superior to heterosexual lifestyles” or “abortion simply removes some unwanted tissue”.
If I stay, he will not be my president nor will I ever refer to him as president. I am not going to gird my loins for him either. I am going to view and treat him the same way the left viewed and treated Bush for 8 years.
How do you have “unalienable rights endowed by our Creator” if there’s no Creator?
At that point, rights come from a consensus agreement of man, and that can be redefined at any time by changing that consensus. That is liberalism, not conservatism.
Yes he will be the enemy.