Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Society without God – the Swedish Myth

[the flag of Sweden, with Nordic Cross]

When one discusses ethics and morality with atheists, one issue that often comes up is Sweden. Sweden is a country with a low rate of religious observance (few than 10% churchgoers) yet at the same time a low crime rate – about 1 murder per 100,000 people per year.

Based upon this we have clear proof that “you don’t need God to be good”.

Or do we?

Sweden was fully Christianized by 1150. The 1904 New International Encyclopedia noted that in Sweden religion was taught in State schools under prominent control of the clergy. Until 1950, it was illegal to live in Sweden and not be officially associated with any religion. Until 2000, Sweden had an official state church. It is safe to say that the grandparents of the average Swede were devout Lutherans and his earlier ancestors were Christians for 800 years. The Swedes have inherited a strong tradition of Lutheran ethics, including the prohibitions against murder and theft. Whether that will change as more time goes by, what Sweden will look like in another few generations, we will have to wait and see.

A better example of a society free from God would probably be North Korea. A minority of North Koreans converted to Christianity mainly between 1881 and 1948. Beyond that North Koreans have no experience with monotheism and Abrahamic religions. Since 1948, the North Korean government has been actively anti-religious. (This is NOT a specifically Communist concept. Richard Dawkins, a non-Communist atheist, has called the religious education of children "abuse", meaning, presumably that I belong in prison.)

North Korea is a paradise. All atheists should go there.


Anonymous said...

Are there a lot of thieves/murderers in North Korea?

jewish philosopher said...

Only the government, but they make up for it.

Anonymous said...

As an OJ, if I have to choose to live in North Korea or Saudi Arabia, I would rather go to North Korea.

jewish philosopher said...


Physiocrat said...

Sweden is going through a strange phase at the moment and it is difficult to get to the bottom of it. The Church of Sweden (Svenska Kyrkan) seems to be in serious decline, possibly terminal. There is a significant active Muslim population. The largest religious attendance is Roman Catholic. It is not large proportionately but the community is active and vibrant. There is significant movement from SK and Baptist to RC here.

jewish philosopher said...

What I'm wondering is once another century has passed, how will secularized Swedes look. Will they have degenerated morally? Is this happening already?

Physiocrat said...

Anybody's guess what is going to happen here. The country is being affected by climate change in a big way. It is going to be over 30 degrees yet again today. Snow doesn't lie for long in the winter any more. Half way up the country there are predictions of a climate like that in the south of England by 2100, and a Mediterranean climate in the south. The population could more than double in 100 years.

15% of the population are immigrants and needed to keep things going. Many are Muslim or Catholic. Muslims have been having very large families. There is also a small but significant move from Lutheran/Baptist Christianity to Roman Catholic, to the point that the RC churches in some places are too small. And communities of monks and nuns are moving into places destroyed in the 1500s. Sometimes from far away, like Vietnam. Anything could happen here, and the country does not have the burden of a colonial past or slavery, or land enclosure or all sorts of other nasties.

Anonymous said...

It has never been illegal to live in sweden and not believe in some sort of religion. where have you read that?
Secondly, What Richard says about teaching religion in class, he says it is good that you teach children About all the different religions and where they are believed to be true. The Thing that he says would be child abuse is the fact that saying one religion is right and another is not. And the fact that telling people that their children is a jewish child or a muslim child, that is child abuse. Because under a certain age the child can't think of it's own.

(excuse my english. i'm a native swede.)

jewish philosopher said...

"Leaving the Church of Sweden became legal with the so-called dissenter law of 1860, but only under the provision of entering another denomination. The right to stand outside any religious denomination was established in the Law on Freedom of Religion in 1951." Click on my link to Wikipedia.

"The Thing that he says would be child abuse is the fact that saying one religion is right and another is not."

Which I do, as do most religious people.