Thursday, January 29, 2009


Another awesome article trumpteting the news that the more you got god, the more got a grungy, grubby place. (If I had a dollar for every one of these articles printed lately, I'd be a gazillionaire).

This article was pumped out by the Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Review.

The subtitle snaps and crackles: "The least religious nations," it says, "are also the most healthy and successful"!

Of course we all know that by "religious" they mean "god worshipping." Unfortunately for the world, few know beans about the Goddess.

What are societies like when faith in God is minimal, church attendance is drastically low, and religion is a distinctly muted and marginal aspect of everyday life?

Many people assume that religion is what keeps people moral, that a society without God would be hell on earth: rampant with immorality, full of evil, and teeming with depravity. But that doesn't seem to be the case for Scandinavians in those two countries [Sweden and Denmark]. ... their overall rates of violent crime — including murder, aggravated assault, and rape — are among the lowest on earth.


So the typical Dane or Swede doesn't believe all that much in God. And simultaneously, they don't commit much murder. But aren't they a dour, depressed lot, all the same? Not according to Ruut Veenhoven, professor emeritus of social conditions for human happiness at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Veenhoven is a leading authority on worldwide levels of happiness from country to country. He recently ranked 91 nations on an international happiness scale.... According to his calculations, the country that leads the globe — ranking No. 1 in terms of its residents' overall level of happiness — is little, peaceful, and relatively godless Denmark.


[R]eligion ... can often be one of the main sources of tension, violence, poverty, oppression, inequality, and disorder in a given society. ...many of the most religious and faithful nations on earth are simultaneously among the most dangerous and destitute. ... the majority of the most irreligious democracies are among the most prosperous and successful nations on earth.


I simply wish to soberly counter the widely touted assertion that without religion, society is doomed....

The claim that without religion, society is doomed deserves to be challenged because, aside from being poor social science, it is a highly political claim that is regularly promulgated by some of America's most popular and most influential Christian conservatives. Those individuals do not represent or speak for the majority of believers in America, but together they do constitute a formidable and uniquely zealous chorus that reaches the hearts and minds of millions of people on a regular basis.

...Ann Coulter, the Christian conservative media pundit, who has written in one of her best-selling books that societies that fail to grasp God's significance are headed toward slavery, genocide, and bestiality, and that when Darwinian/evolutionary theory is widely accepted in a given society, all morality is abandoned.


But the fact still remains that it is not the most religious nations in our world today, but rather the most secular, that have been able to create the most civil, just, safe, equitable, humane, and prosperous societies. Denmark and Sweden stand out as shining examples. The German think tank the Hans-Böckler Stiftung recently ranked nations in terms of their success at establishing social justice within their societies; Denmark and Sweden, two of the least-religious nations in the world, tied for first.

Phil Zuckerman is an associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College. This essay is adapted from his book Society Without God (New York University Press, 2008).
Go HERE to read the whole article.
Thnx to bruno tessa for the foto. Go HERE to see more of his work.


River Eden Doula said...

I found a cool tidbit from the blog Rh reality check:

A New Dawn in Bolivia: Constitution Extends New Protections for Women

"It must be said that, similar to what has happened in other countries which have revised their constitutions, conservative Catholics and the political right-wing conducted an aggressive campaign against many of these changes. These groups argued, among other things, that Christianity would be banned and replaced by indigenous practices such as adoration of the Pachamama (Mother Earth) as the only religion..."

Athana said...

Oh, how that phrase soothes the savage soul: "...Christianity banned and replaced by Mother Earth."

Thnx River for this great tidbit!

Maggie in Adams, MA said...

Just read back a few entries of yours – about “forgiving” your dog for killing your cat. With all due respect, my question to you is: Isn’t it you who need forgiveness? Your “dog-son” Duncan sounds as if he has had the run of the house and that YOU or whoever was responsible to do so didn’t train him to leave your aging cat alone or at least prevent him from having any access to possibly doing any harm to her. It was NOT your dog-son’s fault but the fault of his OWNER (AKA Mother?). You often talk about “What would a good mother do?” Well, a good “mother/owner” would have immediately stopped/trained any aggressive dog from harassing an aging cat. Would a “good mother” allow her eldest/strongest child to chase and terrorize a younger sibling and POTENTIALLY kill it? Who would be to blame? I feel very sorry for your cat Margaret that you, her owner/”mother”, did nothing to protect her from the obviously very spoiled dog (you even refer to your dog as your dog-son) she had the misfortune to live with.
In addition, this was part of your response to folks who wrote to you on that entry: “And this gets to what I call "The Mother Rule," which says we should all strive to treat each other the way a healthy mom treats her kids. If we all had this as a star-goal, beginning as children, I think we'd have a far safer, kinder, and closer-to-utopian world.” I believe you are being very hypocritical. How about practicing what you preach?

Athana said...


If you want to return when you've gotten hold of your temper, I might be willing to talk about the topic you've raised.

Athana said...

Looks like Maggie isn't coming back. I'm going to address her concern anyway.

I agree with her: I could and probably should have done any number of things to prevent what happened to Margaret. I did spend money I didn't have trying to train Duncan out of his breed-based chasing behavior -- but I could have spent myself into a hole trying more and more training. I could have researched his breed better before adopting him. I could have given Margaret away.

But Maggie's missing the point of the story: Assuming I *was* a good mother, and did love two of my human children equally, and one child murdered the other, what would my response be -- as a good mother? I think it would be forgiveness of the child that harmed the other. And therefore, using The Mother Rule, we too should forgive even those who commit the worst of crimes.

Also, Maggie seems so emotionally distraught that I wonder if she's confusing animals with people. National Geographic's Caesar Milan is constantly trying to disabuse people of this notion that animals are the same as humans. I think confusing animals with people happens in societies in which people (in general) become so ugly that they can't stand each other anymore, and so place animals on a higher-value plane even than people.

In our war-god-based society, I think many of us hate each other just for being human -- because we see so much people-on-people violence all around us -- rape, murder, torture, constant war, etc., etc., etc.

Maggie brings something else to my mind, an interesting question: as a society, should animals be jumped up to the same status as people? If so, we'd need to pass laws that would incarcerate dogs like Duncan (and/or me, his owner) for killing cats.

We'd have to send vets to the electric chair for letting pets die just because their owners couldn't pay to keep the animal alive (I've seen at least one vet do this).

We'd no longer talk about "owning" animals. (People never talk about "owning" people -- unless they're being sarcastic).

We'd all have to stop saying things like we're "a dog person" or "a cat person." It would be on the order of saying "I like blacks better than Asians."