Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment

Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment

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by Phil Zuckerman, Christine Harrington
     
 

“Silver” Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category

Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were “getting religion”—praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents

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Overview

“Silver” Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Religion Category

Before he began his recent travels, it seemed to Phil Zuckerman as if humans all over the globe were “getting religion”—praising deities, performing holy rites, and soberly defending the world from sin. But most residents of Denmark and Sweden, he found, don’t worship any god at all, don’t pray, and don’t give much credence to religious dogma of any kind. Instead of being bastions of sin and corruption, however, as the Christian Right has suggested a godless society would be, these countries are filled with residents who score at the very top of the “happiness index” and enjoy their healthy societies, which boast some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (along with some of the lowest levels of corruption), excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer.

Zuckerman formally interviewed nearly 150 Danes and Swedes of all ages and educational backgrounds over the course of fourteen months. He was particularly interested in the worldviews of people who live their lives without religious orientation. How do they think about and cope with death? Are they worried about an afterlife? What he found is that nearly all of his interviewees live their lives without much fear of the Grim Reaper or worries about the hereafter. This led him to wonder how and why it is that certain societies are non-religious in a world that seems to be marked by increasing religiosity. Drawing on prominent sociological theories and his own extensive research, Zuckerman ventures some interesting answers.

This fascinating approach directly counters the claims of outspoken, conservative American Christians who argue that a society without God would be hell on earth. It is crucial, Zuckerman believes, for Americans to know that “society without God is not only possible, but it can be quite civil and pleasant.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814797235
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
06/07/2010
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
299,510
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Society without God 17

2 Jens, Anne, and Christian 36

3 Fear of Death and the Meaning of Life 57

4 Lene, Sonny, and Gitte 76

5 Being Secular 95

6 Why? 110

7 Dorthe, Laura, and Johanne 128

8 Cultural Religion 150

9 Back to the USA 167

Appendix 185

Notes 189

Bibliography 205

Index 215

About the Author 227

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