Note, added later: While Zuckerman indeed compiled the list I refer to in “Atheistic countries have the most healthy societies”, and also wrote on his experiences in Sweden and Denmark, some of the conclusions atheists call his may be by his atheistic fans, not his own. The purpose of this blog entry is to discuss the conclusions that his fans say is his. I never made a study of whether his fans report his views accurately. So, if this post talk of doubting Zuckerman, it may rather be a reason to doubt his fans.
“Theory without data is myth: data without theory is madness.” – Phil Zuckerman
Phil Zuckerman wrote a book about his experiences in Sweden and Denmark, painting it as probably the least religious countries in the world, yet with low crime rates, high standards of living and social equality. A previous post of mine questioned (very much) the accuracy of painting the Scandinivians as the world’s most atheistic countries, and (a bit) if their societies are really all that healthy, and sustainable. And is correlation (many people who don’t believe in God/gods/spirits, and a prosperous society) causality here?
A survey of the European commission collected these statistics of religious (un)belief in Europe. (I do not know what DK stand for.)
According to these, France (33%) has the most unbelievers (People who claim “I don’t belief there is any spirit, God, or life force”) of all European countries, with the Czech Republic (30%) second. (Would Zuckerman study the Czechs as an example of irreligious people next? Or perhaps the Cubans, who are, of course, not part of this European study?) Sweden is 6th and Denmark joint 9th.
In Iceland (11%), Finland, (16%) and Norway (17%), there are, in fact, a less than average unbeliever percentage for the countries surveyed – the European average was 18%. Even if there are a lot of unbelievers in Scandinavia, they are, by all statistics I ever read outside of Zuckerman’s work, a minority. Those who believe in God, a spirit or life force, still outnumber the unbelievers by at least 3 to 1.
And, since Prof. Zuckerman believe that statistics without theory is madness, I would follow it up by my theory: Denmark and Sweden are rather succesfull countries with more believers, albeit of very little if any commitment, than total unbelievers. It may even be that their Protestant heritage is partly responsible for their success. No country in Europe is an indicator of what a society of unbelievers will be like, since everywhere in Europe, believers in God, a spirit or life force outnumber unbelievers.