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

Hardback

By (author) Phil Zuckerman

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  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 231mm x 23mm | 454g
  • Publication date: 1 October 2008
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0814797148
  • ISBN 13: 9780814797143
  • Sales rank: 736,623

Product description

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, beginning in 2005. 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 nonreligious 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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Author information

PHIL ZUCKERMAN is Associate Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He is the author of Invitation to the Sociology of Religion and Strife in the Sanctuary: Religious Schism in a Jewish Community.

Review quote

"Most Americans are convinced that faith in God is the foundation of civil society. Society without God reveals this to be nothing more than a well-subscribed, and strangely American, delusion. Even atheists living in the United States will be astonished to discover how unencumbered by religion most Danes and Swedes currently are. This glimpse of an alternate, secular reality is at once humbling and profoundly inspiring - and it comes not a moment too soon." SAM HARRIS, founder of the Reason Project and author of the New York Times best sellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation"

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Introduction; 1 Society without God; 2 Jens, Anne, and Christian; 3 Fear of Death and the Meaning of Life; 4 Lene, Sonny, and Gitte; 5 Being Secular; 6 Why? 7 Dorthe, Laura, and Johanne; 8 Cultural Religion; 9 Back to the USA Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index; About the Author