Norway Flourishes as a Secular Nation
I could not believe my eyes when I came across this piece from the Montgomery Advertiser here in my home state of Alabama, USA. It’s a letter to the editor from David Miles in Orange Beach, Alabama (a beautiful vacation spot if you’ve never been there, by the way):
Rev. Rick Mason notes that atheism is on the rise. He blames Christian fundamentalism. Certainly the ineptness, dishonesty and lack of ethics of the overtly God-fearing Bush administration may be turning people off on God.
A case study shows what this could mean for America. Norway has embraced secularism at the expense of its Christian roots. A 2005 survey conducted by Gallup International rated Norway the least religious country in Western Europe.
In Norway, 82.9 percent of the population are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (they are automatically registered at birth and few bother to be unregistered). However, only approximately 10 percent regularly attend church services and identify themselves as being personally Christian.
A 2006 survey found: 29 percent believe in a god or deity; 23 percent believe in a higher power without being certain of what; 26 percent don’t believe in God or higher powers; 22 percent have doubts.
Depending on the definition of atheism, Norway thus has between 26 percent and 71 percent atheists. The Norwegian Humanist Association is the world’s largest humanist association per capita.
And what has secularism done to Norway? The Global Peace Index rates Norway the most peaceful country in the world. The Human Development Index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living, has ranked Norway No. 1 every year for the last five years.
Norway has the second highest GDP per capita in the world, an unemployment rate below 2 percent, and average hourly wages among the world’s highest.
David N. Miles
Considering that this was published in a Montgomery, Alabama newspaper, you can bet your blue booties that there’ll be an editorial outlash against such blasphemy. I’ll keep my eyes peeled and report back on anything of particular interest.
I would caution against extrapolating overmuch from this, in terms of projecting the political climate of Norway upon the United States. But the figures are startling and, while the implications are debatable, their existence, at least, is hardly deniable.
Also interesting was a chart I Stumbled upon yesterday, forgot to bookmark, and now cannot locate again. So, I’ll just have to tell you about it. It was a public survey conducted among sample populations from the U.S., the E.U., Russia, South Korea, China, and possibly another demographic area I’m forgetting. The researchers posed a series of science-related true/false questions to the participants and then charted the percentages of correct responses by country/region.
South Korea generally dominated, as I recall, with the U.S. and the E.U. following close behind. But there were two questions on which the participants from the U.S. responded with far more incorrect answers than the rest of the world.
The first was: True or False – The Universe began with a huge explosion. The researchers considered this to be ‘true,’ and, while I recognize that this is debatable to a certain extent, that’s not the point. The point is that the majority of people elsewhere in the world answered ‘true.’
The second was: True or False – Humans developed from earlier species. Again, the researchers said this was ‘true,’ and it is a far less scientifically controversial proposition than the previous example. Most Americans answered ‘false,’ in contrast with the correct responses given by the majority of people from the other national samples.
What this demonstrates to me is—well, never mind that. What does it demonstrate to you, if anything?