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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - 2wonderY - LibraryThing

Good to air a rational agnostic lifeview, but the text is very repetitive. It's a one argument book. Also, the description of religious America is certainly a caricature. Mr. Zuckerman needs to ... Read full review

Society without God: what the least religious nations can tell us about contentment

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In an anecdotal and eminently readable manner, Zuckerman (sociology, Pitzer Coll.) offers a novel idea within the study of religious sociology. Specifically, he investigates what it means to be a ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Phil Zuckerman has written an interesting book about religion and prosperity and claims that Sweden and Denmark are examples showing that a secular society promotes prosperity. A major advance compared with other similar attempts is that he uses qualitative interviews. However, as a Swede i see several shortcomings which sums up to the conclusion that Zuckerman largely overstates the case and has no scientific basis for his claim. First, his selection of interview subjects is not representative since he does not make any random selection from the population but finds people where he finds it suitable (nobody would trust a theologian who only interviewed people outside the Church and then made generalizations based on that). Second, he used a crude measure of religiosity, which is mainly inspired from the USA. He clearly has no deep knowledge of Scandinavian mentality where personal questions like religiosity, political view etc is something people don't like to speak openly about (but does not mean that people are uninterested in religion or politics). In fact, several polls have shown that the percentage of people in Sweden who explicitly believe in a Christian God is between 15-25% (see e.g. World value surveys 1990-2006 and Hagevi M. Journal of Church and State 2012), the percentage of non-believers is around 20%, the percentage believing in a "higher spirit/power" is around 40% while the remaining fraction "don't know". In fact, the believers and non-belivers are quite stable while the fraction of people believing in a higher spirit/power increase. So Sweden is secular in the sense that people don't go to Church, but there is a high degree of private religiosity in an individual non-traditional manner. Third, Zuckerman makes a simple correlation between secularity and prosperity, without taking into account the historical causes behind the prosperity. In fact, Sweden and Denmark are "Lutheran secular" countries, meaning that the Lutheran attitude to work, to all people's equal value and to the vocation to support the society are essential components. Indeed, the foundation for the prosperity was laid in the first half of the 20th century, at a time when Scandinavian people were still Church-goers and believers at a high frequency. So, Mr Zuckerman, nice try, but correlations and circumstantial evidence has never convinced a real scientist, and does not so in this case either.
Per Andersson
Medical Scientist Sweden
 

Review: Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment

User Review  - Richard - Goodreads

The author was interviewed on San Francisco's PBS radio station's excellent Forum program. Listen to the archive here. Read full review


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