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The Sciences

Denmark, a society with God (sort of)

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMay 4, 2009 5:18 PM

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Late last year I reviewed a book by an American sociologist on Danish secularism. The book was titled Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, and apparently its publication resulted in some controversy in Denmark, in large part due to perceived misrepresentation of the Danish populace by the author. I suspected at the time that part of the issue was that of cultural miscommunication; what "secular" and "religious" are in the United States and Denmark vary a great deal, and the author was attempting to communicate primarily to an American audience to whom the Danish would seem very secular indeed. In any case, I thought it would be informative if I looked in the World Values Survey at differences in attitudes and opinions in regards to religion when comparing Denmark, the United States and Great Britain. The last as an outgroup which I presumed (rightly I would judge after looking at the data) as somewhere between the United States and Denmark when it comes to religion. Data below.

Please observe that in this sample if all of those who do not believe in God define themselves as not religious, then 10% of Danes who consider themselves religious do not believe in God. In the American sample if all those who do not believe in God are not religious, then 25% of those who are not religious do not believe in God, which is what other surveys generally find.

DenmarkBritainUSA

Religion not important at all29.629.74.9

Never think about meaning & purpose of life4.216.91.8

A religious person76.541.682.5

God not at all important25.521.53.7

Get no comfort & strength from religion67.462.620.4

Clear guidelines about what is good and evil10.441.549.2

Belong to religious denomination9083.478.5

Attend religious service once a week or more2.714.445.2

Moments of prayer & meditation – No48.950.210.7

Pray to God outside of religious service at least once a week20.328.977.7

Don't believe in God31.128.24.4

Don't believe in life after death61.741.718.9

Don't believe in hell90.564.725.4

Don't believe in heaven81.644.112.5

Church does not give answers to moral problems8067.342.5

Church does not give answers to family life857039

Church does not give answers to spiritual needs48.941.925.5

Church does not give answers to social problems88.57354.4

Strongly disagree that politicians who don't believe in God are unfit for office60.330.68.5

Strongly agree that religious leaders should not influence how people vote61.225.422.3

Strongly agree it is better if office holders are religious2.14.617.6

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