Friday, January 23, 2009

Criticism of Zuckerman: History of Social Progress in Sweden

part 4 of Zuckerman

Theologian Harvy Cox and his 1964 work
The Secular City

It's pretty obvious that Zuckerman argues that the society absent of religion is a better society (more progressive, better educated, more socially conscious concerning its needy) than are societies in which people are religious. We can knit pick over weather he used the phrase "atheist nation" or not, but the fact of the matter is the subtitle of his books is "what the least religious states tell us about contentment." (see his new book Society Without God: What the least religous states can tell us about contentment. That makes it pretty what he is arguing. But my argument, my major argument is basically that this is clearly wrong since none of the states he talks about God the way they are by being without God. Most of them had and still have strong religious populations, the European states emerge out of a context of Christianized society. Many people feel that Sweden is the least religious state. This is actually false, the part of the German republic that was the East German side has the most hard core atheists. That is according to the study on Religious Demand that I link to in part 2. Nevertheless,Sweden is a good test case. Let us examine the situation with Sweden.

We find that the Swedes were Vikings prior to the middle ages. They were pagan, they swooped down upon the brits and killed and took what they had. They were bloodthirsty barbarians. Well actually, that's the myth of the Viking. the truth of it is I've seen historians who now say there weren't that many raids, most Swedes were farmers, not vikings. The Viks didn't do that much, other than play football. Be that as it may, they were Christianized in the middle ages and by the reformation they settled into a state church centered around the Lutheran faith. What rading and so forth that did go on as abandoned when the Christianization came along. But out of the Lutheran inspired culture they raised up a modern society and through Christianity taught the core values that became the modern Swedish welfare state. It is true that the formal Church did not have much to do with building the welfare state, which mostly came about after world war II. But the core values planed in the culture by Christianity culminated in the cultural background that made the state possible.

A Political and Social History of Modern Eruope by Carlton

Three Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark, Norway were officially tied to the Lutheran Church. "Popular education was fostered under ecclesiastical supervision; all three people's developed native literature and a lively sense of nationalism. In all three social and Political democracy made steady progress. McMillian 1916

Religion has always played a role in Swedish culture. What Zuckerman pretends is not there, and what he hides in the data, the role played by religion in planting the core values that build the welfare state. He hides this by refusing to draw the distinction between Church attendance and real actual belief. Though attendence is low the role of religion in Swedish society is old, historical, complex and important:

Welfare and Values in Europe:Transitions Related to Religion, Minorities and Gender;

Overview of the national situation

Ninna Edgardh Beckman

Page 1
Welfare and Values in Europe:
Transitions related to Religion, Minorities and Gender
Overview of the national situation
by Ninna Edgardh Beckman
Page 2
Based on its very low figures of religious attendance and traditional religious faith,
Sweden has a reputation of being one of the most secularised countries in the world. True as
this might be, what the image conceals is the strong and complicated role that religion still
plays in Sweden, not least through history and culture. The modern history of Sweden has its
foundation in national homogeneity, grounded in the principle of one people and one faith.
This principle is closely connected to the Lutheran majority church, to which nearly 80% of
the Swedish population still belongs, even though formally state and church were separated in
2000. The recent presence of other world religions and official policies tending towards
multiculturalism adds new religious aspects to Swedish culture. Religion thus continues to
play an interesting role in Sweden, behind the seemingly straightforward image of a country
on its way towards complete secularisation

The Swedish welfare state was built after the Second World War, based on the idea of
‘the home of the people’ (folkhemsidén). The basic principle of the model is that the state and
local authorities guarantee the basic needs of all citizens. This principle is based on strong
values of solidarity and shared responsibility. Decades of success for the system have since
the 1990s been replaced by growing problems with keeping up the high level of benefits and
services, a development, which is increasingly questioning also the values underpinning the
whole welfare structure. Immigration is one factor, among many, challenging the system and
immigrants have also been among those most affected by emerging new forms of poverty

Through Europe the role of religion in the rise of modern secular liberal states is coming to be re-evaluated. Many historians are finding now that religion always played a more vital role than previously thought. Here'sa quote from a new ground breaking book:

Religion, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States

Series: Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics
Edited by Kees van Kersbergen
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Philip Manow
Universität Konstanz, Germany

This book radically revises established knowledge in comparative welfare state studies and introduces a new perspective on how religion shaped modern social protection systems. The interplay of societal cleavage structures and electoral rules produced the different political class coalitions sustaining the three welfare regimes of the Western world. In countries with proportional electoral systems the absence or presence of state–church conflicts decided whether class remained the dominant source of coalition building or whether a political logic not exclusively based on socio-economic interests (e.g. religion) was introduced into politics, particularly social policy. The political class-coalitions in countries with majoritarian systems, on the other hand, allowed only for the residual-liberal welfare state to emerge, as in the US or the UK. This book also reconsiders the role of Protestantism. Reformed Protestantism substantially delayed and restricted modern social policy. The Lutheran state churches positively contributed to the introduction of social protection programs.

• Radical revision of established knowledge in comparative welfare state studies based on a combination of country case studies and comparative accounts • Introduces a new perspective on why and how religion shaped modern social protection systems and gives a new comparative account of the formation of different welfare state regimes • Systematic inquiry into the role of the state–church conflict for social policy in advanced industrial societies

1. Religion and the Western welfare state: the theoretical context Philip Manow and Kees van Kersbergen; 2. Western European party systems and the religious cleavage Thomas Ertman; 3. The religious foundations of work-family policies in Western Europe Kimberly J. Morgan; 4. Italy: a Christian democratic or clientist welfare state? Julia Lynch; 5. Religion and the welfare state in the Netherlands Kees van Kersbergen; 6. A conservative welfare state regime without Christian Democracy? The French Etat-providence, 1880–1960 Philip Manow and Bruno Palier; 7. Religion and the consolidation of the Swiss welfare state, 1848–1945 Herbert Obinger; 8. The church as nation? The role of religion in the development of the Swedish welfare state Karen M. Anderson; 9. The religious factor in US welfare state politics Jill Quadagno and Deanna Rohlinger; 10. Religious social doctrines and poor relief: a different causal pathway Sigrun Kahl.

(contributors include:Philip Manow, Kees van Kersbergen, Thomas Ertman, Kimberly J. Morgan, Julia Lynch, Bruno Palier, Herbert Obinger, Karen M. Anderson, Jill Quadagno, Deanna Rohlinger, Sigrun Kahl).

Modern Swedish life no longer includes church attendance as a strong element. This is the only measurement Zuckerman uses to determine the extent to which Sweden, or any country, is "secularized." But there are other measure that are more important. There is a new role emerging for religion in Northern Europe. The fact of secularization in terms of church attendance does not mean that people are not seeking spiritual reality.

The traditional relationship between swedes and the church has changed. Swedes are no longer as connected to conventional church fucntions. But this does not mean that they don't beileve. There is a new string for alternatives to convention, but the embers of belief are still smoldering.

Sweden.SE the official gateway to Sweden.

Sep 1, 2006
Are Swedes losing their religion?
by: Charlotte Celsing, freelance writer

Annika Gustafsson is a theology student whose studies have included work experience in congregations and at confirmation camps. She says that almost all of the young people she meets are open to questions relating to religious and spiritual matters, even though they may have objections to ecclesiastical matters.

The role of religion has changed

Religion has not become less important in Swedish society but it has changed color, according to a report from Åbo Academy (Finland). In the secularized Nordic area the Protestant Lutheran church has to be liberal and open to a modern interpretation of the Christian message. Otherwise the church feels too authoritarian – an attitude that most Swedes do not accept....Yet many Swedes express a longing for a spiritual dimension and a deeper meaning. Modern society has left a void that neither science nor a high material standard can fill....Those who the Church of Sweden fails to attract look for alternatives. Non-conformist churches – of which the Pentecostal Movement is the largest with around 87,000 members – is one example. Others are varieties of eastern religions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism.

Due to immigration to Sweden, Islam is now the country’s second largest religion after Christianity. A number of mosques have already been built in different parts of Sweden and more are planned.

Within Christianity the Catholic Church in Sweden is also large. Today it has a total of 80,500 registered members.

* Almost 8 out of 10 Swedes are members of the Church of Sweden - 7 million.
* Only 1 in 10 Swedes thinks religion is important in daily life.
* Around 7 out of 10 children are christened in the Church of Sweden.
* Just over 5 out of 10 weddings take place in church.
* Almost 9 out of 10 Swedes have Christian burials.
* Islam has around 130,000 adherents in Sweden (more according to Muslim sources).(Ibid)

Modern Church in Europe plays role in social services and culture

2. The second thing is that the church is seen as an emergency exit. The welfare state of Western Europe is the best attempt so far in world history to guarantee safety and security. But life is complicated. In national catastrophes, the churches get filled with people. Catastrophes happen also on a personal basis, and the church has an open backdoor: You are not left alone; you have a backup.

3. The third point is the fact that the churches are seen as embassies of solidarity and mercy. All over Europe, illegal immigrants are hidden by parishes. Anti-racism demonstrations are normally organized by parishes. The protests against reductions in childcare or hospitals and for Jubilee 2000 are signs of solidarity.

From the beginning of Christianity in Northern Europe, the church can be described as a part of the state. Church and state were the same. Probably in the year 1008, King Olof Sk^tkonung of Sweden was baptized by St. Sigfrid, Bishop of Vïxj^. Out of Christianity grew the state. Through baptism you became a Swede. The faith of the king united the nation, confirmed the royal house, and incorporated this northern part of the world into the international community under the pope of Rome.

Five hundred years later the Reformation supported the idea of a nation state. The king of Sweden - as well as the king of Denmark and the king of England - took the place of the pope. They became heads of their national churches. The Swedish king had no liturgical or confessional interests, so the clergy could marry officially but still use the medieval chasubles and hymns and keep the apostolic succession. The king needed the land owned by the monasteries, and in the church he got an obedient instrument for creating conformity in his country: one people, one faith, one king, one church. (Ibid)

In his ground breaking work The Secular City Theologian Harvy Cox Argued that secularization was a good thing. Secularization had created a neutral playing field necessary to stop the religious wars of the seventeenth century. For that very reason secularization has actually been very good religion. It was ironically secularization that allowed the proliferation of religions in America. That's because when there was no state imposed Church Tax, as in much of Europe, and not one organization or Church favored by the state, as in much of Europe and in England, everyone was free to worship as he saw fit and to start new churches, and so they did stat new ones in profusion. Secularization in itself is no threat to religion. But Zuckerman is obviously saying that Society is better off without religion. Now does that mean without church or without any kind of belief? I'm sure he would say the latter, but the only data he presents only backs the former. Yet the conclusions he draws are screwed precisely becasue without taking into account belief in all aspects he's just creating a false data base by equating low church attendance with a less religious society.

Zuckerman reduces the complexity of the development of history int he modern world from the early modern to contemporary, with its sweeping changes in economics, sociology, psychology, technology, the means of production, political theory and so forth, burying all under the rug and reducing it all to a simplistic formula about church attendance. From this kind fo superficial bs atheist mold and shape their morose of lies and propaganda to destroy civilization.

Here's a quotation I found on a blog comment section by a Dane about Zuckerman's book:

From the Square (blog)

Comment from karen Schousboe
Time November 25, 2008 at 4:24 am

To readers who were duped by zuckerman’s book it might accordingly be of interest to know, that Denmark is in no way a society without God. 82% of the Danish population are members of the Danish national Church and have a fond relationship with their local church. It is true that the church is considered a different entity and plays a different role in the local community than what is common in US. This has to do with the fact that the churches are not so much old institutions, than old buildings framing the idea of Danishness - Danes don’t talk about God directly; they talk about their family, their history, their traditions. The preferred location chosen for this “conversation” is however their local church, which means that people do not seek the church sunday mornings to celebrate God; but they take part in year-long and life-long celebrations whenever there is a special occasion in the life of our families or communities. Does this mean that “God is absent”? Not at all: it just means that we encounter God under other circumstances than the traditional American way on sunday mornings. We encounter God instead at family occasions on an average of 4 to 5 times a year. Yes, our “God” does not “live” in an American temple or church. It does not mean, however, that “God” in general is absent from the livess of Danes. It just means that the American God is absent. It also follows that the Danish church is an extremely important factor in the construction of what Zuckerman thought was a society “without God”.

It might be important to know that most academic reviews in the National papers in Denmark noted that Zuckermans book represented a classical example of an anthropologist or sociologist falling short, while being duped by the natives.

Karen Schousboe
MA, Anthropologist,

(follow up comment by someone claiming to be Zuckerman--I will put it in the comment section).


J.L. Hinman said...

On the blog where Karen claims to be a Dane taking Z to task there si someone claiming to be Zuckermane who makes a comment:

Comment from Phil Zuckerman
Time December 2, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Dear Karen — my goodness, what a hostile declaration. Why so angry? Why so vicious?

I tried my best to write an honest account of what I experienced and learned while living in DK.

I can’t respond to all of your inexplicable anger, but I can at least attempt to counter some of your more egregious claims.

Honestly, I doubt that you ever even read my book. If you had, you would know the following:

1. Most of my informants did NOT come from any university. I interviewed 149 people. The vast majority were not academics at all. To say that I based my research “primarily upon interviews with colleagues and friends” is simply a flagrant distortion and a cold lie and again indicates true hostility on your part that I find rather sad.
2. While my book is indeed provocatively called “Society Without God” I make it very clear that many, many (even perhaps most) Danes and Swedes do certainly believe in God — and I cite several surveys which indicate this. I also devote an entire chapter to discussing the views of several believers. And I quote God-believers throughout my book. All I ultimately argue is that God-belief is WEAKER in DK and SE than in most (all?) other countries. Sorry if that offends you somehow. Deal with it.
2. You say that “82% of the Danish population are members of the Danish national church” — but this in no way means that they are believers in God. I would expect an anthropologist to know this. I address this extensively — especially in my chapter on Cultural Religion (which I doubt you ever even read).
3. Most reviews that I read of my book in DK — and had translated by friends — were quite positive and strong. When Karen says that “most academic reviews” said that my book represented a classical example of me being “duped” — this is simply another cold lie. If anyone is trying to “dupe” anyone, it is Karen trying to dupe the readers of this web site.

4. Karen — in the end, I understand that you didn’t like my book (if you even read it). That is OK. I am not perfect. Social science is not perfect. I completely agree that 14 months is not a life-time, and as an outsider to Danish society, I am obviously not going to “get” everything. I did the best I could with an open mind and an open heart. I think I discovered some key elements to the ways in which Danes and Swedes believe - or as was often the case — DON’T believe.

A Hermit said...

Here's where you're wrong:

"It's pretty obvious that Zuckerman argues that the society absent of religion is a better society..."

It's not obvious that Zuckerman is arguing anything of the kind; it seems to me that all he is arguing is that a society which is less religious can still be a healthy, happy society.

All of your objections to Zuckerman's work are meaningless since they are all predicated on this fundamental misunderstanding of what the man is saying.

J.L. Hinman said...

"It's pretty obvious that Zuckerman argues that the society absent of religion is a better society..."

It's not obvious that Zuckerman is arguing anything of the kind; it seems to me that all he is arguing is that a society which is less religious can still be a healthy, happy society.

the difference in that and I what I said he said is so trivial only a little petty minded idiot would bother with it. I quoted the man himself. you are an idiot.

All of your objections to Zuckerman's work are meaningless since they are all predicated on this fundamental misunderstanding of what the man is saying.

what a fool you are! the difference between "socity can still be happy wihout god" and "society does better without God" is monumentally unimportant.

both are wrong, stupid, and foolish, and empirically disproved by the 2000 studies.