Here’s a nation that has its priorities right. From Martin at Aardvarchaeology I read this post on the nature of the “religion debate” in Sweden. Basically, the issue of whether religion should be discussed seriously as a alternative to other explanations of how the world works and humans should behave has been moot in Sweden:
The question posed is whether the same debate could rise in Sweden. The answer seems to be a definitive no. The role of religion in Sweden is peripheral, and the power of the religious communities is relatively weak. The major media; our national papers, the big tv channels and the national radio are all expressly secular. There simply aren’t any strong religious counterweights to the secular forces. There’s also a lack of numerous religious grassroots organisations that can mobilise the people in a defense of traditional superstition and bronze age morality.
The question, it seems, is not whether organized religion (as opposed to personal belief systems that carry no political weight) can bring anything substantive to the intellectual table. The question is whether a religious viewpoint should be tolerated at all. I don’t believe the author is implying that religious viewpoints should be legally restricted – and as an unapologetic defender of the First Amendment I would reject any notion that religionists should be unable to voice opinions – it’s that Swedish society at large has progressed beyond the need for primitive mythology to explain their world. There is simply no serious consideration within Swedish society that religious viewpoints would be tolerated as a likely explanation for anything. To borrow an idea from Dawkins, the Swedes apparently consider all religion in much the same light as American Christians consider Greek mythology – nothing more than an interesting historical experiment.
Americans, by contrast, aren’t even close to this phase of intellectual enlightenment. There are still too many in society who consider religious viewpoints not just as tolerable with respect to others, but actual believe them to be superior (otherwise we wouldn’t be having conversations about creationism, gay marriage and blastocyts as human beings while simultaneously justifying the war in Iraq on the basis of a few lines from a Bronze Age text).
Predictably, the American religionists are not happy with the Swedish take on things. And, like explaining lack of rainfall, or the high school team winning the championship, they are quick to invoke their personal knowledge of God’s feelings on the matter: God hates Sweden. And Sweden’s response? A classic comeback: they don’t care for Him too much either…