Did you know that one of the members of ABBA is a pillar of the secularist-humanist community in Sweden? I did. Sven Grundberg tells about it for a Wall Street Journal blog.
STOCKHOLM – Björn Ulvaeus, one of the two Bs in ABBA, sat down with Speakeasy on a sunny summer day in central Stockholm at a hipster coffee shop. The joint is located just around the corner from the capital’s buzzing club scene that has hatched several global music wonders in recent years, including Swedish House Mafia and Avicii.
Sweden has long played an outsized role in the global music industry, providing a host of songwriters, producers, technological innovations and successful performers.
A solid musical education system, general prosperity and a deftness at imitation have all been mentioned as drivers. But one of the patriarchs of Swedish pop has a different explanation: godlessness.
Ulvaeus, now 68 years old and far removed from his ABBA days, talked in a wide ranging interview about his view that the absence of religious culture here is a bedrock of Swedish creativity.
Hmm. I don’t know…I think about the influence of gospel music on Motown, and I wonder. I like the idea, I’m just not sure it’s true.
“Sweden is an open, liberal, secular and democratic country,” he says. “We strive towards achieving equality, we are forward-looking and refuse to be pulled back by social constructs, such as religion.”
While ABBA never made any serious political statements with its music, Ulvaeus himself has emerged as a controversial social commentator in recent years. Less known outside Sweden are his secularist views, and his avid criticism of religion.
An active member of Humanisterna, the Swedish member organization of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, he says religion constraints creativity.
“Religion is the root of so much misery in the world and I’ve always thought there is lack of criticism against it.”
See that’s why I knew he’s a pillar. Humanisterna is related to Fri Tanke, the publisher of the Swedish translation of Does God Hate Women? Björn Ulvaeus’s daughter picked me up at the airport when I went to Stockholm for the launch.