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May 15 2012

Congratulations on the divorce, Norway!

Divorce is a good thing: when a couple can no longer find happiness with each other, there’s no point in clinging to a damaging relationship. Move on. Especially when one of the partners in the relationship is a deranged fabulist with a long history of abusiveness, separation is the only reasonable choice.

So I’m happy to see that the secular Norwegian government has moved to sever its long historical ties to that psycho, Lutheranism.

All parties stand united when the Norwegian constitution is changed, so that the state will no longer be a part of the Norwegian church. The amendment is to be presented Tuesday.

The amendment which will be passed later in May, historically changes the state’s relationship with the church. Parliament will no longer appoint deans and bishops, and Norway will no longer have one offical state religion.

50 comments

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  1. 1
    EvoMonkey

    This a long overdue, but who gets to keep all the sleek Scandinavian furniture in the settlement.

  2. 2
    Louis

    Massive move to Norway incoming.

    Good work Norwegians!

    Louis

  3. 3
    LykeX

    Yes! Maybe now we can finally get the same thing through in Denmark. There’s been a lot of talk about it, but with a precedent in our brother country, maybe that will be enough to tip the scales.

  4. 4
    dorfl

    Heh. First I thought this would be about the dissolution of the Union, but the anniversary for that isn’t until June.

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    Now, if only we could do the same here in the United States.

  6. 6
    irisvanderpluym

    I divorced Lutheranism myself, at around age 12. It turned out to be an excellent move on my part, and I have faith (hahaha) that it will work out just as well for Norway. Congratulations, Norwegians!

  7. 7
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Awesome news, Norway!

  8. 8
    Eurasian magpie

    Good for Norway!

    I’m hoping Finland isn’t far behind in taking the same step, although I cannot see it happening in the next twenty years. A poll released yesterday shows that although the god belief in Finland is in all time low* the majority of the people still are very invested in Christian rituals and traditions.

    * 27% believe in Christian god
    23% believe in a god that differs from the church dogma
    21% do not believe in god
    17% are unsure what they believe
    7% doubt the existence of god
    5% won’t say what they believe

  9. 9
    John Scanlon FCD

    Will they be taxing the churches now?

    Is there any country that does, yet?

    (Yeah, I already googled a bit, and apparently someone in Italy floated the idea of taxing the purely-commercial parts of church property a few weeks ago. Otherwise I got nothing)

  10. 10
    birgerjohansson

    Norway will have its national day on May 17th, it is about the constitution and the break-up from Denmark during the Napoleonic wars. The Swedish king saw an opportunity to sneak in and annex the country before the Norwegians had built up a strong national army.
    Norway ended up having a Swedish king but in other ways being separate from Sweden, so the civil service is probably still closer in structure to Denmark than to Sweden.
    — — — —
    The Swedish church separated from the Swedish state a few years ago. It harldy made the news. Most people were indifferent.

  11. 11
    Lars

    People seem quite indifferent in Norway too. According to my Facebook profile, only ~5% bothered to raise an eyebrow, and ~1% to lift their virtual glass in a toast. (Caveat lector: Numbers pulled from ass.)

  12. 12
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    What sort of card is appropriate for this occasion? It’s hard to find a “for countries” section in my local Hallmark.

  13. 13
    tonykehoe

    More and more I come to love Norway. Fabulous people, breathtaking scenery, a real sense of secularism, and most Norwegians have been atheists for years. And now this! I think it is very rapidly becoming my favourite country.

  14. 14
    johndehls

    Well, it’s a first step. The government will no longer be appointing bishops and so on, but as far as I know my taxes will continue to pay for the damned thing.

  15. 15
    Part-Time Insomniac

    Let’s hope that at some point the public’s taxes will not be paying for the church.

    And now, time for cake!

    http://media.reporternews.com/media/img/photos/2011/05/11/DivorceCakeeleven_web_t300.jpg

  16. 16
    johndehls

    Here is a bit more detail:

    There will still be a church office in the government apparatus, and a minister who will be responsible for that department. It will continue to be the state that the employer has the responsibility for priests and “clerical” employees. Here it is in other words, no change. The state will not give the church the freedom to be separate legal entities, as they wish. The requirement that the employees of the Department departmenetets Church and statråden must be members of the Norwegian Church, however, is waived.

    The Norwegian Humanist Association (Google Translate)

  17. 17
    jayarrrr

    Great move, but a few hundred years too late to save the Norwegian Bachelor Farmers…

  18. 18
    Q.E.D

    Now if only the US would actually apply its disestablishment of church and state.

  19. 19
    benfromca

    Ditto that congratulations! As an American of Norwegian descent, I’ve never been more proud of that country.

    BTW, my father would argue that, because of Vikings, no one REALLY knows their ethnic heritage, for certain.

  20. 20
    Glen Davidson

    Now, as committed materialists, they should start teaching evolution in the schools.

    Unless, of course, there is anything other than blind materialism that would lead to the conclusion of evolution…

    Glen Davidson

  21. 21
    jand

    About time. A mere 107 years after France, 88 years after Turkey…

  22. 22
    Pilum

    Yay! I’ve been waiting for this for quite some time.

  23. 23
    Matt Penfold

    About time. A mere 107 years after France, 88 years after Turkey…

    And 92 years after Wales.

  24. 24
    vyyle

    Good for them. Religion truly has no place in government, and vice versa.

  25. 25
    Gnumann+, out&proud cultural marxist (just don't ask me about Gramsci)

    It’s more of a separate-bedroom-deal than an actual divorce unfortunately.

    And our head of state is still required to be a lutheran.

  26. 26
    laurentweppe

    And from his prison (or is it an asylum?) Breivik is probably ranting “I told you so: the secularist-muslim-socialist-multiculturalist-pro-sharia conspiracy is moving forward” or something like that

  27. 27
    asttei

    The sad part is that this will in practice mean nothing at all. It will only allow the church to become more conservative; while it still gets massive funding. The priests, the properties and so on will still be paid for by the state.

    In practice, until we tax religious institutions, we may as well have a state religion.

    I suspect that the reason why all parties are united in this choice is because the right wing parties think the church is too liberal…

  28. 28
    Matt Penfold

    I suspect that the reason why all parties are united in this choice is because the right wing parties think the church is too liberal…

    Right wing Tories here in the UK often complain about the Church of England being too liberal. They have a different solution though. Rather than disestablish the Church they want to make it more conservative.

  29. 29
    Draken

    Denmark has a specific Church Tax (Kirkeskat), which you don’t pay if you’re no member of the Folkekirke. But I understand from the Norwegian posters here that the church in Norway is funded from the general tax pool?

    If that’s so, it’s only a token ‘divorce’. The partners live no longer in the same house but they sometimes visit and go to bed together if they’re in the mood.

  30. 30
    aaronpound

    Unless, of course, there is anything other than blind materialism that would lead to the conclusion of evolution…

    Ah, so all those theistic advocates of evolution don’t exist?

  31. 31
    Draken

    By the way, as Dansk Ateistisk Selkab can witness, because of the church tax, the state church is not terribly eager to let go of its sheep.

  32. 32
    tomfrog

    @johnscanlon, #9

    Will they be taxing the churches now?

    Is there any country that does, yet?

    We do in France at least.

    The Republic neither recognizes, nor salaries, nor subsidizes any religion

    As I understand it, they do pay their taxes. But I actually don’t know if there’s some special stuff for donations or whatever loophole… I hope not.

  33. 33
    dorfl

    The sad part is that this will in practice mean nothing at all. It will only allow the church to become more conservative; while it still gets massive funding. The priests, the properties and so on will still be paid for by the state.

    I don’t really know very much about the situation in Norway, but in Sweden we separated state and church about ten years ago, and I haven’t seen the church getting particularly much more conservative. If anything, it seems to be getting more and more diffuse. That is, it tries to have less and less opinions on any subject, to avoid alienating the followers it has left, wherever they are on the political spectrum. Of course, that makes it increasingly irrelevant instead, so it’s all good.

  34. 34
    Moggie

    Matt Penfold:

    Right wing Tories here in the UK often complain about the Church of England being too liberal. They have a different solution though. Rather than disestablish the Church they want to make it more conservative.

    Yeah, but the CofE used to be known as “the Tory party at prayer”. They figure it’s rightfully theirs, and they want it back.

  35. 35
    David Marjanović

    most Norwegians have been atheists for years

    Would surprise me.

    Now, as committed materialists, they should start teaching evolution in the schools.

    *blink*

    What makes you think they haven’t been teaching it for well over 100 years?!?

    The Scopes trial was late in international comparison.

  36. 36
    Ichthyic

    yeah, this is great and all, but Norway still hasn’t got…

    LIONS.

  37. 37
    NitricAcid

    @Ichthyic#36

    Sure it does- right there on the coat of arms.

  38. 38
    robro

    Gosh, and just when the good people of this country want to declare the Nitwitted States a “Christian” nation. Guess we’re just ahead of our times, again. It’ll take a few years to work out which kind of “Christian” we are, and maybe a war…or two…but I can assure you it won’t be Arianism.

  39. 39
    Ivan

    I’m believing this when I see it on Scandinavia and the World.

  40. 40
    Glen Davidson

    @35:

    Re your sarcasm detector: Effect repairs immediately.

    Glen Davidson

  41. 41
    John Morales

    [meta + OT]

    Ivan #39, I also immediately thought that this should feature in SATW. ;)

  42. 42
  43. 43
    Christian

    Congrats to Norway!

    Now if only Germany would follow suit and finally finish its inchoate separation of church and state.

  44. 44
    jfigdor

    Thank god for Norway.

  45. 45
    trondreitan

    Thanks, PZ! <Does a happy dance before reading the fine print>. Gnumann (#25) is right though, it’s more of a separate bedroom deal than a full separation.

  46. 46
    erlendalvestad

    I’m a Norwegian (expat in Belgium), and I didn’t know anything about this until I read this post. Guess everybody there was too busy preparing for tomorrow’s Constitution Day (delicious irony!) to tell me.

    What we all should be asking ourselves is: How soon before someone proposes a bill introducing Norse paganism as the new state religion?

  47. 47
    norhov

    Very sorry folks. I am afraid the idea that the Norwegian state has seperated from the Lutheran Church unfortunately is inncorrect.

    There will be a small change of paragraph 2 in the constitution. The existing wording looks like this:

    “All citizens in the kindom shall have the right to free practice of their religion.
    The evangelical-lutheran Religion remains the States official religion. The citizens that confess to it, shall consider it their duty to rise their children in the same.”

    The new wording:

    The value foundation remains our christian and humnaistic inheritance. This Constituition shall secure the Democracy, Rule of law and Human rights.

    Regarding the State Church paragraph 16 presently sound like this:

    “The King arranges all official Church and Services, alle Meetings and Assemblies regarding Religious matters, and suprvices that the Religions Official teachings conforms to the stipulated norms.”

    The new wording:

    “All citizens in the kindom shall have the right to free practice of their religion.
    The Norwegian hurch, an evangelical-lutheran church, remains the Norwegian Peoples chuch and will as such be supported by the state. Further provisions regarding its arrangements will be regulated by law. All faith and religious organisations will equally be supported by the state.”

    So we Norwegians will still have a State Church, not much has really changed but the name. The State Church will now be called the “Peoples Church”

    Borth religious people and politicians has in common the idea that if you really dont want to change anything, you can throw off people by simple changing the name og title of something.

    They seem to have succeeded very well so far.

  48. 48
    John Scanlon FCD

    @tomfrog #32,

    thanks for that link.

    I see from the wiki article that the 1905 law in France terminated the Church Tax (on citizens) that still operates in various other parts of Europe, but it’s not totally clear if ‘no subsidy’ means that tax (on property and transactions of religious organizations) is actually payable, or paid.

  49. 49
    tomfrog

    @johnscanlon, #48:

    it’s not totally clear if ‘no subsidy’ means that tax (on property and transactions of religious organizations) is actually payable, or paid.

    One thing I’m almost sure of (don’t have any source right now so *almost* sure) is that for all religious buildings built or acquired after 1905* the church pays property taxes etc.

    If they employ people they obviously have to pay the social & retirement cotisations and anyone receiving an income has to pay their revenue taxes (although priests and such earn far too little to pay any).

    My main interrogation is about tax-breaks for donations or things like that…

    * all church property was confiscated by the state in 1905.

  50. 50
    mikeh

    pj: “I’m hoping Finland isn’t far behind in taking the same step, although I cannot see it happening in the next twenty years.”

    Actually, Finland has made several of these reforms already many years ago. Neither the Finnish parliament nor the president is involved in appointing bishops or anyone else in the Evangelical Lutheran Church anymore, it’s all done by the church itself. The Finnish president is *not* the head of the church the way the monarch is in e.g. Denmark and the UK. Also, the Orthodox Christian church, albeit tiny in comparison, has most of the same legal privileges in Finland as the Lutheran church, so there isn’t really and official state religion, either, and arguably hasn’t been since the 1920s. The changes now being made in Norway still leave the Church of Norway to be funded with tax revenues in a similar way to Finland. So the difference is not all that big in practice.

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