What must it be like to live in New Zealand?

A recent survey in New Zealand reveals that only 40% of the people believe in a god, and 10% do but have doubts. Only 52% believe in an immortal soul, and 80% accept evolution. I marvel at that — a country where I would not be a member of a rare minority, where I could start a conversation with a stranger and reliably encounter someone who wasn’t barking mad, where the populace doesn’t believe in angels? Next you’ll be telling me the streets are paved with gold.

It’s not perfect. There are still lots of conspiracy theorists and UFO buffs and lucky number innumerates, but man, it’s just that the background looks so much less cluttered with nonsense (they also found a positive correlation between god-belief and belief in the paranormal, unlike a recent deeply flawed survey in the US, which tried to get around this problem by redefining belief in angels and miracles as not paranormal.) You must take a look at the full summary to believe it.

And then…they have a museum where they carry out public dissections of giant squid.

I’m having a hard time imagining such a place. Paradise doesn’t really exist, you know.


  1. Umilik says

    But then eagain according to the article, 33% believe in witchcraft. Hardly a place of total enlightenment…

  2. says

    You’d think that Ray Comfort would have stayed there. Seems that the percentage of souls that need to be saved is much higher there.

    Sure there aren’t as many people to sell the Way of the Master vids but that’s not his real goal…..

  3. clinteas says

    Got to be a reason the Ichthyic is moving there !

    New Zealanders and Australians are,most of the time,refreshingly non-bullshit and based in reality,there is dimwits everywhere of course,but around here,they are the exemption,not the rule.

  4. Yet Another Happy Kiwi says

    It really is that cool. I’ve been an atheist since I was 10, and all I ever did was argue with friends of mine who weren’t yet.

    There’s still some vague belief, but generally we just can’t be bothered believing in anything.

    “You mean I there’s a place that’s better than this when I die? And there’s a place that’s worse than Australia? You’re taking the piss!”

  5. Jacques says

    I’m French (sorry for my bad english btw) and, in my country, the situation is quite the same :
    * 34% of French citizens responded that “they believe there is a God”.
    * 27% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”.
    * 33% answered that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”.

    The situation is not perfect (like in New Zealand) but, well, we are very far from what you live in USA. It is astonishing to see how religious are your leaders in America. No politician would dare speaking too much of his/her faith in France : he/she would be just ridiculous and looks like he/she is stupid.

  6. Matthew says

    I moved to the US (from England) about 9 years ago and was absolutely SHOCKED that I was in the distinct minority and was not to be trusted due to my lack of belief of God. Then I found out about “Intelligent” Design and I was horrified! Finally, I found out about young earth creationism and the large amount of those fools out there and I was utterly depressed.

    If I spent too much time thinking about how ignorant and foolish many Americans are, I would probably leave the country and head back to the “old country”. However, I love this country too much to reduce the amount of sane people by one.

  7. says

    But… But… In New Zealand, the moon is upside-down! Driving on the left I could take. Sheep everywhere I could take. Bunny-hunts for Easter entertainment I could take. The moon being upside down was just weird!

  8. Brad.p says

    First Country to give women the vote, the first to climb Everest, and it gave us the father of nuclear physics.

  9. amph says

    ..the moon is upside-down

    No, wrong. The moon is the same, but the people are upside down, because they are standing on the wrong side of the globe.

  10. says

    On the one hand, they have hobbits and elves. I’ve seen a documentary on it, so it has to be true. On the other, they have orcs and evil wizards.

    Seriously, I wonder if the Maori still consider it paradise. Things have changed for them over the last 300 years.

  11. MH says

    Michelle #3 wrote “Then do they make you eat the squid? That’d be soooo cool.”

    Only if you like the taste of formaldehyde.

  12. jxc100 says

    How embarrassing for Kiwi’s – Ray Comfort is one of us. Who knew? Although I remember the ‘preaching’ in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square in the early 1980’s – he was probably one of those, but not in the same class as The Wizard (I see he has an entry in Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizard_of_New_Zealand). I guess Ray Comfort gravitated to where he is now for a good reason. As for the 33% of witchcraft believers, I suspect this is more a new-agey kind of thing than a complete submergence in dark age nonsense. At least, I hope so, and I hope that observation has less negative connotations (ie, new age vs old age superstition)!

  13. Lightnin says

    On the one hand, they have hobbits and elves. I’ve seen a documentary on it, so it has to be true. On the other, they have orcs and evil wizards.

    I remember seeing several earlier documentary series. Apprently the place is full of greek gods and demigods, and “warrior princesses”.

  14. bsk says

    And on a completely unrelated note, Congress isn’t voting on a new bill to save credit markets today… because it’s Rosh Hashanah.

    If ever there were a reason to disqualify the religious from public office, this is it.

  15. Martin says

    I’m not sure I’d call 80% believing in Evolution “impressive”. Well, maybe compared to some other countries. In Norway I don’t think you’d find many people who don’t ‘believe’ in Evolution. Though of course, on the paper we’d look quite bad with the vast majority a member of the state church (everyone is automatically entered).

  16. Matthew says

    No, wrong. The moon is the same, but the people are upside down, because they are standing on the wrong side of the globe.

    Why don’t they fall off?

  17. Gareth says

    Yeah, but a significant proportion of New Zealanders believe that the new rugby union experimental law variations are a GOOD thing for the game.

    So I wouldn’t really trust what they think…


  18. Svetogorsk says

    My wife went to a wedding in New Zealand, and said it was like a cross between Nebraska and Wales, but stuck in the 1950s. She wasn’t keen.

  19. GunOfSod says

    I was born and raised in NZ (left last year). I never had any issues with being identified as an Atheist there, in fact as the statistics indicate it was generally the norm (at least in my social circles).

    I think the reason may be that, in general NZ’ers are very individualistic and incredibly cynical about anyone trying to exert authority over them (be careful trying to tell a NZ’er what to do). There are exceptions to the rule, and we have recently seen quite large growth in Born Again churches in Auckland preying on (to a large degree) recent Pacific island immigrants.

    In General the mindset seems to be diametrically opposed to that in the US, whereby if you express strongly held religious beliefs, people will nod and smile and quietly feel sorry for you, the effect being that fundamentalist thinking is quite marginalised and widely criticised.

    I have lived in a number of other countries over the years (UK, France, Ireland) and found that although people are generally the same, for some reason they just accept the churches authority over them, their schools etc.

    NZ has historically been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of the social zeitgeist (Womens Sufferage, Anti-Nuclear stance, anti smacking laws, homosexual law reform etc). The parliament is very diverse and includes an Agnostic Women Prime Minister (Helen Clarke, who I think is fantastic), A transsexual Mayor, A Rastafarian, A Muslim and several christians. I’m hoping the rest of the world catches up soon.

    Ohh and Te Papa is a fantastic Museum, we were so lucky to have that on our doorsteps in Wellington. I spent many hours there with my children and always discovered something new. I’m hoping the new Marine Education centre in Wellington gets the go ahead for our return next year.

    NZ FTW.

  20. Marc Abian says

    Ireland’s not bad either, apart from the weather. The first time I’d even heard that there were people who didn’t believe in evolution was about 4 years ago. It was around the time of that kansas school board doing that thing which led to dover. In fact, it was that time, because that was incident in question. We all had a good laugh.

  21. PYRETTE says

    Seriously PZ, get out of that nutty country, Austalia will be glad to have you (contrary to what most locals think, New Zealand is actually a state of Australia :P).

    The Future of America (as i see it):
    McCain will win the election. I know is seems stupid but you guys have got a good crop of stupid fresh for harvesting.
    McCain will subsequently have a heart attack or cancer and die leaving Palin in charge.
    All intelligent or educated Americans will see the oncoming doom and emigrate to Australia, Canada, Sweden or some other sane country.
    Without out any intellectuals all universities will close, except for those run by religion. Prayer will become a valid (and infact the only) form of medicine, as well as a valid form of engineering, research, meteorology, food hygeine, and production. Disease and famine will run rampant.
    With the economy now lower than the republican party’s reputation and all infrastructure in ruin and flames the middle east will finally make good on its threats of revenge for the 8 year occupation and land enough bombs to sink the USA like the fabled Atlantis, to much glee from the rest of the world.

    This situation is inevitable if McCain wins the election.

  22. Hank Fox says

    Just FYI, PZ and others, Anton van Helden, a New Zealand cetacean biologist and very cool guy …

    (He’s also a well-regarded stage magician, a stand-up improv comic, an atheist, and was an Orc in the Lord of the Rings movie!)

    … is coming to the US in October, to Washington DC and New York City, accompanying a whale exhibit.

    I know him through friend Carl Buell, who’s done some illustration work for him.

    I can get the exact dates if you’re interested.

  23. says

    A bit of a worry, though, that so many of them (82% of women) have bought the conspiracy story that the Iraq war is about oil, when there is precious little evidence for that simplistic conclusion.

    Also 35.7% (41% of women) believe in 9/11 conspiracies! A worry…

    I’d love to see a comparison with my own country of Australia – I had always thought NZ was more religious, but this seems to indicate otherwise.

  24. says

    Those icky New Zealanders, oh so perverted
    Walking around on a world that’s inverted;
    The reason they don’t simply fall into space
    Is that Kiwis comprise a completely new race–
    Walking around in December’s high heat
    With mutated, gecko-like soles on their feet!

    It’s a small price to pay, for no rants about sin–
    And PZ and his tentacles… he’ll fit right in!

  25. PYRETTE says

    “There are exceptions to the rule, and we have recently seen quite large growth in Born Again churches in Auckland preying on (to a large degree) recent Pacific island immigrants.”

    Don’t you mean ‘Praying on’?

    He he, word games are fun.

  26. Marc says


    remember: the perfect ist the enemy of the good. Of course, I agree with you that belief in witchcraft is no more warranted than belief in angels, devils, gods etc…
    However, with these Wiccans I am never really sure how many of them really belief in the “magick” and how many simply see it as a piece of ritual and symbolism which they enjoy.

    On a more general note:
    I think it might be helpful to cut down that tired old Christian propagandist line “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything” to the perhaps somewhat pessimistc, but definitly more truthful statement:
    “People will believe in anything”

  27. BobC says

    Every developed country in the world has a more educated and less insane population than America, but “Only 52% believe in an immortal soul” is still disgraceful. A person has to be totally nuts to believe in a soul.

  28. Eric says

    Another thing to note about NZ:

    You are *not* required (at least in Christchurch) to wear shoes or shirt every place you walk into. Oddly, you *are* required to wear slacks (not jeans) to discos.

    There is a bar license for 24-hour bars(!). (Not every bar is 24-hour, but there’s a couple in Christchurch – the Casino and The Jolly Poacher (at least there *were* beck in ’98).)

    There seems to be a pool hall every couple of blocks!

    As a wonderful way of recycling; you can purchase beer or cider in re-fillable 2-liter bottles (for about NZ$5 plus deposit as I (imperfectly) recall).

    The landscape is some of the most beautiful in the world!

    Best of all, the people are *incredibly* friendly and welcoming!

    I had the good fortune of being able to spend 6 weeks in NZ back in late ’98.


  29. says

    My brother and his wife emigrated there almost 3 years ago and would agree with Svestogorsk’s sister in many respects. They like it, but I think will eventually come back to the US.

    Biggest hangups are:
    Cost of food (and the best stuff is reserved for export)
    Lack of public transit and bicycle friendliness
    Can’t get much iTunes content there. At all.
    ~Insanely expensive internet & telephone~

    That last one was nearly a deal breaker for them. I still need to save up to go visit. (Oh yeah-because it costs $$$$$ to get much of anywhere from there.)

    Almost perfect otherwise, though!

  30. says

    @#35 Jake – No, Ken Ham is regrettably from Brisbane, Australia (he has a science degree from the university where I teach in Brisbane).

    But the banana-coke man is from NZ.

  31. Mrs Bastardley says

    My husband (Australian) and I (Irish) are about fourteen days away from permanently relocating to New Zealand. Originally we holidayed there, and were absolutely amazed by the friendliness of people, and their general attitude toward, well, everything.

    I’m certainly happy to hear those statistics!

  32. says

    The one redeeming factor about the likes of Ken Ham or Ray Comfort is that while they were brought up in these great* island nations, they needed to go to America to find an audience. Surely someone can weave that into a message about global consumerism, it’s too late at night here for me.

    *excluding New Zealand

  33. Nikki says

    Has anyone else noticed that the heading and description on the survey makes it sound like evolution and big bang theory are ‘paranormal’ beliefs? Either someone’s a nutjob or he needs to get a better sub-editor.

  34. Susan says

    My husband and I spent six weeks cruising around New Zealand in a motorhome 20 years ago, before marriage and kids, and wanted to emigrate. Other than a distinct (and lamentable) dearth of Mexican food, it seemed like paradise to us– it was like California turned upside down, separated by oceans from anyone else, with only 3 million people (1 million all in one city). You could still buy gorgeous beachside homes. Unfortunately, they seemed pretty picky about who they take in.

    Maybe we can retire there? I’ll definitely explore that option if Palin gets anywhere near the nu cu lar button.

  35. Enzyme says

    In New Zealand, most people believe in hobbits. The rest are hobbits – but they have personality issues.

    This is proven by SCIENCE and 100% OF FACT. Oh, yes.

  36. says

    (he has a science degree from the university where I teach in Brisbane)

    It’s really hard to think of him with an actual science degree considering just how wrong he is on all things science.

  37. AlanWCan says

    …also first county to give women the vote (in 1893). They have proportional representation, so you get to vote for who you want instead of against the other guy…and they’re not all guys either. Helen Clark has been PM since 1999, and she’s the second PM with two X chromosomes they’ve had. Strangely pertinent in these days of historic almost-nomination of a woman on the democratic presidential ticket and all the BS about sexism surrounding caribou barbie in the US. Take that land of the free, where national suffrage didn’t come until 1920, the UK where it took until 1928, and Switzerland until 1973!!!

  38. Nick Gotts says

    A bit of a worry, though, that so many of them (82% of women) have bought the conspiracy story that the Iraq war is about oil, when there is precious little evidence for that simplistic conclusion. – Robert Davidson

    Look at the PNAC document “Rebuilding America’s Defences” (2000), which states that: “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein”. Recall that securing oil installations had top priority after the invasion. Look at the new “oil law” and the concessions it gives to foreign interests – unique in the Middle East. Remember that former members of the BUsh administration have stated that an invasion of Iraq was planned from day 1. Consider Alan Greenspan’s words:
    “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”
    Conspiracy theory? Precious little evidence? Those who claim it was not about oil often say “But it would have been easy just to buy the oil”. This (deliberately) misses the point: it was not about access to oil, but about controlling as much of the world supply as possible.

  39. says

    BobC@32: Looked at rationally immortal souls are much more obviously ridiculous even than belief in a specific god but I don’t buy “totally nuts”. Fear of death is obviously very deep (not to mention the extinction of humans and all evidence that we existed falling to the increase of entropy). It’s not surprising that people cling on to any “Get out impermanence free” card that they are offered.

  40. katie says

    I work for a coupla Kiwis…they tell me, in New Zealand, chiropractors aren’t considered doctors either.

  41. Digitalgoldfish says

    My Dad lives over there, and while they might not believe in a deity much, they sure as hell suck up all the woo.. Homeopathy is huge!

    My Dad once said to me “I can prove Homeopathy works. My cat’s taking it, and he’s definitely less stressed!” This from an otherwise highly intelligent individual. In fact the cat died a month later as they weren’t actually treating it with any drugs..go figure..!

  42. SC says

    A bit of a worry, though, that so many of them (82% of women) have bought the conspiracy story that the Iraq war is about oil, when there is precious little evidence for that simplistic conclusion.

    Thank you for giving me an excuse to link once again to Robert Newman’s great History of Oil


    (Scroll about 40% of the way down the page to find it.)

  43. E.V. says

    So the world perceives the majority of Americans to be delusional greedy arrogant pious racist fuckwits. Hmmm. Perhaps it is because most Americans are delusional greedy arrogant pious racist fuckwits, y’know, but nice delusional greedy arrogant pious racist fuckwits. And we display it proudly via satellite to televisions around the globe.
    Anyone up for watching the “E Channel”?

  44. Nicole TWN says

    Matthew@21: They have special shoes with magnets in them.

    No, seriously; I’m dying to visit New Zealand, but since I just took 4 weeks in Europe (family wedding), it’ll have to wait another umpteen years. Which makes me Very Very Sad.

    P.S. Kiwis! Please adopt me if McCain gets in! I am very friendly and a good cook.

  45. Steve says

    So why did they boot Charles Pellegrino? As I understand it, he was forced out of his position because his views on evolution didn’t jibe with religion or the mainstream of scientists…

  46. Jacques says

    I have considered moving from Canada to NZ to get far away from all the lunacy in the US. Only problem is they don’t speak any french which would probably be a deal breaker for the partner and my son.

  47. says

    Well, I do not want to sound overly proud, but according to Wikipedia, the most non-religious country is Estonia… The weather, though, is not very different from Minnesota, as I understand, so NZ might be a better choice of relocation.

  48. Quiet_Desperation says

    I can just show up in New Zealand and start living there, right? And your politicians will put my needs and concerns over those of legal citizens, right? And activist groups in Auckland will declare it a sanctuary city and hide me, yes? And I can *demand* you print everything in American English instead of those Elvish runes you use, correct?

    What? You mean every country doesn’t do it the way we do? Huh.

    But seriously, it’s a good time to be an engineer. Seems like every country is looking for engineers.


  49. Quiet_Desperation says

    but since I just took 4 weeks in Europe (family wedding)

    Wow! That must have been some wedding. What, did they read the whole Bible in Latin or something?

  50. says

    On the other hand, I was in New Zealand a couple of months ago, and I read on the front page of their major newspaper an article bemoaning the godlessness of us Aussies.

  51. robbrown says

    San Francisco seems pretty much like that to me. I don’t feel in the minority here at all. (although the spanish speaking populace is large and tends to be quite strongly catholic)

  52. Peter Ashby says

    Brad you forgot about the jetboat, the automatic rotary milking machine and the world’s first practical ‘jetpack’. Oh and a farmer in South Canterbury flew before the Wright Brothers. One of his aircraft with rotating propeller pods for VTOL hangs in MoTaT in Auckland.

    There is the recognition that sitting a long way from anywhere at the arse end of the world means you have to do things yourself, they are not going to come to you. Allied with a refusal to recognise any suggestion that just because you are a long way from anywhere at the arse end of the world that means you cannot invent something new, or be the first man to run under 3:50 for the mile and the first to run 100 sub 4minute miles (I was there when he did it). That is what makes us great.

  53. says

    Hate to shatter your revery, PZ. I’m sure New Zealand is a lovely place in many ways, but those stats hardly make it unique. Other than the US (and, apparently, Turkey!), lots of developed countries have lots of people with no religious beliefs to speak of (and lots of other people who have such beliefs but think them a private matter and have no desire to tell the rest how to believe or live).

    And as Gareth notes @22, support for the ELVs is a sin only slightly less grave than creationism. Worse, in some ways: say what you will about creationists, but I have never yet met one who would let people deliberately collapse a maul.

  54. nipsey russell says

    “redefining belief in angels and miracles as not paranormal”
    at the barnes and noble in philadelphia (the one in PA!), in the childrens’ section under non-fiction…..thats where they keep alll the bible related kids books…lots of them.

  55. kiwisteve says

    I’m playing under the ELV’s in the UK at the moment (no free kicks, but collapsing is ok, no passing into the 22 etc).

    Collapsing the maul is actually suprisingly hard, but effective if you get it right. So far (three games) there have been three yellow cards for fights caused by guys collapsing mauls.

    I’m not sure it’s a good thing, but it does change the game. Also, it is much faster. Our first ref accidentally went full ELV – free kicks and all – and it moved so fast. I still like old school rugby though – like the Pittsburgh Steelers – knock everyone else unconscious and walk to the tryline.

    But then again, I’m a forward.

    Oh, and NZ is paradise, which is why it’s so boring we all move overseas for ten years.

  56. Holbach says

    As I have on several comments over a period of time, and with all things considered, I still choose New Zealand as my first country of immigration, with Norway a second choice.

  57. Katy says

    My boyfriend is a Kiwi, whom I met while on a backpacking trip a couple years ago in NZ. I am fortunate to be able to get a work visa through him and move to NZ in June. If McCain/Insane are elected, it will be even more sweet. I love NZ and wish I could convince the rest of my family to relocate. Seeing that the population as a whole is way more tuned into reality is just icing on the cake. What a country!!!

  58. QrazyQat says

    We went there for a month a few years back and loved it. Go during the shoulder season (we went in their fall, our spring, in other words, May). The hotels are much cheaper and so are the rental cars. At the airport look for the board with the phones and find a rental car place away from the airport cause they’re way cheaper. At the time our dollar was strong and the rental, with the optional windshield breakage insurance, was less than US$500 for the month. We got one of the less expensive ones (it was a nice Toyota) which you could take on either island. You can get rental cars where you leave yours off in Wellington and pick up another on the South Island, and this might be the same price actually because the ferries between the islands are very expensive, and you have to make reservations for a car. We were used to our ferries up here where you just drive up and wait til the next sailing; 2 sailings if it’s really busy on a holiday. Not there. They actually apologised for the price; they said they heard from everyone about their high ferry prices. If you get a different car on each island you can just get on easily.

    Don’t bother taking any guidebooks, the (many) tourist info places have loads of guidebooks for free, all the recreation, sightseeing, and accomodation info you need.

    Accomodation has a wide range of prices, because there’s backpacker dorms, hotel rooms with shared bathrooms, hotel rooms with private bathroom, sometimes all in one place. So you can look in the book and see a place with prices ranging from $12-125.

    There’s also campgrounds, which often have cabins. There’s a lot of places where you bring your own bed linen, and they’re cheaper; we didn’t have all that stuff so we didn’t stay at those. But you could go pretty cheap.

    Dinner meals are a little expensive, but when you consider the dollar difference and the no tipping (no pennies either, BTW) it isn’t all that much. Lunches are cheaper and esp. fish and chips are a bargain and really good. Breakfast and coffee range from expensive to outrageous (like a McDonald’s breakfast meal for $12). Hotels usually give you coffee (instant, usually not the best either) tea, and a small carton of milk, so buy a couple of cheap bowls and some cereal. They usually have microwaves so you can do some cooking. For coffee on the outside get a capuccino, preferably at a McCafe which many McDonald’s have; they’re very good and cheaper than other places, and they have nice comfy seats and coffee shop type baked goods and all.

    Driving on the left side of the road takes a little getting used to, quite a few one-lane bridges, and they have an odd rule on turns at intersections; your rental car comapny will have the info.

    Nice roads (almost all two-laners) good drivers for the most part, and a very nice place. Odd accents from a North American perspective. Mostly nice people. An example: in Nelson on the South Island we stopped at a hotel after dark and couldn’t find anyone around. There was a sign on the office that said come in and phone this number. So I called and firgured someone would come out and take our money and get us a room. The guy who answered said “are you sitting at the desk?” I said yes. He said “All right. Open the drawer on your left and there should be several keys there; I’d suggest taking the front room because it’s bigger, and we’ll be in in the morning to check you in.”

  59. Amused says

    It’s funny, cos here in Sweden you sort of assume that the people you meet are atheists. ‘s not something you really think about, at least not I. Every now and then I hear that someone’s friend of a friend is religious, always makes me lul.
    I saw a priest (with a collar and everything!) walking the streets of Stockholm the other day. Wuz kinda like when you’re at the zoo and get to see those exotic beast from the discovery channel in real life.

  60. jj says

    According to Zuckerman’s well known survey (see his chapter in “The Cambridge Companion to Atheism” [google book preview pdf] the top 10 least religious countries are:

    1. Sweden (up to 85% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
    2. Vietnam
    3. Denmark
    4. Norway
    5. Japan
    6. Czech Republic
    7. Finland
    8. France
    9. South Korea
    10. Estonia (up to 49% non-believer, atheist, agnostic).

    Surprisingly, Israel ranks a somewhat respectable 19th with up to 37% claiming to be non-believer, atheist, agnostic. Meanwhile, the US with it’s sub-state of Dumbfuckistan ranks a lowly 44th. New Zealand’s numbers are not even close to Sweden’s.

    Zuckerman concluded that:

    high levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low homicide rates, low poverty rates, low infant mortality rates, and low illiteracy rates, as well as high levels of educational attainment, per capita income, and gender equality. Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism.

    Also see the online essay by Paul and Zuckerman “Why The Gods Are Not Winning”

  61. AnswersInGenitals says

    Wife and I visited NZ twice for four months each time traveling by small motor home all over the islands. The country and people are absolutely fabulous. Can’t wait to get back. Never discussed religion with anyone. I suspect most New Zealanders would wonder why anyone would want to discuss religion. To me , the most notable thing about NZ is Smith’s bookstore on Manchester street in Christchurch, the greatest used book store in the world. Worth the trip all by itself. Four large floors of books stacked floor to ceiling. Now, that is heaven!

  62. jj says

    It’s funny, cos here in Sweden you sort of assume that the people you meet are atheists

    Yep, a rationalist’s paradise in more ways than one (blondes, summer, Stockholm, no religion = unbeatable). PZ needs to return to (or at least visit) his Nordic roots.

  63. Bob Evans says

    @#63 “That is what makes us great”

    What also endears your countrymen in the hearts of many Americans, Pete, is the fact that New Zealand was one of only six countries that fought side by side with the U.S. in the Vietnam war. Thirty-eight New Zealanders were killed in action during that conflict.

  64. David Marjanović, OM says

    The Future of America (as i see it):
    McCain will win the election.

    How, when Obama keeps leading in the polls?

    With the economy now lower than the republican party’s reputation and all infrastructure in ruin and flames the middle east will finally make good on its threats of revenge for the 8 year occupation and land enough bombs to sink the USA like the fabled Atlantis, to much glee from the rest of the world.

    Bullshit. If the US economy tanks, so does the economy of the rest of the world. The effects of the current bank crisis have already started crossing the Atlantic. The world economy is way too entangled that anyone could just stand by and watch.

    and Switzerland until 1973!!!

    No, Switzerland has a separate date for each canton and even each of the few half-cantons. The insanely conservative Appenzell-Innerrhoden came last… on… brace yourselves… 27 November 1990, when the federal Supreme Court forced them.

    On the federal level it came in 1971.

  65. Jamie says

    I don’t have anything to add to the religious views of New Zealand, but I took my wife there for our honeymoon four years ago. We spent a fortnight driving around the South Island, and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I cannot recommend the place enough for a visit. Also, if anyone ever goes to Haast and visits the bar in the hotel, please try the fish and chips. It was the best I’ve ever tasted, and my country supposedly invented the dish…

  66. jj says

    What also endears your countrymen in the hearts of many Americans, Pete, is the fact that New Zealand was one of only six countries that fought side by side with the U.S. in the Vietnam war.

    Hmmm, for me that counts as a strike against it. As it would with any country that allied the US in its criminal and unjustifiable invasions of southeast Asia and Iraq.

  67. Bagel says

    New Zealand is a whole lot of awesome. Feels a bit like the ’80s in some ways, but wonderful for its crazier-than-Australia wildlife, geothermal and tectonic insanity, and the obsession with all things vertical.

    Of course on my last trip to NZ I had the ‘Oh, so you *believe* in evolution’ line from a lady working at Global Culture in the Auckland airport. A vocal (evangelical, Jehovah’s Witness) part of that 20%….

  68. EvilSteveL says

    When I traveled in NZ, what I noticed immediately upon entering a new town was that I couldn’t find the churches. Towns in the US and Europe are built around the local cathedrals; in NZ, the churches tend to be very modest affairs on side streets.

  69. Ichthyic says

    How, when Obama keeps leading in the polls?

    shades of the 2000 election.

    Gore was leading in the polls with around this much time to go, too, IIRC.

    In fact, Gore won the popular election.

    yet… here we sit, with Chimpy McGrin at the helm.

  70. Bob Evans says

    @#79 “Hmmm, for me that counts as a strike against it. As it would with any country that allied the US in its criminal and unjustifiable invasions of southeast Asia and Iraq.”

    As an American veteran of that conflict, jj, my sentiment is entirely directed at the sacrifice of my brothers in arms. As an 18 year old draftee, I don’t recall having reflected on the “criminal” invasion I was embarking upon.

  71. Ichthyic says

    I’ll have to get my paperwork together quickly to beat the rush…

    didn’t you know?

    It, uh, takes YEARS to process the paperwork, and New Zealand HATES american/UK immigrants.

    and, uh…

    oh yeah! It’s in the middle of a big recession, and all the kiwis are moving to Oz!

    and, oh! New Zealand is planning to start up a draft for immigrants – you’ll be forced to serve in the armed forces for at least 3 years… and you’ll be invading Borneo (nasty place, full of cannibals and horrible disease carrying insects!).

    and of course, let’s not forget the zombie sheep, which outnumber the human populace by nearly an order of magnitude. Here’s the documentary on this horrific state of affairs to prove it:


    for the love of all that is good, stay away from New Zealand!!!!


  72. Quiet_Desperation says

    Yep, a rationalist’s paradise in more ways than one (blondes, summer, Stockholm, no religion = unbeatable).


    Come stay in Southern California, PZ.

    We have many blondes in at least six different genders. All the other colors look great, too.

    As for religion, well, we’re a solid blue state. The immigrants tend to lean Catholic, but you never really hear about it, and they trend Democrat.

    No Stockholm but we have San Francisco, San Deigo and Las Vegas available for different moods. There’s beach, forest, mountains and desert all driving distance away. You could visit all four in one day if you worked at it.

    Sweden summer = Caifornia winter. :-)

    However, our taxes might actually be rivaling Sweden’s at this point, so there’s that.

  73. Ichthyic says

    Come stay in Southern California, PZ.

    he did, remember?

    just last week, in fact.

    where I told him about Howard Ahmanson, the rise of the Neocons, and we joked about BioLA university.


  74. HappyKiwi says

    Have to say, New Zealand is a great place to live and bring up kids. We lived for a year in Hawaii, loved it, but would still rather raise our kids in NZ. That said, it seems easier these days to discover loonies (the internet facilitating a viral spread of intolerance and fundamentalism) and there has been a growth in evangelical churches, particularly targeting Maori, Pacific Islanders etc (but even there is it more complex, as the Destiny Church here, with a large Maori congregation, exhibits a lot of the hallmarks of early Maori millenial movements that resisted colonisation). Norway, Sweden, Denmark etc. are even more secular and I’d live in any of those places.

    I think the defining thing for me, is that most New Zealanders would still do a double-take and look embarrassed if our Prime Minister ever mentioned god or prayer in a speech. If you have to do religion, it is something you do decently in private, it has no place in public life. General outrage at the Exclusive Brethren’s attempts to influence our last election certainly contributed to the failure of our conservative party to form a government.

    By all means come and live in NZ, we’d love to have you if you’re a regular reader of this blog. But do it with your eyes open–it’s not like holidaying, you need to know what things cost and how much you can earn, and above all don’t expect perfection–it doesn’t exist. We have our share of terrible crimes, our politics often sucks, large parts of the population are alarmingly credulous…but we adapted to the ELVs better than anywhere in the world. If you want REAL rugby–this is the place.

  75. Buffybot says

    Not to forget that the NZ election is on in about six weeks, and I’ve yet to have a political discussion with anybody, let alone an insane partisan fight. I tend to assume that everybody’s at least agnostic, and was 8 or 9 before I realised that there were still religious people in the world, and it wasn’t something that had become obsolete in the 19th century. Witchcraft probably refers to new age bollocks – lots of crystal wavers about, and don’t even get me started on psychics and my ‘Sensing Murder’ rant.

    From this summer, you’ll be able to legally strut around nude on any beach in Wellington.

  76. Quiet_Desperation says

    he did, remember?

    I know. I thought about going if only to check out the commie bookstore for a bit of slumming. ;-) I mean *STAY*. Jobs would be easy. You have to try hard to live more than a few miles from a college or university around here.

    Better than New Zealand, Hollywood’s backlot. :-D

    I tease you, NZ!

  77. says

    One thing that tells me New Zealand is not a paradise is that there are a fair number of Kiwis in London.

    It’s probably okay if you love Rugby, don’t mind living thousands of miles from anywhere else and don’t mind bloody Tolkien fans.

  78. Ichthyic says

    Better than New Zealand, Hollywood’s backlot. :-D

    oh, yes, of course…

    you’re absolutely right!

    what was I thinking?

    Move to SoCal, everyone. QD is absolutely right – great weather, beaches, mountains in your backyard, forests to the north, farms to the east…

    no traffic or congestion or smog (we fixed all that a couple years back). Plenty of fresh, clean water. Housing is cheap! We kicked out all the religious types and burned BioLA to the ground; even ran out the Neocons.

    great place.


    Make sure you fly to Ronald Reagan airport in Orange County.

  79. DrYak says

    It is a nice enough place (if you like cows and sheep ;) and the majority are quite rational – the sceptics society had their annual conference just last weekend (that couldn’t make unfortunately). However there is a strong strain of religious nuttery as well – the mormons are very strong – they have a huge temple and their own separate suburb (Temple View) in Hamilton (5th largest city/town). The Maori “Destiny” church is very influential – all the politicos go to their annual shindig and pander and the Exclusive Bretheren have an “unholy” influence over one of the two main parties (the center-right National Party).

    The official national religion based around worship of the All Blacks is just as annoying as any god botherers…

    On the other hand the South Island is sublime and has some of the world’s best kayaking and backcountry ski touring…

  80. RT NZ says

    Come on down,the water is fine.

    Even tho we have our share of creotards ,they tend to be ignored,a recent attempt to introduce the teaching of id in schools did`nt even make the front page and disappeared completely after 6 hours .
    Our one and only evangelist preacher ,who gets his congregation to buy him Armani suits ,Harley Davidson motor cycles,Chrysler 300s and Pacific cruises ,is largely silent in public.I think he`s a bit afraid the Inland Revenue may cotton on to his little(large?) tax free status (scam).

  81. Malcolm says

    96 comments and no one has mentioned penguins! You people have weird priorities.
    You forgot refrigerated shipping, something vitally important when you are on the other side of the world from you intended market

  82. John A Anderson says

    NZ has an offical censor. My book, for example, can’t be legally purchased or even owned there. It’s titled “How to Steal Food From the Supermarket.” It’s out of print, but you can still find it on the Net.

  83. says

    We also have no nuclear weapons. We actually fucked off America a while back, because we don’t allow foreign powers to store their nuclear weapons in New Zealand waters. Look up David Lange’s Oxford Union Address if that interests you.

    Then again, we also have ‘Bishop’ Brian Tamaki. So no, nothing’s perfect.

  84. Ichthyic says

    96 comments and no one has mentioned penguins!

    first thing I planned to see when I hit the South Island in Nov/Dec.

    er, I mean..

    Penguins, what penguins? nothing but zombie sheep, and the occasional goat, in NZ.

  85. DonZilla says

    Must confirm what DrYak said @ #96–yes Virginia, there are Mormons. After realizing a lifelong dream of getting down to NZ in 2003, I get into an airport minivan bound for my B+B, only to discover I’m surrounded by Mormons trying to impress the driver with: “We have roundabouts in America now!”

    Of course “roundabouts” have been on the East Coast of the USA since forever. In New Jersey they’re called “traffic circles.” In Massachusetts, they’re called “rotaries.”

    I guess this particular bunch of Mormons made it down to NZ, but still have to make it to New Jersey.

  86. Scott from Oregon says

    I love the fact that the Maoris complain sometimes about the white bread taking away their country.

    “At least they didn’t eat you…” is a good enough retort…

    If you hitchhike around, be aware that almost every male over forty who picks you up will tell you he is an ex- All Black.

  87. Chris A. says

    Norway even has a STATE CHURCH and STILL has more atheists than a country with separation of church and state

  88. Ichthyic says

    I love the fact that the Maoris complain sometimes about the white bread taking away their country.

    thanks for that very insightful and useful commentary, scott.

    just as valuable as all your other input.

    at least you didn’t preface it with


  89. Ichthyic says

    From this summer, you’ll be able to legally strut around nude on any beach in Wellington.

    did I mention I’ll be visiting Wellington the first week of November?

    seriously, shoot me an email. I’d love to buy you a pint.


  90. HappyKiwi says

    Fact is, Scott @ #103, the Maori (plural–non-inflected) have a million reasons to complain about colonialism–while cannibalism has a small and peripheral history, out of all proportion to your comment, which frankly makes you sound like an ignorant cracka. There are some shameful aspects to our colonial history…there are also genuine attempts to redress them through the Waitangi Commission to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Maori are pragmatists–they know they’ll never get the land back that was stolen from them, nor compensation for its full value–but they also know they’re getting a vastly superior deal to most of the world’s First Nations peoples, and most Iwi (tribes) are doing great things with the proceeds from their treaty settlements. How’s Oregon doing with its native American tribes?

  91. Ichthyic says

    …that’s a request from any other NZ’er that wants a free pint too!

    I’m buying, and I expect to spend over a month just exploring the South Island (before settling in Wellington), so if you’re interested in swapping stories, or just have an idea of what to see, send me a message.


  92. extatyzoma says

    NZ is a great place, i lived there for a few years.

    great things: people are quite chilled out and lack that anal retentive US conservative type mentality (whatever that is, kiwis tend not to wear pleated slacks, have side parted hair and go to church), the foods good, bacon/cheese/sausages generally better than in the USA, NZ made whittakers chocolate is pretty good too. you get large wetas ( large orthopteran insects comprising several different families lumped together) invading you homes and gardens.

    the bad: the sun burns your skin quickly even when its cool!!

  93. says

    I’ve been told that New Zealand is culturally between England and Canada, which sounds pretty comfortable to me. It’s in the southern hemisphere, which means that if there is a nuclear war people there will have a better chance of surviving; and there are more sheep than people so you probably won’t starve. These days, that’s a comforting thought. There were no mammals there until we brought them, so birds radiated into unusual niches; and there are still some of the strangest flightless birds we know. Weather? Scenery? Gorgeous.

  94. Number8Dave says

    @ DrYak #96: Yes, the NZ Skeptics (we happily use the US spelling) had their conference last weekend – I helped organise it. It was a really enjoyable event, shame you couldn’t make it. The probable highlight was making UFO’s out of helium balloons and LEDs on Friday night and letting them go into the Hamilton night sky. Of course, Waikato was playing Otago in the NPC rugby championship at the time, so the rest of the city’s population was either inside in front of the TV or at the stadium, so nobody saw them. But it was on Jono’s New Show on C4 on Monday night (hopefully it’ll be on their website soon).

    I don’t know whether it’s a concern or not that in a country of 4 million people we can’t manage to get even 100 people along to an annual conference. Maybe it’s because, as has been said, we’re a fairly level-headed people, so not too many people see irrationality as something to be concerned about. But when Creation Ministries International can get 300 or more people along to their meetings several times a year, and when Sensing Murder is on prime-time TV (and the NZ Police say information from psychics is just one more item in their toolbox), it seems clear to me that there is still a place for a Skeptics society in this country.

    New Zealand is far from paradise. Incomes continue to fall behind the rest of the developed world, housing prices have gone silly (Susan @ #42 – affordable beach houses are a distant memory) and there are plenty of loons here. Yes, religion is for the most part a private affair, and has almost no part in public life. (If some kind of “spiritual” input is deemed necessary at some function, it’s most likely to take the form of a Maori karakia – which may be religious, but at least no-one can understand it.) But alternative medicine is huge, all the chemist shops (pharmacists) seem to have homeopathy sections, and it gets very sympathetic coverage in the media.

    For all that, I still love living here. The beaches and the mountains and the bush (forests) are wondrous, and we have the infrastructure to provide all our material requirements and quite a few luxuries besides. And three species of penguins. And most of the world’s albatross species. And giant wetas. We’ll let America have Flight of the Conchords.

  95. Scott from Oregon says

    “””Maori cannibalism widespread claims historian

    Maori cannibalism was widespread throughout New Zealand until the mid 1800s but has largely been ignored in history books, says the author of a new book released this week. Paul Moon said his new book, This Horrid Practice, looked at the Maori tradition of eating each other in what was a particularly violent society before Europeans arrived in New Zealand. Cannibalism lasted for several hundred years until the 1830s although there were a few isolated cases after that, said Professor Moon, a Pakeha history professor at Te Ara Poutama, the Maori Development Unit at the Auckland University of Technology. He said the widespread practice of cannibalism was not a food issue but people were eaten often as part of a post-battle rage.”””

    I just mentioned it because Maori dissatisfaction was pretty ripe when I lived there. They had a bunch of Maori youth go Rasta and there were incidences of violence. A reggae band called Herb got involved in a town (if I remember right) called Roritoria, and I stumbled into the festivities and ended up getting my ugly mug in a documentary made about the event. I was surprised to break bread with red headed Maori teens who liked Bob Marley an awful lot.

    The Maori culture exists at about the same level of say, Hawaii or American Indian culture. There is a fight to retain the language and roots of the culture, while the modern world clamours in.

    I wonder what percentage still maintains belief in ancestral myths and legends?

  96. pkiwi says

    Luv all the warm fuzzies heading this way. Cuttlefish – priceless.
    We do have a political and public life fairly free of dogma and superstition. But have some pointed out it is not hard to find arrogant stupidity e.g. Brian Tamaki (although we only have 3 months I think till his prediction of his church dominating NZ runs out), Winston Peters (some people still believe him), the popularity of psychics on TV etc. We still need better education around science particular earlier in the curricula – I have heard some wacky things from 10-12 y.o.’s. And there are creobots operating – so constant vigilance (we can be a fairly smug and self-satisfied lot – you may be asked within 2 minutes of arrival how are you enjoying it so far). I think PZ should sabbatical down here – help his research in this environment and raise the tone.
    Economically we are still on the slide (hence once of the highest rates of diaspora) so please do come here and spend up large. We can sell you some hobbits!
    QrazyQat you speak blasphemy: do not come all this way to have ‘coffee’ at an American chain! Coffee is superb in the café culture – try L’Affare in Wgtn for example.
    The All Blacks are less exalted of late, but at least we can challenge orthodoxy with the ELV’s!

  97. pkiwi says

    Ichthyic: if you are settling in Wellington you want to get a good feel for the SI far flung spots: Kahurangi National Park/Golden Bay/Abel Tasman NP (scallops, carnivorous snails, remote golden beaches); West Coast (glaciers, kiwi, limestone rocks, or the Last Resort in Karamea to eat inanga), Fiordland (just awesome deep fiords, bush, humongous sandflies), Catlins/Dunedin (Penguins, albatross).
    Scott from Oregon: so is there an American Indian Party in government likely to hold considerable influence? Is there state-backed native language TV? An acknowledgement that property rights were violated and should be redressed? Seen a kapa haka performance? A long way of perfect and there are underclass and deprivation issues but it is complex.

  98. Ichthyic says

    thanks for the list, pkiwi. I plan to hit all those spots!

    I’ll be putting up a “tourist” blog and posting pics and stories there.

  99. Moondog says

    It’s true – our streets aren’t paved with gold. But having just spent 43 million upgrading Auckland’s main street (and others nearby) with big flagstones it might’ve been cheaper to use gold….

  100. Ross Nixon says

    Someone mentioned that NZ is like a 1950s version of somewhere (California?).
    I for one, wish NZ would go back to the mores and values of the 1950s.
    We had 2 murders in 1952.
    Now we have a murder every day.
    But that is what you get when the country is run by godless socialists.

  101. Larry Boy says

    Well, I’d like to point out that if you consider a belief in god to be a belief in the paranormal, then, surprise surprise, a belief in god has a perfect correlation with a belief in the paranormal (though of course the inverse is not necessarily true.) It would be more interesting to see if there were ‘belief guilds’ that tend to have exclusive membership. Say, (UFO and BIGFOOT and ID) -or- (TELEPATHY and MAGIC and EVOLUTION) -or- (CHRISTIANITY and MIRACLES and ID). Of course, we would need the raw data of the survey to do an analysis since it would depend on paired data lost in the summary statistics. :(

  102. Travis says

    New Zealand has very real issues arising from colonial history, but we are hardly unique in that.

    Anyway, to answer your question; Pretty sweet.

    I personally feel very lucky to have been born here rather than, say, the US or UK.

  103. says

    One thing I’ve found in Australia is that so many people here are no longer religious in the traditional sense. So there’s the whole thing of “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual”, where people believe in guardian angels and ghosts and all that paranormal garbage. It seems the old style of dualism has been supplanted by a new style of dualism; the cult of the paranormal is here.

    While atheism may be on the rise, is empirical rationaism? What are the percentages on belief in UFOs, psychic powers, astrology, palmistry, ghosts, cryptozoology, atlantis, etc? It seems a lot easier to shake off the sky daddy if it’s replaced by paranormal garbage.

  104. Heraclides says

    Getting more on topic, that is about living in NZ, wayyy more money should be put into science research… far too much of it goes on rugby! I’ve nothing against sport, but outsiders would find the amount spent on the one sport a little crazy.

    More on-topic still. Great place for a laid back, outdoor lifestyle. Best if you like outdoors over cities, the bigger cities are small by world standards. For all that, Auckland has traffic hassles (city and motorway layout is partly to blame; the city is split by harbours, etc.). House prices have gone mad, but are coming back (hopefully). Food prices have gone up, which is a shame. Decent people, especially in the “deep south” ;-)

  105. Wowbagger says


    I agree with the lackluster religiosity ‘down under’ but I’m yet to experience that much in the way of new-woo – though the more I think about it the more I think you might be right. I have a friend who’s half-way through a PhD and yet she firmly believes in ghosts; a few other, relatively sensible-seeming people will make comments like, ‘Of course! He’s a Libra.’

    Generally, though, I think I prefer the paranormal. They aren’t trying to influence things politically – yet…

  106. HappyKiwi says

    No one disputes that there was cannibalism among pre-colonial Maori, Scott. That’s well know. But you seemed to be implying that Maori ate Pakeha (whites) which was virtually unheard of, or indulged in cannibalism after colonisation. Instead the colonisers contributed to worse slaughter by selling muskets to certain tribes, and by ‘collecting’ tattoed shrunken heads, which created a market for a certain type of slaughter.

    And, yes, there was a lot of tension up in Ruatoria some years ago–just as there’s been a different type of tension recently in Tuhoe country–but it’s all part of a wider narrative, and based on my own experience those Maori you talked to probably modified the extent of their historic grievances. It’s instructive, I think, that few informed NZers disagree with the treaty settlements process, and that it has broad cross-party support.

    As for sensing murder, here’s how one programme dealt with it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2zSRAjjjE8

  107. Malcolm says

    the bigger cities are small by world standards

    Dunedin, the 4th (or possibly 5th) largest city, has 100,000 people. Kiwis consider this to be a big city.
    The entire South Island has fewer than 1 million people. Millions of sheep and cattle, but no people.

  108. Buddythunder says

    Hey, great to get a shout-out in Pharyngula! It’s a wonderful place to live, but we’re not without the crazies. Destiny Church and their ilk are on the rise, preying largely on the disenfranchised. They launched a political party for the last election and thankfully got their arse handed to them in a sling.

    Come visit, it’s glorious here! :-)

  109. says

    Generally, though, I think I prefer the paranormal. They aren’t trying to influence things politically – yet…

    True, they are nowhere near as bad as the likes of Hillsong.

    I was at the Big Day Out a couple of years ago wearing my “Guns don’t kill people, kids who play videogames kill people” t-shirt, and the hippy lady serving me orange juice (which unfortunately wasn’t laced with hallucinogens) said something along the lines of “I agree with that shirt. Because there’s an energy, and when you kill on screen you send negative vibes throughout the universe and it causes bad behaviour. You must thing I’m crazy right?” I replied “No, it says it on a shirt so it must be true” and walked off.

    Of course it’s an isolated incident and not to be taken as anything other than an example of crazy, and to be fair it’s far more crazy than most. I just found that moment fascinating; it’s better than the middle-aged woman at work who read the shirt and agreed with it without some mystic force to guide it; that games train people to be cold-blooded killers.

  110. says

    But then again according to the article, 33% believe in witchcraft. Hardly a place of total enlightenment…

    I’m a skeptic who completed the survey and *gasp* was one who ticked that box. The problem was that the question was worded something like “Do you believe in witches” and I took it at face value. I believe that there are people who call themselves witches, druids, priests and popes. Doesn’t mean I believe they are anything more than people in fancy cloaks though. Badly worded.

    But NZ has its own little community of American-style fundamentalists and there seems to be a growing population of conspiracy theorists and a love affair with “medium” TV shows.

  111. says

    Christians in NZ often claim that they still have more than 50% adherence. However, a closer look at the census results shows than some Christians declare more than one affiliation. Apparently they can’t get enough (a member of my family used to attend Baptist Church on Sunday Morning and Assembly of God on Sunday evenings).

    When we take this double dipping into account the proportion of New Zealanders declaring themselves as Christian in the 2006 census drops from 51.2% to 49.5% (
    Is New Zealand a Christian nation?)

  112. Heraclides says

    @127 — 5th I would think, correct me if I’m wrong but I think there is a tendency to underestimate Hamilton! (I have this memory of being corrected on this myself quite a few years ago.) I think the population of Dunedin is nearer to 140K if you include the ‘burbs and outlying settlements. Christchurch (the largest city in the South Island) has roughly 400K, and a number of small neighbouring townships.

  113. Karl says

    All but one of my christian friends here (nz) only claim to be christian because they think they are supposed to.
    If people were more honest with their census forms I’d be surprised if the number of Christians didn’t drop dramatically.

    All these tv shows here they love to play about psychics do piss me off though.

  114. Scott from Oregon says

    Happykiwi– I was just mentioning a few idiosyncracies of New Zealand, the All Blacks fanaticism (this was in the 80’s) and the disturbances with Maori boys becoming rasta men and burning cars while riding around on horseback…

    I hitchhiked the entire country (one of the few small enough to viably do) and loved everyday. I had American dollars back then, making a Steinlager pint go for 50 cents US.

    I ended up living in Auckland off and on everytime I had to leave Oz for visa renewal, and was in Ponsomby (sp?)when the Rainbow Warrior was bombed drunk off my ass…

    I think New Zealand is one of the top three countries for sheer joy of living in the world,

    A little on the “must wear a jumper” side. But the beer culture makes up for it…

    I hope it hasn’t changed too much in the last 25 years.

  115. Quiet_Desperation says

    Ichthyic: no traffic or congestion or smog (we fixed all that a couple years back). Plenty of fresh, clean water. Housing is cheap!

    Ah, piffle, it’s not so bad. Traffic was great when gas was over $4 a gallon. The air is getting better. They actually stopped issuing smog alerts 10 years ago. There simply wasn’t a need anymore. The water is fine, but, hey. you just have to accept that this *is* a desert region. When we get going with nuclear again, we can make desalination plants out of some of them.

    Housing is expensive, but that keeps out the riff raff. :-)

    And we have, most definitely, one of the DUMBASSEST state governments in the history of the universe, but it is decent entertainment.

    Make sure you fly to Ronald Reagan airport in Orange County.

    You mean John Wayne Airport? Ronald Reagan Airport is in Arlington, VA.

    I fly Jet Blue out of Long Beach when I travel. Five minutes from the curb to relaxing in the terminal. Small airports really are the best.

  116. HappyKiwi says

    Hey Scott, seems I over reacted. If you’ve hitch hiked the place you’ve done more than most nzers. You might need to come back though–the place has changed a lot since the 80s, even I can’t credit it.

    And if any of you are visiting, don’t miss dining at Fleur’s (scroll down and click on the link for a video)


  117. fitzyp says

    Interesting. The witches must be holding there satanic rituals very secretively cause Ive never seen one.

  118. Andrew Dunn says

    I was reading Dawkin’s God Delusion, while traveling through Aukland NZ and a ticket agent looked at me funny as I pulled the boarding pass out of the book… “But you’re American!? Thats odd!”

  119. Ross Nixon says

    Everyone that reads Dawkins is odd! … Unless they are either uninformed or want to see what straw-man arguments are like.

  120. Ray Mills says

    as well as apologising for comfort, I would like to extend NZ’s apology for ross nixon too

  121. HappyKiwi says

    “I would like to extend NZ’s apology for ross nixon too”

    Damn, is he one of ours as well as that dipshit Comfort? How embarrassing…

  122. says

    HappyKiwi #147
    Russel Crow is also one of yours, though most aussies would argue differently :-(
    Ichthyic, you keep coming up with reasons to live in SoCal, but neglect to mention that it is still part of the continental USA, thus negating the very reason for wanting to leave in the first place :-)
    Come visit Australia while your down in NZ, were only a $100 air fare away and just as godless ;-)

  123. shonny says

    Posted by: clinteas | September 30, 2008 8:40 AM
    Got to be a reason the Ichthyic is moving there!
    New Zealanders and Australians are, most of the time, refreshingly non-bullshit and based in reality,there is dimwits everywhere of course,but around here,they are the exemption,not the rule.

    Don’t confuse the issues, New Zealand has exported most of their lowlife to Australia where they fit in nicely among the local yokels.

  124. Meg says

    I was thinking of a holiday to NZ next year. But if the above is indicative of what New Zealanders think of Australians, I think I might be better off staying at home.

  125. Peter Ashby says

    Bob ‘fought’ might be pushing it a little. We sent one artillery battery and some support/spotting troops for it. Also our SAS guys (Rangers to you) were there, though that one was more than a bit hush-hush. Met a taxi driver in Auckland once who was ex NZSAS and said he saw action in Cambodia which is still a denied thing in both countries.

  126. says

    Kel said: “I was at the Big Day Out a couple of years ago wearing my “Guns don’t kill people, kids who play videogames kill people” t-shirt…”

    I was at the Big Day Out this year wearing a “Abort Born Again Christians” t-shirt. I only got compliments all day. Not one nasty look that I could see. Sydney kids are so nice.

  127. Anders says

    I will have to take this opportunity to brag about Danish lack of religion (about the same level as Sweden) AND public acceptance of evolution as reported in this Science paper (second from the top – I’m so proud). In fact my first reaction when reading this paper was profound shock that about 5% of Danes apparently do NOT accept evolution. That’s more than I would have guessed. Still – not a real problem when compared to other countries I guess… On the down side our climate is not exactly subtropical

  128. says

    I’m a little late to the game here, but I couldn’t not post on this thread :)

    I’m an atheist kiwi chick who has lived in the US for a bit over 7 years now (yes, feel my pain) as I am doing my PhD in sociology. I was thoroughly shocked when I first arrived here in the US at the overt display of religiosity all over the place. It was just so rude and ill-mannered to me.

    In NZ, in addition to the lower levels of religiousness across the board, we have a strong cultural practice of not talking about our religious beliefs. Religion is considered a private and personal thing, which you don’t mention in public. Even if you’re the same religion as a politician, if said politician starts going on about God or whatever, they’ll disapprove of such.

    I still feel really uncomfortable whenever I am around that shite here.

    But yeah, I didn’t even know what the religious beliefs were of the majority of my close friends back home in NZ, although I suspect the majority were probably agnostic (like our mountain-climbing PM Helen Clarke, who I agree rocks the house!).

    Kiwi’s have a combination of a high degree of egalitarianism, privacy, and collectivity. It’s not really about being individuals, because we certainly don’t have any truck with insanities like libertarianism, as we have a high degree of collective responsibility.

    For instance, I’m lesbian, and given the gay-friendly laws in NZ, my queer friends here assumed that everyone in NZ accepted anyone gay. I had to point out that one’s feelings on being gay weren’t what was important in NZ. Even if you disagree with how someone lives their life, if they aren’t hurting anyone, then the sense of collective responsibility and egalitarianism (with no small part of the personal privacy) would cause you to support anti-discrimination measures for them. Your personal feelings about them shouldn’t matter.

    That collective responsibility sense mean that the majority of NZ’ers are supportive of such things as censorship and hate-speech laws (I am similarly). Although, it can evidence itself as ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ which I am still suffering from!

    Although I know my career is going to take me even further away from home (I’m hoping to get into international diplomacy and conflict-negotiation when done with the PhD), no matter where I go, I will miss NZ … standing out on the beach at the Wellington Heads, staring out at the Pacific on a gorgeous cold early spring day is like a dream for me (can’t afford to get home right now).

    Damn, but I miss fish-&-chips, and kiwi-style burgers, and kiwi-style pizza … oh, and a ‘cheese sizzler in bread with watties’ (ask a kiwi, they’ll know what I am talking about). Oh, and a bottle of V … yum. And a bottle of Export Gold!

    We do have however ONE religion that we DO argue about … the sport of the gods: rugby union. All praise the All Blacks! (I really miss good rugby … developed a taste for american football, but it’s only a sop for the lack of rugby).

    Anyway, good to see all the other kiwis here :)

  129. HappyKiwi says

    Meg @151-it’s called humour Meg, try to get used to it…
    Ray @156-I did a search–what a plonker!

  130. Adam Jarvis says

    New Zealand is certainly a great place to live. I’m very late to this topic, and i’m sure most things have been said already, but I’ll give my two cents anyway.

    Not once through my entire schooling life was religion mentioned (other than comparatively and during culture exploration). One can pretty much assume any intelligent person you talk to is, if not an atheist, at least a secularist.

    We do have a few problems with people like the Destiny Church, but the only overtly religious party in government is United Future (enjoying a whopping 2 seats in parliament currently). Any religious appeals are largely ignored and personal faith of politicians is almost never mentioned.

    If you’re planning on coming to NZ PZ, drop us all a line. I’m sure many of us would really like to meet you.

    Go the All Blacks!

  131. says

    I was at the Big Day Out this year wearing a “Abort Born Again Christians” t-shirt. I only got compliments all day. Not one nasty look that I could see. Sydney kids are so nice.

    I think I remember seeing that.

  132. Malcolm says


    I think the population of Dunedin is nearer to 140K if you include the ‘burbs and outlying settlements.

    It drops by about 20K during when the scarfies go home. When Ichthyic arrives north Dunedin will be a ghost town.
    Interestingly, if you count those settlements, it also makes it one of the largest cities in the world. Even larger than Auckland. It also allows us to claim that the Royal Albatross colony is within the city limits.

  133. Ichthyic says

    When Ichthyic arrives north Dunedin will be a ghost town.

    Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    how big are the pubs?

  134. says

    Dunedin, one of the few places I’ve been to in New Zealand and it is a delightful place. Plenty of pubs. The beer is good. Monteiths special seasonal brews are excellent (and that is coming from an Aussie). We went there because it was where our ship to Antarctica left from. So most excellent part of NZ to move to Ichthyic.

  135. Omiros says

    Ah,yes. New Zealand. Where the men are men and the sheep are nervous. On a serious note, we downunder don’t have the proportion of Christian Taliban that our friends in the USA seem to have, but we do have a a disturbing number of happy clappers. However, generally, most Aussies and New Zealanders aren’t as hung up about fantastical sky elves as the descendants of the Mayflower. Also, we tend to stick to that quaint idea of separation of church and state…..

  136. Peter Ashby says

    Meg that comment is usually attributed to Rob Muldoon, Tory PM of NZ late ’70s early ’80s. It is and was a very good joke. Hint: only plonkers believe it.

    Ah yes Ichthyic, North Dunedin. Spent, lets think, 5 years of my life there (we moved to South Dunedin after the youngest was born). The pubs are indeed much more delightful in the summer, The Cook (closest to the Zoology dept) especially so. Nice garden bar, nice upstairs, sitting with a jug of Speights or Monteiths with the sun streaming in, wonderful.

    The pubs are quite big as these things go but smaller than the booze barns you find in the North Island. The Oriental has an additional space for when they put on live music for eg.

    If you like ice cream and the Castle Street Dairy is still there check out their ice cream range. Memory of walking home at night through the snow after the last term test of the term and we are all eating ice cream.

    For close buccolic delights find your way to Ross Creek, two linked reservoirs surrounded by forest with walking tracks. Mostly native but with a fine stand of redwoods.

    Can you tell I am jealous? Just be aware of a potential pitfall. There is a phenomenon of people from the NH coming, becoming enamoured of the Great Outdoors and letting their jobs slip as a result. Work hard, play hard. The skifields are close too for winter fun.

  137. Gibler says

    Yes that figure is about right. Certainly to hear someone start to go on about going to church is rare. Religious people are often treated with suspicion for example, politicians tend to avoid mentioning they are god followers.

    There is a great level of Xtians getting a “free ride” here though.I mean our national anthem is “god defend new zealand” and parliament still has a prayer before beginning a session.

    Most NZers can smell BS though -there is hope.

  138. Malcolm says

    Most of the Christians I know here tend to treat their religion as a sort of hobby, a bit like knitting.
    Peter @165
    Unfortunately the Cook got bought out and no longer sells Speights. It is now a real scarfie rat-hole. Besides, Ichthyic is paying, so Emerson’s it is!

  139. Peter Ashby says

    Oh no!, The Cook was genuinly a nice space on a summer lunchtime. Though as a denizen of the Med School my usual lunchtime haunt was of course the Back Bar of the Robbie, a more submarine space.

  140. Jay Wright says

    Proud kiwi here. They seem to have all come out for this particular blog entry :)

    NZ has about the same land area as Texas, and environments as varied as the whole of the United States, culturally if not physically. Wellington has pretty good public transport (Auckland pretty objectively does not) and more of a focus on the arts, but is still quite a ‘suits’ town (1/5 people seem to work for a government department). Auckland is nice, but a bit hard to get around (in my opinion). South Island has your beautiful mountains and fords and such. Pretty much anywhere is pretty round there (if not a little colder the souther you go). You are never far from a bush walk or a beach walk either. And I have to say the sheep numbers are quite overrated if you stick to the populated areas :P.

    And yeah I know plenty of people that are christians or believe in ghosts or souls etc, but it is the minority, and it’s never usually much of a sticking point.

  141. Ichthyic says

    The Cook (closest to the Zoology dept) especially so. Nice garden bar, nice upstairs, sitting with a jug of Speights or Monteiths with the sun streaming in, wonderful.

    Sounds like a wonderful late afternoon adventure.

    My tickets say I’m leaving on the 31st of this month, for a direct flight whose duration is 12hrs, but arrives 2 days later.


    …now if these idiots we call congresscritters could move this bailout thing along a little faster (face it, it’s gonna be bad no matter what; might as well get it over with), so I can close out the rest of my estate before I go, I’ll be a LOT happier.

  142. Ichthyic says

    Unfortunately the Cook got bought out and no longer sells Speights. It is now a real scarfie rat-hole.

    story of my life.

    every where I’ve gone in the world it’s always:

    “You shoulda been here a few years back when…”

    next you’ll be telling me NZ is thinking about passing prohibition laws or somesuch.


  143. Geraldine says

    So true, I am a New Zealander and recently I went overseas for a holiday, when I got back I literally kissed the floor of the airport I was so happy!

    During the U.S elections I remember listening to a “faith debate” or something, where all the democrats actually spoke about what the prayed for. I was so astounded, nothing like that would ever happen here. The most famous religious leaders in NZ (e.g brian tamaki) are just thought to be total douche bags by the rest of the population. It’s lovely.

    We also have lots of other good points, like better coffee and food than most other places.

    And beaches every turn of the head, especially in auckland, because its so narrow, so every community has a beach.

  144. jan says

    NZ is not a paradise, I and my family have lived here for 13years and we are now really missing the Uk (my family have always missed it, me just more recently) IT IS SO BORING