Phil Zuckerman has written a book called Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll); I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like a good approach, looking at secular societies like Scandinavia and comparing them to religious societies, like the US. At this point, I don’t know much more about it other than what I see in the reviews, and the Depth Deception blog finds an unwittingly hilarious review in Christianity Today. The final paragraph will leave you giggling.
Zuckerman sells humanity short. If people are content but no longer care about transcendent meaning and purpose or life beyond death, that’s not a sign of greatness but tragic forgetfulness. Their horizon of concern is too narrow. They were made for more. What does it profit a society if, as this book’s jacket notes, it gains “excellent educational systems, strong economies, well-supported arts, free health care, egalitarian social policies, outstanding bike paths, and great beer,” but loses its soul? Can a country build strong social systems and keep its soul? While I am thankful for Zuckerman’s reminder about Christianity’s social implications, and the example of a place that meets those obligations differently than we do, I am sad he misses the rest.
Wait…societies have souls? Weird. So is the Roman Republic in heaven? Do they still bicker with the Macedonian soul?
I’m going to go out on a limb here, though, and admit that if I had the choice between a country with free health care and great beer, and one that had neither of those things but that claimed to possess an imaginary, invisible, intangible ghost, I’d go with the ghostless one with health care and beer.
At least it was a good review. It convinced me to add this book to my purchasing list.