I was recently sent a copy of "Society Without God" by Phil Zuckerman to review. The author lived in Denmark and Sweden for 14 months and discovered through personal interviews with average Danes and Swedes that Scandinavia is quite Atheist/Agnostic.
It has been a falsehood heard in many religious circles (especially within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions) for years that society can not succeed without a belief in a creator god. However, Zuckerman presents his thesis that despite their lack of belief Scandinavians are some of the most socially well adjusted and successful people on Earth.
Some give the examples of the former USSR, North Korea, Cuba and China to try and argue that nontheist societies breed oppression and are not good examples of healthy societal life. However, Zuckerman deftly responds saying that those were/are governments who force everyone to be Atheist/Agnostic:
In each case, religion wasn't abandoned by the people themselves in a natural process over several generations [James: Like Scandinavia]. Rather, the "abandonment" of religion was decreed by vicious dictators who imposed their faithlessness on an unwilling, decidedly un-free citizenry.He gives several interesting reasons for why secular societies are so stable and successful one of which is education. He found that a high level of Scandinavians are educated and that the higher level of education one achieves the less one believes in a god. And while being an nontheist, Zuckerman makes sure to say that not everything about monotheism is negative. He does list positives of believing in a god/supernatualism. Overall though he paints a very convincing picture that belief in a creator god is not necessary to a moral and ethical society.
It is fascinating in that his argument is built directly from primary sources by interviewing average citizens. This strength, however, does become a bit of a weakness for this book because the interviews become too many and the answers become repetitive. That would be my one criticism of this book.
As a nontheist Buddhist I found myself agreeing quite often with the sentiments expressed by these Danes and Swedes. I have read many books on Atheist thinking and I find it noteworthy that most don't even mention/cover Buddhism in their critiques of religion. In my mind that is because Buddhism falls inbetween religion and Atheism. It's kind of in its own category that seems to have more in common with philosophy and psychology than with strict religious dogma.