Sunday, January 20, 2008

Swedes don't need a book to be moral

I found an interesting Swedish story in the Christian paper Dagen that I translated the gist of:

"A new survey, the Bible barometre 2008, shows that 32 per cent of Swedes think the bible is important for their own morality and ethics.
Krister Andersson, secretary of the Bible company, says that an earlier survey has shown that the golden rule is at the core of Swedish morality.
When the question is more open: "Is there any writing that strongly affected your ethics and morality?" 20 per cent mentioned the bible. Of the other alternatives, the UN Declaration of Human Rights was the most common with 4 per cent.
But most people, 62 per cent, hadn't read any writing at all that made such an impression.
- This is very surprising. I thought more people were going to say that they had some sort of written or scriptural starting point for their moral judgements, says Krister Andersson.
He was also struck by the variation of writings and writers that were mentioned under "Other". On the list there's among others The Diary of Anne Frank, newspapers, Dalai Lama, Fröding, Greek philosophers, the Swedish Law, the catecism, and the scout law. Some of the asked also mentioned the upbringing they were given by their parents: "I try to be honest and fair to people."
As with the Biblebarometre 2006 and 2007 this year's survey shows that about eveyr tenth person reads the bible at least once a month, while four out of read it only rarely.
Those who consider the bible most important are the older generations, 65 years and older."

Dagen.se, 2008-01-17
What I liked about this survey wasn't merely that it showed how many read or didn't read the bible, but it showed that 62 per cent did not pick up their morality from a particular book.
I think it's fair to say that they hardly discovered their moral principles within their own heads, but that they don't simply stick to one book or one type of philosophy. Throughout life most of us read a lot, listen to a lot, and watch a lot and doing this we absorb a lot of moral reasoning. And we stick to the ideas that make sense to us personally instead of being too dependant on one book. Let's say you need advice, would you not preferably want to get it from more than one person?

It also reminded me about something Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion (p. 265):
"First, how is [the moral zeitgeist] synchronized across so many people? It spreads itself from mind to mind through conversations in bars and at dinner parties, through books and book reviews, through newspapers and broadcasting, and nowadays through the Internet. Changes in the moral climate are signalled in editorials, on radio talk shows, in political speeches, in the patter of stand-up comedians and the scripts of soap operas, in the votes of parliaments making laws and the decisions of judges interpreting them."
On the subject of books, I'll plug a new book from Prometheus books that I think could be worthwhile to read. Knowing myself I'm not sure I would get through its 800 pages, but if you're going to read one book this year, then this might be the book.
Successor to the highly acclaimed Encyclopedia of Unbelief (1985), edited by the late Gordon Stein, the New Encyclopedia of Unbelief is a comprehensive reference work on the history, beliefs, and thinking of America’s fastest growing minority: those who live without religion. All-new articles by the field’s foremost scholars describe and explain every aspect of atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, secularism, and religious skepticism. Topics include morality without religion, unbelief in the historicity of Jesus, critiques of intelligent design theory, unbelief and sexual values, and summaries of the state of unbelief around the world. More than 130 respected scholars and activists worldwide served on the editorial advisory board and over 100 authoritative contributors have written in excess of 500 entries.

In addition to covering developments since the publication of the original edition, the New Encyclopedia of Unbelief includes a larger number of biographical entries and much-expanded coverage of the linkages between unbelief and social reform movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, including the labor movement, woman suffrage, anarchism, sex radicalism, and second-wave feminism.

The distinguished contributors—philosophers, scientists, scholars, and Nobel Prize laureates—include Robert Alley, Joe Barnhart, David Berman, Sir Hermann Bondi, Vern L. Bullough, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Dennett, Paul Edwards, Barbara Ehrenreich, Antony Flew, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Peter Hare, Van Harvey, Susan Jacoby, Paul Kurtz, Richard Leakey, Gerd Lüdemann, Michael Martin, Martin E. Marty, Kai Nielsen, Steven Pinker, Robert M. Price, Richard Rorty, John R. Searle, Peter Singer, Ibn Warraq, Steven Weinberg, George A. Wells, David Tribe, Sherwin Wine, and many others.

With a foreword by evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins, this unparalleled reference work provides comprehensive knowledge about unbelief in its many varieties and manifestations.

About the Author
Tom Flynn (Amherst, NY) is the editor of Free Inquiry magazine, director of the Center for Inquiry, founding coeditor of Secular Humanist Bulletin, director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, and the author of The Trouble with Christmas, Galactic Rapture, and Nothing Sacred.

1 comment:

Strappado said...

Can't edit the main post now for some reason, but here's a correction:

"As with the Biblebarometre 2006 and 2007 this year's survey shows that about every tenth person reads the bible at least once a month, while four out of TEN read it only rarely"