Beaten by France regarding atheism

According to this poll France got the gold medal for Atheism and Sweden only came in second, with Belgium third and UK not even getting a medal.

I would like to make the case that the 63% who didn’t claim to be atheist would most likely when asked about god or religion say something like “Oh I don’t know, I think there’s probably something…” rather than “I believe that Jesus is my personal savior”. And another reason the number of non-atheist is so high is our (compared to many nations) generous refugee and immigration laws. Refugees or immigrants usually don’t catch atheism until after a generation or two. Secular Humanism is pretty passive (we should probably reconsider that) culturally.

So. Assuming a nation would want atheism to spread, what would be the most effective way?

Good education, especially with science and comparative religion. Religion feeds on ignorance, both about the world and about itself. And good social programs; religion also feeds on despair, it prospers when people are so desperate as to clutch at straws.

Bad education, especially with science and comparative religion. Atheism feeds on ignorance, both about the world and about itself. And bad social programs; atheism also feeds to despair, it prospers when people are so desperate as to clutch at straws.

Ooooo, how clever.

Showing that by switching words to their opposites, one can make statements that are the opposite of true.

I’m not sure why any nation should have a vested interest in spreading atheism (versus educating its people).

According to this principle, the most atheistic countries in the world would be the ones with lowest level of education and the most social problems.

Judging by literacy rate the bottom three countries are Burkina Faso, Afghanistan and Niger. All fairly religious, not to say fundamentally so.

Judging by life expectancy the bottom three countries are Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho. Again, pretty religious countries.

On the flip side, France, Sweden, Belgium and the UK all place in or near the top for both life expectancy and literacy. (79 years+ and 99%+).

That does not support your position. I would even go so far as to say that it flat out contradicts it in favor of the opposite position.


Not all that surprising that the three countries mentioned by the OP have all those things that Der Trihs described.

I’m not arguing that it should, just asking how it would be done best.

That’s cheating. You picked three of the poorest countries, which happen to be religious. Then you picked three of the least religious countries, which happen to be wealthy.

The US is extremely religious, but also has high literacy and life expectancy.

Pretty much this. If atheism spreads, well, that’s fine…but why should a country go out of it’s way to spread it? That would be as bad as nations that attempt to spread theism, IMHO. If atheists think that education is the key to spreading atheism, well, focus on education then and see what happens.

I find it funny that people and countries seemingly compete to see who is the most atheistic. :stuck_out_tongue:


I don’t see how what I did could possibly be construed as ‘cheating’. The claim was that lack of education coupled with social problems would lead to atheism. I put forward that at least two stats linked to this (education - literacy, social problems - life expectancy).

I interpret your post as inserting a third parameter afterwards and then claiming that I cheated by not including it. That seems extremely unfair, since I was responding to a specific post and nobody had mentioned this parameter previously.

Again, the question isn’t “should a nation” but “how could a nation”.

The only way I see a nation being able to do this is to attempt to cram it down it’s citizens throats. That didn’t work out really well for the Soviets, who actively tried to stamp out religion. I think the better course is to let people make up their own minds about it, really…so, I don’t see a clear way a country ‘could’ do this and have it work out well. A solid scientifically grounded education will get you some non-zero percentage of atheists or agnostics (and I’m 100% for a good, scientifically grounded education system…hell, I’m all for required reading of Demon Haunted World early on), but contrary to popular believe, it’s not just the ignorant or uneducated who are theists of one type or another. And atheists are universally the best educated or most knowledgeable either.


Countries promote things all the time with a measure of success; look at the anti-smoking campaign in America. Or for that matter, look at all the countries that have successfully promoted religion. I think you are letting the American government-always-fails mythology run away with you.

My point is that you cherry picked your examples. I happen to agree with you, but you are trying to establish a correlation you should at least be fair about it.

This statement makes little sense to me. Attempting to cram it down peoples throats can’t both be “the only way” and something that doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, it’s not a way at all. And it couldn’t be the ‘only’ way even if it did work.

Scientific education seems to be correlated to atheism. Why do you think that is?

I don’t think there is a popular belief that only ignorant or uneducated are theist. I even doubt that is as much as an UNpopular belief since it is so easily disproven. You just need to find one religious guy that is smarter than an atheist.

I think there IS a belief that there is a statistical correlation between ignorance/lack-of-ignorance and theism/atheism. In fact, I think that is a demonstrable fact and not a belief.

And some would argue that religion by definition is ignorance. I would argue that that is really a semantical argument. Just as belief that time is a universal constant, or belief that the world is flat is also ignorance. Although you can easily see how they would come to believe something like that. I mean time being relative is really counter-intuitive, and if you don’t get told that the earth is a sphere, it would make sense to believe it was flat if you didn’t think too much about it.

Only if you were educated and raised in an enviroment that promoted, or at least accepted, an atheist/scientific world view would I consider you ignorant for being religious. So yeah, if you were raised by atheist parents in a secular humanist culture yet somehow managed to believe in magic/ghosts/gods then I might classify you as ignorant.

We (French) mostly did it by not fucking with the separation of Church and State. Religion has no place in public policy (or public discourse), period.

Public schools are purposefully irreligious as well: it’s not that teachers actively slam religion - it just doesn’t appear as a theme in the cursus except as an element of history/geography. Its validity or lack thereof is not addressed. Nor does religious nonsense like creationism or “teaching the controversy” get even a toehold. Public teachers who try to sling their own religion to kids promptly get sacked. Kids who proselytize or wear conspicuous religious paraphernalia get warned to cut the shit, get expelled if they don’t. That stuff belongs in your own time, not the State’s.

Which essentially means that, assuming you’re a ward of the public education system as the grand majority of people are, pretty much the only way you’re ever catching religion as a child/teen is if your parents already are religious and try to pass it on to you.
Considering less than 100% of the children of religious parents remain religious till the day they become parents themselves, and adult conversions are quite unlikely when you have a healthy scientific and philosophical background, the number of actively religious people dwindles naturally.

Hardly. First of all, contrary to how you described it in your OP, the poll youlinked to says nothing regarding atheism. (Or gold medals for that matter.) It polled whether people “believe in a divine entity” yet many people neither believe in a divine entity nor are atheists. More to the point, to poll the percentage of people in a country who have property A and the percentage who have property B and compare country-by-country tells us nothing about individual relationship between properties A and B; any high school statistics student could tell you that. If we want some actual data about how education affects religious belief we can get it here.

So now we know that Der Trihs was wrong in saying that more education, especially science, would lead to less religion.

If we did compare countries based on how atheistic they are, the ‘gold medal’ would surely go to those countries that have made all religion illegal. However most of those countries have either ceased to exist (Soviet Union, Yugoslavia) or changed their policy (China, Cuba, Vietnam). The only nation still holding to that policy that I’m aware of is North Korea, not generally known for great science education or great social policy. However, if we let that slide and decided to reshape the United States with the goal of imitating France, I suppose the logical steps would be:

  1. Surrender to Germany a few times.
  2. Add snails, horse, and extra cheese to our diets.
  3. Hold nationwide riots or strikes several times per year.

I don’t see them as mutually exclusive, even if that’s what I was saying…which it wasn’t. I don’t see how you could get a significant rise in atheism by having the state actively attempt to do it other than ‘cram it down their throats’, and, historically, countries that tried to do this weren’t particularly successful. People who are theists are going to resist more if they think you are trying to force them not to be theists anymore. Now, if you want to just let things run their natural course (which is what I suggested), then that’s fine…I think the results you get are going to vary though due more to the culture of the individual country than to the level of education.

Confirmation bias would be my guess. That and a more grounded scientific outlook seems to give one a more secular outlook.