Sweden is a confused society when it comes to religion. It’s here, but not really. The Swedes happily take various Christian holidays off from work and treat them as public holidays. Like the Day of the Ascension. I had never even heard of this day until I moved here. And found out I didn’t have to go to work because instead I should be celebrating the day Jesus headed up to heaven.
Of course, start a conversation with the average Swede and they will deny any belief in God. They might admit to some sense of spirituality, believing in “something” and give you some new age nonsense about the sun or nature, but to name it God would be sacrilegious. See what I did there?
Plenty of conversation about the US will bring up the religious aspects of the country and “God Bless the USA.” Abortion. Gay marriage. Anything that could be related, no matter how peripherally, to religion, will come up.
Keep in mind though that until just recently, 2000 to be exact, Sweden still had an official state church. In 2008, about 73% of Swedes were still members of the Church, that’s almost seven million people. This has been decreasing slowly, but steadily since 1972, and maybe further back but those are the Swedish Church statistics I could find. In a half-hearted search I couldn’t manage to find how many people actually go to church. Well I found a ballpark number on Wikipedia, but I’ll be damned if I start referencing Wikipedia, even if this is just a blog.
The God probably doesn’t exist campaign, states that over seven million Swedes aren’t religious. Now we’re playing with semantics here. Believing in God. Being religious. And of course, I feel fairly confident that of those seven million Swedish church members, plenty aren’t believers. That’s fine. But let’s do some quick math here. Seven million church members plus seven million non-religious people does not nine million Swedes make. Somewhere along the line, the numbers don’t match up.
Sweden is known to be an incredibly secular society. Which I think is why I find this ad campaign to be so very interesting. In a society that actually prides itself on its lack of religion, the need for an ad campaign like this seems like overkill. Or a waste of money. Then I started reading the website. And about the campaign. The last line hit the nail on the head. The group behind the campaign, the Humanists, want new members.
The God probably doesn’t exist website starts you off with a test. Which I took. I was impressed by the horribly loaded questions that don’t actually do much good for starting a reasonable discussion. This was especially noticeable when I answered a question “wrong” in the eyes of the Humanists. Depending on your point of view I either passed or failed. But the Humanists seem to think that I should join them. Take that for what you will.
Of course, a group that wants you to join in their beliefs, wants you to donate to them, wants you to become a member might remind you of an already existing entity. Like a church for example. I doubt the Humanists would want me to mention that.
I am not a religious person at all. I mean at all. But I have no problem with people believing in something. Belief is good. Faith is good. That being said, I don't want you knocking on my door trying to sell me your particular God. Whether it be a particular savior, or knowledge and secularism. It's the extremism that bothers me.
And hypocrisy. Hypocrisy also bothers me.
Welcome to Sweden. Where God probably doesn’t exist.