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Does Scandinavia show that we do not need God to be good?

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Ken Francis, journalist and author of The Little Book of God, Mind, Cosmos and Truth, reviews C. R. Hallpike’s Do We Need God To Be Good at New English Review:

… Dr. Hallpike continues in his book:

We can therefore agree with Hitchens that there is no reason to expect any special differences here between the conduct of believers and unbelievers, and the same would be true as well of many immoral actions that are also generally agreed to threaten the social order, such as theft, rape, and murder. To this extent it is clear that one does not need God to be good, and we also have to consider the influence of the traditional culture. So it is not particularly surprising that countries such as Scandinavia where religious believers are relatively few, but are still influenced by their Protestant cultural heritage, may nevertheless have low levels of crime.

Crime in Scandinavia, with Sweden being rape and domestic violence capital of the West, is actually quite high in many regions. And it’s not just because of the flood of immigration. Alcohol abuse and mental health issues are also hugely problematic. To say that there’s a spiritual crisis in Scandinavia would be an understatement. But back to the title of Dr. Hallpike’s book, Do We Need God to Be Good? Does Dr. Hallpike mean subjectively good or objectively good?; if the former, then we don’t need God, but the latter requires God. And here is why (see also my essay, Explaining Epiphenomenalism to a Dead Horse, October 2017 edition of NER): More.

Sweden’s problem might be that naturalism is a dead end. After all, ethics depend on consciousness and a fully naturalist view of consciousness sees it as an illusion. How can one say that the violent person, passing on his selfish genes, is any worse than a non-violent person who may be less likely to do so, given the circumstances, unless one appeals to a higher authority than mere desires or preferences?

See also: Dispatches from modern witchcraft in the world of Urban Cool: The science bureaucrats who worry a lot about what theists believe ignore the growth of more naturalism-friendly beliefs. Could there be a pattern there?

33 Replies to “Does Scandinavia show that we do not need God to be good?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Assuming He exists, how is God’s view of what is good or evil be anything other than just another subjective opinion?

  2. 2

    Seversky @ 2: God gets to determine what is good and what is evil. It is His world. This makes logical sense, of course. For example, in the United States, we have a Supreme Court composed of nine justices. The decision of those justices, even a 5-4 split decision, becomes the supreme law of the land. There is no further appeal. The decision becomes the objective standard of law in the United States, despite being created by nine subjective justices.

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    TWSYF @3,

    “Seversky @2: God gets to determine what is good and what is evil.”

    But he changes his mind so unpredictably. One moment genocide is fine, the next it’s wrong.

    Sorry; It was humanity that decided genocide was wrong.

    One moment slavery is fine the next it’s a crime.

    Sorry; Humanity came to that conclusion, Neither God nor Jesus on earth had a problem.

    You see, trusting your morality to a deity leads to all that is amoral. And it is modern humanism, which is left to straighten out all the mad Biblical pronouncements.

    And your Supreme court analogy is nonsense. They make many, and have made many mistakes. But on the whole American society is considerably safer than the society Moses led after gaining, smashing, then gaining again God’s ten moralities.

  4. 4
    rvb8 says:

    NEWS,

    Ken Francis’s description of Sweden is not the one I lnow. All the Scandinavian countries, are veitable paradises of rationality, enlightened state socialism, and housing policies.

    Their suicide rate is closely linked to their long bleak nighttime winters; which makes sense I suppose.

    Alcohol abuse? No more I would suggest than your average American state, or small town.

    I have heard suicide rates among small town US farmers is at an all time high, as is depression, and domestic violence. I’m sure these small town farmers are wildly religious, as most are.

    Perhaps their depression and violence stems from seeing no hope for small farmers, and the government’s complete indifference to their plight; to their inability to get respectable social welfare to help them tide the poor times?

  5. 5

    rvb8 @ 4:

    1. It is God’s world. He can (and will) do as He pleases. Your a/mat alternative is an ever-changing and entirely unpredictable human species that abhors genocide on one hand and then applauds it on the other. A/mat leftists are especially guilty of such hypocrisy. No, I will not waste time giving you examples.

    2. Your beloved a/mat humanism is a disgrace to humanity, an unwashable blood stain that will only get bigger. Nothing good happens when wild-eyed a/mat humanists grab the levers of power.

    3. My Supreme Court analogy is quite good and very accurate. Your inability to comprehend the point is the real problem. No, I will not waste time trying to explain it to you.

    Finally, your visceral hatred for God (who you supposedly don’t believe in) is blinding you to the truth. Your loss…not mine.

    BTW…still no penny drop. Not even close! Smile.

  6. 6
    rvb8 says:

    TWSYF,

    @6, I don’t hate God, just as I don’t hate Santa, Satan, Zeus, Krishna, or any other of humanity’s creations; what’s to hate?

    Despite the regular and depressing gun violence, the US as a place to visit, tour, live in etc, is a lot safer than it was in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and half the 20th centuries.

    Largely this is down to the supreme court making unpopular, (mostly to Chrisitans), decisions concerning civil rights and gender, sexual orientation, and environmental questions. Believe me your life expectancy has increased thanks to those ‘old men’, and occasional women, in dark robes.

    They eskew any Bible, Koran, Torah, Vedas etc, and ask the central two questions, ‘How can we uphold the Constitution, and be fair and just to all Americans, not just the followers of one faith?’

    I, like many non-US citizens, complain about how America acts, but I have a deep respect for the Constitution, and its novel, and brilliant, ‘seperation of powers’. (Never more needed, BTW, because of the current resident of the White House.)

    You appear to be yearning for some kind of God inspired theocracy. Believe me most cultures, and all of Europe tried that kind of ‘morality’, for one thousand years. It was depressing, violent, and ironically, lawless; much better now.:)

  7. 7
    Bob O'H says:

    Crime in Scandinavia, with Sweden being rape and domestic violence capital of the West, is actually quite high in many regions.

    Does he, or anyone else, have the figures to back this up? It doesn’t chime with my experience (coming up to 15 years in the Nordic counties), but I’m sure there is regional variation.

    And it’s not just because of the flood of immigration. Alcohol abuse and mental health issues are also hugely problematic.

    I agree about alcohol abuse and mental health issues, and the long winters are certainly a major factor. It’s why taxes on alcohol are so high (and the governments in Sweden, Norway and Finland have a monopoly on selling strong alcohol).

  8. 8
    Sebestyen says:

    Believe me most cultures, and all of Europe tried that kind of ‘morality’, for one thousand years. It was depressing, violent, and ironically, lawless; much better now.:)

    You probably shouldn’t get your knowledge about history from hollywood movies, it makes you look like a babbling idiot. Unless that was your intention, in this case, well done! 🙂

  9. 9
    chris haynes says:

    Low levels of crime?
    In Scandinavia?
    What a howl

    Scandinavian crime statistics are lies.
    (Just as American ones are.)

    Take murder. Its true they don’t report many murders. But that’s not because they don’t have them. In Sweden, 99% of all murders aren’t included in the murder rate. Its because they’re legal. In fact the government pays for them.

    If you want to see Scandinavia at its most ghoulish, then look at how many Downs Syndrome children are brutally murdered.

    In Iceland it is 100%.
    Yes, you read that right. 100%.
    ALL the Down’s Syndrome children in Iceland are killed before they breathe.

  10. 10

    rvb8 @ 7: You certainly do hate God. You also hate Christ for teaching about God; the apostles for writing books/letters about God, and all those who believe in God…including me. Stop lying to yourself.

    Also, you are completely wrong in thinking that I desire “some kind of God inspired theocracy.” My views are just the opposite, but I will not waste time explaining them to you.

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    chris haynes @10,

    it appears Bob O’H, has lived in, and has extensive experience in Scandinavian countries.

    My surname is ‘van Bakel’, Dutch of course with many relatives there.

    Where do you get your knowledge of Scandinavia? I know and have visited all of Scandinavia, and your comic book version is silly.

    Like this: “In Sweden 99% of all murders aren’t included in the murder rate. It’s because they’re legal. The government pays for them.”

    Is this a hamfisted slap at legal access to safe, government sanctioned abortion? If it is, then you are wrong, because in that country this is not deemed murder.

    You could also mention free family GP visits; free pre-natal, and extensive anti-natal care; free heart surgery and recovery in hospital; free cancer treatment, and free, and subsidized access to expensive drugs.

    It’s also really hard to get guns, easy to get weed, and far more laid back and friendly than most places I know.

    I am also accused by some of being angry at God. Not true! I’m pretty much only angry at willfull stupidity.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    Truth Will Set You Free @ 3

    God gets to determine what is good and what is evil.

    Why? Just because He has the power? Are you saying might makes right?

    It is His world.

    So what? Parents have children but that doesn’t mean they have the right to kill them whenever they choose.

    This makes logical sense, of course.

    It makes no sense at all. There is nothing in the Bible to show that God’s laws or commandments are anything other than His personal opinions. None of them come with a detailed rationale for why they are what they are. We are basically told to do what we are told or it will be the worse for us. This is more like the Kim Jong-Il of gods.

    For example, in the United States, we have a Supreme Court composed of nine justices. The decision of those justices, even a 5-4 split decision, becomes the supreme law of the land. There is no further appeal. The decision becomes the objective standard of law in the United States, despite being created by nine subjective justices

    The Supreme Court does not and cannot make up laws. It is the final court of appeal in disputes over the interpretation of laws passed by state and federal legislatures. They deliver closely-reasoned decisions based on all the arguments and evidence submitted by the appellants. There is absolutely nothing like that in the Bible concerning God’s laws.

  13. 13
    ChristBearer says:

    @Seversky,

    You misunderstand who God is. He is not a bigger version of us. So, your attempted analogy between Him and parents is nonsensical. Analogy aside, you also completely misunderstand God’s relationship to “good.” “Good” is not something God “decides”; it is who He is. By definition, then, everything not aligned with Him is “not good,” i.e. sinful, evil. This principle is as foundational to existence as breathing air. You can attempt to live without breathing air, but it will not go well for you. Similarly, you can attempt to live as if God’s character is not the moral law of the universe He created, but you shouldn’t be surprised when doing so comes back to bite you.

  14. 14

    Seversky, rvb8 etall …

    ” … There is nothing in the Bible to show that God’s laws or commandments are anything other than His personal opinions. None of them come with a detailed rationale for why they are what they are. … ”

    If you are willing to invest a bit of time in hopefully some thoughtful reading, and a bit of money in a book that may answer your assertions about a “detailed rational”, I offer up an article I wrote awhile back. In it I offer my own analysis, and also reference and plug a wonderful little book by Dennis Prager at —
    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ten-commandments-dennis-prager/1121119905?ean=9781621574170#/

    My own analysis is —
    https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/islamjihad-and-the-ten-commandments/

  15. 15

    rvb8’s indictment of the sad history of religion’s role in the horrific history of the world is on the mark as far as it goes, and he is perhaps correct to a degree on his praise for Scandinavia — the jury is still out on that.

    However, what’s left out are the intervening years of the 20th century when the Atheist finally got his turn at the seat of power. In the roughly 70 years of Atheist-Communism in the world, that world view converted and moved into functional governments such as the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela and elsewhere wreaked havoc and death at an unprecedented scale.

    So you see none of us are immune to the evils that take place when God, the God described in the Hebrew scriptures such as the 10 Commandments, is removed from the human scene – not me nor rvb8 or anyone else. This is where an analysis such as mine above, and the book by Prager come into play in trying to provide that “detailed rational.”

  16. 16

    A/mats love to blame all the world’s problems on religion, but the truth is much different. A/mats have a long and brutal history of mayhem, murder, genocide, and rape that far exceeds any such thing done in the name of religion. See the book Atrocities, by Matthew White (who, by the way, is no friend of religion).

    A/mats like to pretend that they are morally superior to theists, but that is mere self-delusion. The facts reveal the truth…a/mat philosophy has done more harm to this world than anything else. And it is not finished yet.

  17. 17
    tribune7 says:

    –Assuming He exists, how is God’s view of what is good or evil be anything other than just another subjective opinion?–

    Seversky, that’s a pretty interesting question. Suppose we have a culture where the sacrifice — or simply killing without ritual — of children is considered good because we think the powers that be want it.

    Is it good?

    Consider your own fears. Suppose you find yourself in a situation without hope. Where you are terrified, depressed and in abject misery.

    Then someone comes along and says to himself that the powers-that-be take pleasure in your suffering so I’ll add to them.

    Is that what you want?

    But suppose someone comes along and instead says the powers-that-be don’t want you in misery. He explains that with, authority and proof, this Power came into our world, suffered Himself and beat death to prove hope and goodness exist despite the cruelty you are experiencing, and is apparent to all of us daily.

    And then, following this Power’s will tries to alleviate your pain.

    Would you still say good and evil are just subjective opinion?

  18. 18

    Seversky @ 13: A few questions for you:

    1. Who gets to determine what is good and what is evil?

    2. Is the act of abortion an act of murder?

    3. Do U.S. Supreme Court decisions impose an objective standard that must be followed by U.S. citizens under penalty of law, or are they mere guideposts of subjective opinion that can be ignored without penalty of law?

  19. 19
    chris haynes says:

    Yes, the Swedish government’s murder statistics are lies.
    Here are the facts:

    1) As 9th grade Biology 101 shows, the life of a horse, a cow, and a human being begins at conception.
    2) Murder is the willful killing of an innocent human being.
    3) There are over 30,000 human beings willfully killed (murders) in Sweden every year. Most are unborn babies, all of whom are innocent and helpless.
    4) The Swedish government lists about 100 murders a year, less than 1% of the correct figure.

    Please, if you wish to respond, no more smokescreens or personal insults. Instead, either admit these are facts, or refute them.

  20. 20
    rvb8 says:

    chris @20,

    I’ll accept your numbers as facts. Your ASSERTION as to what any 9th grader knows, is just that an assertion.

    I, my government in NZ, my family’s country, the Netherlands and Scandanavia of course, as well as the US, (although their backward yearning to a darker time is threatening certain rights), say life must be, “Self Aware” to be a life.

    This is why if I am brain dead I have left instructions to pull the plug. It is no life if you don’t know you are a life.

    Abortion is a last resort, and those who use it as recreational contraception are lothesome individuals.

    That said the fetus is not a life, for the very simple and logical reason that it does not know it is a life.

    BTW, more unwanted pregnancies occur in the US than any other developed nation, and probably, (I’m not sure), more abortions per thousand women.

    Scandanavia with its excellent sex education beginning at pre-school, have some of the lowest abortion rates, and unwanted pregnancies.

    Perhaps morally, the argument for more access to knowledge and contraception might ease this problem, God’s abstinance morality looks a complete failure.

    Not surprising really, you are pitting God against evolutionary urges, God is on hiding to nothing against nature.

  21. 21
    chris haynes says:

    Surprise surprise, all you got is Science Denial, covered by the usual smokescreen.

    I had pointed out what 9th grade Biology 101 shows, that life of a horse, a cow, and a human being, begins “when the sperm fuses with the ovum forming a new complex with distinctive DNA that will blah blah blah..,..”
    AKA at conception .

    And I challenged you to refute this. And you cant.

    Instead you tell us that some human beings” are inferior, so it is okay to a murder them. Such a human being is not “a life”, because he is not “Self Aware”.

    And some guy who is unconscious after an injury or during surgery is not Self Aware. So its okay to kill him. That’s your point , isnt it?

  22. 22

    Several years ago my grandson, age 20, lie comatose in ICU due to a Heroin overdose during the coldest night of the year (-22F). He was left sleeping(?) in a car that night until his friends realized he was not inside with them and they brought him into the close-by ER.

    We almost lost Jake that night. He didn’t seem to be capable of knowing if he had life. I prayed – many around the world did — I prayed “Lord only you can talk to my grandson Jake now, please do.”

    Almost two years later Jake is alive and well. He is a new person — a job, in love and a new chance at life.

    Yes, I do praise the medical staff at that hospital. The doctors and nurses were dedicated and amazing, and with their advanced knowledge and technology they saved the life of my grandson that cold night.

    But they were not alone. The One who had complete and intimate knowledge of the design of Jake — the One who knew his blueprint in detail. The One who took that still extant blueprint, in the form of Jake’s DNA, put it together and created a new person.

    I believe the Lord did talk to Jake that night. I believe he might have told Jake … “you are indeed alive my son — and I have further plans for you, I am not finished with you, nor is the world!”

  23. 23
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius @23:

    Thanks for sharing such a powerful personal story.

  24. 24
    rvb8 says:

    @22 and @23,

    not, ‘unconscious’, chris, and not in a drug coma, ayearning!

    I mean brain dead. That is, with no hope of recovery; there are many such individuals, dragged along in hopeless hope, by parents or loved ones in denial.

    Your miracle recoveries are not miracles, because your examples are not those of brain dead people.

    I have stipulted to pull the plug, as have my friends, and most, not all, of their families.

    The fetus is in such a position.

    I have anecdotal evidence that the number of abortions is actually far higher than you imagine. You see, many women simply don’t tell their boyfriends, husbands, family that they are pregnant. They tell the doctor recieve the abortion and carry on with their lives; good for them!

    Tell me, do you really know if the women in your lives have never had an abortion? You may be positive they have not, but the simple answer is, you can never know.

    This is a good thing given the outrageous emotional outlandishness displayed by some religious men on this topic.

    The law of the land, remains the law of the land, and a good thing too. The last thing I want is people such as yourselves, any where near policy setting agendas.

  25. 25

    Thanks Dionisio — It’s been a tough time through all this. But please know this — my faith has been increased.

    Many of us reach out to particular scriptures in times such as this. Mine has been:

    ” … And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. …” Romans 8:28

    And in the context of Intelligent Design in nature, it has for me added further evidence for this thing called “resurrection.” It gives me confidence that life has a Designer – a designer who designed me and my grandson. Further, this design is understood in much detail by that very designer who designed, engineered, manufactured and maintains every facet of life, and one who indeed has the capability to “resurrect” a body that has died.

    The Bible tells of resurrection from the dead, in fact promises it to all. This is of course ridiculed as the myths of ignorant goat herders, but when my car breaks down, or the complex software program I am developing crashes, I am grateful for detail plans and documentation available to me and my mechanic. Likewise for my body and its parts.

    I’ll go with the goat herder over a Richard Dawkins every day.

  26. 26

    rvb8 @25 — no need to reply, you’ve placed your flag well.

  27. 27
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius @26:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Rev 22:21

  28. 28
    ET says:

    What sheer nonsense:

    That said the fetus is not a life, for the very simple and logical reason that it does not know it is a life.

    How do you know that? Do tell. Also life is a process that has a beginning. Without that beginning, guess what? No life.

    There were twins and in the womb they hugged and the hugging actually saved their lives. True, ignorant lefties may think it wasn’t anything to behold- it just happened, so to speak cuz they “know” it couldn’t have been intentional.

    Do newborn babies know they are a life? If you say “yes” then provide the evidence.

    rvb8 doesn’t appear to be self-aware at all.

  29. 29

    ayearningforpublius @23: Thank you for sharing that comment. Much love.

  30. 30
    chris haynes says:

    Dear ET

    I was trying to think of a more polite term than “nonsense”, but I couldn’t find one that worked.

    No sane person, with an elementary knowledge of Modern Biology, can deny that the life of a human being, like that of a horse, begins at conception.

    Thus Abortion is the willful killing of an innocent human being. And that is the very definition of murder, in spite of whatever nonsense the government of Sweden decrees today.

    Thus the only justification of abortion is that some human beings are inferior, so inferior that its okay to murder them. A disgusting concept, totally at variance with Christianity.

    That was the justification attempted here. It always fails, EVEN if one accepts that an Inferior Human Being can be killed. That is because what makes unborn babies inferior cant be coherently explained.

    As here, the Inferior Human beings are said, with scant evidence to lack “Self Awareness”, Consciousness, or Intellectual Capacity. This ghoulish reasoning collapses, as it did here, over the case of the guy unconscious after an injury. We do not accept the murdering of that guy. We don’t, even though he lacks “Self Awareness” Consciousness, or Intellectual Capacity, because we expect him to enjoy Self Awareness, Consciousness and Intellectual Capacity at some future time. Which of course is true for over 99% of unborn babies, within 9 months.

    Of course when one hears this nonsense one should be patient. If the Justices of the United States Supreme Court and our Pompous Inteligensia put out nonsense, one cant fully blame some poor Intellectual Wannabe for parroting the same nonsense.

  31. 31

    To all — thanks for the words, thoughts and prayers of encouragement.

  32. 32

    And to rvb8 — I’m still rooting for you. It doesn’t seem so, but my hope is that some of this discussion will penetrate in ways unexpected.

  33. 33
    rvb8 says:

    ayearningforpublius @33,

    Errr, thanks?

    Shouldn’t, ‘rooting for you’, be changed to, ‘praying for you’?

    Just as effective I’ll grant, but I think you would actually believe, one of these methods of assistance was actually efficacious.

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