The godless Danes

Yesterday I came across an interview with American sociologist Phil Zuckerman, who has done studies of Danes and our religion. He calls Denmark ‘a satisfied, sturdy dinghy of secular living’. Which goes against the trend of calling the secular socities of Western Europe spiritually starved and ravaged by the dangers of cultural relativism, which will ultimately lead to moral and physical decay.

He concludes that a society without God can be remarkably strong, good, safe, healthy and governed by ‘an admirable moral order’. A conclusion that is unlikely to call for much protesting among Scandinavians, but which is a provocative claim in the highly religious USA, according to Zuckerman.

I find this very interesting. Because even though Denmark exhibits an increasingly secular way of life, the Danish Order of Freemasons, which is openly Christian, also experiences an increase in members and interest. (And it has to be said that Zuckerman has been challenged by a Danish priest, who thinks that we are actually the most religious people in the world, but that’s a different discussion.)

I’m not sure what to really conclude from this, but it may be an interesting angle on understanding our Christian freemasonry: our sense of religion, and how we approach being christians, is very relaxed and intolerance doesn’t necessarily follow. Zuckerman uses the term ‘cultural christians’: it’s part of our identity as Danes, but to many it’s on par with the importance we attach to other cultural phenomena, such as our millenial old royal history or the democratic movement of the late 1800s or the modern welfare society. Tradition and self-image is more important than buying into everything the Bible says.

Basically: there is no ‘praise Jesus!’ at our lodge meetings.

Picture: A copy (coloured as the original is imagined to have been) of the (still standing) larger Jelling Stone. It says, ‘Harald Bluetooth (…) made the Danes Christian’, and it is considered the baptismal certificate of Denmark (10th century).

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