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The World's Happiest Countries are the Least Religious

Smile face

The world's happiest countries have been announced, and three of the top five are among the least religious countries in the world, reports Alfredo Garcia at Religion News Service. Garcia acknowledges that this "might be like comparing apples to bookshelves" and that "measures of 'happiness' or 'religiosity' can often be so vague and difficult to quantify that they lose their meaning" but it's a notable finding all the same. Here's more:

The nations taking the top spots include: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. This might not come as a surprise to many who have been to these nations. What is surprising, however, is that three of these five nations are among the top 10 least religious nations in the world (also from Gallup).

Indeed, Sweden, Denmark and Norway came in at second, third, and fourth, respectively.  Only Estonia was less religious than these nations.

(Thanks, Religion Dispatches.)

Source: Religion News Service

Image by Stig Nygaard, licensed under Creative Commons.

vibram guy
1/10/2013 11:49:12 PM

Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands are also leading in best salaries per capita and best quality of life. Ever thought that could be why?

barry bruington
10/28/2012 4:50:19 AM

This is a fact, it is true, it is not debatable, humans came up with the idea of god, man created god, god did not create man. If one knows a little cosomogy then he or she knows how our planet was formed, how our sun was formed before our planet, hey its a fact man thought up the idea of gods. There is only one happening in the formation of our universe that science cannot yet answer and that is what started our universe in the very beggining the poorly named big bang. In the very beggining there was only one element that was created and that was hydrogen. In the beggining there was hydrogen, so if one, still, after all the information science has given us wants to believe in a being that created the earth and us then he or she can only say god created hydrogen. Its the simplest element on the periodic table, one proton one electron. Gravity and 13 billion years of time did all the rest. Gravity pulled vast clouds of hydrogen together and after many millions of years it formed spheres and got so hot a thing called nuclear fusion took place and the first stars (suns) were alight. The largest of the stars (suns) would eventually explode in what is called super nova, these exploding suns created all the rest of the elements we have, the iron in our blood was made by an exploding sun everything around you was created by dying suns we truley are made of star dust. Why this is so hard for many to believe is understandable, its much easier to just say god did it, but if god does intervene in the universe then one has to say god makes mistakes. Now if a being is all powerful and all knowing past and future then it should never make a mistake. Now into some fairy land stuff, why would god make a great flood to kill off all the sinners ? It looks like he she it made a mistake, oops got to kill all those sinners and start all over and put noah to work. Then we have cancer,birth defects,thousands of diseases, If as some believe god created everything then it created all these things along with us. If disease was made by god and it has to be if god made all, then god either makes mistakes or intended humans to suffer. Some believers will say ' its the devil who makes birth defects and diseases" ok ya right. Come on people use your common sense, now some who have only been taught the religion way of things dont have a clue about the real way our planet and everything came to be, for most of them especially the ones who have no sense of curiosity or wonder, they will always believe. There are a few who lose their belief not from learning some science but from grief, in this I mean losing a loved one to a horrible disease, they watched someone suffer greatly before death and wonder why any caring loving god would do such a thing and may come to lose their belief, I have seen this happen. Also some in war can also lose belief in similiar ways. I dont believe religion has much to do with some nations being happier then others, I think lots of other things come into play for a people to be happier then another. I wonder why some people who are usually religous want to force others to live by their beliefs ? An example of this is many people want to stop all abortions, or stop others from using drugs, or in the muslim world force women to cover their faces, many right to lifers are no better than muslim extremests, I just cant understand why any human would have a desire to make others live by their standards or beliefs ? To say a zygote or fetus is a human being is ignorant, its not human untill it has a fully formed brain and thinks for itself. I wish all the right to lifers would put their energies into saving the millions of cats and dogs we humans kill every years. They are aware and do experience happy or sad, no i dont think they know they are going to be killed when the needle is put in yet neither does a fetus. We have a severe overpopulation problem on this planet and some want to force others to add to it when they do not desire it. We live in a world filled with ignorance some day I hope but doubt that all the desire for money and power and greed will be gone and all the children will know how to read.

roger nixon
1/5/2011 11:14:46 PM

I question the thoroughness/credibility of a study on National happiness that does not include Bhutan. This country doesn't even have a Gross National Product but rather, a Gross Happiness level, because happiness is so central to their lives.

1/5/2011 5:37:28 PM

Nothing like an imaginary friend for improving health, unless it's a placebo, also shown to improve health.

11/27/2010 12:24:05 PM

I second what Sans said, more truthful and reasonable then any of the boring drivel you hear from every atheist argument! Belief in a Higher Power(God) is a very positive thing, and it has been shown in every major scientific study that faith used as Sans says, to help give guidance and inner strength in time of need, has great health benefits and overall well-being goes up!

8/23/2010 10:08:54 PM

Nice thoughts as always Sans. I wish I had the ability to articulate my agruments as well as you do. You have a way of coming across as a good person instead of a pompous know it all.

8/23/2010 5:37:32 PM

To add to the mix, my thoughts are that religion is a tool for those who are in power or want power to keep those not in power in line. Especially when masses of people would be unruly if not kept in check by the tenets of religion. When used to comfort and give guidance, I think religion is good; but when used to control, scapegoat and politicize, then it is crap. It also serves as a community resource for people to connect which is another good use. That is not to say that I don't believe in a Higher Power or God or whatever you choose to call it, because the fact that we exist is proof enough for me. I just don't believe in the organized variety of worship. I also don't believe in just reason or rationale, since when it foments in the dysfunctional human mind, it can be just as disturbing as unfettered religious fundamentalism. There has to be a balance, such as reason with an open mind. Closed minds get pretty stale eventually, whether rational or not.

8/23/2010 4:54:41 PM

Did I say that I infuriated you Shirley? I went back and read my comments I said atheist maybe I should have clarified. Please please please dont waste your time pitying me. Spend your time trying to become interesting or having original thoughts. Everything you say sounds like it is being regurgitated from a George Carlin routine. I am still waiting for your retort over on the other thread. I would be happy to debate with you but "smart people dont believe in God" is just so boring. NO it is cowards that believe in God no it is dumb cowards. I digress my point is there is no merit in your logic you can use words like boogie man and magic, and star wars etc. It sounds funny, it is clever it is just not smart.

shirley hodge
8/23/2010 4:43:14 PM

Sorry Rodeen but I must burst your bubble. Your religious beliefs or should I say your beliefs in supernatural beings et al certainly does not infuriate me rather it causes me to pity those persons who spend their lives depending on fairy tales to make them happy when true happiness is found in one's acceptance of onself as one is even with all our imperfections our intellect is a phenomenom which we can spend a lifetime examining and never know its full power. Sad to say most people do not even bother trying they are to busy kowtowing to boogymen which we should have left behind in elementary school with the monsters under out beds.

8/23/2010 4:25:25 PM

BORING Shirley. Same drivel you are passing off as intellect on other threads and it is boring. Nothing new here no evidence or agruement just an opinion that God does not exist but no real reason why. What an innovation the "People make up a God to feel good about the dead" arguement. Lucky for Shirley she is bold, brave and more than anything smart enough to acknowledge the certainty of her doom. What I cant figure out and really is a major factor in me debating is why you even care. I believe in God and I am happy. I was relatively happy before I believed. That is a fact. I try not to make other people around me unhappy. I dont force my religous views down anyones throat or push to legislate morality. Yet my core beliefs infuriate the atheist. SO strange.

shirley hodge
8/23/2010 3:00:25 PM

No great surprise. I would love to see some comprehensive studies into this finding. The most powerful aspects of human intelligence is our ability to think rationally and logically. That noted it becomes apparent that in order to have what is called 'faith' meaning belief in beings of supernatural quality who posses magical powers that can and do affect our physical persons we must suspend those powers we have for logical and rational thinking. The two are totally incompatable. I would posit that the purposes of religion are mainly feel good. Religion allows us to make sense of that which we find incomprehensible and it allows us to believe that those whom we have lost are not really lost but only placed beyond our senses awaiting our arrival and best of all religion offers us the ability to deny our inevitable end. Can anything be more intoxicating?

8/23/2010 2:00:08 PM

There are a lot of models to look at for your utopian society. Lets start with the third reich or perhaps you would have like to live under Stalin or Mao. Ahh the bliss of a faith free society. We are headed in the right direction.

jeffrey turnbull
8/23/2010 11:58:49 AM

Everyone has made good points in response. My instant response was that it makes sense---whether or not the method of statistical analysis is watertight---that people are more likely to be sane, respectful, reciprocally helpful, trustful, honest and happy...where there is no trace of hypocritical, hierarchical, patriarchal, authoritarian, dogmatic, materialistically greedy institutional religious structures.

8/23/2010 10:19:11 AM

This is laughable. I feel stupider for having read this which is hard for me to do. How can one possibly quantify happieness or religiousness? How many 1000's of other factors are ignored? I would think high employment for example might have an impact. Sunilia imagine that a Calvinist being religious. Ha! Do you know what a Calvinist is? Here is a hint it is not a religion it is a theology. GEEEZE people. I come on here to exchange ideas with what I believe are smart people with innovative ideas, and this is what I get.

8/23/2010 10:19:09 AM

This is laughable. I feel stupider for having read this which is hard for me to do. How can one possibly quantify happieness or religiousness? How many 1000's of other factors are ignored? I would think high employment for example might have an impact. Sunilia imagine that a Calvinist being religious. Ha! Do you know what a Calvinist is? Here is a hint it is not a religion it is a theology. GEEEZE people. I come on here to exchange ideas with what I believe are smart people with innovative ideas, and this is what I get.

8/23/2010 1:39:31 AM

These countries may just be more spiritual than religious. I'm a bit wary about the Netherlands though only because after living there, I have observed that they are still quite religous minded, especially the Calvinists.

8/23/2010 1:16:23 AM

Interesting, unless you try to find the causal factor. Do happier people become less religious, or do less religious people become happier? Perhaps there is no direct causal link at all, but a complex causation tree. Perhaps the existence of large religious groups gives the state the excuse to cause more harm, in the name of their constituents. Certainly, sin prohibition is linked to religiousity. Look at Mexico... Even though their country is in ruins, due to a war on drugs (and general corruption, inseparably linked), they are still pursuing the task... fruitlessly. Religion is often used for justification of prohibition and social engineering (pro and against religion). Prohibition of any substance, as Adam Smith pointed out, and all of history vindicates, causes black markets, corruption and a pooling of resources in the hands of criminals. This often harms the happiness of the average citizen... Like when you have to worry about getting kidnapped or shot... like in Mexico.