Atheist Countries Doing Well?


Some people have claimed that countries with high rates of atheism are doing well in some areas, they would even argue BETTER than predominantely Christian nations. They cite examples like Norway, Finland, and Sweden who have more people who don’t believe in God than people who do, and they say they have the longest life expectancy, the best GDPs per capita, high literacy, good health, etc. They say if atheism is so bad, why are these countries doing so well?

What is a good response to this question? I would just like to let everyone know that I’m a devout Catholic, I receive the sacraments and fully agree with the Church. I just want a good response to these questions. Thanks.


It has nothing to do with atheism.

Those are all socialist societies, which can be sustained for a certain amount of time, but eventually they will get the socialist disease: “they run out of other peoples’ money”. The taxation level in all those countries is so high, that the smart capital tries to flee them. Norway has its huge oil revenue, which helps to maintain their socialism for quite a long time.

And this comes from an atheist (and libertarian). I do not have time to go deeper into this subject, but economical setups and general worldview (theism or atheism) have nothing to do with each other.


New technology (which will be opposed by the Catholic Church) will make sure that “smart capital” will be plentiful. Some things cannot be left to chance. I see no benefit when certain things are left to chance and I detest it. Leaving such things to chance is tantamount to cruelity.

Sorry about the cryptic excursis…

Well, Somalia is libertarian paradise. I suppose it is a heaven on earth now despite the inhabitants’ religious propensities.


If you are joking, that is one thing. But if you are serious… then you have no idea what libertarianism is. One word to the wise: “libertarinism” is not “anarchy”.


Well, Norway has an established Church, Finland has two (evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church) and the Church of Sweden was just disestablished a few years ago
So I’m not sure what you mean by “atheist” countries.

Norway has a fairly strong Christian Democrat party and that party has been growing in both Sweden and Finland.

Besides that are you trying to make the connection that faith brings material rewards in this life?

  1. They are not atheist countries. Many of their communitarian social policies can be traced to Christian social teachings.
  2. Faith is not guaranteed to bring physical rewards in this life.


It seems to have an extreme antipathy towards the government and social programs to help people in favor for a fetishism of property rights. Well, Somalia has no taxes and social programs the libertarians rail about.

Well, I do not think people acting in their own rational self-interest (as libertarianism vehemently opposes collectivism) will maximize utility as demonstated by the prisoner’s dilemma. Human nature is not a pleasant force of nature and should be kept in check.


You make a good point in that a lot of the policies found in Finland or any of these countries can be traced back to Christian beliefs. My question though is based on survey information and so on suggestion there is a high percentage of atheists in these countries, like 80%. But you’re also right in saying that Christian living does not guarantee material wealth, etc. So those points help, thanks.


Even atheists can do the right thing
And if the country they are in has a 1000-year history of Christianity that may mold their attitudes/policies in a positive way

Interesting enough the high percentages of atheists in nations with established Churches does show the inherent weakness in state sponsored religions.


Are they happy? I know that the suicide rates of the nordic countries are 30% (sweden)-100%(finland) higher than the USA.


WHO indicates that Swedish suicides rates are not too different from those in the US.
19.7 & 8.0 per 100,000 (men and women respectively) for Sweden
17.6 & 4.0 for the US
Norway is about the same

Finland is worse at
34.6 & 10.9

But still, 0.000197% vs 0.00346% doesn’t seem to shout an epidemic of unhappiness

Worldwide happiness surveys indicate that the Scandinavian countries are some of the happiest places on earth.

Sweden scores a little higher than the US (7.71 on a scale of 1-10 vs 7.36) and has a lower variance (1.57 vs 1.72)


Nice playing with decimal points to make stats seem small!

usa: 21.7
norway: 26.3 (120%)
finland: 45 (207%) <-- wow
sweden: 27 (124%)

Now considering that the USA is a backwards hellhole of superstition and capitalist oppression (sarcasm), that doesn’t make sense. If things meant happiness, these countries ought to be much happier than the USA.

Average suicide rate for these three nordic countries: 32.7 (151% of USA)

So why is the USA, according to these statistics, happier, despite much worse material conditions for the average person?


Thank you
And they are, thankfully, small (but still too big)

You need to be careful when throwing around relative rates. It is important to know the base numbers.

Those numbers are not significantly different from mine

0.00217% 0.00263% etc

IIRC they do have both capitalism and superstition in Scandinavia

Are you assuming that suicide rates are the sole measure of happiness?

As indicated above most happiness studies show those nations are happier than US. (Finland and Sweden are in the top 10 while Norway and the US are in the top 20)

In most happiness studies they just ask people if they are happy. (Can’t really argue with that)

There have been a host of studies to try to determine the contributions of various components in a person’s life.

There is some correlation with culture, age, GNP, sense of community, income gaps, health care etc. But those are not universal

I haven’t found any data regarding religious affiliation/belief but I’m sure that someone has looked at it.


We also need to take a long term view of a countries record.
A hundred years of the same philosophy would be a good barometer.

For example, 40 years ago you would say that the USSR was one of 2 super powers on earth, ruled a large part of the globe with major intenational influence and was leading the ‘space race’.

Today it has economically collapsed and no longer exists with many of its former satellites looking west for economic development.

On the other side of the coin you would take the last 60 years of sub saharan African independence and assume that their religion has not helped them develop economically.

Let’s see where the Nordic countries are in 50 years time (and everyone else) and then we could get a better understanding.


On the American definition (“caught reading the New York Times”) or European definition (“common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”) of ‘socialist’?

They’re certainly not examples of the latter and reading the New York Times would seem a little irrelevant.


correlation does not guarantee cause-and-effect.


If I was in a place where you only got a few hours of sunlight at certain times of the year, I’d probably contemplate suicided too!


You clearly don’t know what you are talking about but things are going pretty well for your “socialist” states. I guess you consider every country which hasn’t got exactly the same economical and political system as the US a socialist state?

World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index rankings
1 US (5.67)
3 Denmark (5.55)
4 Sweden (5.54)
6 Finland (5.49)
16 Norway (5.20)

Human Development Index
1 Iceland
2 Norway
6 Sweden
11 Finland
12 US
14 Denmark

Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2006
1 Sweden
2 Iceland
4 Norway
5 Denmark
6 Finland
17 US

Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Quality of Life Index 2005
3 Norway
5 Sweden
7 Iceland
9 Denmark
12 Finland
13 US

Right now the US mantra of “mortgage everything and spend it like there’s no tomorrow” doesn’t seem to be very sustainable either…


The prosperity of the Scandinavian countries has nothing to do with atheism. Instead they have mixed capitalism with a bit of socialism in a well working way. 100% capitalism is never good and 100% socialism isn’t good either. The best system is pretty much always in between and the Scandinavian countries seem to have come closer than most other countries. The fact that the concentration of atheists is high is just a coincidence.


True, however that does not make it a libertarian socioty.

Well, I do not think people acting in their own rational self-interest (as libertarianism vehemently opposes collectivism) will maximize utility as demonstated by the prisoner’s dilemma.

Libertarianism does not necessitate individual ruthless drive for self gane in total detriment of others, it is simply a policy of limited gpovernment involvment.

Human nature is not a pleasant force of nature and should be kept in check.

Kept in check by whome?


The pejorative you introduced then dismissed will be ignored.

The “European” definition you gave for socialism is actually the definition for communism.

Socialism is where the government collects the assets from people and redistributes it evenly. Essentially, taking little from the poor and giving them much while taking much from the wealthy and giving them little. It is a very intrusive form of government in that it is typified by significant regulation and large number of restrictive laws. Community ownership may or amy not be part of it. However the Nordic countries do have some state-owned business, such as mines, oil companies, etc.

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