Frontmatter

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Contents

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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p. ix

The research for this book was financially supported in part by Pitzer College and the European Union Center of California, as well as two generous grants: the Jack Shand Research Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Joseph Fichter Research Award ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Across the Middle East, fervent forms of Islam are growing more popular and more politically active. Muslim nations that were somewhat secularized 40 years ago—such as Lebanon and Iran—are now teeming with fundamentalism. In Turkey and Egypt, increasing numbers of women are turning to the veil...

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Society without God

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pp. 17-35

What are societies like when faith in God is minimal, church attendance is drastically low, and religion is a distinctly muted and marginal aspect of everyday life? If people don’t do much in the way of praying, they aren’t too concerned about their soul’s salvation, and they don’t instill in their children ...

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Jens, Anne, and Christian

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pp. 36-56

In addition to what the international surveys tell us about indicators of economic prosperity or infant mortality rates, and along with my own personal musings while riding buses through Denmark, to get a fuller, richer, and more intimate sense of life in a society wherein religion is minimal, it is necessary to sit down and talk ...

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Fear of Death and the Meaning of Life

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pp. 57-75

It is often stated that religion is so enduring and widespread because it deals with death as well as existential matters concerning the meaning of life. Because people fear death, they turn to religion for comfort. Furthermore, people are deeply concerned about the ultimate meaning of life, and so they turn to religion ...

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Lene, Sonny, and Gitte

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pp. 76-94

It was not always so easy to get people to agree to be interviewed by me. It wasn’t like I could just stand on a street corner or walk into a grocery store and stop strangers and ask them to sit down with me for about an hour to discuss their personal beliefs—with a tape recorder running, no less. ...

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Being Secular

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pp. 95-109

What does it mean to be secular, and what does the term “secular” actually connote? Dictionaries will offer a variety of definitions, including “of or pertaining to the world,” “of or pertaining to the temporal rather than to the spiritual,” “not pertaining to religion,” “not overtly or specifically religious,” ...

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Why?

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pp. 110-127

In certain countries today—many of them in Western Europe—religion isn’t doing so well.2 Sure, one can occasionally read about a successful Pentecostal church springing up here and there,3 but the overwhelming trajectory for religion in most Western European nations over the past century has been that of unambiguous decline. ...

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Dorthe, Laura, and Johanne

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pp. 128-149

If I were to give the impression that there are no religious people in Denmark and Sweden today, or that the only religious people are the elderly—such as Kirsten’s grandmother—I would be presenting a very false impression indeed. There most certainly are men and women of all ages in Denmark and Sweden ...

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Cultural Religion

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pp. 150-166

What does it mean to be Christian? Many people might suggest that a Christian is someone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God and also simultaneously God, and that about 2,000 years ago he was crucified for the sins of humanity but was subsequently resurrected. They might go on to suggest ...

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Back to the USA

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pp. 167-184

My family and I left Denmark at the end of June 2006. We flew up to Norway, where we spent three weeks inhaling the air, swimming the waters, hiking the trails, and pondering the lichens of the most devastatingly gorgeous country on earth, and then we flew back to the United States after over a year of living in Scandinavia. ...

Appendix

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pp. 185-188

Notes

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pp. 189-204

Bibliography

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pp. 205-214

Index

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pp. 215-226

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About the Author

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p. 227

Phil Zuckerman is an associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College. ...