Tycker du att skolor bör hålla sina avslutningar i kyrkan?

About half* my ancestry is Scandinavian — equally split between Sweden and Norway — and one of the nice things about the Christmas holidays is the reconnection with family and tradition, so it's only appropriate that I urge you all to crash a Swedish poll. It's asking, Do you think schools should hold their commencement ceremonies in church?. So far, I'm shocked to see that secular Sweden is answering 69% "Ja" — is there some sneaky plan to get in there and desanctify the church, is the poll being mobbed by a religious minority, or (more likely, from my experience growing up with swarms of Swedes) is it just that they don't give a damn, a building is a building?

Whatever the reason, get over there and rösta.

*Don't ask about the other half. Classic American mongrel I-don't-know-whatsis, mostly diverse North European.

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Guess if I was surprised at seeing a header in my mother tounge here! I though I'd put in the wrong adress.

Anyway, I think that many swedes either think "It's tradition and so beautiful" or they don't care. With increasing numbers of other religions in our country, I know that the issue is being raised more often though.

By stormen_per (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

My maternal side is also Swedish. I have relatives in Mora and I was just there in August. They are mostly atheists, but love Mora intensily and the church there as a symbol only. It is a beautiful country and the people are justly proud of their culture, as I am. But they are also pragmatic. To use it as cultural background is benign.

By Steve Stripe (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

It's worth noting that Svenska Dagbladet is one of the more conservative morning newspapers with national distribution.

I would hpe that it is just because it is a pretty building. Our old high school was across the street from a church, and school productions that weren't big enough to go to the opera house were usually held in the church, just because our school didn't have a very good auditorium.

Nej=no, as most of you probably realize. Most swedes don't really care about the religion, but feel that churches are beautiful buildings for special occasions. An equally pompous secular building would probably work just as well.

Since members of the national religion (most of whom are not religious in the way we define the word) pay the taxes that built the church, let them use it for something useful. It's likely the most beautiful building in town.

By the way, the article is written by the former leader of the Christian democrat party, and starts with "secular whining" ("sekulariserat gnäll"). Lots of schools have stopped having ceremonies in churches already.

Mmmm....rösti

By Frederik Rosenkjær (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Sweden had the official national religion until a few years ago - much as the UK still has - and in many ways it is a good thing, as people perceive religion as part of the government establishment and they develop a sense of cynicism about it.

WTF?

Am I blind or has no one yet mentioned the TITLE of the article!?

"The apostles of stupidity intervene"!?!?

The entire article talks about these "apostles of stupidity" which are, you guessed it, the secular voices in the debate.

In other news, Sweden (and Denmark where I live) were hit by a mild earthquake this morning, which is a very very rare occasion here. (just a 4.8 Richter - no real damage, as far as I know).....but this is obviously God punishing them Swedes for this proposal to not use the church.

By Frederik Rosenkjær (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Mongrel is such a harsh word...perhaps to be attached to a pair of shoes and mailed to a certain president. We of" mixed" heritage prefer the term "Heinz 57". It connotes a certain "taste", "nej"?

Weird. Just catching up on one of mye favorite blogs after some time off, and suddenly some nasty swedish pops out before my eyes :D

Even though I don't like them being ahead of us on the "most secularized nations" polls, I'll help on this vote (I'm Norwegian) :P

Frederik, it's not really an article, it's a letter to the editor.

I'm from Norway, and our schools also have the tradition of going to church. When I was a kid I used to love it, because even if we had to sit still for about an hour and endure some rather boring stuff, we usually could go home afterwards. Besides it was part of the whole christmas package with santa and all the other fairytales. And as the vast majority of us never went to church the rest of the year, it had a somewhat exotic feel to it.

I think it is important to realize that this poll shouldn't necessarily be read as a huge support of religion and a step back for the very secular country of sweden. It's more a matter of what people consider to be a harmless and quaint tradition, somewhat equivalent to going to a concert or meeting santa, rather than actually being a religious service.

As a swede I might add.
1. It's Sweden's most conservative daily newspaper.
2. It's an article by the ex. leader for the "Christian Democratic party". He is quite popular, mostly for his gentle personality.
3. The (ex) Swedish national church is so secular that no one is really bothered. Its the Anglican church- light so to say. Also, creationists, ID-people, and christian fundamentalists gets almost no media coverage (and there are very few of them), so the general public are unaware of/indifferent to the more general problem with religion.

Oh, and I might also add (being very close friends with several Swedish priests), that they are not allowed to talk about god at all during these events with the schools, and it is a bit frustrating for them. Most of them say they feel out of place, some even want to end the tradition.

Frederik-

Really? Damn, must have slept through it... God's gonna hafta kick it up a notch if he wants us to repent. Or maybe... Maybe he approves of atheism and not-giving-a-flying-toss-ism! The overwhelming lack of natural disasters does seem to indicate it.

Jag var också mycket överraskad att se en rubrik här på svenska. Själv är jag från Finland men mitt modersmål är svenska.

As mentioned above, I was too really surprised to see a headline in Swedish. I'm from Finland but speak Swedish as mother tongue.

Peoples attitudes toward the church in Sweden and Finland are largely similar and the society is mostly secular. There are however some differences. I guess the opposition to the churches involvement in schools in Sweden is mostly from people of other faiths. In Finland we have much less Muslim immigrants and they are less organized.

In general I would like to remind all readers, especially the ones from the New World, that the church and religion has a very different role and character than in the US. It could be argued that the reason we, in Finland and Sweden, have grown fairly secular is because of the fact that we have a state church that has to obey the law and good taste (?), although it is always one or two steps behind. The average church subscriber does not really have religious faith and actually secretly despise Baptists, Mormons, JWs etc. Having religious faith is considered silly (but rarely dangerous) The churches are mostly empty except for concerts and Christmas mass. Nobody has actually read the bible, which is probably why a lot of people think our values are somehow derived from there. The church as an institution is in one sense seen as any government branch along with the IRS, health care and social services, institutions that should be subjected to democratic control. This, of course, waters down the appeal and devine authority claims. I'm optimistic with regard to our secular future in Scandinavia.

And back to the point: Celebrating the end of the school year in church is silly but probably not as disastrous as you might think. The size of our church means it shelters both the liberal majority and the conservative active church goers. Reading the ongoing debates within the church is the best entertainment as it is tearing the organization apart and as they go along many things are exposed for their silliness, without outspoken secularists even having to contribute.

Also, creationists, ID-people, and christian fundamentalists gets almost no media coverage (and there are very few of them), so the general public are unaware of/indifferent to the more general problem with religion.

What's it like to live in a country that isn't insane?

@Hampus #20:

Have you checked any news source today?

I myself slept though it at 6:20AM, but woke at 6:24 when my GF called about it :o) This was in Copenhagen. All Danish music fora and news sources are on about this.

By Frederik Rosenkjær (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Just to add my own voice to the choir being preached to: All the graduation/etc ceremonies I've ever been to have been thoroughly secular affairs, and have only served to reaffirm the idea that church is where you go to for the particularly boring and pointless rituals. (There's usually plenty of other things going on, and that's where everyone wants to be instead.) So I can't really see any reason to insist that the ceremonies should not be held there.

That said, that particular opinion piece is full of the usual stupidity (nasty and cultureless secularists, etc) so I'll have to go there and cast my "nej" vote.

When book stores in the DC area have Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman signing books they have to move to a massive church to hold everyone. Granted, those are authors, not a state sponsored event, but the idea is the same.
Some small congregations gather in their local community center. This doesn't mean that the city sponsors their church. Similarly, in some communities you have to find a church because it's the only place that will fit the crowds. My school had to go to a completely different city to find a space.

I am Swedish and just wanted to point out something and first time I ever disagreed with Myers:

Sweden is one of the most secular nations on the planet (that is, its people), and in Sweden, Churches are Historical monuments, nothing more. By tradition we hold school endings/ceremonies there, this has nothing to do with religion, the crashing of the poll makes no sense.

It has NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION and Swedish people have nothing AGAINST CHURCHES, they know the oppression the Church once did, and no longer permit it, we still keep the churches to good use.

By Swedish Guy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

I am Swedish and just wanted to point out something and first time I ever disagreed with Myers:

Sweden is one of the most secular nations on the planet (that is, its people), and in Sweden, Churches are Historical monuments, nothing more. By tradition we hold school endings/ceremonies there, this has nothing to do with religion, the crashing of the poll makes no sense.

It has NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION and Swedish people have nothing AGAINST CHURCHES, they know the oppression the Church once did, and no longer permit it, we still keep the churches to good use.

By Swedish Guy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

to #26
I disagree somewhat. The priest is still present at most of these ceremonies. OK, if the historic building was being used as such, but with the priest speaking the meaning is different.

I am Swedish and just wanted to point out something and first time I ever disagreed with Myers:

Sweden is one of the most secular nations on the planet (that is, its people), and in Sweden, Churches are Historical monuments, nothing more. By tradition we hold school endings/ceremonies there, this has nothing to do with religion, the crashing of the poll makes no sense.

It has NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION and Swedish people have nothing AGAINST CHURCHES, they know the oppression the Church once did, and no longer permit it, we still keep the churches to good use.

By Swedish Guy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

to #26
I disagree somewhat. The priest is still present at most of these ceremonies. OK, if the historic building was being used as such, but with the priest speaking the meaning is different.

My son goes to school in Sweden and I don't have a problem with using these churches for this purpose. Its the equivalent of using nicely decorated Santa's Grottos. You don't have believe the stories to make some use out of the building.

Yes, look at my third alternative explanation, which I considered most likely: a building is just a building to those pragmatic Swedes.

The same discussion is going on in Norway. There's no poll though as far as I know. lol

Resultatet är inte statistiskt säkerställt.

Looks like they've already got the message anyway.

By Riman butterbur (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Well, Mark ... the priest is there, yes. But there is a difference; Scandinavian priests aren't always very religious, you know. A lot of them are very vague about that whole Jesus story (you'll meet a lot of priests here who will actually deny the literal truth of the resurrection of Jesus); in fact, a couple of them don't even believe in God - there was some controversy related to that point a couple of years ago (don't remember if that was Denmark or Sweden - anyone who can find a relevant link?).

As for why Swedes vote "yes", well ... tradition is certainly part of it, but I suspect part of the reason is that whereas secular Swedes don't really care, they know that the significant Muslim population often DO care, and that they care exactly for religious reasons. To many people, that seems to be a reason to support the tradition.

I'm Swedish and voted "Nej" in the poll.

My view on the issue on graduation ceremonies is purely based on the fact that Swedish schools by law are confessional free, and that school at the same time is mandatory. I have no objections about some of the traditional songs are psalms, since they aren't perceived as such and mostly evolve around green trees and sunshine. But to hold services in any religious context as part of the schools' schedules is utterly wrong. I do not want my children to be forced to attend a graduation ceremony that give praise to a figure of fiction and that figure's presumed will.

So, if the ceremony is held within the walls of a church, I expect that there will be no sermon, no praying and no other psalms than the traditional summer songs. If any of these three occur, the school should hold its ceremonies elsewhere.

On the daily callers' debate radio show "Ring P1" ("Call P1"), a man compared holding ceremonies in churches with muslim girls wearing a veil. That's not a valid comparison. Wearing a veil, kippa, cross in a necklace etc., is a personal manifestation of ones faith. It's to be compared with other kids wearing Metallica t-shirts or a pin saying "I'm a republican". None of the religious kids force other kids to attend religious ceremonies or pray to whatever god they believe in. But the schools are. Despite being confessional free...

I wish that my grasp of the English language and of sociology were good enough to explain this to foreigners.

In short, in Sweden:
1) The former state church is by most considered harmless.
2) Many small schools don't have any suitable auditorium for their commencement ceremonies other than the nearby old church.
3) So there has been a tradition to hold the ceremonies in the church.
4) Since school is mandatory, in the last few years secularists have begun complaining about this, arguing that as a matter of principle, the mandatory school shouldn't be allowed to in practice force children into a church.
5) The songs (psalms) that are sung, especially at the summer commencement, are dearly loved. And the church is so atmospheric.
6) and many fall for the Christians' lie that Jul is a Christian holiday about the birth of Jesus, so therefore it is logical to celebrate the end-of-semester before Jul in church.
7) The religionists seize the opportunity, claiming "If you don't allow the children to have their commencement in church, you rob them of our traditions and of our history and our culture".
8) As a result, many, even secular people, are intolerant of those who claim their right not to have religion forced upon them.

PZ asks: Is there

A) some sneaky plan to desanctify the church
-- this has already happened somewhat as a side-effect of having the state church, but it is far from complete. But there is no such plan here.
B) the poll being mobbed by a religious minority -- probably yes
C) just that they don't give a damn -- look, soon 300 comments to the opinion article since this morning.

Note that the former state church doesn't allow schools to use churches without a priest attending.

By secularguy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Posted by: Swedish Guy | December 16, 2008 10:54 AM

I am Swedish...

As previously implied.

(Sorry - it's my friends' favorite MST3K line, and I couldn't resist.)

Huh, well, as a(n agnostic) Swede I may agree in principle, but most of us have these very... well, sentimental sentiments about the monarchy and the Church of Sweden, perhaps not too different from how Englishmen feel about the Queen and the CoE. It's a big part of the national identity and whilst we may find there be quite a few objections to be made from a moral (and/or democratic) point of view, we find these things to be mostly harmless and in the case of having these ceremonies in church, quite benificial for getting us into the spirit of the season, and besides, what's the point in making a fuss?

I suppose that since we to a great extent, even though something like 80 % are members of the CoS, don't believe (that is too strong a word; 'nod slightly approvingly in the direction of' would be better) in anything more than a very lukewarm, Deistic-ish variant of Christianity, we don't really mind. And, which I should stress, we really don't like making a fuss, that's more or less a national characteristic.

(Yes, SvD might be liberal-conservative, but that doesn't really have any of the connotations of 'family values' that the word has in the US. You're just likely to find bona-fide Christian apologetics in our big left-leaning (as in socialist, not liberal) tabloid.)

offtopic...

you norwegians are making me long for my future home country :(

I'm icelandic, but I live in sweden and I voted "no" in the poll.

Perhaps religion is not the biggest problem in sweden, and most people are indifferent regarding a ceremony in a church, but are'nt we sending a strange message to children by having the state give creedence to deluded adults? In the eyes of the child the establishment is saying to the priest: "what you do is valid."

And the older children who are aware of their atheism might find it offensive to enter a house built on a book that calls him/her a fool. Thus excluding him from his own graduation ceremony.

In the part of Finland I grew up, we considered all swedes gay. That was mostly because 1) we were adolescent, 2) we HAD to study Swedish in school, 3) the Swedes cut and ran in a 1741 battle in which our town was sacked and burned.

Wow PZ, just how far do your tentacles reach? Today we have heard from several Japanese, Korean and Chinese readers and now the Scandinavians. The Ditch, French, German, UK, Aussies and New Zealanders regularly comment. Anyone out there from Tuva?
Who knew a mild mannered atheist biology professor in Minnesota would be so influential.

Ditch? Was that a cheap dig indicating the Netherlands is a gutter? ;)

(Norwegian commenter, long time lurker)

Let me just remark on the following;

a) as those of you who can read swedish will see, there do exist nuts who behave and argue like American fundies (even in Scandinavia). This does *not* mean that said nuts are worth listening to, or have any power. Currently, the situation in Norway is that the crazy-ass Christian party gets about 5-7% of the vote, so they're not really worth listening to. I don't knov how it works in Sweden, but I hope (for their sake) that their situation is similar to ours.

b) We (read: Scandinavians) have, in our schools, many church-bound traditions (such as Easter and Christmas gatherings), but this should not be mistaken for a general popular support for the nuttery of the church. Mostly, this is a tradition-based remnant from the time when *everyone* went to church all the time (yay for a peasant nation!). I can only speak for Norway with any confidence, but here most people are secular in outlook, and view such proposals as "kids should be kept out of church in holiday times" as a "should we change the way we've always done it?" question, rather than as a "[insert general fundie rubbish argument here]" question. Of course we have our bible belt (the south-western part of the country), whencefrom nuts emerge who shout loudly about such things, but in general, few people pay attention to them.

Worth mention for general interest: around 80% of Norwegians are formally members of the Church of Norway (the 'State Church'), but polls indicate that only about 30% "personally believe in a God". This (the 80% figure) may be influenced by the fact that the Church of Norway added the entire population to its membership registers in 1998, after it lost its membership records in a computer crash; and has a notoriously difficult process of quitting.

The general comments having been dealt with, I just have to say that I absolutely love the way the guy plays American-style no-brain fundie by using the argument, "will the kids have to go to the St. Peter's Basilica or the Kölner Cathedral to be able to go to church now?". Sometimes I wonder if people who use such arguments are actually mentally retarded, because either they a) are stupid, or b) lie wilfully.

I think most swedes just don't give a damn. To me it matters because even though Sweden officially don't have a statereligion it sorta do in practise. The most obvious example being that the king must be a member of the swedish church according to our constitution.

By Gustav Nyström (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Hah, this brings me back to something that happened at my highschool. My high school had a huge graduating class, circa 700. For years they had had graduation in some gigantic church near the school so that there would be enough room for each student to have up to 5 people come. Then after YEARS of this, some idiot complained that it was in a church and the idiotic school decided to try to avoid a lawsuit, and moved it to some EQUESTRIAN CENTER where each student could only bring one or two guests. The church was the only place they could physically get enough seats. Now because some yokel didnt like that when we weren't there it was a religious building, the school had to contend with a substandard venue - until, get this, the county school system decided they wouldnt let ANY graduations happen in church, and had all those graduations go to a stadium at a local university, for a grand total annual cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the school budget. It was madness.

In this case, letting the graduations happen in churches, the buildings that could HOLD the things and not cost the taxpayers as much money, was FINE.

Was that a cheap dig indicating the Netherlands is a gutter? ;)

must. stifle. finger/dyke. joke...

Alf Svensson writes:

I söndags promenerade vi förbi Operan i Stockholm. Byggnadens ena stora fönster annonserade ut att Batseba skulle sättas upp.
Nog undrar man om morgondagens besökare kommer att ha någon kunskap eller få någon reflexion när de hör eller läser om Batseba. Har man hört talas om Samuelsböckerna?
I det andra operafönstret annonserades operan Simson och Delila. Har man en aning om vilka dessa var om man aldrig hört talas om berättelsen i Domarboken?

Argumentum ad... operam?

English summary: If people don't know the Bible, how will they appreciate the operas about Batsheba and Samson and Delilah?

A couple of problems. For one, what does the location of the school ceremony have to do with knowing the bible? Will there be a bible study session or will the kids learn by osmosis from just being in a church? Also, I seem to recall that there are some rather more famous operas about Nordic mythology, but I don't see Alf Svensson bitching about how kids don't know their Eddas inside out anymore.

There is a campaign in Norway going on right now to stop the practice of conducting the end om term commencement in local churches. The campaign is organized by the Norwegian Humanist group, and is called:

"Don't preach in my school, and I won't think in your church".

...which I thought was quite nice. They stand outside churches and hand out boxes containting earplugs, so the children don't actually have to listen to the service.

As long as they just happen to have the commencement at a church I don't really mind, if they were sent to a church service on the last day of school I would mind rather more.

In Norway, where I live, the school would go to a church service once during advent but the avowedly godless such as myself were excused if we didn't want to.

Another Swede here. I never really reflected upon why we had the ceremony in the local church every year. There were speeches and some musical performances and such, and the local priest held some sort of speech or sermon-like thing which as far as I can remember was pretty secular and just feel-good.

It may surprise you, but religion is not entirely shut out from our schools as some of you think should be the case over there in the USA (that's my impression anyway). For example, Christmas decorations and nativity plays are not uncommon in the lower grades of primary school, and of course the Saint Lucia Day ceremony.

By Liberal Atheist (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Surprised to see the Swedish headline.

anyhow, as a native Swede now in the US I would like to point out that the [old school] ending of the semester in the church was very little to do with Church or God. why? Well, the priest ususally wasn't allowed to talk about God. Especially in the summer time - the most sung songs are two out of three in the Psalm book and not many Swedes even know they are there....

And it should be noted that being such a small country and always having things in church - as a place for gatherings - the schools are built differently than American schools. For example, it is not even said that the school would have a gym/auditorium to hold all the students. Definetly not with proper seating.

Then again, I guess we should kind of burn all the churches that aren't used since they "speak of the times when we were oppressed and had to believe in a God"?!? Sorry, but looking at most of the churches, especially in the country side, they represent the history of our country. More history than God, and for the students to sit in the same place as thier ancestors (the churches are usually more than 100 years old) is kind of a good feeling.

Not to mention that the ["Federal] holidays in Sweden are more than ten days over the year, and all of them apart from Midsummers, First of May (Labour day/Commie day) and starting two years ago the Day of the Flag, are directly Christian days although the "regular Swede" don't really pay attention to that fact since "it has always been that way" and we are off to visit family and friends on Easter/Pentecoast/All hallows Eve/Christmas - for between one and three days.

And then we do teach the subject of "religion" in high school where you are taught all different types of religion [as well as atheism] so it would be good to see that Sweden is different from the 'regular' American view on 'religion and schools'. And we had a state church from 1524 up until less than 10 years ago....

Hey! I defended my PhD in a church. You can even see the pipe organ behind me in the pictures.

[allright, full story is: the building where defenses usually happen was closed for renovation, so for a few months, all defenses were transferred to a nearby church.]

A free online swedish translator tells me this is what the actual poll question is.

"Do you think that schools should amuse their closure the church?"

What is really going on at these "commencement ceremonies"?

Swedish here too...

I am quite indifferent to the poll, I might even vote 'yes'.

There is one point that hasnt been mentioned here yet. What people need to keep in mind is that churches over here are generally very old (some back to the 1300's) and often display wonderful examples of medieval craftmanship and history. We dont have flashy teleprompters, flatscreens and things like that in our churches (for the very most part).

So I, being a secular bastard, still want churches preserved, and I still want my children to be able to go in there and be able to admire the cultural and historical values it represents.

Besides, if my child is not smart enough to enjoy a church without buying into the dogma, I would consider that a failure on my part.

Oh, and I might also add (being very close friends with several Swedish priests), that they are not allowed to talk about god at all during these events with the schools, and it is a bit frustrating for them. Most of them say they feel out of place, some even want to end the tradition.

Some, OTOH, see the don't-mention-god bit as an exercise in circumlocutory rhetorics.

If you'd asked me back in school, I'd said the proper solution would be to cancel the ceremonies completely, because they're dead boring. These days, realizing that's just not going to happen, it's hard to see a reasonable alternative for many schools. But there's really no reason the priest should be taking an official role in the ceremony.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

the Saint Lucia Day ceremony

Our international friends should note that Lucia Day has even less to do with the Saint than Christmas has to do with Christ. Effectively, it's a celebration of cookies, kids in silly dresses, and, among teens, alcohol.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Churches are typically nice buildings and should be used for something. There are too many of them to use just as concert halls.

I voted Nej, then thought better of it and voted Ja to even up the balance.

I'm kind of torn. I'm an atheist, or agnostic, or whatever a rational, science-minded lad oughta be. This particular issue is a pretty harmless one, but only because the occation is the graduation. I'm a swede, I graduated and the 30-minute ceremony was indeed in a church. You could wait outside if you wanted to, but I really wasn't going to leave all my happy friends to stand alone outside a church. That's the point: the ceremony isn't listened to by anyone. You're all signing eachothers' graduation hats and talking memories and life is good. You're out of there before you entered basically.
To add to the point of harmlessness: if anyone in Sweden, being a highly secularized nation (if that's something you can even grade), who had some sort of authority, be it spiritual or otherwise, tried to babble off on some biblical voyage during the graduation ceremony, there'd be quite extensive protests.

In most other cases I'd probably voted 'yes' without a moment's hesitation, but in this case I feel the building really is just a building.
Just my 2 öre.

By Erik Jeppsson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

The Swedes owe something to their national church. Sweden was the first country on earth to achieve essentially universal literacy. That was the work of the Lutheran church, which insisted on universal education because the pastors wanted their congregants to be able to read the Bible.

@Jim
Actually, we Swedes don't owe our national church shit. Just like I don't feel we owe Einstein for figuring out how all that stuff up there works. Actually, I think, in our not-owing state, we owe more to Einstein than to the church; it was a one-man job after all.
I think that literacy is something that would've evolved anyway, without the intervention of the church. I'm not denying their part in it though.

By Erik Jeppsson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

#44 said:
"In the part of Finland I grew up, we considered all swedes gay. That was mostly because 1) we were adolescent, 2) we HAD to study Swedish in school, 3) the Swedes cut and ran in a 1741 battle in which our town was sacked and burned."

All Swedes think that you finns´ main interests are ski jumping and knife fights. So i guess that evens it out to us being gay.

In most other cases I'd probably voted 'yes' without a moment's hesitation, but in this case I feel the building really is just a building.

Camilla Grepe commented over at SvD:

"Kyrkan lånar inte ut sina lokaler med mindre än att en präst är med och pratar."

If this is true, it would be best if in the future people could access these buildings without this condition of a priest getting his say.

Just added my vote. It's running 50 50 now.

SvD is the most conservative newspaper in all of Sweden so the poll result is not really that surprising. Oh, and that nice kind-looking guy who wrote the article is actually the former leader for the Christian Democratic Party so go figure.

By Crazy_Swede (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

I am a Swede and I think that schools should hold their events in the local church if suitable for their community. I wish the church should also be allowed to be used for other events like concerts etc.
In the community of 4000 people in southern Sweden where I grew up, we have a 900 year old church. This church is a beautiful building and for sure the most spectacular meeting hall we have there. The religious should not have the sole right of use for a building that have had cultural and historical value to the community for centuries.

I would vote Yes.

By Bengt Svensson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Something strange happened. The "ja" suddenly jumped to 75%!!!

As another from a mostly secular nation, the whole "building is a building" thing makes a lot of sense to me. Not gonna vote in this one.

I think Bengt put it very well: The religious should not have the sole right of use for a building that have had cultural and historical value to the community for centuries.

I wonder, are you guys thinking of some gross modern drive-in mega-church, or of gorgeous 900 year old stone and stained glass constructions built by your peasant forebears? It's about history and culture rather than religion, it seems to me.

A lot of Swedes feel that the link between church buildings and religion is weak or optional. Churches are more a part of our cultural heritage than places of worship.

A great example of this is my family. For some reason they love baptisms and crap like that but they are surprised and a little put off when the priest brings up Jesus in the ceremony. When my Grandmother was buried a few years back they actually asked the priest not to make the ceremony overly religious, so he left out sin and the afterlife when he did his thing. The Church of Sweden is just desperate enough for members to meet people like that halfway.

I think this is a fairly typical attitude in Sweden. We've been secularised to the point where we don't see the necessary connection between the buildings and costumes and the religious thing.

My first reaction when seeing Alf Svensson's letter to the editor was that he was making a desperate attempt to stir up a debate over something most Swedes pretty much don't care about as a diversionary tactic.

Why? Well, soon the government (a coalition of four parties, of which Svensson's christian democrats is one) is going to propose a law in Parliament giving equal rights to marry to homosexuals as to heterosexuals. All parties in Parliament agree that this is the right thing to do - except the christian democrats. A little brouhaha around something like school ceremonies in church might then serve as a diversion.

Personally, I think it just displays the fault of their worldview even more...

I wonder, are you guys thinking of some gross modern drive-in mega-church, or of gorgeous 900 year old stone and stained glass constructions built by your peasant forebears? It's about history and culture rather than religion, it seems to me.

However fancy the church building, shouldn't schools be allowed to hold their ceremonies elsewhere if they choose to? That's what the vote was about.

I agree with Kristian | December 16, 2008 1:55 PM.
I'm not Swedish but a Brit (or to be more precise English, half Cornish) living in Norway (22 years so far). My youngest son played the piano in church earlier this week as part of a school arrangement. I'm quite sure he doesn't regard it as a religious event, as far as I can tell he is as much an unbeliever as I am (that is to say total). Svelvik church is by far the most interesting building in the kommune so why not use it, you don't have to listen to the foolishness spouted by the priest (who as far as I can tell is otherwise a perfectly rational and easy to like fellow, in our case at least). Our history includes churches, our ancestors designed them, built them, and loved them for all sorts of reasons not just religious ones; we can do some of the same, there is no need to throw the aesthetic baby out with the religious bathwater.

By Kevin Whitefoot (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

@Cath
Just going to verify that. Yes, many churches in Sweden are quite beautiful 1100-s stone buildings, a heritage definitely worthy of keeping in shape but also to use I think. I happen to know quite a lot about it as I work at one of them, which makes me a total hypocrite. The kids will have the ceremony this Friday as a matter of fact.

By Erik Jeppsson (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

There was always preaching when I had to attend church service in my norwegian school. We even had to attend the crazy cannibal-ritual once.

The buildings are sometimes nice and historically valuable and should be preserved as cultural artifacts, museum artifacts.

Since this thread is getting a bit to cozy and boring I might as well put some gasoline on the fire... Sure the churches are nice and a part of our history, but did you know that when many churches were built they often used runestones as a foundation.
The churches were often built on old viking burial mounds and those big runestones were already there and ofcourse meant nothing.
Soo....what heritage is most important? Why not tear down some churches and find out more about our viking past?

Just to be specific, the "correct" answer is Nej (No)

I think PZ is right, of course, but this is largely due to a cultural difference, in Scandinavia, the church is different from the churches in the US, to us Scandinavians, churches, especially in christmas times, represent an almost purely ceremonial status, people go there because our parents et.al are buried there, and its tradition to go there atleast once a year, which would be Christmas. I think most people are secular 99% of the year, and "ceremonial Christians" once a year, that is , around Christmas. We feel a natural urge, perhaps, to become church-goers aroung that time, it might sound wierd to both theist and atheists in the US, but thats how it works over here.

By BicycleRepairMan (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

@Mark | December 16, 2008 5:06 PM
I think that if you look closely at the decoration on the oldest Scandinavian churches, in Norway at least (stavkirker), you will see that some Viking influence survived the transition to Christianity.

By Kevin Whitefoot (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Yet another (atheist) swede here.. Fun subject title which really surprised me!

There's no rule saying schools have to use churches! Just tradition, and a quite stubborn tradition at that, but one that the head teacher can decide not to follow. The debate is about too many head teachers clinging on to the tradition and a few abandoning it due to political correctness like "not offending people of other faiths" (which to me seem to be badmouthing the non-christians and painting them as oversensitive)

Me, I like the tradition - as others have said, churches are generally nice old buildings and the priest isn't allowed to say anything about gods in the few minutes (s)he's got. The most religious thing I ever heard in those speeches was an old priest trying to be sneaky with an inserted "Hallelujah!" a couple of times in a speech celebrating summer.. :-)

Even baptisms are treated as secular by most people, so I'm not surprised to hear of people getting slightly offended by priests "overempasizing" gods and jesus..

The only religious thing in schools that perhaps should be eliminated is the nativity plays performed by the young children. Those are quite cute and no doubt educational but any other play can be cute and educational too. (Again, there's no real religious point in performing the play - it's just tradition and "cultural")
Kids probably would be more interested in performing a play about Santa or even about FSM.. or even better yet, something that's actually about swedish history. Perhaps one of Gustav Vasa's adventures before he became king.

By Staffan H (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

IMHO, the guys of the site, seeing that the "nej" inscreased too much, added artificially a lot of "ja".

They definitely manipulated that vote. It was strumming along nicely at about 50-50, then it suddenly jumped to 75% "Ja", and 25% "Nej". I guess that's the sort of tactic christian newspapers use.

The poll appears to be a forgery since as I click update the number of people who have voted keeps changing up and DOWN randomly.

This is almost as good as the last presidential elections in USA.

What if the churches were made entirely secular? Like community centres, or whatever. Just an old building that's used by the community for various events. No priests, no Bibles, no religion at all. Just a nicely built old traditional building.
Would such a change in Scandinavian countries be possible? I mean, if most of the population sees it that way in the first place, why not just make it official?
Also, is it true that in these countries there is mandatory tithing or tax money that goes to the church? Why not reduce the budget by eliminating the priestly middle-men? Just have enough funds to support the maintenance of the buildings.

By Wonderist (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

This debate has come up in Sweden two times a year the last couple of years. Some principal of some school somewhere decides that, because the school law stipulates that the obligatory education should be based on facts and science and be non-confessional, it is not proper to hold the commencement ceremonies in a place dedicated to the teaching of a faith by a confessional organization. Also because children who won't be allowed by their parents to enter the church shouldn't be forced to not attend the commencement ceremonies.

So the principal decides that the ceremonies should be held at some other place.

Next, christians start writing angry letters (such as this opinion article) to newspapers, complaining that these excessive demands for secularisation are denying our children our cultural heritage and destroying the basic values, which are christian, which our society is based on. And saying that the school out of political correctness is giving in to unreasonable demands for equality by muslims and by a few extreme secularists.

I recall that a year ago, when a bishop argued for the position that churches maybe shouldn't be used for secular school activities, he was accused by christians for trying to take away important opportunities to make children used to spending time in church.

I don't fancy the old churches as much as some other Swedes do, because I see them as monuments to stupidity. A stupidity that is still actively spread by the Chuch, in the churches. It isn't dead yet.
If that would stop, I would enjoy them more, as avenues for concerts and art galleries.

By secularguy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

My son's high school made use of a mega-church for graduation ceremonies until people complained.

The school is large, over 800 graduates, and the only other venue large enough to accomodate the graduation was a show-horse facility that would allow only 4 tickets per family with mostly limited views of the stage. The church was large enough to supply unlimited numbers of tickets per graduate, with full views from all comfortable seats.

There were no religious symbols in the auditorium of the church. There were doves and mentions of Jesus on the outside of the building.

I am going to speak for my mom, who has strong opinions on this (although she is from Norway and naturally "hates" the Swedes). She is an atheist to the core and thinks "what is the big deal, the church is a building!" And from what I have experienced of the culture (only spending my early childhood thre) I would agree. In the case of Scandinavia, sometimes a building is really just a building.

I don't understand the preist speak, but maybe it's just a folksey thing, I need to dig deeper about that. But as a country with an official church (as most of western Europe) they are quite secular, as opposed to us in the US with no state religion we are religious fanatical idiots. Go figure.

Woho! Sweden has taken over pharyngula. Now let's conquer the rest of the world! Meat balls for everyone!

I wrote:

If that would stop, I would enjoy them more, as avenues for concerts and art galleries.

... and for school gatherings too.

By secularguy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

#86 Posted by: Wonderist | December 16, 2008 7:43 PM

What if the churches were made entirely secular?Like community centres,

Churches are still owned by the Church of Sweden, the former state church which is now an (almost) independent organization. So it is up to them if they sell off church buildings. But the typical old church isn't very usable for events other than sitting listening to talk or music (unless possibly if you would remove the permanent benches).

Also, is it true that in these countries there is mandatory tithing or tax money that goes to the church? Why not reduce the budget by eliminating the priestly middle-men? Just have enough funds to support the maintenance of the buildings.

I believe the Church of Sweden is given grants by the state for preserving national heritage, and the Tax Agency collects member fees from the Church's members for the Church to use as the Church decides, I guess.

No priests, no Bibles, no religion at all. Just a nicely built old traditional building.
Would such a change in Scandinavian countries be possible? I mean, if most of the population sees it that way

But very many still don't see it that way. The church still has a few active religious members, and a huge part of the population demand access to the various services of the church, such as baptism, wedding, funeral, which come with a priest in the package. And people still don't tend to become priests unless they actually believe in the religion. So a great many people who's religiosity could be summed up in "well I guess there must be something ..." support the continued existance of a Church with authentic, Christian priests!

By secularguy (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

From checking out the responses of that article came this website: http://www.sockandawe.com/

And as many have pointed out, churches in the Scandinavian countries have a mainly ceremonial status. My Aussie wife wanted us to marry in one because the church was 'so quaint', 900 years old, and in a nice setting, so I went along with that to please her.
Haven't seen any notices of late of the attendance in Norwegian churches, but there was a whine from the priests that they were mostly empty, and in particular when the services took place. Hopefully that tradition remains.

Posted by: Thomas | December 16, 2008 3:17 PM
#44 said:
"In the part of Finland I grew up, we considered all swedes gay. That was mostly because 1) we were adolescent, 2) we HAD to study Swedish in school, 3) the Swedes cut and ran in a 1741 battle in which our town was sacked and burned."
All Swedes think that you finns´ main interests are ski jumping and knife fights. So i guess that evens it out to us being gay.

Oh, I always thought the Finnish national ethos was "Drink, Fuck. Fight", with the drinking bit injected as necessary.
Icelanders much the same, but substitute the "Fuck" for another "Fight".
As a sober, peaceful Norwegian, it was always "Drink, Drink, Fuck" and in too many cases substituting the "Fuck" with "Spew."

Posted by: Frederik Rosenkjær | December 16, 2008 14:59 UT

Mmmm....rösti

Do you mean Röschti? Advertized in the US as the national dish of Switzerland?

Used to be, anyway. I haven't been able to find it for years. Know where I could get some?

By Riman Butterbur (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Svensson used to be the leader of the Swedish Christian Democratic Party, and I think he is a bit senile. Anyway, a majority of the Swedes are atheists, and this might explain why Christians in Sweden are so aggressive. The reason that not everybody is ok with taking the school kids to the church is just that. Otherwise, Swedes are secure in their atheism and do not mind going to church, and a church is not the same thing in Sweden as in America. A church in Sweden is a 1000 years old stone building that even atheists are proud of. Of course, only the Christians show up for service. I am much more upset with the stupidity shown by Svensson than school children are sent to church, but if you go to church, you can only use the room for school business, not to impose religion.

#97:

a majority of the Swedes are atheists, and this might explain why Christians in Sweden are so aggressive.

I would even say that most Swedes are simply indifferent about religion. Being atheist sort of implies that you have given it active thought and made up your mind based on some kind of reasoning, which I don't believe is the case for a lot of the people.

Somehow, I think this makes the christians even more enraged. An active atheist is at least someone to engage with on a topic that interests the christian, but total indifference is almost demeaning to them.

I think that indifference is so large that they don't even bother to leave the church - it's simply "not on their radar".

Perhaps this is why many clergy get annoyed when people then turn up to have weddings in a church and give the impression that it's just because it's a beautiful building steeped in tradition, but clearly have no interest whatsoever in the superstition the church teaches.

The fun thing is that it is not the atheist or muslim kids (well parents) that object the most. It is usually JW parents that trow a fit.

Churches are buildings that are part of our cultural and historical heritage. If you can't be in one or listen to a christan sermon, there is something wrong with you. Religious education is mandatory in Swedish schools. A visit to a local church is a good field trip.

Do you mean Röschti? Advertized in the US as the national dish of Switzerland?

Used to be, anyway. I haven't been able to find it for years. Know where I could get some?

You can't get potatoes where you live? Because that's all you need.. grate them, fry in a pan, stir around at first, then sort of push it into a pack for the rest of the cooking time, real easy. Add whatever you like, ie cheese or chopped bacon, and/or onion. Salt. Pepper. Yum. :)

It would be interesting to see what nationalities the readers of this blog are (have?). This thread seems flooded with swedes and norwegians and I wonder if a thread about Rumania would give the same result. (Flooded with swedes and norwegians ;)

By stormen_per (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

I voted "Ja" because I like churches. And because using them for non-religious activites probably helps secularization. And because it annoys the hell out of conservative preists.

The apostles of stupidity intervene
SECULAR WHINING. Are the fundamentalists of stupidity going to unroot our youths from our culture? In [southern province] Småland, a school principal has decided that commencement ceremonies will not take place in church. Will swedish students have to visit the Cologne Cathedral or St. Peter's Basilica for an opportunity to enter a sacred building?

Of course, the only one whining and bitching here is Alf Svensson himself. And of course, people are free to enter "sacred buildings" any time they like. What makes Svensson so furious is that most swedes don't like.

stormen_per,

It would be interesting to see what nationalities the readers of this blog are (have?).

You can check it at any time by looking here :
http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=sm1pharyngula&r=83

NB : it won't be their nationalities but from which country they are connecting to Pharyngula.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

At this present time of this day :

Sweden 4.1%
Finland 2%
Denmark 1%
Norway 1%

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 16 Dec 2008 #permalink

Thinker (comment #97), I see that this point is made by others who think they know anything about Swedish culture. (The point you made is that few Christians makes the few that actually are there try really hard - I used the word "aggressive".)

This is correct. Most people are not bothered by religion in Sweden, and of those who are, most people are atheists. They oppose religion. And the once that argue about religion in media (Alf Svensson, Siewert Oholm, Ulf Ekman and Ake Green) are considered "village idiots".

I guess there was a time in the past when this tradition had a religious meaning. 100 years ago, when everyone here in Sweden was religious, it was natural to gather people in the church during gatherings like "skolavslutningar". Today, religious people are a minority, but the tradition is still celebrated, and I think it's a good one. As others have noted, it's a secular thing nowadays, no more strange than using churches as concert venues or art galleries, which is also common. So, if there's a nearby church in walking distance from the school, it may well be the best venue you can find for a skolavslutning.

My dog, a lot of scandinavians here. No wonder I feel at home :)

(Norwegian)

SvD (Svenska Dagbladet) is not a christian paper (somebody suggested this above). If there is some funny business manipulating the poll results, it is not because the paper has christian agenda.

By ihedenius (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

"My dog, a lot of scandinavians here. No wonder I feel at home :)

(Norwegian)"

I always enjoy the news that concern us more closely here. Most people here are, as mentioned, pretty much indifferent about religion and it is more about plain old resistance to change than "you are removing the foundations this nation was built on" -reactions when some religious aspect is brought up and criticized.

I know it can be hard to understand the discourse regarding religion in Scandinavia for Americans. Even I sometimes have to remind myself not to get myself worked up about something that I read on this blog and look outside the window and calm down. That said, there still are things that could be better and because of the widespread indifferent attitude toward religion people aren't interested in correcting some myths and flat out lies regarding the impact of religion on society.

(Finland)

I voted "Ja" because I like churches. And because using them for non-religious activites probably helps secularization

The poll is fucked up anyway so perhaps my complaint is useless, but do you really think that schools should or even must ("BÖR") have their ceremonies in churches? By voting yes you support Alf's whining and bitching about the principal who for some reason decided not to use the church.

Just a few more comments...

SvD is not, as someone noted, an Xian newspaper but rather of a modern/moderate conservative persuasion. Or at least it has been; it was bought by Norwegian Schibstedt Group some years ago, together with the flagship of the national labor unions, Aftonbladet, both papers lifting heavy state press subsidies. Prior to that, it was more or less a given thing that practically all of SvD's staff were communists, mainly infiltrated from those extremist splinter groups with complicated acronyms.

One former member (Ulf Ekman) of one of those groups changed spritual saddles, formed and became the influential leader of a pentecostal splinter group instead, Livets ord in Uppsala. No doubt using much the same manipulations and mumbojumbo...

The pentecostal movement has always been one of the pillars of what Alf Svensson forged into a more secular, and thus viable, political party after it had floundered for decades just out of reach of power. He got elected into Parliament on a technical co-op coup with the Center party, which then promptly hang him out to dry and ostracized him in a not-so-nice way, to my view. Nobody would even speak to him during his period in Riksdagen. I think Alf Svensson is a pretty cool guy, eh got religion out of KDS and doesnt afraid of anything. He is a very good speaker, and he also struck me as pretty shrewd, courageous and steadfast when I had opportunity to watch him; but that was long before he retired.

Lately the KD party has been troubled again by its old problems, as half of it wants to be modern and the other half (led by a guy calling himself Sacredeus; how's that not heretic, eh?) tends to be more shall we say Palinesque. As the party, one of four in the government coalition (now below the opposition in polls and with a Nationalist party rearing its uh head), once again teeters near the threshold of Parliament (4%), my guess is that Alf Svensson simply tried to grab focus and move the discourse away from worse, internal disputes.

No, I didn't vote. I guess I agree with those other Swedes here who have expressed a pragmatic standpoint as to the usage of "public" buildings with a common cultural heritage. Though I did leave the state church before 20, in another era altogether alas.

--That would have been my 2 öre, except they don't exist anymore. Let me tell y'all young'uns, when I was a kid I took a few 2-öre copper coins I found in the sofa cushions to the konditori at the end of our tenement house and bought me some candy. Today, I went out in the drizzle and darkness for a little chocolate and peanuts: 77 crowns! You'd need a wheelbarrow to carry that sum in 2-öringar! Almost like old Weimar, recent Turkey or Mugabeland. Fortunately I use plastic money now. ;-) Oh yeah, and the bloody church bells drive me nuts sometimes.

As an Irishman living in Sweden, who was briefly plugged into the frikyrka movement here, I'd like to caution the Swedish atheists types on their complacency. There is a fairly nasty fundamentalist group called "Livets Ord" in Sweden, and they are every bit as evolution denying, creationist promotin' bat shit insane as their american cousins.

Sure, the rational types have the absolute upper hand here in Sweden NOW. But they had the upper hand in the US in 1795 as well. Vigilance brothers, eternal vigliance.

Well, Rrr, we've only got ourself to blame for not adopting the Euro. >.<

As a Brit living in Norway I second Brian Coughlan.

And that means that it is even more important that we make sure that churches are well used by the wider community so that they cannot become the exclusive 'property' of any one group.

In Norway, Sweden, and effectively in the UK, most churches are public property anyway so there is no reason why we non-believers should not use them.

By Kevin Whitefoot (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

@Jakob,
I'm in a bit of two minds over that. One hand, non-euro countries seem to have tended to keep krona as currency (but maybe Estonia switched?). On the other hand, us Swedes ought to pronounce it "öro", obviously, for francophony reasons and for nostalgia.

Brian, Kevin: I agree, basically. Hence my comment re: Palin above.

Chill PZ ;-)
I'm not Swedish but Dutch and many 'secular' atheists would care a bit where they had their commencement ceremony. In fact, they might prefer a beautiful old building like a church.. A church can as easily be experienced as a cultural building as opposed to a religious building. It is indeed just a building and we're not afraid of getting contaminated by 'religion' if we step inside a church. All our cities are full of century old churches, some dating back to the Roman era (well, the foundation anyway..).

I'm not Swedish but Dutch and many 'secular' atheists would care a bit where they had their commencement ceremony.

Once again, this is not about atheists protesting commencement ceremonies in churches. This is about a religionist whining in a national newspaper about "cultural empoverishment" when one school decided to have the ceremony elsewhere (as other schools already do). Swedish atheists should care at least enough to point and laugh at Alf Svensson.

The debate-article is just whining from the former swedish leader of the Christian democrats. All he is whining about is that people react against the school forcing kids to participate in religious ceremonies.

Why the article is bullshit is because nothing stops kids and parents to organize a "skolavslutning" in the church by them-self.

This is just another version of the "Ohhh we are so oppressed"-tirade.

BTW about the poll. If you understand Swedish and would read the comments, and if you have read a lot of other comments on other articles, you would realize that it is more or less hijacked by religious wackos.

Another problem is how they moderate the comments. They have a tendency to keep comments from nutjobs and remove those that discredit a religious point.

Another issue with this paper is that it has a lot of pseudoscience(Global warming deniers) & new age bullshit.

I voted "Ja" because I like churches. And because using them for non-religious activites probably helps secularization

wouldn't it be better to simply tear them down and re-use the materials to construct a new building to house non-religious activities then?

why allow even the symbolism to overshadow the activities?

would you hold a party at an old concentration camp?

do you really think that schools should or even must ("BÖR") have their ceremonies in churches?

You're seriously reading too much into a simple, straightforward question.

By voting yes you support Alf's whining and bitching about the principal who for some reason decided not to use the church.

Nope. I just support using our often beautiful churches for something other than superstition. My (possibly naive) hope is that they'll end up the same way as Jul/christmas did: Something that people enjoy without all the mythological baggage.

Perhaps I should mention, as no Swede has seen fit to do, that avslutningar doesn't mean commencements, at least not in Norwegian. It means endings, or finishes. I suspect that what they are holding is some kind of end of term (semester in US English?) or end of year celebration.

See, for instance, http://no.thefreedictionary.com/avslutning and http://www.proz.com/kudoz/norwegian_to_english/business_commerce_genera…

The word actually used in the article is 'terminsavslutningen' which means, iallfall i norsk så lenge jeg vet, 'the end of the period'. That is to say 'end of term celebration'.

By Kevin Whitefoot (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

You're seriously reading too much into a simple, straightforward question.

Yes it's quite straightforward, the question wasn't "would it be all right if..." as so many here seem to think.

Nope. I just support using our often beautiful churches for something other than superstition. My (possibly naive) hope is that they'll end up the same way as Jul/christmas did: Something that people enjoy without all the mythological baggage.

Just maybe, Sweden isn't sufficiently rid of the baggage yet, if cries of "cultural empoverishment" rise if one school decides to pass on this "enjoyment".

I have no objection to using churches for secular festivities, but despite what Kevin Whitefoot said, churches are not "public property" in Sweden. Most churches are owned by the local parish/congregation. So why not try to change that and make them truly public property? (since the public already pays for the upkeep of the historically valuable churches anyway!)

I see by what I can find on the web that you are technically correct windy. However if I read Övergångsbestämmelser till SvKB 1999:1 paragraph 2 correctly (and if it hasn't been superseded) I suspect that most Swedes born before 1999 will still be members of the Swedish church:
2. Den som den 31 december 1999 tillhör Svenska kyrkan kvarstår som tillhörig när kyrkoordningen träder i kraft.

From http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/tcrot/kyrkoordningen/filer/KO-overgangsbest…, see also http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/kyrkoordningen/kyrkoordningen.shtml

Which means surely that although the state does not directly own the buildings any more that (most of) the people do, and that is what 'public property' means.

I couldn't find (in my admittedly cursory web search) a clear statement of who owns what in the Swedish church system so I am to some extent relying on analogy with Norway. Sorry if this has resulted in misinformation and confusion. And please correct me, again, if I'm wrong.

By Kevin Whitefoot (not verified) on 17 Dec 2008 #permalink

I have now blogged (in Swedish) about the obviously rigged or hacked vote: http://blog.lindenfors.se/?p=544. I sincerely hope the site was hacked as a rigged vote would leave a bad aftertaste.

(Btw PZ - I think your e-mail program has added my address to the spam filter as I can't get through after I sent the translation of my book to you. Are you still interested in reading it? Then I maybe can send it to another e-mail address?)

I think Alf Svensson is a pretty cool guy, eh got religion out of KDS and doesnt afraid of anything.

I see what you did there. Well played.