The Happy and Smug Bigots of Denmark

Various polls rank Denmark as one of the happiest countries in the world year-after-year.

Commentators have sought to explain the phenomenon. They have pointed to the country’s “hygge,” which entails a feeling of community and brotherhood. They note the country’s generous welfare policies which give people a sense of being cared for as part of a greater family. Overall, the Danes consider themselves extremely relaxed and easy-going.

Yet this feeling of camaraderie has limits, specifically as it relates to non-Christians.

White Christian Danes

Denmark is a homogeneous society. According to recent statistics, roughly 10% of the country’s population of 5.8 million people are immigrants. By way of comparison, the immigrant population in the US is over 13%, the United Kingdom is over 14% and in Germany it stands at over 20%.

The realtively few immigrants that the country has taken in are predominantly from neighboring Germany and Poland. This is in sharp contrast to other European Union countries that absorb people from former allies and colonies, such as Germany which mainly absorbs people from Turkey; the UK which takes in people from India; and France which takes in many people leaving Algeria.

The large local indigenous Danish population and similar nature of the new immigrants has produced a country with little diversity. The religious makeup of Denmark is roughly 75-80% Christian and 15-20% Atheist or Agnostic. The small sliver of “other” religions is almost only Muslim, with virtually no Jews (estimated around 5-6,000), Buddhists or any of the other world religions.

The dominant Christian faith has deep roots and clear advantages.

Not only does the country’s flag feature the Christian cross, the country has set up the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) as the official state church, and as such, state taxes go to support the ELC (accounting for roughly 14% of the ELC budget). Further, the reigning monarch must belong to the ELC (ie, must be a Christian), and public schools in Denmark must teach the Evangelical Lutheran theology.

Nice set up.

According to the official website of Denmark, “Compared with most other countries in the world, Denmark’s societal institutions and popular mentality have been shaped by Christianity to an exceptional degree. It can be asserted that religion is more firmly entrenched in Danish society than in many other countries…. Christianity’s unique history in Denmark explains why the mutual interdependence of the people, the state, and the church has remained in place longer and more strongly in Denmark than in any other country.

Brenderup Church, Denmark
These days, the Atheists and Agnostics have become more active in teaming up with the Christians to keep the non-Christians out of the country.

Anti-Jewish and Anti-Muslim Policies

In April 2014, Denmark passed a law which prohibited the ritual slaughter of animals according to Jewish and Muslim law, with a penalty of up to four months in jail. The country claimed that the law was intended to provide a more humane method of killing animals – by stunning them before killing them – an action prohibited in the production of kosher and halal meats. That the impact was only felt on the Jewish and Muslim communities was deemed coincidental.

In May 2018, Danish lawmakers passed a law which forbade the wearing of garments covering the face, commonly known as the “burqa ban.” While the law was not applied to Muslims only, it clearly targeted Muslim women’s unique religious practice.

And in June 2018, Danes gathered 50,000 signatures to force the parliament to consider banning the circumcision of boys under the age of 18, a practice performed according to the religious tenets of Judaism and Islam.

The Atheists and Agnostics claim that they are simply seeking and enacting laws that prevent harm to those that cannot speak for themselves – children and animals – and not assaulting any religion. For example, they have not fought aggressively against the existence of the state church or banning the baptism of children. (In reality, even if they sought to do so, the dominant Christian religion would make their efforts futile.) The current wave of “humanistic” laws that had no impact on Christians were able to gather support from the dominant majority religious group and pass into law.

But the actions of the Danish government go beyond their view of “humanistic” laws.

In January 2016, the Denmark instituted some of the harshest immigration laws in the European Union, which allowed the country to seize immigrants’ assets over $1,450 to help pay for resettlement and extended the time for immigrants to apply for family members to come to Denmark to three years from just one.

The welfare state of relaxed brothers had declared its limits, and it seemed to focus particularly on non-Christians.

Regarding the circumcision ban, consider that the Christians and Atheists have not attempted to ban children from getting tattoos or piercings. They have not sought to have a child sign a consent form before getting surgery. Society acknowledges that a child’s upbringing and well-being are made and ensured by the parents. If they’re Christian.

Regarding animals, has Denmark enacted a law preventing the boiling of lobsters alive? How about turtles or insects? Does the country ban animal-testing for drugs? Cropping dogs’ ears and tails? No.

And as it relates to immigrants, the country is trying to contend with an uptick in the number of immigrants coming to the country (from 70,000 in 2011 to 99,000 in 2015), in which almost all of the incremental population come from Muslim countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Morocco. As the number of Muslim applicants spiked, the percentage of people granted asylum in Denmark dropped from 85% in 2015 to 36% in 2017. Coincidence?

Denmark may lay claim to being among the happiest countries in the world because of a feeling of community among its citizens, and smugly contend that it is evolving to a secular-humanist-progressive ethos from a deeply religious one, but in fact it is simply ring-fencing their society to keep it homogeneous by excluding non-Christians. For Danes, hygge is reserved for White Christians.

Related First.One.through articles:

Your Father’s Anti-Semitism

“Jews as a Class”

Je Suis Redux


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12 thoughts on “The Happy and Smug Bigots of Denmark

  1. Interesting perspective; well researched and well written.

    Surely, the percentage of immigrants in the US is nearly 100%.

    As one of the staunch Atheists, I take umbrage to being by inference accused of being pro the burqa ban. In fact, my faithless brethren predominantly find the law banning the burqa utterly ridiculous (it’s estimated only a handful of women wear niqab whilst 150-200 wear a burqa) – as far as I’m concerned, people can wear whatever they like – as long as its compatible with partaking in society. If you can find employment or make ends meet without being a financial burden to the taxpayers, you can wear a giant squid on your head and cover yourself in purple paint for all I care.

    Comparing baptism with circumcision… I don’t actually know quite how to respond to that? It’s not the same thing pouring water onto the head of a baby and cutting a piece of flesh of a child. If that’s not obvious (even for those blinded by their faith) then constructive dialogue becomes difficult.

    For clarification: you must be 18 to have a tattoo.

    There are no laws about piercings, however, I know the trade has quite strict rules on age and indeed parental consent for under 15s/18s to have their ears, nose, brows and intimates pierced. Again, however, I find it difficult to see piercings as a valid comparison to the practice of circumcision if that was your intention.

    The proposed law against circumcision was not a ban; merely an age restriction so a person can make an informed decision. Whether this is aged 12, 15 or 18 – I’m open for dialogue. But I have always and quite vehemently opposed the unnecessary practice of circumcision for baby boys and baby girls.

    Alas, I doubt the law will come into force, as the majority of the members of parliament have already spoken against it. I believe it’s because it will affect the Jewish community as well as the Muslim, and as you rightfully identify, the willingness the annoy the Muslims is strong; the urge to throw the same shit at Jews not so much.

    I could go on long and much about other issues with regards to animal and environmental rights (look at statistics for organic farming in Denmark, for example) to nuance your rather injust claim that your average Atheist or indeed Dane only cares if it annoys the Muslims. But if you’re interested, do check it out. I think you’ll find the general turn is towards a more animal and environmentally friendly way of life; including friendlier toward baby-boy-penises.

    With regards to teaching Christianity in school; a comment: Whilst the school must teach “Christianity” I’ve never met a Christian who teaches this subject – they are out there, I’m sure; I’ve just never met one in a public school (plenty at the Cristian private nursery/kindergarten and school my children attend – ironic, I realise). All the “religion” (the class was called just “religion” for some years) or “Christianity” teachers at public schools I know (myself included) are staunch Atheists. So, it’s NOT to be confused with the way in which Islam or Judaism is taught in Muslim or Judaic schools/countries. However, this misunderstanding often means that Muslim students abstain from attending “religion/Christianity” classes. They think it’s preaching. It’s not. Infuriatingly, many of the families are so ignorant, they don’t even know the stories of the old testament are the same in all the monotheisms! I know this first hand as I’ve taught (primarily Muslim) asylum seekers for 7 years. Their lack of knowledge about their own faith let alone Christianity is staggering and makes me wonder (again and again) why they stick so aggressively to their superstitions.

    The Lord’s Prayer is no longer part of the public school system. It was back in my time. Glad we got rid of that. If it was up to me, we’d be teaching philosophy/thought instead of religion/Christianity and have superstition (like Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism etc.) as part of that curriculum instead.

    I believe the way in which Christianity was altered by Protestantism paved the way for the democracies in Nothern Europe. I acknowledge, like you, that the cradle of Denmark as we know it today is very much built on Christian but certainly also other traditions.

    Interestingly, I have had fiercer reactions from my US friends regarding the age restriction on circumcision than from religious friends; for my US friends, it’s not a religious issue but merely a tradition, which they believe is based in hygiene rather than an expressed order from the imaginary guy in the sky.

    Anyway, thanks again for an interesting an thought-provoking commentary.


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