Religion not for us, Danes say

According to a yet to be released survey of 32 countries' attitudes towards religion, revealed in daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende this week, the population of this country is the most negative toward religion.

Often associating religion with conflict and intolerance, those questioned also suggested that the emergence of Islam as a volatile, negative force in the world has made a significant contribution to the way religion is perceived in Denmark.

On a scale with 100 as the highest negative rating, Denmark rated a 64, ten percent more than the normally tolerant Norwegians and 20 percent more than Holland, a country we are often compared with. Latvia and the US rated as the countries most tolerant towards religious diversity.

'Danes have a deep-rooted animosity towards religions that take themselves too seriously, especially Islam,' says the author of the new report, Professor Jørgen Goul Andersen of Aalborg University. 'For us, religion is a very private affair. We may be quite willing to contribute to the church through our taxes, but inwardly we are cautious and reflective and we don't want religion becoming a matter of public debate.'

Although the survey also shows that nearly half the population has a strong aversion to Islam as a religion, Professor Andersen disputes the inference that this is linked to a general dislike of immigrants or Muslims.

'Our findings indicate that there is a widespread prejudice against Islam because it's a prime example of a restrictive religion, not because it's practiced by immigrants or asylum seekers,' Andersen said.

However, as the data for the survey was collected before 9/11, according to Prof. Andersen, negativity towards Islam is probably even more pronounced today.