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I want to create a post-religion society, but the problem is that the rest of the world still have religion. How could I assure that my society remains religion-free while allowing tourists and trading? Possibly even immigration?

I'm thinking about making religion illegal or at least something that is seen with lots of despise on my society, but that would make the others nations to look bad on this nation.

On this society, religion is only allowed on your own house but nobody really practice that, and the public education teach the children all the evils that religions does. It's a nation of people that agreed that religion brings them nothing but ignorance and terrorism.

But how to ensure that immigrants and tourists won't came and spread their religious ideas ? How to stop the "external" world to infect this nation with religion?

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    $\begingroup$ Just educate your people and you won't have to worry about any belief systems relying on ignorance. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 20 '15 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ One challenge you will find: how do you argue that your society is "better" than theirs if you can't even convince people to not be "infected" without harsh rules? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 20 '15 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ If you have educated and non-suffering population along with laws, that make running religious services like any other business, then people will tend towards non-religiosity and will take any attempts at conversion skeptically. $\endgroup$ – Euphoric Nov 20 '15 at 7:00
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer to your question, but the question "Do I risk losing reader if I put too many religious/anti-religious views?" on writers stackexchange might be interesting to you. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Nov 20 '15 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ Soviet Union? Been there, done that. $\endgroup$ – Dallaylaen Nov 20 '15 at 14:44

10 Answers 10

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I believe your question raises a few other important topics and questions which you may want to consider when defining the success factors of such a society, so I will split my answer up accordingly:

Trans-cultural diffusion

If your citizens live in a modern world, particularly a world with cheap, ubiquitous and uncensored global communication (e.g., the internet), your success at establishing and strengthening your society will depend on your society's cultural influence (a.k.a. trans-cultural diffusion), more so than any laws you put in place to curtail the open observance of religion.

What kind of government do you run?

You've mentioned you will allow religious observance in private homes, so presumably you would not require any sort of Orwellian Thought Police (generally regarded as a bad career move, politically speaking!)

Is your society a country? (Given you intend to global trade, immigration, and set broadly-scoped laws that would impinge the constitutional rights of many current world nations, this seems likely.) If so, is it a democracy? Or do you spread your society's beliefs via dictatorial rule and military might? (Unfortunately numerous precedents exist even in modern world history.) If you are democratic, then the need to "sell" your anti-religious beliefs to your people becomes as important (if not more important) than convincing outsiders.

How your society (and its leader) came to power is another equally important topic. Did a large number of like-minded people get together and create a cultural movement large enough to earn real power and influence (and presumably land) in the world? Or did a small number of people use fear and/or brute force to carve out a bastion of power defiantly standing against all the bad, nasty, evil religions in the world? ("Infidels!")

Can we come up with a better name than "post-religion"?

What's in a name? perhaps, but given that you seem to want to (and need to) sell your ideals to your populace (and, likely, the world, if you do not want your borders and population to shrink over time), a good name might go a long way. "Post-religion" does have some interesting connotations (c.f. post-secularism), but even with some very creative propaganda, pundits in your world will likely be quick to point out that your country is, in fact, anti-religion (as Cyrus has insightfully already mentioned).

Perhaps that kind of tension is precisely what you want to create, but if it isn't, think hard about the image your society wants to project. Often, being for something is easier than being against something else. Would a "secular society" or a "scientific nation" be better received by your world community?

How far would it go?

A self-proclaimed "non-denominational" school in Calgary, Canada was recently fined for refusing to let students pray on campus. While your fictional country would presumably be free from legal and civil actions such as this, the article I've linked does highlight some of the practical problems with attempting to keep religious practice out of public, out of schools, the workplace, etc. What lengths would your citizens have to go to in order to observe their religions? What lengths would your government go in order to stop them?

If your society is extreme enough, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the ultimate consequence of this to be a holy war, which is pretty much the definition of one group enforcing the idea that their beliefs (or in this case, the vehement lack thereof) on someone else.

Conclusion

Hopefully the above talking points will help you (fictionally) mold this society according to the story you want to tell.

Importantly, it does seem from your question as though your society wants to spread the influence of your "one true God". The fact that your society's "God" is an affirmative lack of religion doesn't actually change the equation that much from a practical point of view.

My advice would be, to consider what kind of socio-political parameters your "religion" will have: For example, some religions are welcoming, some are not. Some are tolerant, some are not. Some reject science, some do not. Then, look for real-world religions with similar parameters (regardless of actual beliefs), and look at how adherents have historically spread those religions, and how those religions market themselves today.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer. I like the thing "being for" instead of being against something. Its a democracy, but people only think they have choice, in the end all the choices are the same. And yes it's not an Utopia, it is seeming Utopia but attained at horrific costs. It's a country that secretly has been manipulating the media, and the internet, taxing religions entities, giving benefits and subsidies to "atheistic" entities, financing and implanting people to create scandals involving the church/mosques, favoring "atheists" immigrants to get visas, and subtly anti-religion propaganda in schools. $\endgroup$ – Freedo Nov 22 '15 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ ...and of course the prohibition to express religion on public places, the prohibition of religious symbols in public places( no t-shirts "god loves everybody" or hijabs in public), within 20 years the rate of non-religious people become above 85%, then the gov gave strong incentives to those pesky religious people to immigrate somewhere else. Also all the scandals gave a excuse to demolish churches/etc to create public buildings. I'll accept this answer soon, just see if any other answers will be submited $\endgroup$ – Freedo Nov 22 '15 at 1:39
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The way you describe your society makes it anti-religion rather than post-religion.

If your society provides its citizens with safety, prosperity, education, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose, religion will not draw large groups of people and you don't care if a handful are religious.

People lacking those things feel or fear there is no place for them in this world, so they will look for one. Religion provides a group to belong to as well as answers to the big life questions (Why am I not safe, healthy and happy?)

Examples from real life:

  • Early humans faced mysterious and powerful dangers at every turn. They developed the idea of gods and spirits to figure out why and to feel yhey could at least bargain with if not control those forces.
  • Extreme poverty means people see no future for themselves. The idea that this life is just a stepping stone to paradise keeps them sane.
  • Being rejected by society (for being different) makes people question their identity and look for a group where they can belong.
  • If people lack or lose their sense of purpose in life they will start looking for it. The whole spiritual wave of the New Age was a good example. Suddenly people had more than enough wealth, achieving the primary goal inherited from previous generations. Then they felt empty and felt there had to be some different purpose in life.

Note: Communism was very anti-religion because of Marx's observation that "Religion is the opium of the masses", i.e. religion kept the masses happy despite oppression and poverty. Marx and the communists expected that communism would make people happy and religion would melt like snow in the sun, but that didn't happen. At all.

Rather than recognize that religion was also very important to people on a personal (spiritual) level, they saw it as an embarrassment that contradicted Marx' predictions, so it had to be stamped out by force. 100 years later, all those communist regimes are now gone (with the exception of China), the religions are still there. Consider that carefully if you want to stop religion by laws and force.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 on this, saves me the bother of answering. A note on Marx though, what he actually says is something entirely different from what modern people assume based on the shortened, out-of-context quote. I think many people who strongly disapprove of the short form would actually agree with the actual statement to a significant extent. Link for the curious: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_of_the_people $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 20 '15 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ Note on that, if Marx was right about religion then a society with freedom of religion can actually use the strength and popularity of religious feeling as a proxy for how badly the government is doing its job. If a particular minority or social group is becoming more religious then the government is failing that group and needs to pay more attention. And religion motivated discontent (or terrorism) would be a big red flag to do better right now. This would make religion a highly valuable direct social indicator to any society. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 20 '15 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi: Even if Marx is right, I would expect religiosity to be a severely lagging indicator. (Note that people do not turn to opium the instant something bad happens, and do not abandon it the instant their situation improves.) A government could surely find better ways to see how people are feeling -- including ways that would also help them understand why a group is unhappy, and therefore perhaps how to address it. (I've heard great things about public opinion polling, for example.) $\endgroup$ – ruakh Nov 25 '15 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ruakh Absolutely. I think you probably overestimate the lag, but that is not really important. My point is that while those other methods are vastly more accurate and responsive, just as you say, they rely on government doing its job right. Changes in Religion tells you when this isn't the case. So they are two separate and complementary systems. Optimally you'd first use religion to locate the need for action and then more accurate methods to pinpoint the actual issues. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 26 '15 at 3:26
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Forbidding religion only makes it stronger. It also makes your society into a police state. Don't go that way.

It is better to look at WHY you want your society to be religion-free and work towards those ends directly.

For example, if you want to prevent terror, don't make a habit of bombing civilians in foreign countries. That sort of behaviour tends to make people angry at you.

If you want to prevent ignorance, make education cheap. As part of that education, teach kids about all the religions of the world, and how they can't all be right at once.

If you get religious immigrants, you can't expect to convert the parents, but try to reach the children.

Try to avoid religious groups collecting in ghettos where children can get the impression that "everybody thinks that God is real". Bus children to different schools if necessary.

Many religious groups make it hard to leave them with parents disowning their children and other ugliness. Publicly condemn this sort of behaviour and make sure the victims get good support.

The battle against religion should be fought on many fronts.

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In order to make your society not turn to other religions, you need to make it like a religion.

If non-religion is actively practiced in schools, is entwined with the infrastructure of the country (symbolism on money etc.) then it will automatically become a way of life for people living and growing up in that country.

Most religions have lasted for so many years because they offer people something, such as a sense of belonging, a kinship with others, and a spiritual satisfaction that makes people feel happy and content. Obviously people would want to continue this feeling, so would have no reason to leave, thus your non-religion would in some way need to offer these things, or people will begin to look elsewhere.

Although everyone is an individual, you can't force people to practice a religion (or in your case, not), but if it is highly frowned upon in society then people would be less willing to pursue a religion without preferring to leave the country in order to be with like-minded people.

Missionaries will come to your country if it offers free travel, thus the important thing would be shutting down underground religions that are trying to take root anywhere. Harsh punishments will lead to other countries claiming religious persecution, so the punishments would simply have to be fines etc. for establishing underground places of worship.

Some religions ensure that they keep their members by banning them from reading anything critical about it, in order to keep them ignorant from any flaws in their belief system that may cause them to become disenfranchised. This would not work for this society unless the country had blocks on religious internet sites, so would be difficult to maintain on a large scale.

As for the establishment of such a society, it would likely start from a mass tragic event that would cause everyone in the country to despise all religions (rather than just one), which would cause everyone to suddenly disbelieve their religion, or make anyone who does believe feel very unwelcome in the country, perhaps to the point of evicting them entirely (I know that that example is a race and not a religion, but it's the only example I could think of).

In summary, it would be almost impossible to ensure that no one in this society is religious without being North Korea or getting dragged before the UN human rights committee, but there are many things that you can do to minimize religiousness.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 I like the idea of transforming "non-religious" in a way of life of my society, just like is Christianity impregnated in most nations on world. I was thinking about the lines you said of a mass tragic event(like a nuclear terrorist attack) to subtly and smart large scale manipulation of media and events by a powerful society (like Illuminati) to bring this society to 90% non-religious at least. People can find purpose on other things $\endgroup$ – Freedo Nov 22 '15 at 1:46
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There are a few issues that you will have to resolve based on your question and your comments.

  1. The Utopist's Fallacy: the government cannot provide all the things you describe period, much less by simply banning religion.

  2. Religion is not the ultimate source of racism/homophobia/etc., studies on infants and children have shown that we are hardwired to be prejudiced based on noticeable differences (Time magazine had a rather inflammatory cover reporting this with the title 'Your Baby is Racist') and that it takes deliberate training to overcome this natural tendency.

  3. The limits of Law and Order: as other answers have pointed out, it would be both draconian and pointless to even attempt something like banning religion (obligatory comparisons to Communist societies have already been made).

So I don't really find your proposed society to be believable as you've described it. I could easily see a group of people in a country (small town?) deciding amongst themselves to such precepts, but I don't think this sort of thing would scale up to that size.

If your going to create such a society where people believe in those fallacious assumptions you will have to explicitly deal with the conundrums to make it believable, i.e. its a young society that's attempting this (and you will have to deal narratively with the inevitable failure). They will have to be zealots who ignore the rational counterarguments, etc. Unless you are pandering to an audience who themselves believe in those fallacies, in which case yeah, blow whatever smoke at them they wish to inhale.

EDIT

After re-reading my answer, it sounds too much like a defense of religion. My point is not whether religion is good or bad. My point is that even if you start from the premise that religion is bad, it isn't the only ill to plague society. You can't be all hand-wavy about every social problem because you banned religion, people won't buy it (unless as I said above they're already strongly anti-religious).

Second Edit Based on OP Comment

I'm not saying a nation can't become officially atheist. Its happened. I'm saying it can't stay that way forever. You're asking for a post-religious society where the populace has moved beyond religion. That (in itself) is believable (with caveats), but you're also asking for how that society would interact with societies that are still religious, and that's what makes in unbelievable. The only way to have a believable post-religious society is to have one where you make it clear the vast majority of rational persons would not be believers: i.e. religion has been relegated to the fringes of humanity as a whole (not just one nation). That's what 'post-religious' means. Otherwise, you run into the 'thought police' or totalitarian state scenarios mentioned in the other answers. That repudiation of religion hasn't happened in your hypothetical scenario, based on the existence of other, religious, societies.

In the end, no nation-sized group of people will be able to go against the flow of the rest of humanity for more than a handful of decades at best (smaller groups maybe?). That implicit contradiction is why, IMHO, you're getting all these answers with a TL;DR of "it won't work". A real-life example of just how hard it is to live a life radically different than the rest of humanity might be the Amish.

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  • $\begingroup$ I disagree that a nation can't become atheist. All it takes is a nuclear terrorist attack or some decades of subtly manipulation by a powerful society. And no it's not an Utopia, it looks like an Utopia but that's not obvious on the beginning of the story(did i said that the government paid people to become important on churches/etc just to be "discovered" later that they were rapists, extremists or pedophiles and those people were conveniently sentenced to "death" without a public trial so quickly, and so on...) $\endgroup$ – Freedo Nov 22 '15 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Freedo updated answer based on your comment. $\endgroup$ – Jared Smith Nov 22 '15 at 12:57
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Remove the need for the crutch and people will stop using it.

If you can build a country that provides:

  1. Safety
  2. Health
  3. Education
  4. Prosperity
  5. Cummunity
  6. Purpose

Then people will abandon religion. Almost as important is what you do not do, primarily do not use fear to control your population.

It's not that shocking that non-religious populations are highest in first world countries (ones which provide or make available all the items on the list). A notable exception is the US, but that is likely due to the prominent culture of fear.

Basically, you have to be an objectively awesome nation. That's nigh impossible to do with human politicians. With an AI government and people educated enough to understand that evidence trumps faith, such a thing is possible.

"Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines." - Bertrand Russell

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  • $\begingroup$ How will they not kill themselves off without religion? For example, the least religious populations that you describe because of their 'non-religiousness' have native birth rates too low to sustain themselves (infanticide is legal and they make it extremely difficult for women to have children due to their "non-religious" beliefs). $\endgroup$ – Lan Nov 20 '15 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @John Are you saying that first world nations are killing themselves off due to not being religious? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 20 '15 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ There is a well-known negative correlation between how dangerous, unsure, and chaotic a species's environment is and its birthrates (i.e. for a given species, the more dangerous the environment, the more offspring on average members of the species will tend to produce). An 'objectively' awesome non-religious nation (which is a contradiction of sorts as there is no perceived objectivity in a non-religious society), would probably have birthrates worst than European countries (many of which are too low to sustain their native populations for 'long') $\endgroup$ – Lan Nov 20 '15 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @John It would then not be objectively awesome, so no, that would not be the case. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 20 '15 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ It would not be objectively awesome if the society died out due to low reproduction rates? How so? (I doubt you are an objectivist, but I'll play this game with you.) Say if the country/society you are apart of dies out in 300 years due to a comically low birthrate, but whilst you are alive the population is constant, objectively are you worst off? (If so, explain.) $\endgroup$ – Lan Nov 20 '15 at 21:04
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This has been tried at least four times in history: The French Revolution, the Soviet Union, Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia.

The way you do it is by making religious belief a crime. Anyone who is caught practicing a religion or trying to spread a religion is tortured and killed. You burn down churches and ban all religious books. You indoctrinate children to report their parents to the police if the parents try to teach religion to their children. You form a secret police organization that spies on everyone. In general, create a climate of fear and suspicion.

The media and the schools must be subject to rigid censorship to keep out any dangerous religious ideas. If people are allowed to hear opposing ideas, they may find them persuasive and abandon the official government line. History books must be re-written to eradicate any references to religion. At all costs, the people must not be allowed to ever think for themselves. You might want to investigate creating a new language -- let's call it "Newspeak" -- that doesn't even have words for these dangerous concepts, to make it more difficult for people to even formulate such thoughts.

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You have to remove "freedom of association" and "freedom of conscience" for your society to effectively restrict the religious practices of its citizens. You can write a fictitious story where your citizens are happy to give up these human rights, but it will not be believable, so I don't think there's really any point in asking the next question you pose here - how to prevent cross-contamination from the rest of society.

That being said, there are works of fiction that have become popular discussing such dystopias - and yes, the society you describe can only be thought of as a dystopia.

For instance, in The Giver society is forced into a structure of limited knowledge, and no contact with the outside world.

Another similar dystopia, Divergent, supposes a society cut off from the rest of the world by a wall. They have no information about what's outside the wall, but they have broken into factions that celebrate exclusive/inclusive human traits which effectively break people up into groups. Religion plays no part, but many of the things that make up religious views and fervor are caught up in the faction system.

Most logically consistent books that don't "make the others nations to look bad on this nation" adopt an insulated society.

If your society cannot be insulated, then you really only have one option: violence.

If you force visitors to abide your rules, and you force your citizens to abide your rules, then you can, to some degree, prevent some religious activity.

You won't be able to realistically reduce it to zero, though.

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Incompatible terms.

Post religious cannot be "within" religious. "Post religious" is natural gradual maturation of significant part of planet's society that activates self actualization perspective within context of Planet and Cosmos. It's the next evolutionary step for race and naturally does not suddenly occur as large segment of individuals having way more advanced maturation than the majority of population.

How does it look like.

Post religious society is the one that is spiritual and psychic. It is socially responsible, educated, technologically advanced. There is no distinction between physics and spirituality. Religious identifications with ancient stories and idols seem outgrown history with bitter past. These people have empirical super conscious experience and do not have need to rely on external authorities, ideologies and political dogmas, hence there are none of these. Planet's resources are used to sustain needs of people. They don't need to pay for anything, living, food, health care, education - all is free. Nobody really owns anything valuable, there is no "property" concept. But they use transport vehicles and other things for free, it's public. No social divisions, just skills and individuals with different maturity/consciousness levels. Everyone may choose to have duties and be useful to society. Majority does. Experience and skills may give them more responsibilities in society or projects. Birth control is regulated. There is general support, safety and freedom feeling to express oneself to full potential.

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Look at Europe or China or back at the USSR or North Korea as flawed prototypes of what you are looking for. Seriously. Instead of having some deistic religion, the people can have some philosophic or cultural religion or a cult of personality.

A society can't be non-religious or post-religious. A human heart is designed to worship. Just find something else for the society to admire, focus on, and strive and grasp for (Examples: the pursuit of material gain or hedonism).

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  • $\begingroup$ The OP's premise may indeed be flawed (I argued that it was in my answer) but I don't think your re-definition of religion and worship really answers the question. $\endgroup$ – Jared Smith Nov 20 '15 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @JaredSmith I think it does. I'm saying that instead of it being post-religious, it can have the surface appearance of post-religious by changing the society's object of affection. As many of the answers point out, "post-religious" is a misnomer of sorts in the situation described. (We probably disagree with the nature of human heart, where I would say it has to worship something, but that's probably a topic beyond the size of comment boxes.) $\endgroup$ – Lan Nov 20 '15 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think we disagree on our personal opinion of the nature of the human heart. But that's not relevant here: the question is how to build a believable society that as a united group eschews religion. Material gain/social status/etc, well, people may 'worship at the altar' of these things, but they do not constitute a religion. Devotion, central focus, primary need, whatever. But not a religion. $\endgroup$ – Jared Smith Nov 20 '15 at 23:29

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