A few months ago, we traveled to Europe for David’s birthday. We started in Amsterdam and spent two weeks heading south through the Netherlands and Belgium, ending in Paris.
Most of that time was spent in the Netherlands. We had a full week to hop from city to city, sampling food, culture, and architecture. The Netherlands is old. Most of Europe is, really, compared to the US. These nations have gone through a lot of change and growth until they settled into their current state.
We loved the Netherlands. In following posts, I’ll share our adventures in each city that we visited. But as a whole, this is a country whose ideas and policies inspire so much respect in us. There’s a pragmatism to the nation, a practicality that we have rarely seen elsewhere. Part of this I’ll chalk up to a lack of religious belief. According to this Wikipedia article (I’d cite the sources, but they’re mostly in Dutch), nearly half of the population do not subscribe to a religion.
This is a controversial view, because I do think that religion can do, and has done, a lot of good. However, it can also do quite a lot of bad. We won’t even choose specific religions or go into ancient history, but discuss more current events. For example, in the US, marriage equality (which has been a non-issue in Netherlands since 2001) was strongly opposed for so long because of religious groups lobbying against it. The Philippines continues to debate a bill advancing the availability of reproductive health education and resources, and a report by the UN Population Fund states that the country will likely fail at its Millenium Development Goals. A large part of the arguments against the so-called RH Bill is backed by religion as well, and in a country where about 80% of the population is Roman Catholic, religion can have quite a large say in the matter.
Maybe it’s hasty to generalize that a lack of religion in the Netherlands allows the country to be more progressive; correlation is not causation. However, I think a populace that is less attached to such beliefs is more inclined to think logically, and oddly enough, decide things for the greater good. Perhaps it’s because religion inspires more of an exclusive mentality, an idea that “this is the only way to true happiness.” I know I definitely got a lot of that from 12 years in Catholic school. Religion is also equated a lot with morality, which I definitely think is incorrect. People can know right from wrong without going to church or following tradition.
Whatever the source of the Netherlands’ success, that success is definitely very evident. We enjoyed our time there and I hope that I can impart some of that enjoyment to you. Stay tuned!