Iceland is a country of contrasts; of that we are sure of. But this not only applies to wild nature and landscapes, it also applies to everyday subjects. When it comes to religion, Iceland come across as one of the most religious country. Funny enough, and at the same time, not a religious one. How can this be possible? In this article we are going to share how the beliefs in the country has been changing. And also, What is the Status of Religion in Iceland nowadays.
As many of you may think correctly, Iceland was a Norse pagan country in its early history (9th AD). This was actually a common believe across Scandinavian countries. Old Norse religion was polytheistic whose main gods were Odin and Thor. You probably heard such names before. Old Norse religion deepened into the roots of the Scandinavian nations. Even nowadays, anyone can notice how it affects everyday life.
Little by little, Iceland started to be influenced by immigration. Most of those visitors were Irish monks. Other missionaries tried in vain to convert Icelanders to Christianism. Back then they received nothing but the reject of the population. Some missionaries like Thorvald Konradsson were even forced to leave the country.
The attempt to Christianize Iceland did not stop there. When Olaf Tryggvason became king of Norway, he intensified his battle against paganism. Sometimes this fight costed many lives. He managed to convert some Icelandic chieftains by blackmailing them. He did not allow Icelanders to come close to Norway’s harbors or shores. This meant a dangerous cut of the trading between Iceland and of its main providers.
Not long after, this situation reached a critical point. Iceland’s leaders then decided to held a meeting at the Alþingi (Iceland’s Parliament). There, not after having long and passionate discussions, it was decided that Iceland would become Christian. The Law Speaker of the Alþingi, who was also a pagan priest, threw his sculptures of pagan gods off a waterfall as a metaphor. This waterfall is the famous Goðafoss, which basically translates to “Waterfall of the Gods”. Christianism was now the official religion in Iceland by 999-1000 AD.
Iceland then remained officially catholic until the reformation era. Iceland then turned its eyes to Lutheranism back in 1550.
What is then the status of Religion in Iceland nowadays? According to statistics, 85% of Icelanders are Christians. At the beginning of this post, we already mentioned the contrast of a religious numbers and a not so religious country. Statistics are somewhat misleading. Icelanders are automatically registered as member of the church of Iceland when they are born. Just like many other Scandinavian countries, attendance to church is quite low, just about 11% attend a church service regularly.
What Is The Status Of Religion In Iceland Nowadays?
Besides Christianism and all of its branches, in the religion in Iceland, there are actually some paganism still alive. The Ásatrú, a Germanic folk religion, was founded in 1972. The believe in the Nordic folklore and the Nordic pantheism. Zuism is also a new movement that wish to revive the old Sumerian religion. There is also a small representation for Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.