The ‘spiritual descendants of Vikings’ take their turn in the spotlight

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A Norse mythology image from the 18th century Icelandic manuscript "SÁM 66", now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain

A Norse mythology image from the 18th century Icelandic manuscript "SÁM 66", now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

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(RNS) Followers of the Viking religion, called Asatru, are getting their first temple in 1,000 years in Iceland. But the ancient faith has spread farther than any Viking ever traveled, to Australia, New Zealand and at least 21 U.S. states.

  • Fascinating story, Kimberly. Thanks.

    “Like all native religions, Asatru is positive, it is life-affirming and it has no negative connotations towards any other groups,” he said.

    Intriguing – I wonder if its true.

    Public education should routinely include a course in comparative religions. Rather than preach one religion as the Creationists are doing, a single class in World Religions would prepare our population for a rational conversation about religion.

  • Jack

    Max saying something positive about religion is like watching a Sumo wrestler in a ballerina dress and Cinderella slippers. The contrast between appearance and reality couldn’t be more stark….and funny.

  • Fourth Valley

    I’d caution against calling the Asatruar “Vikings”. It’s a Norse word roughly meaning raider or pirate, though earlier incarnations of the word meant “explorer” or “voyager”.

    ESPECIALLY since the guy you quoted at the end states “we are not Vikings”. So why do you call them that??

    “Norse” would probably be a better term. “Asatruar” the most accurate term.

  • William DeVito

    I must make one correction to the article,…there are in fact 2 equivalent great halls going up in America right now,dedicated to the Norse religion. One in north east Pennsylvania,and one in south east New York state.

  • Jack,

    Religion was the first health care, first literature, first poetry, philosophy, history, our first book….of course it is a valid subject to study.

    Religion is a beaver dam built by our distant ancestors compared to the beautiful homes we live in today full of science, culture and art.

  • Looks like you beat me to it.

  • Fourth Valley

    You ever consider engaging in useful forms of activism?? I mean, have your internet-comment rants ever managed to convince a single person who didn’t already agree with you?? Seems like all the effort you put into this could be better placed.

  • I could ask you the same.

    But despite what you may think, there aren’t nearly enough anti-theists participating in religious discussions anywhere on the web.

    Furthermore, unlike other Atheists who dislike religion, my fury is directed squarely against unfounded claims of religions, not the people who believe the claims – I see them as victims or unwitting participants in a negative movement (such as I was).

    The struggle to clearly articulate that final point
    is my unfinished business and the focus of all my effort. It is not so much directed at changing anyone’s mind but instead is to study better ways of arguing against the claims which keep emerging in these stories at RNS.

    Humanity must urgently find a way to disentangle beliefs from the identities of the believers – if we don’t do a better job of that, religion will keep destroying more people through indoctrination and subversion of young minds.

    Only through blasphemy can progress be made. There must be a way to blaspheme without offending the believers.

    There was a time when it was blasphemy to tell priests they were wrong about the virtue of burning witches. I’m sure we all appreciate those blasphemers today.

  • B D

    William, do you have any links to articles or websites for those halls being built?

  • samuel Johnston

    Hi Max,
    ‘ It is not so much directed at changing anyone’s mind but instead is to study better ways of arguing against the claims which keep emerging in these stories at RNS.”
    I agree. I was stunned a couple of years ago when my dentist started spouting off “Presuppositional apologetics”, as if it were a respectable academic position, instead of a “know nothing” school. Untangling the bafflegab that the priests come up with, and then translating it into plain English, has been a pastime of mine ever since. Perhaps I have a book in me, but better I encourage another to write it.

  • Fortunately, those types are few and far between in real life. Unfortunately, they seem to get an inordinate amount of attention. *sigh*

  • @Samuel,

    Indeed. I understand completely.

  • Fourth Valley

    No. Because there’s no activism I’d like to be a part of. I don’t seek converts.

    You however DO want converts. You’re trying to convince people religion is bad. That’s all well and good. But think for a second. Have you convinced ANYONE of your points in your many, many internet comments?? Anyone who didn’t already agree with you that is.

    If not, give some serious time and thought to how you could better convince people of your views. Because your cause is good but your methods will get you nowhere.

    If you have found converts by being brash, angry, and dishonest, I’d be very surprised.

  • Doc Anthony

    Umm, you may want to do a little more research before saying all that stuff, Max. It turns out that the ancient Norsemen had their own creationist story, they had THEIR original pair of humans too.

    And they were NOT atheists. They were NOT evolutionists. Sorry!

    Obviously they were not Christians either, but they originally seem to have a lot less in common with your beliefs, than with mine.

    So I’m okay with a public school offering a “comparative religions” class that includes both Asatru, and biblical Christianity, including their creation accounts.

    The question is, are YOU okay with it?


    Meanwhile, here’s a comparison of Asatru with biblical Christianity:

  • Fourth,

    “If you have found converts by being brash, angry, and dishonest, I’d be very surprised.”

    Atheists who had those characteristics gave me the courage – when the time came – to face the profound nonsense of Christianity.

    It takes courage to face down the spectacularly bold, cocky, strutting, self-celebrating claims from blustering, bullying priests and Imams.

    “the only cure for Homosexuals is that they be put to death”
    Pastor Robbie Gallaty
    Tennessee Megachurch
    Sept 4, 2014

    Why must I be diplomatic about this bold, terrifying claim?
    Why is it my responsibility speak in calm dulcet tones?

    “We have avenged the prophet!” – shooter of Charlie Hebdo massacre

    Why must I be gentle?
    Why should I forgive and throw flowers at these barbarians?
    Why must I be the cooperative one?

    We are talking about breaking down prison walls. Religion is indoctrination of a self-imposed prison of thought.
    This is an urgent matter of civil rights and of recovering a culture of science and wisdom; the right to think for oneself, the right to not be killed for drawing certain pictures.

    To insult and disparage the prison is not to insult the prisoners.

  • 4th,

    “I don’t seek converts.”

    hmm.hmm. Except for me.

  • 4th,

    The word “dishonest” does not apply to me. Nor to the Atheists whom I was referring who inspire me. You won’t find dishonesty in any of my comments.

    Getting back to Kimberly’s article, I think the recrudescence of any dead religion is a sign that science and skepticism are not adequately responding to the needs of people. A playful nod to a Norse God is fine. Real belief in it though would worry me.

  • B D

    Why should it worry you that people are returning to the beliefs of their ancestors under their own free will?

  • Larry

    The great thing about comparative religion is one is not teaching belief in any of them. It is perfectly fine in a separation of church and state context.

  • Fourth Valley

    Perhaps. I do hope you evolve into a competent critic of religion one day. We need more of those. I don’t want to change your views, but try to convince you of expressing them in more effective manners, since, again, religion needs more competent critics. Though I suppose you could say I seek to convert you to more rational methods of discourse.

  • Fourth Valley

    Max, the word “dishonest” most certainly does apply, unless you’ve changed since the last time I paid attention to your comments. Do you still knowingly misquote the Surah about Self-Defense as an incitement for violence against infidels?? Do you still insist against all scientific reasoning that bats do not have wings?? You’ve asserted both of those “dishonest” things in the past, and if you do so now, your methods are still dishonest.

    Which is a shame, because a lot of radical religious elements can be combatted reasonably without resorting to lying.

  • Fourth Valley

    Max, the question is have YOU changed anyone’s mind. Because if you haven’t, you’ve wasted your time, and should seek better methods of persuasion.

  • Fourth

    bats? surah?
    excuse me?

  • “I do hope you evolve into a competent critic of religion one day.”

    In what way have I been incompetent?
    Is your uncivil tone toward a person with a different opinion
    your demonstration of the more competent methods you are recommending?

    I never, ever attack attack people.
    I don’t call people ‘incompetent’.

    I address the claims people make, not the shapes of their mouths.

  • @Fourth,

    “Max, dishonest, lying… incompetent, shameful…”

    I never criticize people – I have no interest in hurting anyone.
    I only challenge the veracity of their religious claims.
    You haven’t given me anything to work with.

    If you try to defend Jesus, God, Allah or the strutting, bullying of Holy Orders
    I shall be glad to challenge those claims with an appropriate assessment of them.

  • @Fourth,

    “Because if you haven’t, you’ve wasted your time…”

    I’m sorry. We have some sort of misunderstanding.
    It is my intention to find better ways of arguing about religion.

    Here is a case in point:
    With another THEIST commenter I have gone back and forth on the question of Stalin, Mao and the Atheistic regimes of the 20th century.
    Apparently we have both read a great deal about these regimes – especially communist regimes – so we are both very knowledgeable.

    My argument is the Stalinist regime was basically religious because it enforced a dogmatic religious claim of Hard Atheism ( “there is no god”).
    Her argument however, is that Atheism is the crux of why Stalinism was a disaster. She is convinced that if Stalin were not an Atheist the mass genocides would not have happened.

    I have failed to convince her of my point of view.
    She has not changed my mind either.

    But she has forced me to hone my argument and research my point of view better.
    Similarly, I notice that I may have forced her to argue better too, since she has had to incorporate new research into her position – she seems to anticipate my rebuttals better.

    Waste of time? No.
    I am certain that religion is simply too serious and dangerous a topic
    to brush off simply because Fourth Valley – or someone else – finds the whole discussion too upsetting.

  • @Fourth,

    “You however DO want converts.”

    No. I am trying to help people think for themselves. It is a difficult ambition yet I have already accomplished that quite frequently.

    I want to understand the fundamental religious claim a person is making and then I want to figure out whether it is true or false. Usually it is very false.
    If the claim is false it needs to be challenged – and that is exactly where the work and extra effort is.

    Atheists need to find better ways to challenge religious claims than just saying ‘bigot!’ or ‘you suck!’ or ‘you lie’ (ahem).

    “give some serious time and thought to how you could better convince ….”

    Exactly how much more time and thought do you think I need?
    Someone told me I spend too much time at RNS already.

    And ‘convincing’ people is not what interests me.
    I’m interested in finding better ways to help people think for themselves. Because that was what kept me in religion for so long – weak anti-theist arguments and my own poor thinking habits.

    I want people to think for themselves – if they stay religious I don’t care – as long as they have freed themselves to think.