Religion is once again a hot button topic in the countries of Iceland and Ireland. Icelanders have taken to protesting on religion within their government, while the Irish are fighting to take it out of schools.
In Iceland, the government has long supported religion, and residents who are tired of the trend have started their own religion: Zuism. The residents have banded together to form the religion based on Sumerian texts and are using public funds for their congregation.
Zuism was formed to protest the parish tax in Iceland, which serves to support religions within the country. One of the largest of these religions is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland.
Since its inception, Zuism has gained 3,000 loyal followers. They meet to discuss poetry, but they also are aiming for much more. In a statement, the “church” said:
“The religious organization of Zuism is a platform for its members to practise a religion of the ancient Sumerian people. Zuists fully support freedom of religion, and from religion, for everyone.”
The statement continues with, “The organization’s primary objective is that the government repeal any law that grants religious organizations privilege, financial or otherwise, above other organizations. Furthermore Zuists demand that the government’s registry of its citizens’ religion will be abolished.”
Anyone over 16 years old living in Iceland must pay the annual parish tax of 40 euros, whether they practice religion or not.
Although the United States does not require such taxes, there are fewer people worshiping in organized religions than there were in previous generations. For instance, fewer than six in 10 Millennials in the U.S. currently identify with a branch of Christianity, compared to more than seven in 10 in Generation X or among Baby Boomers.
“There is no opt-out. Those who are unaffiliated or belong to unregistered religions effectively just pay higher taxes,” Zuist spokesman Sveinn Thorhallsson told The Guardian.
Many of Iceland’s politicians have argued that Zuism should not be considered a religion and should be deregistered as a religious organization, including Stefán Bogi of the Progressive Party. He says it is “in the best case an interest group that wants to change legislation.”
“But the real question is, what is a true religious organisation and how do you measure belief?” said Thorhallsson, who describes himself as agnostic.
Leaders of the Zuists say that the group will disband once their goals have been met.
Ireland is another country which has seen its fair share of battles on religion, and now Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan is taking on another. She would like to remove Rule 68, which is a long-standing piece of legislation that allows religion to be taught in schools.
The rule says that, “Of all parts of the school curriculum, religious instruction is by far the most important, as its subject matter, God’s honour and service, includes the proper use of all man’s faculties”.
This rule, however, will be abolished in January despite protests.