Shifts in Religious Associations and Affiliation in Iceland

religion in iceland

A few changes have occurred to the religious associations listed in the National Registry of Iceland over the past year, Fréttablaðið reports. The Jewish Community of Iceland was registered for the first time, with 38 members currently listed. The Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland was taken off the registry of religious groups (another Islamic association, the Félag Múslima á Íslandi, remains on the registry). The National Church of Iceland is still the largest religious association in the country by membership, though it has been steadily losing members in recent years.

A total of 53 religious and life stance associations are currently listed in the National Register. Currently, 229,623 individuals are registered in the national church, which has higher affiliation than any other religious association in the country. Its registered members, however, decreased by 94 between December 1, 2020 and October 1 of this year.  The second most populous religious association in the country is the Catholic Church, with just over 14,700 registered members, followed by the Free Church in Reykjavík with about 10,000 members.

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The two religious groups that saw the biggest spikes in membership during the same period were the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association (Siðmennt), which grew by 334 members, and Ásatrúarfélagið (a pagan religious organization).

The largest decrease was in the Zuist Association, which decreased by 225 members, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the church was set to dissolve in 2019 following disputes with authorities. The organisation with the smallest membership was Vitund (Awareness), with three members. As of October 1, 2021, 4.6% of Iceland’s population was registered outside of any religious organisation, or more than 29,000 people.

Article on Mosque Attacks Closed for Commenting Due to Hate Speech

keyboard computer typing

The Icelandic news outlet Vísir disabled commenting on an article about last week’s attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand after multiple comments were posted that applauded the acts of terrorism. Stundin reports that the comments were made by Icelanders using their own names. Vísir disabled commenting with the simple note: “Commenting on this article is closed due to hate speech.”

Among the comments on the article were several that commended the person responsible for the atrocities. “Well done,” wrote one commenter. “This is self defense. People haven’t forgotten how many Islam has killed in Europe.” Another commenter who celebrated the attacks was identified as a person who regularly comments on news articles related to Muslims and immigration issues.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Thórdarson sent their condolences to New Zealand following the attacks.

“Shocked and heartbroken over the senseless violence in #Christchurch,” wrote Katrín in a Tweet. “Dear @jacindaardern, I send you my deepest sympathies and all the light in the world from the people of Iceland.”

“We are deeply saddened by the horrifying terrorist attack in #Christchurch,” wrote Guðlaugur Þór. “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand.”

At the time of writing, the death toll in the mosque attacks was 49 dead and 42 injured, with a four-year-old child in critical condition.

Icelanders’ Religious Affiliation Diversifies

The number of Icelanders registered as members of the National Church has gone down in the last twelve months, while there has been an increase in followers of Ethical Humanism, Ásatrú, and Islam. This according to the most recent data Icelanders’ religious affiliation, which was recently released by the country’s national register.

Iceland’s National (Lutheran) Church has seen a decrease in membership of just around 1%, or 2,419 people. The highest increases have been for the Catholic church (up by 512 registrants; an increase of 3.8%) and The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association (up by 536, or 23.5%). Around 400 people officially joined Ásatrú, a Norse pagan religion, which is an increase of 9.9%.

The largest increase was among registered Muslims in Iceland. This year, there was an 122.1% increase, or 105 newly registered members, for a total of 191.

The largest decrease was seen among followers of Zuism, an ancient Sumerian religion, which went down by 306 members, or 15.8%.

There was also an overall increase among those who wanted to officially register as unaffiliated with any religious or philosophical organization. There was an increase of 2,221 people in this category, or 9.9%.