Getting religion . . . for tax reasons???

My mind’s a little boggled by this news from Iceland.

Zuism is one of Iceland’s newest official religions, having been recognised in 2013 – but it’s been picking up hundreds of new followers in recent weeks, including many atheists.

The reason lies in Iceland’s tax system. At present, citizens are required to contribute a congregation tax, known as sóknargjöld, to a religious organisation of their choice – or, if they’re not religious, the payment instead goes to the state.

The modern incarnation of Zuism, based on Ancient Sumerian texts, plans to give the cash it receives through congregation tax back to its members. It’s also calling on the Icelandic government to cease collating information on citizens’ religious beliefs.

The Zuist church has some links with the pro-free speech, anti-authoritarian Pirate Party. Halldór Auðar Svansson, a Reykjavík city councilman for the party, has spoken out in support of the religion, praisining its efforts in “hacking the system,” while Pirate Party founder Birgitta Jónsdóttir is thought to be a Zuist.

The church claims to have about 3,000 members, meaning they now outnumber Muslims by about three-to-one in Iceland’s population of 323,000.

Tax authorities have cautioned that, if the Zuist church refund congregation tax (also known as parish fees) to its members, the payments will be subject to income tax.

. . .

Around 80% of Icelanders are members of the Lutheran State Church. 5% are registered in other Christian denominations, and almost 5% Ásatrú, the traditional Norse religion.

Recent polls have indictated that support is mounting in Iceland for separation of church and state. In a Gallup survey published this autumn, more than 55 per cent of respondents wanted the ties to be cut, up about five per cent on the previous year.

There’s more at the link.

So, of what does their worship service consist . . . filling in tax refund claim forms?  With the help of a glass or two of quasi-sacramental Brennivín, perhaps?



  1. The government knowingly created a monster in this country by granting tax exemptions to religious entities. Removing that perk would do away with a lot of phoney churches and preachers. It would also do away with the ability of the government to threaten the church with removal of that exemption if they don't say what the government approves of.

    1. And in exchange give the government the power to audit churches, arrest "extremist" or "activist" pastors and priests for "tax fraud" and dictate the content of doctrine and forbid certain uses of the pulpit/tithes. Right. If that sounds like a good idea to you… Yeah, I see a civil war happening before that (or the 2nd amendment being repealed) happens. No thanks.

  2. Apparently, Scientology was labeled a religion for tax reasons. The founder was complaining to a fellow writer, Robert A. Heinlein, about the taxes he was paying on the income, and RAH suggested he make it a religion.

  3. Re: Scientology

    The way I heard it, RAH suggested the church part, but I don't think he realized that L. Ron was a schizophrenic who would run with the idea.

  4. Ipdbw:
    When I heard the story, I wondered if RAH had said it in a joking fashion. For that matter, I'm curious what RAH thought about the system itself.

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