The new religious organization of Zuism has gained attention in Iceland lately. Ostensibly, it’s a platform to practice a religion of the ancient Sumerian people.
In just over two weeks, the number of the organization’s members has gone up by more than a thousand, reaching a total of 1,124, making it the eighth largest religious organization in Iceland, according to Vísir.
There are 45 registered religious organizations in the country, and each and every one of them receives financial support from the government, amounting to ISK 11,000 (USD 83, EUR 78) per member, based on the budget for next year. The organization of Zuism vows to redistribute the government’s annual financial support to its members, leading critics to claim people register as Zuist for the sole purpose of pocketing the ISK 11,000.
Arnór Bjarki Svarfdal Arnarson, one of the organization’s founders, claims the organization’s goal is to bring attention to how outdated and unfair the so-called congregation system is. “We wholeheartedly support people’s rights to observe their religion, but we don’t want them to go through the state, or the state to have to support religious organizations financially.
The Zuist organization would like religious organizations to legally fall in the same category as any other organization.
If the law can be changed that way, eliminating government support or privileges for religious organizations, then the organization of Zuism can be done away with. “Then we’re going to quit,” states Arnór Bjarki.
Stefán Bogi Sveinsson, a Progressive Party town council member in Fljótsdalshérað district in East Iceland, asserts that those who have registered as Zuists have no idea what their religious beliefs or view of life are. He suggests “their goal is twofold: to pocket the money or to protest current law regarding religious organizations and those with a certain view of life.”
Stefán asserts that he understands the desire to protest that law and “as such a deed, the performance of the spokespersons for Zuists is among the most successful I’ve seen.”
He insists the organization is not religious, but one interested in changing a certain type of law. They can’t expect to keep the organization registered as religious, he states.