Religious Practices In Iceland

The steeple of Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland.


Believers of Odin and Thor awaiting Ragnarok are what Iceland used to be composed of. Their dominant faith before 1000 A.D was Paganism. The Norsemen had rich cosmology with mythology and held festivals celebrating the “divine”. They also worshiped their ancestors as devotion to deceased relatives was of great importance to them.

The Rise of Christianity

Kristnitaka means in Icelandic “the taking of Christianity", which occurred when Iceland began to embrace Christianity. Iceland was visited by several missionaries in 980 and the first of them was a Icelander whom returned from abroad to spread “the word of God”. His mission was met with little success as he was mocked by the Pagans. After killing two men in a conflict, Thorvald escaped and fled from Iceland. The Kings of Norway sent immense pressure to Iceland for them to convert to Christianity after Olaf Tryggvason sat on the throne of Norway. Olaf sent an Icelander with the name Stefnir Thorgilsson to convert Iceland. Stefnir destroyed many sanctuaries and images of the pagan gods and these actions made him be branded an outlaw by Iceland. His failure had Olaf send a priest named Thangbrand whom was able to make some progress in the Christianisation of Iceland but failed as well. This failure led to Olaf becoming very aggressive and forceful. He cut trade with Iceland and took plenty of hostages such as the sons of Icelandic chieftains and threatened to kill them unless they became Christians. Soon Iceland was divided by Christians and Pagans and a civil war threatened the nation. It all settled when at a meeting the Icelanders decided by arbitration to be a Christian nation.

Modern Day Iceland

Today paganism consists of .97% of their population while over 70% of the country is Christian with 12% being Atheist or Agnostic. The 12% has made Iceland in the top 10 atheist populations of the world. Atheism is the rejection of religion and having no faith in a god while agnosticism is being uncertain. Agnostics accept the possibility of faiths being wrong or right and these two ideologies (Atheism and Agnosticism) have been on the rise in the west as technological advancements are being made. A new poll in an Icelandic magazine in 2016 also has shown that 0.0% of Icelanders under the age of 25 believe that God created the world. as the years pass, fewer and fewer Icelanders identify as Christians while the poll found that 61.1% of Icelanders do believe in God. Yet faith is to be found less amongst the young.


Religious Practices In Iceland

RankBelief SystemShare of Icelandic Population
1Lutheran Protestant Christianity77.36%
2Atheism or Agnosticism12%
3Roman Catholic Christianity
4Other forms of Christianity2.07%
5Neo-Pagan or Folk Religions1.90%
6Other Beliefs2.94%

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