Publication in: Fall 2022 Issue

Iceland - The Land of Fire, Ice, and Equal Rights: How Icelanders in Reykjavik Have Shaped Their Society Outside of the National Church
Kayla Shiflett Rhodes
Faculty Mentor(s):
Caitlin Meagher
Abstract / Summary:
It is not a secret that Iceland is one of the leading countries when it comes to gender equality and LGBTQ rights around the world. Media and current academic literature have demonstrated the progressive policies and social attitudes that are openly displayed throughout the Icelandic landscape. However, what some may be surprised to learn is that Iceland lacks the fundamental factor in what is supposed to be the basis of progressiveness in the United States - the separation between church and state. Iceland’s syncretic way of thinking about religion and politics have allowed the Icelandic people to step outside of the ideas of traditional Christianity and pass laws that protect historically marginalized groups. However, the question remains, how has Iceland, a country overtaken by Christianity in the 11th century, created an inclusive and progressive environment despite the presence of a national church? To answer this, I reflect on my experience during a research expedition in the summer of 2022 where I researched religion in Reykjavik, Iceland. In the months leading up to the expedition, my preliminary research produced an outstanding number of resources that proclaimed Iceland to be a predominantly Christian nation. However, throughout my conversations with the people of Reykjavik, I quickly learned that religion in Iceland was not as it appeared. Through a week-long process of informal interviews and exploration, I came to find that Iceland’s national church was not as important to the social climate of Iceland as it had been presented in the media. Throughout this paper I seek to examine how Iceland’s history has had an impact on their inclusive society within the city of Reykjavik as well as how religion is seen as a custom or culture, rather than a set of rules that should be followed. Additionally, I explore how the idea of secularism has impacted the attitude surrounding the church and state relationship.
Publication Date: