Iceland has a proud Viking heritage but thousands of people are putting the past behind them and converting to an ancient religion that predates the Bible – because they can claim a tax refund.
Zuism is a modern take on the beliefs of a Sumerian religion practised in the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago.
However, the leaders in Iceland have a neat dodge to swell the numbers in their church.
Icelandic tax laws demand that citizens pay a tax depending on whether they belong to a church.
If they do, a ‘parish fee’ of £50 goes to their church, and if not, the money goes to the government.
Zuism offers a way to avoid the tax by pledging to refund the parish tax paid by any members in full.
Fastest growing religion
The religion started with four members in 2013, and was mobbed by new converts this year when the some members realised how they could benefit from the tax loophole.
Now, the religion has more than 3,000 members, which amounts to 1% of the population of Iceland.
Zuism is now the most rapid growing religion on the island.
The official religion is Lutheran, which around a third of the population follow, while 10% are atheist.
The Zuists argue that one of the objects of their faith is the government repeals any laws that offer financial or other perks to religions above other organisations.
Call to abolish church taxes
“Our goal is simply to have this parish tax abolished and to put religion on the par with any other community organisation on Iceland,” said a spokesman.
“That’s why we give a refund of the tax we receive from the government back to any member over 16 years old.”
Iceland is not the only country to offer religious and charitable organisations tax breaks, but Zuism is one of only a few that promises to refund the money collected.
Many countries in Europe raise church taxes – even if the country has no official church.
In the UK, the Commissioners of the Church of England is one of the largest landowners, while worldwide, the Roman Catholic Church is recognised as one of the richest organisations.