There’s a lot to like about Iceland. It has geothermal heat. The people are literate and proud of it. They don’t have an army. Viking heritage and northern lights—what an interesting place! A friend recently sent me a satirical piece on Patheos titled “Iceland Declares All Religions Are Mental Disorders,” by Andrew Hall. I may not be as naive as I once was, but I have to admit I was nearly taken in on the fly. Maybe because the idea seems so much better than what we have over here in our warmer, but less educated world. Clearly, however, religion is extremely important to people, and if it is a mental disorder it’s an essential one. Hall mades the astute point that Iceland didn’t want to become like the United States. Who would, at this point?
Although this is a satirical piece, like most satire it works because it has chunks of truth in it. Countries run by religions do seem to get into quite a lot of trouble. I often think this is primarily a monotheistic problem. If a nation accepts many gods, then adding those of other peoples is hardly an issue. With a single deity, however, there is a single truth. Anyone different is, by default, wrong. When entire nations self-identify with a religion, it is only too easy to begin seeing those who believe differently just across the border as a threat. Faith becomes fight. As if a deity who always claims to value peace is only satisfied when we’re killing those who don’t share our same peaceful outlook. Irony and satire have met together, it seems.
I’ve never been to Iceland. It’s on my bucket list. As a rockhound, the volcanic nature of the place calls to me. I do wonder, however, how a vegan might fare on a far northern island. My times in Orkney are among my mental treasures. Those northern Scottish isles were places of wonder. Not the most options regarding comestibles, however. What they lacked in food they made up for in magic. Iceland, despite the satire’s bite, has a considerable population that believes in the little people. Anyone who’s too quick to dismiss such things ought to spend some time in the far north. Driving to the ancient sites of Orkney certainly shifted my perspective a bit. There’s great value in listening to the wisdom of those relatively isolated from the rest of the world. You might, however, have to bring your own beans.