chapter  1
36 Pages

Introduction

ByWilliam H. Swatos, Loftur Reimar Gissurarson

Religion in Iceland has historically been a matter of the hearth. The home was the principal place of worship and teaching, with the church building serving primarily as the focal point for central life events. The story of Iceland’s conversion to Christianity is unique in the annals of the faith. It is also a paradigm for the study of Icelandic religious consciousness. A number of scholars have noted the role of conflict in social relations in Saga Iceland. Saga Icelanders did not live in moral communities but created communities of interests which had to be negotiated and renegotiated through processes of conflict mediation. The Icelandic case is particularly valuable for comparative sociology because Iceland has undergone rapid, thorough modernization. Icelandic society is highly tolerant of diverse religious opinions, but hardly pluralistic. Advice is still given to visitors and immigrants to Iceland that if they wish to hear Icelandic spoken at its best, they go to church.