In the “more evidence that people want all the trappings of religion without God” column, Iceland is set to build the first modern temple to Norse gods, without any real belief in Norse gods, of course:
Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.
“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.
Right. So, like modern Satanism, this newest instantiation of pagan worship will have all the outward effects of religious observance sans any actual belief in the supernatural. The Norse gods in this scenario are just placeholders for ideological positions.
I don’t know what this will actually accomplish. It seems this is just an attempt to serve the religious needs of a highly secular society without actually having religion. But isn’t that what pagan worship has always been? Did the Greeks or the Romans really believe in real deities? There has been much speculation on that point. But many scholars think that the Greeks used the myths as explanatory models more than as literal representations:
Myth is truthful, but figuratively so. It is not historical truth mixed with lies; it is a high philosophical teaching that is entirely true, on the condition that, instead of taking it literally, one sees in it an allegory.
This allegorical interpretation of myths seems to be the secular bend. It is not a modern innovation. People have always used myths in order to fulfill a religious longing without actual belief. It’s no different today. We are not so different than the ancients after all.