Anton Brink Hansen/EPA/Landov
Alex Heigl
December 08, 2015 01:45 PM

There is no tax break, only Zu.

Over 3,100 Icelanders – nearly one percent of the country’s total population – have joined a movement known as Zuism that involves worshipping ancient Sumerian gods over the past two weeks.

But it’s not because Zuism makes some attractive points about the afterlife: It’s because followers of the religion will be refunded the portion of their taxes that is earmarked for religious organizations.

Iceland requires citizens to register their religion with the state, and over 50 registered religious bodies qualify for “parish fees” paid through national taxes, about $80 per taxpayer per year. In September, a public opinion poll revealed about 55 percent of respondents want to end the system, which is where Zuism comes in.

“There is no opt-out. Those who are unaffiliated or belong to unregistered religions effectively just pay higher taxes,” Sveinn Thorhallsson, a Zuist spokesperson, told The Guardian.

Zuism was originally registered as a religion in Iceland in 2013, though inactivity meant it was up for de-registration in 2015. A group of citizens took it over, began promising converts they’d refund the religious tax, and the rest is history.

The religion is transparent about its goals. The English section of its website reads, “The religious organization of Zuism is a platform for its members to practice a religion of the ancient Sumerian people. Zuists fully support freedom of religion, and from religion, for everyone. The organization’s primary objective is that the government repeal any law that grants religious organizations privilege, financial or otherwise, above other organizations. Furthermore Zuists demand that the government’s registry of its citizens’ religion will be abolished.”

Zuism, it concludes, “will cease to exist when its objectives have been met”.

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