Asatru in America: A New American Religion
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Asatru is a New Religious Movement reconstructing the practice of pre-Christian Norse and Germanic Pagan religion. It has been one of the least studied of the Pagan movements in America. In addition, Asatru has often been associated with far right or fascist political views and racist ideology, developing a reputation as a movement in high tension with American culture and values. For the most part, academic interest in Asatru has focused on exploring the connection with racism and evaluating the role of racist ideology within the movement, while its more religious aspects have been overlooked. Scholars have recognized that new religions offer alternative solutions to social problems arising from modernity. By disembedding individuals from traditional social contexts, modernity creates social and psychological tensions requiring new modes of identity creation. Using this paradigm, Asatru can be approached as a movement providing creative religious solutions to the tensions experienced by people living in modern America. This study addresses several areas of tension and their solutions within Asatru, including the family, women's roles, and the environment. As parts of the movement shift toward lower tension with American culture, Asatru is in the process of emerging as a viable and complex religion that achieves a degree of cultural continuity by reinvigorating certain American values within its own religious solutions to contemporary tensions. In this light, Asatru can be seen as a new American religion that incorporates and adapts important cultural values while at the same time challenging scholarly assumptions about new religions.