In May 2018, Associated Press news articles were circulated which featured information concerning a proposed Sumerian temple in Reykjavik, Iceland. [1] The temple was proposed by Iceland’s recently recognized Zuist religion, or the Church of Zuism. This information was widely circulated by members of the pagan and polytheist community, many of which expressed excitement by this news.

 

This news however did not sit well with members of the existing pagan and polytheist communities that derive their spiritual practices from the religious texts and practices of the Sumerian people. It is common among groups and organizations in the pagan community to be independent from one another and many of these Sumerian groups are no exception. Their commonality however, is their implementation of Sumerian culture, religion, and philosophy in their daily lives and their religious devotion and practice.

 

Zuisma, the Zuist Church, or the Church of Zuism, as an organization, came to the attention of various media outlets in 2013, when Icelandic law was amended to allow religions other than the Evangelical Lutheran church to register with the Icelandic government. Following this development, the Zuist Church was registered by the government as a religion with four members, among them including Einar Ágústsson as an appointed director and Ólafur Helgi Þorgrímsson as its founder. [2] [3] Shortly thereafter, Ólafur Helgi Þorgrímsson was convicted and sentenced to prison for money laundering through one of his businesses, Luxury Adventures. [4]

 

In 2014 brothers Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson and Einar Ágústsson assumed complete control of the Church, with the founder removed to distance themselves from the money laundering charges. [5] Their leadership was short-lived; both Einar and Ágúst would soon be face trial for defrauding investors of more than $350,000 through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter under their company Skajaquoda.[6]

 

In November 2014 Einar Ágústsson dissolved Zuism as a company. [3]

 

In 2012, Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson and Einar Ágústsson created a new company, Janulus, which came under investigation for fraud shortly thereafter in the state of Delaware [26]. There it was reported in the press that the brothers had fled the country following reports of fraudulent conduct at the former Clarkfield School building.

 

Engineers considering the project deemed it impossible. The EEVBlog compiled charts of data demonstrating that wind power at ground level generates no power.  This was not simply a failed tech project with lofty goals. All evidence provided by these studies indicates the intention behind this project was fraud and they knew what they were doing the entire time.

 

Related news media at that time states “the indictment describes the fraud as both extensive and thoroughly planned. Einar is also accused of forging documents and illegal currency transactions in violation of the capital controls. According to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV the office of the special prosecutor for financial crimes, which has been investigating the case, impounded 67 million ISK (530,000 USD/470,000 EUR) in July 2013. The victims of the alleged fraud have sued to receive these funds in damages.” [26]

 

In early 2015 the church in Iceland maintained low membership, consisting of only three members [7]. A failure to increase their membership would result in the loss of government recognition as a legitimate religious institution. In late 2015, the direction of the organization changed again, with Ísak Andri Ólafsson assuming leadership. [8] Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson and Einar Ágústsson were removed from their position within the organization due to their trial for fraud. [25] It was at this moment, under Ísak Andri Ólafsson, that church membership was reported to have increased dramatically [9], from three and four registered members who by this point, had been under investigation for fraud and money laundering.

 

According to published sources, in 2015, Ísak Andri Ólafsson used Zuism as a protest vote against paying taxes, promising all that joined the organization would have their taxes returned. This appealed to those citizens which found this taxation burdensome. [10] The church would see three thousand members join in a bid to avoid paying taxes. It was then reported in the press at that time that the “young Icelanders are using a satirical religion to protest the lasting ties between church and state on the island”. Additional reports stated that “the group’s elders make clear that there is nothing truly religious about Zuism. Instead, it might be more accurately described as an anti-religion—and as a protest of Iceland’s parish tax, which has drawn the ire of many as a growing number of Icelanders turn away from the church”.

 

The Zuist church’s website stated: “Zuists fully support freedom of religion, and from religion, for everyone. The organisation’s primary objective is that the government repeal any law that grants religious organisations privilege, financial or otherwise, above other organisations.

 

Furthermore Zuists demand that the government’s registry of its citizens’ religion will be abolished.”

 

Zuism, the website added, “will cease to exist when its objectives have been met”.

 

The rise in membership as a protest vote prompted Progressive Party member, Stefán Bogi Sveinsson, to pressure the church to de-register since it was not a legitimate religion:

 

“No one has registered in the organisation to practice Zuism itself,” he wrote, according to a report in the Reykjavik Grapevine. “Their reasons for registering are rather twofold: to get money in their pockets, or to protest against current legislation about religious organizations.” [11]

 

In 2017 Einar Ágústsson was convicted and sentenced to three years and nine months of prison for fraud for another much earlier case, one which was not connected to the Kickstarter fraud charges listed above, or the Clarkfield fraud in Delaware. [12] According to the indictment, Einar convinced three other Icelanders in 2010 and 2011 to give him 30 million ISK, which he was to invest with an investment fund he claimed to operate in the US. The fund, which was called “Skajaquoda Fund”, never actually existed.

 

Later in 2017, after his brother was convicted, and after a period of instability with the Zuist organization, Ágúst Arnar Ágústsson, again assumed leadership of the Zuist Church. [13] Speculation has surrounded his appointment with regards to his criminal trial for defrauding investors of $350,000, involvement in three additional fraud investigations, and how these developments may financially affect the organization’s three thousand members.

 

In 2018 the organization took another turn when one individual, identified as Uligang Ansbrandt, was taken on to develop the theology of the church [14] despite earlier statements of being an atheist organization, one that was described as a “religious parody”, akin to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

 

As of 2018 Uligang Ansbrandt began collaborating with the organization, and for the first time in the organization’s history, they would have a reportedly “proper’ religious theology. It is worth noting that as of only six months ago, this theology didn’t exist; the majority of three thousand members only joined to avoid paying part of their taxes.

 

In February 2018 Ansbrandt posted four documents to his Academia page [14], outlining the organization’s purported beliefs. His “Elements of Zuist Theology” has only been read thirteen times, while his Zuist theology has only been read seven times in the four months since being uploaded to Academia.edu.

 

Independent investigation on the part of members within the pagan community uncovered Uligang Ansbrandt as a pseudonym for one Mattia Rossi. It was noted that Rossi’s thesis for the University of Bergamo in Italy, “Ruism as a Mazeway for Reorienting Western Thought by Rethinking the Logos” [16] discusses in depth the destruction of Christianity and liberalism:

 

“Christianity and liberalism… already in full demise, has to be actively destroyed to pave the way for the rise of a new, Eurasian civilizational configuration.”

 

Ansbrandt also said in his Zuist theology that “It is logically inferable that, according to the Zuist vision, Christianity (at least in its modern, dying corrupt forms and institutions) and Islam are false religions, or non-religions, since they fail to relink Heaven, Earth and humanity. Our God is existing, as the starry sky and its cycles; their God is non-existing, as an otherworldly abstract thing”. It has been noted that the religion will “come into conflict with various representatives of the Christian tradition in Iceland.” [20]

 

Rossi, posting as Ansbrandt posted the following comments to the Temple of Sumer’s public Facebook page regarding the background of the church and its internal organization. Content shared is from members of the Temple of Sumer.

 

In February 2018, Einar Ágústsson established the company “Zuism, Ltd.”, appointing himself as the director, alongside his brother who is noted as the head of the organization. According to sources, it is believed that Einar is once again in a position of influence within the religious organization. [17] Further sources including the official statement found on the church’s website indicate that Zusim’s “mother church is in Delaware” in the United States [21]. A cursory search for the church using the address listed on their website (1001 Society Dr, Claymont, Delaware) provides results for Einar’s company Skajaquoda Group, Inc. [22], the same organization linked to both brothers’ charges for fraud. The website for this company which uses the slogan “Right People. Right Investments.” states “Skajaquoda Capital LLC was founded in 2008 in the state of Delaware around our asset management services.
Today we are a proprietary investment company that invests in sectors that provide strong, long-term returns.”

 

More churches are purported by the Zuist organization to have been established in Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. All addresses for these locations have been found to be post office boxes. It is speculated that these addresses have been deliberately established as part of a money laundering scheme.

 

With regards to a presence in the United States, per the US Internal Revenue Service’s website: “certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches. These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions. They include:

 

  1. Distinct legal existence
  2. Recognized creed and form of worship
  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline
  5. Distinct religious history
  6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  7. Organization of ordained ministers
  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
  9. Literature of its own
  10. Established places of worship
  11. Regular congregations
  12. Regular religious services
  13. Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
  14. Schools for the preparation of its members

 

The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes.” [28]

 

In May 2018 the Zuist Church applied for permit to build a temple in Reykjavik, Iceland. Reports of this development were shared by the Associated Press and were met with excitement from members of the pagan community who are unaware of current Mesopotamian-oriented pagan and polytheist communities. The Zuismo Italia group, consisting of one member, Rossi (as Ansbrandt), established a presence on Facebook’s social media platform.

 

A week after Ansbrandt created the Zuismo Italia Facebook group, the current Sumerian pagan and polytheist community found itself the subject of systematic removal from a public online forum, namely, Wikipedia.  Articles featuring Mesopotamian paganism (identified as Kaldanism or Sumerian paganism), were deleted, including all entries for existing Sumerian pagan and polytheist organizations, groups, circles, covens, and even festivals. All content pertaining to “Mesopotamian Paganism” was linked directly to the Wikipedia article concerning Zuism. These actions are Ansbrandt has said previously, describing Zuism as a ‘scientific religion’.

 

Concern about these developments has been expressed by those affected, some of whom have stated that these actions are “typical of cult organizations; the Zuist church seems to be rebranding themselves in some attempt to stamp out would-be competitors who cast doubt on the legitimacy of their status as a government-recognized religion”.

 

The various pagan and polytheist groups and organizations that have been affected date back to 1992. With efforts made on the part of the Zuist church, or by those operating on their behalf, deleting this information and links to these groups has effectively erased over 25 years of pagan and modern polytheist history. This is believed to be a worrying attempt to re-write the history of the revival of Ancient Near Eastern paganism and polytheism. Members of these various communities have stated that this is akin to a hate crime against established legitimate and practicing Sumerian pagan and polytheist communities. “These groups have been in existence as minority pagan movements for decades, with members touring and speaking at local, national, and international conferences; facilitating public rituals; writing and publishing written material, including sources for their peers in their respective community”.

 

Deleted Wikipedia entries for the following groups and organizations have been reported as being redirected to Zusim: ‘Temple of Sumer’, ‘Temple of Inanna and Dumuzid’, ‘Gnostic Temple of Inanna’, ‘House of Inanna’, ‘Garden of the Gods’, ‘Temple of Inanna’, ‘Gateways to Babylon’, ‘Tablet of Destiny’, ‘Twin Rivers Rising’, ‘Purified with Cedar’. The historical group ‘Order of the Elder Light’ has also been affected by these actions. All relevant content concerning Mesopotamian religion has been, in a sense, rebranded as ‘Zuism’.

 

Members of these various communities have affirmed that they do not recognize the Zuist church as a governing power over their own religious interpretation despite the recognition that this church has received from the Icelandic government as an organized religion. Members go on to state that having this recognition does not give this organization or church authority over all other Mesopotamian pagan groups that have each existed independently for over twenty five years. They go on to state that recognition from the Icelandic government does not give one church the power to control unaffiliated groups and organizations that operate internationally, or otherwise rebrand a religion, attempt to trademark a religious practice, or impose a hierarchy upon unwilling individuals.

 

They go on to state that the Zuist church is treating Sumerian Paganism or Mesopotamian Paganism as a product to be branded with a company logo, or something they can franchise, which is completely at odds with the way pagan organizations and religions work.  To expect such compliance from the international community is beyond offensive, and incredibly ignorant. Religious faith is not something that can or should be branded like a product. Those of the established Sumerian pagan community that predates the Zuist church have dedicated decades to the study, understanding, and practice of their faith traditions. Further concerns are expressed that the Zuist church is only operating in this manner to further ‘legitimize’ their religion, while delegitimizing historical pagan communities.

 

Further content shared by members of the Sumerian pagan community is found below:

 

Despite their claims to be a scientific faith, their attempts to delegitimize established pagan faiths seem highly suspect.

 

“The Icelandic government is paying 30 million krónur to the Zuism religion” a Zuist [pastor] is quoted as saying, while he sees it as “an expensive joke”, the two brothers leading the organization are the ones most in profit, while their members get very little in return. This is illustrated when the announcement to build a Zuist temple was greeted with dismay among members of the religion, who wonder why that money isn’t coming back to them as promised. One would venture to say they aren’t seeing any money because they have been scammed.  Another member, Jónsdóttir, stated that “I don’t even expect to get my money back—it’s not about that. It’s about the issues they were raising.” It just goes to show the stupidity of these people, who don’t care where their money goes to such an extent that they’d rather give it to criminals who are turning their organization into a form of extremism.

 

The entire Sumerian pagan community is deeply troubled with the way their shared faith traditions which have practiced for decades have come under threat by the Zuist church. Requests for the support of other pagan organizations have been shared through various media outlets, including Facebook. Open dialogue with those three thousand strong Icelandic citizens who joined the Zuist church in protest against taxation is also requested; an open dialogue with those who do not agree with the actions of their church against existing minority pagan communities who just wish to preserve their legacy and work, regardless of government recognition from Iceland or any other nation.

 

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-44302596
  2. https://uk-r.org/company/08457281/zuism-limited
  3. https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/11181258/officers
  4. https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=is&u=http://stundin.is/frett/luxury-adventures-i-rannsokn-hja-serstokum-saksokn/&prev=search
  5. http://icelandmag.is/article/prison-icelandic-man-also-suspected-fraudulent-kickstarter-campaigns

http://icelandmag.is/article/icelander-accused-engineering-fraudulent-kickstarter-campaigns-indicted-fraud-and

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/more-kickstarter-fraud/

 

  1. http://icelandmag.is/article/icelandic-brothers-suspected-raising-350000-usd-fraudulent-kickstarter-campaigns
  2. https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=is&u=https%3A%2F%2Fstundin.is%2Ftagg%2Folafur-helgi-thorgrimsson%2F&prev=search
  1.    https://wrldrels.org/2018/06/02/zuism/
  2.   https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2015/dec/09/zuism-the-growing-religion-of-iceland-that-offers-rebates-in-this-life

http://icelandmag.is/article/why-has-ancient-sumerian-religion-zuism-become-fastest-growing-religion-iceland

  1. http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2016/the-beautiful-joke-of-zuism/
  2. https://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/secular-saga-icelanders-form-new-religion-to-protest-church-subsidies
  3. http://icelandmag.is/article/prison-icelandic-man-also-suspected-fraudulent-kickstarter-campaigns
  4. https://wrldrels.org/2018/06/02/zuism/

14.https://independent.academia.edu/uligangansbrandt

  1. See screen captures folder
  2. https://www.unibg.it/sites/default/files/lfc_tesi_di_aprile_2017_calendario_rev_12.04.pdf
  3. https://uk-r.org/company/11181258/zuism-ltd
  4. http://famousnewsupdate.com/icelands-pagan-zuist-religion-hopes-to-build-temple/
  5. https://www.facebook.com/ZuismoItalia/
  6. https://www.academia.edu/36142192/Elements_of_Zuist_theology

21.https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=is&u=http://is.zuist.org/about/our-story/&prev=search

  1. https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_de/6732009
  2. https://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/companyProfile/SKAJ.PK
  3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/skajaquoda/trinity-the-portable-wind-turbine-power-station/comments
  4. http://icelandmag.is/article/why-has-ancient-sumerian-religion-zuism-become-fastest-growing-religion-iceland
  5. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:R9GLbOcZeDwJ:www.granitefallsnews.com/article/20151228/NEWS/151229769+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk
  6. http://icelandmag.is/article/icelander-accused-engineering-fraudulent-kickstarter-campaigns-indicted-fraud-and
  7. https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/churches-religious-organizations/churches-defined