On Monday, three Virginia men were charged with plotting to attack and bomb black churches and Jewish synagogues, reportedly with the goal of triggering a “race war” in the United States. Suspects Ronald Chaney and Robert Doyle, who FBI officials say are also plotting to kill a local jewelry dealer and rob an armored car, were outspoken white supremacists, bound by a common desire enact violence against Jews and African Americans.
But documents show that the two men, and possibly accomplice Charles Halderman, also share something else: A common, peculiar faith.
“Doyle and Chaney, and others known and unknown to the FBI, ascribe to a white supremacy extremist version of the Asatru faith,” read the FBI’s report.
Traditionally, most American white supremacists claim to be Christians — hence the Ku Klux Klan, which uses a burning crossas its symbol, and the Phineas Priesthood, a group that preaches an anti-immigrant message and whose members attempted toburn down the Mexican Consulate earlier this year in the name of Jesus.
But like Doyle and Chaney, a number of white supremacists are abandoning Christianity for a very different religion: Odinism, sometimes called Asatru, Vanuatrú, or Dísitrú. The faith, which has several different strains, is a modern expression of an ancient, polytheistic Nordic belief system that reveres a slew of gods such as Thor. Most of its U.S. adherents, many of whom self-identify as “heathens”, are nonviolent and inclusive, more concerned with preaching virtues than calling for a race war. Norse paganism, once the religion of Vikings, is currently undergoing a revival among young residents of Iceland, where it is recognized as a state religion.
Yet an unsettlingly virulent strain of Odinism has coalesced in the United States over the past few decades, attracting white supremacists who see it as more purely “white” than Christianity.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, explained that many join the fledging faith as a way of criticizing Christianity.
“From white supremacist point of view, they embrace these neopagan religions because they see them as antithetical to Christianity and Judaism,” he told ThinkProgress. “They say, ‘What did the Jews and Christians do? They made these religions about turning the other cheek and caring for the poor.’ They see Christianity as a feminized, weak, self-destructive theology created by Jews and forced on white people who were by nature supposedly very different.”
Indeed, as CNN reported in 2014, similar ideas were spouted by Frazier Glenn Cross, the man whoshot and killed three people outside Jewish organizations last year. Although Cross was once a leader of the KKK, his online manifesto professed a firm belief in Odinism, which he reportedly converted to before his rampage.
“Odinism! This was the religion for a strong heroic people, the Germanic people, from whose loins we all descended, be we German, English, Scott, Irish, or Scandinavian, in whole or in part,” Cross wrote. “Odin! Odin! Odin! Was the battle cry of our ancestors; their light eyes ablaze with the glare of the predator, as they swept over and conquered the decadent multi-racial Roman Empire. And Valhalla does not accept Negroes. There’s a sign over the pearly gates there which reads, ‘Whites only.’”
Like many right-wing Odinists, Cross explained that his opposition to Christianity is rooted in the idea that it was a “trick” invented by Jews to “enslave” the white masses.
“Christianity is the second biggest trick the Jews ever played on us. The biggest was legalized abortion!” he wrote.
Other racists enjoy Odinism’s ties to Nazi Germany, where it was reportedly inculcated into the Third Reich’s cultural theology of white supremacy.
SOURCE: JACK JENKINS