Skip to comments.Paganism Gaining Popularity in Prison
Posted on 07/23/2006 6:02:57 PM PDT by WestTexasWend
STAUNTON, Va. A pagan religion that some experts say can be interpreted as encouraging violence is gaining popularity among prison inmates, one of whom is scheduled to be executed this week for killing a fellow prisoner at the foot of an altar.
Michael Lenz is scheduled to die Thursday for the death of Brent Parker, who was stabbed dozens of times at Augusta Correctional Center during a gathering of inmates devoted to Asatru, whose followers worship Norse gods. At his trial, Lenz testified that Parker had not been taking the religion seriously and had to die to protect the honor of the gods.
Other followers call the religion misunderstood and say most adherent inmates do not use it to further violent agendas.
Asatru has been gaining popularity among inmates, say religious leaders and prison experts who believe its roots in Viking mythology attract prisoners seeking power, protection and unity.
The gang culture in prison also contributes, said theologian Britt Minshall, a former police officer and Baltimore pastor who ministers to inmates. Some white inmates who felt threatened by black prison gangs formed their own gangs and sought out a belief system they felt would provide additional security, he said.
"It's a way of grouping together for safety," he said. "And you have to have a god in the middle of that to really keep you safe."
Asatru is often referred to as Odinism, although some followers believe the two are separate religions. It is a polytheistic, pre-Christian faith native to Scandinavia whose adherents worship gods including Thor and Odin.
It emphasizes a connection with one's ancestors and values honor, loyalty, generosity and truth.
An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people in the United States consider themselves Asatruars or Odinists, said Stephen McNallen, director of the Asatru Folk Assembly, a leading Asatru group.
No national statistics are kept on how many inmates follow Asatru. But experts say its popularity enjoyed a boost from the Supreme Court, which last year sided with an Asatru inmate by upholding a federal law requiring state prisons to accommodate prisoners' religious affiliations.
Asatru is often associated with white supremacy, although most Asatru leaders bristle at suggestions of such a relationship.
A 1999 FBI report on domestic terrorism described Odinism as a "white supremacist ideology that lends itself to violence."
"What makes Odinists dangerous is the fact that many believe in the necessity of becoming martyrs for their cause," the report said.
Such comments are typical of those who don't understand Asatru, said Jane Ruck, who runs the National Prison Kindred Alliance and ministers to Asatru inmates. White supremacists make up only a small portion of Asatruars, and most inmates who follow the religion do not use it to push hate-filled, violent agendas, she said.
"There might be some white supremacists who consider themselves Asatruars, but they're not (Asatruars) because they're not following our beliefs," Ruck said. "We don't hate anybody; we just want to take pride in our heritage."
Lenz and another inmate, fellow Asatruar Jeffrey Remington, stabbed Parker a combined 68 times with makeshift knives. Remington was also sentenced to death but committed suicide in 2004.
According to Art Jipson, who studies white racial extremism and directs the University of Dayton's criminal justice studies program, Lenz's belief that fatal force was warranted is not surprising.
"If he believes the fight was necessary, whether or not it was legal is the least of his concerns," Jipson said. "If he's a truly devout practicing Odinist or Asatruist, he's doing what he must do. And it would be a shame it would be a black mark on his soul, his spirit ... for him to be cowardly and not to fight."
That kind of warrior mentality can exacerbate the tense environment behind bars, said Mark Potok, a leader at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which monitors hate groups.
"It's a theology that celebrates raw physical power and domination, and that is why I think it is so popular among prison inmates," Potok said. "The kind of inmate who might be attracted to this is a white man who is looking for justification for extreme violence, who is looking for an ideology which explains why he should be the boss."
Still beats the heck out of following the moon-god worhipping pedophile muhammed (may he rot in hell between 2 pigs for all eternety) and the accursed evil text the quran.
Has Islam lost its luster?
In other words, the same reason other prisoners turn to mohammedanism. It validates and justifies their criminal mentality.
Sounds like Muhammad and Norse shared notes. All cults seem to have fundamental tenets, namely death, murder, and intimidation through violence.
When a polytheist sneezes do you say "Gods bless you"?
> Asatru - it's a religion of peace.
No, it's not. but then, it doesn't claim to be. Asatru is a religion of *honor.* However, as with allr eligions, there's the whackadoodle subset, largley known as "Odinists." These are you straight-out-of-central-casting white supremecists who consider themselves "warriors."
The rest of the Asatruar both desise these types and laugh at them for importing Middel Eatern wackiness into the North belief system. The texts and lore of Asatru, the myths and sagas from the 9th through 12th centuries, are quite clear on the idea of "racial mixing" as a fully accepted practice.
Many "Odinists" are to Asatru what Satanists are to Christianity.
Not surprising since liberals have been successful lately in keeping Christianity out of prisons.
Being in a country that prides itself on freedom of religion , I guess we have to learn to put up with a lot of strange religions ,cults, devil worshippers, whatever.
There mmust be a limit somewhere, we just havent found it yet. In the meantime lets give this guy a good endoff. AMF pal,have a good hereafter, hope you like the heat.
Does anyone know where the roots of the World Tree go? No one does and there's only one tree for everyone. I used to practice asatru but only for a short time. I found that most who had a passing interest were into it because it was a vent for their failures in life and hate for anyone 'not of aryan stock' whatever. They had no clue about the poetic literature, system of values,etc. Odinism to them was just as you say, like satanism. My current interest in anything of the old Norse religion is the literature and of course, the runes!
> In the meantime lets give this guy a good endoff.
Send him to the Asatruar who are *not* white supremecist Odinist whackjobs.
> . I found that most who had a passing interest were into it because it was a vent for their failures in life
This is generally true for *anyone* with a "passing interest" in *any* religion.
> hate for anyone 'not of aryan stock' whatever.
I've yet to see anybody come up with a really good explanation for the attraction of Odinism to the skinheads. The sagas and lore, as I said, have none of that, and quite the contrary. The best explanation is that it's linked to Germany, and the skinheads seem to be of the same stock that gave the world the Nazis. The old Norse would *not* have flipped out at the presense of a Jew or a "blauman" ("blue-man," what they called black sub-Saharan Africans). They would, instead, have been intrigued, and probably would have wanted to make the Viking-with-two-backs with any exotic hotties the visitors had with 'em.*
What's really funny are skinhead Odinists. Being shaved bald was a sign, back in the day, that you were a slave. Freemen had hair. Those who were doing well were able to take care of their hair better'n most, so they tended to have longer hair. So a skinhead Odinist is telling you that he is a loser who can't even groom himself.
*Note: the Vikings would have sailed for months and beaten the crap out of each other for the chance to court the IDF babes...
I've never heard a good explanation myself and I can't come up with one either :-)
> most of them seemed more anti-Christian and anti-Islamic than anti-Jewish.
This makes a measure of sense:
1) The Christians wiped out heathens in large number back in the day. Look up Charlemagne's "Bloody Verdict of Verden" where he reportedly killed thousands of Saxon heathens for refusing to convert. Scandinavia was converted top-down at the point of a sword. This tends to annoy people, and when it comes to religion, annoyances seem to last. Witness how many Christians are still cheesed of at the Jews for "killing Jesus."
2) Interactions between the Norse and the Muslims happened, but there's little record of any real conflict. On the other hand, islam *today* poses a serious threat to heathens and pagan. Telling an Asatruar or an Odinist that his choice is either conversion or death is a good way to get popped in the nose.
3) Jews: except for the whackos, modern Asatru has nothign much to say one way or the other about Jews, anymore than about Buddhists. They pose no threat, and never did.
The Odinists who hate the Jews are really just carrying over Christian anti-semitism into a wholly different religion. This ain't new... witness all the non-Christian things that got imported into Christianity.
These people all claim to be pagans, but you don't see anyone worshiping Jupiter anymore.
> you don't see anyone worshiping Jupiter anymore.
You're not looking hard enough.
Religio Romana, Nova Roma, Movimento Tradizionale Romano.
And yes, the Egyptian, Greek, Slavic and Celtic pantheons have established worshippers as well. Even the old paganism of Canaan has followers.
To each their own.
"but you don't see anyone worshiping Jupiter anymore."
Doesn't Jupiter mean great father? I know "piter" in Jupiter means father... that element of paganism in found in Abrahamic faiths too. "Ab" in Abraham itself means father. Hmm.
Asatru? Sounds an awful lot loke Ashtorah to me, the one from the Old Testament.
Oh no, not another one!
Oh, I get it. Chuck Colson cannot set up a Christian ministry in the prisons, but they can have Norse gods. Probably chaplains, too, paid for by the taxpayers. Exactly what part of this makes any sense at all?
Like so many other good philosophies, there are people too stupid, or too twisted, to follow it. Muslims have their Islamic fascists, Christians have their Westboro Baptists, and it looks like the Asatruar are stuck with knuckle draggin neaderthals without the brain power equal to a mouses fart.
We already have a well extablished bunch of Born Again Pagans in our Government at all levels. They are easy to recognize as GovernMental EnvironMentalists and you will be complelled to comply with their every wish or suffer the consequenses!!!
Actually the vast majority of the Germanic heathens, whether the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England, the Germanic tribes on the continent, or last of all the Scandinavian nations, were converted through the efforts of missionaries. The heathen Anglo-Saxons of Britain were converted from their worship of Woden/Odin, Thunor/Thor, Tiw, Freya et al. largely through the directing efforts of pope Gregory, who sent Augustine of Canterbury together with many monks to Britain to preach the Word of God to the Anglo-Saxon race. Although the mission lost heart at one point at the prospect of facing the fierce barbarians, encouragement from Gregory persuaded the mission to go on and ultimately Aethelbert, King of Kent, gave them a dwelling-place and food at Canterbury, and allowed them to freely preach the Word. After a long period (with some reverses) Christianity eventually took hold throughout Anglo-Saxon Britain, and the Anglo-Saxons in turn sent monk missionaries such as Willibrord (a Northumbrian) and Boniface (a West Saxon) to the continent, first to Frisia, then Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria and elsewhere. It was through the foundation of monasteries that Christianity was ultimately established in Frisia and central and western Germany. Yes, it is true at a later point in time Charlemagne pursued military campaigns against the heathen Saxons and defeated them in a battle in 782, the survivors of which were forcibly converted. But that was not how the bulk of the Germanic/Norse heathens became Christians. And of course later, missions from England and Hamburg-Bremen were key to establishing Christianity among the Scandinavians, first among the Danes in the last third of the tenth century, Norway in the first third of the eleventh century, and Sweden much later.
Yes, there was a top-down aspect to the conversion, as the missionaries focused their preaching on the leaders, but the idea that the bulk of the heathen Germanic/Norse nations were converted through violence is rubbish, although you certainly do a good job of repeating the politically-correct version of history that one might take away from watching Hollywood movies.
The top down aspect you refer to had many executions attached to it. Good work on the timeline, and I'll even give you that many of the missionaries may not have intended the kings and local rulers do so much killing, but the idea it was voluntary is incorrect in far too many cases to be a coincidence.
Islam is the most violent pagan belief system the world has ever seen.
> the idea it was voluntary is incorrect in far too many cases to be a coincidence.
Indeed. King Olaf Tryggvasson and St. Olaf, for instance, brutally tortured and killed many of the old faith in their quest to Christianize Norway. Iceland Christianized about the year 1000 as a way to stop the fighting between the pagans and the Christians... the means of conversion being that everybody voted on which religion the island should be, the Christians won the vote and the pagans converted. One wonders who well that woudl work in an area where Muslim population had suddenly exploded and equalled the local Christian population, and they had been causing lots of trouble...
> the (admittedly small) group of Asatruar I know personally, including myself, view the Israelis with respect.
I've known more than a few didicated Asatruar who, sadly, being of the Leftist persuasion, can't get past the "Israelies are oppressing the poor Palestinians" talking points. Asatruar lean far more to the political right than, say Wiccans, but Leftist idiocy can infect any religious group.
> I find the practice of specifically targetting inmates for conversion generally repulsive
Indeed. For a religion like Christianity or Islam, where evangelizing is important, preaching to people who have nothing better to do with their time than listen makes a measure of sense. But for a religion like Asatru, which has no evangelical motive, there's no sense in it. It seems like intentionally persuing bad press.
Shall we descend into litanies of who killed who? I *know* you don't want us to be posting from the Roman martyrology. Or maybe snippets from the North American martyrs?
You will find
a) that it was the state and not the Church who was behind most of these persecutions of pagans (note that you mentioned King Olaf and the Emperor Charlemagne--not Pope, not bishop.) Blaming the Church for them makes about as much sense as blaming the Church for abortion today.
b) things like sorcery, atheism, and not participating in the state cult were capital crimes in many pagan cultures. Plato was killed as an atheist by pagans. The Christians were killed as atheists by pagans. The Jesuits were killed as sorcerors by pagans. Handsome Lake, the pagan Seneca prophet, killed witches.
The essential problem with paganism always has been and always will be that anyone can make it anything they want. There is no creed, there is only picking and choosing deities and aspects of deities that one likes.
It encompasses everything from lofty Platonism and Brahmanism to the wickedest, basest cults of sexual degeneracy and bloodlust. So you may very well not *like* the freakish sort of Asatruar, but what position are you to judge it? I find it somewhat odd that you are judging paganism by Christianity's moral standards.
de civitate Dei contra paganos
Hmmmmm.....where have I heard that before?
> You anti-Christians....
Took you two weeks to come up that? You anti-non-Christians sure are amusing.
you are hitting them out of the park tonight!