The charges of racism and Antisemitism are not new, nor entirely unfounded. Many members of the white religious population claim to be followers of Odin, Woden or Wotan and believe he is the true god of the white race, whatever that mean. Germany’s Nationalist Socialist Party used this imagery to bolster the image of a mythic Germany that never existed. (Yes, the German tribes, including the Angles and the Saxons, worshiped the Norse pantheon before their conversion to Christianity. Check the English weekday names if you don’t believe me.) Even though I know it’s not the case for most people who claim to be Asatru, I could never entirely overcome this connection. Odinism, as it is called, is distinct from Asatru, because most followers are hard polytheists and not overt racists. There have been attempts to combat this notion, including a story called “Asatru and the KKK.” I suffer from racial prejudices. All humans do. It doesn’t make me unique or special. It just makes me ashamed of myself and my species.
Racism and Antisemitism are good reasons to not want to be associated with any group, but the warrior culture is also problematic. It is hard not to get the impression that some of these people are simply finding a way to do a live-action version of Dungeons and Dragons that comes complete with carrying ceremonial weapons. (I am not talking about the Mjolinir pendants many adherents wear. I have no problem with an innocuous symbol.) However, only one of the warrior gods was worshiped heavily by most of the people, and he also happened to be the god of thunder, and in charge of various other types of weather. It seems that focusing on one tiny part of a pantheon in a religion that is attempting to reconstruct the original worship of these gods should focus on all aspects of their worship. Even the most militant religions are not dedicated to fighting all the time.
Focusing on war also misses the point of the mythologies. If you see life as a struggle against a series of elements, the conflict of the Aesir and the Vanir against the giants serves as a metaphor for constantly having to fight against the forces of nature for survival. Ultimately, this battle, like the struggle of the gods, ends. The gods losing at Ragnarok, the ultimate battle, is a metaphor for death.
As annoying as the other two aspects are, they are not what bothers me the most. The lack of spirituality is disturbing. Like many of their counterparts in other religion, the adherents confuse spirituality for religion. Most Asatru do not suffer from a lack of religiosity. They offer mead, milk and other beverages or foods to the gods on a regular basis. They pray and go through the appropriate rituals. Rituals may be important, but they do not give a person the subtle power that Lao Tzu talks about in the Dao De Jing. I do not have a good definition of spirituality, but I know it when I feel it. Spirituality runs through the original Star Wars trilogy. It can be found in parts of the Matrix. Elektra, considered to be one of the worst Marvel movies since Howard the Duck, was very spiritual. Movies like Noah, Left Behind, and Fireproof are great examples of fantasy and sci-fi movies with religiosity that do not contain an ounce of spirituality. If I follow a religion, I want to be a better person because I follow its tenets. I also want the feeling of subtle, mysterious power that makes everyday life easier.
Practicing Heathens are able to counter every one of my objections easily. A reader needs to understand that these are only my objections to adopting a specific religious label. I may find out that something else is more appropriate for me, but I've also decided it isn't that important right now.