New thesis on radical nationalism and religion

16 September 2022

Religious symbols: star, cross and half-moon

According to the thesis, the Sweden Democrats see Islam as a threat and believe that Christianity should have a special status. The Nordic Resistance Movement is characterised by anti-Semitic thinking

A new thesis from Uppsala University shows that religion has become important for Swedish radical nationalists. Historian of religion Tomas Poletti Lundström has analysed how the Sweden Democrats and the Nordic Resistance Movement, among others, have used the concept of religion.

The word religion appears far more often in the Sweden Democrats' own magazine than in a database of all Swedish-language text on the Internet. At the same time, the word religion has become more common in Sweden Democrats' texts over time.

“'Religion' can be said to have sometimes taken the place of the words 'race' and 'culture' in these circles,” says Tomas Poletti Lundström.

Swedish radical nationalists

In his thesis, he analyses the Swedish radical nationalists as part of a shared political landscape with certain differences in emphasis. The Sweden Democrats and the Nordic Resistance Movement are two of the actors compared in the study.

Tomas Poletti Lundström
Tomas Poletti Lundström recently publicly defended
his doctoral thesis in the history of religion.
Phioto: Gustaf Elfstrand

“Leading Sweden Democrats were present when the organisation now known as the Nordic Resistance Movement was formed, so there is a connection between them. The Sweden Democrats supported the organisation financially when it was founded, albeit with small sums.”

The Sweden Democrats and the Nordic Resistance often differ in their views on religion. Common to both has been an interest in what is usually called Old Norse religion. For the Sweden Democrats, Islam is seen as a significant threat and Christianity as a religion entitled to a special status in Sweden. The Nordic Resistance is entirely characterised by anti-Semitic thinking, which means that they are relatively uninterested in Islam and furthermore repeatedly regard Christianity as a "religion of weakness".

Exclusion mechanism

For Swedish radical nationalists, the concept of religion repeatedly functions as an exclusion mechanism directed against groups that are assumed to be superstitious, conspiratorial, fanatical or divisive. But the concept of religion also enables notions of a "We", expressed through ideas of a collective subconscious that has transmitted ancient values from both Old Norse religion and Christianity to modern Swedes. The concept of religion thus underlines differences between those whom Swedish radical nationalists perceive as "Us" and those considered "Others".