Athelstan’s death really changed the Viking story. He had been the kind of guy Ragnar could talk to about his performance insecurities knowing he wouldn’t be laughed at not to mention he could guide the Vikings through wealthy territories just ripe for some loot and plunder. Athletstan’s death at the hands of Floki was viewed by some to be him dabbling in villain territory reserved for the likes of King Ecbert but let me explain why everyone in the community should instead be buying Floki a pint of their finest ale.
Athelstan Never Fully Accepted the Norse Gods
When Athelstan was informed that he would be sacrificed to the Norse gods he instinctively clutched his cross demonstrating that Jesus was still the one he turned to when frightened not to mention he was wearing a cross at a Norse place of worship. When questioned by the high priests about his faith he did say that he had rejected Christian teachings but when put to the test he showed it was a lie. The Vikings had already acknowledged Athelstan as one of their own and although the way he came to live with them was far from ideal it could have gone a lot worse.
Given that Athelstan had demonstrated he was no longer fully with them then clearly there was only one other side to be with; the Christians. Floki knows of the attack on the Wessex camp. He was definitely justified in his anger against them and with a Christian King reneging on his word, it might not have been the best of times for Athelstan to throw his Viking ring and test their freedom of worship rules. Athelstan had also become a friend of King Ecbert, providing him with historical information about the Romans and rediscovered his faith. He was not going to stay with the Vikings for long meaning all his knowledge about them could be used against them.
He Was Influencing Ragnar
When Ragnar was an up-and-coming farmer Rollo was the one who had his back. When the reigning Earl Haraldson attacked Ragnar’s home it was Floki who hid him and kept him safe. Floki was also the one who agreed to build Ragnar a boat when Earl Haraldson had refused them raiding the West. In the Kattegat community he was one of the smartest people there was until Athelstan came and pushed him to third wheel position. With Athelstan around Ragnar would always have wanted to dialogue with the Christians. If push came to shove he like Khal Drogo might have even killed one of his own followers just to appease his favorite foreigner.
The Christians Would Have Done Worse
The Vikings might loot holy places and mock the Christian God but at least they acknowledged they were gods. That Athelstan even lived with them while a priest is a sign that they were the more tolerant group as long as their gods were not insulted. In contrast, Athelstan a former monk returns from borderline captivity and the reigning bishop thinks it best to crucify him. Christian preachers were walking door to door telling people that their gods were fake. Dealing with such people and knowing that on of yours is walking away to become that leaves room for only one option, an axe to the neck. As for the consequences, sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.