Spotlighting Atheism in Greece

Since Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophy, as well as the home of some of history’s first freethinkers, it seems only fitting that it should have a lively atheist movement. And what do you know, it does! (HT: EvanT of On the Way to Ithaca)

This is a Greek version of the song “Godless and Free”, written and performed by a member of the Atheist Union of Greece (they also have a forum and a blog, for native speakers). I’m told the lyrics can be translated as follows:

You believe in a god that your parents taught you.
But tell me, have you taken the time to think it through?
You were told about it by the school, the state and your dad,
you know everything by heart and mindlessly bow down.

Without a god, without a god,
Deny the doctrines and wonder if it’s right,
A book of old with infallible holy words
Search and screw them and all their teachings
Without a god

They told you that you should wait for a second life
And for now to submit to their divine commands
But I’m telling you not to believe to their Santa Claus
And not to pay attention to what comes out of their mouths.

Without a god, without a god,
Live your life, break your silence without hesitation,
You have but a single life, make a difference with it
Just one chance, no more games,

Without a god,
Without a god,

Ask for evidence and not for suggestions, say “no more”
Look a bit into religion, its role in society,
Look into its rotting flesh, walk out and speak up!
Without a god

And if they put forward their morality,
Then ask “what does hell have to do with it?”
Look into your own humanity
and wonder if that’s a thing you’d do.

And if the say “don’t take the chance,
If you’re wrong, you know where you’ll end up”
Laught and say what it will become of them
If the god that exists is in fact Thor.

Without a god, without a god
Use reason as your principle every minute,
There are so many superstitions, biases and religions,
All of them artificial and thought-up
Without a god.

Some may be new, but they’re all devious,
Without a god.

Let go of myths and pay attention to the lyrics
Live life with passion, there’s nothing wrong about that,
Use your mind, judge by yourself
Without a god!

Unfortunately, despite Greece’s illustrious intellectual history, the modern state is dominated by the Greek Orthodox church, which enjoys official government endorsement and favor. There’s no constitutional provision for separating church and state; the church is exempt from taxation, Orthodox priests’ salaries and pensions are paid by the state, and religious education is compulsory in public schools at all grade levels. It was only a few years ago that students were allowed to opt out at all (except for Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who’ve had the right to opt out since the 1980s).

Given all the financial troubles Greece is having, now would be an excellent time for the government to cut the church loose from state support and consider ending its tax exemption. In the past six months, the Atheist Union of Greece has been organizing demonstrations outside temples in Athens and Thessaloniki to push this proposal, as well as to call for greater separation of church and state in the school system. They’ve also been busy informing Greek citizens of their rights: that students can opt out of religious education, and that parents don’t have to baptize their children in an Orthodox church to get a birth certificate (something that most Greeks don’t know, according to my correspondent).

Although official statistics show that Greece is overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian, that may only be because of another legal privilege accorded to the church: those numbers are obtained by counting baptismal records, which, as already mentioned, the vast majority of people have whether they actively belong to the church or not. Until the Greek atheist movement has had time to get its message out, there’s no telling how many sympathizers they may have. If you’re a freethinker living in Greece, why not contact them and stand up and be counted?

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  • toomanytribbles

    i can’t tell you how many times, when i’ve stated i’m an atheist, i’ve been asked what religion my ID card says i am, as if it knows me better than i do.

    until recently, greek ID cards included a field for religion, which was filled out for you, if you had been baptized as an infant.

    we’re organizing. we’ll get there.

  • Katie M

    Wonderful-they’re the intellectual descendants of Democritus :D

    “Nothing exists except atoms and the void-all else is merely human thought.”

  • toomanytribbles

    if only wisdom could be inherited — unfortunately, it’s a matter of perpetual education.

  • EvanT

    …parents don’t have to baptize their children in an Orthodox church to get a birth certificate…

    Actually, this should be “parents don’t have to baptize their children in an Orthodox church to name their child”. I know it’s odd for american standards, but children in Greece are generally not given a name on birth, but only when they’re baptized (at least 40 days after birth). Until they’re baptized, it’s customary for the relatives to call them “baby boy” or “baby girl” and the name entry on the birth certificate remains blank during this time.

    To make matters more ridiculous, especially in the 50s and 60s, sometimes this stuck and there are still 50 and 60-year-old women in Greece called “baby girl” (beba or bebeka) by their friends or relatives (this usually happened when parents took too long to baptize their child).

    This practice can sometimes cause some problems. I recall a few months back that the US government issued a statement saying that they won’t be accepting greek passports of infants reading “unbaptized” in the name entry.

  • J. James

    How utterly bizarre. I can’t even imagine being an Atheist in Greece and just going with this crapola, because it is normal. Go Greek Atheists!

  • Jayson D Cooke

    It is always fascinating to hear what challenges are faced by enlightenment thinkers from different nations and cultures.

    Well done Greek Freethinkers, support for your cause transcends national and irrational boundaries alike!

    Jayson D Cooke
    Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

  • Aorati Melani

    Thanks for the support!

    We have also organized a campaign encouraging citizens to officially erase the reference to their religion (or lack of it) from the registrar. All it takes is a simple declaration. Currently, religion is mentioned in the registrar, but only IF you declare it. Declaration of religion is nos obligatory, bus most people don’t know that, just as they don’t know it is not necessary to baptize their children in order for them to have a name (incredible but true), or that even if you do baptize them for whatever reason, you do NOT have to declare this fact to the state.

    The demonstrations concerning church taxation, however, where not organized by the Atheist Union (which at the time did not yet exist, it came into being in May), but by a facebook group created expressly for this purpose. The members of the group are not all atheists, many christians as well think that the church should pay taxes. The members of the Atheist Not-Yet-Union did indeed participate in the demonstrations, but so did many others (e.g. followers of the Ancient Greek faith, and others).

  • Stephen P

    @EvanT: the Dutch go to the opposite extreme and require you to register the birth of your child within two days. As if you haven’t got enough things to think about in the first two days after a baby is born. Bureaucracy gone mad.

  • paradoctor

    Why So Shy?

    Why, oh why, are the gods so shy?
    They cannot meet a skeptic’s eye.
    How curious a weakness!
    How novel a meekness!
    A query wholly void of snark
    a tiny little question mark
    a doubt, however miniscule
    the slightest hint of ridicule
    shall spur the gods to cease, desist
    and fission into mystic mist.
    O mighty Zeus, oh what’s the use?
    His thunderbolt is out of juice!
    It’s shorted by a lightning rod.
    How strangely droll, how weirdly odd
    that human thought should so collapse
    and squeeze the gods into the gaps!
    So why, oh why, are the gods so shy?
    Why can’t they meet a skeptic’s eye?

  • EvanT

    Does that go like “my oh my” by Aqua? *grin*