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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Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.