Friday, 22 May 2009

My Kinda Theocracy

98% of Greeks are baptised Orthodox and there is no separation of the Church and state. Whilst the neo-liberal press from London to Athens is separated by many miles of land and sea, they are united by the cliche that the 'Ayatollah of Athens'* was anti-democratic because... he rallied people to oppose their government's anti-democratic measures.

Britain regards the words 'secularism' and 'democracy' as articles of faith. Yet I do not think that 'atheist' and 'secular' are cognates.

In Britain faith is seen by many dangerous and stupid people (like Appalling Cliches Grayling) as a force stopping us from reaching a golden age. If the last people stopped going to Britain's empty Churches, then millions of Brits would exchange 'Big Brother' and 'Britain's Got Talent' for stethoscopes and Milton. If this view is not religious, then I do not know what is. Grayling is far more 'religious' than I am. I do not have great hopes for any utopia, many of my friends are atheists as is one of my favourite journalists. Still, I dislike the smugness of atheist discourse in British society.

It seems to me that as with so much else, this is one of those odd areas where Britain's cultural obsession with the USA highlights how different we are. People in Britain can only really discuss faith within the paradigm of fundamentalist Christianity. Whereas I have found that the Apostolic Church in Greece was actually a profoundly democratic institution precisely because it gave people an alternative voice to 'elected' politicians.

Electing a politician is like playing darts blindfolded, we have no guarantees that they will do what we tell them to. It seems that as Gordon Brown's career comes to a pitiful end, he will take our nationalised Post Office with him... despite being a 'Labour' PM. Furthermore Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats unanimously decided that Saakashvilli should be rewarded for sparking a war with Russia. What a choice at the polling booth.

Yet people in Britain are biased against faith, which they see as opposed to Democracy, because our media can only give them stories about American Protestantism. I certainly share their dislike for the demented Falwell/ Robertson types, but I think by forgetting the Christian faith in the Apophatic tradition, they are missing out on a force that can be very good for society.

The Greeks are possibly even more devout than the Americans. Yet there I found attractive, intelligent young people who drank sensibly and sunbathed. They were very far from puritanical and were generally more capable of interesting conversation than most of my compatriots.

Furthermore, the Orthodox Church in Greece is a force for patriotism and democracy, not because it supports the political consensus but because it opposes it. The Priesthood are against the CCTV campaign in Athens. I wish that we also had a national Church that curbed the strange dictatorship known as a 'two party democracy'.

*Said Ayatollah did not hang anyone from cranes or impose theocratic law, but believed in God and wore black. So he was kind of Ayatollah-ish.

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