Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, an atheist, thinks the Orthodox Church will support his proposal to introduce “religious neutrality” to the struggling country.
Tsipras has already been blamed for wildfires in Athens due to his godlessness, but now he’s stepping into the line of fire on the frontlines of the battle of global secularization. He seems to believe the Church will willingly give up its power — a belief that would never gain much traction in the United States.
“Church and state have the maturity, the wisdom and the sensitivity to put their relations on a rational basis,” he told a meeting of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group, adding that it is time to enshrine the religious neutrality of the Greek state in the country’s Constitution.
He did not elaborate on what form these relations would take.
Tsipras may be a bit naïve to think that any Church will willingly relinquish its established privileges, but he’s right that it’s time for Greece to adopt real religious neutrality. It shouldn’t be part of the government’s job to pick a religion or to give special terms to certain allegedly “divine” groups.
Many religious Greeks were undoubtedly nervous with the election of Tsipras, who refused a religious oath that is tradition in the Greek Orthodox country, because they thought he would be a radical atheist who would attack everyone’s faith. It turns out, however, his main goal in that respect is to bring reasonable policies to a country that needs them.
Tsipras also proposed a proportional electoral system, and a rule that would require the prime minister to be an elected lawmaker, but his best idea is one that is tested by time: separating the Church from the government. It’s been said before, but that separation is good for religion and government. Let’s hope Church leaders understand that.
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