The Medieval Environment
In Modern Greece
[name withheld]

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "[name withheld]"
Subject: Re: Greece
Date: Sunday, September 17, 2000 4:27 PM

A correspondent from Iran told me that he estimates that fully 40 percent of his fellow Iranians are flat-out atheists, but would never admit this publicly. (He's probably thinking only of the men, but this is still a very large fraction, and the private views of women in a society that so completely represses women could conceivably be much higher.) Unfortunately, even with numbers this high, Iran is held up as the supreme example of what is wrong when religion rules the government. In other words, they have been unable to shake this tyranny.

The Norwegian Heathen Society whose goals are "contribute to the reduction of the overwhelming strength the church and christianity have in Norway, with its exceptional position in Norwegian laws, school and culture," points out that only one in five Norwegians call themselves Christian but that most refuse to resign from the state church established by King Olav a thousand years ago. Norway differs from Iran in that even though the church is established, its function has been marginalized by the people to the extent that it is an empty institution.

My question to you is, what do you think are the private views of the Greek citizenship, as opposed to the coerced public statements and the Church roster? Are the ethnic and class roles of Greek culture defined by church affiliation? and are ethnic and class struggles still dangerous enough that solidarity (even if it means church membership) is crucial to the health of the nation? And could this nationalistic spirit (assuming the people think it is necessary) take some other form besides religion? Or, are atheists in Greece, like the atheists in the United States during the Cold War, seen as Communists or some other pariah? (Please understand that these are general questions I have raised, but that I am ignorant of the situation in Greece, so I am raising these questions in a general way as examples of questions that you might want to raise amongst yourselves as an organized movement. I apologize in advance if some of my questions have missed the mark of the situation in Greece.)

Another question would be, how destructive would it be to individuals who decided to form a secular society designed to oppose what U.S. founder and French Revolution advocate Thomas Paine called "the adulterous connection of church and state" and to work to establish the dignity of those who are not members of the state church or who wish to openly engage in freethought?

We get letters from all over Europe from people who sympathize with the plight of Americans, due to the very powerful move to annihilate our Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion and freedom from religion. While many European nations -- even those with an officially established church -- put the United States to shame when it comes to putting the notion of the secular state into practice, I do realize that this is not the situation all over Europe. I've never been to Europe, so I can only take these people's word for it as to what the situation is like. I do, however, suspect that we have only heard from those who have been able at least to marginalize the state church in its effect and in practice, if not by law and by statute. (America is the reverse of this: we have separation in the First Amendment of our Constitution, but that's where separation ends; in practice, the Christian religions have free run of our government.)

Your letter shows that there is still much work to do even in Europe. I would hope that you and a few of your comrades will begin discussions as to what action you can take to solve this problem. If you would like to take my general ideas here and apply them to your situation, and then re-phrase my questions or formulate pointed questions that need to be raised within an effective secularist movement, we would be happy to serve as a forum for the beginnings of such discussions.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "[name withheld]"
Subject: Re: Greece
Date: Wednesday, September 20, 2000 7:26 PM

I just finished typesetting the feature article for the September magazine, and he talks about the quest for the Historical Jesus as being a way to win "Jesus" over to one's side, by portraying this or that version of "Jesus" to suit one's sociological or political needs.

Meanwhile, both the Democratic and Republican parties this election year have co-opted "Jesus" as virtual running mates -- though both "Jesuses" differ drastically in their moral outlooks!

Could this whole picture be about something other than religion?

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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