A lot of people— especially my compatriots in the United States— are still talking about the newly elected Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ decision NOT to follow tradition and conduct a Greek Orthodox swearing in of his new government. It is well-known to his electorate and the people of Greece that Tsipras is an atheist.
I’m a firm believer of separation of church and state— even in a country like Greece where religion has played such an inexorable role in daily life. Even in a country like Greece where priests salaries are covered by the government and where millions of school children— regardless of their own personal religious affiliation— are forced to take Greek Orthodox religion courses in public school.
I am fully aware of the role of the church in Greece’s history and respect the institution, its work and history and it’s efforts throughout history to maintain Greek language, traditions and culture— especially in trying times like the 400 years of Turkish enslavement.
But times have changed and Greece has changed. The world has changed— and Greece must change too. No disrespect to the church, its hierarchs, its history or its role in Greek society is intended but I stand by Tsipras’ decision to allow his government ministers to choose for themselves if they preferred a religious or civil oath.
Out of respect for tradition and the Church’s role in Greek society, he invited the Greek Orthodox Archbishop to assume a position of respect at the ceremony and decided, that for his own personal oath, that he preferred a civil one, rather than one on the Christian Bible.
After all, wouldn’t it be hypocrisy if he had stood there and placed his hand on a book whose teachings he doesn’t follow?
I can only think of all of the Greek government ministers and parliamentarians before him during the past 40 years— so many— placing their own hands on the Bible and taking an Orthodox Christian oath… only to pursue the most anti-Christian actions like lying, stealing, infidelity— that led Greece to the position she is in today.
Now if Tsipras’ atheism is your problem, well that is a whole other conversation that you need to have with yourself about your own tolerance towards other people who share different beliefs.