To Oath or Not to Oath


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.




  1. Jim Hondroulis on

    Dear Sir,
    I’m really surprised to read your article in support of not talking the oath and the rest of your comments.
    I would only suggest to you, for commercial reasons only, you retract your article. As you stated in your in your article, times do change. Times do change yes, however because of the church the children that are born here are still Greeks. There’s nothing else that connects them to their roots. Don’t forget they are the ones who read your posts.
    The next post, I assume, you will tell us that we don’t need the churches.
    Because it’s politically correct!!!
    That sir was not too smart on your part.
    You have every right to print what ever you want.
    Just an advise from a businessman.
    James Hondroulis
    Miami, Florida

    • Lefteris Loukisas on

      Dear Mr. Hondrouli,

      Religion has no business with the state. End of story. Now if you, as a Greek immigrant need religious traditions to feel “connected”, it is your right, but that’s about it. If greek-american offspring want to feel “connected” to something it should be the here and now, most of them have never been to Greece and when they do, they expect a distorted Greece of the 70s at best. Greece has changed (I can assure you, living in Athens and all) and you sir quit the right of an opinion of its choices when you skipped the boat and went around the world for your own prosperity.

      Maybe a bit harsh on my part, but it’s the truth.

      All the best,


    • ‘because of the church the children that are born here are still Greeks.”

      No, because of the church American born children of Greek ancestry are Christians. How many second and third generation Greek Americans can speak Greek? A small minority. How many have ever read a book by Kazantzakis or another Greek author? A small minority. How many visit Greece regularly, say every five years? A small minority.

      I know countless Greek Americans who go to church regularly and who know less about the country and it’s people than the average educated non-Greek American.

  2. There are some who believe that the connection church and state have in Greece benefits the state more than the church. Also, at least he is not a hypocrite. Eleftherios Venizelos was a secularist and his friendship and dealings with Meletios Metaxakis had lasting effects on the Church, even here in the US. the dictators Metaxas and Papadopoulos used the church for their own ends. At least Tsipras was elected by the people and he very nicely dealt with the issue before the fact.

  3. Unfortunately not all Greeks knew that he was an atheist and those were the people who were shocked.
    As far as separation of church and state are concerned, I am all for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is an atheist in office. This may mean something different to everyone. To me, it means there is a person in office who has no moral guide, and this makes me nervous. I know what my morals are and try to adhere to them, what is Alexis’ measuring stick? When does he know that he has gone too far? Or is there no going too far…..? This is a new inexperienced leader whom we truly know nothing about. He is Greek, but he is very different from the Greeks he represents because of his lack of belief in a higher power. He will be called upon to take part in religious ceremonial affairs…..will he refuse those too? Is he a proper role model for our children? I guess a role model is asking too much at this point. Anyone to get this country out of this mess. I, like many other Greeks fear the days ahead, but we all need to put all of that aside and hope that Tsipras in fact turns out to be Greece’s saving grace. A leader that will bring reform, growth and prosperity. I did not add hope, because he already gave people hope, that is why he was elected.

    • Antonia, how narrow-minded of you to believe that people need a religious text to have “moral guide”. The long list of Orthodox Christians who have lead this country since the Junta have had morals you were pleased with? The cronyism, corruption, greed, infidelity, and outright theft they committed during their time in power is the reason why we are in this position now. Look at a man like Bill Gates. Doesn’t believe n a god, and is one of the most morally upstanding men n the world, donating his billions to help the poor all over the world. Open your mind to see that religion does not equal good, and that the millions of atheists in the world are overwhelmingly some of the most caring and morally upright people you will find. Meanwhile the Catholic church continues to hide its child molesters – just one of dozens of immoral acts perpetrated by religious organizations in the modern world.

  4. As a student of Orthodox Church history and practice, it has never been the Church’s desire nor intent to have someone swear a false oath, to include the hypocracy of swearing an oath to a God in whom one does not believe. While, over time, and in some instances, due to human frailty, such has happened or been expected, it is not true Orthopraxis. Mr. Tsipras showed respect for the Archbishop and that respect was returned. Mr. Tsipras publicly expressed his appreciation for and thanks for all the good works of the Church, as well as his hope that it can still be depended upon. The Archbishop assured him that his hopes will be realized. Thus, two men committed themselves to the good of Greece and the Greek people without compromizing their religious beliefs or lack thereof. A far more honorable situation than has been displayed where non-believers make a religious oath simply to meet a secular or personal objective, trivializing the God than others worship and glorify.

  5. Christine Bulucos on

    Dear Sir,

    Just because the world is changing, God is not, and just because someone does not believe in Him, does not mean He is not. I do not feel it is correct to do away with such an important tradition that puts public leaders under the authority of God to the service of the people.

  6. Another attempt to destroy an Orthodox country by the bed with Israel & Obama. Tsipras’s is the next “puppet” put into place for a bigger worldwide agenda. We should join with Russian and be proud of our Orthodox truth. Orthodox Christianity is the BACKBONE of every Greek martyr who lived with character, courage, and sacrifice. Where else do you think we learned to live this way?

  7. I live abroad (first generation) and I’m delighted to hear that Tsipras is both an atheist and open about it.
    It really makes me feel hopeful about Greece’s future! It’s a wondrous thing to have a politician actually be honest about his personal beliefs instead of pandering and lying to appeal to those who cannot see past their own dogmatic ideas.

  8. It is wrong to equate Greekness with any religion. Greeks made enormous progress before Christianity arrived, which sucked all the ingenuity and creative and critical thought from the public mind. One can be full Greek in all sense of the word and be an atheist, a Christian or Jew or any religion or non religion he/she chooses. Holding religion on par with Greekness is backwards and primitive. It’s also very dangerous (Yugoslavia)

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