Europe and freedom of religion

Europe and freedom of religion


Maria Alvanou, Criminologist


We live in a Europe that manifests more and more its secular character. Secularism is seen as the alternative to theocracy (that exists as political form of governance in some Islamic countries), as a historical result of the Enlightenment and as an answer to the current challenge of multiculturalism due to immigration. Secularism should ensure freedom of religion, meaning the right of people to believe freely in any God (or no God), practice their faith without obstacles and not be in any way discriminated by the state because of religion or lack of it. On the contrary, contemporary European secularism has been turned into a campaign for freedom from religion: European states and their citizens should have nothing to do with God, faith, religious principles and symbols. God should be banished from official life and be confined into the private (even secret) sphere of someone’s individual activities.

If theocracy is oppressive because religious authorities govern according to their interpretation of God’s will imposing it to everyone, so is a system that is governing imposing involuntary atheism. 70 years of communist totalitarian regimes declaring atheism and not allowing people to practice their faith should have taught us better. In addition, Enlightenment gave humanity the chance to experiment and trust scientific knowledge, but this should not lead to societies that accept only science, what is materially evident and can be proved solely by currently available scientific means, leaving no room for spirituality. Adding to Einstein’s quote, not all things that count can be counted, or measured and proven inside science labs. Last but not least, a society cannot enjoy peace by closing its eyes to the cultural and religious affiliations of its inhabitants, but by embracing them and conducting an ongoing fruitful and constructive dialogue.

The secular approach many European countries have adopted has led to problems. People have been suspended from work or fired because they were wearing a cross, or they are obliged to hide their cross inside the work environment. The same difficulties face believers in other religions too. Generally, people of faith are often portrayed in the media as narrow minded, as resisting progress and science. In some European countries the “anti-God” policy has been fertile ground for outbreaks of violence against believers. Though it seems that victims of such violence are mostly members of other religious communities, this is an issue that regards Christians too. First of all because human beings are been victimized and this is not acceptable, and secondly because along with Muslims and Jews, it could soon be the time for Christians.

There have been initiatives to respond to this problematic situation. Such initiatives are important to help European citizens realize the problem, measure it and get active to respond lawfully.





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Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.