Your anger doesn’t matter Alex, it is reasonable and fruitful. Thanks a lot for your participation, because your post is at the heart of the problem that we discuss, making a crucial observation, the most essential thing one should think.
Dear Dionysius, if doctrinal thinking was unacceptable, why did the Ancients convicted Socrates. And Socrates, as you know, is not the only case at all...
I didn’t say that they needed a holy corpus of texts. I said that they had nothing equivalent to a doctrinal corpus to lose by adopting the Old and forming the New Testament.
Let me repeat that I won’t enter in a discussion about details of the Church policy, because it would need a lot of pages and time, and I don’t find it necessary, since the results of whatever happened speak by themselves. Thanks to the Church we even speak Greek today.
You need to study ecclesiastical history, because, if you did it, you would learn that what you call Arians and monophysites, it was members of the Church. Those controversies were not between the Church and some critics (something like a dispute between Voltaire and clerics), they emerged inside the Church, while some emperors were in favor of the heretics. Orthodoxy did not prevail with the power of the emperors; on the contrary, then, as well as during the iconoclastic heresy the Orthodox underwent many sufferings.
Your missing such a studying makes our talk impossible. When you say that there is no enquiry and critical thinking in Christianity, this reveals just ignorance. But if you mean that we should doubt whether Christ is God or not, then you make a logical error. Because this is a faith, not some science to be proved: no one can prove to you ever, that Christ is God. To distinguish between faith and science, is also a scientific demand, not only a demand of faith, you can not violate it without making communication impossible.
I realise that our conversation becomes difficult, and I become somehow offensive, without wanting to. Excuse me, if you want, for getting personal, but I would suggest that you read a little more. This effort precedes public discussion. Maybe others will talk with you, I can’t – but even if they will, it won’t help you unless you study – hard, for a long time... If you speak Greek, start from this text on new hellenism and your picture of history will be strengthened enough to let you avoid at least the hyperbolic distortions.
I 'accidentally' found this discussion on the Orthodox Church and the Neo-pagans, and I must say I was surprised to review some of the arguments advanced here. First of all, I must admit that I am not acquainted with the conflict between the Church and the neopagans at all, but, following Georges' advice, I studied and did some research on the topic so as to post my opinion. I apologize in advance to the Greek members of this forum if I may misinterpret the situation in their beautiful and proud country.
First, we need to understand the role of the Church in Greece. Greece, indeed, is perhaps the sole European Union country without an official separation of Church and State. I do not mean that it is good or bad, but it is a fact unique to Greece. The Greek Orthodox Church has effectively played an important role in keeping "Greekness" alive during the four centuries of ottoman occupation, pretty much like the Roman Church has saved for humanity the Classics of the Ancients during the Dark Ages. Without the Church, much of the Greek culture and traditions would have been irremediably lost. Therefore, when the new Hellenic State broke the chains of Ottoman rule in 1821, it is just reward that the Church gained a prominent role in the new Greek society.
Contrary to most Western European countries, which have abandonned God toward 1900--which such laws as the 1905 Separation of Church and State in France, the Greeks have kept their own system, with Orthodox Christianity being the official religion. Section II of the current Greek constitution ensures the inviolability of the Church. Article 13, however, provides for religious freedom, and gives law the same status toward religion as in other European countries--namely, the law is the rule. It is therefore interesting to note that in Greece, while all religions are in theory free and equal, Orthodoxy enjoys a special status. Consequently, the Neo-Pagans have the lawful right to exercise their religion, as long as they do not attempt to desacralize other religious institutions.
Then, what is the quarreling between Church and Pagans about? Christians--perhaps out of antipathy or just misunderstanding--look down on the Neopagans as "funny" or "comical" actors performing strange and out-of-place rituals (as I can read on a few posts in this forum). The official Church also refuses to accept them. Apparently, if we may believe the victims, oppression is not limited to verbal insults:
"We have experienced threats against the life of individuals who act and speak in public as members of the Ethnic Hellenic community. We have had one of our bookshops burned down. We also had waterfalls of slanders against our Tradition from Church-preachers and from the Church-controlled mass media. We have also (and this is the most outrageous!) seen destruction of pre-Christian monuments and remains of Temples." (http://www.ysee.gr/index-eng.php).
But the Neopagans have their share:
"Just as Christianity has nothing in common with Hellenism, neither do all its ideological offshoots, such as nationalism and fascism. How could a fascist conform to the basic Hellenic Principles of Justice and Tolerance?" (idem).
We see from these two citations that neither Christians nor Neopagans seem willing to discuss with the other. Such discussion would be, though, healthy.
The founder of the "Return of the Hellens" movement, Tryphon Olympios, said that he created the movement as a way to define his Hellenic identity in Europe. This is important and significant, because the "religious" conflict in Greece thus is shifted to a European-wide religio-cultural context. There were other religions before Christianity. One of them, the Hellenic religion, produced philosophers such as Socrates, Plato or Anaxagoras, artists like Praxiteles and Lysippos, or law-givers like Solon, Lykurgos or Cleisthenes. But--and Christians will rightly and with reason point it out--religion must involve belief and faith. Members of Return of the Hellens say that most of them do not ACTUALLY believe in the gods they otherwise worship. Those religious celebrations thus remain at the theatrical level, devoid of any meaning. By doing so Neopagans hurt themselves and the gods they pretend to worship, and therefore hurt Hellenism herself. Religions arise out of a specific socio-philosophico-cultural context of a particular society. Reenacting Hellenic religious rites without any beliefs therefore amounts to little more than our Western medieval reenactment; they are entertaining but not necessarily true.
Nonetheless, the Hellenic revival, as I said above, marks a deeper crisis of identity that affects not only Greece, but Europe. Europe has been Hellenic, then Christian. If it is Christian, does it ought to follow the creed of Rome or of Constantinople, or even of Luther or Calvin? Are we, Europeans, truly complete with only the Christian faith? Is Christianity European, and Europe Christian? The Treaty of Milan of 313 radically changed the face of Europe, both in the East and in the West. Some argue that it made Classical civilization--and hence Hellenism--complete, others claim that it has destroyed it. No matter where the answer lies, it is necessary to understand where we truly stand in History and as Europeans.
In the meantime, there is no need of a "religious" conflict in Greece. The Orthodox Church attracts 95% of the Greek population. Zeus is not a serious threat to God--yet. But if a community of men and women decide to follow the Olympians, they are entitled to do so, provided they do not disrupt public order.
Just a remark on a suggestion you made, that the catholic church preserved the classic letters in the west. As Lemerle says, “Even in Rome, about 600 AD, no one read the Greek Fathers, not even the most illustrious... We can not say that in the West a tradition was kept, even a little, of the Greek language, learning, philology and thought... The Latin world lives centered in itself and its Latin. It receives very few things, even from Byzantium, and it does not give anything whatever.“
The Church in the West kept the classical Latin letters, but the Greek letters were been studied in Byzantium, which is one more reason why modern Greeks are attached to their Church. As Lemerle writes, “Byzantium looked for the ancient works with passion, all the old Greek manuscripts, and copied them in thousands. Byzantium restored the ancient Greek works, the text that we read today. It accomplished this huge work with a noteworthy care, so that to remain as much as possible closer to the initial text, it created a tradition of textual criticism, that continued the alexandrian tradition of the hellenistic era. Without the bibliographical workshops (scriptoria), without the Byzantine transcribers, whose activity surprises us, in what our collection of Greek texts called classical would be confined?“
Besides this, a more interesting subject arrises. What happened in the West that made the Church an object of such an antipathy, to the degree that the whole Western world was fragmented, with the creation of protestant churches, and finally ended to atheism? I think one can guess (even without knowing the details), that even the Latin texts were kept by Catholicism inside such a context, in such a way of the whole life of the Church, that the western peoples in general could not feel any sympathy for the Catholic church. Knowing these and such differences from Catholicism, strengthens modern Greeks’ attachment to their church.
Of course, violent acts against neo-pagans can not be excused, but they are exaggerated, on purpose, as one can easily understand. Most crucial of all is what you yourself don’t fail to recognise. Neo-pagans have no real culture, they are a temporary phenomenon in any case. Even if someone (let’s say) gave them all power to do whatever they may wish to do, they would dissolve by themselves. This is the reason why I’m not interested in them, but only to the problems of the Church in Greece, the problems that make people leave (de facto) their Church and become atheists, neo-pagans or whatever.
Today the Greek and (so far as I know) all Orthodox Churches have received very many (and bad) influences from the West. They don’t admire Augustine or Rilke (as they should), but they adopt the worse elements of the West. You can understand what I mean, if you think of an example.
For 11 centuries Byzantium (not an atheist era...) had not theological schools, not one, while modern Orthodoxy made of faith an object of ‘scientific’ teaching and gives to that teaching the name of Theology, a name that was been kept only for a few saints and fathers – properly speaking, only three of them: St. John (the Evangelist) the Theologian, St. Gregory (Nazianzene) the Theologian and St. Symeon the New Theologian.
If this making of the Christ a ‘scientific’ object is not corruption, then I don’t know what corruption is. It is obvious to me, that we become atheists, even in the East. The speed of the decay is different, but the course is the same. Therefore, the attachment of modern Greeks to their Church, to the degree that it exists, becomes day by day fanaticism rather than true devotion. The next step is the complete abandonment of faith.
Thank you for this important remark. It is something I indeed omitted to mention, but it has its importance. The separation of the West and the East started long before the schism of 1054, and can be traced as far back as the division of the Empire, and even to the conquest of Greece by Rome.
As far as the antipathy of the West for her own Church, there seems to be an explanation that lies in the socio-historico-cultural specificities of each side of the Empire. As you know, the Western empire has had a fate different from that of the Eastern. John H. Randall, in "The Making of the Modern Mind," said that the conditions created by the structure ended up outgrowing, and eventually destroying, the structure. In other words, Western Chrisitanity created the conditions of its own destruction. but it also means, on the other hand, that we still live in the world born with the monastic orders, the Papacy and the great cathedrals. This world, however, has grown, matured and changed, and now started to decay. The Roman Church, through monasticism particularly, has sowed the seeds of scientism and mechanism, where all parts are strictly regulated. Those seeds were later to grow the harvest of modern science (which thus owes as much from the Ancient Hellens as mediaeval monasticism) which will conflict and ultimately triumph over the religious faith of the Church of Rome, its very sower. But there is a second political cause to this separation. The Latin Church became, in the 13th century, a political as well as a spiritual entity,pretending to rule over all of Christendom (including Byzatium if possible). This interest of the Papacy to organize a Pan-European Superstate (for it was such, where canon law would be the supreme law over all other royal laws) obviously conflicted with the interests of the monarchs of Western Christendom, who selfishly prefered to strengthen their own holdings than following a remote religious cause. If the Papcy scored the first victories (the coronation of Charlemagne, the humiliation of Henry of Germany in front of Pope Gregory, the Crusades), the monarchs eventually were the victors. The bitter conflict in Italy between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines, in which Dante and Petrarch's father were exiled, summarizes all the tensions between the two powers, the one spiritual and idealist, the other secular and realist. If a power supported the Papacy, it was often to secure that power's own agenda, and not as an idealist and selfless act. These conditions never existed in the Byzantine empire. Not only was the State the head, but both Church and State found a mutual interest in supporting each other. No such problems have been reported in the East, or they remained insignificant enough. But had there been problems anyway, this would have been solved by the end of the Empire and the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. Then the Church in Greece went into hiding, and other patriarchates (Russia, etc.) were too young to pretend playing as powerful a role. At the same time Byzantium died, the Western States won the war over the Papcy. The Papacy had been weakened by its own ambitions, that of being a political and secular power. The Great Schism, the Popes of Avignon, the failure of the Crusades, and perhaps not the least, the new merchant society that was beginning to emerge, were a lethal blow to the proud and powerful Church of Rome. The end of the Middle-Ages in Western Europe correlates with the gradual disintegration of Western Europe into hostile and warring nation-states, pursuing material and commercial gains endleslly. The Latin Church had at least tried, and succeeded to a certain extent in the 13th century, to maintain European unity through faith in Christ. The failure of the Church marks the beginning of a downward spiritual movement, leading to the two World Wars.
Those two reasons are perhaps the main causes of the Western alienation to their Church. As I said above, those conditions did not exist in the East, therefore this is why the Church there is still influent. But--and I trust your word, living in Greece--even there the Church's influence is starting to decline. What are the causes? Perhaps they are not too disimilar than the ones that led to the fall of the Latin Church: economic ambitions, faith in science, etc. It might take a shorter period of time, and may be different in form, but one thing is clear: the Orthodox Church of Greece will have to adapt to a changing situation, and cooperate with the Roman Catholic Church. If both Churches want to unite Europe through a common faith, they will first have to (re)unite their own creeds.
I will come back tomorrow on the original topic of the discussion: the Neo-Pagans in Greece.
I have to agree with George and his assessment of the Greek language and (Greek) Orthodox faith. As a Latin-rite Christian I find myself more isolated year by year. Even talking about Latin mass, I have encountered sneers and comments of being anachronistic or an alright reactionary.
I see Christianity not just as a 'personal' religion, but also as my culture. This is the reason why find appeal in the Hellenic tenacity to hold on to tradition, i.e. not just tradition, but the joining of faith and culture.