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How did you become non-religious?

May 30 2007
How does a Greek become atheist

Well, I did not convert, consciously, I believe I was naturally an atheist and came to realize it as a teenager. Even though I grew up in a very non-secular society, where church and state are tied up so closely as social powers they may as well be considered a married couple. They also act as one in all aspects that entail married life ;)

Following Greek family tradition though, they will maintain this dysfunctional family structure and will refuse to separate. (Greece, the STATE, and Greek Orthodox Christian CHURCH till DEATH does them apart).

I, since a conscious child, took the church as an other silly custom or tradition that had to be respected without "reason". A place where old ladies gathered as an excuse to get away from their grouchy husbands (larking at a coffee shop playing backgammon and poker), or to seek each other's company when a husband/significant other did not exist. Short of an elderly women's club.

Together with ancient Greek, ancient Greek history, Roman & Byzantine history, and modern history, religious education (Gr. Orthod. Christian education that is) was a mandatory course for ALL. Exceptions by parental appeal were granted to the 0.5% belonging to other religions, with the exception of Jahoba's witness who were also forced to be "educated" or should I say reeducated.

Since the early goings of my "conditioning" I expressed a resistance to this re-education system, and became famous for being thrown OUT of class as a teen for disrupting the flow of the class and influencing others. What a time :) This is where I had a chance to play soccer and basketball with my fellow catholic, muslim (mostly Turkish minority), jewish, friends. Instead of a break though i had to do summer class education and pass exams in the fall to advance to the next class, where students of other religious affiliation didn't. 99% of Greek children still today are baptised in their first or second year of life as what they call "an ethnic tradition" and a very short lived tradition I may add, and this is how the state receives written notice of their new citizen's name. I managed to self name both my children to the dismay of the city clerk, and whose "dogma" remains blank!

At one point in my early teenage life I had an illness/fever related nightmare where I was hanging from a cliff's edge with my fingers and was to fall from a great height to my sure death. I instantly made the association of others' reactions (in movies and real life emergencies) to call on god for help. Simultaneously the realization that I did not believe in anything supernatural, and unless a natural source for help would have been available in a short time that I could hold myself, I would die! And did replicate in my mind, never to regret the decision, the scene where I made the choice there was no point in calling in some non-existing power to help. A proud and brave choice to negate the existence of Jahoba or other supernatural forces.

I believe I was an atheist but not conscious of that social identity distinction till then. and really it is more of a social identity issue, as I see it, than a rational choice.

Supernatural symbolic activities find me totally uninterested, although respectful of others' choices to participate in such. What I have problems with is not religion but the "church" as a power within a society, a non-democratic institution, to influence the process of organizing a society by means of a state. Which I also do not recognize as the only natural way to organize a society/community etc. For me the negation of both powers were tied hand in hand as when a student I learned to disrespect both powers exerted on me.

Luckily the third power of parental guidance was not as totalitarian and abusive and therefore it was more effective in conditioning me. It is the later conditioning which I have consciously tried to examine and cleanse myself from (pick and choose rationally) , as my guard was down when values were programmed in me, and there was a clear distinction which one of the parents was effective and which was ineffective in forming my character.

Coincidentally, although not religious, my father was a believer in the "supernatural force" of morality, but he made a clear distinction of what to teach to his kids and what to keep to himself. By my surprise after his death my mom informed me that he prayed almost all of his life before he went to sleep, silently, and he only stopped when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On my mom's inquiry of why he stopped, he responded: "I don't want the bastard to think I'm begging for his help".

Like Leonidas and his 300, Greeks in the form, I like to think of Greeks, are democratic and independent, free to reason and express reason, even from the powers of gods! It is not by DNA, or language, or citizenship, that I believe one is a Greek. It is on the belief and understanding of the importance of freedom to think and express thoughts, that one is a Greek, and it is this specific attribute that makes "Greece" the foundation of western civilization and thought. The one step of evolution that changed life on earth as we know it. The one step beyond totalitarian absolute enforcement of thought and morality by church states.

In this fashion, more than 90% of Greek citizens are not really Greek, while Jefferson was a Greek and many of the enlightened founding fathers of the US were Greek, as well as thousand of people in every society today who have made this conscious decision.

To me Greek, and Greek Orthodox is a violent contradiction in terms. Two meanings of extreme opposition to their symbolic terminology.

May 31 2007

Interesting. But to me, the Social Identity issue is secondary to the choice or orientation. I am inclined to call it an orientation-- because it isn't like I ever believed. I can remember wanting to as a child-- mostly so I didn't have to feel like a stranger in a strange land. To this day, I do not know of a single other person in my family of orientation who identifies themselves as an atheist or even an agnostic. In fact, many of them would probably react just like my best pal from home did when I told her I had traded my former choice of terms -- from agnostic to atheist, as I had done more thinking and reading and had come to feel strongly about it. She was appalled and replied "Does that mean you don't believe your mother is in heaven?" Well, yes. She just freaked out and we have a quiet understanding to just avoid the subject.

Further, while I too like to say I respect others' choices to believe and follow along like little lambs, not questioning whatever they are fed-- in my heart of hearts, I am often frustrated and disappointed in peoples' blindness and inability to think for themselves.

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