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Greece: Selective Secularization and the Deprivatization of Religion?

Greece: Selective Secularization and the Deprivatization of Religion?

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Greece: Selective Secularization and the
Deprivatization of Religion?

Author: Lina Molokotos-Liederman
Greece: Selective Secularization and the
Deprivatization of Religion?

Author: Lina Molokotos-Liederman

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10/07/2013

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41
3.Greece:Selective Secularization and theDeprivatization of Religion?
Lina Molokotos-Liederman
Introduction
T
his chapter addresses the question of how the secularization thesis applies tothe case of Greece. is question is particularly relevant given the weight of Greek Orthodoxy on the country’s religious and cultural landscape and on thehistorical circumstances that have shaped the nation’s political and social life. First we shall look briefly at some of the definitions of and debates on secularization andthen highlight specific aspects of Eastern Orthodoxy in relation to the process of secularization. en we shall continue with an introduction to the larger contextin which the Greek case should be viewed, including a brief description of thereligious landscape. Finally the conflict over national Identity Cards is used as acase study in order to highlight the ambiguity of the secularization thesis withregard to Greece.Bryan Wilson’s original definition of secularization as a “process whereby religious thinking, institutions, and practice lose social significance” is animportant starting point in defining the concept.
1
Secularization includesnumerous social processes, such as:

2
 

also subjective aspects of religiosity, such as church attendance, religious

3
 
 
42
S
ECULARISM
, W
OMEN
&
 THE
S
 TATE
: T
HE
M
EDITERRANEAN
W
ORLD
 
IN
 
 THE
21
ST
C
ENTURY

4
 

individual, and, thus, its marginalization from public life.
5
 e notion of secularization is currently viewed more as “a theory withrelatively limited application, particularly suited to the European case, but very much less helpful elsewhere.”
6
Increasingly, scholars are questioning the validity of the secularization argument, especially outside the Western European context. A related criticism that concerns the specific topic of this chapter is the extensionof the secularization thesis beyond the Protestant and Catholic cases, from whichsociologists of religion originally developed the concept. Furthermore, JoseCasanova’s argument on the “deprivatization of religion in the modern world,”
7
  with religious traditions exiting the private sphere and entering public life isparticularly relevant to the Greek case, as this chapter will illustrate.

by a civil war, the fall of the dictatorship in 1974 and EU membership in

development has also left its mark. Economic prosperity and consumerism

and structural differentiation, rationalization, and increasing social and culturaldiversity. But it has done so in its own way, and at its own pace, given its particularhistorical circumstances and political and social development. In this respect,Greece is a country that is undergoing a selective process of secularization, asthere are points where the Greek case can give “pause for thought.” e nextsections illustrate this point and highlight the weight of Greek Orthodoxy on the country’s religious and cultural landscape, and the particular historicalcircumstances that have shaped Greece’s political and social life.
The Secularization Thesis and Eastern Orthodoxy
Orthodox Christianity is marked by the absence of a strong centralized andhierarchical administrative structure, such as we find in the Catholic Church.
8
 Orthodox churches are autocephalous entities headed by autonomous Patriarchatesthat have the right to elect bishops in each administrative jurisdiction. Localchurches are decentralized, but united in spirit through the Ecumenical Patriarchate
 
43
3.G
REECE
: S
ELECTIVE
S
ECULARIZATION
 
AND
 
 THE
D
EPRIVATIZATION
 
OF
R
ELIGION
?

“Unity of the Church is a unity in faith, not an administrative unity,” wrote Jean Meyendorff.
9
is type of organization affects how the Orthodox faith ispracticed and lived today.e decentralized structure of Eastern Orthodox Churches allows fairly flexible religious practices, associated with an absence of strictly applied religiousregulations and prohibitions. e lack of rigid application of religious rules,accompanied by some degree of elasticity when necessary, is the result of theconcept of 
oikonomia
in Greek Orthodoxy. is
 
permits various possible waysof practically implementing Orthodox law, thus implying a certain degree of flexibility, conciliation, discussion and openness. One example is the relatively mild language against divorce, abortion or contraception by higher Orthodoxclergy that we often find in speeches by the Catholic Church and the Pope

of Orthodox Christianity also relates to the close link between the Orthodoxfaith and the nation. Eastern Orthodox Churches tend to identify themselves with specific national and ethnic characteristics. e Church is usually thought


and revitalization of many Orthodox national churches

between church and nation in many Balkan countries, such as Greece and Serbia.In this sense, Orthodoxy acts as a marker of collective and individual identities,a “genre of identity,”
11
whereby religion is used symbolically, thus diluting orlosing its religious content. When thinking about the relationship between secularization and Eastern

oikonomia

and nation are factors that can collectively determine the extent to which

e relationships between secularization and Eastern Orthodoxy have tobe examined in depth through different case studies. But there are indicatorssuggesting some secularizing tendencies in countries with Orthodox majorities.First, the flexibility of religious practices and lack of strict religious rules
oikonomia


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