Question of the Week: August 20, 2014


What is a day-to-day example of a lack of separation between church and state you have noticed which does not receive proper public attention? The best suggestion will receive a copy of An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins.



  1. Australia’s current government led by Tony “dark ages” Abbott are apparently 80% clergy who have taken it upon themselves to dismantle the government body that keeps an eye on religious organisations and is still trying to replace social workers with clergy types in schools, with the support of ex liberal prime minister John Howard of coarse, more win-win for religion.

  2. I know it’s quite mundane, but an example that bothers me on a regular basis is the mass of people all standing at the tills of my local Morrisons supermarket on a Sunday morning waiting for the clock to hit 10am.

    The supermarket kindly opens at 9.30am to let us wander around but people have invariably finished wandering before 10am precisely and find themselves standing there pointlessly waiting for the magic time at which purchasing can commence. This particular shop sells lovely fresh bread (essential for a decent sandwich) but God clearly doesn’t want me have it too early or goodness knows what might happen! ^^

  3. In today’s nortern Bavaria (Germany), there is a stronghold of Christian influence on children education, healthcare and social programs. Alternatives almost don’t exist, pressure is overwhelming and dangerous.

    Yet, today’s Germany proclaims itself as secular.

    To be honest, this is more radical in Bavaria then rest of the states, but the differences are small from the perspective of an atheist.

    For pre-school period, there are no alternatives for kindergardens, only Christian church and it’s variations. There is no kindergarden that teaches the beauty of rain in its chemical, physical or natural sense. Children do learn about tears from angels, though.

    But, my topic is the elementary school.

    For elementary school doctrine (what?!? just a second… WHAT?!?!? I should choose for my child a version of elementary teachings? A version of truth?!?), children may choose between different “guilds” of Chistianity and – ethics.

    A friend of mine choosen ethics. No wonder she will not post this text by herself. Child was isolated in ethics allignment, as well as the rest of this group. Teachers refers to them as “Godless children”, who needs to be enlightened (that means, purified from the horrible secular beliefs of their parents). They receive various kind of mistreatments: the worst ball in the pile, the last place in the bench, the final queue for everything – simply as a push to the parents to alter the guild (and donate money for the cause, needless to say).

    To you or me, this may raise a desire to react (such as mine is right now).

    For children, however, this has devastating effect. Isolation at this age (6+) is, to quote Mr. Dawkins, a child abuse.

    This child’s friends follow this behavior outside school premises, guess believing it is the right thing to do. Some form of trauma may easily reflect this child’s life in the future.


  4. It isn’t neglected, but it’s by far the most important: Religious teaching (ANY religion) in schools (ANY schools) is a recipe for another generation of indoctrination. A most careful, impartial education about the world’s religions has value, as a background to history and culture. Education in scientific method, logic and critical thinking are the best weapons we have in the long term goal of consigning religion to history.

  5. One obvious, glaring example of the lack of church/state separation is in the Oval Office of our own country. Whenever a new president enters office, one of the first acts as president is to swear the oath of office on the bible.
    After that comes the prayer circle where the next Jerry Fallwell demands a meeting with the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in order to conjure up the powers of the almighty so that all foreign policies and acts of state are given god’s official seal of approval-aka the ” blessings” that prevent out troops from going to hell when they get killed or keeping those pesky gay people from destroying heterosexually.
    David Smith

  6. I’m going with “In God We Trust” on our currency. I know it’s printed by the federal reserve and not the states, but I hate that no one knows it wasn’t always there and that the religious try to point to that as proof we are a religious nation. Even though as I said, the federal reserve is an independent agency and the “people” have absolutely no control over it. It’s like saying we’re a Christian nation because chick-fil-a closes on Sunday.

  7. Surely this is a no brainer! The “in god we trust” on every god damn american denomination – which is used all over the world. It’s a pretty effective form of evangelism.

  8. Welcome to 2014 Greece. Religious education_sic_is the name of the school subject taught in all school levels of all schools public or private. Aka how to convert a child into a christian orthodox. Two years ago they made a law saying that any child that wishes to be excluded by this subject is free to request it. Thus becoming an outcast from classroom.
    Prayer is mandatory in the schoolyard every morning
    There is supposed to be great difficulty in your child getting her first name if not baptised in the orthodox manner. You need to bring the priest’s paper that the child was baptised to the registry office of the state, if you weren’t careful enough to state your baby’s name right after birth – not customary in Greece.
    When you go to get a new ID card nobody asks you whether you are religious. It just gets filled in automatically: Christian. Orthodox. The clerks in the ID office could not comprehend our protests about this initiative. Neither can we the need for the need to document this sort of information on an official document.
    InGreece it is incomprehensible not to be a ChristianOrthodox. Nobody gets it(99%of population). We are aliens there.
    Priests are civil cervants, paid by the state. .

  9. I find that the most ridiculous lack of separation between the church and state occurs here in Northern Ireland. There are so many to choose from it is difficult to decide on one in particular. They range from compulsory prayers (to a christian God) before any session of the Northern Ireland Assembly and most council meetings. But I think that my favourite has to be on the census form. It asks what faith you follow and if you respond none/atheist (only a very recent addition to the form, previously atheists did not exist), the form asks you to identify yourself as either a Catholic or Protestant atheist

  10. In the state of Alaska, the multi-state bar exam was recently administered to approximately 90 individuals hoping to become practicing attorneys. Despite the obvious choices to administer the exam in a state office building, state university, library, high school or the likes, the bar exam was administered IN A CHURCH!
    I am hopeful that one of these newly carded attorneys will see this as a civil liberties issue and encourage the state to make use of the resources it already owns instead of paying monies to support a religious organization for renting the use of their church for exam administration.
    On a personal note, having taken a national board exam myself, I can only imagine the added stress to those days if I had been forced to take the exam with a corpse on a cross looming over me or in a classroom filled with cartoon animals encouraging young children to “live for the lord.”

  11. Good one. I think the Sunday prohibition on alcohol sales (never heard of one on car sales!) ostensibly based on some church related BS is utterly ridiculous. Not sure if it’s the same in IN but in FL bars are open until 3AM Saturday night/Sunday morning and the prohibition against alcohol begins, viola! – at 7AM until 12:00 PM. Completely illogical and nonsensical.

  12. One of the things that happens, perhaps not every day but frequently enough, is hosts and anchors of national newscasts making statements such, “Thank God he/she is OK” or “We’ll keep you in our thoughts and prayers.” The network executives are responsible for controlling this type of activity. They should make it clear to the people providing the news (those who are salaried employees of the stations) that it is inappropriate to make these kinds of statements as they imply that all of the listeners are followers of some particular belief system or religion. I have heard the statistic that about 20% of Americans are non-believers, which means there are tens of millions of viewers in this general category. We also know that more highly educated people tend to be less religious. That indicates that even a higher of percentage of the viewers of these broadcasts are non-believers. It is time the network managers get the policy set and not permit individual newscasters to indirectly promote their own religious perspectives.

  13. …identify yourself as either a Catholic or Protestant atheist

    I’ve heard this once before but I genuinely thought it was a joke. They really have that on a census form?! Wow.

  14. I’m opposed to the state acceptance and support of Separate School Systems that pay for – or heavily subsidise – religious education. I’ve lived in Scotland, England & Canada, where Catholic Schools still are a part of state education, which I think is wrong as a life long non-theist growing up in a secular humanist family.

    Teaching man-made cult & sect specific myths & superstitious tales as ‘Truth’ to children is mental abuse, so should be restricted to parents instructing – or sending for instruction – their kids. I would rather see no religious instruction at all until the age of majority, when it would be the informed choice of that adult person.

    I have Dr Darrel W. Ray’s books ‘The God Virus’ and ‘Sex & God’ which clearly explain all the research into the multi-faceted mental & physical damage done to humanity by the religious memeplexes surrounding them, especially in their data-seeking formative years.

  15. Worse, the recent proposal to elect some “Lords” included removing some of the bishops but more than replacing them with a ragbag of assorted clerics from other religions. Still unelected, naturally.
    This, of course, is typical: instead of ceasing to pay the Churches of England and of Rome to run many of our schools as indoctrination centres, “equality” is being brought about by extending the favour to other religions. All these schools are then encouraged and aided to fill half their places with children not of their religion, who are then subject to the full force of proselytising.

  16. Its true, but only if you are from Northern Ireland. I live there but am from England so as an obviously godless barbarian (its what GB stand for I tell them) I don’t have to say.

  17. I was going with “In God We Trust” on money in the US but I think David should get the prize. I don’t see how anything could top this.

  18. Norway separated church and state in 2012. When we got a new government in 2013 it became clear that the subject of religion in schools should contain at least 55% Christianity. Thereby favourizing that particular religion significantly, although Norway is officially a secular country. Worse, a former version of the subject (which also favoured Christianity by about the same percentage) was told by the European Court of Human Rights to be violating the freedom of religion (in 2007). Basically, the state is now reinventing a subject in schools, that will favour Christianity in the education of Norwegian children, and therefore this subject will be a day-to-day lack of separation between church and state. I’m just waiting for the European Court of Human Rights to raise their eyebrows again…

  19. Vatican City, it is led by the Pope who is elected by “chosen” cardinals and sworn in by th Roman Catholic Church as the leader of the Vatican City a province of Italy I presume.This church has been discouraging human rights from family planning methods to secular education systems. It really irritates me.

  20. The best example of infringement on the separation of church and state is one which every U.S. taxpayer subsidizes – freedom from taxation for religious organizations. What greater conspiracy exists than the current ability of any minister, church or religious organization to have blanket immunity from the need to pay tax or prove a positive charitable motive in the manner required by 501(c)(3) or other charitable and not-for-profit organizations? Nor must they pay tax of any kind to help support local, state and federal systems of government, which maintain the neighborhoods and states in which they reside and defend the national freedoms they exercise and enjoy!

  21. This is something that could roll back. However, deleting “under God” between “nation” and “indivisible” doesn’t improve things that much. For one thing, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t feel like anything to me. Like prayers I learned by rote as a child, I can recite it while doing the dishes, I don’t even hear the words, and I’m not sure I ever did. For another thing, why stop deleting with “under God” when pledging allegiance for no reason inherent in the poem isn’t what thinking people do. Who is ready to stand for every tenet of a republic and therefore every mission of its administration? Let’s scrap the whole thing and stop making children say it at all.

  22. Most people in the UK are completely unaware that local authorities are obliged by law to have religious representatives on their education committees. This is how religious groups exercise undue influence in our schools, and it is largely unopposed.

  23. The emphasis on faith during the political process. It’s basically expected at this point that any candidate for office declare his or her faith. The expectation is obviously that faith will influence policy; otherwise nobody would care. I believe when a public official puts faith ahead of country that they’re violating their oath to uphold the constitution even if it’s what the majority wants. The majority is not always correct.

  24. Churches are classed as charities in the uk and so are not subject to regular taxation, and can also claim gift aid. Therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists are subject to normal tax like everyone else. So we’re still happy to class faith as more noble and essential than science.
    So far, theatres do not receive tax relief – and yet provide exactly the same service as the church, except they admit they’re making it up!

  25. In many countries of the world the main religious holidays are also public ones: in Italy for example December 8th, December 25th and 26th, January 6th, Easter Sunday and Monday, August 15th, November 1st. Locally each city, town or village celebrates the name day of the patron saint with a local public holiday.
    All public and private offices are closed during those days.

  26. Last year, three Middlesbrough football fans were arrested at the Birmingham City football ground for ripping up a copy of the Koran. All three were fined £400………..How long before Sharia law is introduced?

  27. Preamble:

    In a country in which the Queen of England is the Head of State, and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (part of the constitution) begins with the following passage….

    “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”

    (Italics added)

    My country — Canada — is a watered-down theocracy, and unapologetically at that. No law passed, or court case initiated in these free lands are considered without first seeking the infinite wisdom of Yahweh, who is modestly, charmingly, and appropriately described on page 51 of The God Delusion.

    I’ll leave judgment of this legal system to the reader.

    Even our Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper is committed to this archaic methodology. In his 2013 Canada Day tweet, his God (again, the one of the Evangelical Church) is obnoxiously invoked. And in 2014’s tweet, things get 2x more godly, with 2 mentions of his imaginary friend.

    I hope I’ve convincingly argued Canada’s grim standing. But back to the point:

    All the above issues have been addressed at some length, but in my humble opinion, the best example of an unrecognized issue in Canada, pertaining to the separation of church and state, is the recent change to a line of our national anthem, from:

    Oh, Canada! Glorious and free!


    God keep our land, glorious and free!

    This anthem is sung at federal events, sports events, and most other venues. But the most shocking use of this anthem, is in schools. The explicit request of Yahweh, Allah, Ganesha, Vaheguru, or Zeus for all we know, is expected, sometimes required of young children to sing at the top of their lungs with their fellow peers.

    Specifically, this issue, I feel has not been properly addressed, and it affects every Canadian child in every Canadian school, and it it caused by Canada’s lack of speciation of church and state.

    Thanks for reading my concerns! 🙂

  28. In the United States religious organizations are given freedom from property taxes. Huge expanses of land can be used tax free. This is a huge and unfair advantage over individuals and businesses. I suspect if this rule were not in place, the cost of supporting religious organizations would be much higher. Perhaps then the overwhelming popularity of religious groups in America would then settle to more realistic proportions.

  29. What is a day-to-day example of a lack of separation between church and state you have noticed which does not receive proper public attention?

    Well Richard,

    It has to be the Irish education system.

    Most of our public state funded schools are almost impossible to get into if you’re not a practising Roman catholic…

    This discriminates against atheist and other faith groups. It goes even further in the religion classes where teacher lead prayer starts all classers and where Christianity is taught as fact. For example the teach will say while talking about Christianity:
    “Jesus DID walk on water, turn water into wine and resurrect after 3 days.”
    But while talking about Islam the teacher will say:
    “Muslims BELIEVE x, y and z.”

    But what is the most disgusting is how atheism, humanism and secularism are portrayed! In the whole 150-200 page book, 2 pages are given to the above ism’s under the heading “Challenges To Faith”

    Those that wish to opt out of R.E find it almost impossible to do so as the schools say it is an exam subject like Maths English Or Irish and therefore cannot be opted out of.

    Even though dyslexics and non Irish natives can choose to opt out of Irish classes.

    My brother wanted to be removed from R.E and spend that time studying for other subjects but he was refused and a letter was sent home telling my parents: (paraphrasing)
    “The only way your child can be removed from religious education is by attending a school where religion is not taught as an exam subject.”

    Not allowing my brother to opt out of R.E was a direct violation of his constitutional, civil and human rights. An article published on this website described how even the UN Council Of Human Rights told Ireland to stop violating the rights of atheist and other minority faiths

    My brother was not pleased with the schools response and contacted Atheist Ireland who wrote a letter on his behalf describing the laws that the school has broken. My brother plans to send this letter to The Ombudsman Of Children and The Minister Of Education.

    Even if both of them side with my brother against the school (Which is almost impossible as both the minister and the ombudsman are predominantly catholic, which is another reason why we need secularism) it is unlikely they will budge. Just like most religious people…

    I don’t feel this gets enough public attention as it is rarely discussed on the news or other prime time tv shows. It is only mentioned on atheist websites which do not have a massive impact on a christian country.

  30. If you fancy going out and looking for sex at Easter time, don’t bother going to the island of Jersey. Currently, nightclubs have to close on Good Friday.

  31. Both the Australian Federal Parliament and Victorian State Parliament. Legislative Council Standing Orders on each sitting day. At 09,30 Each morning the speaker says the Lords Prayer. Max Wallace is a Canberra academic and member of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, wrote: ‘ We are somewhere between democracy and theocracy. I suggest that is an unacceptable state of affairs for a modern liberal democracy’. The majority of Australians believe church and state should be separate, yet religion continues to enjoy unparalleled privilege with taxpayer funding to the tune of $31 billion annually, according to The Secular Party of Australia . An international poll, found that 48 per cent of Australians said they were not religious; 10 per were ” atheists”, 5 per cent didn’t know or didn’t care. Only 37 per cent are actually religious. Yet the influence and funding of religion in Australia continues to increase each financial year. Australia is one of only three countries in the world where even the commercial enterprises of religious organizations are granted tax concessions. In 2001, prior to becoming Governor-General, and in response to a question on his appointment, Archbishop Peter Hollingworth wrote: ‘Those who have raised the question of separation of church and state have confused the Australian Constitution with the United States Constitution. The only separation of powers that applies here in Australia is to do with those pertaining to the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary of the Commonwealth itself. There is no clear cut separation between church and state as there is in the case of the US tradition’. Yet polling shows the majority of Australians believe the law exists and they agree with it. What is interesting is recent high court discussions on this important question was never published by any newspaper in this country.

  32. The use of Bibles in US Court rooms. In many places, if you are a witness or member of the jury and do not want to be sworn in with your hand on a Bible, you have to inform the Court in advance so that non-religious provisions can be made. Else, you are going to be subject to the embarrassment (and potential mendacity suspicion) of having to publicly reject a Bible when it is presented to you. It is up to individual Judges as to continuing the tradition, but the Chief Justice of the SCOTUS could end the practice throughout the system, if he wanted to (which he does not). See:

  33. The provision of chaplains in public schools in Australia is a method of imposing a xian agenda on a largely apathetic population. They’re probably kindly, well meaning souls in fact, but it’s the imposition that really rankles. If parents want a religious education for their children they have ample opportunity to select a subsidised, faith-based school. I disagree with the very existence of faith-based schools, but I’m prepared to tolerate them at the moment.

  34. I can recall witnessing a cross examination in court where the defence barrister was accusing the policeman of lying. Goes something like this.
    Barrister. “You swore an oath to tell the truth. I put it to you constable that you are lying to the court.
    Constable. “You started it.”
    Barrister “Pardon.
    Constable “You’re client pleaded not guilty.”

  35. @David R Allen
    Ha ha ha! That’s priceless!
    I’ve served on a jury twice. On the first occasion I was the ONLY member who chose to make the Affirmation despite the fact that, (going by appearances ), there would have been other non-Christians in the mix.
    The second time I served on a jury we were processed in bulk. Who was to know whether one swore on the bible or made the Affirmation. You probably know when the switch occurred. I was very grateful in the second instance.

  36. The fact that the churches are public property is the most obvious example of lack of separation between church and state. This is common everywhere in the world, we pay taxes to the church every day because it is a public service just like hospitals, public lightening, etc. We sustain building churches and cathedrals and the R&D expenditure is nearly zero (from public money).

  37. Australia now has a excellent regime of mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. It hasn’t always been that way. Obligations are placed on classes of persons who if they suspect child abuse or neglect, they are required to report to the appropriate authorities. This is the list of people required to report in my state.

    (a) a medical practitioner;
    (ab) a pharmacist;
    (b) a registered or enrolled nurse;
    (c) a dentist;
    (d) a psychologist;
    (e) a police officer;
    (f) a community corrections officer (an officer or employee of an administrative unit of the Public Service whose duties include the supervision of young or adult offenders in the community);
    (g) a social worker;
    (ga) a minister of religion;
    (gb) a person who is an employee of, or volunteer in, an organisation formed for religious or spiritual purposes;
    (h) a teacher in an educational institution (including a kindergarten);
    (i) an approved family day care provider;
    (j) any other person who is an employee of, or volunteer in, a Government department, agency or instrumentality, or a local government or non-government organisation, that provides health, welfare, education, sporting or recreational, child care or residential services wholly or partly for children, being a person who—

    (i) is engaged in the actual delivery of those services to children; or
    (ii) holds a management position in the relevant organisation the duties of which include direct responsibility for, or direct supervision of, the provision of those services to children.

    You will note that it includes Ministers of Religion, employee’s or volunteers in an organized form of religion.

    Australia has a nationwide Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. There are also a number of state based Royal Commissions covering similar topics. In the main, the organizations called before the Royal Commission have been the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Salvation Army. Tragedy after tragedy has unfolded before our eyes on Australian media. Not just sexual, but physical and psychological abuse.

    There was an attitude by the religious organizations that they would handle these matters in house and not report offenders to police. Transfer a priest. Pay off a victim with a non disclosure clause. I’m sure you’ve all heard these very same things around the world. The Catholic church is still refusing to open its books to the Royal Commission to disclose names of offenders and as yet unidentified victims claiming privilege. The Catholic Church successfully argued in court, that there was no legal entity in Australia that could be sued. There was no overall body responsible for the activities of the church. This greatly diminished the ability of victims to seek redress in courts. Priests don’t have assets. The church assets are owned by ????

    Religious organizations must no longer be allowed special status, and be separated from the State, claiming immunity from reporting laws on religious grounds, or as a result of direction from the Vatican under Canon Law. The law of the state must have supremacy over the law of the church. This should make it mandatory to report crimes revealed during confession.

  38. The Catholic Church cannot be sued in Australia and relies on the “Ellis” Defense. The assets of the church are held in a trust that can’t be touched. A catholic priest is not an employee of the Catholic church, but of the parish in which he serves, because he is paid a stipend by that parish. It also means that the Catholic church, not being the employer of the priest, is not liable for any actions of the priest. Here is a better explanation. This is why the church must be subject to the state, and not the other way around.

    CHRIS ULHMANN: It’s been labelled the ‘Ellis defence’ and the Catholic Church has relied on it for years to avoid making payments to survivors of sexual abuse.

    When John Ellis tried to sue the church over the abuse he suffered when he was an altar boy in the 1970s, the courts rejected the claim, ruling the Church was not a legal entity, nor was it liable for abuse committed by a priest.

    But ahead of this week’s hearing into John Ellis’ case by the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, the Church leadership is signalling a major shift that would expose the Church to civil action.

    Emily Bourke reports.

    EMILY BOURKE: The Catholic Church offered John Ellis $30,000 in compensation for the abuse he suffered as a teenager, and the subsequent trauma that destroyed his marriage and his career in a prominent Sydney law firm.

    He rejected the offer and took his case to court, but he lost in the NSW Court of Appeal in 2007.
    Over the next week, the Royal Commission will hear how the Church, and Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, George Pell handled the case.

    Andrew Morrison Senior Counsel, who represented John Ellis, says the ruling continues to have repercussions.

    ANDREW MORRISON: No legal entity capable of being sued, and its trustees who held the property of one of the wealthiest organisations in the country, are effectively immune from suit. That is the Ellis defence.

    There are other problems as well. The Court of Appeal also held that because priests are technically not employed by the Church – that is, they are primarily paid by way of a stipend from the parish – they are therefore not the subject of vicarious liability, which means that the Church cannot be held liable for their conduct or misconduct

  39. Mentally ill people are not protected from the cults practicing religious healing. Presently we have a case in Brisbane QLD Australia when a young person with diagnoses of Disorganized Schizophrenia and being on the involuntary treatment in the mental hospital, is going to be released from the mental hospital back to the same people that prevented him to be medically treated. Despite the fact, that doctors are very well aware that his condition was the result of him being kept by members of this religious cult. His mother, who is not religious, fighting to get her son back to the family, but is loosing her grounds on the bases that he wants to be with the cult. Nobody would admit, that he became member of this cult because he had a mental illness, although all doctors treating him understand it very well (he was hearing voices and believed it was God!). And this is when Australia expected to be the civilized country.

  40. Personally I’d be happy not to see the building of any further mosques / temples / churches etc. but there is an example from my home city that shows how the aggressively ethnocentric mentality of the Greek Orthodox Church (backward and totally behind the times by the standard of most religious organisations still clinging on in the West but about as backward and intellectually void as the rest of the world’s churches) colludes with racism to discriminate against the non-Orthodox – and in doing so hopes to remind all Greeks that the Greek Church and the Hellenic Republic are in bed together forever and ever more, separation of church and state, what a jumped-up heretical notion from those satanical French Revolutionists (did I mention they were backward? Russian Orthodox style).

    Despite the fact that upward of 10% of the Greek population is made up of immigrants of a hundred different hues and nationalities and religions and that in effect our society is multicultural and heterogeneous in a score of ways that the majority of Greeks refuse to acknowledge because it threatens their self-perception as culturally / morally / intellectually superior to the barbarous hordes (views not generally expressed with such brazenness but which are certainly in the cultural purview and after all, continuing 7% support for neo-Nazi fascists has to come from somewhere), the Greek Orthodox Church has opposed, for many years now, the building of a mosque in Greece’s capital – and the Orthodox Church is by far the most powerful lobby in the Greek state with huge vested economic interests. The Greek Orthodox Church, of course, is the only church for il popolo and god forbid that the couple of million Muslims living in Greece should be allowed a single place of worship in a city of 4 million (when the tiny island of Mykonos, for example, has over 400 places of Greek Orthodox worship). To date, there is still not a single purpose-built mosque for Athens’ very significant Muslim population because of the Orthodox Church’s sway over all religious, cultural, and educational institutions in the state and its repeated sabotaging of any progressive proposal let alone the requests of religious and cultural minorities. As an atheist I’d be happy not to condone the building of any more places of worship! – but as a citizen I oppose the discrimination against the Muslim minority (the majority of them pretty much destitute into the bargain and routinely discriminated against in their everyday lives) by the Orthodox majority, interreligious discrimination which stands as a very clear, albeit ironic example of the (so far) failure to properly secularise the Greek state.

    Couple the mosque saga with the brouhaha a few years ago with the Church frothing apopleptically about the state’s tentative proposal not to display citizens’ religious status on their ID cards; with the fact that all school classrooms and police stations in Greece still have religious icons as the chief item of display on the wall – and with the fact that we don’t have a Ministry of Education but a Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs (no kidding) – and you get a veritable soup in which the separation of church and state is still very much an alien ingredient.

  41. Geor, just saw your comment after posting my thoughts on our woefully under-secularised country below. You say ‘we’ – do you mean as Greek atheists in general or are you part of a specific group? I would love to know if we’ve got some sort of Atheist Association going.

    As an addendum to your excellent points, there are also of course the wholesale tax exemptions, the various huge money scandals, the untouchability of our various religious figures and preferential treatment of all things Orthodox by default, the way in which Orthodox beliefs and rituals are meshed so finely with all aspects of our everyday lives (someone else here posted about all public holidays in Italy actually being religious festivals as well – sounds familiar), the control of vast swathes of what should be publicly-owned land by the Church… And hey, what about our seemingly endless array of religious superstitions that we see all the time, every day and in any context – when I sit on the bus it’s not just the giagiakes [grannies] who’re doing their cross when we pass a church but my age group as well (20s) in large part because their critical faculties have been so stunted and sold short by our defunct education system (in which of course, our religious indoctrination has played no small role…)! Dammit, I often feel ashamed that a country so proud of its classical heritage (and hell we do know how to play that card when we get on our chauvinist high horse, which is way too often as no doubt you know…) can be so unable to see the sorry state it’s in, at least in terms of our snail-paced secularisation.

    The thought just occurred to me – perhaps that wonderful insult which carries that miasma of social stigma, “atheofove / i”, can be reclaimed and given a positive spin? I would love to be called “you-who-literally-have-no-fear-of-god” and to see the expression on the person’s face when I thank them and take it as a compliment 🙂 Atheophobic atheists sounds good to me.

  42. The worst separation between the state nowadays may be
    that which separates the same sex couples away from the heterosexual couples. The society is of a different opinion. All the other scandinavian countries have, and the churches over there, have a liberal stand on the matter, except Finland, which is part of Fennoscandia, not of Scandinavia geographically, although culturally though.

    Finland, although quite a liberal country comparatively, has have to become more civilized in the long run.

    The other is: why do the priests and ministers have to have their education at the university.

    The university and theology should be separated, most rapidly.

    What does theology to do with science?

  43. Oh my goodness. I’m in shock at this. I can offer a quick translation of some salient extracts of the article though I’m sure they’ll be by no means perfect.

    Sharia law practised in Greece

    There exists in the heart of the European Union a territory in which sharia law is officially recognised and practised. This is in Greece, specifically in Western Thrace, on the Greek-Turkish border, where Greek Muslim citizens can appeal to muftis and to Islamic law to regulate personal and familial matters, all the while conforming to the Greek legal code.

    Giannis Khtistakis, academic and Greek juror, has examined 3,633 verdicts delivered by Muslim religious tribunals in the towns of Komotini, Xanthi and Didimotikho from 1991 through 2011. His study examines the juridical and social reality of Greece’s Muslim minority and the development of its rights in relation to the practice of sharia. This article summarises his statements and conclusions.

    Originally, sharia was applied only to the Muslims of Western Thrace. The civil code was introduced in Greece in 1946. One of its features was not to have abolished the stipulations of the 1914 law. To this day, matters relating to marriage between Muslims, to divorce, to personal relations between spouses during marital life as well as to kinship relations, continue to be governed and judged in accordance with sharia. But throughout the decades, the role of the muftis has been extended to other domains, to other individuals, including non-Greeks and non-Muslims, and has spilled over the geographical border of Western Thrace.

    Alexis Varende, 19 August 2014,,0643

  44. In Germany, and elsewhere, there’re political parties like the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and CSU (Christian Social Union, only in Bavaria), so both of them consider themselves christian and both parties are in power right now, they’re two of the so called peoples parties. As an atheist/secular person I would never vote for them, though that’s not the only reason, for me it’s an offense against the secular constitution. What kind of politics we can expect from those parties?

  45. However, deleting “under God” between “nation” and “indivisible” doesn’t improve things that much. For one thing, it doesn’t mean anything

    Actually it means quite a bit if you know the history. The pledge was originally an oath that Confederate soldiers were required to say as part of surrender. The North was very generous for a conquering army and let the average soldier keep their gun and horse if they had one for use on farms and for hunting but in return the soldiers were required to “pledge allegiance” to the US rather than to their state or to the confederacy. So “one nation, indivisible” meant “I’m pledging my loyalty to the nation of the US and not to my state and I recognize that the next time some national law gets passed I don’t have the right to take part in a rebellion” Actually given many of the new separatist movements in states like Alaska and elsewhere many of the right wing tea baggers in the US probably wouldn’t want to say the pledge if they actually understood what the words mean.

    In addition to ending slavery, the Civil War was also a turning point for the US in that prior to the war most citizens felt loyalty to their individual state before or instead of to the US as a whole nation. Before the war people usually said “these United States” when referring to the whole nation, after the war the usage changed to “THE United States”.

  46. There was one congressman, I think from Michigan, who did do that a few years ago. The cry from the Theocrats to have him impeached for treason was predictable.

  47. I don’t see that as such a big deal. I agree it’s stupid, why are they thanking God for saving a few people, how about blaming Him for causing the disaster in the first place? But those kinds of things are free speech utterances and — like it or not — they reflect the current values of a lot of people in the viewing audience or electorate and aren’t what I consider violations of church/state separation. E.g., not the way having “God we trust” on money or “one nation under God” in the pledge clearly are violations.

  48. I agree. It’s just insane the political intrusions that churches get away with without losing their tax exempt status and also an indication of how intimidated the Democrats are by the religious voting block that the Obama administration has never had, and will never have, the courage to send the IRS after the biggest abusers of this.

  49. As threatening as a lack of separation between church and state may appear, I find far more erroneous propaganda originating from privately owned media (television, radio, print and now the internet) trying to shape the way I think and consume. Who can stop them, doctor?


  50. The US has a murky separation of church and state the only real separation i see is religious organizations don’t pay taxes other than that you see it on our money in our court rooms government ceremonies {swearing in of public officials} schools and so on so i really don’t think there is a separation

  51. I live in Red Deer,Alberta, Canada.
    Here we have two school ” systems “, Public and the ” separate ” aka catholic.
    When we get our property tax bill, we must check off which system our taxes go to.
    To believe our public system is secular would be naive. At present, the ” public ” system financially supports an
    alternative christian school. There are numerous private schools ( word of life,( a nasty cult ) christian university college etc) I feel like we’re still living in the dark ages. Apparently it’s not enough to have a church on every corner but we need to have this indoctrination everywhere else as well.

  52. easy manipulation of mass of people

    its such a great design that the thing itself is protecting the creator of it, without the creator even giving any effort.
    some “stupid” example :
    something like white cells are protecting our organism from infection without any our effort.

  53. The words “under God” were originally added by a lawyer named Bowman. Later, it was added by The Knights of Columbus in the 1950s, I think. Then Truman used “under God” at a prayer breakfast. Finally, during Eisenhower’s administration Congress passed the legislation to include “under God” and Eisenhower signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. So, the history of the phrase is relatively short. I think The Pledge of Allegiance is just as effective without the term.

  54. day-to-day example of a lack of separation between church and state you have noticed which does not receive proper public attention?. Obvious to me but not politically correct to some= Islam, Islamic countries- NO DIVISION!. might not be a “church” but its a religion with no separation!!.

  55. The most common one in our country (USA) is the proliferation of the Ten Commandments, mostly written in stone, that stand before many Court Houses in every state. In my town in St Maries, Idaho the ten commandments is on what appears to be a marble slab standing upright at the NE corner of the block our court house building stands. You can’t miss it and it is thrust upon you every time you drive or walk by that corner. There are at least a dozen churches in this tiny little town and I am sure if anyone was to raise their voice in opposition to it being there, they would be ostracized in no time.

    A similar fight occurred in a town north of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho several months ago and you could not believe the invectives and hatred that emanated from the mouths of so called christians! The people who were asking for it to be removed were from out-of-state and had been vacationing there. They were threatened to leave town, called unAmerican and terrorists, and lives threatened. They had to have violated at least four or five of their own “holy” commandments! What hypocrites. There should have been a commandment against being a hypocrite! No, they would have violated that also.

    I have never seen or heard any atheists, humanists (or whatever flavor you prefer) spout such hatred and invectives against any religious person or group. Our constitution protects their right to their delusions as much as it protects our rights to think freely for ourselves, but they are to brainwashed to realize this. This country was not built upon faith in a god but upon the hard work, industriousness and innovation of free thinking people despite the pain and suffering caused by blind faith. I wish they could understand that.

  56. Isn’t that simply the exercise of the Utilitarian principle of minimising the number of people who don’t get a Sunday morning lie-in? Which in turn is one of the great blessings of Atheism!

  57. That makes perfect sense! It’s like the supermarkets have evolved to meet the needs of sleepy atheists who would like fresh bread – but not too early.

    Sadly, what they haven’t allowed for is people with ponies who have to go out and feed them at 8am (even on Sunday!) and for whom lie-ins are nothing but a distant memory.

  58. You mentioned the matter of education which is definately a critical aspect in forming ones personality. When speaking of religion and atheism we should consider why a person follows a religion or feels the need to. Ignorance or lack of confidence in natural process is a big part of it. I like the comparison to a little child. Making up monsters or fairies trying to explain what goes on around them. In Greece it is considered a lack of social etiquette to publically say you are an atheist.
    Young people take church dominance for granted in the name of good old tradition.
    The popular saying being I know the bible is not exactly correct but… Something bigger than us HAS to exist.
    As for atheist groups Iam not aware of any existing here. However atheism can derive from many different perspectives. I am not sure there are common beliefs joining all atheistss to justify forming a united group. It is not an ideology that leads you not to believe. It is more a matter of education, materialism vs spiritualism and, well common sense maybe?
    The state cannot be seperated from religion in most countris merely because its function is to justify the social injustice and support the higher classes’ dominance. Sure, you are poor in this life but… Heaven is waiting in the next one. Just now turn the other cheek. What a great tool for governments.

  59. No, you haven’t, Inquisador. As we posted in reply to your comment yesterday, the site suffered some serious server problems a few days ago, in the course of which several comments were lost. The technical team has been trying to retrieve them, but so far it hasn’t been possible. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and frustration, but we have not removed any of your comments.
    The mods

  60. Hello Moderator,

    I did question the technical team on the night of the 22nd and again yesterday, but so far have not received any response apart fom the standard acknowledgement of receipt. Not that it’s an issue for me, I know it’s not been long, and I’m sure you got plenty more to deal with than my gripes, but maybe those server gremlins struck down your reply to me as well.

    Thank you for this explanation. And as I said before:- best wishes to you all, and I do value this extraordinary site and all the great work you are doing.

  61. 1) The “National Day of Pray”
    2) The various School-Mandated Religious practices
    3) The phrase “In God We Trust”, printed on the American Dollar note
    4) The Cross-sign on many State Flags, but also many Colleges’ and Universities’ Flags and Logos (and many National Flags of various countries)

    Would you help me start a Global campaign in order to ban all Cross-signs on all National Flags, around the World?

    Thanks, Estelio.

  62. In 1955 My family moved from New York to Rome Italy where we later opened a world famous restaurant called The Cowboy.My dad the Atheist used to play golf with the then Pope’s secretary and many other high Vatican officials and every day he would challenge their beliefs with very intelligent reasoning.To the credit of these very educated men,since unable to justify their reasoning with fact,many did admit to my dad their doubts about Christianity as a whole.My point is ….any reasoning human,when faced with pure fantasy should at least admit some degree of doubt,so called Christians live with blind faith as it requires no thought at all.It is un human

  63. …Well, I would say that most, if not all, the generated action-reactions inter locution of day-to-day is based on religion…in whichever or whatever Country you live in! Real or independent thinking is possible in your own head, but not so easy in public sphere of today society, we are becoming more and more……closed, anyway I would say that what today doesn’t get enough attention is precisely free and independent rational individual who are not allowed to express openly their view in any public sphere, maybe publications is the only hope, to assure such en-devour to continue and to be propagated…example: education, free recreation, free (unbounded) open approach to any religion denomination including animism and atheism.

  64. Constant use of abreviation B.C. for chronological events before commnon era is wrong! This abreviation is present in every day giving so legislature to a christianity, to a “root of all evil”. This must be stopped. People must stop saying B.C.! Because by saying it you give legitimacy to a whole mistaken “moral” world and values. This is one of things that has to have a propper public attention.

  65. The large majority of state schools (including primary schools) in Ireland are Catholic, which means that both, religious classes as well as holy communion preparation are held DURING NORMAL CLASS TIME. The government (and schools) which like to call themselves prejudice-free and embracing diversity, are washing their hands by saying that children who aren’t religious are free to just sit in the class room and not participate. That in itself is discriminating and singling out the child. So rather than being in school learning things for life, during religious class, my son sits there and pretends not to be listening. Parents are given the “alternative” of sending children to so called “Educate Together” schools which have comparative religion and a small bit of atheism in their curriculum. The number of these schools is very small though, and sending your child there is in most cases impractical. Besides, it’s wrong having to choose your child’s school based on religious content rather than basing your decision on what school’s best or nearest. Furthermore, I don’t see the need for including “comparative religion” or whatever the correct term is, in the curriculum of children as small as 4 years of age. So in my opinion, even the alternative schools aren’t really an alternative.

  66. I couldn’t agree more. Mental abuse – I like that terminology. It’s all because politicians have no bloody backbone, and are afraid of loosing voters if they were to remove religious “education” (though I should probably better say brainwash) from schools. As in any oppressive regime, the mental abuse it taken out on the most vulnerable whose brains are still developing.

  67. I think one of our biggest obstacles to creating a secular society is ridding ourselves of religious politicians. I still hear various governors, senators, etc. mentioning God nearly every day. My new voting criteria is to keep count of how many times each candidate mentions the words “faith” or “God.” The lowest score wins… hopefully.

  68. On the Mediterranean island of Malta, it is a crime to ‘interfere with an activity of the Roman Catholic Church’ or to insult the Pope. Of course, it isn’t a crime to insult the Quran. In a European member state, you’d think that these laws are no longer enforced, but no – just recently, a woman spent a night in jail for walking in her swimming costume (near the sea) while there was a Catholic procession going on. On another occasion, a woman was kicked out of a government-sponsored activity for wearing a burkini (a swimming suit designed for Muslim women). Perhaps most shocking is how a man was made to pay a hefty fine for writing a (relatively mild) article against the Pope on his visit to Malta.

    Small incidents like the above are a common occurrence – I could mention many more – and they rarely make the news. When they do, the public turns a blind eye, except to insult Muslims and people of other faiths.

  69. I’ve been told by someone who grew up in Malta, that at one stage you could be excommunicated if you voted labour. To my mind that’s the ultimate intrusion of religion into affairs of state.

  70. I can confirm that. All politicians of the Malta Labour Party were excommunicated and refused the Eucharist at church. During outdoor political mass rallies, churches in the vicinity would ring their bells very loudly so that the audience wouldn’t be able to listen to what was being said. That was in the 60s and early 70s though.

  71. If you are in Ireland and watch the Irish National TV channel (RTE) you have to tolerate the bells of the angelus every day at 12 noon and 6 pm

  72. As I suspected; during the height of the Cold War. I asked my friend how they, ( the church) would know and she replied that it was a small community and they’d know! Excommunication was a sure-fire way to social death.

  73. I really can’t think of a single example that isn’t receiving public attention, or that is particularly annoying to me. Hypocritical politicians are commonplace now. It’s odd that the concept of “separation between church and state” is so easy to defend and yet I can’t think of a single Western country that doesn’t bow its head for silent tribute to fallen heroes; a “state funeral” means a funeral held in a large cathedral or church… It just occurred to me that The Star Spangled Banner might not contain “God”, but there it is in the fourth verse. Of course God, Save the Queen and O, Canada also contain ‘God’.
    Fingers crossed, I win the BOOK!!!

  74. Sacrébleu! Even La Marseillaise contains “Grand Dieu!” in the 3rd verse. Does anyone know if the French are any better at keeping things strictly égalité, fraternité and libertée when it comes to church and state? Can’t find a reference to God in Das Lied der Deutschen (Deutschland über alles).

  75. Nigeria is a secular state constitutionally but the federal and state government keeps sponsoring pilgrims to mecca and Jerusalem year in year out.

  76. An Atheist for Congress?‘

    Wonderful article Bonnie. How can America be such a backward state, when the rest of the world has moved on. Do they know Gorbachev is not in power?

  77. wonderful article

    Simple and elegant; voting a candidate’s stance on issues takes time and thought. Voting based on a “persona, with a side of religion” is so much easier!

    how can America be such a backward state…

    How much time you got? We’re a stubborn bunch, e.g., the efforts to implement the metric system was roundly dismissed.


    Nah, it’s what’s-his-name, um, like, you know, the hot dude who’s always shirtless.

  78. bonnie Sep 1, 2014 at 10:11 am

    how can America be such a backward state…

    How much time you got? We’re a stubborn bunch, e.g., the efforts to implement the metric system was roundly dismissed.

    … and even at the highest scientific levels – very slow to learn!!


    A failure to recognize and correct an error in a transfer of information between the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft team in Colorado and the mission navigation team in California led to the loss of the spacecraft last week, preliminary findings by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory internal peer review indicate.

    The peer review preliminary findings indicate that one team used English units (e.g., inches, feet and pounds) while the other used metric units for a key spacecraft operation. This information was critical to the maneuvers required to place the spacecraft in the proper Mars orbit.

    and muddled up the figures!

    “Our inability to recognize and correct this simple error has had major implications,” said Dr. Edward Stone, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We have underway a thorough investigation to understand this issue.”


    NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched, space agency officials said Thursday.

    As a result, JPL engineers mistook acceleration readings measured in English units of pound-seconds for a metric measure of force called newton-seconds.

    In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.

    “That is so dumb,” said John Logsdon, director of George Washington University’s space policy institute. “There seems to have emerged over the past couple of years a systematic problem in the space community of insufficient attention to detail.”

    Also USA also still uses °F for temperatures, when others are moving from °C to degrees K .

  79. seriously….you all need to calm down. It was a simple question. My answer is…I wish my government wasn’t religious but it is. . My dream would be that the government would not cover up the atrocities of the church. So, I’m saying that the day to day lack of separation is just that.

  80. After everyone in both the church and in the state becomes an overt atheist there will still be a problem with lack of separation of church and state.

    What doesn’t get proper public attention is that there are fundamentally important reasons for separation of church and state. And that this isn’t necessarily based on the church being the silliest of these two institutions.

  81. Pete H Sep 2, 2014 at 6:48 am

    After everyone in both the church and in the state becomes an overt atheist there will still be a problem with lack of separation of church and state.

    If the churches are defunct, devoid of membership, and have no political influence, the state will be free of them.

    As you point out that will not remove other silly ideologies, but it will help to remove credibility and the regularly repeated preached assertions, that “made-up faith-thinking”, arising from cognitive bias and dogma, is “superior” to logical reasoning, based on objective, scientific, material, evidence.

  82. Many many years ago, we went to Cincinnati for the day. We crossed the border (a River) into Kentucky for lunch and couldn’t buy alcohol. It was completely dry. About a 100 feet away you could get a drink, but not on the south side of the river. I think alcohol restriction is the stupidest thing influenced by religion. I’ve actually been in a grocery line and couldn’t buy wine for another ten minutes or so since their liquor license didn’t kick in until a certain time. Give David a book!

  83. I agree this is the biggest infringement- along with the parsonage allowance. I was saying that this was a problem back when I was a deist many years ago and slowly deconverting. ( Still somewhat of a theist – I was telling the atheists that this would be a great way of waking up people – hit them in the wallet.) Nearly all people are clueless that this is a loophole which is used by obvious scam churches and ministers. I found that if you point out the vast property of a large mega or Catholic church and mention that they are not paying real estate taxes, they get it.

  84. “The worst separation between the state nowadays may be
    that which separates the same sex couples away from the heterosexual couples.”

    It can also be said that gay individuals are separated from straight people. Even someone who does not abide with stereotypical roles of their gender are discriminated against because of homophobia which has its roots in religion. On another site, a Navajo boy nearly had his long hair chopped. You have to ask why. Girls are not forced to cut their hair, but a boy…..mmmmm….might be encouraging to be gay.

  85. Really? I think its a matter of the average person being aware of what’s going on. The average person is not really fully aware that churches get as many tax perks. People naturally compare. Give them the opportunity to see a minister’s annual earnings and how much he was allowed for living expenses and it will surely irritate many.

  86. Fingers crossed, I win the BOOK!!!

    Question of the Week… 20th of August? Either the Mods have forgotten or the Foundation is running short of cash.

    Stand in line Virginia. I got a silver medal last time and am eying off the gold.

  87. In reply to Barry.M, comment
    > I know it’s quite mundane, but an example that bothers me on a regular basis is the mass of people all standing at the tills of my local Morrisons supermarket on a Sunday morning waiting for the clock to hit 10am. The supermarket kindly opens at 9.30am to let us wander around but people have invariably finished wandering before 10am precisely and find themselves standing there pointlessly waiting for the magic time at which purchasing can commence. This particular shop sells lovely fresh bread (essential for a decent sandwich) but God clearly doesn’t want me have it too early or goodness knows what might happen! Oh boo hoo. "Earlier this morning I was craving some Cheesy Wotsits and a bag of Haribo cola bottles but do you know I had to sit in my comfortable automobile for an entire half hour until the store selling them opened. Damn you Archbishop Welby!" Honestly. Half the world is starving to death and people are complaining that their local tax-avoiding, small business-destroying, air-conditioned/superheated depending on the time of year behemoth of a supermarket isn't open 31,536,000 seconds 365/1. I'm actually pretty okay with the notion that Britain is for the most part culturally Christian if it means for a few hours a week the godforsaken minimum-wage zero-hours slaves who comprise the country's retail workforce get a bit of respite from the interminable 'swipe, beep, swipe, beep, swipe, beep, do you have a loyalty card, are you collecting tokens for schools, how many bags have you used, I have a boyfriend but if I didn't you can bet I'd take you up on your lubricious offer because personal hygiene isn't important to me at all and halitosis is one of my turn-ons, please kill me now' drudgery of their existence. We have freezers these days. And long-life milk. Plan ahead for Christ's sake.

    [Off-topic last paragraph removed by moderator.]

  88. I think Katy you have finally identified one, and maybe the only one, benefit of Abrahamic religions, at least in some Western cultures. They force at least some time during which the wage slaves can spend time with their families. It is of course being rapidly eroded as the workplace demands more and more work so that the busy little ants can consume all that is produced. Once the erosion is complete, of course, there will no identifiable benefit from religion. None, nada, zero.

    [Off-topic response to off-topic remark removed by moderator.]

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