Sunday, July 04, 2004

My Faith, My Opium

While I was walking out of Grace Church in New York on July 4th, this bum across the street looks at the congregation and yells: "I don't believe in this bull!"

I don't go to church too often, and when I do it's almost never to a Greek Orthodox church. Coming from Romania, chances are that 8 out of 10 people are Greek Orthodox, have been baptized as such and don't care much about the Catholic Church or any other denomination for that matter. Grace Church is Episcopalian, but I honestly couldn't care less if it were Lutheran, Catholic, or Greek Orthodox - as long as it's Christian. I find it hard to expose this sort of attitude when I travel back home. The truth is, I respect people's faith; it is blind, organized, rule-oriented faith, however, that I can't cope with. Though the Romanian Constitution does guarantee freedom of religion and separation between church and state (hell - we used the French constitutional model and Chirac's latest "veil of secularism" in schools is definitely a tribute to said separation), the secularity of the state is deeply doubtful in my opinion. Or maybe I have attended too many civil liberties courses at NYU.

Many Romanian public schools (the private ones, though rising, still constitute an insignificat percentage) teach religion in school, even if attendance is not compulsory - anymore. American missionaries often use public university classes to spread the word of God to students or anyone interested; free pizza and drinks couldn't hurt, and if you've been a student in a Romanian university you know that free food is a rare opportunity. And you go; and you listed to the good missionary, though you're only in for the pizza, and though tomorrow you'll listen to a Political Science lecture in the same class.

While still attending school in Romania, I had this American teacher for one of my English classes - he was thouroughly convinced that his true existential purpose was to bring "the faith" to us; the default response of many teachers and intellectuals at large would probably be something in the lines of - "but we've been Christians for hundreds of years, long before America was even on the world map." That may be true, but while it is probably wise to preserve traditional religion and customs, I don't understand why American missionaries are relatively scrutinizes while secularism is not fully granted. If we deny one side of the American faith, yet we fail to learn from its legal aspirations, we might find ourselves deeply rooted into a religious state.

I dare one acclaimed journalist from any major Romanian newspaper keep his job and / or reputation while preaching atheism.


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