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The world has Ancient Greece to thank for their philosophers and ideas that they could question anything, investigate, think, express new ideas, and even realize that old beliefs about the world might be wrong.
I am sure that if some of those ancient Greek philosophers were alive today, they would be mortified by some of the thought coming out of the new right-wing government that was recently elected. Of course, Socrates himself was a victim of a type of thought-police, accused of “…refusing to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own; he is further guilty of corrupting the young.” (Source)
Modern Greece is actually moving backwards now, with the fact that the new government has re-introduced “Blasphemy Laws” which will remove individual rights and liberty in regard to freedom of expression. This section of Greece’s “Penal Code” had been removed by the previous government just six months ago with little opposition but apparently, instead of focusing on improving the horrible business environment in Greece, the new government wants to also infringe on speech and expression.
Greece’s Blasphemy Laws Have Been Used In Recent Years
Before the previous government removed the “Blasphemy Laws,” they had been used against individuals for even slight provocation or satire involving the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church. In 2012, Greek citizen Filippos Loizos was arrested and then given a 10 year jail sentence for the act of making a joke about an Orthodox monk’s name. The monk whose name was Father Paisios was a well-loved and respected religious figure, but Loizos referred to him as “Elder Patsitios,” a play on the name which refers to pasta. So even satirical jokes can end up costing you time in jail under Greece’s blasphemy laws.
On another occasion, according to Wikipedia, “In December 2003, Greece prosecuted for blasphemy Gerhard Haderer, an Austrian, along with his Greek publisher and four booksellers. Haderer is the author of an illustrated, humorous book entitled The Life of Jesus. The prosecutor contended that the book’s depiction of Jesus as a hippie was blasphemous.”
It’s true that later, Haderer had his conviction overturned, however having such a law with the fear of being arrested, charged and convicted is an enormous infringement upon liberty and expression. What exactly had Haderer done? He had depicted Jesus as a “hippie” in his book.
On Being Offensive
Taking offense to something is in the mind(s) of the offended. There are certainly some expressions that offend my thoughts but I’d never want to see or ask that the expressions be “banned.” And indeed, all ideas should be open to both criticism and freedom to express. This includes expressions, whether considered negative or positive, about religions. As the staunch free speech defender Professor of Religion and Theological Studies at the Concordia University, in Montreal (Quebec, Canada), André Gagné has said, “Freedom of expression should not be contrived in any way. Ideas should be open to criticism, mockery and ridicule. There is nothing sacrosanct or untouchable.”
In fact, some religious edicts that have come from Popes, Priests & Preachers ought to be mocked! Those who have made inquisitions and slaughtered people in the name of their faith should be thoroughly mocked without fear of blasphemy laws. Even Orthodox priests, as kind as they might be to their flock, ought to be mocked when its discovered they’ve embezzled millions, live in hypocrisy, or hold to ideas that are clearly incorrect.
No person should have their expressions of their ideas limited no matter who finds them offensive. This is a dangerous intrusion on liberty that all right-thinking rational people should stand up against.
Having blasphemy laws in countries such as Greece, where the Orthodox Church is the State Church and often gets involved in politics, poses enormous problems with the risk of being charged with blasphemy for say, drawing a political cartoon that some might find offensive, but others find humorous with a point being made. To think that someone might be convicted of a crime of thought expression and be sentenced to languish in prison for years is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes including the Soviet Union and some countries where violent forms of Islam rule.
While many years of socialist policies has not cured Greece of it’s economic depression, it would be natural for its citizens to try something different – in this case the right wing Mitsotakis and his promises of economic reform. While he might have some good ideas to try to break the hold of socialism, his ideas on freedom are certainly to be concerned about and opposed, when it comes to expressions of ideas and blasphemy laws.
The backlash against the reintroduction of Blasphemy laws in Greece has forced the new government to reconsider. According to The Greek Reporter, the “Greek Minister of Justice Costas Tsiaras announced on Tuesday that the government is now withdrawing its decision to reintroduce the criminalization of blasphemy in Greece.”
Some common sense prevailed.