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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates


Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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Greece. The Politics of Secularization and the Financial Crisis (Konstantinos Papastathis)


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The Politics of Secularization and the Financial Crisis

Konstantinos PAPASTATHIS

University of Luxembourg

The role of religion within the Greek social space is hegemonic. The Orthodox Church is by far the pre-dominant religious organization. The Old-Calendarists (i.e., the Orthodox using the Julian calendar) and the Islamic community, the members of which reside both in Western Thrace and the urban centres, are the most numerous religious minorities. Recently, other cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have expanded their activities. Despite the recent secularization trends, the political influence of the Church remains significant.

The predominant status of the Orthodox Church is path-dependent, linked to the lack of a “pluralized” religious landscape, as well as to the social norms that have persisted in the Orthodox commonwealth at large. From a historical perspective, the Reformation and the Enlightenment cleavages, matrixes of the secularization process, did not exert much influence on the Orthodox East, allowing the religious bureaucracy to reproduce its symbolic and social capital. The maintenance of the traditional hierarchical norms subsequently produced important counter effects on the development of Greek political culture. From an ideological perspective, the instrumental role attributed to the Church for the construction and crystallization of Greek “imagined” national identity has been pivotal. Orthodoxy was represented as the cohesive element of the collective subject, the symbolic reference point of the national group in time and space.1 Its social power, therefore, became part of the “common...

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