Monday, January 3, 2011

The future of religion in Europe.

Recently there has been a stir up in some EU states about a ban on either the crucifix in Italian schools, or the ban of the burka in France and other European countries. With constant debates and clashes of different religious groups in Europe, what does the future hold for religion?

Religion exists in the human psyche since the dawn of any human civilization. In fact it was one of the driving forces of it. It always has been the temples to our Gods that we have dedicated most of our attention and creativity.

In Europe our cathedrals are our pride and joy, a huge part of our heritage. But now Europe is changing and Christianity is not the only religion. Europeans are becoming more and more agnostic or atheists, while the new comers are still attached to their religion and their heritage. What will be the impact of these changes?

Let us have a look at how Christianity spread in Europe, which was not always in a peaceful way. In Greece it was the reason for the destruction of the ancient Greek culture and heritage. In Byzantium Greek Pagans were despised and considered as ethnics, so the Byzantine empire did whatever it could to weaken them and convert them to Christianity.

They were forcing Greeks to populate Asia Minor and Christians of what is today Turkey to move in Greek lands, in order to weaken the Greek Pagan resistance and make all the citizens to follow one religion. Christianity expanded in the rest of Europe in similar ways. Not always by voluntary conversion. Europe was in fact the first "victim" of this new religion but not the last one. Latin and North America, Australia and Africa were soon to follow after.

Ever since the Church took hold of the European continent it suppressed every freedom of expression, passion, any female or gay people's freedoms. It abused children and took over land and property, accumulating huge amounts of wealth to be able to perpetuate its dominance.

It totally destroyed the culture of ancient nations and tribes of the continents, notably the Greek which it loathed because of its man-centered ideology. For ancient Greeks, even the Gods were imperfect and had many human traits. They were in other words made on the image of humans and not the other way around, as the Christian doctrine tells us. For Christians their God could not be imperfect, envious, vengeful and with any sexual desires.

Though I accept Christianity as part of European heritage and culture, I am more than happy to see it weakened. Both the Vatican and the Eastern Orthodox Church have committed crimes on their subjects in Europe and elsewhere. It is about time for the Church to stop meddling with politics, the social life and morality of the population.

They should focus in what the Church was created for: serve the people and promote kindness in the world! Be here to answer the questions of the people about anything divine (if any) and promote peaceful and loving existence between fellow humans. I would appreciate if the Vatican stopped telling us what is right and what is wrong, especially when sexuality is concerned. They are not the best of advisers anyway after the scandals they have created.

On the new religions that are entering Europe through immigration, the majority of the problems occur with the Muslim minorities. I personally oppose any radical Islamic doctrine in Europe. It took us centuries to weaken the Catholic grip on the continent, I do not want to have the spread of another religion that wants to control the minds, life and emotions of the people in similar way.

Religion is the best propaganda ever created, the best tool of manipulation and mass "moronisation" of the public. Our ancestors worshiped nature, its forces and circles together with the human nature. It took us centuries to weaken the negative influence of the Church, why allow Radical Islam to spread in Europe? A European version of Islam is more appropriate for our continent.

The future of religion in Europe is definitely a strong secular establishment, rid of any ultra religious views either Christian or Muslim or else. Though I will always support and favor Christianity in Europe as part of our heritage and culture as it is, but I think that religion should take the place that it is ought to have: strictly humanitarian and philosophical.

The ban of the burka in France seems logical, though I would prefer if education was used to change the mentality among the Muslim population. A ban can have opposite effects. Europe is a free continent and its women should not be subjected to this form of uniform, or have any different treatment than men. A simple head scarf is adequate to express your religious beliefs and I am not against it.

As for the crucifix in schools though I am not against their removal as they are a thing of the past, I will accept the decision of a nation or community to keep them in schools as part of their heritage. Lets leave it to the discretion of each community.

The teaching of any religious subject in schools should either be removed, or have the form of an open discussion between the children and the teachers, not be something that the kids must learn and follow in a young age.

No need to segregate our youths in different religious schools, either Christian, Muslim or Jewish. Why separate children from a young age and how do we expect the communities to integrate in the future, if we segregate our kids in their education? We need free thinking Europeans, creative and secular. Not obedient, uneducated and ignorant.

The human resources of a country or a region, is the most valuable and irreplaceable. So an educated, creative and secular workforce can be a great asset, better than any oppressed, dependent and narrow-minded one.

European and Russian relations must change.

Since the Cold War we have learned to see our big neighbor as a threat, as the constant bogeyman that is out there to take over Europe, and the reason why we desperately need USA's "protection".

While most Eastern European states will agree, since they had the misfortune of being under the Soviet rule for five decades, let us re-examine our relationship with Russia as many things have changed and continue to do so in our continent.

We can all accept that the Soviet regime was a cruel one and brought a lot of oppression to the countries it occupied. Yet we as Europeans have forgiven many of our member states like Germany and Italy, for the havoc they’ve created in our continent and beyond with fascism.

Not to mention, of course, the colonial powers and their treatment of their overseas territories, were not always much different, in fact a lot worse, than how the Soviets treated our Eastern European states.

Besides, Europe is not the same region anymore. It is uniting and integrating itself and if this trend continues and occurs correctly, we won't technically need America's "protection," or be afraid of Russia. We are more numerous and prosperous than them, while our unity gives us strength and advantage towards them.

In addition, Europe has formed its own military defense and while it is on an infantile phase at the moment, it will mean that our continent will be able to control its defense and foreign policies.

One big thorn in the European-Russian relations is, of course, Ukraine and the overall Eastern Partnership trade agreements, which Russia sees as an infringement by Europe in its own former territories.

It may look like a tug-of-war between the two blocks but in reality, these regions can act as a bridge between the EU and Russia, instead of an impediment. If Ukraine is allowed in the EU and treats its Russian minorities as equal citizens, Russia will have a large number of its ethnic minority in Ukraine as EU citizens.

If this minority manages to have elected representatives in the European Parliament and become fully engaged EU citizens, Russia will be able to have a voice directly in the EU, thus influencing Europe from within. The problem is naturally, the insistence of NATO to add all new EU member states as its own members two, thus allowing this alliance to establish missiles directly pointing at Russia.

If you were Russia, wouldn’t you have a problem with that too? Of course, the invasion and annexation of Crimea by Russia, was a huge mistake, creating a never-ending conflict that has and will cost many lives. Destabilizing the region can never be a good thing for either side, financially, socially or politically. But Russia’s problem is not solely with Europe, rather America and our willingness to accommodate them no matter what.

We’ve got to realize that either we like it or not, we are heavily dependent on Russia for our oil and gas. We share common borders and so we should try to establish better relations with them. Europe is also co-operating with Russia already in many fields; the European Space Agency is closely working with its Russian counterpart on current and future space missions.
Why can’t this co-operation be expanded to other spheres?

One may question if the Russians can be trusted, since their political system is perceived by many European nations as utterly corrupt. But haven’t we our own very serious problems with corruption? Italy, for example, has chronic problems in its southern regions with Mafia, while Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, Romania and many other old and new EU members still haven’t managed to rid off corruption, even years after being EU member states.

Their records on human rights, especially for LGBT individuals are also very poor according to many westerners, while freedom of speech is also an issue, together with Russia’s love for authoritarianism.

We should not try to bring the country to our own standards by force though, or constant criticism. Besides, we have our own very conservative nations or regions. In Ireland and Poland, abortions are still forbidden, while Greece still remains a very religious country, with the Greek Orthodox Church heavily influencing the country’s society. Hungary and Poland have turned too authoritarian, so much that one could question their compatibility with the rest of Europe’s values.

If we look closely, all that we accuse Russia of, already exist to a certain degree in our societies too. That, of course, is not a reason to abandon applying pressure on them to reform or join us in the effort to better humanity, by playing a more positive and progressive role in the globe.

But we are doing it the wrong way. By cutting them off, applying constant sanctions towards them, or ridicule their ways as a society, we are only hardening their resistance towards reforms and modernization. Even if President Putin is indeed an obstacle or a problem, judging a whole country for his policies, only makes Russian people stand even more firmly behind him. They see him as a national hero this way.

Russia as a country, just like all of Europe’s countries, has its own unique history that has shaped its mentality and society. Yes, they may be more conservative overall, but they are also very diverse as a society.

The country is huge and is being consisted of numerous ethnic or religious groups, which are so diverse as its landmass and landscape. Instead of criticizing them, we should try and understand them. And if we really want to change them, the solution is not to cut them out, rather invite them in.

If we end this ridiculous visa restriction between the two regions, young Russians will be able to travel and study anywhere in Europe. And once they come in contact with our way of thinking, it is inevitable that they will push for more changes, when they move back to their country. That will help to bring the two communities together and close the mentality gap far better, than any sanctions have ever achieved.

They are after all largely European, and have contributed a lot to the European culture and heritage. From artists like Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky to their participation in both big wars of the continent, the unpleasant Soviet regime that spread in eastern Europe, their participation in the Greek struggle for liberation against the Turks, their meddling in the Balkans. Their involvement was not always pleasant or fair, but was Britain's, Germany's or even America's? 

Of course, one main obstacle for Europe changing attitudes towards Russia and vice versa, is our close alliance with America. They won’t like the drifting of Europe closer to Russia, or a greater Russian influence within Europe.

Yet we have to realize that we should establish our own independent foreign policy and why can’t this be friendly towards both Russia and the USA. In fact in the future, we will have a more multi-polar world and Europe should reach out to all other regions, establishing close relations with.

We may have our differences with China for example, but that does not stop European companies from investing in the country and moving thousands of jobs over there. Do we force all other regions of the world to abide by our own values in order to do business with them or form relations?

To conclude, I am not going to go as far and say as Mr Berlusconi did, that Russia should become an EU member. But if the Russians are willing to work with Europe in humanity’s overall progress, then their contribution should be welcomed.

Together, we can work on eradicating many problems that plague the world; like poverty and inequality, or battling diseases for example. With a bit of healthy competition, we can push humanity’s achievements in all spheres further, rather keep engaging in a ridiculous never-ending power game.

Having Russia on our side could mean a more positive and constructive Russian involvement in European affairs, keep alienating them and we should be thinking to find alternative oil and gas resources as soon as possible. Besides, shouldn’t the Cold War be over already?