July 13, 2010

Bishop Demetrios on the Atheist Debate

Friday, June 25, 2010

His Grace Bishop Demetrios responded to an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled, "Secularists spreading the word to skip church," with the following letter which appeared in the June 24th edition of the Tribune.

This is in response to "Secularists spreading the word to skip church" (Page 1, June 17), by Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear. There is a certain irony when so-called atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, thinking they are sparking "a public conversation" with adherents of religious tradition, resort to tactics that preclude debate and insult the very people they seek to engage. Indeed those who would claim a priority of rationality are hard-pressed to provide a clear rationale for their efforts to convince those of faith to forego their own traditions and customs.

Are not those who "argue that beliefs should be based on rationality, not on religious tradition or dogma" being themselves dogmatic? In seeking converts to their cause, have they not adopted the very form of religious traditions? A fallacy is not part of rational argument, and it is a fallacy to state that religious faith cannot coexist with reason, or that religion is opposed to scientific endeavor, and so forth. It is also simply untrue that non-religious people have been persecuted or shunned by American society of the past several decades, when court decisions and legislation have continually eroded religious expression in the public sphere. I certainly respect the right of such people to express their views. This nation is founded on the principle of respect for all people, and it is only in the U.S. that there exists such a diverse population, ethnic, religious and non-religious.

Here in Chicago, as the chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis and a former president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, I have seen firsthand the wonderful tolerance of our people. True there are always instances of intolerance and the failures of some to uphold the finest principles of diversity and respect in our nation. They are truly imprisoned in their own intolerance. That is certainly anything but "free" thinking, and that is simply sad.

— Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, chancellor, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago