I do not appreciate the lack of secularism in my country, Serbia.
Normally I refrain from any kind of political commentary online as it only sparks futile debate, even amongst those I consider my peers.
However, this just might be the issue - this is not supposed to be a political debate.
When I was younger I was proud to consider myself an Orthodox Christian. I've read the Bible, and though I barely understood, let alone remembered, most of it - I liked the rituals, the tradition and beliefs that stemmed from this branch of Christianity. A large part of it was my father- he was raised Orthodox, and no matter how hypocritical the roots of his faith, or lack thereof, the traditions became a nice thing to do in his household.
I no longer consider myself Orthodox Christian. The reasons are manifold, but none stem from hate towards the faith: I simply do not believe, and would deem it insulting if I pretended to be "of the faith" without either sufficient knowledge on it and/or, more importantly, the true faith in the dogma and preachings of the religion.
I still, however, find the tenets of Orthodox Christianity, in their base, to be a nice thing, and respect it at least as a culture more than 2000 years old.
This post was inspired by my viewing a Davis Cup match to see a Orthodox priest in full regalia sitting in the Serbian box.
Normally, I am first to loath the banner-wavers of the so called "I hate organized religion" cult. I've never had any animosity towards the clergy, and tended to defend them whenever debate arose. I would gladly concur that Catholic priests and Catholicism was corrupt, capitalist in ideal and imperialist, hollow of heart and focused on money. But Orthodoxy? Never.
This was, off course, denial of the simple fact that to disrespect the clergy was not to disrespect the faith itself. When I defended the Serbian Orthodox Church in these debates, what I was actually defending was my own feeling of comfort, my fond memories of patron saint days celebrated with my father and the nice feelings I would get in church.
Some things, however, began to be a thorn in my side.
The fact some Orthodox priest behaved like spoiled mobsters, sporting huge, expensive cars with darkened windows. The fact a lot of these priests charged an inordinate amount of money for their "services". The fact a large number of these priests exhibited cases of extreme racism, nationalism, sexism and homophobia.
I am certain that for every one of these there was a normal, down to earth, honest priest that simply served his faith. But a scathing observation remained: some of "our" priest behaved even worse than my previous image of the evil, corrupt, soul-less Catholic priest.
The very temple of Sveti Sava exhibits the kind of pomp and self indulgence that I found the Catholic church architecture to have. Its big, its showy, its kitschy - its nothing a temple of a faith that preaches modesty and restraint should have. All this money poured into it - should it not be used to help people in need? What about our historical monuments in Kosovo? Or the people in need there?
All these things added up to finally turn me - I dislike organized religion, especially in Serbia. Faith is a deeply personal thing, and a preacher should only be there as a friendly advice, a helping hand, a spiritual guide if you ever need one. What it shouldn't be is a political, mafia-like force marked by arrogance and an absolutist desire to control the people it should be helping. This makes me sad for the thousands of preachers and believers of the faith that simply want nothing more than to practice their faith in peace.
The Davis Cup match has ended, but I am thankfully spared of watching the priest stumble awkwardly in his robe back into his Mercedes, massive golden cross tingling. God knows how long this will be the case.