The practical terms of morality


If Greeks more than anyone else in the world believe that faith in God is required to be moral and we also come first in the Western world in the importance we attach to religion, then why do we refuse to do what is necessary to contain the pandemic? If we are such a pious and respectful lot, why don’t we comply with the recommendations of the experts (this is not a general trend, but is prevalent enough to be cause for concern)? Where does the Church of Greece stand on the issue? Is it a staunch ally of the scientific community, not just in words but also in actions (as in the use of masks)?

A survey of 38,426 people in 34 countries conducted recently by the Pew Research Center and titled “The Global God Divide” showed Greece to be the leader in various matters of religious faith among developed economies, with the positive response rate ranging from 53% to 82%, depending on the question. What it doesn’t tell us is how this acceptance of the unknown often leads to conflict with the known and self-evident. Are we relegating matters of health to the sphere of the miraculous? Are we faking faith when we pray for our own good, but actually couldn’t care less for the good of our neighbor? The reason for such questions is that we appear to be having a hard time understanding that our attitude – how strictly we comply with health regulations – has a part to play in whether the pandemic can be contained.

Large gatherings keep happening – as was recently the case with a wedding bash in Thessaloniki that was responsible for at least 10 known Covid-19 infections – the abolition of village festivals is lamented, and huge parties at luxury villas on Mykonos continue. In short, an entire mechanism is having to deal with the denial of a few thousand people who refuse to acknowledge reality. Not to mention the case of the woman who was expelled from a church recently because the priest was annoyed at her for wearing a mask.

There are many ways of viewing and interpreting the findings of the Pew study, including that they expose us as hypocrites when it comes to following the rules despite our claims of piety. The study shows that we laud morality but flout it when it comes to its application (because it is indeed a very practical thing) by having our masks hanging by our ear or stuck in a pocket so we can put it on quickly if someone reprimands us.

Faith varies from person to person, as does the coronavirus. The difference, however, is that the latter knows nothing of magnanimity and forgiveness.