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Tuesday, December 07, 2004 

Religion and Corruption

When I first came to Greece almost 7 years ago, I was amazed at the number of churches I saw here. There's one on practically every street corner and there seems to be a new one being constructed on every second street corner. I thought it strange that more new churches would be needed considering the only increase in population comes from mostly non-Orthodox immigrants.

And this simple observation started a chain reaction of thoughts relating to religion and corruption.

In a country of about 10.6 million people and 98% of them followers of the Greek Orthodox religion, I can understand that they would predominantly have Orthodox churches here instead of an assortment of other denominational churches. But why so many of them? I hypothesized that it was perhaps Greeks were such devout and pious Christians that they needed to have physical manifestations proving their devotion to God. But if this were true, why was such a 'Christian' nation so corrupt? Then I thought of other religious nations such as the Philippines, Italy and Mexico who were also notorious for their corruption and I then concluded that the most corrupt nations on the planet were also the most religious ones.

I went on the hunt to find some evidence to back up my theory. Enter Transparency International, an NGO which is, itself, devoted to combatting corruption. I downloaded their list of the least corrupt countries and found that, my theory seemed to be accurate. According to the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2004 (http://www.transparency.org/cpi/2004/cpi2004.en.html#cpi2004), the least religious countries were also the least corrupt countries. Finland being the least corrupt Greece ranked 48 places lower at 49--just a notch ahead of El Salvador. (Phillipines-102; Italy-42; Mexico-64)

What is it about a religious society that prides itself on the values religion is supposed to instill ends up being more corrupt than it's ungodly counterparts. A working paper on the causes, correlations and results of corruption (http://www.transparency.org/working_papers/lambsdorff/lambsdorff_eresearch.html) Section 4.3 raises an interesting point. As well as proving that there is a direct link between corruption and religion, it suggests that the reason for it may be religion's hierarchal structure. People "the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally".

Another reason could be the teachings of the Church itself. One of the Church's main attractions to its members, is the fact that it offers a better life for its followers elsewhere off the planet. Life on earth is then, merely a passing phase for them on the path to eternal salvation in heaven or paradise on earth after death. Therefore, if all you have to tolerate is a couple decades of corruption in order to reap the rewards of a promised Utopia later on, then you might just be more inclined to turn a blind eye to the sins you see around you.

I spoke to a preacher outside a club not long ago who tried to make me believe that a life with no partners, friends or fun only the holy spirit would reward me with an enternity of happiness. A tempting offer but I just dont feel like taking the chance.

U4ric...if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I am 100% certain of the life I have now which is why I will do everything in my power to make the best out of the life I have now and if there's a slim possibility there is something else waiting for me after death, then I figure because I tried to be the best I could be, then I'll have myself covered in the event of an afterlife anyway.

Here's a suggestion for a blog Seawitch...

Is there anything decent or worthwhile about Greece? Surely there must be some things worthy of praise or respect. I'd like to know what they are. :-)


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