This is something you don't hear about every day:
IN THE shadow of Mount Olympus the toga-clad worshippers sway to the beating of a drum as the bearded man leading the ceremony throws a pinch of grain into a torch, then circles his hand above the flames.
While the group, dressed in yellow, red and blue robes, may appear to be taking part in some bewildering historical re-enactment, they are members a growing pagan movement dedicated to resurrecting the religion and way of life of ancient Greece.
The pagans have gathered in a meadow near the sacred mountain where their ancestors believed the gods lived and held court to perform a naming ceremony for a nine-month-old boy, Nikoforos Xanthopoulos.
Apparently this group has been around for 15-20 years. And just why do they want to be pagans?
"We want to take the world view, concepts, ideas, religion and values of the ancient Greeks, the founders of western civilisation, and adapt them to today," Olympios explained. "The Greek way is to establish a scientific society. Christianity today is hostile to science."
Let me get this straight: They think that worshipping gods who are supposed to live on this mountain is more in tune with science than Christianity, even though the gods can be proven not to actually be on the mountain?
Not to worry, they've got that covered:
Buschbeck explained that Hellenes do not worship the pantheon of 12 gods as deities. Rather, each god represents a natural phenomena or human value.
So they don't actually believe in the Greek gods at all. This sounds more like a philosophy than a religion. Or maybe it's something else entirely:
The movement appeals to many different tastes: for some it provides an intellectually satisfying philosophy, for others an antidote to the Greek Church’s political power, New Age reverence for the ancient or something exotic for the curiosity-seeker.
However, the movement has also attracted a small number of more sinister followers; right-wing nationalists who believe their anti-Semitic views are reflected in its rejection of the Judeo-Christian religion.
The Hellenes still mourn the end of their civilisation in the 4th Century AD, when Christians representing the new official religion of the Roman Empire began destroying their temples, statues and libraries.
"The Greek Orthodox Christian Church is still at the scene of the crime," said Vlassis Rassias, a human resources manager at a bank, who writes books about ancient Greek history. The 44-year-old is indignant that the Greek Orthodox Church today builds new churches at every site where an ancient temple is uncovered.
This sounds less like a religion or a philosophy and more like a way to rebel against the Greek Orthodox church in such a way as to make yourself out as a victim. Beats me what the point of doing that would be though.