Saturday, November 27, 2010

Joanna Tzortzis

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank Peter Clothier for sharing his journey with us. It was great to learn more of the Buddhist faith. A fascinating piece. Thank you Peter!

Today we have a new post. Please welcome Joanna Tzortzis.
Joanna is Non-Denominational and I know you will enjoy her interview!

Here Is Joanna Tzortzis's Introduction:

I’m a 19-year-old freelance-writer, “new age hippie” and an artist currently living in Finland. I’m half Greek so I’ve kind of grown up in between two cultures here in Helsinki and back in Rhodes. Music is my salvation, and so is any other form of art.

1) What religion do you practice?
My own, I guess. Today I’m not part of any certain church. I haven't found a church that I would agree with 100% and I don't think that religion is like a buffet where you can pick out what works for you and leave the rest. I think it’s quite hypocritical to do so. I do believe in God or in some higher force but in my own corky way.

2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was born into Evangelical Lutheran church but converted into Greek Orthodox later. If I ever loved being part of any church it has to be the Orthodox one, I felt it was more ‘mine’ than EvLu church ever was.

I never questioned being part of the Orthodox Church and changing back to EvLu, but once I turned 18 I started questioning being part of any church at all. A lot of people seem to part from the church because of outer reasons like the taxes but my own reasons were never external. I just didn’t think that being part of a church was something I needed to do any longer. I felt that I needed to separate from the church to figure out which religious path would be right for me. I’m still searching and won’t join back to any church before I find my place.

3&4&5) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other? In your opinion, what makes you moderate/conservative/other? In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
I’m quite liberal, I believe in peace and love and good things, I believe that people are good and if they aren’t they can turn into good. I believe that we’re all one no matter what religion we’re part of and I believe in being free instead of making strict rules and definitions and sticking to them.

I believe a conservative person is someone who sticks to old habits and traditions no matter what. They want to be good people so badly that they stick to the old habits and traditions so hard it sometimes makes them do bad things. It seems unfortunate and idiotic to me, sometimes even hypocritical. Imagine someone who doesn’t belong to church and swears a lot and isn’t a virgin when getting married and stuff like that, that person would automatically go to hell in the eyes of the conservative people because they don’t stick to the traditions, it doesn’t matter if the person is actually good or not. On the other hand there might be a person who’s like one of the worst people ever but if that person lives by ‘the rules’ and strongly believes in God in theory that person would be forgiven. That to me seems hypocritical.

6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
Many people seem to try to drag heaven on earth by storing money and searching lust and all these other things that won’t last beyond the grave. I don’t know about afterlife but I think true happiness lies in things that you can’t set a prize on, that you can savour through your life and than die as a happy person.

To me true heaven is being a good person, I see that God is good and we need to get as close to being good as well. You don’t need to work miracles to do so, even the little things count.

7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
Can anyone be a good person? Everyone has the tools to be one but not everyone uses them right. People also make mistakes whether you’re a good person or not and some people tend to take that too harshly. Doing a bad thing doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, it’s more about why you did the bad thing, did you do it on purpose and do you regret what you did. Even a bad person can turn into a good one, change can happen but it’s hard and happens slowly. I believe that people are good to begin with.

8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
Being free religion-wise doesn’t set me any boundaries and that is the great part of it. I’m staying true to myself and to everyone else by staying far away from the things that I don’t believe in. Why would I want to marry to God’s name if it doesn’t mean a shit to me? I take full responsibility from everything I act on and as long as I don’t label myself as a part of any religion I can be anything I want to be. Religion-wise.

9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Officially I don’t have any, but I do celebrate Christmas for instance. I don’t necessarily celebrate it in the name of the birth of Jesus Christ but it is a season I want to spend with my family and loved ones, find some sort of inner peace in myself and calm myself.

10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
I think that if anything you believe in starts to affect being friends with other people, something’s definitely wrong. I would never ignore someone just because of what they believe in. Religion is a very private thing and it’s not my place to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t believe in, neither is it theirs to say what I should believe in.

11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Sure, why not. It may not be what suits me but at least the experience would teach me something new for sure. I definitely respect what other people believe in even if I didn’t share that same belief.

12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I’m not that familiar with the Shariah Law but the burka is a very two-sided matter. On the other hand some women who wear it do so to respect their religion and culture but then again it’s extremely subjugate and derogatory thing to hide most of your body just because you’re a woman and you have to do so if you don’t want to get pelted with stones.

The more you’re afraid the less you have freedom in your life and taking that away from someone is one of the biggest severities that can be done. So I think the controversy behind the burka is in the fact if you wear it to respect something or out of fear.

13) What are your thoughts on women not being allowed to become priests?
I think it’s more a matter of tradition than justice. The Orthodox Church for example doesn’t ordain women as priests but it’s mainly just because there’s no record of woman priests in the past either and the Orthodox Church can’t measure theological matters separate from that tradition. To them it’s not even a matter of equality or human rights. So I understand the church’s view but then again I don’t think that anyone would make a less good priest just because of being a woman.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
My thoughts on abortion, gay marriage and decisions on a daily basis affect on what I believe in rather than another way around. I couldn’t imagine living a life in where I’d go “Hey, I believe in this now and I’m a part of this religion now so I have to live according to their traditions and please other people that share my religion and then I have this book that defines my opinions on most of global issues.” Sure it works for some people and I’m not here to judge, those people seem to get a lot of strength and other things back from living their life like that and I’m happy for them but I couldn’t do that myself.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I only carry the responsibility of my own beliefs and religion, what other people believe in is their personal decision. That includes my possible offspring.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
It’s not my place to judge or even think about things like that. Like I said I see religion as a very private issue so it’s really not my place to define if someone else goes to hell or not. I can live my life according to what I believe in and if someone else wants to bow towards Mecca more than once a day that doesn’t make them any less of a better person, that just makes him different from me.

17) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
My new-found freedom from the church definitely does lay off a lot of pressure on me. Can you imagine going to a place dedicated to something you’re not sure you believe in when absolutely everyone in the room thinks you’re certain that you share their beliefs and show the same dedication they do?

Sure I kind of miss going to church but not here in Finland. I miss the little churches in Greece en route to the store where you could just pop by and light a candle. No pressure, no less, no necessity, just passion and pure belief. Let it be secondary if you believed in God ‘the same way as others do’, you still believed in some higher force as strongly as other people did.

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