Richard Dawkins will love this: a small group of worshippers plans a rare ceremony Sunday to honor the ancient Greek gods, at Athens' 1,800-year-old Temple of Zeus, is the king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus, and god of the sky and thunder, in Greek mythology. Phidias created the 12-meter (40-ft) tall statue of Zeus, perhaps the most famous sculpture in Ancient Greece, at Olympia about 435 BC.
Greece's Culture Ministry has declared the central Athens site off-limits, but worshippers say they will defy the decision.
"Of course we will go ahead with the event ... we will enter the site legally," said Peppa, head of the Athens-based Ellinais, who calls herself a high priestess of the revived faith. "We will issue a call for peace, who can be opposed to that?"
An Athens newspapaer citing the group's application to the Culture Ministry to use the site, said the 90-minute event would include hymns, dancers, torchbearers, and worshippers in ancient costumes.
Ancient rituals are re-enacted every two years at Olympia, in southern Greece, where the flame lighting ceremony is held for the summer and winter Olympic games. But the event is not regarded as a religious ceremony and actresses are used to pose as high priestesses.
Peppa's group, dedicated to reviving worship of the 12 ancient gods, was founded last year and won a court battle for official state recognition of the ancient Greek religion.
Christianity took hold in Greece in the 4th century after Roman Emperor Constantine's conversion. Emperor Theodosius wiped out the last vestige of the Olympian gods when he abolished the Olympic Games in 394 A.D. The modern revival of the Olympiad maintains a slender link to ancient ceremonies.
"Christianity did not prevail without bloodshed," said Peppa, a novelist and historical writer. "After 16 centuries of negativity toward us, we've gotten something in our favor."