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Rise of atheism in Egypt sparks concern | GulfNews.com
It's not just in the Western world that clerics who earn their living from people's irrational superstitions, delusions and phobias are becoming concerned over the spread of rationalism and outbreaks of logical thinking. Egyptian clerics too are concerned about the growth of Atheism.
It is estimated that there are about two million Atheists in Egypt, i.e. about 2.3% of the population of 87 million, despite the fact that Atheism is regarded as a 'contempt of religion', an offence carrying up to a five year prison sentence. Well, if you can't counter their arguments and feel threatened by their logic, lock 'em away where other people can't hear them and never, ever, engage them in dialogue in case they explain why they disagree with you!
The Sheikh of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayeb, Egypt's leading Islamic cleric, has announced that "Atheism is no longer a marginal issue, it has become one of the many challenges facing the country. There are agencies and institutions in the country concerned about this issue." This has prompted the military government, which is struggling with a failing economy as well as Islamic extremism, to launch a campaign involving the Ministries of Religious Endowments and Youth which will include psychologists, sociologists and political specialists as well as moderate clerics.
Curiously though, the same clerics who are worried by Atheism and who would rather have religions, despite their tendency to extremism, blame those very extremists for the rise of Atheism.
The spread of atheism is linked to extremism. Young people are turned off by militant clergymen who keep day and night telling people they will be condemned to hell in the hereafter. Thus, those preachers have portrayed Islam as a religion that knows no mercy. This is completely alien to moderation of Islam.
Amnah Nuseir, Professor of Islamic Creed,
Al Azhar Islamic University, Egypt
They are supported in this by Christian clerics who are feeling the same insecurity over their future. It seems both sides would rather have a country divided by rival religions than one united by embracing rationalism and rejecting mythical gods and superstitions. The self-evident fact that superstitions inevitably lead to extremism and violence - the very problems the military government overthrew the newly elected democratic one a few months ago to counter - is not seen as a problem provided the clerics continue to hold power over their rival camps.
When revolutions take place in any society, they lead to a sort of fake freedom. They prompt man to rebel against everything seen as classical and traditional. After revolting against the political regime, attention is turned to rebellion against the family’s authority and then the religious authorities represented by clergymen. Some people believe that as long as the ruler of the country is deposed, why not depose the chief of the world too... Atheism is the issue of the hour after the January revolution.
Bishop Beshui Helmy, Secretary-General,
Council of Egypt’s Churches
Egypt's minority Coptic Christian community is a traditional supporter of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, but not, it seems, of the right to be free from religion. In the best traditions of religious clerics, their support for religious freedom is inversely proportional to their power to deny it to others. Nothing unites pedlars of rival superstitions like a threat to their common livelihood.
But at least the clerics appear to have got their analysis of the cause of this increasing rejection of religion by young people right, even if they have difficulty putting two and two together. It is probably true to say that it is the experience of extremism and what it can lead to which is causing people to question what it is about superstitions which can induce people to behave barbarically believing it to be the will of a benevolent, loving god. What is is about religion that can induce good people to do bad things, believing them to be good? It is, of course, the abandonment of personal responsibility and handing over that responsibility to religious clerics.
Imagine what a different place the entire Middle East would be if Atheism was predominant throughout the region. Islamic and Christian clerics, and no doubt their Jewish counterparts, find this prospect too dreadful to contemplate and will use the full force of the state to prevent it. Meanwhile they'll happily keep the killing going in the name of a god of love and a 'religion of peace'.
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