Atheism in Egypt sparks concern

Atheism in Egypt sparks concern

The Shaikh of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayeb, recently sounded a warning over the spread of atheism in Egypt. The authorities have now promised a drive against godlessness.

The leading Islamic cleric declared on Egyptian state TV:

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.

According to this report, the shaikh’s warning has apparently prompted the Egyptian government, struggling to rejuvenate an ailing economy and keep defiant Islamists under control, to turn their attention to the reported spread of scepticism.

The ministries of Waqfs (Religious Endowments) and Youth have said they will launch a nationwide campaign to tackle atheism.The planned drive – aimed at younger Egyptians – will be spearheaded by “moderate” clergymen, psychologists, sociologists and political specialists.

Said Amnah Nuseir, a professor of Islamic Creed at the Islamic Al Azhar University:

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.

Concern about the rise in atheism is not limited to Islamic authorities. Clerics in the country’s minority Christian community are worried too.

Addressing a groundbreaking conference on atheism last week, Bishop Beshui Helmy claimed that the unrest experienced by Egypt since the 2011 ousting of president Hosni Mubarak was the main reason for the trend. Helmy, the secretary-general of the Council of Egypt’s Churches, a non-official ecclesiastical body, said:

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.

Helmy also blamed high unemployment rates, disillusionment and “dominance of materialism” for the spread of atheism.

Atheism is the issue of the hour after the January revolution.

There are no official figures about atheists in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country of 87 million people. However, their number is estimated at around two million.

Egyptian atheists can face up to five years in prison for “contempt of religion”.

22 responses to “Atheism in Egypt sparks concern”

  1. Lurker111 says:

    At last, some good news out of the Middle East.

  2. Rob Andrews says:

    If this in happening among the young, it may be because in the Egyptian Universities. they must be teaching astronomy, geology and biology. This of course encourages in belief in a godless universe. And certainly disproves the literal old testament–the flood etc.

    I don’t think there just not teaching these subjects. Or teaching intellegent design, in them. But i don’t know what they teach there.

    “The old testament shows god when he was young. The new testament shows him later. after he got religion” Mark Twain

  3. Angela_K says:

    It is all about power and control and the right to use violence to maintain this.

  4. Michael Glass says:

    This article is evidence of a power tussle between the moderates and the zealots. The moderates are, in effect, blaming the rise of atheism on their more zealous brethren, because of their emphasis on hellfire and damnation, which, of course, is inconsistent with the “Allah is compassionate and merciful” mantra. Of course it’s also evidence of the fear of religious professionals, that their power and status may be on the wane as people increasingly turn their back on religious dogmas.

  5. Broga says:

    Odd really, that I, as an atheist, am such a threat to those people. I don’t feel like a corrupter of morals, an abuser of women, someone deserving prison or worse for my opinions. I don’t cut off heads, stone women to death, slice off young girls clitorises or want to kill people who hold different opinions to myself.

    Excellent news that atheism is now seen as a threat to the religious. Provides an example of the power of words backed by education and an ability to think.

  6. David Anderson says:

    “Thus, those preachers have portrayed Islam as a religion that knows no mercy. This is completely alien to moderation of Islam.”

    What colour is the sky in Amnah Nuseir’s Egypt?

  7. Brogue Heely says:

    Why don’t the godly just pray to get atheists on board. I thought these guys had a direct line to theie almighty. Can’t be much good if this can happen. I predict they will get devine instruction to stone the infidels.

  8. Broga says:

    The Internet is a plague on religion. People have access to free thought, different opinions and challenging views. All terminal for religious faith.

  9. AgentCormac says:


    I completely agree. Knowledge is anathema to all religions and will, eventually, be their undoing. As such, the internet is a wonderful tool not only for spreading enlightenment, but also for bringing people like ourselves together to share ideas and create communities which transcend borders as well as cultures. I can’t help thinking that the horse has already bolted for the likes of Ahmad Al Tayeb.

  10. Stephen Mynett says:

    This topic fits well with a previous one about the crazy Christian jihadist, it shows how worried the religionists are about logic and reason getting stronger footholds in all societies.

    For centuries religion has used fear as a major weapon in its advancement, now there is a rather nice irony to see these religionists experiencing fear when confronted by science, reason and logic.

  11. MortimerGrimm says:

    You know, the fake freedom caused by the French revolution seems to have turned out pretty well.

  12. Paul Cook says:

    If only religion had not had the hold over our kind for a thousand years or more- where would we be and how advanced and humane might we have become.

  13. Stephen Mynett says:

    Good question Paul. It is obvious science and medicine stagnated, even regressed, after Constantine became emperor of Rome and Christianity was forced on everyone.

    There were many hundreds or years wasted because of the threat of heresy charges against scientists and reasoned thinkers.

  14. Carlynot says:

    What bugs me about this is they concentrate on targeting the young.
    National child abuse. All because no adult in their right mind would believe their bullshit if they were no indoctrinated at an early age.
    Total creeps!

  15. L.Long says:

    Theocracy alive and well in Egypt!!!!

  16. Matt Westwood says:

    Oh well, I’ll stay out of Egypt then.

    “Waqf”: how do you pronounce that? Whack-off?

  17. tonye says:

    Paul Cook/Stephen Mynett,

    It’s not a coincidence that when religion had it’s tightest hold on Europe (the Dark Ages) it was also the longest period, in fairly recent history, of medical, intellectual and scientific stagnation.

  18. 1859 says:

    Wait till smart phones (which are basically pocket computers with internet access) become as cheap as chips and are in the hands of every man woman and child on the planet. Just wait – when religious fanatics realise they’re loosing their grip on peoples’ minds because their people are picking up rational ideas from being online, then, like the taliban once did in Afganistan with music cassettes, they will start crushing any device that can access the internet.

  19. Paul Cook says:

    @ 1859

    This has happened.
    Iran where the use of social media was the way the opposition organised to oppose the religious government. Its use caused the ruling islamic government to send troops onto the streets killing people who opposed their regime. Then shut down the internet and ALL social media. Mobile phone networks etc. Bloggers are always targeted in iran.

    Turkey where the islamic ruling party sent troops and riot police onto the streets to kill people. And then shut down ALL social media, twitter, You Tube and mms systems. Turkey has shut down you tube and the net systems more than once. It controls the access to the web for certain sites – just like the UAE.

    But it is not restricted to islamic countries. China for example controls everything. But is not that form of extreme communism simply religion in disguise? Better thinkers than I can answer this question.

    None of these governments can govern effectively in true freedom, and need to control peoples minds through religion.

  20. Rob Andrews says:

    There are many tools of communication; some good and some bad. EDUCATION and DEBATE are the good ones. But religion can’t stand up to these kind. Since it’s just mythology, though a time honored one.

    So they use the bad tools of communication. That is: CENSORSHIP; PROPAGANDA; SECRECY and SPYING, as in the case of the Roman Catholic Inquisioion.

    “Philosophy has questions that may never be answered. Religion has answers that may never be questioned”. Quote from the Atheist Empire website.

  21. 1859 says:

    @ Paul C : I know this will sound like a stupid question, – so no one in Iran, Turkey, UAE and China can access this Freethinker site? Not ever having been in these countries I’ve never had the luxury of testing access. Maybe Barry Duke knows?

  22. Paul Cook says:


    Turkey, sort of but connection is slow.
    UAE absolutely not.
    China am not sure.
    Iran I doubt it.
    My point was more general net bans, all the countries named do this all the time, and on social media, instant messaging etc.