Friday, June 13, 2014

A Surprising 5% Of Saudi Arabians Claim Atheism

One of the last places on earth you'd expect to see a reasonably sized atheist population is in Saudi Arabia. But many reports have surfaced recently that as many as 5 percent of Saudi Arabians are "convinced atheists."

Amazingly, the country just passed laws declaring atheists as terrorists, so don't expect any reason rallies there anytime soon. But this surprising insight is indicative that atheism has potential to grow in the Islamic world. I actually know one Saudi Arabian man who came to some of the local atheist Meetups here in New York and he told me how brainwashed most of the population in his country is. "It's madness" I remember him telling me over and over again describing the level of religiosity in his country.

The question I have is why are so many Saudi Arabians rejecting Islam and god. Is it because they are rebelling against the government run fundamentalism in their country? Is it because they've been convinced, as I have, that there is no good evidence for the existence of god and plenty of good evidence against it? Unfortunately, we don't have any statistical data as to why the atheists in Saudi Arabia became atheists, but many are blaming the government's hard line fundamentalist approach that imposes sharia law to a degree unmatched even in many other parts of the Islamic world.

I think it is certainly true that religious fundamentalism can spur its antithesis, which can be atheism, but this can make atheism look like it isn't an intellectual position, which it is. This characterization tries to make atheism look like it's nothing more than just an emotional reaction to extremism. I take issue with this. Militant atheism is often a reaction to religious extremism, but many here in the West arrive at atheism for intellectual reasons. To many atheists, religion just doesn't make sense when thoroughly examined, and the reasons why they believed in the first place was often due simply to the fact that they were raised in that religion, and nothing else. I'm sure this is true of many atheist Saudis.

So I can only speculate why so many Saudis are turning their backs on Islam and towards atheism, but they can be assured that there are very good reasons to do so.

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