Study Finds People In the Middle East Are Rapidly Changing Their Minds About Religion

Rise of secularism in the middle east

Is the Middle East Drifting Away From Religion?

There are religious institutions in the Middle East, which are very important to locals. These organizations also play an important role in running some states. However, data from several studies suggest that religious importance is declining more rapidly in some middle eastern countries than ever before.

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Based on data from interviews with more than 25,000 people, The Arab Barometer reports that Lebanon's rate of religious practices has declined by 43 percent at the individual level in the last ten years, adding that only one-fourth of the country's population claims to be "religious" even though no native citizen can be officially secular in Lebanon, but the Arab Barometer study suggests that religious practices on the personal scale are declining.

Don't count Iran off

A study by GAMAAN (the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN) collected data by talking to 40,000 people. The results say that 47% of participants said they were once religious, but now non-religious, which means they no longer are performing religious practices. 78% of the participants, however, believe in God, 22 percent do not agree with any particular religion, and 9 percent are atheists.

Why this change

Professor of Religious Studies, Puan Tamimi Arab, thinks education and urbanization are playing a major role in this change. In addition, the trend of economic development around the world has also changed the perception of traditional families, so what was done earlier at the family level has now changed. In this case, the Internet also considers it a big 'factor'.

Government data and reality...

According to official data, 99.5 percent of people in Iran are Shia, but the study says otherwise. According to the GAMAAN study, 78 percent of participants identify themselves as God-believers, but only 32 percent identify themselves as Shias. 5 percent say they are Sunni Muslims. 7 percent are spiritual and 6 percent are agnostic/atheist.

According to sociologist Ronald Inglehart, based on various studies on religion in 100 countries, the rapid rise of secularism is not a reality in only a few Middle Eastern countries, but in several of them.

Agreeing with him, Tamimi Arab elaborated, "these people who do not agree with any particular belief, their numbers are also increasing in countries like Morocco, Iraq, and Tunisia."

The attitude of the state towards religion is associated with how religious the people are. According to Professor James Dors, this characteristic difference can be understood by comparing Saudi Arabia with the United Arab Emirates. 

On the one hand, drinking is not forbidden in the UAE. Unmarried men and women can live together there. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, atheism is known as a form of terrorism. The attitude of the state can determine how religious the citizens of a country are.

By Jennifer Hollis, contributor.

Cover image's background by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

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