Going Godless: a Perspective on Atheism from Iran
By Dariush Afshar (Mohammad Hekmat Afshar)
In Iran, according to the Islamic regime’s birth registry statistics, 98% of the Iranian population is Muslim. This means that even the writer of this article and millions like him, are per force considered to be adherents to the religion, which is absolutely false, unilateral, and obscure.
Iranian today may be considered one of the most atheist countries in the Islamic world and in the Middle East, more specifically. This in spite of the fascist religious regime that persecutes them with torture, imprisonment, and the course death penalty.
Today, one of the largest atheist movements is run by the Iranian Armin Navabi. There are many other writers, translators, and bloggers that write on religion, specifically Islam, with many them arrested by the regime and sentenced to death. In Iran, when an atheist called into question the validity of the Jonah story, writing that the character could have never survived the whale’s digestive system, he was executed on charges of ‘spreading corruption.’ Mohsen Amir-Aslani engaged in psychotherapy and published his own interpretations of the Quran.
Yes, atheism may cost your life in Iran, and it almost certainly will if you are discovered. Nevertheless, Iranian atheists have been formidably courageous in broadcasting their messages throughout social media, circumventing the organized censorship of national TV and radio.
Even persons who do not label themselves atheists, but political and human rights activists, have been actively engaged in criticism of the state religion. Doctor Forood Fouladvand, a critic of Islam and the Iranian regime, is believed to have been murdered by Iranian intelligence. Roshanak Dariush, an Iranian translator in exile in Germany, translated Salman Rushdie’s brilliant Satanic Verses. A Persian bookstore was set on fire because it held volumes of the book. And these are only a couple examples of the price activists pay for engaging in any work deemed hostile to the regime.
Our fight against oppressive religion has never been stronger, though.
Atheists in Iran are well aware of our dire situation. We know that freedom from can’t be achieved by sliding from one religion into another. We are aware that the regime is focusing on people religious directions to distract from its own poor governance and cupidity and to this end has raised a fascist pan-Aryan, anti-Semitic, identity movement.
This is a dangerous action on the part of the regime and a serious challenge to atheists today. Only time will tell how freethinkers will respond, and how the regime will respond to them.