Every Thanksgiving I remember how thankful I am to live in the United States. It’s a place where I can follow any belief and share my beliefs without fear of prosecution. However, Saudi Arabia is a little different.
“Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy without legal protection for freedom of religion, and such protection does not exist in practice. Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The Government prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions. The Government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however, it does not always respect this right in practice. ” – U.S. Department of State
Yesterday, I found the Washington Post article ‘Fighting Reality’: Life as an atheist in Saudi Arabia, about the difficulty of being an atheist in a religious state. Saudi Arabia supports a government with sharia law. If you don’t know what sharia law is, it basically means that the government enforces laws based on Islamic principles to help citizens follow the path for Muslim life.
In an Interview with a Saudi atheist, a man called Jabir said he had to smuggle and hide his books such as God is not Great. Jabir also said that social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, has been a major help in finding fellow atheists and religious debaters. However, Jabir is very cautious with who he speaks to about his secular beliefs. Even if the government didn’t take action, it’s likely that he would be exiled from his family and physically harmed or harassed by others. Jabir still pretends to pray at a Mosque every Friday to keep up his religious image for his family.
While I am very thankful to live in America with all of its freedoms, some of this religious suppression is still prominent in the U.S. I’ve lived my entire life in the South and Christianity is a belief most southerners are expected to have. I have friends who, like Jabir, have to pretend to pray at family dinners to keep up an image Christian faith. These are atheist children from strict Christian families. I have heard stories of aunts or uncles who have become the family black sheep from “coming out” as an atheist. Many of these family members have been completely excommunicated, even from holidays like Thanksgiving. About.com even has a page of suggestions on how to come out to a religious family.
As the LGBT community is making its way into acceptance with the general population I hope that atheism can become accepted too. However, I think Ronald A. Lindsay did a good job describing the difficulty atheists face in The Huffington Post.