According to the 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, atheists (who use that label) comprise 1.6% of the population… If there are about 316,000,000 Americans, that means there are about 5,056,000 atheists in the country.
The key word in all that is “about.” There are undoubtedly a lot of Americans who don’t believe in God but who don’t use the “atheist” label. There are probably lots of atheists who lie and just say they’re religious because of the stigma. We also have to consider the margin of error for the survey. In other words, what we have are strong estimates at best. And every survey reveals slightly different numbers.
But not in Egypt. They don’t do estimates in Egypt:
… senior government clerics are quite sure of one thing: there are exactly 866 atheists in Egypt — roughly 0.00001% of the population.
This suspiciously precise figure means Egypt harbours the highest number of atheists in the Arab world, according to claims by Dar al-Ifta, an official wing of government that issues religious edicts, citing research released this week by a regional polling group. Morocco came in second, with supposedly only 325 atheists. Yemen is meant to have 32.
That’s… weirdly specific. And in a country where Islam is a powerful force, and there’s backlash against atheists who are open about it (including possible prison sentences), how many atheists just keep quiet in order to stay safe?
“They are in denial,” said Rabab Kamal, a spokesperson for The Secularists, a small but vocal group that lobbies for a secular state. “I could count more than that number of atheists at al-Azhar university alone,” she added, referencing the Cairo-based institution that is widely regarded as the seat of global Sunni learning.
What’s even worse is that the definition of atheist, according to Dar al-Ifta, was even broader than it should be. Their definition includes Muslims who converted to a different faith.
There’s just no way 866 is an accurate number. They rounded down… by a factor of everything. One estimate puts the number closer to 2 million (in the country of about 87 million).
The report said social media was partly to blame for the high number of atheists. They’re somewhat right on that end. The more these lies are spread and people are made aware of it, the less seriously people will take their leaders and their leaders’ faith.