Religion is the central foundation in family, community and education in Islamic countries. Iran in this case is my sample.
Personal identity is “What makes it true that a person at one time is the same thing as a person at another time?” or “What kinds of things are we persons?” if you ask these questions from Iranians, probably the first thing you will hear is that they are all Shia Muslim, and they are Iranian. It roots strongly in every aspect of their lives and it is almost impossible to alter.
Now, I am asking a question. How can we assist people in questioning their strongly stable faiths and beliefs? As I am an atheist, I consider Islam and other religions to be man-made fictions, and their being strong in Iran, do not make them real or true!
Religious identity is the sense of group membership to a religion, and there is no problem with it. People go to church or mosque to fulfill a need. They form their identities in their groups. I do it too. Well, of course I don’t go mosque, but I certainly enjoy sitting with other atheists and share ideas. It gives me purpose and a better reflection of who I am. However, religious identity has gone beyond the limits of the group. As more people have shared the same memeberships for a long time, the identity has become an inseperable part of the society to the point that now we address and identify some societies mainly by their religious memberships. Iran, as an example, is defined as a Shiite Muslim society. This however can be problematic, just as most of the ideologies which went beyond the limits of their small groups caused problems. Take communism for example, or Christianity. When an ideology goes beyond its small groups and limitations, it becomes an establishment, it roots deep in daily lives and sparks problems. History has taught us this. We saw how Christianity ruled the world, massacred and enslaved people, but we stopped it when we realised that it has gone beyond its walls. A very similar story has happened with Islam too. I never feared criticizing the whole idea of religion, be it Islam or Christianity or Hinduism. Organized religion needs to be stopped. The only way to improve things is by criticizing only, however, if I criticize Islam, in a Muslim country, I would be a blasphemer, and if I criticize it in a non-Muslim country, I’d be an Islamophobe!