Atheism in Iran

Under the Islamic Republic of Iran law, apostasy from Islam is punishable by death. Non-religious Iranians or atheists in Iran are officially unrecognized by the government, and one must declare oneself as a member of one of the four recognized faiths in order to avail oneself of many of the rights of citizenship. Citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran are officially divided into four categories: Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians. This official division ignores other religious minorities in Iran, notably the Iranian atheists.

Since atheism is not a belief nor a religion, non-believers are not given legal status in Iran. Following that, declaration of faith in Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism is required to avail of certain rights such as applying for entrance to university, or becoming a lawyer, with the position of judge reserved for Muslims only.

Why we established Atheist Iran?

Numerous writers, thinkers and philanthropists have been accused of apostasy and sentenced to death for questioning the prevailing interpretation of Islam in Iran. The Atheist Iran was established in 2019 to form a platform for Iranian atheists to start debates and to question the current Islamic regime’s attitude towards atheists, apostasy, and human rights.

Death and imprisonment and Iranian atheists

The law against blasphemy complements laws against criticizing the Islamic regime, insulting Islam, and publishing materials that deviate from Islamic standards. The regime uses these laws to persecute dissidents or atheists and journalists. These individuals are subject to surveillance by the “Basij” or “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” harassment, prolonged detention, mistreatment, torture and execution.

Fatwa, practice killing game and Iranian atheist

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.

For Instance, following the release of the song “Ay Naghi!” by Shahin Najafi, an Iranian singer, Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, a Shia cleric based in Qom, issued a fatwa death sentence against him for apostasy. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi, a “source of emulation” for many Shia Muslims, also issued a fatwa declaring Najafi guilty of apostasy.As of 15 May 2012, more than 800 people in Iran had joined a Facebook campaign calling for Najafi to be executed, saying they were ready to assassinate him if necessary. An Iranian web site,, offered a US $100,000 bounty to anyone who killed Najafi and in May 2012, the a webssite posted an online “Shoot the Apostates” flash computer game inviting people to shoot and kill Najafi. “Those who love Imam Hadi (tenth of the Twelve Imams of Shia Islam), can practice killing Shahin Najafi by playing this flash game” said Honar Nab Eslam, who developed the game.

Atheism in Iran according to survey

According to a new poll, four decades after the establishment of the Islamic regime, only 32% of the population consider themselves Shia Muslims. The new poll by the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN), a non-profit institute in the Netherlands, asked Iranians about their “attitude toward religion”.

90 percent of the 50,000 Iranian participants in the survey reside in Iran. GAMAAN claims the results of the survey to be 95% accurate and generalizable to the entire Iranian society. According to the results, 78% of Iranians believe in God, but only 26% of them believe in “the coming of the Messiah (Imam Mahdi)” , which is one of the main beliefs of the Twelver Shiites.

While only 32% of Iranians consider themselves Shia Muslims, 9% have claimed to be atheists and 22% do not align with any religion. Half of the population used to believe but does not anymore and 6% have converted to a new religion.

Out of 61% of the people born into religious families, 60% do not say their daily prayers. 68% of the participants believe that religion must not be the basis of legislation, 71% believe that religious institutions must be self-funded, and 42% believe that promoting any kind of religion must be banned from the public sphere.

The results also indicate that 73% of the population disagree with the compulsory hijab while 58% do not believe in hijab. 37% of Iranian drink alcohol regularly or occasionally, despite its prohibition after the revolution. Prohibition and price have deterred only 8% of Iranians from consuming alcohol.

The Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran is run by Dr. Ammar Maleki, assistant professor at Tilburg University, and Pooyan Tamimi Arab, assistant professor of religious studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Utrecht University.