Religion in Ariddia
As no official statistics exist, the significance of religion in the everyday lives of Ariddians is sometimes difficult to evaluate. Decades of communism have eroded the importance of religion in the country, and by law the government is fully secular. Some proponents of religion outside the nation have accused the emphasis on philosophy and critical thinking in Ariddian schools of generating this decline, alleging that Ariddia's education system is biased against religion - a claim strongly rejected by the Ministry for Education. Additionally, Ariddian law guarantees and protects freedom of religion.
The picture is complicated by the fact that many Ariddians who identify with a religion, and who may even practice it to a certain extent, are in fact atheists, and consider religion to be more a cultural matter than a spiritual one.
Religion, for most Ariddians, is not an important matter, and is in any case fully distinct from politics. The nation's head of State, Prime Secretary Aj Ud, is known to be an atheist, although he rarely mentions the fact; acting head of State Secretary Nuriyah bint Rashad Khadhim is thought to be an atheist or agnostic Muslim, although she has made no public comment on her religious beliefs (or lack thereof). She is known to have attended Muslim ceremonies on rare occasions, with family members, but it is generally assumed she identifies with Islam on a loose cultural rather than spiritual basis.
Atheism and agnosticism
An estimated 90.7% of Ariddians identify with no religion whatsoever, of which 76.6% are thought to be atheists and 14.1% agnostics. Estimates also suggest that over 95% of Ariddians are in fact atheists or agnostics, despite some of these identifying with a religion. These figures should be treated with caution, however, as they emanate from unofficial data gathering initiatives.
According to these same estimates, absence of religion is particularly strong amongst Indigenous Ariddians (94.0% atheists, 3.3% agnostics), while religious adherence is highest amongst first- and second-generation immigrants.
Estimates suggest that the main religion amongst religious Ariddians is Christianity, at around 3.2%. Of these, 1.6% are thought to be Catholics, most of which recognise the primacy of the Holy See. There is a Catholic church in most Ariddian towns, a significant number of villages, and several in most main cities. The most beautiful of these is located in the city of Espérence, although Wavecrest also has an old but well-maintained church. Archbishop Fernand Beauval of the See of Rêvane answers directly to the Holy See, although he is known to adapt papal edicts in an extremely progressive way. Archbishop Beauval has spoken up in favour of women's rights, homosexual rights and the encouraging of "safe sex" rather than abstinence.
Islam is thought to be the second most important religion in Ariddia, at around 3.1%. The Great Mosque in Rêvane, of Persian architectural influence, has been described as one of the most magnificent buildings in the city. The AMA (Association des Musumlans Ariddiens) is the country's main Muslim association, and preaches tolerance, education, critical thinking and understanding of other ways of life.
It is thought that 0.5% of Indigenous Ariddians are at least nominally Muslims.
Unofficial statistics suggest that 1.2% of Ariddians are Jews, 0.9% Animists, 0.3% Sikhs and that 0.9% belong to other religions. Although the proportion of Buddhists is very small, the recognised leader of the Buddhist community, Lama Dorji Chengho, is fairly influential in Ariddian society.
Almost all Ariddian Animists are Wymgani (Indigenous Ariddians). Wymgani Animism developed through a combination of traditional, pre-colonial, atheistic Wymgani respect for nature, and the subsequent discovery by Wymganis of foreign religions. A small number of Wymganis gradually came to fuse a sense of the spiritual into their sense of caring symbiosis with nature.