Patriarch Raï Equates Terrorists With Atheists & Non-Religious

Patriarch Bechara Rai

It’s yet another Sunday in Lebanon and another opportunity for the Maronite Patriarch to offer his words of wisdom, in his weekly sermon, to the ears that would listen. It’s also yet another Sunday in a Lebanon of presidential void, security chaos and with more people listening in to the likes of Raï for possible hints at what to expect in the next few weeks when it comes to political development, the patriarch new quite well the stakes of his sermon. Here’s an excerpt, translated by yours truly, of Raï’s sermon today:

“In this occasion, we cannot forget that the Lebanese family is made up of two components: Christian and Muslim, and it has become a model for today’s societies, eastern and western, threatened by two extreme and opposite movements: religious regimes that aim to eliminate those that are different and to enforce their own faith and teachings onto others, and secular atheist systems which exclude God from society, legislating what they please without any regards of the natural laws of God. We are seeing signs of both these movements in Lebanon…. we demand the government and concerned ministries to issue decrees that stop such practices as is stated in article 9 of the constitution: freedom of belief is absolute.”

Color me confused but I was under the impression that it wasn’t non-religious people that took over Iraq recently, killed people just because they prayed differently. I was also under the impression that it wasn’t the acts of those non-religious people that led to many terrorist attacks, a few years ago, whose repercussions we still live today. Spreading across the Middle East today, and now in Lebanon, is a clear attempt to equate lack of religiosity with the terrorists threatening the fabrics of our society.

I have always been under the assumption as well that the root of Lebanese problems is our twisted understanding of religion. We have always been taught to fear that who is different: Muslims, Christians, Jews and now atheists – who are becoming a more vocal part of society, albeit still squashed by the thunderous voices of religious men whose influence spreads much deeper than to be challenged anytime soon. Secularism wasn’t what built our country, it wasn’t what ignited both our civil wars, it wasn’t what perpetuated the status quo from 1990 till 2005 and it’s not what’s bringing about the Lebanon of 2014.

Today, Lebanon is without a president, without a decent legislating body, without a decently functioning government, without security and without a functioning labor force. Who’s the cause for the mayhem and anarchy that Lebanon is living today? I’ll go on a limb and say, not those very horrifying nonbelievers, but our deeply sectarian system that empowers what Raï is championing. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is the saying. But this is deeply, irrevocably broken.

Religious men of Lebanon like to spread fear. It is what puts food on their table at the end of the day. Patriarch Raï is no exception. By lumping ISIS, Al Qaeda or whatever terrorist group fits the bill with non-believers in one basket, he is doing just that: be afraid of those killing you… and be afraid of those that can challenge your well-rooted beliefs that have been enforced in you for such a long time by your families, by your schools, by your communities and by the likes of Mr. Rai.

What’s threatening the fabrics of Lebanese society isn’t lack of belief. It’s the blind attachment to belief and taking those beliefs to a point where they become maimed, mutilated and unrecognizably wrong. What’s threatening the fabrics of Lebanese society today is people, like Raï, still making people fear the premise of a secular system where people are treated based on their merits, not sect, where their worth is contingent upon who they are as people not on which region or religion they were born in, where equality is assured to everyone and isn’t relative to the inner rules of the sect your parents happened to belong to.

What’s threatening the fabrics of Lebanese societies aren’t some of Lebanon’s citizens becoming more liberal, supporting laws that their parents or parish priests wouldn’t approve of, it’s the fact that the absolute majority of Lebanese don’t challenge their parents’ beliefs or what they’ve been taught at school for so many years or what they’re being told by the head of their sect during a Sunday sermon.

Article 9 of the Lebanese constitution asserts freedom of belief, as Raï pointed out. Freedom of belief also extends to the freedom of not believing in any god and in having a country protect your right of not believing. Raï is afraid of the influence the increasing number of Christian nonbelievers has on his power. Perhaps he shouldn’t as it’ll be a long time before his influence budges. But I’ll let him know this: once upon a time, Mr Raï, I was one of those people that belonged to the flock that calls you their shepherd. I’m so glad I’m not part of that Maronite herd anymore that is susceptible to every word you say. I’m one of those you don’t have power over anymore, and it’s been extremely liberating.

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9 thoughts on “Patriarch Raï Equates Terrorists With Atheists & Non-Religious

  1. He doesn’t make me angry to be honest, he just shows a misunderstanding of what the separation of church and state is intended to accomplish and about what atheism actually is.

    First of all, separation of church and state is meant to maintain equality in a diverse society. Instead of having a set of rules for each and every group of people, it’s about having common law that applies to everybody. Allowing religious law into secular law enforces those laws on non-believers, hence religious law is by nature unjust.

    Secondly, atheism is simply lack of religion, not belief in anything. They have no beliefs to enforce on others. Atheism is often confused with anarchy in Lebanon, and anarchy is confused with violence. Once you realize that, you start to see where he drew the comparison from.

    Of course this comparison is still misleading, but I don’t believe it came out of ill will as much as it came out of ignorance.

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  2. Such reaction from Mr. Rai clearly shows the influence of atheism on society and the dosage of freedom and liberation it gives to its beholder. This is what hurts religious institutions the most, being a free-thinker and an independent individual. What was mentioned in this article is the core of our problem, putting non-believers in the frontline as if they’re the reason of our inherited, never ending problems.. But Mr. Rai hold on for a minute! Religion isn’t the source of morals, in fact it’s the root of all evil in this world. A screaming example of that is our problems stretching from our stupid civil war to the most recent extremism that we’re facing today. Atheists are the elites who chose to use their minds to explain things around them and they can’t be compared by any means to extremists who chose to do the opposite.

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  3. Thank you for this excellent article. I just stumbled on your blog and it was a refreshing piece of sanity in our god crazed country. Just to comment, I recently (and proudly) found out that my teenage son (not having been dogmatized in his home through his childhood) has chosen to be a non-believer, though we have never spoken any of our (non-)religious views in front of him. After approving and voicing my opinion clearly with him, I had to literally beg him that he shouldn’t come out about his disbelief in front of friends and family, as he would be treated as the red horned satan incarnated to destroy the church. I felt like a complete hypocrite doing that, but with this recent declaration by medieval Maronite patriarch, I rest my case!

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  4. Pingback: On The Maronite Patriarch And Presidential Elections | Moulahazat

  5. we maronites will never accept the separation of church and state because our only legitime ruler is the kings of kings jesus christ

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