Please allow me to take issue with what I consider some extreme comments in the following:
"A correspondent from Iran told me that he estimates that fully 40 percent of his fellow Iranians are flat-out atheists, but would never admit this publicly. (He's probably thinking only of the men, but this is still a very large fraction, and the private views of women in a society that so completely represses women could conceivably be much higher.) Unfortunately, even with numbers this high, Iran is held up as the supreme example of what is wrong when religion rules the government. In other words, they have been unable to shake this tyranny."
I think you should distinguish society from government. That aside, neither Iranian society nor the government (any longer?) "so completely represses" women. They are far more prominent (in the cities) than in any of the Arabian Gulf states, have the vote and a great deal of public liberty. In the home the revolutionary government has never been able to impose its will to any effect - this is why, by and large, it has failed to influence the people. Iranian society under the last Shah and his father was becoming reasonably westernised (for better and for worse), and 20-odd years of the Ayatollahs have not been enough to change attitudes. Moreover, the Iranians are Persian first and Moslem second - they are not to be lumped together with the Arabs, for whom Islam is the expression of their identity (read Rafael Patai).
Another consideration, if indeed atheism is so widespread there (certainly the call to prayer was largely ignored in the bazaars when I was in Iran last autumn) -- is this in spite of or because of the regime? I'd wager one reason modern-day Iranians are relatively indifferent to Allah is because the mullahs have shown themselves to be corrupt and incompetent. What was the percentage of "flat-out atheists" under the Shah?
As for the situation in Greece, with which I am unfamiliar, I would reckon that this lady's description is true of most of south-eastern Europe (including Turkey -- which I know well), much of eastern Europe and pockets of the western Mediterranean (in Iberia and Italy). Clearly it is characteristic mostly of poorer regions and rural areas where religion continues to play an important part in society, and where western-style democracy is recent or unstable. In western Europe, nationalism and ethnicity are played down, and internal and international conflict are all but unthinkable.
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