“Religion is the opium of the people” is one of the most frequently quoted sayings of Karl Marx.
Religion and economy don’t mix well, like oil and water. Together, they tend to form a vicious circle: Religion promotes poverty, which promotes religion. It takes a great leader, someone like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to pull a whole nation out of such a circle.
Alas, many leaders are busy doing just the opposite, i.e., pulling their people into this circle. Some because of personal beliefs, others due to political pressure, and others still in order to “divide and conquer”. As noted by Mel Brooks, it’s good to be the king.
This is of course a generalization. You can always find well-educated religious people as well as secular ignorant ones. But it’s a damn good generalization. The process of controlling a large group of people with Hocus Pocus stuff is so successful, that the foundations of all of our mainstream Western religions were laid this way.
Tayyip Erdoan is not Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, nor are Mohamed Morsi and Benjamin Netanyahu. Equipped with different backgrounds and different reasoning, they all contribute to their countries’ religion-poverty-religion circle. “Why” and “how much” could be argued for each of them, but the basic principle remains the same.
The near future of Egypt is unclear. For Turkey and Israel there is still some time to learn from the mistakes of others. Religion might be the opium of the people, but a junkie nation will not go far.