Indeed, religion was not the Brotherhood's only or even strongest selling point in legislative elections it dominated in late 2011-early 2012 or in Morsi's win. The group boasts Egypt's most powerful organizational network, with cadres to campaign for it nationwide, and a history of charities that helped the poor. That means it would likely still perform strongly in any election in the near-term.
Still, Brotherhood officials often lean on religious rhetoric, talking of the need to defend the "Islamist project" to rally hard-liners behind Morsi. The president, who frequently says he is the leader of all Egyptians, is less direct but laces his speeches with Quranic references. Nine months into his administration, a book by a supporter listed among Morsi's accomplishments that he was the first Egyptian president with a beard, the first to allow a state TV presenter to wear a conservative headscarf and the first to hold prayers every Friday in a mosque.
In two post-Mubarak referendums, including December's which passed the new constitution, Salafi clerics and other hard-liners campaigned for a "yes" vote in each by saying, in one form another, God wanted it.
Such rhetoric seems to have diminishing appeal.
Khadiga Gad el-Mawla, a housewife in the southern city of Deir Mawass in the Islamist stronghold Minya province, says she is no longer a fan of two of the most popular Salafi sheiks, Mohammed Hassan and Mohammed Hussein Yaacoub, who have large followings in mosques and on TV.
"I used to listen when they talked to us about obeying God and the way to heaven," she told AP. "The clerics told us to elect Morsi because he is God's choice. ... But they cheated us."
"The more they say something and do the opposite, the more I get shocked," she said.
Ali Assel, a cleric in the southern city of Nassariya, said he was dismayed by Islamists' battles with the judiciary and the media. Last year, Islamist protesters besieged the Supreme Constitutional Court, preventing judges from ruling on disbanding the interim parliament and the body writing the constitution. Other Islamists barricaded Media City, a complex near Cairo that houses TV stations, angry over "the liberal media."
"Politics corrupted religion," Assel said, adding he was shocked to see the Brotherhood "serving their own agenda and battling to topple down state institutions."
There are few polls in Egypt, so getting a broad picture is difficult. A poll released this week by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research, or Basserah, found Morsi's approval rating at 32 percent, compared to 78 percent after his first 100 days in office. The group polled 6,179 Egyptians across the country, with a margin of error of less than 1 percent. It did not ask questions about attitudes on religion.
Among the first blows to religious prestige came with a sex scandal soon after parliament was seated, when a Salafi lawmaker was caught in a compromising position in a car with a woman wearing the "niqab," the black robes and veil that leave only the eyes exposed. Another Salafi who said his facial bruises came from being attacked by enemies was discovered to have gotten a nose job.
Another factor: comedian Bassem Youssef, who has a weekly program in the style of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Youssef frequently plays footage of Islamists' TV appearance to show contradictions and mock their rhetoric — so pointedly that he was investigated by police for insulting religion.
Youssef is often seen as an urban, liberal phenomenon. But with an audience of millions, plenty in rural and conservative areas watch him.
Youssef "exposes to the simple people the contradictions of the religious views and the triviality of the clerics," said Atef Ibrahim, 54, head of the chamber of commerce in the southern city of Assiut, who records Youssef's program to watch with his friends over the week.
Saad al-Azhari, a cleric who appears on a Salafi TV station, recognized Youssef's impact. But he said it will be "short-lived."