Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My story -- in brief

I will be discussing some of the reasons that caused doubt in my mind about religion. There were many things that kept me loyal to my faith, and I will be listing out some of those, but I always felt that I was ignoring the things that disturbed me. I never got satisfactory answers to them, and they remained in the back of my head.

There were many many reasons to believe. Religion plays such an important role in our life. Sure, it talks about super natural things, like angels and heavens, but most of us don't give it a second thought. Who cares? God says so, so it must be. We are taught, and in fact, to a large extent, religion does, give us values which help us differentiate right from wrong. Religion gives us a path way through which we connect with God; satisfy our need for spiritual fulfillment. In addition, if you live most of your life in one country, the truth of religion is the last thing you question, similar to how the last thing a fish notices is water -- its everywhere!

Religion provided me with immense comfort and security most of my life. I believed because I wanted to believe. I was honest in my belief. I had questions, but I had faith that God was all powerful and just, and he doesn't do injustice to anyone.

I believed because I was convinced that my religion was the right religion; the final word of God.

I believed because the notion of a higher power provided me with security and comfort. He was someone I could turn to in times of need and despair.

I believed because I could not explain the sheer beauty and magnificence of the world around me. I attributed all of this beauty and elegance to a creator which must be much more elegant and beautiful.

I believed because my beliefs were generally useful to me. They provided me with an island of certainty and serenity in a sea of uncertainty and chaos. They helped me make sense of this world. They provided me with comfort that everything will be alright in the end, that good will triumph over evil, that no good deed will go unrewarded and no bad deed will go unpunished. They helped me make a spiritual connection with a higher being, a tether I could latch on to in the face of winds of uncertainty.

So why did I feel the need to question my beliefs?

Many reasons. They never bothered me up to a certain age, but I really started questioning things a couple of years back, and these things became more and more troublesome.

I was bothered by how religion makes such ridiculously detailed claims about the nature of the universe, and expects you to believe them without any evidence. Islam, and most other religions, claim an entire different realm of the super natural, with a God, with angels, a devil, a heaven and a hell, a heavenly chair on which God resides and a host of other super natural baggage.

I was bothered by how followers of every religion followed their religion on what essentially amounted to blind faith. Religion, by its very nature, was not amenable to rational thinking and argumentation.

After interaction with people from various other faiths, I was convinced that they too were convinced of the truth of their religion. That was a scary realization. I realized that the arguments I used to justify the rightfulness of my religion were very weak and subjective.

I was bothered by how religion colored the perceptions of its followers, and how that had the potential for immense social harm; people could believe in anything they want on the grounds of blind faith. They were accountable to no one but God.

I was bothered because I didn't find any seriously good reason to be a muslim if I weren't born in a muslim family.

I was bothered by the fate of most non muslims, who were condemned to hell based on effectively where they were born.

I was bothered by the fact that some of the teachings of my religion were in conflict with what science had to say about the world. The more I appreciated the scientific method, and the pains that the scientists and scientific community goes through before making a claim, the brazen certainty with which religion states facts, which often times contradict with science, became more and more unsettling to me.

Science doesn't answer, or not yet anyhow, answers to some of life's most pressing questions. Why are we here? Is there a purpose to life? How did this all come in to being? How will this end? My religion did provide me with answers to these pressing questions, but I realized that those answers were hardly answers; they begged more questions than they answered.

In the face of these arguments, I found it highly dishonest of me to continue to profess that my version of reality was the right one.

The most difficult challenge for me was my personal relationship with God. I had become emotionally addicted to the notion of a caring and loving god. It was amusing, yet unsettling, to realize that people of all religions experienced the same connection with a higher being, be it Allah, Jesus, Vishnu, Zeus or Thor. The religion didn't matter. The nature of God(s) didn't matter. Regardless, the emotional ties I had built with God were in danger -- this disturbed me to no end. Humans have a need for emotional and spiritual connection. People fulfil those needs through human connections, and by praying to and worshipping to God(s). Given all the arguments against the veracity of my religion, I had to be courageous and question my blind belief in God. I do think that most people are disturbed by facts and contradictions in religion, just like I was, but their connection to God is so strong that they don't dare question it. They rationalize all of it away.

The relationship with God was one of the most difficult parts in renouncing my faith, and I believe this is the sole reason, or the primary reason, that keeps most people loyal to their faith despite knowing its weaknesses and contradictions. This is an important enough, and broad enough, topic that I will be discussing more of it in a future post.

I don't have answers to everything, but I feel content and satisfied, emotionally and intellectually, knowing that I don't say or believe in anything whose veracity and morality I cannot convince myself of. I feel like I have been released from the shackles of my own thoughts and desires. I feel relieved. I feel free.

The following sums up my feelings quite well:

"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." -- Carl Sagan


  1. This seems to be a nice start; a nice quest. Wish you success. You already have a me as reader here. Welcome to the blogsphere. Very happy blogging.

  2. Dis I tell you that your blog tag line is good.

  3. Glad to see someone sharing an experience like this :) Keep writing!

  4. @Shirazi

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I will be looking forward to sharing my experiences and having meaningful discussions with you and other readers.


    I was hesitant when I first thought of writing down my experiences, but the process of writing them down has helped me explore my thoughts and feelings in much more depth than I otherwise would have. In addition, the ability to share and discuss it with other people opens up the possibility of collective learning and exploration of these very important topics.