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May 18 2012

Why I am an atheist – HC

While most of the articles on this topic have been from ex-Christians or people born to non-believers, my story is quite different.

I was born to religious Muslim parents (in one of the various sub-sects of the Ismaili sect in the Shi’ite branch) in a small rural town in India. This caste is very similar to the Roman Catholic Church setup, where there is a religious leader who claims to be the god’s representative and has a network of priests spread over the world wherever the leader’s followers live. This leader and his coterie also need a lot of money and keep track of everything happening in the followers’ life and family.

Right from childhood, we were drilled with the notion that we are not only superior to people following other religions but also to other Muslims. In addition to school, I was required to attend a madrasa (Muslim religious school) daily. We lived in a colony surrounded by people of the same caste with a mosque and community hall in proximity. Now, when I look back, I sometimes wonder, how I did manage to break these shackles!

The only avenue where I could interact with people with different outlook (even if that only meant people with different religion) was school. My school friends (and some of them are still my friends) were never from my caste. I always wondered why we were taught that they are inferior or their customs are wrong, while I always used to enjoy their company. That’s when the first seeds of doubts started taking roots.

Also, I hardly used to understand anything at the madrasa, because almost everything was in Arabic. One day, I decided to run away from the madrasa, and my mom decided to home-school me in the religious education. I kept looking for religious text in a language that I could understand. Luckily, I found a translation of Quran in a pile of books at a house one of our relatives had recently purchased. I had to keep the book hidden at home and read it secretly. (NOTE: In the Ismaili sect, it is believed that the Quran has a hidden meaning and only a very religious learned person can decipher it. Hence the commoners are discouraged to read a translation.) I used to think reading the book would have profound impact on my life, but I was disappointed. I was too young to understand the implications of all this, but the roots of scepticism were getting stronger.

The real change came when I read a book called “Great Religions of the World”. I was 15 then and didn’t know much about other religions. Though I still didn’t question the existence of god, in my mind were several questions that nobody around me could answer. If I prodded too much, I was labelled “kafir”, equivalent to heretic. At 16, I moved from my small rural town to a city for studies. Even here, the questions didn’t leave me. Though most of my time was spent studying, I also pondered over these questions about religions. However, questioning the existence of god was still unimaginable. I tried to pray regularly, visit mosques and listen to religious sermons. However, I never felt any connect and it all felt superficial.

As nobody around me answered my questions, I resorted to internet. I questioned the reason of plethora of religions and each claiming to be the supreme one. I questioned the love of god while there is suffering all around. I questioned the tendency of people of attribute everything good to god and everything bad to misfortune. After reading a lot of books (including books of other religions), speaking, debating and chatting with many people, and reading various blogs and forums, I could answer all my questions. I could move on to start questioning the notion of god. Now, I can proudly say that I am an atheist who does not blindly believe in religious fairy tales.

However, I still cannot tell this to my parents or siblings, as not only will this hurt them sentimentally, the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly. They are old and I don’t want any kind of trouble for them. For them, I have to pretend that I still follow the religious customs. I am open to my friends and my fiancée and I might have to continue this charade for a long time. Yet, this is probably a small price to pay to remain connected with my family.

As I look back now, I feel the freedom from the religious dogma that still corrupts so many minds. If I may, I am finally out of the religion “matrix”.

HC
India

53 comments

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  1. 1
    grumpy1942

    After the killing, the poisoning of family relationships is the worst thing about religion. It is the reason it’s so important that as many atheists as possible become Gnu Atheists and actively work to argue, mock, speak out, and do whatever one can to diminish the influence of religion in our various cultures.

    For atheist fellowship I invite you to register at my home site, HeathenHangout.com, and paste this article into your getting acquainted thread.

    How old are your? Where do you live now?

    All I know about India I got from Kipling, so I probably don’t really know anything about India.

  2. 2
    Emrysmyrddin

    Many thanks for your post, HC, it was a very interesting read.

  3. 3
    joed

    “Yet, this is probably a small price to pay to remain connected with my family”
    I agree with you–a small price.
    Seems you have overcome much of the indoctrination you receive while growing up.
    I often ask myself in situations concerning my loved-ones family and friends; is the critical thinking I have developed a blessing or a curse? If the relationship with family doesn’t allow me to tell them of my atheism then I have no reason to say anything. It sounds like your cultural situation is additional reasons to not say anything.
    HC, thanks for the fine post.

  4. 4
    humanape

    However, I still cannot tell this to my parents or siblings, as not only will this hurt them sentimentally, the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly. They are old and I don’t want any kind of trouble for them. For them, I have to pretend that I still follow the religious customs. I am open to my friends and my fiancée and I might have to continue this charade for a long time. Yet, this is probably a small price to pay to remain connected with my family.

    All religions have this problem. The family is not pleased. But as far as I know only Islam has this idiocy: the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly. If and when all religious stupidity is eradicated from this planet (thousands of years from now) Islam will be the last cult left. The reason is Muslims who grow up like you did have to be quiet about it, so the average Muslims never know they have atheist relatives, and they never realize there’s an alternative to being an Allah-soaked idiot.

    Now, when I look back, I sometimes wonder, how I did manage to break these shackles!

    I suggest you escaped from the insanity because you are an exceptionally bright person, and because your brainwashers were unable to stamp out your curiosity.

    I wrote a few nasty things (52 posts) about what you brilliantly escaped from at darwinkilledgod dot blogspot dot com, label=Islam.

  5. 5
    PZ Myers

    Heathenhangout? Jesus, that asshole Gurdur’s forum? Please refrain from plugging that guy’s efforts — he’s pure poison — or I’ll have to enter that URL in the blacklist.

  6. 6
    Emrysmyrddin

    And many families from Mormon and other Christian faiths, as well as Hindu and Sikhs, would and have publicly disowned their apostate children, sometimes with social pressure and sometimes completely off their own backs – I’ve seen it happen here in the UK and read countless (anec)data from other countries. I’ve not seen it from Buddhist faiths but then again I don’t know any Buddhists who aren’t cafeteria hipster-Buddhists.

    I know it’s futile to even say it to you, humanape, but don’t be a selection-bias asshole. The problem is shitty in-group religious behaviour and thinking full-stop.

  7. 7
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    But as far as I know only Islam has this idiocy: the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly.

    Then, as usual, you don’t know much. I can think of 5 non-Islamic sects of the top of my head that enforce shunning of apostates.

  8. 8
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Oh, and aren’t you supposed to refrain from posting on these threads, humanape? I’m pretty sure I recall the threat of a banhammer.

  9. 9
    eclectabotanics

    HC. I am touched that you have the strength of intellect to reject religious notions while still protecting yourself and your family from the consequences. Those of us in Christian societies (mostly) don’t face the extreme prejudice of being an apostate. Around the moderate protestant sects it’s usually along the lines of “We miss you at church. Have you heard about our new contemporary worship.” And that’s all.

    You will have an opportunity to raise part of the next generation without poisoning them with indoctrination, and that’s a great thing!

  10. 10
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    But as far as I know only Islam has this idiocy: the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly.

    Bullshit.

    I personally know, in meatspace, three people who have been publicly disowned by their parents over religious apostosy — one from a Calvinist church and two from two different Baptist churches. Religion is all about us and them, good and evil, black and white — no gray areas are allowed. So if your religious group has the one and only correct answer to life, the universe and everything, then believing anything else puts you outside the fold and into them, the evil ones.

  11. 11
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Oh, and aren’t you supposed to refrain from posting on these threads, humanape? I’m pretty sure I recall the threat of a banhammer.

    Yeah, the blogwhore is under the threat of a banhammer on these threads.

  12. 12
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Ibis,

    Then, as usual, you don’t know much. I can think of 5 non-Islamic sects of the top of my head that enforce shunning of apostates.

    Damn straight. As soon as I read humanape’s spew, I immediately thought of Jehovah’s Witnesses– I know one woman who moved clear across the country because the JWs in her community (including her own family) harassed her after she left the church.

    But, I’ve yet to see humanape say anything intelligent, so it’s par for the course.

    HC,
    Beautiful post. I wish you and your fiancée all of the happiness in the world.

  13. 13
    frog

    Re other religions that ban apostates: The recent situation in Brooklyn with orthodox Jews making making people miserable for reporting sexual assaults by rabbis. It was on the front page of the NY Times earlier this week, for fuck’s sake.

    ———-

    HC, you’re a brave man. I hope you and your fiancee are someday able to raise your children openly nonreligious.

  14. 14
    davidb

    Regarding other religions banning dealings with apostates, other than those mentioned I hear similar things about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and let us not forget the Westboro Baptists.

    Just a Hi to Grumpy. One of the few people I regret leaving behind when I left the board not to be mentioned.

    David B

  15. 15
    jonnyscaramanga

    Wow, awesome. I salute you. Great to hear it from a Muslim perspective. I have a Muslim friend who is generally very rational, moderate, and logical, but I’ve never read a story of someone leaving that faith for atheism.

  16. 16
    Emrysmyrddin

    jonnyscaramanga, if you’re looking for ex-Muslim perspectives, check out a few more of the people on this site’s blogroll – Maryam Namazie for one :)

  17. 17
    mythbri

    HC, it is a small price to pay, especially to save your parents from pain and trouble. I hope that eventually you will be able to be more open, without fear of reprisal on you and yours.

    And it’s not just Islam that shuns or harasses apostates. As many others here have already said, there are lots of religions, churches and communities that act in a similar way.

  18. 18
    David Marjanović

    But, I’ve yet to see humanape say anything intelligent

    IIRC, he does – once every few months…

    I’ve never read a story of someone leaving that faith for atheism

    Well, there’s the guy who wrote the book on it.

  19. 19
    saguhh00

    Religion has a way of instilling antisocial behaviour on people that I have never seen in any other instituting except for the fashion and modelling industry.

    I’m glad you got free from the nuttery of that religious cult, HC.
    Welcome to the Pharyngula stage!

  20. 20
    nooneinparticular

    Kudos to you HC. I can only imagine how hard that journey was for you. I am struck by the parallels between your story and those of LGBT folks; having to hide your true identity from your family, the pressure to conform to the dominant paradigm, the internal struggles you went through and the injustice of it all. It will be a better world when there is no need for a closet, for atheists or anyone else.

  21. 21
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    All religions have this problem. The family is not pleased. But as far as I know only Islam has this idiocy: the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly.

    You’re an idiot.

  22. 22
    ThorGoLucky

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your escape.

  23. 23
    zmidponk

    I heard a quote somewhere (don’t know who originally said it), that goes, ‘you can have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion’. I have no doubt that you are basically a good person, HC, and this is not intended as a criticism of you, but the fact you feel you must basically lie to and deceive your own parents and siblings due to a religion you don’t even follow or believe in just shows how true this is.

  24. 24
    ibyea

    Humanape, being an uninformed idiot about religion, as always.

  25. 25
    Grumps

    Thanks for your post HC. I have a number of atheist friends from Muslim backgrounds. Some are able to come out to their families without any repercussions, some are not.

    Anyone wanting more information about some of the the issues involved for Muslims losing their faith I can recommend the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)

    here are a couple of links:

    http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=council+ex+muslims&oq=council+ex+muslims&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_l=youtube.3…12990.19956.0.22078.9.9.0.0.0.0.208.908.5j2j2.9.0…0.0.I6SI0Uq1jWk

  26. 26
    Ing

    Humanape, being an uninformed idiot about religion, as always.

    FTFY, he is a Renaissance duntz and cannot be confined to one area of inexpertise

  27. 27
    stonyground

    I am encouraged by the small, but important, part that the internet played in this story. Quite a few of these testemonies mention the internet having played a part. I went from being an indifferent atheist to a more active one because of the internet.

    On the subject of bad treatment of apostates, Damon Fowler and Jessica Alquist spring to mind. Damon Fowler was kicked out by his family. Jessica Alquist was more fortunate in that her family are unbelievers but the hostility that she has had to face has been staggering.

  28. 28
    abb4

    Here is another book giving some stories of Muslim apostates

    http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Islam-Apostates-Speak-Out/dp/1591020689/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337365427&sr=1-9

  29. 29
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Here is another book giving some stories of Muslim apostates

    Huh.

    I think a book of writings by actual ex-Muslims would be neat.

    I just don’t trust that Ibn Warriq is careful about publishing things that are true.

  30. 30
    truthspeaker

    humanape
    18 May 2012 at 7:44 am

    All religions have this problem. The family is not pleased. But as far as I know only Islam has this idiocy: the religious brigade will force them to disown me publicly.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses do it too.

  31. 31
    truthspeaker

    As for specific doctrine:

    Gospel of Matthew
    10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    10:36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
    10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

  32. 32
    joed

    @23 zmidponk
    what is important, making sure EVERYONE is aware of your lack of belief or causing the least amount of grief to your aging parents!
    If EVERYONE must know your position then go to it. Seems HC has a more kind and gentle approach to getting on with his parents, loved-ones etc.
    Some times lying is the better action and sometime it is more moral action too.
    Why even accuse HC of lying?
    Aw fuck it.

  33. 33
    Ing

    I heard a quote somewhere (don’t know who originally said it), that goes, ‘you can have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion’. I have no doubt that you are basically a good person, HC, and this is not intended as a criticism of you, but the fact you feel you must basically lie to and deceive your own parents and siblings due to a religion you don’t even follow or believe in just shows how true this is.

    Wow, you sure are an asshole

  34. 34
    PZ Myers

    humanape, you are now quarantined. Only post in TZT. Any attempt to break quarantine will lead to immediate banning.

  35. 35
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Sighs in relief.

    It can come down to, who will it help and who will it hurt when deciding whether to tell your loved ones things like that.

  36. 36
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ humanape

    TZT instant linky. (We have cookies.)

  37. 37
    alfajri

    religion is no problem

  38. 38
    John Morales

    alfajrisyp:

    religion is no problem

    Wrong.

  39. 39
    se habla espol

    religion is no problem

    Only in a culture which has outgrown it, and then only to the extent that religionists from other cultures don’t act on their religions.

  40. 40
    abb4

    Why would you mistrust the truth of what Ibn Warraq has published,life is like a pitbull with lipstick? I know him well and also know at least one of the apostates in that book.

  41. 41
    strange gods before me ॐ

    By default I don’t trust conservatives until they give me a reason to trust them, and Ibn Warraq hasn’t.

    Even positive reviews of other books by him have noted that he consistently relies on old scholarship, “mostly from the first third of [the twentieth] century.” And that’d be fine if he were only purporting to present a history of the scholarship. But that’s not what he does.

    If I thought he was stupid, I’d say he’s just being careless. But I don’t think he’s stupid, so it seems to me he deliberately cherry-picks outdated scholarship.

    It’s nice that you know him. I know plenty of conservatives too.

  42. 42
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    IIRC there is Mormon disfellowship, too.

    Tarek Fatah has written Why I am Not a Muslim.and The Jew is Not My Enemy.

  43. 43
    zmidponk

    @ joed 32

    The reason I am accusing HC of lying is because he is. He may be lying for good reasons, and through the best of intentions, but he is lying, and the only reason he has to employ lying to commit the, as you put it, ‘more kind and gentle approach to getting on with his parents, loved-ones etc’ is because of the narrow-minded viewpoint mandated by the religion of those parents, loved-ones, etc.

  44. 44
    zmidponk

    Ing @33

    I’m pointing out that HC has been put is a situation where he feels forced to lie to and deceive his own parents and siblings due to a religion he doesn’t even follow. How does that make me an asshole?

  45. 45
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    I’m pointing out that HC has been put is a situation where he feels forced to lie to and deceive his own parents and siblings due to a religion he doesn’t even follow. How does that make me an asshole?

    Lying isn’t always bad thing or the wrong thing to do. There are often cases were lying is the better option.

    The results of HC being truthful is far more harmful than the results of them lying. HC is doing the best thing for them and their family. You jump in decrying that HC’s is a bad person for lying by showing that HC’s lying proves ‘you can have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion’.

    That makes you an asshole. You piling on doesn’t help at all.

  46. 46
    zmidponk

    Just_A_Lurker:

    Lying isn’t always bad thing or the wrong thing to do. There are often cases were lying is the better option.

    The lying and deception HC is carrying out can only be considered the ‘better option’ here because of the religion HC left behind. If it weren’t for the fallout caused by the tenets of that religion, HC could drop the act and be honest with his parents and siblings. He feels forced into this deception because this religious sect is such that the consequences of NOT lying would be too severe. Hence my comment @ #23.

    The results of HC being truthful is far more harmful than the results of them lying. HC is doing the best thing for them and their family. You jump in decrying that HC’s is a bad person for lying by showing that HC’s lying proves ‘you can have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, that takes religion’.

    That makes you an asshole. You piling on doesn’t help at all.

    You’re not really making yourself clear here. If I’m reading you correctly, you seem to realise that I am quite specifically NOT calling HC a bad person for doing what he’s doing (quite the opposite, in fact), yet I’m somehow still an asshole, for reasons you don’t seem to make clear, apart from some comment about me ‘piling on’. Are you thinking I’m still, somehow, criticising him, not the religious sect he left behind, even though I quite specifically said I’m not criticising him and actually said that he’s basically a good person?

  47. 47
    Ing

    If I’m reading you correctly, you seem to realise that I am quite specifically NOT calling HC a bad person for doing what he’s doing (quite the opposite, in fact),

    You’re reading wrong

  48. 48
    zmidponk

    Ing @47:

    You’re reading wrong

    Then you’ve somehow come to the conclusion that I’m calling HC a bad person by…erm…calling him a good person.

  49. 49
    cry4turtles

    Wonder if it’s more dangerous for a woman to leave Islam? It seems HC had more freedom than what I can only imagine a woman would have. Just wondering.

  50. 50
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @14. davidb :

    Regarding other religions banning dealings with apostates, other than those mentioned I hear similar things about Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and let us not forget the Westboro Baptists.

    Also the Mormons too.

    Saw a doco on Aussie TV’s 4Corners program about them and Romeny earlier this month or last month. They really are a fucken creepy and nasty cult. Oh & Mittens was apparently a Bishop (once? still?) in their ranks too.

  51. 51
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @49. cry4turtles :

    Wonder if it’s more dangerous for a woman to leave Islam? It seems HC had more freedom than what I can only imagine a woman would have. Just wondering.

    I’d sugegst y’all have a look at Taslima Nasrin’s blog here :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/taslima

    Plus reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s works :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali#Publications

    for insight here.

    Muslims .. Don’t get me started on how evil Muslims are!

  52. 52
    hc2012

    Many thanks for the encouragement. As always, atheists are among the most open and friendly.

    I am sorry for the delay in responding to many points raised here. I’ll try to address as many as I can.

    I can definitely come out to my parents and siblings. However, I understand my parents’ religious mindset and environment they are used to. They’ll accept the way I am. Yet, in their heart, they’ll never be comfortable with my viewpoints. In the small town where they reside, they’ll be forced to either denounce me publicly or be thrown out of the community themselves. Hence, my lie is only a small price to pay for saving them from all the agony and harassment.

    I know people who have been harassed beyond belief for raising an iota of voice against this religious leader. For those interested to know the plight of women fighting this tyranny (even while being part of the system), I suggest doing a google search for ‘Zehra Cyclewala Surat’. While many may find the example irrelevant, as this lady is religious, it indicates the crushing grip of religion on a society.

    Someone asked my age and location. I am 29 presently and live in Mumbai, India.

    My fiancee is religious and I don’t mind that. We have an open mindset about each other’s beliefs. I don’t mind exposing my children to religious beliefs as I am sure atheism is the most rational and logical choice anyone would make and my children would themselves choose it. I’ll certainly be open with them regarding my viewpoints and let them decide the right course.

    I’d love to hear more views about my experiences.

  53. 53
    Nick Gotts

    Muslims .. Don’t get me started on how evil Muslims are! – StevoR

    Yeah, most of us have had quite enough of your fuckwitted bigotry. Do you really think HC considers his parents and siblings evil?

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