Many former theists (like myself) describe their deconversion as a process of ‘illumination’ – reality finally comes into stark focus and you begin to see things that your deity-soaked brain would simply delete from your awareness. Most of the former theists I’ve come across (a ridiculously biased sample, to be sure) describe this as a profoundly liberating experience. After all, the world is freakin’ BEAUTIFUL
And so it was with more than a little bit of whimsical pleasure that I read this story:
Seventy members of an Islamist sect who have been living in an underground bunker without heat or sunlight for nearly a decade have been discovered living on the outskirts of the city of Kazan in Russia, local media reported. The sect members included 20 children, the youngest of whom had just turned 18 months. Many of them were born underground and had never seen daylight until the prosecutors discovered their dwelling on Aug. 1 and sent them for health checks.
The group—known as the “Fayzarahmanist” sect—was named after its 83-year-old organizer Fayzrahman Satarov, who declared himself a prophet and his house an independent Islamic state, according to a report by state TV channel Vesti.
Now, to be sure, this story isn’t actually funny. This is a clear case of child abuse at the hands of a religious fanatic – an example so shockingly egregious that it beggars belief. These children have been robbed of the opportunity to see the world and learn any version of reality that doesn’t conform to that of their insane patriarch. It is also worth noting that this sect came into existence primarily because of the USSR’s oppressive crackdown on religious expression – a type of state-forced atheism that is wrong for ethical reasons as well as pragmatic ones (clearly).
That being said, now that they’re out of the ground, they’re having a much more visceral and literal version of the experience that many of us felt when we first discovered our atheism: the sunlight and great outdoors of a mind unrestrained by the fear and paranoia of the subterranean prison of religious faith.
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