(Editor: The following is from a young Pakistani ex-Muslim who wishes to remain anonymous. It is reprinted here with his permission.)
I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for the work you are doing. I’m an ex-Muslim atheist, meaning I read the Quran and hadith and left the religion. You are one of the few people brave enough to criticize Islam. People like me, at any rate, really need that. Keep it up.
The stories of ex-Muslims need to be heard. I’m from Pakistan. I’ve been an atheist for a year now, though I can recall I almost always had doubts about my religion. The fear of hell and death penalty for apostasy kept me from leaving Islam.
“The fear of hell and death penalty for apostasy kept me from leaving Islam.”
My parents are borderline liberals in that they don’t delve into which sect is correct in Islam but are fairly religious (Sunnis) as well. I am the eldest of several siblings, so I guess my parents felt it was really important I get the right religious education.
By the age of 10, I was calling the Azaan (call for prayer) in the local mosque five times a day and sometimes used to lead prayers, with grown-ups behind me! Not only my parents but also my teachers and neighbors seemed to be proud of me. I sort of enjoyed that attention, to be honest.
By age 11 though, doubts about the religion began circulating through my mind on a daily basis. My parents encouraged me a lot to ask questions about my religion. It was probably this encouragement that was the undoing of my faith. I can see now how clueless and in denial my parents – and most Muslims – are about their religion.
“I can see now how clueless and in denial most Muslims are about their religion.”
Earthquakes and the Nile
In the 6th grade, I learned that the second caliph of Islam, Umar, said that earthquakes were caused when people sinned too much. Umar had seen the prophet Muhammad in his life-time. I mean, the guy sent a letter to the river Nile, and the river began flowing because the letter commanded it to do so! Surely, he couldn’t be wrong about the earthquakes.
“The second caliph of Islam, Umar, said earthquakes were caused when people sinned too much.”
But that must mean that Japanese sin a lot, because a major fault line passes through Japan, and on top of that, they’ve constructed buildings that absorb earthquakes up to some extent to reduce damage. How dare they invoke Allah’s wrath by sinning and then dodge the punishment as well! Also, aftershocks didn’t make any sense either. If people sin a couple of 100 kilometres away from the righteous, why should both of them suffer? This was the time of the 2005 earthquakes in Pakistan. Each day, my religion made less and less sense to me.
In the 7th grade, I learned that the Prophet of Islam split the moon into two. We had a history course as well in the 7th grade, and no other culture had recorded the splitting of the moon. Either nobody noticed, or nobody cared enough to write about it or people wrote about it, and all written records were lost somehow. It didn’t make any sense. The moon getting split was either a lie or an illusion: The “miracle” was utter bullshit. Once again, the religion that claims to have all the answers to mankind’s problems failed miserably in my eyes to live up to that claim.
“I learned that the Prophet of Islam split the moon into two.”
Since I was always curious about the religion and its so-called claims of scientific miracles, my parents hired a reputable imam to teach me context and commentary on Quranic verses and Hadith. I was in my early teenage years by then. Since I was still young and had a part of my brain that wasn’t yet dumbed down by indoctrination, I was able to apply common sense to the Quranic verses and hadith.
The wife-beating, condoning of child marriage, condoning of slavery, killing people for leaving the religion, killing people for insulting the prophet, lashing and stoning to death of homosexuals and adulterers, the requirement for a rape victim to provide four male witnesses to prove her innocence, chopping off hands of thieves, the raids on infidel trade caravans lead by the prophet, polygamy, the fact that you can marry a woman without telling your wife (at least, that’s the school of thought that particular imam belonged to) – all of this came from a religion that claimed to be the absolute guide to morality.
I was well-educated in Islamic teachings and shariah by the time I was 17, and I still had burning questions that Islam didn’t have the answers to. It was at this time that my parents finally permitted me to have an internet connection installed at home. They were afraid that internet might have information that could damage my faith, but after all those lectures with that imam, they thought I was a good enough Muslim not to take criticism of Islam into account.
I read a lot of criticisms on Islam and felt peace that there were other people who recognized the bullshit in it. I began to save up and use my lunch money to buy books such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and God is not great by Christopher Hitchens, which I then had to hide. There came a time when I couldn’t sleep without taking sleeping pills. I felt extremely angry at how my parents and teachers had filled my mind with religious bullcrap and had the nerve to praise me for it.
“I felt extremely angry at how my parents and teachers had filled my mind with religious bullcrap.”
At age 9, I was molested by two men. The sexual abuse continued for about two months. Later on in life, this made me question Allah’s sense of justice and love. Why would God have me get raped as a child, just to see if I turn towards him or away from him, in order to decide whether to eternally roast me or reward me? The more I though about this, the more I became sure that this God, if he exists, is not about love, and at best, is a psychopath.
“Why would God have me get raped as a child, just to see if I turn towards him or away from him?”
Apostasy and Atheism
I found a like-minded classmate in my university, and he introduced me to the online community of Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics. I met a lot of wonderful individuals there. Finally! I had found some semblance of peace.
At the age of 21, I accepted in my heart that I was no longer a Muslim and slept like a baby for the first time in many years. Two decades of my life are wasted, but I eagerly look forward to a life of intellectual freedom. I strongly urge Muslims to read the Quran and hadith critically and then decide for themselves if everything in Islam still applies today.
“I accepted in my heart that I was no longer a Muslim and slept like a baby for the first time in many years.”
I am an atheist now. I do not know whether there is a God or not, and I don’t care about it. What matters is how we treat each other, not how fervently we pray.
I’m sorry, D.M./Acharya, but I didn’t mention the impact your work had on me. A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary titled “Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy To Invent Jesus” which featured an interview with you as well. That’s when I found out about you,and your work simply blew my mind. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to people like you for the work you have done, and I wish you the best of luck with your future work.
Thank you anyway for listening. It’s a relief to share.
(The above is edited for content, spelling and grammar. Any other ex-Muslims or Muslims who wish to share their experiences examining Islam are welcome to post here as well.)
— Religion and History (@AcharyaS) April 1, 2015
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