Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Seeds of Disbelief

I recently read an interesting article on the New Humanist website titled 'The rise of Arab atheism'. The author interviewed Arab atheists in the Middle East to try and understand the reasons for them leaving Islam. Some of the reasons provided reminded of my own experiences growing up. Like them, I did not lose my faith because I knew about science and thought about things logically and scientifically. It was things in the religion (Islam) that I found problematic. As far as I can remember, I started asking questions, to myself, and having doubts when I was about 12 years old. I have read a lot of people say that they also experienced similar things around, or at, that age. Maybe there's something special that happens in the brain around 12. Most of these thoughts occurred before my 20th birthday. I didn't really think about religion much during my early twenties. I had placed religious thoughts to the back of my mind while I went through university. Anyway, I want go through and discuss some of those ideas and thoughts I had growing up. Not in any chronological order.

God is bit of a dick
Saying 'God is bit of a dick' is putting it very mildly. When I finally started reading the Qu'ran in English I was quite shocked by what I saw. God seemed to be a jealous, egotistical, attention seeking, cruel, mass murdering. vague.....just a crazy fucker. Some of the worst human attributes you can think of, God has them. I just couldn't understand why or how a supposed perfect being that is all merciful, can burn someone in hell for all eternity just because they didn't believe in him/her/it. I couldn't even imagine subjecting even the most vile human being to an eternity of torture and pain. There would be a point when any human being with a shred of decency and compassion would say enough is enough, this is cruel. My non-Muslim friends were good people. I didn't want them to go to hell. I also couldn't understand why God wanted me to pray to him 5 times a day and why I had to actually ask God for stuff when he could just read my mind. This is well before I realised that God was also sexist and homophobic. I didn't know sexism and homophobia were things that exist back then. I started having a general uneasiness about Islam and God. However, I was still a believer.

Adam and Eve had babies....then what happened?
It is quite remarkable how most people seem not to be disturbed after being told the story of Adam and Eve (Hawwā in the Qu'ran). People don't seem to naturally think about the logical consequences of the story. After learning in school how many people there were in the world I found it amazing that all those came from just two people. However, as I though about it a little more deeply, I realised that there is something strange to this story of Adam and Eve. So, in the Qu'ran the story goes something like this:
O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah , through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer. (Quran 4:1)

So, God made Adam and then Eve and then they had some children........then what happened? Incest. Lots and lots of incest. It was a big WTF moment when I first though of it. I didn't know how I hadn't thought of this before. Seemed like such an obvious and inevitable conclusion to a story with just two people in it. I was initially afraid and embarrassed to talk to anyone else about it. When I did ask people, I was told that it must've been OK back then and then God changed his mind because of jealousy or some shit. God didn't say anything about inbreeding, diseases, recessive or deleterious traits etc. Something I found interesting when I asked people this question is how uncomfortable they got and how quickly they wanted to put it out of their minds.

An omnipotent God and free will
One day while I was watching a film, can't remember what that film was, on good old VHS, I had a pretty profound thought come into my head about an all knowing God and destiny/free will. I had seen the film before and so I imagined if God would know if you were going to heaven or hell even before you were born, because to him it would be like having already seen the movie of your life. This thought troubled me a little because it occurred to me that your fate was determined and there was nothing you can do to change that. I went upstairs and asked my mum what she thought about it. My poor mum seemed quite troubled that I had asked that question and didn't really give me an answer. I quickly realised that nobody was going to be able to provide a satisfactory answer because nobody knew and so I stopped asking. Before this I had a similar but simpler thought about whether an all powerful God could create a rock so heavy that he couldn't lift it. Without knowing anything about logic, I had some intuitive feeling of the paradoxes that arise when things such as 'all powerful or 'all knowing' are used to describe God.

There was never one single moment when I thought "this is all bullshit", rather a gradual decline in the importance of religion to my life. As I grew older and started learning about biology, evolution, morality, psychology, human behaviour, physics etc. I had pretty much made up my mind that Gods and religions are man-made and the probability of a supernatural creator of the universe who also wants us to believe in him/her and behave in certain ways, is very very very unlikely. Not believing is a simpler state of being.


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