This is a question I get asked by a lot of people: Why did I leave Islam? At what point did I decide that it was over? The answer is not very simple as there was no single moment when my belief in Islam, and later God in general, was eradicated.
I was born in Lahore, Pakistan in a Muslim household; my whole family is still Muslim and they love their religion. But I was a little different, I had questions. As a kid I asked other kids questions but they either didn’t know the answers or simply had no interest in finding them. I remember around the age of nine or ten I asked my mother who created everything, and when she said Allah did, I asked who created Allah: she had no answer.
My mother, despite my atheism, still loves me and did not want me to write this book. She could not convince me why I shouldn’t write it. “Someone will kill you,” was simply not a good enough reason.
I grew up as a Muslim, went to the mosque for the Jumma (Friday) prayers and read the Quran in Arabic as per the tradition, but a lot of things still didn’t make sense. Growing up in Pakistan in the 90s, the Internet was still new and answers were not easily found, so it was frustrating. There came a point in my life when ‘God did it’ no longer made sense to me.
To try to understand the validity of Islam or any other religion I asked three questions:
- Is there any evidence in favour of this God?
- Is the morality depicted in this religion good?
- Is the science in this religion correct?
I will note here that I would be dishonest if I said that I could do this all myself. Books like The God Delusion helped me a lot to understand the other side of the argument.
These three questions led me away from Islam but what about other Gods? The gods of Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, the ancient Romans or Greeks, or a thousand other Gods that people have died worshipping? After all, they would all claim that their religion passes all three questions. I did not study every religion in as much detail as Islam, but I could answer questions about the character of God in general, as almost all Gods have similar traits to those of the Islamic or Abrahamic God. My frustrations with each religion could be summarised by the following thoughts:
1: Why is the creator of billions of galaxies so obsessed with what we tiny humans do in our private lives? He gets angry if we sleep with someone of our own gender, he gets angry if we do not have a ceremony before we sleep with someone. If we do not worship him, he gets so angry that he will torture his own creations in Hell for eternity (exclusive to Abrhamic gods mainly). Why does he need worshipping? It made me think that the creator of billions and billions of galaxies has the temperament of a child; if I tell a child that he cannot have candy, he will start screaming and crying until he gets his own way. This is very similar to all these gods, ‘Worship me or I will burn in you hell, forever!’
2: Why does this God, who wants us to believe in him blindly, shows no evidence of his existence? He could reveal himself right now in front of the White House and end all wars. He could show up today and say, “Hey, this is who I am, this is what my name is and I want you to do this and this.” END OF STORY! But he wants to hide himself and then he wants to blame us for not believing in him? Muslims and apologists of other faiths say, ‘Well, our God sent his message thousands of years ago.’ This begs another question: why did the Abrahamic God send all of his messages to a tiny part of the Middle East? What about people who did not get his message on the other side of the planet, say Australia or the Americas? They did not know about Muhammad or any other Middle Eastern god until they were discovered in the 15th century and later. Just imagine the millions of people who were born and died in that time in those continents completely oblivious of these Abrahamic Gods, burning in Hell simply because they were born in a wrong geographical area!
3: Muslims claim that humans contaminated previous scriptures like the Torah and Bible! Wouldn’t the creator of everything know that if he sends a prophet, like Jesus or Moses, their messages would be contaminated by other people and His message will be lost?
If he knew, then what does this mean for all of the Jews and Christians born after the Torah and Bible were contaminated? They lived and died believing in their scriptures, but if they were contaminated by their forefathers, how were they meant to know this?
Muslims love to say that Quran is not contaminated, but even if this was true, I think it is worse than contamination that every sect of Islam has its own interpretation, Sunnis say that they are right while Shias believe they are right. This means that the Quran is easily misunderstood, poorly written or even just full of nonsense. There are verses in Quran that are easily misunderstood, to this day Muslims loosely quote verses like this as the evidence of the Big Bang:
Do those who are disbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were sewn together and then We unstitched them and that We made from water every living thing? So will they not have faith? Quran 21: 30
I will explain the errors of this verse in a later post, but this begs a philosophical question: if these verses were scientifically correct then how come no Muslim ever came up with a theory like the Big Bang? Again, it means either it is not written properly and therefore easily misunderstood, or that there is no Big Bang mentioned in the verse; I believe the latter.
4: And the prayer! Every religious person thinks they have a special hotline to their God. When they get something, they think it’s because of prayer. If they don’t get it, then they think that Allah didn’t want it. One-and-a-half billion Muslims pray to Allah, but what about other five-and-a-half billion people? They are obviously praying to the wrong God, how come they seem to live their lives perfectly happy? Religious people also think that sometimes their prayers get answered and sometimes not. Clearly there is something wrong here. Let’s do an experiment: if you want something, just pray to Allah and see if you get it. Or, you could not pray to Allah and just work hard to get it. See which ones works. Obviously it works the for five-and-a-half billion people on Earth who have become billionaires, liberated countries, saved the lives of millions of people, won wars, created better systems of government and discovered the secrets of the universe. Muslims will say, ‘Well, you still have to work hard but you have to pray as well.’ Well, if you have to work hard to get something, what is the point of praying?
A lot of people ask me why I don’t just keep my atheist views to myself. The answer is very simple: I live a free life, free of fear of Hell or any other baggage that comes with religion. I enjoy my life and it’s great to be alive. I can drink alcohol, I am not forced to hate homosexuals, I don’t have to think that women are subservient or inferior to men, I don’t have to think that animals were created by God to serve us, I can enjoy any music, I don’t have to hate people of other religions, I can enjoy the paintings and other works of art. All this baggage goes away if you become an atheist, and the world starts becoming a better place, so people like me like to spread the message and these counter-arguments. Asking an ex-Muslim not to talk about Islam after they have left it is like asking an ex–drug addict not to talk about the dangers of drugs after they are rehabilitated. Why do Muslims think that they can preach their beliefs to others but no one else can? If your answer is ‘Well, we are right’ then I’m sorry to say, you are wrong!
My name is Harris Sultan and I don’t believe in your gods!