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Thoughts about an ex-Muslim’s story

June 30, 2009

Equality at Equality Time recently posted a video from an ex-Muslim that he personally related to. And it did not disappoint — I enjoyed and agreed with several points from it. If I can, lemme embed the video…

There are a differences in details, to be sure, (my life is not the speaker’s) but here were a couple of quotes that I particularly liked:

“The problem is that one cannot choose to believe. One either does or does not…it was a huge relief when I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t believe in Islam.”

and

“Even when my rational mind tells me this is absurd, I still think…that I must in some way be a bad or evil person for rejecting Islam. But as more time passes, the more my rational mind is about to dispel these fears, and I am able to feel stronger and more confident within myself. The fact that I no longer believe in Islam doesn’t mean I’m against Islam. I know that it brings a great deal of good to many people’s lives, and of course I know that the vast majority of Muslims are decent, kind, and loving people, and I have a great deal of empathy for them. Nor do I feel it is my duty to pass on my beliefs to others, something I felt I had to do when I was a Muslim. If someone is happy being a Muslim, or a Christian, or whatever, and is a peaceful person, then I will defend their right to practice their faith freely. I simply reserve the right to air my own views if I want, and criticize something if I want.

However, while I do not believe in telling anyone what they should believe, I do think that one should have the courage to examine the beliefs that are essential to one’s life and guides one’s actions. If one is truly satisfied with them, then they should be fully embraced. But if they do not stand up to close scrutiny, then they should be discarded. Life is too short to allow it to be dictated by beliefs that one does not truly believe.”

Oh yeah, and here is the blog of the video’s speaker/author, with his full story serialized on site.

These are two things that I have been trying to promote, but which have been mistaken or misunderstood by several parties. These seem like uncontroversial and almost trivial ideas to me, until I realize that I come into distinct and blatant disagreement on them. For example, many insist belief is a choice like any action taken, when it actually represents a propositional attitude we have that is determined by a number of factors (some of which may be affected by actions we’ve chosen, but as the whole seems to be greater than the sum of its parts, our belief is holistically more than chosen actions), so they chastise those who do not believe by saying they were lazy, defective, or sinful.

And on the other side, I hear people who take aim at the second claim. They want to be more strident against religion and end up alienating and enraging. That is why I enjoyed the second quote — because it seems to me as well that if someone is happy with their beliefs, if those beliefs hold up under their personal process of scrutinizing them, and if they aren’t harming others, then I should have no qualm with them. I agree with the speaker: I simply reserve the right to air my views and criticize if I want — rights that all should have as well. I lament the idea that the tables are against certain groups — I know, because it’s not like I came from a tradition that has been seen as the prized son of American culture. People have discounted Mormons and they have discounted atheists and any number of groups. This is what I fight against.

At the same time, I understand why there are more strident voices. Because people are formed by their experiences, I cannot deny that some have been hurt and scarred. Someone suggested I read Ayaan Hirsi Ali in contrast with this speaker. Or, as it relates to Mormonism, some have suggested I’ve been “bitten by the bug of anti-mormonism” rather than simply being ex-Mormon. But while I disagree with Ali’s tactics or Anti- tactics, I understand I can’t wave away their perceived experiences of being hurt. So they must oppose; to do otherwise would be to continue to hurt themselves. I would simply hope that these individuals gain a peace and strength to move past the chains and oppressors, so they can laugh in the face of their adversaries, instead of feeling threatened and diminished.

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One Comment
  1. Yes, I’ve read Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and I see the point. (Or take Jill’s story on MSP as another intermediate-to-negative example.) Your experiences within the religion are going to affect how you feel about the religion once you conclude it’s false. That’s why I understand exmo angry rants even if I’m more interested in finding common ground myself (as seen in my recent run-in with RfM).

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