Religious Doubts Can Be Subtle

Once upon a time, my writing knew I was going to end up an atheist before I did.

Back in fall of 2005, I was the kind of girl who would have ended up on Patheos Islam, not Freethought Blogs. At the time, I wrote a piece for the Muslim Student Union at UCI’s now-defunct magazine, Alkalima. It apparently is quite popular and has been reposted and even reprinted (without permission, from what I can tell) all over the Internet.

The irony is that, by the time it was published in April 2006, I was a closeted atheist, an outcome that a careful look at the article itself could have predicted.

I had been an avid Alkalima reader throughout high school. Writing — and, I hoped, eventually editing — for Alkalima was one of my dreams. To my delight, within a few months of being a student, not only was I writing for Alkalima, I was chosen to write the introduction for the Focus (i.e. main) section of the next issue of the magazine. To say I was over the moon about it would have been a understatement. I worked hard to craft what I hoped would be the best thing I had ever written.

My exuberance would be tamed not by apostasy, not at first. It began with the ridiculous amount of production delays with Alkalima. The “Hearticles” issue, as we had begun to call it (the portmanteau was coined by me, incidentally), was supposed to be our Ramadan issue. Unfortunately for those of who cared about Alkalima, MSU-UCI’s well-documented obsession with yelling about Israel meant that no one adhered to deadlines, no matter how generous. October faded into November, and Ramadan was over.

Ramadan’s passage, in turn, led to further delays. As the magazine was free but also high-quality, it relied on advertisers for funding. All the Ramadan advertising that had been so painstakingly obtained was defunct; the advertising staff had to scramble to find replacements.

The MSU’s willingness to let Alkalima fall by the wayside disillusioned me as to the priorities of the group. Unlike many of the immigrant run newsprint or brochure-style publications that littered the mosques, Alkalima was professional-quality and featured well-written, carefully-edited, and painstakingly-designed work. It was something of which Muslims could be proud. As a Muslim, I wasn’t so proud of the MSU’s approach to the Israel/Palestine issue, which did nothing to facilitate conversation or educate anyone. Indeed, the non-Muslims I knew who were uninformed on the Israel/Palestine issue dismissed the latter side because of the MSU’s approach.

The delay between the completion of my final draft and its publication was long enough for me to go from a devoted if pensive Muslim to an atheist, but not long enough for me to have come out about it. To my family and community, I was a budding writer who was on their team; their praise of my little “hearticle” flowed profusely.

As proud as everyone claimed to be of me, I couldn’t help but feel that no one was really reading it. How else could they have excused what I had chosen to say?

Traditional science, however, has downplayed the heart as merely a monotonously contracting muscle, while the brain is touted as both the center and originator of intelligence and feeling. […]

In the face of traditional science, why does the collective psyche of humanity continue to fixate upon this same intangible concept of the heart?  Perhaps it is because, to this day, the stopping of the heartbeat signifies the coming of death.  It might be ascribed to the way that the heart responds so readily to emotional signals, increasing or reducing pace in direct correlation to the human psychological state.  Within human consciousness, the heart’s meaning extends beyond that of a muscle; within Islam, the role of the heart cannot be understated.

Then again, it took months for me to realize that I was trying to convince myself of something. Within a few short months, everyone would find out that I hadn’t managed to talk myself into believing.

Religious Doubts Can Be Subtle

One thought on “Religious Doubts Can Be Subtle

  1. 1

    Back when I was a Christian and wrote for and Burnside Writers Collective, there were little hints of my future deconversion. First it was little things like, “It’s so hard to have faith when God seems so silent” (later I realized there was a reason why God seemed so silent). Then when I got involved with the Emergent Church and started realizing that 1). God didn’t write the Bible, 2). most of the supernatural stuff in the Bible didn’t really happen, and 3). Hell is just a Christian myth, I wrote about how doubt can be a good thing. Then I finally said, “Fuck it, this shit ain’t real!”

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