Leaving Islam






Of Circus Elephants and Human Children

Syed M. Islam

I've been reading this remarkable book: "The Gift of Fear," by Gavin De Becker. Link: http://www.wayneandtamara.com/gavindebeckergiftoffear.htm.  An excerpt: "The way circus elephants are trained.: When young, they are attached by heavy chains to large stakes driven deep into the ground. They pull and yank and strain and struggle, but the chain is too strong, the stake too rooted. ...One day they give up and from that day forward they can be “chained” with a slender rope. When this enormous animal feels any resistance, though it has the strength to pull the whole circus tent over, it stops trying. Because it believes it cannot, it cannot."  

These words triggered some reflection NOT related to elephants, but related to the way we raise our young, putting heavy chains on their freedom of thought when it comes to learning about the faith of their ancestors. 

Consider how we're herded into religious schools, or taught by religious people for the majority of whom any notion of philosophy beyond faith is ostensibly absent.  As adults some of us delude in thinking our religion offers free thought, but do we pause to wonder how exactly we came to learn about its tenets?  As children, weren't we "forced" to believe whatever our parents did?  Interestingly, if we were to analyze critically whether they have actually lived their lives accordingly, they very well might put those enforced religious beliefs to measurable shame and disgrace? 

We catch ourselves often with deep-seated, yet largely unexamined, prejudices about people and lifestyles unlike our own.  Most such prejudice stems from the brainwash we forcibly receive as children, involving arbitrary notions of superior/inferior among various groups of humans. Socially conscious, we are also quick--and foolishly so--to contend our religion considers all other faiths as equal.  That we negate the very purpose of its arrival, in case our religion is the last one among the three-tiered Abrahamic mythology, we are too focused on isolated faith statements to recognize.

Like these elephants who can later be ""chained" with a slender rope", most of us remain tethered to our faiths with little additional force upon us.  Many feel socially obligated to retain their parents' faith.  They participate in social rituals and try to live in a manner NOT overtly in contrast with it.  Most of us do modify our faith, a hypocrisy often downplayed, as we conjure up justifications for such deviations.  Yet we feel justified telling our children others who do not share our faith are inferior in the eyes of our God!

Do we ever wonder why a proposal for living life with a sense of humility---insofar as we have equal respect for other faiths, jettisoning all notions of superior/inferior as well as penchant to prejudge, living in a system of government and law where solutions are based on reason without deferring to charlatans that pretend to KNOW what our gods want, reason that offers no preferential status for one's race, religion, or culture---would be against anyone's idea of living according to their god's Deen?

We have evolved to reason in ways other than arbitrary stratification as to whose faith is closest to God.  Faiths offer us an unearned sense of superiority due simply to happenstance: the faith of our parents. We can validate our decisions now with reason. In contrast, arbitrary divisions cannot be so validated, other than by declaring, "It is so because I say so, according to my God who knows everything."  

According to the faithful God has supreme power and nothing happens without His endorsement.  Evidently, then, our evolution of thinking has God's support.  Often slipped through non-arguments from literal interpreters of faith who choose to be His footsoldiers, why would God allow humans to evolve in a manner directly in contrast with His guidance?  Does God prefer discord and anarchy among humans, arising due to people's deviating from His path?  It seems only reasonable to contend He shouldn't, if we are to also believe He loves us all equally and champions peace.  All the conjectures are, of course, based upon the allegation that He exists---as a charming chameleon of many forms, with features congruent or otherwise, as various groups of people believe about Him.

God also supports evolution in other ways.  For instance, why are there three versions of His dicta, at least as per the Abrahamic mythology?  Does His latest book contend that the previous two books had been incorrectly rewritten so by their followers, or did they simply become outdated?  If those were rewritten, why are their followers allowed to live their lives based on erroneous renditions, when God could just will them into accepting His latest demands and commandments?  If on the other hand those had become outdated, evidently evolution seems to occur even in God's thought process, due to which He chose to update his older sets of dicta.  Quite likely, then, He did not know everything all the time, as His faithful contend. 

If that can be a logical deduction, what made God so sure His third attempt would get it "perfect"?  All we are left with is a belief that His last was the very best, but throughout 1400+ years since its arrival we have seen humans interpreting it in peaceful as well as militant and ballistic ways.  Which version is correct?  Its literalists claim they are right, while its allegorists contend they are.  Must there be this confusion?  To make matters worse, we see charlatans, scholars of religion, defending both versions.  Where is God when we could well use His presence: to settle this needless confusion, which has often lead to sanguine wars?

Could it be that His faithful got it all wrong?  Explications offered as to the need for the third version may seem rational as isolated statements, but their overall congruity can often be contradictory.  With shouts of blasphemy and fatwas of death outlawed in Western countries, a curious but not-so-faithful researcher can combine these isolated explications and identify their logical.  Pointing it out often generates interesting apologetic arguments.  Most such arguments ignore the logical law of the excluded middle, which holds that a statement is either true or false.  As most apologists ignore this obvious fact, their tendency to defend not only every single religious contention about God but also to cover up their incongruencies, when those statements are considered altogether, becomes increasingly comical.

Such comedy is an embarrassment to our present ability to argue and reason, which marginalizes if not denies the faith-claim that we can hit the nail on the truth by intuition alone, which is really the singular defense of faith.  Faiths claim that the natural process of deductive reasoning must be abandoned and the indefensibility of isolated statements in defense of each God must be acceptable because human ways are insufficient to understand Him. This is interesting as we presently have no verifiable superhuman ways that any person of God, alive today, possesses by which his or her version of Him can be substantiated. Therefore, this contention is reduced to being a matter of faith.  Back to square one!

I find it mind-boggling that any humanist approach to problem resolution that considers everyone as equal in regards to rights and privileges, and any secular approach to keep public institutions free of religious symbolism and what not are criticized by people of faith as violation of their religious right and even human right, as some flash utter chutzpah to so contend.  If a proposal is based on reason, if its basics support a country's Constitution, and if its majority who cherish its hard-won ideals of inclusion of all as equal support those, why must a minority cry foul that the proposal is an attack on their religion?  Where is the spirit of compromise and mutual respect, if the alleged attack revolves around wearing a headgear that cannot even be defended as religiously-mandated as such, and is worn by only a small percentage of adherents of that faith?  Doubly embarrassing is the fact that people from all around the world, the Diaspora of that faith, seems headstrong in its shout of human rights abuse in this regard, when they have been equally silent about blatant human rights abuses in countries where their religion is practiced by the majority and enforced on minorities without much regard for their equal rights to practice their faith and lifestyle.

I propose that we consider an alternative approach to this elephant-training by NOT teaching kids the balderdash of our unverifiable faith, but instead show them all the alternative forms of faith people adhere to in a pluralist society in which most of us live, and then wait until they grow up with an uncluttered mind to choose as adults if they should conform to any faith or live life without any such mythologies.  That should be the option for a free human; it ought not to cause social embarrassment for their parents because they "deviated." [Oh my god!]

Perhaps this is how transitions in history occur.  Evolution as learned about from written history shows this as repeat phenomenon: the old fights to protect its turf, no matter how weak and shallow it has become, while much energy of the new gets wasted in fighting for what seems natural rights.  For example, consider the right of women to vote and of Blacks to have equal rights here in the US.  Yes, that's right, in the US, which has taken it upon to itself to tell the rest of the world how to live freely. 

However, I admit it has made strides in matters of equal rights, so I must not critique it for its past without acknowledging its accomplishments since. Sadly, smaller strains of recent immigrants to the US often choose to shun much of its progress in matters of equal rights and individual freedom---let's put aside for the moment the reality that this country has also afforded them so much better a life that, despite ostentatious revulsion against its culture and lifestyle they continue to live here---and they cry foul over every little thing about it that their faith systems' interpretive charlatans consider to be at odds with their tradition of totalitarian orthodoxies.

How proud do we feel as parents to put heavy chains on our children's minds, of unverifiable, communalist faith systems that teach them to judge others as inferior?  Please resist the temptation to deny this, because, while I can empathize, I can refute your faithful denial of the obvious by quoting direct verses from the book that you believe to have come from your God.  Consider these verses, for instance, that may fly in the face of "equality for all" contention:

1). "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto Father, but by me." [The Bible: John 14:6]

2).  "He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion. And Allah sufficeth as a Witness. 
[The Qura'n: Verse 48:28]

For both these world religions, these statements are either true or false, if we understand the classical logical rule of the law of the excluded middle.  For all the high noise of claim that either religion offers so much love, peace and what not for ALL of humanity and also that it is our incapacity to understand their "core" messages, ask yourself how you might feel--equal or inferior--if you lived in a land where religious dictates were enforced upon society by the majority religion, and either Christianity or Islam was the majority faith, both endorsing its exclusivism and superiority. While there may not be any theocratic Christian countries anymore--thank goodness for that-- there are many theocratic Islamic countries. 

Speaking in present tense as in (2), does the message seem to embrace the Trinity of Abrahamic legacy: of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and does the word "messenger,"  the _expression "the religion of truth", and the thunder "cause it to prevail over all religion" seem to offer high provision for equality and democracy for all religions, despite the headcount of its adherents living in a Muslim-majority country of today?

If intellectual bottlenecks such as tradition, culture, religion did not get in the way, the exclusivist attitude of both the religions would have been acknowledged.  Exclusivity of the majority faith was often flaunted in the past, when religious orthodoxies were much more influential.  While that has changed in the West, many Eastern countries now employ the services of neo-con footsoldiers, educated in the West with a modicum of logical argumentative skills who are playing modern apologists, offering the fairly-secular Western liberals barrage of balderdash about the peaceful nature of their faith, while failing to explain its opposite manifestation in the cultures from which they migrated to the West?  Calling all violent interpretations as "wrong" is a process of either lying or of cognitive dissonance, for there is no way to confirm what is right. In addition, both interpretive possibilities have been acknowledged by those whose heads are not too deeply buried in the religious sand.

As parents, how do we dare contend we are pro-peace, when we compel our children to go to faith schools and learn all this arbitrary division among humans?  What would be so morally wrong if they are taught to love everyone equally, instead?  Would that be AGAINST the wishes and dictates of the essentially-communal Gods that we endorse, regardless of our political posturing to the contrary?  But, wait a minute.  If we were to raise our kids with such basic humanism, oftentimes it would nullify our moth-eaten religious dictates of superior/inferior.  We can be good in this world, and ethical and moral, but that doesn't have to be only when we declare all those that do not consider our little gods their personal savior as kafirs.  In real life all human trauma as well as death do not seem to differentiate between faiths of individuals but democratize our miseries in, and departure from, this earth.  Would it not have been reasonable to see some earthly manifestation of superior treatment for believing in one communal faith or another?

Or is that too much for us to expect our gods to explicate, even though we are expected to believe whatever our parents has chained into our conscience early in our lives, no questions asked.  In the world of many faiths existing juxtapositionally, could we pause and reflect over this, asking ourselves if we must continue to force our kids to learn such divisive hogwash?  Would embracing reason and rational living where we respect everyone's rights equally be so much a deviation from our godly dictates that we must torment ourselves with fear of hell and damnation for thinking independently, for USING the evolved brain that He has given us, if we must insist that He IS the giver of life?  Would it be inhumane to abandon all guidance that clearly sow inexplicable yet poisonous seeds of hatred among us, embracing humanity as the only true religion? 

Fear not.  Quite likely it is time we ask ourselves these questions.  For the sake of humanity to survive peacefully, and NOT for its opposite.






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