On Thursday, June 25, 2015, I officially joined the organization called Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA). I coincidentally stumbled across their website while browsing the website of American Atheists Convention.
I became interested in knowing more about them and applied online through their website. I was contacted by one of the members, who arranged a Skype screening interview with the President of this organization commonly known as MoTheAtheist.
The session lasted for almost 2 hours and we ended up chatting about lots of stuff. I narrated my journey away from Islam and my ongoing struggle with faith. I told him about my academic background (that I have studied science) and the factors that have contributed towards my alleged apostasy.
It’s funny but science only reinforced my religious beliefs and, at one point in my life, I belonged to the Zakir Naik camp. I thought modern science is only re-affirming the claims made by Islam 1400 years ago. What actually shook the core of my beliefs was my exposure to philosophy. If there is one writer who has had a long-lasting impact on my life, it is Bertrand Russell.
Digressing into the events of the past, I remember reading his book titled “Sceptical Essays” just before starting college. That book, together with my general exposure to philosophy through Internet and a personal incident, which I might narrate in some future blog-posts, radically changed my way of thinking.
I became a skeptic for sometime and realized that any and everything can be doubted including the five senses, science, logic and even reason, which I had, until that point in time, valued the most. With the loss of certainty, however, I realized with certainty that my thinking will never revert back to the pre-philosophy days. This also meant that my religious beliefs especially those pertaining to the rites and rituals of Islam were lost forever.
I could deal with that, I said to myself and this loss of belief in Islamic practices such as praying and fasting didn’t affect me much. It was, however, the loss of belief in God and philosophical questions about the shortcomings of science and logic that perturbed me the most.
The quest for absolute certainty led to an independent formulation of the famous Cartesian maxim: Cogito ergo sum. It also led to what might be considered in Sufi epistemology as “knowledge by presence.”
What was absolutely evident was my capacity to experience. The rest were all inferences and deductions. My task was Spinozian in a sense. I had to construct a coherent picture of reality using the first principles of experiential knowledge instead of linguistic axioms (which Spinoza had used).
Anyway, I’m not sure if what I have just written makes a lot of sense and my personal ambition to reconstruct reality has been lost somewhere in the mists of time.
I did not discuss any of this during my conversation with MoTheAtheist. I have, nonetheless, decided to write all this, so I can, perhaps, have a better understanding of my own-self and see how I have evolved in the last 10 years or so.
I will actually end my blog-post at this juncture. I have emailed MoTheAtheist, to seek his permission, in order to write about the conversation from his side. I believe it is appropriate to do so. I also think that there’s something rather intriguing in a work of art that is shrouded in mystery, that is left hanging in midair.
It’s like a mysterious character hiding behind a veil in a fiction story, who makes us wonder about his/her/its identity. We long to know the character in full detail yet catch only a glimpse of what the character might possibly be. We continue to remain in the dark even as the story unfolds. As our desire to know the character increases, we begin to form connections, logical and illogical. We try to connect the dots and tie the threads together. We start reading our own interpretations of the character. Whether the character ever becomes known is a question that the author of the story may or may not choose to answer. For us, however, the yearning to know the character is only satiated by our own selves. The character is what we choose it to be.
To be continued …