Atheist deceives her religious mum to lead a double life

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This woman explains how leaving Islam gave her freedom but it came with a cost. “It was an incredibly lonely experience and I began to spiral into a depressive state,” she writes.

Preview above: Is it possible to bridge religious divides and accept difference? Watch Faith vs Family at SBS On Demand

I grew up in a fairly conservative Muslim household. I attended the Mosque every Friday, prayed every day, fasted during Ramadan and went to an Islamic school. I was taught that the Quran was the word of God and Islam was the only right path.

I never questioned my beliefs until I was 14 years old. My friend shared a video with me of an atheist woman drawing Muhammad in a very unpleasant and offensive manner. My blood was boiling. How dare she insult my religion and my prophet? It was the first time I had been exposed to such criticism and aversion to Islam. Despite feeling insulted, I was also very curious to find out why someone could think poorly of a religion I thought was perfect.

I began to watch more of her and other atheist’s criticisms of religion. I spent a lot of time analysing my beliefs, and after much consideration I came to the conclusion that all religions, including my own, are man-made. From then on, I considered myself an Atheist.

However, I was physically stuck. Attending an Islamic school, I was required to wear the hijab, to pray every day and follow an Islamic code of conduct. I felt that if I voiced my opinions at school I would be shunned or even targeted by my peers. Everybody I knew was a Muslim, so I felt that I had nobody to express my world view to.

After about two years I felt that I could no longer keep these thoughts to myself. I needed someone who would listen without judgment. Once I mustered up some courage, I emailed a close friend detailing my frustrations with being a closeted Atheist. It was a huge relief to finally communicate these ideas and emotions I was feeling.

The next day my mother came school to pick me up. The first thing she said when I stepped in the car was “You can’t live in this house anymore. I’m kicking you out.” I was completely confused and panic-stricken. She went on to explain that she went through my personal account and read the email I sent. “After everything I’ve done to raise you to be a good Muslim, you turn around and do this? I will not have an atheist living in my house.”

I desperately tried to convince my Mother that I was just going through a brief period of doubt and that I am still a Muslim. She gave me a second chance, but I had to prove my faith to God. Every day that I came home I read the Quran, I attended the Mosque regularly and never missed my prayers. I took any chance I could to show my mother that I was a faithful Muslim.

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More than 30 per cent of all marriages in Australia are now between two people born in different countries. Denne Cruz is in one of those marriages and knows all too well the difficulties of making an interfaith relationship work.
More than 30 per cent of all marriages in Australia are now between two people born in different countries. Denne Cruz is in one of those marriages and knows all too well the difficulties of making an interfaith relationship work.

This was very exhausting and began to take a toll on my mental health. I resented the fact I had to say and do insincere things and felt that it would be easier to just isolate myself. I hardly spoke to my mother and locked myself in my room any chance I got. I had no interest in making friends or meeting new people in my community. It was an incredibly lonely experience and I began to spiral into a depressive state. It wasn’t until I was finally able to leave home that I could freely express my beliefs, and my quality of life drastically improved.  

It is still important to me that I maintain a relationship with my mother. When I visit her, I still have to pretend to be a Muslim or else she will sever ties with me. However, I understand her mindset. Islam is the core of her identity, and so by rejecting it I am essentially rejecting her. She believes that Atheists are punished with eternal damnation, and she only wants what is best for me.

Although it has come with a cost leaving my religion was mentally liberating. I now felt that my fate was not planned but rested in my own hands. I no longer had to worry about pleasing God or following his food and clothing restrictions. I did not need to justify what I thought to be irrational and repressive doctrines. I could create my own moral compass.

As an Atheist, I do not believe in an afterlife, which makes me cherish the limited time I have on Earth that much more. I find meaning in my life from the relationships I build and doing work that I love. I am always in awe of the complexity of life and the grandness of the cosmos. I just no longer attribute these things to God.