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.
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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.
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.