Americana X (former Muslim)
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Why I Left Islam, and Religion, For Good
Growing up in a suburb of America, I attended Catholic school and practiced Catholicism with my mother. After my parents divorce, my father went back to his Protestant roots with fervor. On his holidays, he began traveling the world to remote destinations to fulfill “the great commission” and bring people the word of God and Bibles. At the same time, he was a violent man and my mother, despite being devoted and loving, was an overly emotional woman who rigidly imposed her personal interpretation of religion on her family. I tried to find solace in Christianity, but the concept of the trinity baffled me. The whole notion of the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus, not to mention Mary and all the Saints, was a bit overwhelming. Furthermore, I could never accept the concept of original sin. To me a newborn child is innocent, and the whole notion of sin transferred from Adam and Eve seemed to be an unhealthy concept. I also had a problem with the Catholic divorce laws after seeing my mother physically abused for 10 years. The celibacy of the clergy seemed to invite transgressions and it all seemed so unnecessary. I also never felt like I needed someone to die for my sins. I figured I was responsible for the things I did, and the best way to repent was to not do the same thing again and/or say I was sorry to whoever I wronged.
The thought of not having any faith never occurred to me. I felt I “needed it” to avert my “sinful nature,” which was really just a result of an absent father and a mother who drowned me in so much rhetoric; I craved an escape. Furthermore, I had been so flooded with notions of heaven and hell, that to me, religion was like water, one just couldn’t fathom living without it. Lastly, despite its commitment to the division of church and state, most Americans claim some religion and atheists and agnostics are very much still a suspected minority. Simply, I just couldn’t envision non-theism. Therefore, when I met some Muslims for the first time in my early 20s, I was an easy target.
The Islam that was presented to me was beautiful and logical. I liked the concept of one God and many of the moral limitations seemed wise and useful. I had seen how alcohol, sex and drug abuse had damaged my community and Islam seemed to have all the answers: the separation of the sexes and prayer and conservative behavior to help one avoid temptations. I was told that women had a right to divorce. No one ever dreamed of mentioning Mohamed’s often preemptive, bellicose behavior. I didn’t have a clue that the punishment for leaving Islam was death, nor about his marriage to a 6 year old when he was in his 50s. I was only told about his attributes and tremendous morality. Furthermore, the historical picture was never simplified. I knew that Mohamed had married various women, but had been told that this was for political reasons “to bring peace.” I never understood that his 11 or so marriages all took place in a 14 year period and some were clearly for pleasure, as in the case of Jewish Sofiyah, whose entire family was murdered by Muslims before he quickly wed her.
When Muslims told Islamic stories, they jumped around and it was difficult to get a clear sense of the chronology. When I read the Koran, I was not inspired at all, and therefore did not analyze it line by line. However, I listened to what my “Muslim brothers and sisters” told me, that it was next to impossible to understand it in English and that the meaning was much deeper in Arabic. I was enchanted with Arabic culture and the mysteries that surrounded it, and figured that all my questions would be answered in time. I applied for a teaching position in Kuwait and thought that it would be a deeply spiritual experience. In truth, the people I met were superficial, simplistic, and conflicted. While in Kuwait, I left the religion after a short time but mistakenly returned to a life of libertine which left me empty.
A few years later, upon returning to the States and after a painful divorce I felt lonely, afraid, and in need of comfort. I once again sought out Islam. My mother encouraged me with all her fervor to return to the church, but I just didn't feel comfortable enough to even consider it. I went back to mosque in a new community. I convinced myself that my prior experience in Kuwait had been because I had met “bad Muslims” and others reassured me that Islam was perfect and the Kuwaitis were known to be strange, ignorant people. Islam seemed to “work” for me at this point in my life. I once again stopped drinking, didn’t date men, and began the healing process of my life. It provided a shield to Western libertine. I got back on my feet economically and professionally and felt that Islam had something to do with that. (In truth, I just established healthy boundaries.) I started reading Islamic books again. They seemed to address my every insecurity and pain which of course was due in part to my ex-husband’s addictions. I enjoyed socializing without alcohol and among people who were respectful and modest. Nonetheless, I did notice the paranoia, jealousy, lack of intellectual inquiry, and suspicion that seems to be part of many Muslim communities. I attributed that to the hardships of immigrating to a distant land without family, since most of the community members were from overseas.
During this time there had been, and continued to be constant acts of terrorism at the hands of Muslims. I was now donning the Islamic hijab and was often asked questions such as “Are Muslims commanded by the Koran to kill non-Muslims?” “Of course not,” I proudly replied, which I ignorantly believed to be the case. I believed that these acts of terrorism were a result of political suppression and poverty and that Mohamed had only fought in self-defense, all of which was untrue. I was studying voraciously but of course, only materials that were prepared for an English speaking audience with the goal of highlighting Islam’s glory and positive attributes.
After 2 years, I renewed a relationship with an old boyfriend, of Egyptian descent, who I had met in Kuwait. His current piety and kindness I admired and we became engaged. I decided that in Egypt, I would be able to find the true Islam and moved to the Middle East. We married soon after.
Within a short amount of time, I noticed many amoral behaviors in the population. I have never seen a group of people lie more, promise things that they can not fulfill, and generally make excuses for everything. Ironically, it is often done in the name of God. Ramadan was a total shock because frankly, I observed more keenly than ever before that the whole Muslim world literally falls apart. The hospitals become packed due to fasting related illnesses, productivity plummets and the non-Muslims are left with all the work. Most people are in a terrible mood and can be very abusive. I tried to fast, but couldn’t do so while at the same time, prepare for my teaching which would start right after Ramadan. This was a huge wake up call. How could I buy into something that was so clearly detrimental to the society as a whole? How could I worry about getting “Muslim blessings,” which I really couldn’t prove, in front of my commitment as a teacher to prepare for my lessons? How could I be a true Muslim if didn’t believe in fasting which was a pillar of Islam?
I began googling in a different direction and found a plethora of ex-Muslim and anti-Muslim websites including faithfreedom.org and thereligionofpeace.com among many others. All the questions I had had over the years were answered. Each Muslim rebuttal fell like a chain of standing dominoes. There were no 21st century answers to Islam’s double standards on inheritance and physical abuse with regard to women, nor a logically sound explanation as to why the Koran has so many scientific errors. So many mysteries became clear to me and it all became very simple: Mohammed was a very manipulative man who knew how to dominate society and understood human weakness. There was no “Islamic Science,” no “hidden meaning behind the Arabic language.” Yes there was some good advice; however, it was packaged with violence, women’s suppression, and fear. It gave me some centeredness at a time when I needed it, but in the end of the day, most of what I embraced was just common sense and clean living and I didn’t need all that came along with it.
My new husband has been challenged with my agnosticism and it has created a great rift between us; however, we have a new baby and for him we are trying to make it work. Thankfully, he is a kind and peaceful man. Hopefully, when we return to the States next year, he will be able to see past his religion but I have also accepted that this may never come.
I now embrace a centered, balanced me, with a strong moral code because that’s what works, allow me to love others, and creates harmony in my life, not because I fear some unknown entity in the sky or eternal damnation. It’s just the only thing that makes sense.
I can truly say I now feel at peace with my life.
I would like to correspond with other former convert Western females to better understand myself and others. How did we actually buy into it? How can we help other young women avoid all the drama? Email me if you are interested [email protected]
Articles by Americana X