Dionisio (Denis) Giron (former Muslim)
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My Testimony of Leaving Islam
My testimony already appears in Ibn Warraq's anthology on apostates, so I will only summarize here (and add a few things, as I presently feel that if I could edit my testimony in Warraq's book, I would).
I came from a liberal Christian background, but in 1996 (at the very end of high-school) I became part of the New York City Church of Christ (which is, for the most part, a fundamentalist Evangelical sect/cult). Very quickly, however, I began to have doubts due to a number of issues (on the one hand I wondered about the Church's approach dietary habits and, to a lesser degree, the sabbath, and on the other hand I began to be troubled by the doctrine of the Trinity and apparent "contradictions" in the Bible).
By the time I reached college, I already began to become interested in Islam (this was brought on by a combination of Ahmed Deedat videos, websites that attempted to establish the veracity of Islam over Christianity, and discussions with various Muslims I had met at the City University of New York). Looking back, I'm a bit ashamed of how easily I believed the dawaganda I read (at the time I was particularly interested in the claim that the Bible predicted the coming of Muhammad).
However (and there are many who will say something similar), while I was very pleased with Ahmed Deedat's onslaughts on the Bible, I began to get the feeling that the ahaadeeth could not stand up to the criteria Deedat demanded the Bible be judged by. As a result, I began to seriously doubt Orthodox Islam as well, before I even had a chance to convert! Ironically, I met a Submitter (i.e. a hadith-rejecting Muslim) at school, and he introduced me to other Submitters (a bunch of whom went to my college).
Very quickly I embraced the version of Islam espoused by the Submitters (note however that the group I was associated with was not connected to Rashad Khalifa's group, though I imagine they got the idea from his group). Once a Muslim, I set out to debate Christians on the Internet (mainly via AOL chats and instant messages, though to a lesser degree via usenet), hoping to show the "Tri-Theists" the new truth I had discovered.
However, there was a perverse nature to my behavior, as I was anxious to bring the Christians to Islam, but not as anxious to do such with the so-called "Sunni pagans". We would sit around and say many negative things about Sunni Muslims (even criticizing the shahada, which I never recited because it was a statement of shirk developed by the innovating Sunni pagans), but not once did I ever make a face-to-face attempt to convince one on campus that he was off the path (even more ironic, and blatantly contradictory, we interpreted verses in Surah al-Baqara and Surah al-Maida as teaching that Christians and Jews could go to Jannah, yet we simultaneously thought that "Sunni Pagans" were on their way to Jahannam, with the Hindus and Atheists). We were simply a small close-knit group of heterodox Muslims who made a real effort to be invisible to the Orthodox Muslims (in fact, not once while I considered myself a Muslim did I ever go to an MSA meeting!).
By 1999, I started having doubts after taking a class on Hinduism. While reading the colorful stories about castles made of bees wax, Siva replacing Ganesh's head with that of an elephant, or Hannuman jumping over the ocean, I suffered a moment of doubt. I was in the middle of laughing at the stories and silently mocking them, when suddenly it hit me that they are no more absurd than the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin, that Moses split the ocean and turned a stick into a snake, or that Solomon had conversations with animals.
Once the doubt set in, the flood gates were open. I suddenly realized that the only reason I converted to Islam in the first place was because I had doubts about specific parts of Christianity, but still wanted to hold on the core myths and legendary figures. Islam provided me with a solution to that problem. Not once had I ever questioned the stories in Islam. Now I began to doubt them all.
I spent the fall of 1999 in a fog, not sure if I was an Atheist or a Muslim. I even began to put forth Atheistic arguments before officially considering myself an Atheist. It was when a disappointed friend asked me "are you an Atheist?" that I responded with "yeah, I guess so." The next day I was in Thompkin's Square Park and the full-implications of Atheism hit me: there is no God. I took a deep breath, and looked around me, and a very beautiful feeling came over me. While I don't claim that Atheism is the cure for depression -in fact I know that some people have sunk into depression after becoming Atheists- it is nonetheless a fact that I spent most of my life depressed (even when I was a Christian and Muslim), yet when I went Atheist in 1999, my depression vanished, and has yet to return. Regardless of that, the fact is nonetheless that I had reached a point of no return - I could never go back to believing such fantastic stories (just as we immediately doubt the reliability of tabloid newspapers dedicated to stories about UFOs, Big Foot, and two-headed babies, so too I feel we should agree that the fantastic stories in Islam are a sure sign that the authors of the Islamic texts were writing theology, not history).
Ever since abandoning Islam, I have investigated the religion, and I continue to wonder how I ever could believe something like that without really thinking about it. While I know a great deal more about Islam now than I did then, I still feel uncomfortable with how little critical thought I put into my decision to consider the religion in the first place.
While my position towards Islam has softened over the years (most apostates from a faith often have a bloody-thirsty zeal for destroying the faith in the beginning), I still think it is important to directly call into question the veracity of Islam. This is particularly true with regard to the aggressive forms of apologia employed (exempli gratia: claims about scientific miracles, Muhammad in the Bible, et cetera). This is why it is important to explain (a) why one left Islam, and (b) why one continues to disbelieve in Islam. The opposing view is, at this point, still so rarely expressed.