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Atheist Spirituality by a former Muslim Apologist. - Comments

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 1 by Peter Grant

Based on the problem of Hell, and additionally, based on the problem of suffering and evil I could no longer believe in theology and I made the big move and came out publicly an apostate of Islam after defending it and practising it for many years.

-Farhan Qureshi

Welcome Farhan, and good for you! You on Twitter or something? Don't see any links in your profile.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 15:56:42 UTC | #902415

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 2 by QuestioningKat

Welcome! I have left two religions before calling myself an atheist for the second time. My best advice for you is to continue debunking beliefs. Other more moderate, loving views of God exist and may seem appealing to you in the future. Yet, even these views are based upon untruths. Other alternatives for living a good life exist, but need a little more work at discovering. At times the journey can be difficult and give you a big headache, but this is the price for thinking freely and more honestly.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 17:40:38 UTC | #902446

aths's Avatar Comment 3 by aths

Hello.

Since you are an atheist now, you are finally free to search the truth without being bound to a dogma you cannot doubt. The downside is that you will be in constant doubt since every new discovery about reality poses new questions and there is no holy scripture where you can get the ultimate answer.

Can an atheist have a spiritual experience?

I remember when I first saw Saturn in good quality (before that I only had a little, blurry image.) I saw the planet and the ring with the Cassini division, I also saw one of the larger moons of Saturn. Seeing Saturn, and other planets, and other objects for real instead on photographs, was a strange experience. I would say, even a kind of spiritual one. Of course my telescope cannot show all the details of a professionally taken image, but I saw the actual object with my own eyes.

I cannot be certain that the scientific facts about celestial objects never need to be corrected, but I can think in any direction without the fear to violate a dogma of a faith. Because an atheist with a scientific attitude always expects that he could be wrong, he also always expects to learn something new.

You mentioned Sam Harris. He really challenges some of my views, but he does so with good arguments. Since you are an atheist now, you also can think about Harris' arguments freely, with no faith dogma you must maintain.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 18:06:32 UTC | #902456

chawinwords's Avatar Comment 4 by chawinwords

I don't know if this will help, but you mention one aspect of religions' trap which is common: "First and foremost leaving Islam by itself was a grieving process for me because I had invested so much time, effort, energy, money, thought, passion and devotion to this religion." Note the admission -- "invested."

It does not hold true for all religious believers because many are simply followers, intellectually lazy as hell -- blinder wearing bordering on insanity -- and as I said, "lazy" intellectually. Including those, the ungodly many, that put inheritied beliefs before truth/fact/reality.

Those who say "Your factual evidence won't matter because it won't change what I believe" are not worth one minute of your time on planet earth.

Basically, you became an aspostate because, intellectually, you are not intellectually lazy and you decided also not to blindly follow -- to willingly lose your inherited nose ring and jerk chain.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 18:39:02 UTC | #902468

SheerReason's Avatar Comment 5 by SheerReason

Welcome Farhan! I admire you for your courage in the face of facts. I hope you are at peace now.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 19:48:41 UTC | #902485

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 6 by Rich Wiltshir

Welcome, congratulations and thank you for joining us Farhan.

To me it's always an unexpected pleasure when I learn that someone's escaped any cult, especially when they've been so heavilly 'invested.' When I wear my badge, secure messages in my porch or add RD.net and other links to my email signature it's in the hope of informing the lonely, closetted atheist that (s)he is not alone. I challenge street preachers and cold callers in the hope of demonstrating that they can be exposed as peddling faulty goods. My goal isn't to convert those infected by religion.

So it's great to learn that you've made the full journey and that the void you've left (or exposed) by leaving that community will have a lasting effect too. Congratulations, Farhan.

I have no concept of spirituality though. Surely it's an "app" that's downloadable only to those with the godphone software. Some folk talk about the supernatural, the transcendental, the spiritual, mystic or karma and any number of assertions that lack any foundation capable of being validated.

As for slowing down and finding yourself, I can identify with what you're saying. My understanding is that gaining freedom from religion is comparable to grief because it's a process that changes so much of life's landscape, furniture and flavour. Just as I'm still 'finding my new identity' after my wife died last year, you'e faced with the prospect of remodelling your own existence, too.

I wish you every success, good health and happiness on your journey.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 19:56:56 UTC | #902489

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 7 by ZenDruid

I define 'spirituality' as a comfortable personal symbiosis of philosophy and emotion, something a religious follower might find impossible to attain. The familiar emotional ingredients of Abrahamic religions, i.e. fear, guilt and shame, are concrete obstacles.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 21:10:30 UTC | #902501

Paul the Pretentious's Avatar Comment 8 by Paul the Pretentious

If you want to feel a part of the Universe, Farhan, then consider this: All the atoms in your body are the result of a star detonating billions of years ago. You, yourself, are the result of complex interactions of physics and of chemistry; many billions of years of cosmic, many millions of years of biological, evolution.

When you look up into the night sky, you're seeing a picture of the Universe that has existed long before you, and will continue to exist long after--but every single element in your body has existed since the beginning of Time.

Thirteen point seven billion years. That's the age of the Universe. You, as an individual, have only been alive for a brief fraction of a fraction of that huge span of time. But everything about you has been here for a long, long, long time.

Study cosmology and appreciate how much grander, how much subtler, reality is than religion. All the myths, all the stories, all the fables and aphorisms that you can find in religion, are diminished and trumped by the truths you find by investigating the natural world. Study science. Not just psychology, but the natural sciences. You'll find that there's no end of interesting things if you combine wonder and skepticism.

Welcome home.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 22:00:42 UTC | #902513

Fouad Boussetta's Avatar Comment 9 by Fouad Boussetta

Hi Farhan.

I warmly recommend "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" by Andre Comte-Sponville. I know, the English title chosenby the editor is stupid, but the book is really excellent. The original title in French is better: it's "L'esprit de l'atheisme", which means "The Spirit of Atheism".

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 23:08:19 UTC | #902523

nurnord's Avatar Comment 10 by nurnord

Hello Farhan. I am not intending to offer advice and such. I just wanted to commend you for taking this new (and vastly improved) course.

Don't forget to embrace evolution too ! I highly recommend 'The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution' by....you guessed it - Richard Dawkins ! Beautifully written (he is not only a Fellow of the Royal Society, but a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature too). A now (!) enquiring mind like your own cannot ignore what is presented in that great book...If you then find you have a deep enough interest in all things evolution, explore all of RD's works on the field, you will find no better ! That is from a PhD zoologist myself !

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 23:52:52 UTC | #902533

Wendy Farts On Her Bible's Avatar Comment 11 by Wendy Farts On Her Bible

I would say that by jettisoning Islam you have already found yourself to a considerable degree, Farhan.

I’ve never subscribed to any religion, but for anyone who has it must be a wonderful feeling for them to see through it and emerge from the mental tyranny it imposes (especially monotheistic religion).

You must feel like Rilke's Panther after the bars have been removed from its cage – exhilarated.

Don’t worry too much about finding yourself. You’re already well on the way.

The adventure has just begun, Farhan.

Now enjoy the ride!

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 00:47:12 UTC | #902543

mach1's Avatar Comment 12 by mach1

Comment 3 by aths :

Can an atheist have a spiritual experience?

I remember when I first saw Saturn in good quality (before that I only had a little, blurry image.) I saw the planet and the ring with the Cassini division, I also saw one of the larger moons of Saturn. Seeing Saturn, and other planets, and other objects for real instead on photographs, was a strange experience. I would say, even a kind of spiritual one. Of course my telescope cannot show all the details of a professionally taken image, but I saw the actual object with my own eyes.

to me the way science has exposed the reality of the world that surround us is by itself a spiritual experience. Just watching the sky during night and thinking that the stars basically prodouced in the most spectacular way all the substance i'm made of, or caressing a cat and thinking that we both share the same structure and the same origin and the same ancestral feelings, it all makes me feel in deep connection with the nature and the whole life and existence surrounding me, in a much deeper way than the idea of an allmighty creator that made the universe in a blink of an eye and put me inside it just to see if im good enough for paradise.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 01:42:35 UTC | #902550

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

In any event, after leaving Islam I had to ask myself some big philosophical and existential questions about reality. The reason I am posting here (and plan on continuing to post here) is to get your thoughts, advice and insight in finding myself in this time/space continuum if you will.

Welcome! If I might give advice from someone who has given up religion and become ever more of a physical materialist and happy atheist....

Atheism can be not just a letting go of faith, but a finding of deeply satisfying and wonderful truths about the reality in which we live. It can involve feelings of vertigo at first, we we look at the astonishing depths of time and space after having lived in the shelter of the confines of religion. But you get used to it and the view is like nothing you can imagine.

We don't lose by rejecting faith; we gain, and we gain so very much. We gain self-respect, dignity and freedom. We throw off the shackles that we put on ourselves while enslaving ourselves to a divine tyrant. We allow ourselves to each live free of the tainted morality of holy books. We can stand as human individuals making our own future on this planet, and perhaps elsewhere too, and not as temporary residents of God's creation.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 01:47:15 UTC | #902552

UGene's Avatar Comment 14 by UGene

I want to contradict the people above and say: feel nothing towards the greatness of the Universe. You must be as cold and emotionless as a machine if you want to get to the Truth. Why do I say this? Because Science is a process of letting go; of abandoning your most cherished theory and your life's work, of previously held convictions, in favor of something closer to reality - no matter how hurtful and plain evil that reality might be.

If you grow too attached and feel its wonder, you become incapable of detaching yourself from it emotionally.

I am almost as much against scientism and atheistic spiritualism as I am against Islam.

Keep the emotions of love for your family and people close to you, NOT for Science. You cannot even feel too attached to the feelings of other humans, because in this your mind can and will shut down if you ever find information that is highly hurtful, politically incorrect about people around you, like that in genetics about the heritability of intelligence, and differences between humans and whole human populations as a mere product of genetic and evolutionary luck.

The most productive feeling you can feel about the Universe and nature is HATE, not wonder. Because hate will drive to find out hateful things about it. And it will also drive you to show the Universe the middle finger, by using your scientific knowledge to fix its flaws.

The Bible, of all books, has this little nugget of wisdom which is in line with what I wrote above:

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:18

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 08:03:56 UTC | #902591

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 15 by Bobwundaye

Comment 11 by Wendy Farts On Her Bible I’ve never subscribed to any religion, but for anyone who has it must be a wonderful feeling for them to see through it and emerge from the mental tyranny it imposes (especially monotheistic religion).

I'm not sure it is such an all wonderful feeling. Having myself been an avid Christian, studying theology and preaching in a couple of churches, and well on my way to the ordained ministry, when I became an atheist it wasn't such a phenomenal experience.

To a large extent I battled with finding myself, and my role. It took me a while to unlearn words like purpose, destiny, and meaning applied in the sense of externally imposed by a Creator. But as time got on, I became happier. I found more meaning and truth, but simultaneously also became more lost.

My advice is, embrace being lost for a while. It is okay. It is a terribly wonderful feeling, or perhaps wonderfully terrible feeling.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 15:13:43 UTC | #902631

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 16 by Schrodinger's Cat

Congratulations on leaving Islam. There's nothing quite as splendid as being free to think for oneself.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 16:18:27 UTC | #902644

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 17 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 15 by Spiritual Atheist

To a large extent I battled with finding myself, and my role. It took me a while to unlearn words like purpose, destiny, and meaning applied in the sense of externally imposed by a Creator. But as time got on, I became happier. I found more meaning and truth, but simultaneously also became more lost.

My advice is, embrace being lost for a while. It is okay. It is a terribly wonderful feeling, or perhaps wonderfully terrible feeling.

I wonder if others have experienced the same........but most of my battle with nihilism and lostness occured while I was still nominally a believer.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 16:24:38 UTC | #902645

Cestriana's Avatar Comment 18 by Cestriana

Hi Farhan. May I begin by congratulating you wholeheartedly for abandoning Islam. I left Catholicism behind some years ago and what I felt when I walked away from it was pure liberation; I certainly didn't experience a sense of loss. And although I don't care if others want to follow their religious beliefs slavishly, I do regard faith as abject nonsense and think it should know its place - that is, it has to be kept out of politics and other spheres of influence.

As for 'spirituality', to me that means experiencing a subjective emotional reponse to certain stimuli. Classical music is my fix and it's what gives me goosebumps, but I know it doesn't do it for eveybody. Feelings of exaltation are the result of a personal response to those things that 'turn you on'.

Sun, 25 Dec 2011 17:14:12 UTC | #902651

nancynancy's Avatar Comment 19 by nancynancy

Congratulations and welcome to the atheist community!

Mon, 26 Dec 2011 00:24:57 UTC | #902700

Jay G's Avatar Comment 20 by Jay G

Hello:

You might enjoy a book by Compt-Sponville titled "the little book of atheist spirituality".

Mon, 26 Dec 2011 09:38:38 UTC | #902743

mach1's Avatar Comment 21 by mach1

Comment 14 by UGene :

I want to contradict the people above and say: feel nothing towards the greatness of the Universe. You must be as cold and emotionless as a machine if you want to get to the Truth. Why do I say this? Because Science is a process of letting go; of abandoning your most cherished theory and your life's work, of previously held convictions, in favor of something closer to reality - no matter how hurtful and plain evil that reality might be.

If you grow too attached and feel its wonder, you become incapable of detaching yourself from it emotionally.

I am almost as much against scientism and atheistic spiritualism as I am against Islam.

to me this just means being a computer. The fact that you're or you want to be a scientist and a rational thinker doesnt mean that you are no longer a human being. And being a human also means keeping alive the ability to wonder. Being a researcher means first and foremost being a curious man, and curiosity is probably the principal peculiarity of childrens, the second one is the ability to wonder, and from a certain point of view they could be considered just the same thing.

Keep the emotions of love for your family and people close to you, NOT for Science.

This is a contraddiction. First, it contraddict the following statements you're proposing, secondly it contraddicts the fact that if you've such rigorous view of the science, than you should realize that love doesnt really exist, is just the trick that your mind play to you to make you have childrens and grow them up, so if you're such a devoted scientist you should not fall in love or at least you should just to it to reproduce your genes, if you really think they are worth preserving.

You cannot even feel too attached to the feelings of other humans, because in this your mind can and will shut down if you ever find information that is highly hurtful, politically incorrect about people around you, like that in genetics about the heritability of intelligence, and differences between humans and whole human populations as a mere product of genetic and evolutionary luck.

basically you're suggesting to live the life of a monk. It's curious that we think that religion freaked up believers mind but in the other end we suggest to leave just like the true believers do, sacrificing all the aspect of your life to follow the ideal of truth ( that basically is what a real believer should do, obviously in the name of a theistic truth, not a scientific truth ).

The most productive feeling you can feel about the Universe and nature is HATE, not wonder. Because hate will drive to find out hateful things about it. And it will also drive you to show the Universe the middle finger, by using your scientific knowledge to fix its flaws.

Please dont be offended but in the end im just figuring you just like a mix of Darth Vader and Sheldon Cooper :D :D

Mon, 26 Dec 2011 10:40:34 UTC | #902746

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 22 by Bobwundaye

Comment 17 by Schrodinger's Cat

I wonder if others have experienced the same........but most of my battle with nihilism and lostness occured while I was still nominally a believer.

Well, that battle for me started while I was still a theist but it blossomed and found fulfillment in my post theistic days.

Mon, 26 Dec 2011 14:38:35 UTC | #902769

bubbub's Avatar Comment 23 by bubbub

Well done Farhan! This is an important angle you are highlighting in your recent work. I think people with a love of mystery and maybe some past experience with religious belief sometimes feel alienated by their perception of atheism. I can imagine (partly from my own experience before I became an atheist) that it at first seems like a spoilsport, cold and disorientating place for your mind to be after the previous wishful thinking. It might seem like to be an atheist you should have no interest in subjective experience after being misled for many years by your own mind

True, subjective experience isn't good for determining truth about the physical world, but what people call spirituality seems to be about getting to know your own mind, and appreciating what's still mysterious about the physical world. I think the best sort of "spiritual" or mysterious experiences come from getting to know yourself better, connecting with and digesting your supressed emotions and memories, paying more heed to your gut feelings (maybe that's what prayer does, albeit in a misguided way, when you try really hard to hear what your imaginary god is telling you), and resolving the things that screw up your perceptions of other people and personal relationships.

I think the emotional appeal of religion is largely to do with it providing a flawed way to deal with deep emotional needs without really getting to the root of the problem. For example it may offer an imaginary being that loves you unconditionally, when you need to learn to accept and love yourself. It may promise vengence when you're better off learning to understand and forgive. It attempts to give certain answers about conscious experience and reality, but only science can give any trustworthy insight there. On a "spiritual" level you can learn to better accept and appreciate the sheer mysteriousness of these things, thinking about how little you know rather than what you do know for a while.

People who talk about being "spiritual" sometimes seem uncomfortable with how much science does tell us and, in my experience, may try to weaken people's trust in scientists. That seems like a bad kind of spirituality. That's because they are trying to fill genuine mysteries with made-up answers, which they feel are threatened by science, or they don't want some mysteries to be answered. A better "sprituality" could involve accepting and enjoying what mysteries there are, but being comfortable with the scientific search for answers.

Tue, 27 Dec 2011 00:36:26 UTC | #902862

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 24 by Vicktor

There is no religion (nor has there ever been, I think) more obsessed with compulsory worship and servitude than Islam. Congratulations on having had the courage to leave the madness. Enjoy the fresh, refreshing air of freedom; whatever remains of it for you, and regardless of how much of it was stolen from you. Use the extra energy, time and money to do some real good in the world. That, my friend, is true "spirituality".

Tue, 27 Dec 2011 04:19:46 UTC | #902900

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 25 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 14 by UGene

The most productive feeling you can feel about the Universe and nature is HATE, not wonder. Because hate will drive to find out hateful things about it. And it will also drive you to show the Universe the middle finger, by using your scientific knowledge to fix its flaws.

I suspect if you fixed all the flaws in the universe you'd find yourself right back with the universe we currently have, as the best solution. One of the first things you'd have to eliminate to have a magical world that 'cared' about humans would be causality. If we could violate the laws of physics every 5 minutes to perform miracles to fix this or that problem, we'd make utter nonsense of causality. And the trouble is, in a universe without fixed laws of causality that lead to evolution and natural selection......we would not be here in the first place to complain about causality !

Tue, 27 Dec 2011 06:51:30 UTC | #902918

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 26 by Mr DArcy

Congratulations to Farhan for rejecting the yoke of religion

From the OP:

Perhaps I never really could embrace within the depths of me the notion that people would be tormented and tortured in Hell for eternity. Based on the problem of Hell, and additionally, based on the problem of suffering and evil I could no longer believe in theology.....

Certainly Christianity suffers from this problem also. IMO, the problem of "evil" is the strongest weapon against the so-called all powerful and all loving God. What the hell is this God doing whilst parts of humanity fight wars, hate each other, and allow some 30,000 odd childrern to die every day of poverty related issues. What does this all powerful God do about earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and other natural disasters? Absolutely nothing! It's almost as if He 1) is powerless to prevent such things, or 2) doesn't care, or most likely, 3) exists only in peoples' imaginations. Personally, I go with 3).

Like Farhan, I can't work out why a loving God would want to torture millions like me, just for being a non-believer. Clearly a human made threat, to pack them into the churches, mosques, synagogues. A threat with no basis in reality!

Farhan, enjoy your escape from the Islamic prison system!

Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:21:09 UTC | #902996

MissLauraC's Avatar Comment 27 by MissLauraC

I am currently undergoing a bit of a deconversion from Christianity and I have to admit that I'm finding it a little bit scary. Suddenly there is no ultimate meaning to my life and my existential fears have me oscillating wildly between conviction that there is no God and clutching desperately at faith, any faith. I am trying to look at my state of mind objectively however and I think it is all part of the process. It certainly is the most intellectually exhilerating thing I've done since I was a student. We'll find peace with ourselves one day I'm sure but in the meantime I'm just trying to enjoy the ride.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 12:09:42 UTC | #903272

Sample's Avatar Comment 28 by Sample

Good for you, Farhan Qureshi.

One of the first questions I contemplated after faith disappeared (like a bar of soap) for me was whether I was merely substituting one addiction (religion) for another (atheism).

It's a weird question as I look back on it, but such were my thought processes at the time.

I suppose Farhan, if I had any advice to give (since you are asking for it), it would be to consider any future challenges you face when thinking about reality as possibly stemming from your old ways of thinking. You may have a lot of unlearning to do, I don't know.

Good luck and welcome!

Mike

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 13:00:31 UTC | #903279

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 29 by Bobwundaye

Comment 27 by MissLauraC

my existential fears have me oscillating wildly between conviction that there is no God and clutching desperately at faith

I can really identify with this statement. There was a period of over a year in which I could not and did not believe in God, but still prayed for faith. In fact, that was the only prayer that crossed my lips. Whether it was during grace or in the pews, while others mumbled on, I would bow my head and ask for faith.

I think, slowly but surely, one adjusts. Remember, the mind is rooted in the physical world of the brain and the pre-established pathways and connections of neurons. It takes time to build an alternative way of thinking that does not have one falling back into old ways and longing for old habits.

My best advice is just to accept the days and feelings (and accompanying faith) as it comes, and realize that over time it fades away.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 14:37:08 UTC | #903302

cacosta's Avatar Comment 30 by cacosta

Congratulations my friend, for this act of courage and self-discover.

Now, what I want to say to you, to help you find a new "spirituality", is this:

First of all, look at the stars. Try to imagine how big they are. And how even more big is the distance they are. Even our own Sun is so distance that we can imagine the correct picture. Don´t worry, our limited intellect was not made to imagine the universe. We can only imagine things that are important to our survival; even a mountain is a real challenge to our brain.

But just know that we are incredibile small compared to the universe. So small that we can´t even say that we exist in it.

Now, one thing that always amazed me is that the universe is not aware of its own greatness.

We are.

If (and when) the universe disappear, it will not notice. The universe won´t cry or feel sad for it. It will return to nothingness in the same way it came from the void - completely unconscious.

But... we will. We and any other of our (probable) cosmical brothers that share our one gift, that makes our existance unique.

Our consciousness.

We, human beings, and other beings with that same gift throughout the universe, if any exists, are the small cosmical dusts that gives one tiny sense for the existence. In my opnion, all religions focus to much on the after life. I think that is because we fear the end of life, the return to the cosmical dust from where we came. But I think they focus on the wrong aspect of life.

The most important aspect of life is LIFE. Because it is so beautiful, so... divine. Much more than any God

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 18:39:34 UTC | #903350