I read in a newspaper that a priest in Africa burned a Koran, and when the burning was done, his hands disappeared and he went nuts or he had a heart attack, something like that, I can’t really remember exactly. Still a believing Muslim, I had doubt about this story & decited to experiment it myself: The Koran was burning, and I was shivering like I had a fever, a kind that I never had before. I was scared...
This testimony appeared in popular freethinking Bengali blog Mukto-mona.
The Koran was burning, and I was shivering like I had a fever, a kind that I never had before. I was scared. My best friend was standing right next to me, eyes about to pop out. We were waiting for something wild to happen. I read in a newspaper that a priest in Africa burned a Koran, and when the burning was done, his hands disappeared and he went nuts or he had a heart attack, something like that, I can’t really remember exactly.
When I read this I was still a believer - I believed in Allah and I was a Muslim. I was about ten years old. But I had doubts about that story, it just didn’t make sense. How could one’s hands disappear? Does it just go, or it starts from the finger tips? Or does it start from the other end, and it floats on the air, and disappear very slowly? Do you bleed? I immediately wanted to test it out, since I also loved science, in fact I still do. But the next part was tough; I wasn’t brave enough to burn the Koran alone, on my own, the holy book of Islam. What ifs started to show up, and soon it was a huge crowd. And in front of that crowed I was a speck of dust, waiting for a stampede.
A few days later, I discussed this issue with my best friend, Olide, and he agreed to assist me. I don’t remember anymore how I convinced him; but we were always looking for weird stuff and crazy things to do. What I said to him was probably wild enough for him to be any part of it! On a Friday (the holiest day of the week) afternoon, we locked ourselves in my father’s small library, and put a copy of the Koran on the table. It looked very lonely and helpless; but the truth is, my heart was pounding like it just realized that with us we also locked death in that tiny room. Olide was a fat kid; he looked very tiny and pale. We separated all the pages of the Koran, and then suddenly, without thinking of anything else, started the fire.
The Koran burned majestically; but when the burning was done, nothing happened to us. I looked at him and said nothing is happening. What are you expecting to happen, he freaked out. I mean we are still OK, I said. And isn’t that great, he laughed loudly like the mad men in the bazaar. Great indeed, do you understand what it means, I asked. Yes, it means we have been doped all these years, reciting Koran every morning. You are right, this book has no power, we are free now, and we are not slaves of this book anymore. From now on, I will not wake up at 5:30 in the morning to recite this shit, he said. That was the biggest shock of our lives yet; we both felt like we just escaped death. We didn’t know how it feels to escape death; but we were sure that that is exactly how the lucky ones feel.
We went out in a local restaurant and ate sweet stuff in the evening. Suddenly he said there is something we know that no one else knows in our town. What is that, I wanted to know? No one knows how easy it is to be free from that book. Well said, I said. Then we walked home, proud that we knew the truth. That single incident was one of the most influential turning points both of us would ever encounter. It is sweet, take it from me, it is great to be free from a book that tries to control every aspects of your lives, including shitting and fucking.
When I was young, I also realized that it is much safer to criticize Allah than Mohamed. I would ask my grandmother, where is Allah. She would say, well, he is everywhere. So he is in the shit too, I would ask. Don’t say that, you will be punished, burning in hell, she would warn me. One time I said, maybe Mohammed was mentally ill and that’s why he said a lot of crazy stuff; or maybe he was a very smart man who created Allah to rule the world. (My friend Olide would say, we were about fourteen then, he created Allah so he could fuck women man, old and young.) One of my uncles got so angry, and he kicked me out of the house. Like I didn’t know what I did, I kept saying, what did I do, what did I do, please tell me what I did (I was laughing my ass out deep within, but faced the situation with a shock on my face). I came home at night, and he wanted to take me to the Mullah and make me a Muslim again. My mom did not allow that; and my dad didn’t give a fuck about it at all. I slept well that night; knowing that at least one more person know now that I am not a Muslim anymore.
After these incidents, I started questioning everything, especially Islam and its history. By the time I was sixteen, I knew that did not believe in Allah anymore. I wasn’t a Muslim. But this transformation wasn’t easy. I wanted to know the truth, so the burden of discovery was on me. One day, I found a book in my dad’s library that talked about Bertrand Russell’s atheistic ideas (it was in Bengali). I read the book a couple of times. I wanted to read Russell in its original form and for that to happen I had to learn better English. The first complete book that I read by Russell was The Conquest of Happiness. What I learned from that book is that it is OK to question the authority and you can have a different view; and still live a happy life of your own and define your own definition of success. And I was liberated. I started reading Russell more and more, and it changed me completely. I kept wondering if Allah created everything, then where did Allah come from. I was told by several Mullahs that I wasn’t asking a valid question, since Allah had always been there. Russell asked this same question in several of his writings, and then I knew that this was an author I must read more closely, and for the next few years that is what I did.
I asked myself, can logic and science replace religion eventually? Soon I realized that human beings are logical, but not all their actions are. Therefore, I was convinced that religion will always be here. And in this, I agree with Russell’s statement: a purely personal religion, so long as it is content to avoid assertions which science can disprove, may survive undisturbed in the most scientific age. In fact, we are living in such an age; look around you, I not bullshitting. Just one simple thought, when you look around start with your president. I just want religious people to understand that if an atheist’s existence bothers them, then for an equivalent reason, I too have the right to feel bothered by their existence as well. Questioning cannot be one directional! The reason is simple. It is just not fair. And I am not one of those fuckers who would say I respectfully disagree; I just disagree. What the fuck are they going to do about that?
I did believe that even if all the religions of the world are proven wrong, still it didn’t prove that there exists no God. But I did not find any evidence to support that a God exists. Russell states:
God and immortality, the central dogmas of the Christian religion, find no support in science. There is absolutely no evidence that God exists. Belief in any God is a purely blind act. I am not sure, but there must be a group of people who believes that a chicken is their God. If you are interested please find out, and let me know all about it! If one wants to believe without evidence, then I could only see it as an absurd act. Richard Feynman, in his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, shows that science and religion is not compatible, since in science it is essential to question and doubt, but in religion it is not approved. It is a simple statement, yet it creates a vast gap between the two that cannot be crossed. Maybe we should hire an Olympic long jumper, and give it a try! Hey, you never know. The burden of proof, when it comes to the question of God’s existence, is on the religious people; but so far instead of providing evidence, their fanaticism killed a lot of innocent people. That is their way of solving a problem. One day, maybe they will kill off all non-believers, and then I wonder what they will do to please their God. Maybe the God will be so bored that he will create more non-believers. Don’t bet on it. This is just a thought.
Then at one point, I was introduced to the theory of evolution, I should say I studied it more systematically than just to know about it; and for me it killed the God forever. Evolution explained my existence more beautifully than the stories of the Koran. Koran taught me I was expelled from heaven, but the theory of evolution explained I came from a single cell. From a single cell, I transformed into a human being, this realization was more glorious for me. Richard Dawkins argues, in his book The God Delusion, that if evolution is improbable, then the existence of God is even more improbable; a complex creator must also have a creator that is much more complex and improbable. I just have one question: where do we stop, I tend to get hungry frequently. Michael Shermer, in his book Why People Believe Weird Things, mentions that beliefs help us to survive and evolve in this planet, but it doesn’t mean that those beliefs are true.
I always felt that religion is the only force that could divide mankind so clearly, convincingly and successfully that it forces one to kill another, and with such joy. Yes, religion and belief in a supreme being might have helped us to survive in this planet in the past; but it also has the potential power to annihilate the mankind all together, much sooner than the cosmic annihilation.
Atheism is a much better way of living for me because it helps me to realize that there is no supreme being; to survive one must help another, and that is where I see humanity.
When I was growing up, I had absolute freedom to read anything that I wanted to read. My parents never told me not to read this or that, just because it was controversial. They were extremely liberal. But I had to be careful, for my society wasn’t as liberal as them. Through my readings and experiences of life, I’ve realized that the idea of a God or religion doesn’t make sense to me. And ultimately I’ve become an atheist. Oh shit! What have I done? Don’t worry about me, I always survive.
But wait; don’t let me go so easily either. While I was visiting my family in Bangladesh in 2004, I got extremely sick, and in my mind I feared that maybe I was wrong, maybe there was a God. Then I realized that I was afraid of dying, and my fear of death could not be the evidence that supported the existence of God. After I came back to the United States, everywhere I flew I would read anti-religious books on the plane. A lot of people asked me not to read that sort of books when at times the flight became very bumpy. A lot of the other people gave me weird looks. And since then, in every flight this is my primary source of entertainment, better than TV at 36,000 feet. Through this exercise, I got rid of my fear of death. Death just happens, and I cannot say take it or leave it; it always takes you. Once an old man, sitting next to me, at one point of the conversation asked me, so how do you think Mary got pregnant? Well, I said, she must have been fucking somebody on the side, or maybe she was sleeping around in exchange of biblical dollars.
It turns out that burning the Koran wasn’t the origin of my journey to becoming an atheist. The journey started long before that. My grandmother tells me that when I was about 4 years old, I used to use nasty words a lot. She would say Allah will cut your tongue, if you keep using this sort of words. And each time I would demand, show me Allah. This is the earliest record I have for being a skeptic. In time, my skepticism helped me to become an atheist. This world is still not a safe place for an atheist; but in this state of being I find my true unbiased self. If I pretended to be anything else, then that would be dishonest.
I am an atheist, and that is the truth. I was born free, and I want to die free - that is why I refused to live as a slave of an idea, the idea of a God and religion. And one more thing, I wouldn’t like to be a God, because I would hate to be praised by fools. I don’t really fucking know how God takes it day in and day out.
In addition to my essay above, with great regret, I have to say that my father is a great Muslim now. He was suffering from a disease several years ago, and since then he talks about Allah and Mohammed a lot. By the way, in his early youth he was Murid of some Pir as well; but he was moderate till his sickness. I would classify him as a bit of a fundamentalist now. He is a “Paka” or “Khati” [oure] Musolman.
And as for my friend, Olide, he is a Haji now. He performed Hajj many times already; and he is not even 40 yet. Great success!!!
In my family and among my close friends, I am the only black sheep; but it feels good to look at the world differently.