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To Put It Plainly

As a young recently deconverted atheist, I share my thoughts on my former religion, and why I chose to give it up.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is, in my opinion, one of the most awe-inspiring works of art, regardless of its religious value. Likewise, a rendition of “Ave Maria” is enough to move me to tears, just as any other beautiful symphony.

To put it plainly, I was never religious to begin with.

As a young man born into the infamous Nation of Islam, I never really enjoyed going to the mosque on Sunday, or having to put on a suit on a Saturday morning to go to a boys’ training class for three hours. If I am being honest with myself, I have technically always been an atheist. 

By the age of seven, I was reading many astronomy books that would turn off even some of the finest of my peers to this day, and the teachings of my religion never really lined up with what scientists had to say about the earth and the universe. For an example, people in the Nation of Islam are taught that man has existed with the Almighty Creator for sixty-six trillion years. But my science books would always say that the universe was around fourteen billion years (give or take a couple hundred million), and that humans are only around 350,000 years old, and frankly, that’s being generous. When I brought that to the attention of my parents at the time, I was given a rather different cop-out answer—that I shouldn’t trust science, because scientists aren’t as perfect as they claim to be. This, understandably, was an unsatisfactory answer.

Another such story I had a difficult time believing was the story of how the moon came to be. From my best friend the science book, the story of the moon (vastly oversimplified) goes as follows: during the time of the young earth, around 4 billion years ago, a Mars-sized protoplanet smashed into the still forming Earth. The collision reduced the protoplanet to smithereens, which formed into a thin ring around the earth. Over hundreds of millions of years, the ring of debris eventually came together due to gravity, and this is how the moon came to be. The narrative of the Nation of Islam is very different, however.

According to the Nation of Islam, the moon was formed as a result of human dissatisfaction with Allah. As the story goes, Allah (who, evidently, is a human being) drills deep into the earth when he catches wind of the fact that people aren’t satisfied with the way things are (now, mind you, this is supposed to have happened trillions of years ago, which makes the next part quite laughable). He plants dynamite in the earth’s core and ignites it (because the core just isn’t hot enough to light the damn thing) and blasted a chunk of the earth into space. Then, God stood on the moon and tipped the moon over so that all of the oceans would spill back to Earth. There is a number of glaring contradictions with this story, and it violates quite a few of the natural laws that govern our universe. I will not go into all of them here, but they will be explained in detail in later posts.

My third problem with the Nation of Islam is the idea that its subscribers are hardline creationists, which is manifest in how they ridicule the idea of evolution. This only shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory of evolution, in spite of all of the evidence that points to the idea that evolution definitely did happen. I have much to say on this topic, but since this is just an introduction, it’s best left as a topic for another article.

Fast-forward seven years. As a tenth grader, I learned quite a bit about biology, chemistry, physics, and religious philosophy. At around this time, I identified as an agnostic. At the time, though I knew I was Muslim no longer, I hadn’t the courage to call myself atheist yet. In my blind youth, I thought that an atheist was someone who said that there is no God, so I was not yet confident in saying that I knew enough to hold that position. This was in spite of the fact that I was almost certain that Allah, or any sort of intervening god, was not real. By the second semester of my eleventh grade year, I was asking myself the tough questions that all theists ask atheists. I remember my AP Human Geography teacher (who is a hardline Christian) asking me about morality, and how could I justify my morals without God. I wasn’t able to answer the question at the time, but I knew that I didn’t have to justify morality without the existence of a god anyway, so I brushed it off.

Fast forward to today. At sixteen years and nine months, I’m older, and hypothetically wiser. After reading books like A Universe from Nothing and God is Not Great and The God Delusion, I have finally mustered up the courage to identify as an atheist. If I had known in my younger years what I know now, I think that I would have been much better off. I never have fully accepted the claim that a god exists, and I don’t think that I ever will; I have always had a skeptical mind, and have never been very credulous, and that is an intrinsic part of who I am.

And that’s putting it plainly.

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