My name is David Agaybi. I'm a 37 year old Egyptian born and Canadian raised atheist/anti-theist. Since I could remember, I've always felt an aversion for religion. I was born in a middle eastern country which harbours 2 major religions, Christianity (Catholic/Orthodox) and Islam. As a christian I grew under a very oppressive and confining environment, I was part of a minority that clung to its religious beliefs like iron. This is the only way to survive in that environment. I was born in the 70's just after the war with Israel, so it was a very dramatic time in Egypt. Anwar Sadat was the president at the time and the country was raging over his decision to sign the peace treaty with Israel. Fundamentalism was at its worst.
At the age of 5 I witnessed an event that to this day haunts me. I was on the balconey playing with a toy when all of a sudden I saw a man chasing another man across the street. The pursuer then lifted an AK47 from under its cover and shot the man several times. Blood was everywhere and I still remember the site as if it happened yesterday. It turns out that the altercation took place over a marriage dispute. The man who was shot impregnated the sister of the man who shot him, and under Islam, that is considered a sin.
Incidentally, I lived in a town called Nag Hammadi. Some of you may recognize it as the town where the gnostic gospels or apocrypha were discovered. Anyways, in 1981 Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a man named Khalid Islambouli, who happened to come from Nag Hammadi. Upon Sadat's death and Mubarak's swearing in, the army decided to send a message to our town by blockading it with tanks and other military vehicles. They began a 2 day and night exercise in which they would fire weapons into the air, sending fear and horror throughout the town.
When Mubarak came to power, he cracked down on the fundamentalists, which in turn directed all their hate to the christian minority. I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that my family was in danger.
It was at this point that my parents decided to leave for Canada. We had an aunt who lived there and could help us out. Unfortunately, my father decided to stay behind so it was just my mother, sister and I. He joined us in Canada 6 years later.
So I escaped the heavy veil of Islam only to be thrown to the wolves of the Christian communities here in Canada. Mind you Canada is paradise compared to Egypt, but the oppressive grip of religion still had its hold on me. Church became a nightmare of indoctrination, first communion with its social obligations, confirmation with the same thing. I hated every minute of it! Didn't understand it, always wanted to have sex instead, and in middle eastern families sex is taboo to talk about. I felt completely alone throughout my childhood, so I began to read the Bible. I attended all kinds of churches, you name it I've been there. Read the bible 11 times because that was the only way I can get my mother's attention. An attention I severely needed as a child, considering the things I experienced and the lack of a male role model.
Luckily I met a Canadian friend who introduced me to a book titled Demian by Herman Hesse. I was blown away! I could't believe how much I needed this book. I felt like a seal had been broken, I ate the apple of knowledge and was intoxicated by it. I picked up another book titled Answer to Job by Carl J. Jung, and that blew me away as well! Everything I understood or had suspicions about in the bible was confirmed by these two books.
As a christian I always thought god was a fearsome character. A being who is all powerful, therefore we must fear and obey. I used to cry for Judas because of the conundrum god placed him in lol. He didn't deserve it, and in my eye I always thought the real sacrifice was Judas, not Jesus. After that I started looking at a lot of 'good' bible characters with suspicion.
I continued reading and educating myself. I picked up 1984 and was amazed by its dark vision. A vision I realized to be necessary to have to understand the dynamics of power in this world. At the age of 19 I left religion for good. I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and was attracted to Buddhism, so I started appealing to its tenets. My parents didn't understand me, they thought I was just going through a phase. But in reality, I was becoming more aware, less fearful of an imagined being and less burdened by doctrine and dogma. I heard my chains break and I was free to explore the world for what it really is.
When the new atheist movement started after 9/11, I was so happy. Finally something in the mainstream. I read Hitchens' great book God Is Not Great and was reduced to tears. Soon after my attitude towards religion became hostile. Instead of seeing it as a prison of the past, I began to see it as a prison of the present and future as well. I became more strident in my hate for religious thinking and what its doing to inhibit the progress of humanity.
Today I feel like a person on a mission. The more I learn, the more I understand and the less fear. Its a reverse proportionality that all humans must understand.
I'm sorry for the long rant. I tried to cover as much ground as I can. Right now I am a happy member of the Atheist Nexus community. I've chatted with so many and have made friends with many. In conclusion I want to say thank you to the builders and organizers of this website and thank you for accepting me as a friend and member.
Welcome, David. And thanks for sharing your personal journey on how you got here. You've been through and have seen a lot. It's always satisfying to hear stories like yours, where a person such as yourself has arrived at point in life that is both comfortable and purposeful. I'm proud to stand with you in your mission to promote progress and humanistic values for the future.
Welcome to the forum David. I remember reading Demian much later in life. Unfortunately, the book didn't touch on anything new for me. I have been revisiting books that I have read 25 to 30 years ago to see how the story has changed from my memory. It has been an interesting self-examination of who I was. I'll Have to wait another 15 years to revisit Demian. I apologize for the digression. I'm glad to have you on the board, and thanks for sharing your story. It is always nice to find another person that feels hostility towards religion and superstition in general. Lately, I am beginning to think that religiosity is only a symptom instead of being the base problem.
Welcome David. You have quite a story to tell and I found it very interesting. So many in this world keep trying to trade one religious dogma for another claiming they have this inner hunger to know the truth. There is but one truth, and that is "there are no gods." Like you, I find religion less a prison of the past, but more a prison of the present and the future. For this reason I speak out to others about it, and sometimes am not liked very well. That's the best we can do, and the only way we can help each other to break free.
Thanks you, David, for sharing your story. You witnessed many terrible things so very young. I hope those kinds of memories can ease as you feel safer and more secure in your personal life. I understand your anger, knowing it will fade as we find healthier ways of being in relationship with others. The pain and fear continue to haunt even as we grow with understanding and critical thinking. Those scars run deeply, some of them hide, only to surface when some stress occurs.
It made sense to me that as long as I was angry and afraid, I was still bound to the past. If I want to live and flourish, I have to claim the power of happiness and joy in living. So easily said; so elusive.
There is no god, no sin, no savior, no heaven and no hell. Stand tall, proud, dignified, comfortable and say "I am an atheist!" Nothing more needs to be said, no explanation, no apology, just a statement of a fact. I like being an atheist. I am proud of the thoughts and actions that brought me to this place. I hope you feel proud and comfortable with your statement, and feel strong.
Welcome to this group of people who find no compelling evidence of there being a super-human power. You have contributed so much already and will find an intelligent assembly of critical thinkers here.