This is my personal take on the incremental process of extracting yourself from religion. Feel free to disagree.

Step 1. Rejecting personification

A theist’s first step is rejection of god. Many active members of theistic communities take only this step, keeping their “lack of faith” secret, unable to give up their religion’s comfortable rituals and fellowship.

Step 2. Rejecting Religion

The second step is rejection of religion. You are here because you’ve taken this step. At this stage someone is religion defiant but still religion oriented.

You might apply your former religion’s concepts for the irreligious to yourself such as Atheist, Heathen, Godless, Apostate, Faithless, or Impious. By so doing, you internalize negative judgments embedded in these religious concepts, in their dictionary meanings, including disloyal, alienated, false, sinful, perverse, blasphemous, seditious and traitorous. You may think you’re reclaiming a negative term, without taking full account of its covert loading.

True escape involves leaving behind words from religion for someone who has rejected religion. Re-imagine your escape and consequent freedom in your own terms. There are many paths to transforming your self concept: free thinker, secular humanist, change agent, etc.

For example, if you’ve rejected Islam but still feel motivated to fight Islam, you could reinvent yourself as a change agent. A change agent is someone who works to bring about a change in a society using techniques developed in business and social work. It’s more likely you’ll achieve lasting change by working quietly behind the scenes using techniques honed in a variety of nonreligious settings, instead of making yourself into a target by taking the traditional Apostate role. Over centuries many thousands of apostates have died defying Islam, the Catholic church and other religions, while strengthening the hated religion. The role religions prescribe for rebellion are ineffective by design. The point of the apostate role is exactly to be ineffective, to throw your life on their pyre, a wasted potential, so the faithful can brag about killing you. A change agent isn’t a martyr against religion.

In sum, fully rejecting religion requires rethinking what it means to reject religion.

Step 3. Memetics

It’s natural to think of a religion as the sum of its institutions and adherents. In the world, we assume human beings are in control. Memetics is the fairly new, and not universally respected, interpretation and study of culture from an information perspective. Specifically, the units of culture are bits which get copied and spread. Looking at their replication, we realize that human beings are more manipulated by the information we take in and reproduce than we are its masters. Memes, the basic replication pieces, cluster together into memeplexes.  Those clusters which happen to take advantage of our inherent weaknesses spread faster. Memeplexes which “specialize” in the niche of taking total control of their human hosts include religions. We can see religious people as hosts infected by what is in effect a mind virus.   We see how our minds can be taken over by the “good tricks” of cobbled-together stories to believe nonsense, because it fosters greater story infectivity. Memetics frees us even further from respecting religion. Memetics awakens us to religions' sneaky surreal danger, like diseases which make infected insects into zombies. Religious martyrs are like infected insects, sacrificing themselves for the spread of the disease infecting their brains. Even martyrs against their former religion are religious zombies, without realizing it. Memetics can help to shake off that last lingering trace of mind infection.

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Replies to This Discussion

It’s a great discussion, however I think the transformation from a devoted Muslim to an atheist is quite different. The second stage comes first. Rejecting god (Allah) is quite more complicated than getting rid of a religion. When god is moving away, the darkness of nothingness sneaks in to replace it. That’s the stage that the apostate requires to be too strong to face all internal storms of individual problems.

 The third stage which is a great theory created by well-known biologist Richard Dawkins cannot be a general stage of transformation for many apostates but it is a scientific theory which demonstrates the religious world from a point of view of intellect atheist biologist.

So are you saying that Islam is rejected first and then people realize the personification was false? There is no equivalent condition to the fairly common "loss of faith" situation in Christianity, where the believer is urged to act as if he believed and continue to participate, in the expectation that God will fix the problem in time.

I'm glad you're familiar with memetics and Dawkins, Sayed. I don't understand why it would be more difficult to imagine the writings in the Koran as an infective agent similar to a computer virus than it would be for Christians to see their dogma as a virus infecting their mind. Islam even has explicit instructions for memorizing the text, just as a computer virus contains code for generating copies of itself. Perhaps you could clarify this in greater detail.

The part of your answer which I had most difficulty understanding was, "When god is moving away, the darkness of nothingness sneaks in to replace it." Does this mean that people reject organized Islam first but continue to "feel the presence of God"? Why would realizing that your lifetime "supernatural companion" has been fictional leave such a vacuum, such nothingness?

As a feminist this reminds me of divorced women totally collapsing emotionally because they had totally subsumed their identities in their husband's, they had undergone a form of Stockholom conversion. If a woman becomes nothing but some man's right hand, when he abandons her she becomes disoriented. She's forgotten how to generate independent actions, how to make up her own mind. Surely a devout Muslim hasn't surrendered himself so totally that he lost his capacity for independent judgment and motivation. Surely one doesn't become nothing but a slave to Allah, literally. The mind boggles to imagine millions in full Stockholm Syndrome conversion.

Hey Ruth! I agree and I am still trying on these steps. I haven't been an atheist as long as you have so I am still in the process of becoming stronger each day. I'm learning so much from you and the site here. So I'm glad I have you!

I don’t see religious people as being sick and religion as virus, However, religions followers are too coward to face the  fact that  ‘there may not be a god’.

Your comparison of a divorced woman with an apostate is absolutely wonderful, however the bitter feeling of loss for an ex-Muslim is hundred time stronger. In Islam Allah and human are totally inseparable. A Muslim sees the world and its activities as Allah's will.

According to Islam, If anyone betrays Allah, there will not be any forgiveness and regret for him/her and he/she will face execution.

Sayid, when you say

In Islam Allah and human are totally inseparable. A Muslim sees the world and its activities as Allah's will.

it sounds as if human beings feel they are powerless. As if we have no strength or wisdom of our own. As if God gets all of the credit for whatever good you do. Do I misunderstand? I'm having a hard time comprehending how an alleged supernatural master and it's slaves can be inseparable. Is the real world seen as just a shadow and the alleged supernatural realm the only true reality?

Just what does someone feel is lost when one stops believing in Allah?

On rejecting loaded labels and ineffective roles (Step 2):

After a breakup, we don't keep thinking of ourselves as, say, "Pat's ex-boyfriend" or "Terry's ex-girlfriend". We hopefully identify ourselves in an independent, positive way.

(If the person you broke up with turns out to be a violent stalker, you can't put them out of mind completely, needing to stay aware of them for your own safety! Still, the previous relationship doesn't define who you are.)

I agree but abandoning a religion particularly Islam is a very lengthy and complex process due to the interpretation of world and existence that Muslims believe in.




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