Greeting, all. The following is a short vignette about life as an atheist in Muslim countries. Enjoy!

**

 A few months ago, I decided, against my better judgement, to date a girl whose mentality was my polar opposite. I was a secular, westernized, freedom-loving hedonist, and she a pious Lebanese Muslim who, like many of her peers, was being torn at the seams by the clash between the forces of modernity and her religion. 

 

 To a certain extent, this duality mirrors the city of Beirut, whose streets are full of immaculately groomed high-rise apartment buildings interspersed with dilapidated remnants of the past. Beirut is a city of contradictions. Forward looking, but ever hesitant to weigh anchor and steam ahead. 

 

  My relationship with this girl started with a honeymoon phase. Anyone who’s ever dated someone a league or two above will be familiar with this.  The 5 am messages. The glowing skin. The boxes of assorted confectionaries. Any red flags at this point were briskly drowned out by… well, more carnal needs.  

 

 The human condition is a permanent struggle between our primal brain, and our higher order reasoning centers. One craves instant gratification, the other constantly reminds us of the consequences of reaching out for this gratification. The biblical serpent on one hand, and a nannyish, Mary Poppins-like figure hovering over my shoulder, incessantly waving her finger like a sort of clean-shaven Fidel Castro.

 

 As I started this ill-fated courtship, the fault lines manifested themselves precipitously. On my first trip to Beirut, she refused to give me a ride from the airport to my hotel, fearing the stigma of walking into a hotel with a bachelor. For those unversed with conservative Muslim psyche, reputation is everything. She simply won’t be seen walking into a hotel with a guy, sans wedding ring. I roll my eyes.

 

 I drive through the streets of Beirut’s downtown district towards my hotel. An imposing amalgam of concrete and steel and glass and marble. A sense of being among stone and granite. Cars like shoals weaving through corals. I finally settle into the warm embrace of my bed, and wait.

 

 A couple of hours later, she knocks. I let her in. We hug, and spend the next 30 minutes chatting on the balcony to the cacophony of construction works and the stench of her cigarettes. I invite her inside to plan the day ahead, and to lessen my carbon intake. 

 

 We never got to the planning phase.

 

 Once inside, she took off her clothes and pounced on me. This confused me. Weeks earlier, she volunteered the (unsolicited) information that she does not condone sex before marriage, that she was not “that kind of girl.” I rolled my eyes and changed the subject.

 

 The look of confusion on my face must have been blatantly palpable. “Oh, we’re not going all the way”, she replied. 

 

 “We’re going half-way, just to get a little taste.” I was intrigued.

 

 “Have you ever done this before?” I asked, nonchalantly. “Yes, but only with one guy, and only because I thought we were going to get married.” 

 

 My cheeks gradually puffed as a violent torrent of air migrated from my lungs to my mouth. Against my better judgement, I let out a hearty guffaw. It couldn’t be helped. The mental acrobatics that pious folk indulge in, just to justify giving in to their base instincts… Yes, that’s what I was laughing at, I tell myself. 

 

 I drifted into my thoughts. What I was so preoccupied with at that particular point in time, I cannot recall. I let her proceed with her half-thrusts as I converse with my inner self. “A fine pickle you’ve landed yourself in, sir,” referring to this sort of purgatory between sex and non-sex. I am snapped back into the present when she has finished frustrating me to her heart’s content. The smoke from her cigarette flirts with my imagination as I make out shapes of boats and planes and broken hearts.  

 

**

 

 One day, completely out of the blue, she comes to me with the suggestion that she would like to try out atheism for a few days, just to experience my perspective. “How do you think that will influence your behaviour?” I ask.

 

 “I will probably engage in lots of intercourse, as well as lie, cheat, and possibly steal.” 

 

I shake my head, cringing at her keenness to so easily discard the veneer of civilization. If I had to pinpoint the exact moment my heart cleaved from hers, this would have been it.

 

 “You can’t find happiness down that path,” I replied. “You will only find misery, loneliness, and solitude.” 

 

 I lied, of course. 

 

 Truth is, she would have devastated the atheist movement, and herself in the process. Additionally, I could no longer tolerate my senses screaming for a reprieve from a relationship on life-support.

 

**

 

 A few months go by. Relationship ends amicably. I’m walking back to my hotel on the Corniche, a cosmic grin on my face. Autumn leaves waltz with the piercing breeze. My inner nanny pops into being and rests on my shoulder. To my surprise, she is looking pleased. She grabs my head ever so gently and rests it on her bosom, caressing it tenderly. Her booming, calamitous portents are replaced with a mellifluous, soothing pitch. 

 

 At long last, her ceaseless admonishments fade into a careless whisper. I am free.

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Comment by Glen Rosenberg on March 19, 2017 at 3:44pm

Thomas, 

I had a law practice known as Law Sense. Maah shit is all about making sense. As to your question, hell if i know is my answer. 

Comment by Thomas Murray on March 19, 2017 at 12:52pm

jay h,

I had a similar experience with an Italian woman, born and raised in Italy. She was a devout Catholic. In her bedroom she always had an open Bible on her nightstand, a picture of St John Paul II, on her wall above her bed a cross of Jesus with palm leaves and a prayer book on her bed. Before we had our tryst , she will close her Bible and put the Pope in her bathroom. We didn't have an intercourse, but whatever it was I just followed what she felt herself allowed to do, or what she reason herself into this religion of hers. 

None of it made any sense.

She was a lovely, hot tempered woman. The only times she acknowledge me was in her bedroom. Otherwise, in public she kept her distance from me.

Comment by Thomas Murray on March 19, 2017 at 12:38pm

Glen,

YOU make sense but when did ever a Muslim or a Christian ever made sense of their reasons or actions?

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on March 18, 2017 at 11:03pm

thanks, Joan

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 18, 2017 at 10:59pm

Glen, you make your point sharp as a tack. 

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on March 18, 2017 at 8:13pm

Not long ago i had an encounter with a sheep. Ewe would not believe how she liked to lock horns. 

In spite of her salacious and prurient ways i threatened to leave her unless she deconverted to become an atheist. Alas and alack, she would not abandon her beliefs. To this day i regret my intransigence in insisting on purity of reason at the expense of hot monkey love. It is the last time my philosophy is going to interfere with my biology!

Comment by jay H on March 18, 2017 at 7:14pm

Strange things do happen. Some years ago I found myself involved in an intense sexual relationship with  a very Christian grandmother (she was actually married, but her alcoholic husband was out of the picture). We would have sex before church, she would go and we'd have sex after she came home from church.

I'm not sure how it could have worked in the long term. No accounting for relationships.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 15, 2017 at 9:00pm

Oh! hormones are cruel little buggers that spoil the well-laid plans of a whole flock of Imams. Even political dictators do not have the power of hormones. 

One way of reconciliation for people with profound differences is the uniting of one man and one woman or (two men, or two women), because of sexual attraction. When enough couples with differences leave the fold of their separate traditions, perhaps the conflict will eventually end. I write this, knowing that history doesn't support my claim. And the shame of it all is that all three of these warring groups come from Abrahamic Line. Kissing Cousins become Killing Cousins. 

Now you come into the picture offering a bouquet of atheism. Freedom vs Submission, jActive vs Passive, Independence vs Dependence, Life vs Death, Self-definition vs Other-definition. 

I wonder how a Jewish, Christian or Islamic man or woman can leave his or her faith, family, community, and values behind without experiencing cognitive dissonance at some point. 

Well, whether fact or fiction, your story is a compelling one that conjures up all kinds of pitfalls. I can't even imagine that I, a "hard" atheist could ever navigate a union with a believer in any superstition. 

 

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on March 15, 2017 at 6:31pm

Fateh, there are a number of things that make me dubious. 

The overarching sense i get is that the story is aesthetic and intended to further the paradigm of the clash of civilizations. 

If she is pious why is she dating an avowed atheist?

She is not willing to drive you from airport to hotel but she goes there unaccompanied and to your room...why the one risk and not the other? 

Also why not simply drop you off? Honeymooners make an effort to please their object of affection not to find an excuse to avoid doing so. 

She is a pious muslim and yet she gets quixotic about trying out atheism. The penalty for apostasy is death. So why would she try it? And if she is pious how can she suddenly defenestrate everything in her world view?

Why would that be the moment you decided against her? She had just turned you on. And based on her violation of muslim ethics why wouldn't she end up having sex without marriage? I mean if you might try out atheism and then you concede that you will probably become a fornicating thief i think she is giving ya a little hint she is more than willing to do you.

"devastated the atheist movement, and herself in the process", ok so i will give you artistic license to engage in hyperbole as to the atheist movement but why would she devastate herself? And why wasn't her thoughts as to the debauchery and degeneracy of atheism an opportunity for you to educate her?

Comment by Fateh Sakkal on March 15, 2017 at 2:55pm

Glad y'all enjoyed it.

@ Glen: It's all true. What is it about the story that you found so incredulous?

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