When I first arrived in the U.S. my first cultural impression was that of what I had seen through my teachers. There were two words that defined this impression. Humanity and Reality. There were many people from all sorts of backgrounds and as I far as I could tell we were all being treated just as equal. In three years of my Middle school, I could point to one incident that I found objectionable.
There was an Asian student who was whispering with another Asian student. I cannot recall the exact reaction of the teacher, but one sentence stuck in my head.
“Just to let you know I do not like yellow kids.” To me and the rest of us, this was one isolated thing. Nobody made a fuss about it.
Our teachers truly were like our second parents. They were not just our teachers, but they truly were our friends. I fell in love with the Secular values of America. Everybody was accepting of others differences and the Kids were excelling and many would be the first in their families to go to College.
When I was first learning about the human body, red and white blood cells, Mars and Jupiter, Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare and the wizard of Oz, I had tears of joy in my eyes. I was gaining knowledge, the world was opening up to me. I could not put down the National Geographic Magazine. Even when some of the information made me sad and uncomfortable, I was glad to know it rather than being ignorant of it.
Intolerance, lack of human solidarity as well as dark religious zeal drove my family from our homes. My family had to pack and run away. We were forced become refugees and the United States opened its arms to us. One of the first intriguing thing that came across and read was the secular American constitution. There was no established religion, you did not had to be of a certain religion to apply for political office. What a relief, because religion and religious people had always brought suffering to my family and my people. Religion has turned my country of Iran into one gigantic prison.
After the 1979 revolution in Iran, my people, the Kurds, boycotted the referendum that brought the worlds first Islamic republic to power. Knowing the darkness that might plague our land, the population poured onto the streets. Many holding sings “ No to a religious state”
Khomeini, the new leader cracked down on the Kurds. We were labeled “The children of Satan.” A Holy War was launched against my people. The Iranian Army did not had to anything. Volunteer religious zealots took the matter into their own hands. They poured into the Kurdish territories. In the name of God, civilians were beheaded. Women were raped and farmers were killed as they worked in the fields.
Seeing the brutality, ordinary people got together and resisted Khomeini with arms. There were many villages where the population was totally annihilated. I was born into this conflict. My mother would tell later on that she would put cotton in my ears so that the sound of the machine guns and heavy artillery would not deprive me of sleep. It was a bitter time for my people. Many talented young man and girls were executed for simply belonging to a group that did not accepted the authority of man that claimed to be a representative from God.
It was with those teachers and classroom that I actually felt like a human being. Nobody asked what my religion was, only if they wanted me to take off some particular holiday or wanted me to be aware of particular foods. Nobody asked what language I spoke, only in case I needed a translator. Nor did anybody tried to put me down because of my ethnicity. Whatever I was, Whoever I was, I was a human being. The was the first time in my life, I knew what life without hatred meant. This was the first time in my life where I lived without fear. On the way home from school I was talking with God, in my mind.
“ God, if you were going to go through the trouble and effort and create the world, could you not have created it to resemble just like this school ? Was it too much to create everybody like those teachers? Who has done more good for people, My English teacher or the clergy?”
I still believed in God, and did consider myself a Muslim. The only time I was denying my Muslim faith was when other students wanted to keep me from eating pork. I loved pork. I was not hurting anybody. I was not taking anything from anyone. I just could not understand how a healthy, clean animal that was being used as a source of food for hundreds of millions of people could be such a big deal.
Was the purpose of life based on what to eat and what not to eat? On the month of Ramadan, I would ritually wash my body and I would walk over to the local Mosque to offer prayers to Allah.
One time I walked halfway to the Mosque and turned back.
“ I am a good person. I do not cause harm. I don’t know why Allah is looking forward to see whether I pray to him or not. I don’t owe him anything. The world is much bigger and more interesting, by claiming that this is God wants, I am reducing its size to a tennis ball. Since if this is what God wants, why seek knowledge and understanding. Why bother with progress and medicine. Surely if God is the most merciful people should be healed upon demand.”
My family only identified themselves as Muslims, because it was in the family, but they always stayed away from religious people and institutions.
“ Learn how a bike works, teach yourself a new language.” my father would often say.
I knew that My father was worried about me getting too tangled up in religious affair, so he repeatedly encouraged me to stay away. But I wanted to read and search for my self. I got my hands on an English Quran and studied it as though I was preparing for the a big Test. I would underline verses and make notes on the sides and often write questions right into the Quran.
7:57 And He it is Who sendeth the winds as tidings heralding His mercy, till, when they bear a cloud heavy (with rain), We lead it to a dead land, and then cause water to descend thereon, and thereby bring forth fruits of every kind. Thus bring We forth the dead. Haply ye may remember…..
Rain is a sign of God’s Mercy? As grateful as we humans are for rain, it is not always helpful. Sometimes there is too much rain and lives are taken, people have to evacuate towns and crops are destroyed. Allah sends too much rain to where there is not much needed and there are droughts all over the world, but Allah does not send any rain. People starve to death, especially children. What kind of Mercy is that? I was disturbed. I was overwhelmingly disturbed. I remember my grandfather telling us stories about how when he used to hire people to reap the grain on his farm, on a warm sunny day, right after the grain was all piled up and was being readied to be transported to a storage place, the clouds would gather and the pouring rain would wash away all of it.
5:51 “ Oh you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as your friends and protectors.”
I was not going to obey such God that demands that I stay away from people. Some of the dearest people in my to me were non-Muslim. The teachers that I so admired and looked up to, they were non-Muslim. Many Muslims have mentioned that this verse is just for the time of Mohammad and not for right now. These are the same people that told me that the Quran is for all the time.
I still believed in God. But I was left with no choice, I had to abandon Islam. I had to b true to myself. Islam was not for me. I do not find it meaningful and it is not relevant to me my life and it is not relevant to the modern world. I bade Allah farewell and did not look back.
Another important fact must also be mentioned. Islam believes that up until Mohammad, God has sent 24,000 prophets to set mankind on “The straight path.” He failed and he was not able to achieve that. So he decides that he will send one more, one last one, Mohammad. The vast majority of peoples on the Earth do not believe in Mohammad and Allah. So even with Mohammad God failed.
In February of 1999 the entire Kurdish nation was rocked with sadness and grieve when one of our leaders was arrest by the Turkish government. I did not know much about the person and in all honesty I just did not care about him. But I was grieved because I was just finding out what my people have actually gone through and what they are going through right now.
People were setting themselves on fire and burning themselves. I was only fifteen years old, but gradually I was becoming more and more aware of the despair that many people were in. I was no longer on talking terms with God, but I was asking questions. “ Is this the best you can do? You have created an imperfect world. I cannot say well done, since you can see yourself what a sloppy job it is.”
The more I was thinking about the world, the more sad and angry I would become. I was depressed. Many days I would withdraw to a corner of my room and weep. The vast majority of the times, I was weeping silently. I did not want my family to hear me crying. Many times I would say to myself.
“ I wish the world was more compassionate. I wish Human differences was not an issue to separate us.” For many months I was overtaken by sadness and depression. Until one day, God sent me a few angels. Well I was thinking that they were angels.
Unfortunately I happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was walking on a major street and I saw a few man going around and telling random strangers
“Jesus loves you.”
When they came to me, I was impressed by how nice they seemed. They were patient and were willing to listen to what I had to tell them.
“ I am very tired of the situation that mankind is in all over the world. I am tired of the injustices. I don’t see much of it here in the U.S. but I know there is too much of it happening and I am being kept awake most nights. I do not sleep well and certain images just do not leave me head.”
“ Can we read something to you?” They asked.
“Come to me all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads,
and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28
“Brother, this is our lord Jesus Christ. He is promising rest and inner peace.”
I was invited to the Church and soon I became their new convert. I was being taken to different Churches and testify to the life changing power of Jesus Christ. As I was telling my story, many seemed uplifted and even more convinced that they were following the truth.
I loved the community and everybody saw each other as brothers and sisters. Everybody genuinely cared for one another. I was attached to the Church and my Christian faith. I would keep a Bible besides my bed and constantly read it and pray to Jesus. Knowing that My family had not become Christian and they were not saved by Jesus Christ, I believed that they were going to hell. Many nights I would cry myself to sleep. I was going to heaven and my family were going to eternal damnation.
I would often read
After these things I looked, and there was a crowd so large that no one was able to count it! They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing in front of the throne and the lamb and were wearing white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
I would cry myself to sleep and beg God to reveal himself to my family so that they can also be saved and among those people. I earnestly studied the Bible and would share my faith with people whenever I got a chance to do so. But the Church started to look like a social club. The pastor used to put too much emphasis on money and materialism which overwhelmingly disturbed me. I felt embarrassed even sitting through the whole thing and be listening to such talk.
Using the Bible, he called on everybody to tithe. I stayed behind after one sermon so I can talk to the pastor. There was an elder lady that went before me and I could overhear their conversation.
“ I work in a retail store, I cannot pay a tithe. If I do that I would either have to take away the food or the rent and I cannot do away with either.”
“Do not worry.” The pastor said. He opened up his Bible and read to her from the Gospel of Matthew 6:26.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
He was basically telling her to just give them her money and not worry. The lady walked right out with tears in her eyes. It dawned on me that these people are just like the Iranian mullah’s. These people are after peoples pocket books and they are controlling these peoples lives as well.
I was so attached to Christianity, I could not just turn my back. I started attending another Church. As the people were busy praying, I was examining and studying the environment I was in. Nobody seemed to be questioning the minister. Anything that came out of his mouth, they felt as if it was directly from God. Mentally and emotionally those poor people were imprisoned.
“ I am prisoner.” I thought to myself.
“ Yet nobody is holding me back. I can get up, walk out the door and nobody will stop me.”
I got up and walked out. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me. I still did consider myself a Christian, so I went back to reading the Bible. This time I was questioning what I was reading. Upon reading the sermon on the mount, I encountered one problem that I also had with the Quran. Matthew 5:45
“so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”
Same thing can be found in the book of Job 5:10 "He gives rain on the earth And sends water on the fields.”
“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul- then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.”
So the God of the Bible is the one that is in charge of rain also? If that is the case, he is also responsible for the droughts, which cause famine and mass starvation, and the floods which drown innocent people and destroy lives. The More I thought for myself and the more logic I applied, I could not believe that such a God could exist at all. If that God is real, than his is not just and his supposed love for humanity is just a lie. God does not offer unconditional love, your pet dong does.
Let us take a moment and ask a few questions. If such a God is real, is he worth worshipping? I do not think so. The more of the Bible that I read, the more I was loosing my religion.
I started to open my own eyes and think critically. The gospel of Matthew :18:8-9 says
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
I found two Issue with this verse. First of all, since the evangelicals want to the take the entire Bible literally, let us not cherry pick verses. We should either take all of it literally or not take any of it literally. Jesus said if your hand makes you sin, chop it off. If your eye makes you sin, gouge it out.
The second problem is when Jesus says…
“It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.”
How can be people enter heaven crippled when the Bible promises a new body?
The Bible also says in 2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.
There is a Puzzle here. Either All of the Bibl is either inspired by God, or none of it is. Upon the reading of the News Testament, the NIV version of the gospel of Mark says the following
“ The earliest manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16: 9-20”
So if that is a later fabrication and God allowed man to temper with it and add on to it later, what reasons do I have not believe that the whole thing is a fabrication? The Gospel of John where the story of the adulterous women in chapter eight is mentioned, has the same issue…. It says that it does not exist in the earliest manuscripts.
I turned my attention to the trinity.
“ So according to logic and simple mathematics 1+1+1= 3. But according to Christianity 1+1+1= 1?”
Now Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that God is not a God of confusion, but the triune God of Christianity is utterly confusing, that is why Mohammed did not become a Christian and proclaimed that his God is neither begotten nor does he beget. My conclusion was so Allah is not real, Jesus is not real than what do I believe? I immediately thought back to that classroom and the teachers that I mentioned earlier.
My existence is a fact. So why not live a respectable life and accept people for who they are? Why not live by human values? Values that we all can benefit from. I went back to the Church to just mention to my friends that I was born again.
“ Of course you are, we baptized you.” they said
“ No….. What I meant was that I am a born again Humanist.” I joked.
“ Humanist….?” The looks on their faces were like they had just witnessed their great grandparents making love.
“So you are trying to be good without God?” they asked.
“ If I were to do a kind act, I would do it because it was the right thing to do. You people do it expecting rewards when you die My reward is the honorable and noble feeling I get by helping my fellow men. You Christians build schools and hospitals only to use them to convert people and not because people are truly in need of them.” I replied.
My humanistic approach to life has changed my life profoundly.
1. I have found true happiness, because of the conclusions that I have reached due to my own thinking and my own investigation.
2. Second, I do not live for someone else, I am living for myself and not even a second of my life is taken for granted.
3. Rather then listening and obeying someone who thinks that he is Gods representative on the Earth, I can judge for myself and draw my own conclusions by using common sense and available evidence as much as possible, unfortunately common sense is not common.
4. I was no longer afraid of death. Dying is part of life. I am not gold that I must last forever. I see dying the same as being unborn.
If people want a better world, then, what we must do, is base it on scientific inquiry and investigation. The appropriate approach that we humans take to life and its challenges must be grounded in reason. When we do that, dictators, like the clerical tyranny of Iran will not justify every inhumane act as a “ Just following the laws of God.”
We must look to ourselves to create a better world. We must not allow Popes, Pastors, Mullahs, Imams and monks to rule the world. That world is not a free world, that is a world held hostage by lies. We must first free ourselves from the slavery of religion and walk in the light of reason. God is not reasonable. Eternal bliss and eternal punishment is not reasonable. Just as 1+1+1 does not equal one, God and religion does not add up in a free thinking mind.
With heartfelt love for the people of the Earth and life itself, I shout for joy
Freedom at last. Freedom to live as a human being. Freedom to explore and draw conclusions as I please. Freedom from the darkness of religion and into the light