Dealing With Death as an Atheist

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I recently lost a parent and while my grieving and healing process has progressed at a steady pace, I have been wondering how differently I have dealt with my loss compared to my siblings who are practicing Muslims.

For starters, you don’t really come face to face with your own mortality until you lose a loved one. Losing a parent has made me come to terms with the finality of my own life and has helped me accept and expect the inevitable. We are alive for a mere cosmic moment in the grand scheme of things: life is undeniably and brutally short and the only meaning it has is what we can give it during our brief existence.

Grieving in Pakistan is made harder by the constant, well meaning reminders of those who care: “they are in a better place now” or “we will all be united one day.” These are very tempting propositions and as a grieving ex-Muslim, you desperately want them to be true, yet knowing full well that they are not: There simply isn’t enough evidence to believe that consciousness can survive death. And belief without evidence is wishful thinking.

On a positive note, I have found that my rationality has enabled me to provide better emotional support to my religious family in dealing with this great loss. Evidently – belief in the afterlife does not make it as easy to deal with the demise of a loved one as a realistic, rational secularism can; which is of course ironic given that the fear of death is one of the key contributors to religious belief.

Death is inevitable and final. Yet, we are immortal in the sense that we live on in the hearts and memories of the loved ones we leave behind. And when our loved ones are no more, they in turn are lovingly remembered by their children – and so on.

This is how death loses and life wins.

Best Advice I Received

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Some of the best advice I received about raising children as an atheist parent, came from a fellow ex-Muslim atheist who left a comment to the post below, who has, in fact, done just that: He raised his children to grow up to become rational, enlightened human beings.

I also raised my kids who were being corrupted by religious propaganda. I raised certain questions about the ridiculous concept of heaven and paradise and the kids developed some skepticism against religion. By the time they were in universities all of them turned towards rational philosophy. Now they are married and are free from any religious beliefs.

MORAL: Create doubt in their minds but don’t force anything. They would explore themselves and it would be OK. Give them books of Karen Armstrong and others to read.

-Najeeb Khan

Being an Atheist Parent: Let Them Choose

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How would I, an ex-Muslim atheist, want to raise my children? Like most Pakistani atheists, I am married to a Muslim spouse who is very sensitive about my atheism.

It goes without saying that I will not be able to keep pretenses about Islam with my children. That would be unauthentic and wrong. Perhaps it would make sense to let my children be indoctrinated with Islam. If nothing else, they would be better adjusted, socially. However, I need to earn my sleep at night and indoctrinating my own children with a known falsehood would be morally problematic for me.

I have therefore come to an agreement with my spouse: She will guide and advise them as she prefers, as Muslims, and I will not contradict her messages to them, until they are at least of an age where they can judge for themselves. Then it will be up to them whether to debate me to death, or see the light.

My duty would be to instill an innate sense of skepticism, an appetite for objective inquiry. I am positive, that Islam itself, with its teachings and its history, will do the rest!

This blog is back

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It has been a long while since I last posted here. I stopped mainly because of too many things happening in my personal life, and then I sort of forgot about it. Then I checked this blog’s email today and I’m blown away by the number of people urging me to stay on and write. My life has gotten busier over the last couple of years, so while I can’t promise to write regularly, I do promise to keep it updated as much as I can.

Islam: The Religion of Peace

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“What really hurt Muslims about this issue is how this newspaper has presented Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is a stereotyping of Muslims as well as the religion of Islam, that Islam is a religion of terrorism, a religion of violence and so forth,” – says Imam Mohamed Magid, an American Muslim leader.

Sometimes, a picture is worth more than a thousand words:

London protests

February 03 protests in London.

Bring me the Cartoonist’s head

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An Indian provincial minister, Haji Yaqoob Qureishi, has placed a 510 million Indian Rupee (US$ 11 million) bounty on the head of the person who caricatured the Prophet. Unfortunately for him – and probably unbeknownst to him – the series of twelve original cartoons that were published in Jyllands-Posten were by twelve different cartoonists; the irony is the ignorance.

He Dared to Dissent

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The Daily Times is reporting on the murder of Jamshaid Nawaza Nayab – a writer and schoolteacher who advocated secular thought in Pakistan’s NWFP province. It is not the least bit surprising for me to read that someone who dissented from the hardliners was silenced in this most gruesome way. Nor is it surprising that the local religious leaders endorsed rather than condemned his murder. What’s ironic though – is that Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, much like the American founding fathers – was himself a liberal and wanted Pakistani society to evolve on decidedly secular lines: “You will find that in the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

As Europe protests over the violent reaction to the Danish cartoons – the murder of Nayab should be instructional in understanding just how far Muslims are willing to go in order to quell political or religious opposition.