Converting to which Islam?
December 7, 2004 11:01 AM   Subscribe

"White Muslim." Converting to which Islam? Most of the new Muslims I read about in the usual media feel impelled to join the "orthodox" Sunni (if not outright Wahhabi) variety, as if there is no other. But, as many of you no doubt already know, a non-negligible minority of the world's Muslims are Shi'ite, whose biggest "Twelver" branch was made famous by this Ayatollah. To further refute the image of "monolithic" Islam,within the Shia minority are a minority known as "Seveners" or Ismailis , whose biggest branch is run by this gentleman , whose conception of Islam as "a thinking, spiritual faith, one that teaches compassion and tolerance" seems more congenial to the self-selected strata inclined to, oh, post to MetaFilter, perhaps especially to "Secular Humanist" atheists like me. (I'll bet some of you can even relate to his divorce.) Further reading from these links (perhaps with Google's help) should further belie much of the dumbed-down propaganda "mainstream" Americans are spoon-fed about Islam, showing the kaleidoscopic nature of one of today's One True Faiths. (And then there are the almost Zen-like Sufis, and ....)
posted by davy (58 comments total)

 
This is a very nice collection of only some sects within the Islamic nation. There are many more, small and large groups of people forming separate sects. But when the question arises of Islam being monolithic, there is no doubt that all sects have the same basic beliefs. There is no god but God himself. That Muhammad is his messenger. After that there are various differences in interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah and differences in worship styles to name some.
posted by adnanbwp at 11:14 AM on December 7, 2004


Much like Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other religion.

Thanks for the links, davy .... I so often forget that not everyone realizes that their own religion/philosophy/worldview isn't the only one with depth and complexity.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:37 AM on December 7, 2004


There are less restrictive ways to get attention than converting to Islam.

Anyone who adopts a new religion as an adult with sincerity is mentally ill. As a child, if you're force-fed stories about magical jews or magical desert warlords or even just some imaginary friend who demands non-sensical rituals to keep from destroying you, you might very well believe it into adulthood.

But if you decide as an adult that the magic warlord's poems make more sense than the world around you, you're schizo affective. If you're a grownup and decide then to believe the book with the talking snake and the guy more unkillable than Jason Vorhees, you need to have someone prescribe you some Depakote. If you're looking for answers and sincerely think that you can trust the warlord over the miracle worker or vice-versa, you're nuts and the next step involves aluminum foil as wallpaper or looking for a secure place to hide the hookers' torsos.

The main article is about people who have something fundamentally wrong with them, whether it's a neurotic detachment from their environment or a need to piss people off that can't quite be satisfied by scientology or witchcraft.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:46 AM on December 7, 2004


If anyone is interested in a popular thriller about Sufism, I recommend Singh Baldwin 's The Tiger Claw. It was short-listed for the Giller prize this year.

(My link to Amazon is for convenience only).
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:48 AM on December 7, 2004


If you're looking for answers and sincerely think that you can trust the warlord over the miracle worker or vice-versa, you're nuts and the next step involves aluminum foil as wallpaper or looking for a secure place to hide the hookers' torsos.

Mayor Curley, I think I speak for most folks when I say that the implication that people who find religion in adulthood are one step from homicide is really unnecessary. And I'm an atheist.
posted by rustcellar at 12:01 PM on December 7, 2004


Mundus Imaginalis
Within This Darkness:Incarnation, Theophany and the Primordial Revelation
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2004


the implication that people who find religion in adulthood are one step from homicide is really unnecessary.

Some people see signs that tell them an invisible superhero is watching them and judging them. Others see signs that tell them to kill. Both sets originate from within their own heads.

If you're an atheist, then we can agree on that much, right? We can get to how the thoughts are different later. Just concur that the messages aren't real and we'll go from there.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:11 PM on December 7, 2004


I STILL HAVE THE FIRST HOOKER I EVER KILLED.
posted by quonsar at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2004


Nice post, davy. I've always been a bit interested in the culture of Sufism, which has produced some really fine literature and poetry, much of which, as you pointed out, is quite reminiscent of Zen Buddhism, or some of the Gnostic Christian writings.
posted by unreason at 12:14 PM on December 7, 2004


From outside of a religion, I can use a single criteria in judging that religion, and its schisms.

Compare Christianity to Islam.

If someone who is an orthodox, even fanatical Christian, goes on a killing spree in the name of Christ, other Christians will condemn him. Not only that, they will hunt him down and arrest or kill him, call him insane, and suffer absolutely no sympathy for him for his violence. He gets absolutely no slack for being a Christian, from almost every other Christian, no matter what denomination. There are no apologists for him from anyone who speaks "as a Christian". No bibical justifications. No decrees that "well, maybe he is half-right". None of it. As example, look what support was given by the large number of US Christians to fanatical abortion clinic bombers. Almost none.

Now compare this to Islam. Can Islam, or the denominations within, claim such rigorous condemnation of those who commit similar acts, in the name of Islam? Or do they instead either just remain silent, or issue half-hearted rejections?
posted by kablam at 12:15 PM on December 7, 2004


Guys, the subject here isn't really The Evils of Organized Religion, or Islam is Bad and Wrong and Encourages Bad Grammar. Stop shitting in the thread, will you?
posted by unreason at 12:19 PM on December 7, 2004


Mayor Curley, think it possible that you may be mistaken.
posted by scruss at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2004


Mayor Curley, that's a pretty nasty view to take. There are a lot of people who are reasonable who take on a religion later in life. Drawing a harsh line between "their environment" and what they believe their religion to be is ridiculous -- obviously, if they're picking it up, they're able to relate it to their lives. It's not that some magical thing makes more sense than the world, but that it helps them make more sense of the world.

That said, the main article is about someone who has serious issues with his obsessions and is portrayed as emotionally troubled. I have the suspicion that anything this individual enters into will be troublesome.
posted by mikeh at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2004


Mayor, I will never ever argue with you about the insane and destructive things people do for religion. It's just your calling that the "next step" that bothers me so much.
posted by rustcellar at 12:23 PM on December 7, 2004


Kablam, you won't have to look far to find muslims who condemn terror (unless you watch the western media). I've been in muslim countries when terror attacks occur, and the reaction is much more angry and violent than it I saw in the U.S. after 9/11.

After 9/11, many Americans were curious to understand what in Islam compelled the terrorist to attack us. In the muslim world, they already know the attacks are wrong in the eyes of Islam, so there is a lot of anger towards the terrorists that

1) Kill mostly other muslims
2) Do it in the name of Islam.
posted by b_thinky at 12:32 PM on December 7, 2004


If someone who is an orthodox, even fanatical Christian, goes on a killing spree in the name of Christ, other Christians will condemn him. Not only that, they will hunt him down and arrest or kill him, call him insane, and suffer absolutely no sympathy for him for his violence.

First, this is a relatively new development in Christianity. For many centuries, Christians killed other Christians and were encouraged to do so by their religious leaders.

Second, what you say is still not true for all fundamentalist Christians. There are plenty of people who supported Paul Hill, for example.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:56 PM on December 7, 2004


Can Islam, or the denominations within, claim such rigorous condemnation of those who commit similar acts, in the name of Islam?

Yes. Muslim condemnations of terrorism aren't considered newsworthy by CNN and Fox News, so it's not surprising that most people remain unaware of them. Unfortunately, it's very difficult for Muslims to get on the evening news without blowing something up.
posted by exhilaration at 1:05 PM on December 7, 2004


I've gotta call BS on Kablam, too. Their are at least a few fundy Christians who have no problem with their wacko brethren terrorizing abortion clinics, or gays and lesbians for that matter. That monolithic portrait your painting of Christianity as a bastion of enlightened tolerance is just as false as the one you're imposing on Muslims.

As for Mayor Curley, good call. Nuts are nuts, some are homicidal, some aren't, but neither group is rational or by definition sane. I would argue, though, that many atheists are just as crazy. They believe there is no God, but their belief has no proof either, it's based on lack of evidence: I have never experienced God, therefore, it does not exist. The sane understanding of the situation is to admit that you simply don't know. That goes against good old human ego though, which really want's to know that it's right.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:05 PM on December 7, 2004


"If someone who is an orthodox, even fanatical Christian, goes on a killing spree in the name of Christ, other Christians will condemn him."
posted by Clay201 at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2004


Religion later in life:

On the one hand we have C.S. Lewis

On the other we have Dave Sim

Compare and contrast.
posted by Sparx at 1:17 PM on December 7, 2004


Mayor Curley, your logic is flawed, even if we accept that taking up a religion in adulthood is a sign of mental illness, there are plenty of people who are mentally ill who do not incline to violence and who are not one step from killing someone.
posted by biffa at 1:18 PM on December 7, 2004


The sane understanding of the situation is to admit that you simply don't know.

That's right, -dr. You can't say there are no invisible pink unicorns in the earth's core because you simply do not know! Same with those damnable whiskey fairies that continuously turn my doubles into quadruples so I get far too drunk at xmas parties. Little buggers.
posted by Sparx at 1:21 PM on December 7, 2004


Mayor Curley, your logic is flawed, even if we accept that taking up a religion in adulthood is a sign of mental illness, there are plenty of people who are mentally ill who do not incline to violence and who are not one step from killing someone.

I also gave them the option of foil wallpaper. Or you could infer that I was using hyperbole to illustrate the fact I believe these people to be insane, physically dangerous or not.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:26 PM on December 7, 2004


Anyone who adopts a new religion as an adult with sincerity is mentally ill.

Like I said, I'm a '"Secular Humanist" atheist' myself, so I personally agree.
posted by davy at 1:29 PM on December 7, 2004


If we're talking about the many variants of Islam, let's not forget the Nation of Islam. They consider themselves Muslims, all evidence to the contrary, as well.
posted by haqspan at 1:49 PM on December 7, 2004


If you analyze faith in terms of rationalism, the religious will appear insane. Same goes for analyzing secularism in terms of faith. They're two entirely different methods of thought; I think to simply declare all of the religious as insane because it doesn't fit with your atheist or agnostic worldview is as narrowminded as the religious condemning atheists and agnostics as absolutely evil and not worth considering in civil society.

I say if someone feels called by a deity, let them be and let them worship/practice without harassing them or calling them insane. And if you're the one who's called, make sure you're putting adequate independent thought into the development of your personal faith and similarly don't harass non-believers about not holding your viewpoint.
posted by schroedinger at 2:07 PM on December 7, 2004


"My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others."
posted by iamck at 2:44 PM on December 7, 2004


kablam, seriously, this didn't take long to find (c.f. shooter at an abortion clinic):
[Bryan] did not keep his mouth shut. Now he will have to pay the price. This is very sad news and was totally unnecessary. Absolutely Always: Never tell anyone, including your wife, before, during or after if you are taking action.
Kinda seems to me like certain christians condone this type of violence and want to spare their own brand of terrorist from justice, all done in the name of Christ. (sorry for derail).
posted by contessa at 3:25 PM on December 7, 2004


The problem with these "White Islam" stories that pop up now and again is that the usually focus on some weird guy who converted and it's written kind of for shock value. I know an Islamic convert who's totally cool and normal, but that probably wouldn't make a good front-page story, because his life is fairly average.

As for the whole "White Muslim" thing, I always want to remind these writers about the Bosnians-- about 5 million of them are European Muslims. Deliniating it by race rather then background (American convert) is more "shock" then insight.
posted by chaz at 3:31 PM on December 7, 2004


(btw davy, awesome post, still reading 1st link)
posted by contessa at 3:35 PM on December 7, 2004


A friend of mine's son died today, and while I don't believe in an "invisible buddy" or a superhero in divine tights waiting to save me from the monster, a belief in something, some benevolence in the universe is comforting. If you'd like to be Ayn Rand-ish and say that, tough titties, life sucks, then I'm not interested in talking with you.

The mystery of the universe is encompassed for the most part in two questions: what and why? Both science and religion are trying to answer that question, and while there are some persons of faith who forsake their human free will to a misguided belief in a celestial daddy, there are likewise persons of science who are completely unbound by any sense of dignity.

I love religion, because at their cores, most religions are about love. Islam is being manipulated and disfigured from its core message, and it's encumbered by a lot of cultural baggage involving women, but so are Christianity and, somewhat, Judaism. But at their cores, stripped of politics and bigotry, all three of these Western faiths are simply efforts by mortal humans to understand What it means to be human and Why we are here, to give some purpose to living beyond simply avoiding death.

Anyway, on topic, thanks for the information. There are indeed some crazy people who switch, but there are some crazy people who go on Atkins or who vote Republican (or Democrat), so why not just say there is a small portion of humans who are a little batty, while the rest of us are just trying to figure everything out?
posted by socratic at 3:37 PM on December 7, 2004


Schroedinger, I'm with Curley (though less hyperbolic) because I've been insane and I remember what it felt like.

It felt like everything made sense; it felt like there was a Plan of some sort, and that all I had to do was keep playing my part (which basically involved continuing to pay attention to the secret signs and hidden personal messages embedded in everything I heard and saw) and everything would work out just fine. Basically, I totally lost my ability to doubt, and experienced unshakeable Faith and rock-solid Certainty for about a month.

My own little religion came complete with a Satan with a plan for world domination (Bill Gates and his evil macro-quantum experiments), ancestor worship (messages of hope and encouragement from my dying grandmother and dead uncle), an ineffable and all-pervasive Good (the Plan and its Signs), a Redeemer (the woman I ended up marrying) and a division of the world into those who clearly Understood (that guy over there in the purple overalls cleaning the floor) and those who Didn't (including the Singapore cops who busted me for getting naked in their airport).

I've often said since that if it were not for the incredible load that my being insane put on everybody I care about, I would probably be happy to spend the rest of my life that way. I didn't even mind getting locked up in a Singapore jail or tied to the bed in the hospital (although it took about six months for the numbness and tingling in my hands to go away; I think I got some nerve damage from the handcuffs).

As I see it, religious faith is precisely that kind of insanity. The only substantive difference is in the exact content of the delusions; in the case of what we normally think of as religions, these have been codified to the extent that large numbers of people can share them.
posted by flabdablet at 3:39 PM on December 7, 2004 [1 favorite]


One more thing... Having doubt and having faith are not mutually exclusive. As an analogy, as a child I loved my mother very much and I thought she was a superhero. As an adult, I love her very much, and while she was a remarkable woman, I'm quite mindful of her faults and foibles. That doesn't lessen my love. I don't see why "rationalists" have such a problem with that. To me, doubt and the exercise of free will are fundamental for faith.
posted by socratic at 3:48 PM on December 7, 2004


They're two entirely different methods of thought; I think to simply declare all of the religious as insane because it doesn't fit with your atheist or agnostic worldview is as narrowminded as the religious condemning atheists and agnostics as absolutely evil and not worth considering in civil society.

I don't equate evil with insanity. You do.

I can determine people to be insane without calling them evil. That said, the insane behavior of religious people is evil in most real-world situations.

Hate the sin, love the sinner. Isn't that what these clowns preach?
posted by AlexReynolds at 4:39 PM on December 7, 2004


Rationality does not equal sanity, and vice-versa. It is possible to be rational and insane, or irrational and sane. Sanity is largely defined by conformity; while we like to think that there's some bright line between sane and insane, it's more a matter of community standards than anything else. When society tolerates behavior, it's eccentricity.

I'm somewhere between atheist and agnostic, but the level of anti-religious bile here is unpleasant and uncalled-for.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:57 PM on December 7, 2004


Socratic: I'm a little reluctant to engage in fierce disputation with somebody who has recently suffered a tragic loss; my condolences to you and your friend. Losing people close to you is a horrible horrible thing. Please forgive me if I come on too Ayn Rand for you, but you really have pushed my buttons here.

I have no problem with love for mothers. What I do have a problem with is the analogy you're inviting me to draw between love for my mother (who clearly exists) and love for some under-specified form of Supreme Being (who does not clearly exist).

The best argument I'm aware of for the existence of such a Being is that without a belief in one, assorted things make no sense.

This argument fails to establish good grounds for requiring that everything should make sense. The only times in my life I can ever recall everything making sense are times when I have been in mental states that caused me to ignore most of what was going on around me.

To me, the idea that doubt is fundamental for faith sounds like newspeak and doublethink, unless perhaps you're using the word "faith" in its weaker sense of "confidence" or misusing it as a synonym for love, in which case it strikes me as merely woolly thinking.

I agree with your earlier point that the ideas about love that are shared across pretty much all the religious traditions are good and worthwhile, but I disagree that these ideas are any sort of core for those traditions. In fact, all the monotheistic traditions are built on the core of "There is no god but God, and (insert name here) understands Him better than you".

It seems to me that the really good ideas - the ones about love and peace and forgiveness and tolerance - are at the very heart of what it is to be a civilized human being, and I am saddened by the way so many people so readily accept their appropriation by this tradition or that for marketing purposes.

On preview, m&mm: I agree with you that sanity and rationality are separate patterns, but I don't think you're quite right to paint sanity as largely conformist; it's quite possible to conform to an insane (i.e. largely self-referential, as opposed to reality-based) belief system.
posted by flabdablet at 5:28 PM on December 7, 2004


Kablam:
If someone who is an orthodox, even fanatical Christian, goes on a killing spree in the name of Christ, other Christians will condemn him. Not only that, they will hunt him down and arrest or kill him, call him insane, and suffer absolutely no sympathy for him for his violence. He gets absolutely no slack for being a Christian, from almost every other Christian, no matter what denomination. There are no apologists for him from anyone who speaks "as a Christian". No bibical justifications. No decrees that "well, maybe he is half-right". None of it.

"Go get em tiger!"
posted by Tuatara at 5:49 PM on December 7, 2004


[A] belief in something, some benevolence in the universe is comforting.

Why does it have to be nonhuman or supernatural? Liberte', Egalite', Fraternite' works for me. I.e. that comforting benevolence comes from US. (But in a pinch malt will still do.)
posted by davy at 6:03 PM on December 7, 2004


I STILL HAVE THE FIRST HOOKER I EVER KILLED.

Wrong, quonsar. Check your storage locker again.
posted by davy at 6:04 PM on December 7, 2004


Kablam:
If someone who is an orthodox, even fanatical Christian, goes on a killing spree in the name of Christ, other Christians will condemn him. Not only that, they will hunt him down and arrest or kill him, call him insane, and suffer absolutely no sympathy for him for his violence.


In what fantasy land? Most of the arguments from the antichoice crowd against murdering doctors who practice abortion procedures seem more about the pragmatic effects of those acts on the antichoice movement, and less about the "sanctity" of human life they so proudly rail about.
posted by AlexReynolds at 6:29 PM on December 7, 2004


And that was only one example. I don't see many mainstream religious people railing against the war. Gotta support the troops in their holy war on Islam.
posted by AlexReynolds at 6:32 PM on December 7, 2004


Re: equating religious belief with insanity: If you're using "insanity" to mean an actual psychological sickness, then I think you're misunderstanding how most religious people understand their religious beliefs. I don't think most religious people actually believe they hear the voice of God in their head, and especially not in the way that an insane person might. I think that for your average religious person, the idea of a relationship with God is just a way to interpret the world, or to give some idea of how one ought to behave. In fact, I think religious belief is often very rational, in the sense that a person convinces herself intellectually that God exists, rather than hearing voices in her head that she then decides is God speaking to her.

Of course, that person may not be right, or even have any sound reason for believing what she does, but that does not make her insane, just irrational. I think most people go through life with plenty of irrational beliefs that they will never let go of. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, if you've believed six irrational things before breakfast this morning...
posted by gleckt at 7:00 PM on December 7, 2004


I think religious belief is often very rational, in the sense that a person convinces herself intellectually that God exists, rather than hearing voices in her head that she then decides is God speaking to her.

In what rational sense are those two experiences any different?
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:02 PM on December 7, 2004


I don't think most religious people actually believe they hear the voice of God in their head, and especially not in the way that an insane person might. I think that for your average religious person, the idea of a relationship with God is just a way to interpret the world, or to give some idea of how one ought to behave.

So they have nothing even resembling proof, but they believe in an invisible superhero anyway? I'm more comfortable with the folks that hear voices. At least I know that they're not just manipulated on a whim.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:29 PM on December 7, 2004


Anyone who adopts a new religion as an adult with sincerity is mentally ill

Can we all agree that this doesn't apply to Unitarians?

Also, what about people who become atheist as adults? Or change religions? Wouldn't they also be ill?

And I ask these questions as a mentally ill atheist.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:37 PM on December 7, 2004


completely off topic: gleckt—that's actually something Adams borrowed from Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass):

"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."


Or maybe not so off topic after all . . . (or at least, what the topic has become)
posted by rustcellar at 7:58 PM on December 7, 2004


So they have nothing even resembling proof, but they believe in an invisible superhero anyway?


Rationality is overrated.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:47 PM on December 7, 2004


Wild guess time: what percentage of religious people actually believe, as opposed to saying, hoping, and/or thinking they do? A lot of it seems to be shared play-acting, e.g., claiming to "feel the Lord's love deep down inside" when one really doesn't even have gas. That is, I think a lot of 'em aren't really psychotic as much as they're lying like hell (often to themselves too).
posted by davy at 8:58 PM on December 7, 2004


In what rational sense are those two experiences any different?

For instance, a person might have a hard time believing that the universe simply happened, so they conclude that there must have been something that caused it, and there are a lot of people who seem to think that it was God, and that sounds good, so I'll just believe that. In this case, the person is not experiencing any hallucinations. The person is making a rational decision, which may be entirely incorrect, but is not insane. This is different than hearing voices coming out of nowhere that tell you to take all of your clothes off or to drown your children or whatever. Insanity is an actual physical condition that requires some sort of medical treatment.

Thanks, rustcellar. I really need to read Carroll's stuff again.
posted by gleckt at 9:36 PM on December 7, 2004


Gleckt: If you're using "insanity" to mean an actual psychological sickness,

I'm using "insanity" to mean an actual psychological condition; an actual mode of operation for human consciousness. Whether or not that condition is considered a sickness seems to me highly context-dependent.

then I think you're misunderstanding how most religious people understand their religious beliefs.

What does it matter how these people understand anything? They're clearly insane! :-)

I don't think most religious people actually believe they hear the voice of God in their head, and especially not in the way that an insane person might.

When I went mad, I didn't have auditory hallucinations either. I just automatically knew What Was Required according to the Plan, as revealed by the myriad Clues.

I think that for your average religious person, the idea of a relationship with God is just a way to interpret the world, or to give some idea of how one ought to behave.

If I'm right, it's stronger than that; it comes with a sense of complete certainty that the way one is currently interpreting the world and/or behaving is, in an absolute sense, correct.

In fact, I think religious belief is often very rational, in the sense that a person convinces herself intellectually that God exists,

As far as I recall, everybody I've ever met who fits this category believes in some variant of Spinoza's God - the idea that "God" and "everything" are two words for the same thing.

In my experience, people who believe strongly in a conscious God capable of some form of divine guidance always work from a preconception of such a God's existence and then look for evidence in support, not the other way around.

rather than hearing voices in her head that she then decides is God speaking to her.

As I mentioned earlier, the form of insanity I experienced did not involve hearing things; it involved knowing things.

Of course, that person may not be right, or even have any sound reason for believing what she does, but that does not make her insane, just irrational.

I think you'll find that the major benefit that religious folks derive from their religion is precisely the sense of certainty, of everything being in some ineffable way OK regardless of how weird it all gets, that I experienced when I went mad. Having felt it firsthand, I can attest to its seductiveness.

I think most people go through life with plenty of irrational beliefs that they will never let go of.

Aha! A Buddhist! :-)

And on preview: insanity only requires treatment if it leads to socially unacceptable behavior. It's kind of a shame that blowing up people on the other side of the world is socially acceptable, but there you go.
posted by flabdablet at 10:01 PM on December 7, 2004


flabdablet: Whether or not that condition is considered a sickness seems to me highly context-dependent.

True. In many cases I think it can be attributed to an actual chemical problem in the brain. But, yes, it is rarely as simple as just that.

I still think, though, that most religious people are experiencing something substantively different than what you say you went through, and more along the lines of what davy said.

It's kind of a shame that blowing up people on the other side of the world is socially acceptable, but there you go.

I'm with you on that. Didn't Orwell say something along those lines?

posted by gleckt at 10:37 PM on December 7, 2004


Or do they instead either just remain silent, or issue half-hearted rejections?

So what exactly is the difference between a half-hearted rejection and a full blown one? Give me some examples. I'd really like to know.
posted by laz-e-boy at 11:36 PM on December 7, 2004


Laz-e-boy, I think I can answer that.

But for an example, we look to Star Trek. (Stay with me now.)

A full blown rejection is one where they realize that Star Trek is not actually quality. They find it unentertaining, uninspiring, and no longer giving them the identity they need in this fast paced modern world. So they stop watching it, they stop going to conventions, they stop checking fansites to read theories on what the writers are planning for the next movie, they no longer identify themselves as Trekkies or even "Star Trek Fans."

A half-hearted rejection is one where they think Enterprise really kinda sucks, but might get better. So they keep watching.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:51 PM on December 7, 2004


posted by Clay201 at 1:11 PM PST on December 7


Great job!
posted by nofundy at 5:14 AM on December 8, 2004


Saith flabdablet: When I went mad, I didn't have auditory hallucinations either. I just automatically knew What Was Required according to the Plan, as revealed by the myriad Clues.

I heard voices. But not God or anything Divine, unless my ex-girlfriend and her then-girlfriend got promoted. Check on the Clues and Signs and People Who Knew and all that. And yes, it did feel religious, mystical and magical at the time: if I had heard oh say the angel Gabriel speak to me I would not have been surprised, but I'd have tried to make him prove he's not really a Space Alien ('cuz I'm an atheist you see). It seems I missed being able to start my own religion but *that* much.
posted by davy at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2004


The problem with these "White Islam" stories that pop up now and again is that the usually focus on some weird guy who converted and it's written kind of for shock value.

It is kind of shocking, troubled people being preyed upon by talibanesque conspirators (swimming in a sea of "regular" Muslims, immigrants or not), don't you think? And that it happens to "normal Americans" only drives that point home: Johnny might not get into Christian Science like his great- grandpa or Hare Krishna like his Dad, now he might be converted into an Enemy Agent. (And yes, I view fundy Islam as "The Enemy", like fundy Xianity; it's just that don't think the US should get in a shooting war with them.)

I always want to remind these writers about the Bosnians-- about 5 million of them are European Muslims

They were conquered coverts, like the Lebanese (Phoenicians), the Syrians (who'd had a more or less Hellenistic culture for 1000 years before the Conquest), the Iranians and Sogdians and Malays et al. Being a dhimmi really sucks, as with the Xians in Bagdad.

Anyway, the point of my post was "damage control": I think it's important to let people who insist on converting to Islam know that they don't have to pick that brand of Islam.
posted by davy at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2004


*peers into thread*

For sufism I'd recommend:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1557785163/qid=1102544679/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/102-7343405-6516946?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
and for related:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1929694156/qid=1102544725/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/102-7343405-6516946
It's not really another sect..

Knowing lots and lots of white converts, most usually turn out pretty cool. I've only known one that has gone super-duper strict, although I've heard of others (the appeal of the rigour in actions of certain blends of Islam appeals to them as a departure from a culture of instant gratification).

Personally I think the Maliki sunni interpretation makes the most sense, but I get along with people from all of the denominations (why not? They all believe in one God.. Well.. Pretty much..).

More stories here. Always interesting.

If anyone wants any book references or has any queries about mainstream sunni Islam, please feel free to e-mail or ask on askmefi. I'm not really into heated debates though, they always make me kinda sad.
posted by Mossy at 2:34 PM on December 8, 2004


>>Anyone who adopts a new religion as an adult with sincerity is mentally ill

> Can we all agree that this doesn't apply to Unitarians?

No. Unitarianism is a religion.

>Also, what about people who become atheist as adults?

No. Atheism is not a religion.

> Or change religions? Wouldn't they also be ill?

Changing from one to another is a lateral pass; no yardage, a waste.

> And I ask these questions as a mentally ill atheist.

Rhetorically, I'd hope.
posted by davy at 7:20 PM on December 14, 2004


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