Life Beyond Faith
January 17, 2020 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Life Beyond Faith is a youtube series made by Ex Muslims of North America. "Apostates are hiding no longer, and we at Ex-Muslims of North America are telling their stories. Our mini-documentary series, Life Beyond Faith, pulls back the curtain to show the people behind the label – their lives, their journeys, and their hopes after finding freedom from the confines of faith. It is a celebration of ex-Muslim freethinkers – an exploration into their lives, struggles, and triumphs." It's fourteen 5-10 minutes videos where ex-muslims discuss their lives, why they stopped believing, and difficulties that resulted from leaving Islam.
posted by brandnewday989 (15 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
The video just after the linked one is interesting - fifty or sixty years ago, the guy said he was an atheist in Pakistan and it was no big deal. Then all the little madrasas got built with Saudi money, and the next generation grew up with harsh fundamentalist ideas.

It kind of reminds me of parts of my own family's religious history - relatively lax Mennonites being evangelized and fired up for faith in Russia in the 1850s, leading to the conversion of many of them to fundamentalist Evangelicalism in lots of little churches in western Canada in the 1950s - and the shunning and shame that went along with lack of belief (or, just as bad, homosexuality) in the new environment. I never did tell my father that I had stopped believing - for two decades until his death - and thankfully he never came right out and asked. I had no fear that he'd be violent, but I was afraid of awkward conversations and reconversion attempts and lots and lots of prayer requests and praying and gossip. Moving a couple of thousands miles away made all of that easier.

I realize that their experience isn't mine, and I apologize for what is ultimately a derail, but I do recognize and empathize with some of it. Thanks for posting.
posted by clawsoon at 8:32 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtRqDgzBLNA&list=PLFONXks8jGM1xnLlX45-0ssskAMvsvgDu&index=1

At 5:30, he talks about ex-Muslims not getting help from the left because (my explanation here) the left is rightly concerned about Islamophobia, but this gets taken so far that abusive aspects of Islam in some cultures get ignored.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 9:19 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


My best friend immigrated from Egypt with his family when he was twelve, and lived here (in the US) for the rest of his life. His father was an overwhelming presence in his world, and when my friend decided that he didn't believe in god anymore, there was no way he was going to tell his family. In his words, his father would literally kill him if he did so. According to him, apostasy is considered a legitimate reason to kill someone in Islam and was usually fully-sanctioned by the state.

I have no idea whether my friend was completely accurate about this (he hadn't been to Egypt since he left in the 80's), but he certainly believed it whole-heartedly. I know that his father was pretty hardcore and in-your-face with his faith - he owns an auto repair shop and will pray to Mecca at the appointed times in the middle of the shop, ignoring anyone who walks in and tries to talk with him. He's a character and I've heard all kinds of stories about the man, so I wouldn't put religious violence past him. But my friend claimed that this attitude was pretty widespread, not just held by eccentrics like his father.

I have only scratched the surface of this website because I can't watch the videos now at work. But I'm very intrigued and want to see more. Thanks for this post.
posted by Edgewise at 9:58 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Nancy Lebovitz: At 5:30, he talks about ex-Muslims not getting help from the left because (my explanation here) the left is rightly concerned about Islamophobia, but this gets taken so far that abusive aspects of Islam in some cultures get ignored.

Tribalism is to some degree inevitable, but it's unfortunate that we've ended up with just two tribes lately. You have to either hate Islam (and ignore anything good about it) because Christianity is the only true religion, or love Islam (and ignore anything bad about it) because you hate bigoted Christians. If you don't fit into one of those two tribes, people don't know where to put you.

I think I sit somewhere in, "Religions should work to increase the love and belonging and community that they offer, and work to decrease the shame and ostracism and doing horrible things to your children they offer." Every world religion has offered one or the other or both at various times in their histories. I don't expect to ever be in a religion again myself, but I respect that many other people are, and my main hope for them is that they build on the love and not the fear.
posted by clawsoon at 10:41 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


It's certainly true that in many Muslim communities there's a prevalent idea, based on a by now conventional reading of what happened with the challengers to the leadership of muslims immediately after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and the wars that happened, that apostates must be killed (because those challengers would claim prophethood, since they provably were not elected by the council of the prophet's companions). But the other reading of those events have emphasized that the crime here is treason to the state. So, aside from my personal ideal that the institutional/structural/social response is there shouldn't be penalty and punishment (besides, what Islamic state?), the most 'lenient' institutional response of the conventional interpretation I've seen is a state of permanent detention because they're being actively 'counselled' until they disavow their new faith.

There's also historical cultural attitudes as well that's clearly region-specific, because until I was a bit older and reading about this, I would not have known such honour killings to exist. It does seem to be more prevalent nowadays. Except uh here, which is where permanent detentions exist. Of course here it's also complicated by postcolonial hangover and the whole project of what makes a Muslim.
posted by cendawanita at 10:48 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Though I will say, for some ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I feel very frustrated that they've allowed their trauma to centre their advocacy and politics within the Islamophobic western right-leaning skeptic crowd. It doesn't help.
posted by cendawanita at 10:51 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


cendawanita: Though I will say, for some ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I feel very frustrated that they've allowed their trauma to centre their advocacy and politics within the Islamophobic western right-leaning skeptic crowd. It doesn't help.

I remember the OP saying in the past that having an unambiguous "fuck religion" from someone like Dawkins can be helpful when you're leaving religious abuse. That wasn't my experience, but I can see how it could be useful for others. It's too bad, though, that it has to come from someone who replaces "gender roles because God" with "gender roles because Science."
posted by clawsoon at 11:11 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


he talks about ex-Muslims not getting help from the left because (my explanation here) the left is rightly concerned about Islamophobia, but this gets taken so far that abusive aspects of Islam in some cultures get ignored.

I agree, noting that concerns about appearing Islamophobic is related to how secure they feel in their own group as a leftist. This raises another concern that some of today's left prefers that people stay in their cultural lanes and be a good example for their religion so the left can be proud to like their religion. If so, this would make such a left outdated and irrelevant to the future.
posted by Brian B. at 12:15 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


You have to either hate Islam (and ignore anything good about it) because Christianity is the only true religion, or love Islam (and ignore anything bad about it) because you hate bigoted Christians. If you don't fit into one of those two tribes, people don't know where to put you.

I wish more people would realize that you can admire liberal, progressive Islam, while not admiring oppressive Islam, any more than you would admire oppressive forms of other religions.

There are a lot of really interesting ideas in Islam, as with all religious traditions. I prefer to focus on the good, while denouncing what I would also denounce in other religions (e.g. shunning, retaliation against former believers/members).

(these statements also hold true for me as regards other religions as well - I dislike, for example, blanket condemnation of Christianity without an acknowledgement of the diversity within the religion(s).
posted by jb at 12:27 PM on January 17 [9 favorites]


There's a podcaster named Nice Mangos who puts to rest the lie that the left ignores the more grotesque parts of Islam.

Needless to say she's persona non grata in the "skeptic" community.
posted by Yowser at 12:51 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


This lefty is pretty staunchly opposed to all religious fundamentalists. They've wasted more human potential and caused more conflict than anything else by far in history. I know there are good people who happen to be religious and Iunderstand the difference between culture and religion* but I'll never fully trust a deeply religious person, ever. And I don't think they belong in goverment, period. I don't think my views are uncommon in real life, although maybe few people come out and say it online.

*I grew up culturally Catholic, despite rarely attending mass ans never actually being a believer like most of my family I kinda just absorbed a lot of the teachings and how they were confused with nationality and morality. I totally get it.
posted by fshgrl at 1:31 PM on January 17 [12 favorites]


> parts of my own family's religious history - relatively lax Mennonites being evangelized and fired up for faith in Russia in the 1850s...

I'm from the same (Russian Mennonite?) background but still in a (relatively lax) Mennonite church -- I hear what you say about the two tribes thing in the last decade or so - there's so much less middle ground.

I imagine that a lot of the problem for Muslims is how to maintain an ethnic identity without the religion and all its infrastructure. Certainly a problem for Mennonites -- what does it even mean to be Mennonite outside of the church when the church was the very reason the ethnic group formed in the first place?
posted by technodelic at 5:26 PM on January 17


technodelic, a lot of the problem for ex-Muslims is fear of deadly violence from Muslims, including-- perhaps especially-- their own families.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:06 PM on January 17


Tribalism is to some degree inevitable, but it's unfortunate that we've ended up with just two tribes lately. You have to either hate Islam (and ignore anything good about it) because Christianity is the only true religion, or love Islam (and ignore anything bad about it) because you hate bigoted Christians. If you don't fit into one of those two tribes, people don't know where to put you.

It's actually three tribes, as a couple other people here have illustrated - you have the fiercely secularist crowd who see Christianity and Islam as basically two indistinguishable flavors of bad, and showing empathy for either is a sign of weakness in the face of encroaching theocracy. So anger and fear at the erosion of the church and state barrier in the USA (primarily driven by politically active conservative Christianity) translates in turn to hostility towards Muslims, who don't have as much of a role in that process. In Europe you see a similar dynamic, except that there's more of a tradition of conservative or right-wing forms of secularism which can just combine hatred of foreigners with fear of Islam, with Christianity not as much in the mix.

I remember when I was over in Austria, talking about immigration (especially with German friends who happened to be living in Innsbruck), there was a particularly difficult dynamic: many of the immigrants from Turkey at the time were highly religious and conservative people who came West precisely because they felt persecuted in their own country and knew they could have more freedoms in some ways in the EU. But this meant that they in turn found themselves in a cultural environment that they found very disturbing, and their reaction to it - sometimes quite overtly hostile and occasionally violent, especially when someone from their own community, over whom they saw themselves as having authority, was involved - in turn exacerbated the uneasiness of their secular German neighbors. Which made it harder to, for example, get and keep jobs in a foreign country where it was already difficult to overcome language barriers, which made them more insular in turn, etc.

At the same time, I think that anyone - from whatever background - who wants to get out of their religious community and is facing barriers to doing so should have help. One of the worst aspects of tribalism is the privileging of the group over the individual - we can't help this person, because that would be "attacking the group".
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:31 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


It's actually three tribes,

I'll raise it to four tribes, two left and two right, relative to each other's personal approach as either emotional or intellectual. First on the scene, the emotional right are those who believe their religion is true, and everyone else is going to hell, and they like to keep their kids out of public schools for the same reason. They have no mental freedom to choose anything but what follows from their assumptions under God's exclusive deal with them, leading to racism and gender bias, hence emotional, from being irrational. All problems involving other people are God's will or punishment; faith is their certainty and secularists are wrong by definition. Disgust and loathing are principle attitudes, from self-righteousness. The emotional right dislike the emotional left. The latter sees charity and tolerance as key principles, and are often overly generous in theory. Since many expect to get social or divine credit for being generous, their intentions justify the ends and means. Religion is always okay because its intentions are taken at face value, though corruptible, and it shares passion and conviction as the driving force. The emotional left supports multiculturalism as the world's solution, because it tolerates sectarianism as local religion, and can optimistically be interpreted to mean tolerance instead of social atomization. A key attitude is guilt, the flip-side of self-righteousness. Moving away from emotionalism, the intellectual right is all business, where money is freedom, and short-term goals rule, to hell with global problems unless someone else pays for it. Money validates their self-worth since they aren't trying to improve anything and can't feel good about themselves without winning the game. Apathy is a key attitude to go with libertarian doctrine. Finally, the intellectual left sees the liberal political agenda (equality, medicine, education, environment, taxing the rich to pay for it, etc), as pretty much common sense. The purpose of living is to improve everything for a better future, which is to say, a world without permanent social factions, divisions, war, childhood poverty and ignorance. The vision of solving world problems is directly married to ending sectarianism as a political force through education and social progress, because sectarianism promotes ancient fundamentalism as their divine right to rule over women and children as property, and over-breeds itself by command from impoverished husbands and religious leaders as their source of political power. Fundamentalism also promotes anti-science because science believes in doubt, revision and progress. A key attitude for the intellectual left is patience for slow improvement and compromise for damage control. Notably, patient progress looks like a character weakness to the emotional set, who were raised to dislike any moderation in principle, being taught absolute devotion to someone's idea of truth and purity, which they don't usually know how to recover from.
posted by Brian B. at 10:18 AM on January 18


« Older "IN A WORLD"   |   🎣🐡🦈🐟🐠 Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments