How faith became a crazy superstition, and God an “imaginary friend”.
I feel uncomfortable with the word “faith”. In the current global culture, “faith” is thrown in with “emotions”, “superstition” and “delusion”. Belief in God nowadays is somehow on the same level as belief in UFO’s and alien abductions, while atheism has rushed to align itself with reason, logic and science. Frustrated, I examine my belief over and over and find it is consistent with everything I know about logic and science. So, where is the problem? Are believers the victims of false propaganda spread forth by other groups?
Or are we perhaps responsible for our own unhappy position?
It is true that there is a desperate need for proper dialogue between believers and atheists, and there is a lot of hate and anger on both sides, but my own bitter conclusion is this: we as believers must take most of the blame for the stigma attached to belief.
“It’s nothing more than a bunch of common sense.”
This is how the Qur’an was criticized by some people. The first thing you get when you open this book of common sense is a question: are you really interested in finding the truth? Or do you just want to prove you’re right? Because guidance is only there for the muttaqin–the “conscious”. Those who contemplate their surroundings and do not simply go through life, putting off all the important questions.
There is a “strategy” for looking for God that is taught by the Qur’an: use your head, and don’t take it personally. Do not insist on some religion or idea just because your parents believed in it. Do not insist on some position just because it serves your own agenda, your wealth, your social status, your ego.
But those who disbelieve invent falsehood about Allah , and most of them do not reason. And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” they say, “Sufficient for us is that upon which we found our fathers.” Even though their fathers knew nothing, nor were they guided? (Qur’an, 5:103-104)
And once you’ve found the truth, do not bully other people into believing the same thing. Either have a reasonable discussion with them, or let them be.
Say, “O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” (Qur’an, 109)
Do not feel offended if someone makes fun of your belief. It’s not about your ego or your honor. God does not need someone to fight in His name. Neither does the truth. You have nothing to prove.
And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation. (Qur’an, 4:140)
You can shout yourself crazy at someone, but you may very well be sure you are not going to win them over that way.
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. (Qur’an, 2:256)
So, perhaps the problem lies in that the believer has gradually abandoned all of these ideas–abandoned the rational side of belief, and clung more and more to the emotional. You see it everywhere in the Middle East. People care more about rituals than about understanding what’s behind them. They care more about tradition and culture than actual teachings. And the more you cling to the outer shell of religion and neglect the core, the more religion stops being a truth, and starts being an accessory, a possession. Like a car or a house. It says something about you and your choices. Belittling it means belittling you. Insulting it hurts your ego. You wear it on your sleeve. You defend it “to the death”. In fact, you are willing to go against everything your religion stands for just to defend its honor.
Loving your religion is natural. Wanting others to believe in it is natural. But this love is a personal matter. It is a natural outcome of having faith, not a part of your faith. In fact, this love obliges you to treat your belief the way it deserves to be treated: as a reasonable, objective truth. Something that can be openly discussed, defended, attacked, and even mocked. Because no matter how much you love your religion, you cannot give someone else how you feel–you can give them evidence, proof, rational arguments. And that is why belief is and must be a matter of the mind, and not the heart.
If we want faith to be a reasonable thing, we have to be willing to treat it that way.
Note: An older version of this article has been submitted to VirtualMosque.com for publication.