I am a wary of the word “faith”. In the current global culture,”faith” is thrown in with “emotions”, “superstition” and “delusion”. Belief in God nowadays is somehow tantamount to belief in ghosts 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 that there is a lot of hate and anger on both sides. However, I have reached the bitter conclusion that we as believers must take most of the blame for the stigma attached to religion.
The Quran was criticized by some as “nothing more than a bunch of common sense”. 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.
The Quran outlines a clear and simple strategy for seeking the truth, and consistently emphasizes it throughout the book: 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 own welfare, 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? (Quran 5:103-104)
And once you are convinced you’ve found the truth, do not bully other people into believing the same thing. You should either engage others in a rational discussion, 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.” (Quran 109)
Do not feel offended if someone makes fun of your belief. It is not about your ego or your honor. God does not need someone to fight in His name, and neither does the truth.
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. (Quran 4:140)
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. (Quran 2:256)
So, perhaps the problem lies in that the believer has gradually abandoned this strategy; abandoned the rational side of belief, and clung more and more to the emotional. People now seem to care more about rituals than about the underlying creed that these rituals serve. 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.
It is natural to love your religion and to want other people to believe in it. But this love is a personal matter. It is a natural outcome of having faith, not part of your faith. In fact, this love should be the very thing that obligates you to treat your belief the way it deserves to be treated: as a reasonable, objective proposal. A well-defined proposal that can be openly discussed, defended, attacked, and even mocked. Because no matter how much you love your religion, this love is subjective to you, and you cannot extend it to others–to other people, you can only give evidence, proof, rational arguments. And that is why belief is and must be a matter of the mind, and not the heart.
An older version of this article was posted on VirtualMosque.