Thank God For Atheists

You might wonder why a practicing Muslim, like me, would say such a thing.

After 9/11, my reaction was to target the most important conflict between Islam and the West and go to work on conflict resolution, peace, and reconciliation. At that time the Israeli Palestinian conflict seemed to be the major clash.  After working hard on this struggle, you can see how far we got.

From another perspective came the four horsemen of the new atheism, four loud post 9/11 voices: Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. Each took a somewhat different approach.

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Wicked Fun

Wicked fun social media harmony

So I sat down late one recent night to write some tweets intended to bring people together. There is an important unity beneath all the conflicts and hatred. Peace, and all that stuff—it’s what I believe in. We are all human… We need to respect each other… We all have good within us… Etc. etc. etc. There is “Something” rather than nothing.

But in the vacuum that is Twitter, my words hardly seemed to create meaning. Hours passed with fruitless effort. The message felt boring boring boring.

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Armin and the Sufi

Armin Navabi, the founder of the website Atheist Republic, is also author of the book Why There Is No God. At the back of his book, he relates his journey from harsh literalist Islam to atheism. At age 14 he attempted suicide because, based on what he had learned, he felt that this was the best strategy to avoid eternal damnation.

As a child in the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, governed by a harsh version of Shariah law, Armin learned a strict Islam. Hell, sin, and the devil loomed large in his mind. Sin was everywhere and he was taught that it was unavoidable. He feared for himself and he feared for his parents. He prayed out of fear.

He also learned, however, that Islam gave him a shortcut to paradise. According to what he learned, if a boy were to die before his 15th birthday, paradise would be guaranteed. His fear pushed him to come up with a plan.

After his 14th birthday, he began to plan his suicide. One day, he jumped from the top floor of his school. Instead of dying, he ended up with a broken wrist, two broken legs, an injured back and a lot of time to think during his long painful convalescence. He decided upon a path of atheism.
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Being a Just Ruler, The Mahabharata, & The Battlefield

Arjuna's penance

The universal ideas of different religions continue to attract me despite my conversion to Islam. In fact, it is because of the universal ideas highlighted in Islamic Sufism that I converted to Islam in 1994.

In pursuit of these universals,  I have been obsessed with the Bhagavad Gita. So, just a few months ago, I could not believe my luck! Mahabharata Director Peter Brook’s play, The Battlefield, was coming to San Francisco.

Inspired by the current Syrian War, the play is based on part of the Mahabharata, the vast Hindu epic that also contains the Bhagavad Gita, known as the Bible of Hinduism.

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