This week I deconstruct and critique a Muslim Youtuber who once identified as an atheist. He outlines the path of his conversion and I felt that discussing and exposing some underlining issues may help others considering Islam specifically, or religion in general. I don’t think he is a stupid person, but rather misguided and influenced to accept wild beliefs for really bad reasons.
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I hear this often in the atheist community. I too have felt this way many times, because there are just so many people who hold their god belief on such a thin sliver of reasoning. It is important to acknowledge that being religious is not a cause of one’s diminished intelligence. There are a lot of incredibly smart individuals, many much more educated then I, who hold a god belief of one sort or another. Many theists believe what they do simply because of indoctrination. It is all they know, and it is the lens through which they perceive the world around them. For others, especially in economically challenged communities, with little to no formal education, people are more likely to pick up a god belief in order to cope with their lot in life, and hope for rewards in a life hereafter. When these promises are packaged by seemingly wise and knowledgeable people who hold a respected status in their community (the imams, pastors, priests and rabbis), skepticism and reason are suffocated, and its easy to accept without resistance.
It can be extremely tempting to tear into someone who holds religious beliefs and point out all the silly stupid things they believe, but this is counter productive and will most likely do nothing more then introduce emotion and remorse, and lead each person standing firmer in their convictions. I’d encourage everyone to ask more questions, get clarifications, and have the believer explain how a) their particular god is real b) how they happened to find themselves in the one and true religion while the rest of mankind got it all so very wrong. Doing so might give them pause to question what they hold so dear.
Lastly, I think its an excellent idea for everyone to pick up a Qu’ran or Bible, or whatever religious text and read it. Doing so, you will be in a unique position of having done something that most believers haven’t done, and can speak with authority when challenged. Its quite an experience having a discussion with a theist, when you know more about their religious text then they do.
Now, here’s the first real sign of a problem. His willingness to look past the immoral parts of the Qu’ran and come away with a skewed perspective of the entire text and the god it lays out. The Qu’ran I’m sure has many wise, moral and helpful tips throughout its pages, just like nearly all other religious books, but the claim made within, is that the Qu’ran is not merely a book written by a wise desert nomad, but instead a god’s direct message to mankind. I can find all sorts of wise and moral lessons in all sorts of literature… even in the pages of comic books, but that does not in any way elevate the textual author to divine status.
Fear is a very strong tool for manipulation, one that religions have used for centuries. I personally don’t find hell particularly frightening, because I see it for what it is, a last ditch effort by the religious to keep you believing. If reason can’t convince you to stay, then fear might be able to overpower your doubts.
Fear of eternal torment was a major contributor to this Youtuber’s adoption of Islam. What I find especially curious, is that while he was brought up in an atheistic home with no promise of an afterlife of either the heaven or hell variety, the mere reading of the Qu’ran could cause him to question reality and bring out fear for an imaginary realm that has not been demonstrated to exist. It would be akin to, as an adult, reading a book about monsters, and arriving at the conclusion that monsters are real and do in fact live under your bed, even in the face of all available evidence. Nothing I could ever read would convince me that monsters live in beneath my bed, or that hell exists. It would take a lot more then words printed on paper to convince me of something so far fetched. When fear is employed to convince you of anything, tread very cautiously.
Lastly, the whole notion of a hell, brings up for me three questions that I have yet to hear a reasonable response:
1) If Allah exists, what kind of being would send someone to suffer eternally in hell for merely disbelief (or belief in the wrong religion)?
2) How could any crime we commit in our short life be worthy of eternal punishment? Seems to me to be an infinitely disproportional punishment for a crime.
And 3) How could you determine which god and which religion is most correct? Nearly all religions believe their’s to be the one and true path to a god, and disbelief will lead to their version of hell. If you put your metaphorical eggs in Allah’s basket, and it turns out that god’s chosen religion is actually the Second Baptist Church, then you are royally screwed.
As a naturally skeptical and evidence demanding person, I simply cannot comprehend how anyone could believe a character in a book exists because of how impressively they were portrayed. I would imagine one would have to already accept that such a being exists in order to be moved to accept the description of said person. There are countless characters in world literature that are both fictional, and grand is stature, wise beyond their years, and a role model for humanity to take note. Yet no matter all the amazing attributes and impressive list of accomplishments they are all the same… a creation of someone’s mind.
Unfortunately we never gets details on what specifically solidified his acceptance of Islam. His reference to flip flopping between his atheism and theism is an indication that he struggled with skepticism and the religious indoctrination that was supplanting it. At some point his skeptical rational defense faltered and he fully accepted extraordinary claims about the universe.
The Deen Show is a Youtube channel hosted by a Muslim convert that attempts to bring Islam into the 21st century. It is a proselytizing channel that interviews Muslims on a variety of topics including conversion stories, proofs of Islam, pop culture Muslims, and oddly MMA. Its an attempt to make Islam more approachable to a western audience.
Yusuf Estes (born Joseph Estes) is an American preacher from Texas who converted from Christianity to Islam. He is active in Islamic missionary work in the US teaching the techniques on how to convert non-Muslims to Islam.
Dr. Shabir Ally is a prolific debater, author and speaker, specializing in Islam and Christianity. He is known for a more moderate and scholarly interpretation of Islam. He devotes a lot of his work to steering Christians towards Islam by arguing against Christian apologetics.
These men are all selling Islam and are apologists on a mission. Every major religion will have their equivalent, ie, well spoken proponents that work to bring their particular interpretation of their particular religion to the masses.
It is crucial to consider the arguments against your beliefs before accepting them. In order to find everything wrong with Islam, just ask a Christian apologist. Conversely if you want to find out everything wrong about Christianity, ask a Muslim apologist. Test your religious beliefs as you would test others. Muhammad riding a winged horse to heaven sure does sound silly, but maybe your belief in talking snakes, donkeys and zombie Jesus is just as ridiculous.
Unsurprisingly, he was tempted towards arguments for Christianity but found his way back to Islam. Many of the same techniques and arguments used by Muslim apologists are also used by Christian ones. There’s a lot of overlap and no real way, other then pure assertion, to determine who comes out victorious. There is a massive body of literature and countless debates and lectures on Christianity versus Islam, and apologists on either side have developed defenses that convince only those who already side with one or the other. If you are leaning towards Islam, you will find the arguments against Christianity more convincing. If you are leaning more towards Christianity, then you will think that its apologetics is stronger. We all ought to be mindful of our natural inclination to fall into echo chambers of our own creation. Everyone thinks they are right about the majority of their beliefs, yet it is evident to many others how wrong they really are on so many of them. When we are convinced of something, and are unwilling to entertain the idea we may be wrong, we have strolled into dangerous waters. Never stop questioning.
Atheist/Muslim Convert video: