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I Believe in…………….

What do I believe in? Who do I believe in? Does it matter? Probably not. I’m an atheist. That much I’m sure of. Ever since I understood what agnostic and atheist meant I knew I was one of them, probably agnostic just to be on the safe side. I remember praying when I was a child, but only when I desperately wanted something. I’m pretty certain that even if I believed there might be ‘something’ up there, he wasn’t really doing that good a job if my prayers weren’t being answered. And I never really remember being in fear of the concept of Hell or sinning, or believing that Heaven was real. Not deep down anyway.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I got into rock music, metal, grunge, wore black, grew my hair and became pretty much the poster boy for the depressed, moody teenager. At the time, the likes of Tipper Gore and the Christian right were crusading against Judas Priest, Ozzy Osborne, Iron Maiden and anything else that was considered subversive and un-Christian. I rebelled against this instinctively without really considering my faith as such. It was just part of being against the establishment, authority, the mainstream, the system, the man, and anything else that was in the unwritten adolescent manual. I didn’t embrace the anti-Christianity stance that saw the growth of a sub-genre of heavy metal that used Satanic imagery and revelled in the hysteria. I was more likely to mumble “you don’t understand me” and sulk in my bedroom for hours than scream “Fuck You!” and carve a pentagram in my arm.

As I emerged from the other side of the horrible teen fog that I’d been living in, I discovered Bill Hicks, cannabis, books and wonderful creatures called girls, not that I had any luck, but they were nice to look at. A moment of clarity I think it’s called. The seed of doubt had already been sewn by now, and roots had taken hold. I was a cynical non believer, and snorted at the very thought of there being a God. Not only this, but I’d decided that religion was in fact a bad thing.

Finding my position politically, and actually taking an interest in current affairs during the 90’s meant seeing the IRA cause havoc in Ireland and Britain, becoming aware of the ‘situation’ in the Middle East, the first Gulf War, Lockerbie, the Tamil Tigers, the break up of Yugoslavia, as well as hearing about the Holocaust, South African apartheid, and corruption in the Catholic church. Place names like Belfast, Beirut, Gaza, Palestine, Lebanon, Baghdad, Tehran, Sarajevo, became synonymous with death, violence, destruction and lawlessness. In my mind religion was the root cause, it was obvious. Religion was divisive, used to manipulate and subjugate people; therefore if religion didn’t exist, the world’s problems would be solved. Simple.

Throughout the 90’s and 00’s, the only time I noticed religion in the news it was negative press. Child abuse, corrupt televangelists, terrorists, wars and civil unrest. The link was clear. I’d formed the opinion that anyone who followed a religion was conservative, ignorant, bigoted and a little bit weird. They were also weak, as they needed a belief in a supernatural being to give them a sense of purpose, and instructions on how to live righteously.

In around 2007 I read Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’. At roughly the same time I’d become aware of the Creationist movement and the hilarious Creationist Museum in the US. Having been a bit of an amateur naturalist in my youth I was familiar with the theory of evolution, Darwinism, the Big Bang theory etc. from a young age. Dawkins’ work was like atheist porn for me. It resonated so strongly, and further enhanced my opinion that religion was illogical and unnecessary. I became almost evangelical in my atheism, and treated believers with contempt, condescension and a complete lack of respect. I wasn’t even an atheist, more of an anti-theist if there is such a thing. Everyone needed to stop the delusion and get a grip.

So how does someone with such a strong stance against religion end up spending a year reading about Islam? The religion I’d been led to believe was the most archaic, oppressive, violent, and fanatical of the lot. Why does this person spend hours arguing with right wing bigots on the internet, defending Muslims and Islam? I mean, look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Mujahedeen, 9/11, 7/7, Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Abu Hamza (he even had a hook! That’s how evil he was!). Incontrovertible proof that religion was dangerous, and Islam was the daddy.

I’ve found myself asking these questions on occasions. I don’t believe in God or Allah, it’s not my problem. They’re all as bad as each other, leave them too it. But it’s not that simple. My atheism was trumped by my liberal guilt. As I’ve blogged previously, the emergence of the EDL led me here. It doesn’t take a bleeding heart liberal to recognise that you can’t judge 1.6 billion people on the actions of a lunatic fringe. Does it? It’s easy to let our emotions be clouded by atrocities carried out by Islamic extremists. Even easier when the tabloid media keeps reminding us how ‘they’ are taking over/getting preferential treatment/being different. But you don’t need to be an expert on Islam to see that this is wrong. You just need common sense.  You also need a sense of perspective, a modicum of intelligence, and a bit of critical thinking. But common sense is a good start.

The problem is, not everyone possesses all of these requirements, and some don’t have any of them. Unfortunately there are also people who are quite happy to perpetuate the misconceptions. Call them racists, Islamophobes, bigots or whatever. These are the types of people that make up the EDL. They are fed scaremongering misinformation, and urban myths, and don’t question the veracity for the reasons outlined above.

What I have discovered during my time as a lap-top activist, having dipped my toes into the cesspool that is the EDL’s online presence, and interacted with the pond life that inhabit these murky waters, is that you have three options.

  1. Expose them.
  2. Mock them.
  3. Challenge them.

There is already an army of hardworking people doing a fantastic job in bringing the true nature of the EDL to the attention of a wider audience.

Mocking them is easy. The majority don’t need much help in looking foolish, as they are cliché parroting parodies that resort to insults without much prodding. In the long term though, this doesn’t really achieve anything. As amusing as it is, it doesn’t address the problem, descends into a slanging match and ultimately is a waste of my time.

The option I decided would be the most fulfilling and rewarding would be to challenge them. Not with aggression or insults, but facts. Facts are EDL kryptonite. They have no response as they only know what they’ve been told. Proving them wrong, or presenting a factual counter argument confuses them, and they either stop engaging or bark insults. Terrorist sympathiser, apologist for Islam, Muslim appeaser, dhimmi, paki lover, I’ve had them all.

The only way to be able to do this is to learn. I thought, if I’m going to take this stance, I need to be able to back it up. There’s no use engaging if you have no answer to the smears they throw. I decided to research as many authentic and reliable sources as my time would allow. It was heartening to find an infinite amount of information that would give me the ammunition I needed. Although depressing that it had to exist in the first place.

Without even noticing, my stance on religion softened. Reading work by Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists and secularists, all exposing and debunking Islamophobic propaganda was an eye-opener. Not only was I learning the truth about a religion that had been unfairly demonised, but also that maybe these God bothering weirdoes weren’t the ones being ignorant. Surely a lefty wouldn’t fall into the trap of tarring everybody with the same brush? It dawned on me that as someone who encourages and celebrates freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought, I should surely also include the freedom to practice a religion without prejudice.

The more I read, the more I realised that religion has been with us for over 2000 years and it isn’t likely to go away, so I needed to get over it. It was also blindingly obvious that faith is as important to people as the food they eat and the water they drink. It gives them strength, and peace of mind. The texts they follow teach valuable lessons, virtues and a greater understanding of their purpose in life. It makes no difference how we reach this point, whether it’s with the help of faith or without. The important thing is we reach it. Who am I to patronise someone for reaching out to religion when they’re vulnerable? I realised that when all is said and done, I have the same values, morals and wishes as the vast majority of people of faith. That’s the important thing, not how we came to possess them.

I’m not an academic, a scholar, a theologian or sociologist. I’m not a journalist or a reporter and have no qualifications above HND. I’m a layman trying to make sense of the world, and the society he lives in, and his children are growing up in. The only way that’s possible is through understanding. I’m still a cynic, and an atheist, but with a different perspective on religion. Catholicism isn’t to blame for child abuse, Judaism isn’t to blame for Palestinian children being killed, Islam isn’t to blame for 9/11, Christianity isn’t to blame for the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda, Sikhism wasn’t to blame for the death of 329 people on an Air India flight in 1985, Hinduism wasn’t to blame for 68 Pakistani fatalities on the Samjhauta Express in 2007. It goes much deeper than this, and is more to do with human nature than what is written in ancient scriptures. There’s a maxim common to most of the major religions. It can’t be taken out of context or misinterpreted. It’s one we’re all familiar with, and one we should remind ourselves of every day.


Brahmanism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.: Mahabharata 5:1517

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.: Udana Varga 5:18

Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.: Matthew 7:12

Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.: Analects 15:23

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what which he desires for himself. Sunnah

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.: Talmud, Shabbat 31:a

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.: T’ai Shag Kan Ying P’ien

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good: for itself. : Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5


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5 thoughts on “I Believe in…………….

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention I Believe in……………. « tweets_rhymes_and_life --

  2. This is very well written. I definitely enjoyed it.

  3. Dick Turnip. on said:

    Fair enough speech but you have tried to obscure Islam not having a Golden Rule. When it talks about brothers it means brother Muslims, not brother humans because all Muslims are brothers in arms.

    This can be seen clearly if you read 13 and 14 together.

    An Nawawi Hadith Number 013 : The Authority Of Anas bin Malik, the servant of the messenger of Allah
    Nawawi’s Forty Hadith Print
    The prophet said : “None of you [truely] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

    Related by Bukhari and Muslim.

    An Nawawi Hadith Number 014 : Narrated By Abdullah bin Masud
    Nawawi’s Forty Hadith Print
    The messenger of Allah said : “The blood of a Muslim may not be legally spilt other than in one of three [instances] : the married person who commits adultery; a life for a life; and one who forsakes his religion and abandons the community.”

    Related by Bukhari and Muslim.

    • How does the second hadith negate the first? They are totally unrelated. I could have used many other hadiths in its place.

      “By Him in whose Hand is my soul, a servant does not believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself of goodness.”[Musnad Ahmad, Number 12734, Sahih]

      “The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself of goodness.”[Sahih Ibn Hibban, Book of Faith, Number 238, Sahih]

      “Whoever would love to be delivered from the Hellfire and entered into Paradise, then let him die with faith in Allah and the Last Day, and let him treat the people the way he would love to be treated.”[Musnad Ahmad, Number 6768, Sahih]

      “Be kind to your neighbor and you will be a believer; love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a Muslim.”[Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Book of Asceticism, Number 2305, Sahih]

      “Love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a believer; behave well with your neighbors and you will be a Muslim.”[Sunan Ibn Majah, Book of Asceticism, Number 4217, Sahih]

      “Love for the Muslims, the believers, and the people of your house what you love for yourself; and hate for them and the people of your house what you hate for yourself, and then you will be a believer; be a good neighbor to whomever will be your neighbor among the people and you will be a Muslim.” [Al-Bayhaqi, Shu’b Al-Iman, Number 10369, Sahih]

      “That you love for the people what you love for yourself, and you hate for the people what you hate for yourself, and that you speak goodness or remain silent.”[Musnad Ahmad, Number 21627, Hasan]

      Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

      The importance of this hadith:

      Al-Jurjânî says about it: “This hadith is one of the foundations of Islam.”

      It is a most eloquent summary of how a Muslim is supposed to conduct himself with others. Al-Nawawî relates to us that Ibn Abî Zayd, the leading jurist in Morocco of his time, said: “All the etiquettes of virtue can be derived from four hadith – ” Then he mentioned the following statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him):

      1. “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say something good or remain silent.”

      2. “ From the perfection of a person’s Islam is his leaving alone what does not concern him.”

      3. “Do not get angry”

      4. “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

      This hadîth shows how people are supposed to relate to each other. It negates base emotions such as envy and establishes the vision of a society based on mutual responsibility and caring.

      None of you truly believes…

      This hadith is not saying that a person becomes an unbeliever for failing to hold in his heart such love for others. It is merely stating that his belief is deficient.

      This is made clearer by a narration in Musnad Ahmad that reads: “A worshipper does not attain the truth of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself of good.”

      This is similar to many other statements of the Prophet (peace be upon him), like:

      “By Allah he does not believe… whose neighbor is not safe from his abuse.” [Musnad Ahmad]

      “A fornicator is not a believer while he is engaged in fornication, a thief is not a believer while he is perpetrating a theft, and an imbiber of wine is not a believer while he is engaged in drinking it.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

      In all of these cases, what is being said is that a person’s faith is incomplete, that the roots of faith are not firmly embedded in a person’s heart and soul.

      Hence, a Muslim whose heart is full of jealousy for the blessings held by others, or who is avaricious and loathes for others to possess the same blessings that he does is a person whose faith is deficient.

      Until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself:

      This hadith shows the humanity of Islam. A person cannot be considered to be fully a believer until he loves for others what he loves for himself. This meaning is not restricted to his fellow Muslims; it applies to all humanity. Indeed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a believer.” [Sunan Ibn Mâjah]

      At the forefront of what a Muslim should want for others is for them to be rightly guided. He should desire Islam for all humanity just as he desires it for himself. This should inspire him to call non-Muslims to Islam and to call his fellow Muslims to righteousness and piety.

      It also includes treating other people the way one wishes to be treated. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever wishes to be kept away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise should have death overtake him while he believes in Allah and the Last Day and should treat people the way he wants them to treat him.” [Sahîh Muslim]

      It is also part of faith to hate that evil and misfortune should befall others in the same way that we hate it to befall ourselves. This is implied by the Prophet’s statement, because love for something necessarily implies dislike for what is opposed to it.

      Some people might find this command to love for others what we love for ourselves to be a tall order that it is impossible for them to inculcate in their hearts. Ibn al-Salâh points out how this is not the case, saying:

      This is realized by loving for others to attain such things without contending with them in doing so; meaning, in such a way that his brother’s providence does not decreased anything form his own. This is something easy on anyone possessing a sound heart. [Sharh Sahîh Muslim]
      This hadith, by negating the faith of a person who does not love for his brother what he loves for himself, is a stern warning against envy. Envy is the very antithesis of what the hadith is discussing, since an envious person loathes that anyone else should excel him in goodness or even equal him.

      Al-Nawawî defines envy as: “… to desire for someone who enjoys a blessing to become bereft of it, regardless of whether that blessing is of a religious or worldly nature.”

      Al-Ghazâlî says: “As far as envy is concerned, Islamic scholars define it as the hatred of a blessing and the love that the one so blessed by it will become bereft of it.”

      Allah instructs us to seek refuge from this vile emotion, because of the evil that ensues from it. He says: “…the evil of the envier when he envies.” [ Sûrah al-Falaq : 5]

      The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned against the ill consequences of envy upon the envier, saying: “Beware of envy, for indeed envy consumes one’s good deeds like fire consumes wood.” [ Sunan Abî Dâwûd]

  4. Lovely article. I’ll just put in a word for the Pagans here, for while not all of us put it quite like the Wiccans do, perhaps they put it most neatly. “An it harm none, do what ye will.”

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