To give you an idea, and some background, about who I am: I am a 20 year-old male from Saudi Arabia. I moved to the US 18 months ago for educational purposes. I recently rediscovered myself. I am a full-blown atheist, and the following is how I felt leaving religion:
There is not enough words in the world to describe how I felt but, here goes:
I felt relieved, surprised, stupid, and free to express myself.
I felt relieved because I knew that all of the BS I was told to be true simply was not. I was brought up in a Muslim family living within a Muslim community, in a Muslim country. Being brought up a Muslim was rather a terrifying experience. One could not speak of God, ask questions about the horrific stories in the Qur'an, or be around females, to the extent that shaking hands with a female is actually considered a sin! One could also not have sex before marriage, can not have a relationship before marriage, should not look at females, ask where God came from, have any doubts of any kind whether it be about Mohammed or God. Now for the commands that one must follow; one must pray 5 times a day, fast 12-15 a day for 30 days, spread the word of God by any means possible, even if by fear and war! One must also praise God all day - every day! As far as prayers go, if you are a male, you must pray in a Mosque. While if you are a female, you must pray at home! This very fact contradicts the notion that "God is everywhere." Females in Islam are supposed to be fully covered at all times. They are supposed to stay home, raise kids and be obedient to their husbands - as if their lives had lesser value! One of the things I out grew since I became an atheist is the supernatural. I completely refuse the idea of any supernatural being, whether it be God, angels, demons, or ghosts. All of my fears went away; thus I was relieved.
I also felt surprised by the fact that the latest estimate concluded that there are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today! How can so many people buy into anything like that! Pause for a second and think about it, 1.2 billion! this means that 1.2 billion people actually believe that human beings were created. 1.2 billion that believe in doomsday, that it is OK to invade other countries in the name of Islam, that there is a heaven and hell!
I felt stupid because I had the opportunity to became an atheist a long time ago. I have had internet access for as long as I remember. All it would have taken me was a few hours, and I would have been free, but fear got the best of me. Fear of damnation is probably the main reason why I did not become an atheist sooner. Just imagine being told as I child that if you don't believe in God, you will go to hell. Hell in Islam is a place of eternal torment, pain, suffering, and sorrow. A place so miserable I would not want my worst enemy to be there! Being told such BS as a child over, and over makes that BS sound real. I was afraid! The trigger for me was moving to the US. You see once I moved to the US, I saw that Christians follow their religion just like Muslims do. That made me research Christianity a bit, for I have been told that Islam is the only true religion - even though I never practiced it. My research lead me to the fact that the stories in the bible were folklore, but how can that be?! The stories in the bible are extremely similar to the stories in the Qur'an! Then I continued my research and found that it was all a big load of BS!
As soon as I became an atheist, I started thinking differently - and seeing things differently too. My mind became clear, and rational ideas were the only ideas it accepted. This writing here is but a great indication that I can think for myself, and express myself. I need no savior, no loving God, no religious rituals to be happy. All I needed was to be able to have doubts, to be able to question everything. Now that I have that, I know for a fact that I will be a happier, productive person.
Perhaps the one thing that still bugs me is the fact that people assume I am a Muslim as soon as I tell them that I am from Saudi Arabia. It is as though they can not comprehend that fact that a Saudi can be, dare I say, an atheist.
You shouldn't feel stupid. Atheism comes to people of all ages in different stages of their lives. Sometimes it takes many years for people to overcome their fears and to finally confirm what they've suspected for a long time. And when it happens, yes!, it's a feeling of great relief. As you said, you were intimidated with fear and threats of hell. That's not your fault. That's a tactic all religions use, especially against children. It's a terrible and harmful way to treat children...and adults. The important part is that you, on your own, have intellectually and honestly come to a conclusion regarding religion and atheism. That's an achievement worthy of admiration. So many people live their entire lives without asking honest questions or seeking out truths. You're 20 years old and you have your WHOLE adult life ahead of you! That's a fantastic place to be.
People are assuming you're a Muslim because you're from Saudi Arabia? People assume I'm a christian because I'm from the United States.
Welcome to the U.S. I hope your experience is fulfilling and I wish you the best in your studies.
First, welcome to our group. (And the "us" includes you now.) Even thinking as you did before reaching the conclusion you were an atheist took intelligence and courage. But when you say "1.2 billion people actually believe that human beings were created. 1.2 billion that believe in doomsday, that it is OK to invade other countries in the name of Islam, that there is a heaven and hell!" you assume that none of them has started on the path to enlightenment. There may be a million Muslims who, internally, question what they are having to pretend to believe. It will require a huge change, though, before they will be able to express their doubts openly. Many Christians in America are questioning, but mostly only to themselves. Are you here as a student? Will you have to return to Saudi Arabia? How can you return there (if you do have to) and still be both safe and true to yourself? I don't envy you the problems you may yet have, but I hope that this group can be of help to you. Again, welcome. You are one of us.
Glad to have you on the forum. Don't worry too much that people assume that you are a muslim. I have had lots of people assume that I was a christian. They are going with what is most probable based on the information that they already have. I have made a similar mistake by assuming that one of my professors was an atheist. It turned out that not only was he a christian, but he was also a new earth creationist on top of that. That was an awkward moment.
I do have to warn you, that from my experience, the clarity is only a temporary effect of rejecting the supernatural. You will soon be thinking of situations where the answers aren't exactly cut and dried. Uncertainty is going to become a permanent companion both bothersome and wonderful at the same time. Looking forward to hearing more from you.