The title of this article could have been “Why I Am Not a Hindu, or “Why I Am Not a Christian”, etc.; replacing the word Muslim with the name of any other religious group. If I did not want to make the title sound negative, I could have made it something like “Why I Am an Atheist.” But since among the religions of the world, my least preference would be Islam, the religion of the Muslims, I thought the word “Muslim” would fit the title the best.
Looking at the world today from the perspective of a religion-neutral mind, Islam and Muslims champion what? 1) Justice and peace? No. 2) Science and technology? No. 3) Arts and culture? No. 5) Following religion without using brain? Yes. 6) Barbaric atrocities? Yes. 6) Terrorism? Yes. We can talk about more parameters and find that a really religion-neutral mind would have a lot of reasons to wish not to be a Muslim than to be a Muslim.
But, for the moment, let us set aside all the parameters that I have mentioned and hinted above, and see why someone is a Muslim. Actually, to not sound like I am criticizing mostly the Muslims, let us see why someone is a Christian. Of course, much of the rationale of the thought applies to all religious groups. I chose Christianity also because there is a lot of effort in the world for converting people to Christianity.
First and foremost, one is a Christian because his/her parents were Christians. It is not because he/she grew up learning about many different religions and nonreligious philosophies, and decided that Christianity was the only/best religion/philosophy that represented the truths about the source(s) of natural and supernatural forces. In spite of all the efforts for converting people to Christianity, the overwhelming majority of Christians are Christians by birth.
Now, let us talk about what makes the major religions, going alphabetically.
Buddhism: It is not about what is known as God. It is a philosophy of teaching people the right way of living. The icon of this religion is Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, who was a great philosopher/teacher, as opposed to being proclaimed as any kind of messenger/reincarnation of God.
Christianity: It is a monotheistic religion where a supreme authority, called God, is believed in. It is represented as the three expressions (Trinity) of God: the Father (God), the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (the divine wisdom). It is believed that Jesus came to Earth for spreading God’s messages, and for saving humans from the sins that they inevitably commit. Submission to the supreme power, God, along with believing in the Trinity, is the essence of this religion. As per this religion, based upon one’s degree of faith in God and upon the deeds done in life, God rewards and punishes people in life or afterlife.
Hinduism: There is a dispute on whether it is monotheistic or polytheistic. It involves three principal expressions of God: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer of evil). There are also numerous expressions of God, including any living and non-living thing in the universe. This religion also includes reincarnations of God on earth for protecting good and destroying evil. Hari, Ram and Krishna are the three principal reincarnations of God so far. Here, submission to God can be done via many of the options from the expressions and reincarnations of God. In a sense, if Christianity is a kingdom with a supreme ruler, Hinduisms is a parliamentary and bureaucratic system with many authorities. As per this religion, based upon one’s degree of faith in God and upon the deeds done in life, God rewards and punishes people in life or lives after death (rebirth on Earth).
Islam: It is a monotheistic religion where a supreme authority, called Allah, is believed in. Allah is the Arabic word for God, and the followers of Islam (the Muslims) widely use this word. Islam is a succession of the concept of Judaism and Christianity, with the additional firm proclamation that its prophet, Mohammad, is the last messenger from God. Submission to God, along with following the instructions from Mohammad, is the essence of this religion. The instructions from Mohammad include the messages that he brought from God as well as his own words. As per this religion, based upon one’s degree of faith in God, upon following the instructions from Mohammad, and upon the deeds done in life, God rewards and punishes people in life or afterlife.
So, we have three major religions, and many minor ones on Earth that believe in God and his/her/its messengers/reincarnations in many different ways.
Now, let us ask ourselves some questions with absolutely no malice toward any religion. Is there a supreme being called God? Is God one and only, or has many expressions? Is God present in all or in selective people/things on Earth? Is God male, female or neuter? Can God hear prayers? Does God want people to pray to him/her/it? Does God reward people for good deeds and punish people for bad deeds? Is there life after death? Do lives on Earth get reborn after death? Are there such places called heaven and hell for life after death?
We can go on and ask more questions about God, prayer, heaven, hell, etc. But let me express my concluding thoughts and ask my concluding question on the questions that I have asked above.
If we ask these questions to a wide variety of people, depending on who are answering, or on what kind of brainwash the answerers have grown up with, there would be more than one answer to each of the above questions. However, whether the answerer knows them or not, there are some absolute truths in the universe; and each of the above questions has one absolutely correct answer. The question is, are the universal truths dependent on what kind of parents (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc.) one had, or on what kind of brainwash one had? My answer to both parts of the question is, “obviously not.” What is your answer?
Based upon my answer to the concluding question, I do not see any justification for people to identify themselves in terms of religions. I do not see anyone finding any universal truth by converting from one religion to another. Thus, while I do not identify myself in terms of the religion that my parents identified with, I do not see any wisdom in taking up a different religion. If I were born from Muslim parents, my parents, family and community very likely would have made it much harder, if not impossible, for me to tell the world that I did not identify myself with Islam. Fortunately, I was not born from that kind of parents; and that is the real and practical reason for me to be not a Muslim.
Let me conclude by saying that I find it tremendously frustrating to see humans distancing themselves from other humans, humans hating other humans, and humans being so heartless and brutal to other humans for no real reason at all, for things that they really do not know. Of course, the unreal and unknown that I am talking about here are the religions. Religion-based hatred is such a shame for the most intelligent life form on Earth!
Sukhamaya Bain has been a US-based scientist, professor, government official and human rights activist. This article is dedicated to Avijit Roy, a remarkable free-thinker and human rights activist, and the founder of Mukto-Mona, who was recently brutally murdered in Bangladesh by suspected Islamic hate-criminals.