I’ve always found myself feeling awkward or out of place when it comes to discussions of faith and religion. Growing up, I remember despising going for classes at the madrasah, a school for Muslim children to learn about Islam, because I disagreed with what they thought, or picked at their logic. I rebelled because I didn’t understand the rules that were enforced. I didn’t like being controlled for no reason.

As I grew older, my mother slackened her grip. I was no longer asked to attend the madrasah. I wasn’t forced to pray, either. In fact, life became pretty smooth. I understood that my mother drew her strength from faith and she understood that I didn’t have that driving force. We came to a mutual agreement. I’m glad my mother was open-minded enough to accept that. I know it’s challenging for parents to realize their children don’t believe in something as fundamental as God, especially when religion means so much to them.

 I studied philosophy in college and got the opportunity to go study the ideas of faith. It was interesting because I could discuss faith in a more academic context. I could talk about what faith means to people, and understand the power of belief. It helped me open my mind to how faith could help people. Faith provided a lot of answers to unanswerable questions.

Thing is, I never really had a strong sense of belief.

The answers to the universe, for me, didn’t lie in God. Answers were waiting to be found by us. I regard the existence of God in an abstract, philosophical way. I see God as a being that may or may not exist, but one that doesn’t directly influence my life, or the lives of others. I find it hard to imagine that in a universe so large, I can be sentenced to eternal torment on a set of arbitrary morals and values. 

I realized that my feelings could be categorized under the umbrella term of “irreligion”, which broadly refers to the absence, indifference, or rejection of religion. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – academic studies have taken a look at this growing population. A paper even suggests devising new methods to address this population of irreligious people. People who don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. 

I had family members that did not like Islam. I knew people that were against it due to its rigid structure, or because they believed it had flawed belief systems. I had friends that loathed the concept of religion itself. Any time we discussed it, I felt out of place in those spaces, too. I couldn’t understand the hatred for something that dominated a large part of humanity. I understand its flaws, yes, but I couldn’t sympathize with the hatred behind it. Religion does play a big part in culture, too. It did influence who I am today and I do accept that Islam is a part of my upbringing. My experiences, my worldview, exists because of it. 

I recently had a conversation with my grandmother about religion.

She asked me how the universe was made. I explained the Big Bang theory. She asked me how life was possible. I talked about chance and evolution. She asked me how the world is so perfect for us. I said it was because we evolved in it. It wasn’t made for us. We adapted to it. That’s why we’re here. Finally, she asked me what gave me strength. Here, I faltered. I never really thought about it. What did drive me, what convinced me to keep going? For my grandmother, it was her faith in God.

For me, I guess I have to say it’s faith in myself. It’s faith in humankind to keep discovering new answers. It’s the fact that we have so much left to see and discover. What drives me is sheer curiosity. I have to see how things turn out. I have to see what happens next. 

Do I believe in God? A powerful figure that is both benevolent and cruel, that judges us on arbitrary ‘sins’? No, I do not.

Do I believe in God? A being that may have had a part to play in the creation of the universe? I can’t answer that because I don’t know.

We can run circles around God’s existence for centuries. Honestly, I’m happy discovering the truth later. I don’t mind waiting for answers. 

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  • Natalia Ahmed

    Natalia Nazeem Ahmed is a budding writer and editor with a BA from Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts in Pune, India, with a major in English Literature and a double minor in Philosophy and Film Studies. An avid reader, her goal is to build a career out of her fiction and non-fiction writing. In her spare time, she loves to knit for her loved ones.