In this post I want to tell the story of how I finally evicted a belief that was overdue on rent . This belief was always compartmentalized as a touchy subject not in the sense that it was in a different magistrate but just the people I loved had this belief and I never had the courage to touch it or do my due diligence. I had the belief in my head and I often anticipated things based on it that never happened .
Upon reading the sequences, It started to seem to me that this was hilarious so I went on a quest of research, verification and thinking to see if it had any sense.It didn't it never actually did .
I was born and raised a Muslim not by my parents but by society and a school curricula of 4 hours a week of "Islamic Education" . In class other students who prayed and did their religious duty often told stories of how their parents taught them, mine weren't doing theirs my father was a biologist and geologist by training. He thought Biology and Geology at high-school for 10 years. We had scientific magazines at home, books and documentaries and dad's explanation every time I asked or someone else asked a question like how this particular pattern was formed, or what is the theory of evolution. We didn't care about the subject. Still the education of society, classmates was strict on the subject to a particular degree.
During Islamic Education classes I often asked questions about contradictory statements in the Quran or why something I find evil is asked to be done. Often the teacher's answer were you know mysterious . This didn't bother me at the start but after time and with my parents not caring but **still believing the belief** I just put it in a box . I would open it from time to time to use the **prayer tool** before an exam or when talking to others. Because this was a true subject to others when it was up for discussion. It's true It's in the holy book was the common answer.
When I started college I had 5 roommates they were all religious in their practice, praying 5 times a day at the exact time (on the call to prayer) and always discussing *hadiths*, *haram behavior seen in college* and many things. They never had a problem with me since they also were intellectually curious and liked it when I was explaining something . Our mutual respect and bond was based on our love for mathematics and physics. I forgot to add that before this time I tried praying, I never sensed anything in particular so I would stop and sometimes later pray ...
When I told them that I have prayed before but never sensed anything they told me that with time God blesses you and you'll start having *such feeling* . Unbeknown to me *confirmation bias* or any *bias* at all (my time spent was spent on computers) .
We split at the end of the year for some unrelated reasons, mostly circumstances. The belief still remained in that box, I believed because I was scared to not believe for a mysterious (map) reason . But now I opened the box, reevaluated the evidence may an update and evicted the belief. It was quite simple now because I had some Bayesian training although rookie but 3 points of bayesianjutsu is good enough in my environment . I looked at all the arguments and it always seemed that the strongest point was the divination of our holy book the Quran since it's the only book that never was corrupted. The Quran is considered the most superior thing because it's God's words .
Our holy book history is full of events that are often interpreted.I've never read it all until the past week with the lens of a critic highlighting and circling , acts considered as crimes actually to do that, anything from bad structural language to contradictions, repetitions and stories. Making a point at each one .
Interpretation in the form of "taffsir" the Arabic word for explanation is very common in Islam.Which makes it hard and difficult to hold an argument given how others can use the different interpretations to turn around the point.
Classes of Islamic Education taught us that the Quran was spoken from Gabriel to Mohammed in a cave during 23 years.They taught us that it was spoken in Arabic by Gabriel and God chooses it because it's his favorite language spoken by Mohammed his last prophet. 50 years after the death of the prophet it was collected by Uthman-Ibn' Aafan and made into the one we use today .When you'd ask how it wasn't edited we were told humans at that time had incredible memory just look at how these *hadiths* were remembered. Not evidence, just filler answers.I always suspected this but never made the effort to look nor was able to formulate arguments.
Actually the story is more complex, the book itself was edited over the course of 300 years and this was said by current equivalent of high priests"sheikhs" or "aalim" it means someone was devoted his life to Islamic study .Arabic as a language is complex there are is this thing called "chakel" which roughly means form, it's the symbols you find in any Arabic text above or below some letters it's guidance to how you spell the words. There is also points that are used to differ between similar letters so if you remove it then 2 letters become just one like the "ش" ,and it's sister "س" . The original Quran was said by critics to be a translation from a christian book of liturgical studies by Arius. A book written in Syriac a language similar in Arabic in form. But over the years a lot of things were added that reinforced it's Arabic origins and other fillers . In the text itself, there is a sentence "this text is written in Arabic" repeated 10 times , I've read a lot of books there was never any reference to the language it's written in , it's obvious .Back to languages, after the prophet died , 20 years later words were added that designated possession and some particular grammar of Arabic, 50 years later form was added to show how to read the words.
This practice of removing points, punctuation, form and filler letters is called filtering it's used to study the book in it's so called original format. It's often dismissed by some scholars as an act of modification.
Now this would always be given the benefit of the doubt, but you have to understand that the Quran is confusing by itself the Arabic used is of poor structure,and often vague. There are over 200,000 thousands books and volumes dedicated to explaining the Quran with more than 300 different interpretations for the same verse.
The Syriac words present in the text like ,"سارية"~ sarya, in the verse that tells the story of Mary and says "the one coming below you is sarya" in the Arabic definition of origin it means river but in the context of the story it means nothing more than 200 interpretations are present that say it means generous or good . Actually the Syriac meaning of the word is "not a bastard or legitimate". The word "نصرة" points to Christians in the Quran. This was a Syriac word not present in any other language.
Some words are without Arabic definition simply like " طود " spelled "Tod" which is defined in **modern** Arabic (added to the language in the late 13th century) as mountain but the word is only mentioned once in the book in the story of the Exodus and describes the act of Moses splitting the sea to two parts that rose like a mountain. A similar word mentioned 10 times within the same context is "طور" spelled "Tor" of Syriac origin in spelling and meaning (mountain) "طور ". This made me think of the possibility of an actual typo.
There are many other words, a huge number of them that are Syriac but were later added to Arabic.Some words such as "Kawthar" with an entire surat has no meaning neither in Arabic or Syriac or any language, a prominent Muslim scholar Ibn Al Naqib gave 26 different interpretations of it .
Later after Mohammed's death more verses were removed or added one particular verse describes the act of "stoning" that was removed after Mohammed's death (according to scholars) because it was God's decision when he sent a goat that ate parts of the Quran during the prophet's funeral, the stoning verse was later added by Omar Ibn Al Khattab a prominent friend "sahabi" who is for sure going to heaven according to Islam. Omar's argument was "Mohammed stonned and we stonned after him" this is present in a *hadith*, a hadith is a quote or word of wisdom that was spoken by Mohammed or one of his 10 friends called "sahaba" .
The word Quran isn't Arabic it's derived from Qurian a Syriac word meaning the book of liturgical reading.
A lot of the stories in the book aren't Muslim or Arab at all .The story of Gog and Mahgog or Noah and the boat a story from Sumerian 1600 B.C.E . One story popular among those who say Islam is a religion of good is that of the two brothers Cain and Abel where the famous line occurs "he who kills one soul is like killing all of humanity..." a story with origins in a Jewish text "Mishnah Sanhedrin" . A striking one is a story taken from Targum of Esther that was translated to a king Salomon and a queen Saba with a weird difference instead of a Red-cock in Targum the Quran speaks of a Lapwing.
A lot is to be told, there could be volumes written about these discrepancies alone but the beliefs of Islam in my society are stronger than those in Western countries here people die according to these rules, to criticize is blasphemy punished by jail (we were colonized by France which left a bit of western modernism thankfully so we don't get executed usually) .
This and a series of research I found and thought about made me kick off the belief officially and wear a silly invisible hat to deal with society for the time being where I respond with "Bless you", "God's will" and other relics of language that I found hard to drop but pretty useful as social skills. A lot of people don't practice the religion per say but their beliefs about it remain strong, the language we use to describe things often includes "God's will", "Maktoub" ...
My religion sums up to nothing but interpretations, and myths the book is filled with intimidation and seduction in the same sexists contexts of women, virgins and rivers of red wine. The language used in every page of the book includes intimidation with "Hell","Torment in a grave" and seduction "Wives", "Slaves" in a sexual context and Heaven.
Society is often deceived by the anti-thesis in the text, such as if you pick an act considered barbaric the other will pick a line that says it's not. They can't see the book with a critical lens because it's taught ,we get beaten in class if we don't recite the Quran), that it's perfect and no one is allowed to criticize. The book itself describes the critics as people who should be punished.
I now can't fathom the idea of God or Islam anymore to me the remaining questions that held the belief in my mind were completely destroyed the belief or it's remains was evicted and it's time to evict others.
Thanks to Eliezer, Luke and lesswrong essays who pushed me to see my biases and be curious and more importantly to school myself.
Now be careful, and don't get killed by stupid people.
I notice some similarities between what you wrote, and what other people wrote about similar experiences. You focus on technical details that don't fit. It makes sense, of course, if the discussed text is supposed to be flawless. But it means that you are still at the beginning on the long way out of religion. You don't believe it, but you still kinda respect it. I mean, you consider those technical details worthy of your time and attention.
Imagine that we would be discussing some other religion, e.g. Hinduism. And I would say that the 1234th word in the Whatever Veda could not be original, because it contains a consonant that didn't exist thousands of years ago. You would probably feel like "yeah, whatever, who cares about a consonant; the whole story about blue people with four arms leading armies of 10^10 monkeys from other planets is completely ridiculous!" At the end of the road, you may feel the same about the religion you grew up with. The technical details that now seem important to you will feel unimportant compared with the utter falseness of the whole thing.
I think that the important thing to see the big picture is reductionism. Like, let's not talk about the holy texts and evidence; instead tell me what is your God composed of. Is it build of atoms? Of something else, e.g. some mysterious "spiritual atoms"? When it becomes angry or happy, does it literally have such hormones in its bloodstream? When it thinks or remembers, are its "spiritual neurons" exchanging the "spiritual atoms"? Hey, I am not denying your God, I am actually eager to listen to your story about it... as long as you can focus on the technical details and keep making sense. I want to have a sufficiently good model of your God so that I could build one in my laboratory (given enough resources, hypothetically).
And here is when people jump to some bullshit. The Christian version is like "He is not made of ordinary matter; He is outside of the universe", and I am like: okay, let's talk about the non-ordinary matter that His non-ordinary neurons and non-ordinary brain are built of, in His reality-outside-the-universe. But, you know, to be able to think or feel, there needs to be some kind of metabolism -- even if it's a 13-dimensional metabolism built from dark matter -- right? Then the more sophisticated crap is like "but actually God is the most simple possible thing" or something like that, and I am like: dude, just read something about Kolmogorov komplexity, and come back when you realize how ridiculous you sound.
Of course, such complicated dialogs only happen in my imagination :D because... in real life, when you start asking questions, the typical answer is just "this is all very mysterious stuff that humans like us can't even begin to understand", and it doesn't go far beyond that. Also "read these thousand books, they contain answers to all your questions" (spoiler: they don't; this is just an attempt to make you tired and give up).
For most people, however, religion is not about making sense. It is about belonging to a community. If they start doubting it, they will feel alone. Humans have a desire to associate with those who "believe" the same things. It is unfortunate that sometimes the fairy tales they associate around compel them to do horrible things...
Spot on the last part, my entourage mostly focuses on the belonging part,especially my parents . The reason I started at looking at the text is because I went down the road of what Luke discussed in his presentation "Why the new atheist failed" I wanted to seek the strongest argument of the opposing part that can be criticized without falling in the mysterious loop of what is God or how does he exist. That's why I took my time to do this research not because of respect to the religion but because I needed to have some kind of argument that fits the usual discussions I often have with others. I haven't read the reductionism sequence in the sense that I have a technical understanding of it. My personal atheism story was really built from what the last part of the sequences discuss I.e can you start thinking about religion or god without being taught directly, to be honest I started loosing the respect of belief along reading the sequences which was the most enlightening experience I've had in my whole life. I can't praise this community works in the sequences or the posts enough, really. Thanks for the feedback, the way you formulated some questions is quite interesting.
This is a very interesting essay, thank you for sharing.
I too evicted long-held beliefs which had low-priors and poor evidence only after reading the sequences. It was scary at first, but very time I have found a better map leads to an easier life.