Another Evening with Ex-Religionists

A few months ago, I spent a very interesting evening listening to Ex-Muslims recount their story. I actually made two friends from the panellists and learnt a lot from their narratives. I am a believer in the Quran and its divine origin and I stand for the Ex-Muslims freedom of conscience. To me, they should be free to believe in any path they choose for howsoever long they choose and for whatever reason they choose. It is their lives and no one should have a say in it. Instead, they should be supported in transitioning to whatever their new identity is.

Tonight’s event with a lot wider that just Ex-Muslims though. There was one Ex-Muslim on the panellist of speakers but really, not quite (I’ll get to that later). The rest were Ex-New Ager, Ex-Catholic, Ex-Jehovah’s Witness and Ex-Hindu. Quite a mix indeed. The evening opened with an officer of the Atheists and Secular Humanists society, introducing the programme. I particularly appreciated his nuanced wording, claiming that various strains in religious traditions had negative elements. I appreciated this because discerning analysis helps get to the truth of the matter. While there are strains in various traditions which are oppressive (like Islamofascism), there are also strains which counter oppression.

My friend Imtiaz then took over as host/mc. Imtiaz has been instrumental in getting the ‘Faith to Faithless’ concept off the ground and it has been growing from strength. The speakers then took turns delivering their stories.

I am deeply sympathetic with the violence suffered by these Ex-Religionists. The violence came in the physical form but also mental and emotional. Some are driven by guilt to embrace their faith. Others by social pressure. Some had to suffer abuse from their own parents. Others faced social and ethical dilemma. It could not have been easy and I am happy that these individuals found paths which feels right for them.

Now comes the not so supportive part…

This evening, however connective it was on a human level, did not provide sound critiques of religion and theism. Yes we can see how people of religion ultimately drove their own away from various faiths but religionists could easily reply that there are many strains in each religious tradition. Adding their personal narratives into the act of leaving merely gives religionists the excuse to say ‘ah see, they suffered traumas. This is why they left’. It connects us to their struggle, yes but it also gives the religionists a good counter argument.

The next issue is using people who were not quite of a particular faith. The Ex-Muslim guy, as it turns out, only left Islam because his Christian mother drove him away from it. In all fairness, this is not a strong reason at all and I wonder why this person was chosen. Nevertheless, he did give some theological reasons about the Biblical God but he did not show that he went into it in any great depth. Perhaps it was time limit.

The Ex-Catholic woman talked about her social experiences but also her theological and ethical dilemma. There were some issues raised but she did not disclose any kind of discussion from the point of view of her opponents. Yes she said that she did not understand why God needed to die for our sins but is it not important to know the answers from various quarters. Same with her ethical dilemmas.  The Ex-Hindu chap also raised some salient points about the social structures within Hinduism but failed to mention the mystical and socially democratizing movements as well.


Surely it is important to analyse the variety of answers as well. I’m not saying that one needs any kind of reason to disbelieve. I support any kind of reason as long as it is that person’s choice. I just think stronger cases could have been made if these folks delved more deeply into theology and philosophy of religion.