This is part of an email that I got because I subscribe to Atheist Republic. The reason I am sharing this story is because it shows how a person’s beliefs can lead them to suicide. I relate to this exactly because when I was a Christian I wanted to kill myself so that I could go to heaven. Apparently, the same problem can happen with Muslims.
“A personal message from Atheist Republic founder, Armin Navabi: When I was a young Muslim in the Islamic Republic of Iran, I became terrified of hell. I spent years trying to find a way to avoid going there. But what terrified me even more, was the thought of my mother going to hell because she did not pray five times a day like good Muslims were supposed to.
In our school, we were taught that if a boy dies before the age 15 (or a girl before the age of 9), he would enter heaven no matter what. In my mind, it was clear what I should do and was surprised no one else took advantage of this obvious loophole.
I jumped out the window at my school in an attempt to kill myself and enter heaven; I failed. I broke my wrist, both legs, and my back, and I ended up in wheelchair for seven months. After my failed attempt, and seeing what it did to my mother, I decided to just try to be a good Muslim. I became very religious and begged my parents to pray on a daily basis.
I started studying Islam in greater detail; the more I studied, the more questions I had and the more confused I got. I started questioning God’s judgment to send people to hell simply because they picked the wrong religion, and then I felt guilty for questioning God. But then, I convinced myself that studying the nature of God couldn’t be a bad thing. I decided to study religions other than Islam, even ancient, dead ones, to see what was so evil about them that the adherents should deserve eternal damnation.
The more I learned, the more it seemed possible that the whole thing could be a man-made concept. I was terrified about even letting that thought enter my mind. But it did. And I couldn’t take it back. I could feel the doors of hell opening right in front of me. I could feel God looking right into my thoughts. I could feel his disappointment. I felt like I let my best friend, my protector, my creator, down. I felt so ungrateful and even evil. But once the doubt started, I couldn’t stop it anymore. I kept thinking about the idea of religion being man-made and the more I did, the stronger my doubt got.
Eventually I decided that I needed to face all of it head-on. I knew God was real and there must be proof. I thought if I could find the proof, my faith would be stronger than ever. I started my hunt for evidence, or any logical reasoning for the existence of God, but I couldn’t find any. I grew desperate. I started praying, begging God to show me anything. A sign, a message, anything. My prayers were never answered.
By age 18, I had lost all my faith in God. I felt cheated, betrayed, fooled. I had sacrificed so much (almost my life) for a fairytale. I knew no one else who doubted God. Sometimes, I felt that maybe there was something wrong with my head. I thought, “Am I really that arrogant to think that I have discovered something that no one I knew had realized?” I wanted to let more people know about my lack of belief and the thought process that had led me to that conclusion.
I was becoming exceedingly lonely being an atheist in an Islamic country so I started a community about this topic on Orkut (a social media website that was popular in some countries before Facebook). I was surprised to see so many people joining the community and discussing the topic. I was so excited to find others like me. The idea of God not existing didn’t seem so crazy anymore. I wanted to reach out to more people, find more atheists, and discuss God and religion with anyone who was interested; more than that, I wanted people to see atheism as a legitimate option. It seemed unfair that people weren’t given a chance to choose.
I didn’t set out to convince people that God doesn’t exist, my aim was to let them know about the many people who didn’t believe in God, providing an invitation for them to explore such ideas if they were interested. But more than that, I wanted to create more communities for atheists like me, and make them feel less lonely and ashamed. I wanted them to know that not only are there others like them, but that there are people out there willing to listen, support and guide them.”