I keep up with praying five times a day

 
Irfan
 
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Irfan
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03 September 2016 11:03
 

Hello folks,
I keep up with praying five times a day in order to function, but I have my insecurities about ending up embracing the controversial parts of Islam as I dig deeper. Do you guys have any advice for me? How do I get myself out of it while still being able to function? FYI, I did read The End of Faith by Sam Harris!

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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Dennis Campbell
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03 September 2016 14:36
 
Irfan - 03 September 2016 11:03 AM

Hello folks,
I keep up with praying five times a day in order to function, but I have my insecurities about ending up embracing the controversial parts of Islam as I dig deeper. Do you guys have any advice for me? How do I get myself out of it while still being able to function? FYI, I did read The End of Faith by Sam Harris!

Stop praying and start thinking, questioning, examining with skepticism; not accepting religious leader’s pronouncements without challenge and other such uncomfortable efforts.  It is much easier in the short term to just let someone else, not any god, just someone else, tell you how to live.  Will also assure that you’ll be attacked by former friends and associates.  Welcome to our club.

 
 
Irfan
 
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Irfan
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03 September 2016 15:17
 

Thanks friend. It always feels good at the level of my brain to be on this website, it all makes so much sense. Anyways, Islamic burial rites don’t make sense to me. I plan on donating my whole body for research and would like what remains to be cremated, without religious rites of any kind. Also, I am currently attending St. George’s University, a medical school in the Caribbean, trying to focus in my studies and keep coming back to this website for guidance. I have also started making donations here. I occasionally find myself performing the Islamic prayer though. I also imitated Sam and made my own blog: http://www.irfansamad.net. That reminds me of a hadith/idea seared onto my brain right now: “Those who imitate the kuffar is one of them”, LOL!

[ Edited: 03 September 2016 15:20 by Irfan]
 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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03 September 2016 15:43
 

Read philosophy and comparative religion stuff and the mystics.  Very few seekers (and others) who have had what they consider or assume or KNOW is an encounter with God, do not come away from the experience saying, “I know now that God is hate, anger, misery, injustice and chaos.”

Of course, some people, given their temperament, mental stability, culture, life experiences,, period in which they live or lived, and the consequences of political/religious indoctrination may witness a violent, aggressive, and retaliatory deity (like the God of the Old Testament and the God described in specific parts of the Qur’an), but the great majority of people, from many different times and cultures, experience the attributes of God as love, peace, forgiveness, etc.

Seems to me that you have a longing for God, but it makes sense to try to enlarge your understanding of the mysterious I AM that has been revealed throughout history and try to find the common thread, that runs through all of them, instead of looking at the world from one angle.  This doesn’t mean you have to abandon Islam because, like Christianity, there are many different branches with many different interpretations of spiritual teachings, but you should choose the one that resonates in your heart and elicits the best in you.  Whether people are atheists or theists,  there are values that 95% of all humanity shares:.courage, compassion, generosity,  forgiveness, and service to those in need, etc.  These virtues don’t have to be explained…their beauty is inherent in them.  As I said, theism is not a prerequisite; atheists hold them in just as high esteem as theists. 

I totally agree with Dennis’s post….the brain has to be involved in your decision, as well.  If God exists or whether God doesn’t exist,, thinking and conscious awareness is what separates us from every other species and it is, in my opinion, an affront to the Universe and the process of evolution to disregard its potential power to liberate us, at least in some degree, from a life ruled by our instincts. 

Intellectually, I am a theist and an atheist on alternate weeks, but as Pascal wrote, “The heart has its reasons that the reason knows not of” and.in the depth of my being, I know that God, if He/She/It exists, resides in goodness and beauty.  That is my faith.

So…I shall leave you with a poem that I have always liked…..


.“Let there be many windows to your soul,
That all the glory of the universe
May beautify it. Not the narrow pane
Of one poor creed can catch the radiant rays
That shine from countless sources. Tear away
The blinds of superstition; let the light
Pour through fair windows broad as Truth itself
And high as God.

Why should the spirit peer
Through some priest-curtained orifice, and grope
Along dim corridors of doubt, when all
The splendor from unfathomed seas of space
Might bathe it with the golden waves of Love?
Sweep up the debris of decaying faiths;
Sweep down the cobwebs of worn-out beliefs,
And throw your soul wide open to the light
Of Reason and of Knowledge. Tune your ear

To all the wordless music of the stars
And to the voice of Nature, and your heart
Shall turn to truth and goodness, as the plant
Turns to the sun. A thousand unseen hands
Reach down to help you to their peace-crowned heights.
And all the forces of the firmament
Shall fortify your strength. Be not afraid
To thrust aside half-truths and grasp the whole.”

 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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03 September 2016 16:20
 

If you find yourself uncomfortable with what is written in a holy book or taught to you by religious teachers/friends, listen to your own wisdom.  Who knows?  Maybe that is the “still, small voice” of God, as it is described in the Bible. 

I find it interesting that various religions emphasize different aspects of our nature.  Islam seems to emphasize obedience.  And yes, obedience is important in many situations in life.  But obedience to rules that do not sit right in your heart—maybe having a beard fits in this category for you—is blocking understanding of a larger truth.

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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03 September 2016 18:18
 
hannahtoo - 03 September 2016 04:20 PM

If you find yourself uncomfortable with what is written in a holy book or taught to you by religious teachers/friends, listen to your own wisdom.  Who knows?  Maybe that is the “still, small voice” of God, as it is described in the Bible. 

I find it interesting that various religions emphasize different aspects of our nature.  Islam seems to emphasize obedience.  And yes, obedience is important in many situations in life.  But obedience to rules that do not sit right in your heart—maybe having a beard fits in this category for you—is blocking understanding of a larger truth.

 

Your post elicited a thought…..

My understanding is that the emphasis in Islam is on “surrender” or “submission”, which is slightly different than “obedience”, don’t you think?

I am not sure.  I guess it is a moot point.  If you are obedient or surrender or submit to your (or others)  interpretation of God which is derived from Scripture, you can end up a murderer or a saint, which, of course, is understood differently, as well.  Those whom we consider terrorists, are in their own eyes, martyrs.

I remember Burt saying that there are something like 8 levels of understanding in the Qur’an, each interpretation dependent on one’s level of spiritual maturity.  I suppose the same is true of the Bible.  “Resurrection” can mean a number of things to different people, although it doesn’t always matter in terms of personal behavior.  However, as we all are quite aware,  it often matters A GREAT DEAL.  For example, the word “Jihad” can be understood to mean either a literal struggle against unbelievers or a spiritual struggle within oneself against sin. Of course, the same is true of various Christian terms, which resulted in the Inquisition, burning witches and slaying “heathens”.

 

 

[ Edited: 03 September 2016 18:30 by saralynn]
 
Ola
 
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Ola
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04 September 2016 03:11
 
Irfan - 03 September 2016 11:03 AM

Hello folks,
I keep up with praying five times a day in order to function, but I have my insecurities about ending up embracing the controversial parts of Islam as I dig deeper. Do you guys have any advice for me? How do I get myself out of it while still being able to function? FYI, I did read The End of Faith by Sam Harris!

What is it that you get from these prayers that enables you to function? What roles (or roles) is it actually playing in your day/life? You don’t have to answer here if you don’t want to, you can answer just to yourself if you prefer—perhaps by examining the motivations and pay-offs involved you will see what is holding you back from simply ceasing the activity immediately.

There is loads of advice around the web on how to break addictive habits such as smoking, drinking, overeating, nail-biting, you name it! Perhaps some of it will help in this case too, as rituals are in the same vein.

One way of changing a habit is to replace it with another (more beneficial, ideally! but at the very least distracting) activity.

Have you considered non-religious meditation? Maybe instead of a prayer session you could try some simple relaxation/focus meditation, and Sam Harris includes a couple in his podcast collection. Right at the beginning, his first two podcasts when I downloaded the “waking up with Sam Harris” series, were two short meditation exercises. I really recommend giving it a go.

[ Edited: 04 September 2016 04:01 by Ola]
 
Ola
 
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04 September 2016 03:47
 

Sara Lynn,

It’s interesting that you sense a longing for God in Irfan’s posts. I don’t. I sense a longing to be free of religion, but a background of religion that is holding him back. I can relate very much with that, so perhaps I’m just seeing what I want to see.

In my case, any longing for God can just as easily be described as longing for (inner) peace, longing for simplicity(lack of chaos), longing for truth, longing for direction, longing for stability, longing for insight, and nostalgia for a time when I once believed that God was real and that faith could provide peace etc.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-


  I’m atheist now, but in my atheist state I have occasionally had conversations with God. I don’t mean the time I shouted at him to make the computer and printer get unbroken. (Tsk, he didn’t, but maybe he was sulking because of all the profanity I accidentally used). I mean on a deeper level, when I spoke quietly with deepest truth to him and he spoke right back, immediately, with a clear truth. 

How to explain that….oh, I have some explanations…none of them would tempt me back to any religion! Religion might be the easiest way for an undeveloped brain (please note: not meant as a slur to the brain, merely depicting a child’s brain, or a mind that is only beginning its journey to trying to understand life) to get in touch with ultimate truths, but very quickly religion becomes an obstacle to finding out anything worthwhile.

When I read Irfan’s posts, it strikes me that he has discovered this for himself, and is trying to release himself from the sticky web. In my case, a few godly people taught me that Jesus says we can’t ever be non-christian or atheist, all we can be is bad christians, very very bad christians, and you get extra hellfire for that. It’s something that still nags me decades after I rejected all their other stupid ideas, no matter how much I can see it for what it is - gross manipulation. Religion is mean like that. Abusive, even.

Anyway, if people can find some spiritual connection with a god without getting trapped in someone else’s idea of how many prayers need to be said in a week or whether prawns can be eaten on a Wednesday, then good for them. When you find yourself codded into obeying someone else’s rules like that though, and you’re aware of it, that’s your wake up call—it’s time to get out. And the good news is: The wake up call is half the work done.

[ Edited: 04 September 2016 04:02 by Ola]
 
hannahtoo
 
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04 September 2016 05:28
 

There is a type of person who values and desires obedience/submission.  It is seen as a worthy, noble sacrifice.  Many soldiers fall into this category, and there is an element of this in other in service work, like nursing, teaching, fire fighting, social services, disaster relief, etc.  The goal is selflessness, and finding a cause to subsume them.

 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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04 September 2016 07:02
 

Ola,

Without a doubt, I was projecting the God-hungry side of my personality onto Irfan by interpreting his desire to pray 5 times a day as an indication that he found something valuable in the process.  However, if this compulsion has its origin in fear, then that is a different story entirely.  Then, instead, his appeals to God are not lifting him up, but chaining him to the ground. 

My understanding of the 5x per day obligation is that it serves to remind the petitioner to lift his or her eyes away from the earth and upwards toward the sky, where God symbolically resides.  I assume that this is quite to similar to the morning and evening prayers that Christians used to recite in the past.

Of course, this ritual also reinforces the doctrines that the Christian or Islamic practitioner is supposed to accept without question.  As such, it is an effective method of indoctrination.  Ask Donald Trump.  Don’t we all want to “Make America Great Again?”

I think my nostalgia for religion stems from the fact that I grew up in the 1950’s, which was a time when the best Christian principles were replayed over and over again in movies, television shows, books, and magazines, even when Jesus wasn’t specifically even mentioned.  We were constantly exposed to childish and simplistic morality plays, all of which ended with truth and justice and kindness prevailing and the bad guys being led off the stage in unrepentant anger or in tears of shame.  These stories ranged from Superman to Father Knows Best to Lassie. 

What’s more…. almost EVERYONE in our culture thought Jesus was a total and complete good guy. Obviously,  ALL people did not hold this view, but the values of the washed and unwashed masses reflected our adoration of the goodness of God, who, in our case, was Jesus. .  i should also add that the political climate was one in which religious dissent was the equivalent of treason.

I grew up in a secular family with a father who mocked religion (especially Catholicism), but his ranting did not undermine my belief that Jesus was a hero. He was the blonde haired-blue-eyed heart throb who lectured about love and peace and forgave those “who knew not what they did”, even when they were gleefully nailing him to a cross. Then he died and then came the happy ending.

Fortunately, I did not attend church, so I didn’t learn anything about original sin or the trinity or if you didn’t believe in Jesus or masturbated you’d go to Hell. I was only acquainted with the Jesus of the mass media.

I will confess that I miss my Jesus and have spent most of my life trying to solve the riddle and mystery of God or Not-God.  Of course my speculations about the God-That-May or-May-Not -Exist” are more mature and well-educated, but it boils down to the same thing…“Is there a transcendent or immanent or multidimensional reality that co-exists with the “material world” (which isn’t really THAT material) and, if so, is that transcendent reality benevolent or indifferent or personal or abstract or capable of being understood intellectually/”

As I said, my faith in “The God that May or May Not Be” wavers, but, at this point, I just rest in a sort of quiet hope that the God of my childhood, whom I still revere (and not because I wish to go to Heaven)  may exist in some incomprehensible form and that, on an ultimate, universal level, my desire to transcend my biological heritage is meaningful on a spiritual or an evolutionary level….(which suggests a teleology of some sort) and I can spend my final years on earth “being” and “trusting” and “lying on my back in the grass”: instead of thinking thinking thinking about ultimate questions which are unanswerable.  The best I can do is share my understanding of what God “isn’t” rather than what God “is”.  For this, atheists can be very helpful.

 

[ Edited: 04 September 2016 07:06 by saralynn]
 
hannahtoo
 
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04 September 2016 13:24
 

I think that the specific words that are being prayed 5 times per day are key.  Ritualized repetition is a means of becoming.