My atheism is what led to my feminism, in ways I never quite realized until now. When I was a practicing Muslim, I was still very much bounded by the limitations that Islam puts on feminism. I knew that I was equal to men – this was a message I had heard many times, but then I had also been told that there was a limit to how equal to men I could be. So I was equal, but men were still superior in certain ways – like physically. I was equal but only in so far as the glass is only ever half full. Equal parts empty, equal parts full, and the empty portion was for me. Equal, but empty.
My atheism allowed me to not always feel this obligation to reconcile my religion with my feminism, I was finally free to be as feminist as I wished to be. I no longer had to convince anyone that I believed men’s needs come before mine, even though I believe in my equality as well. I no longer had to temper with the idea of equality, no longer had to believe that I was only ever as equal as a man decided I was. I no longer felt obligated to pursue that equality by maintaining my “modesty”. I realized that I was worthy of all the respect, even if I did not maintain my “modesty”. My atheism allowed me to acknowledge the misogyny of my religion, and it felt incredibly liberating to see the misogyny for what it was. I knew now that the concept of protection in religion sees me as a possession rather than as an individual person with individual needs, that the concept of protecting women was less as an assertion of my value and more and affirmation for the egos of men. When I left religion, feminism no longer had to mean that I was some delicate pearl who had to be protected by a man.
When I left religion, feminism meant that I am my own goddamn hero. I knew now that I am the hero of my story, I don’t need to be saved. Leaving religion also meant knowing that being a woman, I did not have to punished with pregnancy for having sex. That there were myriad of ways I could protect myself from that. I realized that my ability to be pregnant did not necessarily mean I deserved shaming for having sex. I realized that my menstruation cycles did not make me any less of a person, it did not make me dirty, oh and it definitely did not mean I could not have sex.
Leaving religion and getting out of that purgatory was the single best decision I ever made. My feminism no longer comes with a set of caveats. It is uncompromising, brave and relentless. I feel free. And none of this would have been possible had I not left religion.