So yesterday in the class I asked my students what they thought of death, if they were afraid of it or not, and they all gave various replies. I didn’t bring up this morbid topic. One of them did.
Among my students some are deeply religious. One of them is very progressive. She’s always on my side on human rights issues, she’s a feminist, a genuine humanist, she’s an active reformist. She’s extremely intelligent. She’s extremely kind, very sensitive, all around one of the best people I have come across in my life and I have the utmost love and respect for her, and I feel privileged and honored to have known her. Also, she’s 18 years old, a freshman.
Among the others, I’m not so sure about their views, but all of them seem to be nice people and I love all of them deeply. I’m usually a very complicated person, but I always have strong emotional bonds with my students and my love for them is unconditional. I don’t know what about a classroom environment brings the non-misanthrope out of me, but it does, and I cherish the experience.
So, this particular student of mine said that she is afraid of death, because God has given her a clean soul, and she is afraid that she might have turned her soul “dark”, so she wouldn’t be worthy of Paradise when she dies.
I asked her why should your soul be dark, and she said she can’t know because she might have sinned in her thoughts.
One of the sweetest loveliest people I’ve known thinks her soul might be dark and is genuinely afraid of that. Someone who can’t hurt a fly. Someone extraordinarily free of all prejudice and even personal grudges. Someone who has shown nothing but kindness. But her shitty religion has such a long list of sins that she can’t confidently say to herself “no I’m not a sinner”.
She is a thoughtful girl, and many thoughts are sinful. She is a joyful girl, and Islam’s greatest foe is joy.
She should be proud of herself. She should be happy. She should revel in her own beauty – inner and outer. But no. She has to doubt herself. And she’s 18. She’s so young! She has to be preoccupied with her youthful things. If there’s a shitty Paradise, no one deserves to go there as much as she does.
That’s why I’m an antitheist. Islam at the end hasn’t done her much good. It’s not fundamentalism. It’s not radicalism. It’s not theocracy. It’s a basic idea that you have a soul and you have to keep it clean for Allah. Such a shitty disgusting idea.
And it also – I think – reveals the failure of people like Reza Aslan who claim antitheism is a position of hatred. I am angry at her religion not because it hurts others. It only hurts herself. She is tolerant. She is not only harmless, but greatly benevolent to other people. She’s the picture of a perfect religious person. Scratch that. She’s the embodiment of a perfect human being.
But her religion is not harmless. It harms her.
And I don’t hate her religion because I hate her. I hate her religion because I love her. I don’t hate her religion because she’s evil. I hate her religion because she’s good.
I don’t want to have a dialogue with her about her religion. I wish to (and I can’t) to argue her out of it. I wish she wasn’t religious. I wish I could tell her “There isn’t an iota of darkness in you, and even if you sin every waking moment of your life, as every human inevitably does according to this morbid religion glorifying morbidness, those sins make you more beautiful. Fuck God. He’s the dark one”.
But I can’t tell her that.
Because this is the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Maybe I wouldn’t be able to convince her. But I’m someone she looks up to and is very friendly with. She would benefit from hearing atheist arguments from someone like that, even if they don’t change her mind. But she can’t. Because I have to remain in the closet.
She would never know why I’m an antitheist. She would never know that “I’m an antitheist because of you, not because of fundamentalists. Because I hate to see you thinking about death. Because the happiness in your heart must be perfect.”