14

I was born in a Muslim conservative family in Pakistan. I was taught Islam in my childhood. After growing up, I saw things differently. There was contradictions in all religious books, practices and theory. I believe in God but I deny all the religions. I think, they are social constructions to control people like all other philosophical debates. I cannot ask questions in my own country because there is zero tolerance for this type of discussions. I am totally confused. What I believe, what I see, what I practice and what I write, everything is contradictory. I think I am turning into a nihilist. I want to know, if any person feels the same?

7
  • 15
    Many people feel the same. You're right, though, that it's incredibly hard to discuss certain ideas in some environments. In many Muslim countries, it's downright dangerous to even say you're no longer a Muslim, and other religions still have little pockets where it can ruin your life to try to leave your religion. If you have a deep desire to talk about this stuff in safety, doing it anonymously online is your safest option - get yourself a VPN and some internet friends. I wish you the best brother.
    – TKoL
    Jan 18 at 10:01
  • 7
    It is possible to believe in God and not in "religions"; see Theism. The struggle to separate the two in the Western world needed a lot of time and sufferings... see e.g. Girodano Bruno, Michael Servetus, Spinoza. Jan 18 at 10:07
  • 2
    @Nihilist When browsing the questions and answers on this blog you will see that on this platform any questions and comments are welcome which relate to philosophy. For some help concerning the expected form of question see the help center philosophy.stackexchange.com/help.
    – Jo Wehler
    Jan 18 at 10:22
  • 4
    If you see contradictions in all religious texts, what is your belief in God based on? There are plenty of people who concluded that religious texts aren't justified and ended up as atheists, although plenty of people also remain unaffiliated or non-denominational theists. You can probably find plenty of resources and communities for either. I hear good things about Recovering from Religion. It's not uncommon to lose hope after realising a big part of your life is based on falsehoods, but there is plenty of hope and joy to be found outside religion.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 18 at 16:45
  • 1
    You are not at all alone and it's perfectly normal to stop believing in Islam (or any other religion), contrary to what Pakistani society is trying to convince you to believe. I suggest taking a look at the ex-Muslim reddit. There are also ex-Muslim organizations where you can find people with a similar experience to yours. The Ex-Muslims of North America is one, I don't know if there is such an active organization in Pakistan. You absolutely can find people with the same experience, and even from the same country, online if you want to talk to like-minded people. Good luck. Jan 19 at 13:52

7 Answers 7

6

We are all raised into some belief, whether intentionally or not. Society is built upon mutual shared assumptions about the world around us and our place in it. As we grow, it is up to each of us to determine for ourselves which things we will belief, and whether any of that can come from the society or the lessons we learned as children. Also, be sure to note that there is a difference between the things people actually believe and practice and the things which they claim that they believe or use to justify their actions.

No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to devise a system which cannot be exploited by people who do not genuinely seek the well-being of others, and even if they do, those ideas of what is good for you may or may not line up with what you value. In the end, you are going to adopt some sets of beliefs about the world, whether or not it includes a deity or an immutable source of truth. So, simply rejecting all "religions" gets you no closer to the truth and no closer to solving your confusion. Nihilism doesn't really help in that it doesn't have any greater claim to truth than any other belief system. It's just one more among many. Blindly running toward Nihilism, Solipsism, or any other -ism is not likely to be productive. There's contradictions with Nihilism, too.

Ultimately, you have three choices. One is to go back to your previous beliefs and then work backwards from there removing the contradictions. The second is to run blindly from all of it and find yourself running into something else at random (Nihilism, Solipsism, Hedonism, etc.) where there's likely to be more problems. Finally, the remaining choice is to do the very hard work of going back to first principles and trying to figure out what it is that you need and how it is that you can get it. I recommend the third option. It's too hard for most people, but if you can't do the first, then it's at least better than the second. This is the work of philosophy.

1
  • Im pleased that the OP (@Nihilist) has changed the selected answer to this much more balanced answer
    – Rushi
    Jan 20 at 17:39
12

I disagree with your self-assessment. You seem to have a clear idea of what you believe.

  1. You believe in "god". You think that there is some great power in the universe (or of the universe). That is a reasonable thing to believe. Billions of people share this belief in one way or another.

  2. You don't believe in "religions". What this probably means is that you reject those religions that you know best. And the religions you know best are Islam, (and Christianity Hinduism and Judaism?). This is also a reasonable thing, and presents no contradiction with point 1. It is quite possible for "god" to exist and for Islam to be wrong about god.

This is all fine and perfectly clear. You then make an incorrect jump in your reasoning:

What I believe, what I see, what I practice and what I write, everything is contradictory.

This is not correct, or at least you haven't presented any evidence for it. What you say you believe is consistent. What you write is consistent. If what you see is contradictory, this is outside of yourself and is not a problem.

I think I am turning into a nihilist

You have not presented any evidence of that. You have described a consistent set of beliefs. Nihilism is about denying that belief is possible.

You write as if becoming a nihilist is some kind of transformation into a monster! You write as if you have no control over it. And you write as if becoming a nihilist is some kind of personal disaster. None of this is correct.

  1. Nihilism is just another philosophical position. You can consider it and accept or reject it.
  2. You have the ability to choose to reject it. It isn't a disease. You can change your mind at any time.
  3. If you do choose to be a nihilist, you can still be a good person in the eyes of others. You just choose to believe that knowledge is impossible and that life is meaningless. Nihilists are still able to be happy and to make others happy.
8
  • 1
    Good reasoned arguments. The last 3. point has an even stronger contrapositive: And if you "get saved" from being a nihilist and believe something or other super fervently, you could very well do very evil things
    – Rushi
    Jan 18 at 20:19
  • "What you say you believe is consistent" - I didn't interpret them saying what they believe, say, etc. is contradictory as meaning what's in this question specifically is contradictory, but rather that their beliefs more generally are contradictory. This seems especially likely given that a few sentences earlier they talk of contradictions in religious books. So I don't think we're in a position to say they're incorrect about their evaluation of what they themselves believe, and we should probably just take them at their word for that. You seem a bit quick to assert what others believe.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 18 at 20:59
  • 1
    Nihilism is a family of views. It's broader than just denying that belief is possible. A more common interpretation is that of life being meaningless. You also can't just freely choose what you believe, as you seem to suggest. If someone's interpretation of the evidence suggests that belief is impossible or life is meaningless, they'd be compelled to believe that to be the case. That's how belief works. If you think you can choose your beliefs, try to choose to believe that the Earth is pyramid-shaped or that gravity doesn't exist.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 18 at 20:59
  • @NotThatGuy I believe in God is literally in the question. I don't believe in religion while not a literally present sentence, certainly seems to be the pervading mood. All that James is adding is Yeah.. Right! Nothing inconsistent here
    – Rushi
    Jan 18 at 21:05
  • @Rushi It's not constructive nor generous to interpret what you're reading in a way that means the person you're talking to is wrong, if there's a reasonable interpretation where they're right. There is a very simple interpretation of the question where the author is not wrong, but instead this answer opts for an interpretation where the author is wrong. It's fine to point out that they might be wrong about them being inconsistent, but one should specify that this is conditional on one's interpretation (i.e. if they think it's inconsistent to reject religions but believe in a god).
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 18 at 21:27
9

I can share my experience with you, in the hope that it might help you calibrate your views. I was born and raised in a Catholic community, attending schools that were staffed by priests and nuns, and I was indoctrinated, in what seems to me now to amount almost to psychological abuse, to accept the catholic teachings as unquestionable truth. By the time I was ten, I had bracketed God, Jesus, angels etc with Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy as being just stories told to children. In my teens, I reached what seems to me to be the obvious conclusion that religious beliefs were cultural. I thought that I had been taught to believe catholicism because I grew up in a Catholic society, and had I been brought up in India, or China, or in an Amish community, I would have had been indoctrinated with entirely different beliefs. I am in my sixties now, and I do not have any religious beliefs. I think organised religions are a form of racket, and the cause of much of the conflict in the world. A random observation- I came across the statistic that registered religious organisations in Pennsylvania alone have assets of $7billion and earn $2billion in revenue each year. Religion is big business.

0
7

The opposite of Religion is not Nihilism. You do not need to be afraid to change your opinion (disregarding the social issues you might be facing in your country, of course) out of the fear of "loosing your way".

The problem is that for all belief-systems it is quite impossible for anybody to change anyone's believes, or fix inconsistencies, by talking or arguing. That's why it's called "belief". It's not a science and does not respond to logic.

That said, I believe you are on the right track by noticing all the contradictions and whatnot.

You are asking whether other people feel like that as well, and that question I can absolutely answer with "yes". There are lots and lots of people who are confused, one way or another. That is a normal state of the human mind. It may be worse for some and less so for others based on the impact it has on their real life (in your religion that is a bit problematic right now, unfortunately), but that is just a side effect and not the core issue.

May I suggest a way out of the confusion by starting out with the good old "it's all in your head". Now hear me out. This not meant to say that it's a non-issue, far from it, but your confusion is literally all in your head. You are the only person who experiences what you, personally, are experiencing. While other people have their own confusions, you are you, and nobody else.

There is one tool available to mankind that tends to help a lot with general confusion - that is meditation. I do not mean religious or spiritual meditation and I do absolutely not mean any kind of meditiation where you have to believe or imagine anything. On the contrary. There is a type of meditation often called "mindfulness" or "awareness" meditation in the west; a very old term from the far east would be "Vipassana". These kinds of meditation have at their heart that you pay attention to what is happening around you, specifically by paying real attention to your senses (hearing, smelling, touch, taste, visual, internal body tension, proprioception, thought, emotions etc. - yes, you will quickly figure out that the latter two are "senses" too, in a way).

At the beginning, the easiest form is just to sit down in a quiet place, close your eyes, and simply pay attention to how the air feels that enters your mouth or nose while breathing; and doing that for as long as possible. When untrained, even a few minutes will seem like an eternity. Try to feel every single little nuance of how it feels. Do you feel the "wind chill effect"? Are you breathing slow or fast (do not try to influence that!)? Are you breathing deep or shallow?

Very quickly you will stumble across many aspects of your brain. For example you will notice uncalled-for thoughts. Your brain will run off like a clan of monkeys doing whatever it wills, and before you know it, 10 minutes have passed without you having spent a second paying attention to your breath. This is normal and nothing to be concerned or frustrated about. Just gently bring your attention back to the breath whenever you become aware that your mind is racing. Do not punish your brain for running away, it's what it does. Be glad that you eventually did notice what your thoughts did - you became aware of your actual thoughts. Isn't that almost a miracle in itself?

I could go on for a few pages, but let's suffice it to say that this kind of activity works wonders for clearing your mind. At no point do you have to think about the issue that's confusing you. But - spoiler alert - eventually you will learn how fickle your mind is. It is confused all the time. Confusing is a basic state of human being, it's literally what many of us are, most of the time. I like to think of thoughts as being generated in one area of the brain, and then a whole bunch of filter mechanisms coming in and trying to prune all the chatter (please do note that this idea was a popular scientific theory in psychology some decades ago, but it is absolutely not settled in stone between actual scientists, nowadays - but that does not matter for our purposes here).

Once you experience this for yourself, you do not need to "believe" anything anymore. You get used to proving things (about your internal workings) yourself. Thoughts lose their terror. You become able to be alone (i.e. while trying to sleep) without being made crazy by the uncalled-for activity of your mind.

Eventually you will move on from just watching the breath, and can do the same for sounds or even viusals. This can be incredibly liberating when you learn that just because you are hearing and seeing something does not mean that it must influence you against your will. And no, this does absolutely not make you a Nihilist; it just makes you less of a leaf flying to and fro in any random breeze.

I like to think about all of this as a kind of "maintenance for the mind". And I want to finally stress that this is not related to any particular religion (although of course very well known in Buddhism, where it is part and parcel of it all). This means that these kinds of techniques should be "allowed" in any religious environment; and if you read or view any media about meditation and they start to talk about religious aspects like Karma, souls, fairies or whatever, you can safely ignore them (or better yet, look elsewhere) if you are afraid that this would make it incompatible with your religious environment, especially if it would put you into actual danger of repercussions. It should be fairly easy to find sources which explain all of this in great detail without mentioning any religious or mystical aspects whatsoever, and this would be a sign of quality.

Also, this is all very much something you do on your own. There is no reason whatsoever to tell anyone else (it is not required for "success"). Especially if you are afraid for your life if it should become known.

Good luck in clearing up your confusion!

2
  • Thank you. This was the most satisfactory answer. Jan 19 at 16:00
  • Lovely answer! One book to study for more details about the mind as revealed by meditation is the Abhidharma. It is quite comprehensive.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 20 at 0:28
6

The collapse of faith in a particular religious worldview often causes psychological distress. Your feeling that you are turning into a nihilist is common for people in your circumstances.

The term used for the breakdown of worldview in the west is "deconstruction". The term for rebuilding a worldview afterwards is "reconstruction". Many atheists in the west were religious, then went thru deconstruction, and their reconstruction was around an atheist/materialist view. Others, have managed to do a reconstruction with a different religious view than the one they now reject.

I suggest you do an internet search for deconstruction, reconstruction, tools and muslims as search items. As examples, here are four websites that offer to assist Christians in reconstruction thinking.

https://www.heyamandawaldron.com/course https://www.forefrontnyc.com/blog/2022/4/27/a-key-tool-in-reconstructing-your-faith https://medium.com/backyard-theology/are-we-ready-for-the-faith-reconstruction-movement-e779f322dde1 https://mindshiftpodcast.medium.com/reconstruction-after-deconstruction-post-evangelicalism-96127ee9fed5

These examples assume that restoring Christianity is the goal of reconstruction. They are too narrow, as atheism, non-Christian religions, and non-religious spirituality are all plausible reconstruction outcomes too. But the concepts they focus on -- could be a useful set of signposts for you to look for online.

1
  • Speaking of breakdown, one of my favorite quotes is by Piaget: "Nothing new is learned until existing systems have failed to maintain equilibrium." So, failure is not an option, it's the first step to growth!
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 20 at 0:32
3

Sounds like you want to understand everything with your logical mind. Which is concepts that are outside the realm of logic. For example infinity, omniscience and many other concepts that are explained by religions.

That's why the different religions explain the same things in very different ways - they were reaching the specific audience at the place and time. But always there are logical contradictions because many things can't be expressed clearly with logic. While on it, even explaining the theory of relativity or quantum physics is impossible in simple terms..

So the path recommended by many is to seek and grow intuitive understanding about the underlying truths in all the different true religions and teachings. And the underlying truths are basically the same.

Now the different practices and recommendations for life recommended by the different teachings are supposed to make our lives better and help us progress. That's an important decision to make - which ones to follow.

1
  • Religion (etc) is not logical because it cannot be logical ie the domain it addresses is strictly out of bounds of logic. Very good!! Even that pinnacle of western rational philosophy — Kant — acknowledged this in his antinomies
    – Rushi
    Jan 20 at 17:45
1

The questions and answers on this philosophical platform show the great variety of philosophical positions in the course of time and across different cultures.

That there is often no general agreement is the “prize” we pay for pluralism. But even when there is no agreement about the final result, there is agreement about the method how to advance:

Human rationality, reason, as a suitable means to exchange arguments with others.

Some questions can be answered, others have to left open, but always the perspective expands.

Philosophy is different from science, it is more exchanging arguments than solving open problems. Science combined with some philosophical questioning seems to me the best method to orientate ourselves about the boundary conditions of the world we live in.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .