For many people, religion is a source of community and comfort. Other times, religion can come with all kinds of baggage, guilt, and roadblocks to a meaningful life. Here are some of the BEST things that came out of leaving Islam:
Like leaving any religion, one of the biggest benefits is simple: your life doesn’t belong to a deity, it belongs to you. For people in our Apostate Report survey, the most popular response when asked about the most positive consequence of leaving Islam was a newfound sense of freedom, whether freedom from religious restrictions or freedom of thought. Many mentioned a stronger feeling of autonomy.
“Freedom of conscience. Living it, not just feeling/thinking it. Being free to be myself. I would rather suffer honestly than be happy in a lie.”
2. LESS STRESS, LESS ANXIETY
Unsurprisingly, leaving a shame and honor based culture enforced by cosmic punishment results in a less stressful life once the threat of godly wrath fades away. Respondents in our Apostate Report felt less stress in their lives—less guilt for religious transgressions, less fear of divine consequences for misbehavior, or a general peace of mind, and generally were more content.
“Being able to critically think for myself, and not having the guilt of hell attached. I feel more relaxed; I can have a civilized conversation with a guy and not feel that it’s wrong. I don’t feel threatened anymore when others try to use religion as a way to control me.”
3. CLEARER THINKING
Once your thought process isn’t restricted by external or self imposed need to rationalize religion, the whole world opens up. Unsurprisingly, letting go of an ideology that stifles questions, or actively denies science vastly improves your ability to think critically. Ex-Muslims often feel they don’t have to suffer through the cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics required to profess belief in ideas they weren’t truly convinced of.
“I no longer carry the burden of constantly searching for the truth. I see life more clearly, I’m no longer confused, irritated or anxious about the contradictions and problems I have found in my former faith.”
4. GREATER TOLERANCE OF OTHERS
Atheists often receive some variation of the question:
“if you’re not religious, where could you possibly get your morals from?”
As though religion is the only legitimate source of morality, despite the heinous things condoned by religious text.
Not every Muslim–not every religious person–is bigoted by definition. But bigotry becomes much easier to excuse when it’s sanctioned by God, and makes you feel better about yourself. Turns out, leaving this mindset and the communities enforcing it means you’re able to interact with a plethora of new people and perspectives. The result of this is a greater ability to accept people of various backgrounds, faiths, ethnicities, worldviews, and genders without prejudice. All which leads to a richer life.
As one respondent put it,
“I treat all human beings with respect and dignity instead of judging them.”
5. LIVING WITH AUTHENTICITY AND CONFIDENCE
When you’re not living according to an imposed worldview, there’s a whole new self to discover. Suddenly, activities, curiosities–entire facets of your personality–become available to explore.
“I feel like I can truly live my authentic life. I’ve been able to travel, learned to love dogs, gone backpacking for months at a time in the wilderness without any concerns about cleanliness or prayer, just me and the wilderness. I’ve been more effective in my career and non-Muslim social relationships because I feel I can be a more authentic version of myself and spend as much time as I need without prayer breaks, concerns about what I eat or drink, or other such concerns. However, I still struggle sometimes because I don’t have a lifetime of practice at this the way most non-Muslims do. I still sometimes feel like I’m a teen learning how things work.”
“Empowerment. Although the adjustment was hard, and often continues to be, I feel confident in who I am and the choices I make. I trust myself to do the right thing for the right reasons.”
PURPOSE AND MEANING
Despite the fact that many use religion to feel a sense of purpose, leaving Islam can actually embolden that sense of a meaningful life. Meaning derived from within, from your own goals and values, rather than an external force can be much more enduring and fulfilling.
“A burden has been lifted. Doors have been opened. Love makes more sense. Humanity seems more important. Life is more meaningful and true and valuable.”
“I became more moral and ethical. I also have a better meaning and purpose in life, while when I was in the faith, I was confused and felt like I was forced to hate certain people.”
Age withheld, male