A personal message from Atheist Republic founder, Armin Navabi: When I was a young Muslim in the Islamic Republic of Iran, I became terrified of hell. I spent years trying to find a way to avoid going there. But what terrified me even more, was the thought of my mother going to hell because she did not pray five times a day like good Muslims were supposed to. In our school, we were taught that if a boy dies before the age 15 (or a girl before the age of 9), he would enter heaven no matter what. In my mind, it was clear what I should do and was surprised no one else took advantage of this obvious loophole. I jumped out the window at my school in an attempt to kill myself and enter heaven; I failed. I broke my wrist, both legs, and my back, and I ended up in wheelchair for seven months. After my failed attempt, and seeing what it did to my mother, I decided to just try to be a good Muslim. I became very religious and begged my parents to pray on a daily basis.
I started studying Islam in greater detail; the more I studied, the more questions I had and the more confused I got. I started questioning God’s judgment to send people to hell simply because they picked the wrong religion, and then I felt guilty for questioning God. But then, I convinced myself that studying the nature of God couldn’t be a bad thing. I decided to study religions other than Islam, even ancient, dead ones, to see what was so evil about them that the adherents should deserve eternal damnation.
The more I learned, the more it seemed possible that the whole thing could be a man-made concept. I was terrified about even letting that thought enter my mind. But it did. And I couldn’t take it back. I could feel the doors of hell opening right in front of me. I could feel God looking right into my thoughts. I could feel his disappointment. I felt like I let my best friend, my protector, my creator, down. I felt so ungrateful and even evil. But once the doubt started, I couldn’t stop it anymore. I kept thinking about the idea of religion being man-made and the more I did, the stronger my doubt got.
Eventually I decided that I needed to face all of it head-on. I knew God was real and there must be proof. I thought if I could find the proof, my faith would be stronger than ever. I started my hunt for evidence, or any logical reasoning for the existence of God, but I couldn’t find any. I grew desperate. I started praying, begging God to show me anything. A sign, a message, anything. My prayers were never answered.
By age 18, I had lost all my faith in God. I felt cheated, betrayed, fooled. I had sacrificed so much (almost my life) for a fairytale. I knew no one else who doubted God. Sometimes, I felt that maybe there was something wrong with my head. I thought, “Am I really that arrogant to think that I have discovered something that no one I knew had realized?” I wanted to let more people know about my lack of belief and the thought process that had led me to that conclusion.
I was becoming exceedingly lonely being an atheist in an Islamic country so I started a community about this topic on Orkut (a social media website that was popular in some countries before Facebook). I was surprised to see so many people joining the community and discussing the topic. I was so excited to find others like me. The idea of God not existing didn’t seem so crazy anymore. I wanted to reach out to more people, find more atheists, and discuss God and religion with anyone who was interested; more than that, I wanted people to see atheism as a legitimate option. It seemed unfair that people weren’t given a chance to choose.
I didn’t set out to convince people that God doesn’t exist, my aim was to let them know about the many people who didn’t believe in God, providing an invitation for them to explore such ideas if they were interested. But more than that, I wanted to create more communities for atheists like me, and make them feel less lonely and ashamed. I wanted them to know that not only are there others like them, but that there are people out there willing to listen, support and guide them. So, in 2011, I started a page on Facebook and later, a private Facebook group, for atheists who prefer discussing topics in private.
Since then, we developed a website with a blog, news, and resources, and grown a management team of over 150 people from all around the world. The Facebook page has grown to more than 1.2 million fans, and the private group is one of the most active private atheist communities online.
Atheist Republic is a growing community of godless heathens who share views and ideas, help one another express their atheism, support one another, and discuss news, books and other atheist expressions. We give every atheist a chance to share their views with the community or raise awareness about those things which matter to them.
Atheist Republic is a reflection of the views and ideas of its community as a whole. That’s why it’s called a republic. The entire community, all our Facebook fans, all of the people who engage with AR through the website, all direct the course of the community.
It’s clear that atheists care. A lot of atheists want to find a way to help, to make a difference. Those who wish to be more involved can join the management team. The members of the Atheist Republic team have the opportunity to express themselves through images, blogs, news articles, newsletters and other resources.
The barriers of communication are breaking down, and our new more transparent world is becoming a much more difficult environment for religion to spread. More and more people are being exposed to the fact that many atheists are moral, see true beauty in the world and lead rich, meaningful lives.
The future of Atheist Republic is bright. We have ideas for offline events and groups, making it easy for our community to plan and organize through the website. We want to continue to add resources to the website and have plans in place for adding more poetry and visual art. We would like to create videos and a podcast to reach an even wider audience with more information and resources, and we have plans for Arabic and Spanish versions of our site. We are excited and hope you will continue to journey with us.
Moving forward, what do you think Atheist Republic should be about? What’s important to you? Reply to this email to share your thoughts. We might add your ideas to the website. Please let us know if you wish to remain anonymous.
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