At the end of Armin Navabi's book, Why There Is No God, a book I've written about several times before, I came to a fascinating description of Navabi's efforts to know God as a devout Muslim boy. It was written by a friend of his, Mohammad Savage.
Enjoy these excerpts. I find this tale highly inspiring. It shows that many atheists have pursued God with tremendous effort and determination, choosing to disbelieve only after giving belief a very good chance.
Armin was born and raised in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was indoctrinated quite thoroughly since early childhood in the Muslim tradition. He would pray regularly five times a day, as all Muslims are mandated to. Growing up, he was afraid of all the things which good Muslims are supposed to be afraid of: hell, sin, the devil, etc.
...During his formative years, Amin attended Muslim classes. In such classes, he learned that according to his Islamic teachers, if a boy were to perish before the age of 15, access to heaven would be guaranteed, regardless of any other extenuating circumstances.
The same rule also applied to girls; however, for them, the cutoff age is 9. This thought stuck with Armin, and driven by the fear instilled in him by his religion, it began to consume him.
In his young mind, there it was: a surefire, absolute method to gain access to that which many Muslims strive for their entire lives. It confounded him to no end that none of his peers or elders had discovered or taken advantage of such a wonderful and easy shortcut.
He would not be one such sheep; he wouldn't allow the joys of a full life to pull the wool over his young eyes. His future course of action became crystal clear. At age 14, after making up his mind and steeling his resolve, Armin launched himself from one of the higher windows in his school.
This was his attempt to end his life and guarantee his future ascendance. Needless to say, it didn't work out quite as he had hoped. Armin survived his suicide attempt but was ravaged by injury. Among the injuries he suffered were a broken wrist, two broken legs and an injured back.
After the accident, Armin was confined to a wheelchair for the next seven months. Even after regaining permission to ambulate further, he still required months before he was able to travel with some semblance of independence.
Wracked by more than the physical injuries of his failed suicide attempt, Armin was torn apart by the effect his actions had on his parents. Seeing the impact it had on them, Armin was no longer deluded by the temptation of an easy way to heaven, and so, he dedicated himself even more so to his religion and finding a better path to God.
...While his newfound dedication and studies did lead him to become more familiar with the intricacies of his religion, it also led to some rather unexpected and quite unwelcome thoughts. For every question his studies answered about his religious beliefs and the nature of God, ten more popped up in their stead, leading to a seemingly endless and inconclusive search.
The more he studied, the more questions he had and the more confused he became. He started to question God as well as God's motives, and judgments. For example, why would a benevolent God send people to hell simply because they picked the wrong religion?
Such novel questions did not come without a price. Every time Armin found himself questioning God, he felt the cold, creeping fingers of guilt grip his heart. Led by his thirst for knowledge and knowing that seeking Islamic knowledge is encouraged in his religion, he convinced himself that studying the nature of his God could never be a reprehensible act.
Emboldened by his newfound sense of purpose, he set out to study and learn all he could about more religions, including some dead religions. He was fueled by curiosity for why, according to Islam, these religions were so evil that all of their followers were damned to eternal hellfire and brimstone. What did they get wrong? What were their major errors?
The more he studied, the more he learned and the more and more he began to see the fallacies of all of these other religions, including his own. Through countless hours spent studying, researching and pondering, he began to see the greater possibility that religion could indeed have been a manmade concept.
...The more he began to think of religion as a manmade concept, not a divine statute, the stronger his doubt became. No longer able to abide the growing storm inside of him, Armin resolved to face the matter directly, disregard his doubts and attempt to convince himself simply that God was real and that he could be absolutely certain of this.
He simply needed proof, actual, verifiable proof, not the mythos of a centuries-old novel. He believed once he managed to locate this proof, his faith would be stronger than ever.
Failing to find proof, he settled on any logical reasoning for the existence of God, including examining philosophical concepts and theories. However, once all of the logical explanations supporting God had been thoroughly debunked, he grew desperate.
He prayed harder, begging God to help him. He wanted a sign, a message -- anything at all to assure himself of a divine presence. Of course, his prayers were never answered. All of this transpired during most of Armin's relatively young life, and by the age of 18, he had lost all of his faith.
He felt cheated, betrayed and taken advantage of by society, his country, teachers, and those who impose the belief in God as an absolute truth without any proof, denying all other alternatives. He felt angry, depressed, and broken. He had sacrificed so much, even almost his life, all for the sake of a fairytale.
...Armin was the only atheist he knew. Being the proactive go-getter he had always been, he wished to let more people know about his lack of belief as well as the amazing journey which had led to this conclusion.
...He started the Atheist Republic in 2011. The main purpose of this community was to let everyone know about the many people who didn't believe in God and provide an invitation for them to explore these ideas if they were interested.