Growing in a relatively diverse family, I never had questions – or insecurities – over my own faith or others.
I was born in a Muslim family. My maternal grandmother used to be a Protestant before she married my grandfather. She willingly converted to Islam after a few years of their marriage. My uncle, who was a Muslim, married a devout Protestant and they lived happily until the end of their lives – their differences were non-issue.
I simply never see or judge people based on who or what they believe in because I never thought of it as that big of a deal.
To me, religion is a very intimate feeling that someone shares with a massive intangible force. Religion is where people find solace, a sanctuary in the midst of a chaotic world they live in. I was taught how to read the Quran and how to pray five times a day when I was 9 years old. I did not have a single hesitation in my teacher about heaven or hell and others. I listened carefully, about what we should and should not do as a Muslim.
And then one day I found out that Muslims are not allowed to have dogs because of their “impurity.” My whole life, I have always loved dogs. My love for dogs was what sparked questions in my mind and grew the seeds of doubts in me. I can imagine a 9-year-old me asking myself, “I kiss and hug my dogs all the time – will I go to hell because of it?”
Religiosity – what once felt like a gentle and gracious quality in an individual now seems more like a sham to me. As an adult, I really tried to commit myself in getting closer to “the Creator,” but I found it difficult to do so.
Further complicating is the fact that I am now a mother. My son has begun to ask questions about religion, and I have to carefully answer him, because I do not want him to be an outcast for being an unbeliever. Still, a part of me wants him to rely on his logic instead of faith.
“Who is the first human on Earth, Mom?” he’d ask.
There are three ways to answer: the mythological Adam and Eve, the Darwin theory, or the combination of both. Each answer will open the doors to a series of complicated questions.
My dilemma has been heightened by my various reading on religion from time to time, not just on Islam, but other religions too. From Mahatma Gandhi’s bizarre and disturbing sex life to the unbelievably oppressive Sharia’ law.
Gandhi, an intelligent man who studied Law in UCL, apparently slept with lots of naked young girls, while restraining his desire to touch them in order to get closer to God. According to the sharia law, if a man who is waging a “jihad’ captures a woman, she may be forced to have sexual intercourse with her captors or owners.
If I confide to someone about my doubts, they would say that I was lazy and that I was not learning enough about my religion. Maybe they are right, but these facts just don’t add up to my logic and it is making me reluctant to dig in further.
Even without my own pursuit of information, I keep finding bad stuff that has stuck in me and made me question religion even more.
While having lunch at work, I learned that back in 2006 Vice President Jusuf Kalla, basically promoted prostitution for Arab tourists in the resort area of Puncak, West Java. Then the next day, the topic was how the Mayor of Padang – a city whose 98 percent of inhabitants are Muslim – wants to eradicate LGBTQ with exorcism. The following day, we talked about the mandatory of wearing hijab at government-funded schools.
I wanted to scream. Is this what religion all about? Legalizing sex-trafficking through short-term marriage contracts? Intolerance? Female oppression? Violence? Damaging adolescents? The list goes on.
Whenever I am listening to someone preaching about religion, I am always unconsciously compare the preaching with the things I learned during my lunch conversations at work. No matter how hard I try, I cannot fully accept it. Trying to restore my faith is like running and chasing something up ahead, only to realize that I have been running on a treadmill all along.
Regardless of my current doubt, I sincerely hope that someday I can find peace within myself, whatever my belief is. Like my dear grandmother who found peace in her personal belief without force, and gracefully spread positivity to everyone she knew.