An atheist and his family: “Mom, I’m going to hell”

I’ve been doing this for a long time now..

Several years of swimming against the tide; wading through a constant stream of hate mail; switching blog addresses whenever things get too hot to handle.

I’ve been an outcast on multiple levels. I somewhat pride myself for being a Pakistani who is essentially the death of all stereotypes. I’m an atheist and a bisexual and a feminist and a far-leftist and an extremely  introverted personality. My complexion is significantly fairer than most of my fellow citizens. Even my BMI makes me an outlier (I literally do not “fit in”). If only I did not share the same race as most Pakistanis, I would’ve been Minority-Bot 4000.

I am a circumstantial fighter, not a natural one. I’ve been fighting on way too many fronts at the same time, and I’ve forced myself to morph into a callous, foul-mouthed keyboard warrior against my better judgement. My most well known battle is the one for at least partial acceptance of atheists. But I’ve also been fighting for LGBT rights, which is something personal to me. As an introvert, I’ve been fighting the insufferable Pakistani social system where distant relatives keep crawling out of the woodwork, and forcing themselves in your private lives. Joint-families, and what not. I’ve been fighting fat prejudice, which many people don’t even realize is a real thing.

All in addition to the usual work, domestic and relationship problems that normal people think is such a big fucking deal. And all of this in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: a country worthy of being the permanent cover for Intolerance Weekly.

I am acutely aware of this piece starting to sound like a brazen pity-party. But I don’t care. It’s my goddamn blog, and I feel an irrepressible urge to barf it all out.

What gets to you, ultimately, is not your fight with strangers. It’s the war within your own home that drains the soul out of you. I can spill out an ocean of words supporting gay rights, condemning the harassment of atheists (and non-Muslims in general), against the prevailing social structure where a person’s life is expected to revolve around marriage and baby-making. But not a whisper emerges from my lips when I face my family.

How do I tell my parents I’m atheist? I decided not to, and validated my discretion with the idea that my coming-out would do little to impact the course of my life anyway. It would just cause them a great deal of heartache. Because even though I don’t believe in hell, my mother clearly does. More pressingly, how do I tell them I’m bi, and that I might enter a relationship with a dude? That I might not even get married and give them the grandchildren they sorely want.

Even if, IF, I manage to run away from this country, what about the foot I have to saw off in order to escape? My family, and their expectations?

I wish all of this had just been activism, the ramblings of a rebel. Because then I would’ve had a choice to stop. What I do is only secondarily about our movement(s), and primarily about my own survival. My constant need to oppose the existing legal system, and the collective psyche of the people, does not stem from masochism, boredom or a plain anti-social personality. Swimming against the tide is just the only way I can swim.

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  1. That’s pretty much the same reason I haven’t told my own parents that I’m an atheist. I already saw how badly my Christian mother reacted when her non-Christian friend died when I was a child. There was not only grief but also guilt at not having ‘saved’ her friend and kept her from going to hell. How much worse would that be with her own child? Could I ever tell her what she will interpret as “your child is going to hell” without feeling incredibly guilty? What good would it even do, aside from satisfying my own desire to speak openly about things?

    Perhaps I will tell her someday, but it is not even an issue right now, because I am too busy worrying about how to tell my parents that I am trans. They wouldn’t disown me for something like that… would they?

    • Turbo Lover
    • September 8th, 2012

    To not believe in a religion, why do many people shit bricks over it (especially in Pakistan)? What’s all the fuss? Who are they to decide who goes to heaven and who doesn’t?

    • When one believes that his religion is not just a personal ideology but a “complete code of life”, he can easily validate his intrusion is anybody’s business.

    • Turbo Lover
    • September 9th, 2012

    True story.

  2. You are an inspiration and I always admire your balanced comments against the vomit that the mainstream seems to be spraying. If it weren’t for people like you, I might have been swept away with the nonsense that has become Pakistan’s Islam. Keep writing – even if only one person opens up their mind you have won. And that is all we can do anyway 🙂

  3. Although I know you’re an atheist but perhaps you might appreciate this line – 6.116. And if you pay heed to the majority of those on the earth, they will lead you astray from God’s way. They follow only conjecture (not knowledge), and they themselves do nothing but make guesses (they pronounce and act according to their fancies, selfish interests, and personal value judgments). 😉

    • Unfortunately, a religion is what the majority believes it to be.

      There are an infinite number of sects and schools of thoughts within the same religion. Some interpretations are mainstream, others are rare or even personal. Apart from a few common convictions, all others are variable.

      When an ideology is not based on scientific, objective truths, but rather ‘beliefs’, then it becomes irrelevant what the right path is. God’s way becomes what the followers believe is the God’s way.

    • Sadia
    • September 12th, 2012

    I feel happy that I am living in the 21st century and not the middle ages so things are relatively better and there is a window of fresh air atleast…but at the same time i feel envious of the future generations for whom things like racism, religion and prejudice against sexual orientation would be as outdated as slavery is for us…(yes, i am an optimist who hopes that things would change for the better)

    • Goran
    • September 13th, 2012

    Hi there, i appreciate your blog and your views are very enlightening….if you’re on facebook then you may find like-minded rationalist compatriots on this group:

    Rationalist Society of Pakistan http://rationalistpk.org/
    and on fb: http://www.facebook.com/groups/rationalistspk/?bookmark_t=group
    and http://www.facebook.com/RationalistsPK

    Another interesting blog is:
    http://www.irtiqa-blog.com/

    • Deistpk
    • September 16th, 2012

    I left my parents religion in early jan, and became agnostic for a while. The most dumbest thing I did was tell my mom (she and I are like best friends) about the decision. She was horribly upset and then, due to all emotioal stuff like I ve failed her, disappointed her, have become like my dad (he is irreligious) I reverted. Again my doubts surfaced and I quit the second time for deism. I believe in fitrah but not fiqh. I am a beliver in God but not religion. This time it was for 3 months but had to face a lot of probs due to my mom. Her words induce guilt as if I ve committed a crime. My love for her has no bounds, for her sake I decided to study Islam again from scratch. Now again, I am not satisfied and I am more attracted toward deism but I just shutup about it.

    • I understand.

      If your mother isn’t working too hard to impose the religion on you (say, constantly making you pray or other religious rituals), you may not need to inform her about your position. I know our non-religious friends would probably encourage us to “come out of the closet” but your personal welfare comes before the movement.

      If your mother is forcing you to participate excessively in rituals that you do not believe in, then you have little choice but to tell her the truth.

      In any case, you must not feel guilty. You need to fully accept yourself for who you are, before you can even expect others to accept you.

    • Aiwass
    • October 14th, 2012

    So you’re saying that in order to survive in Pakistan, you need to somehow change the way the whole country works? Most people in Pakistan don’t know you, will never meet you, will never have anything to do with you and what you do with your life. Since you’re a misfit, why not try just hewing out a place for yourself where you live and work, among the people that are actually part of your life? Why this blog, which I’m sure contributes nothing toward making your life easier, because no one that actually has anything to do with you reads it? Seems like all you do is post tirade after tirade against Pakistan – which is according to you only a secondary objective – while doing nothing about your personal survival.

      • loneliberalpk
      • October 14th, 2012

      As I’ve written before, I don’t expect the country to change in my lifetime.

      But it would have to evolve eventually. Either that, or it would choke to death on its own xenophobia and ignorance, though I hope that never happens.

      I won’t be staying in Pakistan for long. After much contemplation, I’ve decided that I’m simply not masochistic enough to be ‘patriotic’. Or at least, not in the sense that I’m required to be.

    • Anonymous
    • January 19th, 2013

    I have never met you but after reading this and some of the other blog posts of yours I think i am falling in love with you ♥ By the way I am also an atheist (well actually agnostic) and I am gay moreover i also have deeply conservative parents, so i want to run away from this stupid country. Though like you, I know that it is not possible to do so. 😦

    • I’m touched. I love you for saying that.

      With any luck, things would get better for the both of us. I’m trying to permanently leave my country (as painful as it is for me), and I hope you consider this option as well. It is not impossible.

      I would’ve offered some hollow pep-talk about standing your ground and facing the adversity head on, but I wouldn’t do that to you.

      I know that beneath all the activism, internet battles, and everyday conflicts with the society, all we truly yearn for is inclusion. And for a gay atheist, acceptance is very hard to find in a country like Pakistan. If you can find the courage to move out, you’re far more likely to live a happy life.

    • Anonymous
    • February 10th, 2013

    Thank u so much for your reply. It really means a lot to me. I have already thought about moving abroad but i am really confused on whether to stay or to go(not now but after 4-5 years). I mean on one hand i know that my parents don’t deserve me because they would never accept me as who i am but on the other hand i feel that i owe them so much and yet i can’t even be a person that they imagine me to be. Till when do you think would Pakistanis be at least partially evolved on the issues of sexuality and religion?
    I hope you have a comfortable and tranquil life ahead of you 🙂 My Best Wishes are always with you 🙂

    • F.
    • April 14th, 2013

    I didn’t know you were bi. Well. That certainly explains a few things.

    • Things such as…?
      Are my blog posts making love to other blog posts of the same gender?

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