In this speech, Dr. Younis does use some religious references and idioms. This is understandable. He is a devoutly religious man, speaking at a religious convention. Don’t let that trigger you. Allow yourself to hear his message and to let the unmistakeable sincerity in his person speak to you, with your defenses down and your mind open.
This speech uses the analogy of a city of hope, a city of despair, and a bridge that connects the two. I believe the analogies are sound.
I myself, have recently released a treatise on my beliefs. Yes, I critique Islam/Ahmadiyyat there on theological grounds, but I also point out that we can learn and obtain value from some religious teachings. If religions are man made, then we still have to admit that they can contain some man-made wisdom—even if the motivations were different than ours today. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let us cherry pick what is useful, and incorporate such into newer foundations for successful living.
In my treatise, I reveal my own conservative position on alcohol. As an ex-Muslim, I do not drink alcohol. I never have. I reflected on the merits of alcohol before I was of legal age to drink. Having already begun to seriously question religion, alcohol was however, not even a temptation. Ever.
People would ask me, “You don’t drink. Is that for religious reasons?”
I would respond, “No. While I used to be very religious and am now questioning Islam, alcohol never made sense to me. I don’t have any doubts about that position.”. In fact, I am still grateful that growing up in a Muslim household, the concept of not drinking alcohol was in my orbit. For some, the decision to abstain from alcohol just isn’t in the zeitgeist. And I believe that’s unfortunate.
More than any other time in history, we live in an age of trains, planes and automobiles. These are force multipliers for alcohol; and not in the good sense of the phrase.
As a teenager and to this day, my rationale is very much in line with what Dr. Faheem Younis relays in his heartfelt speech. This is why I am sharing his speech with my (albeit small) audience today.
To be sure, I don’t lecture my friends or colleagues when they order a drink at dinner. Everyone is entitled to their choices. I want people to realize however, that even in ex-religious communities, there is diversity of thought.
I know of other ex-Muslim activists admired by many, that have relayed to me that they also do not drink. Some have tried it, but chose to drop it soon after.
What I hope to do is raise awareness that just because you reject the truth-claims of a religion, it doesn’t mean that you should throw off all of the structures and constraints that were useful. Sometimes, constraints can be liberating.
Not keeping potato chips anywhere in your house can help you achieve your diet goals. The paradox of choice can be debilitating. From an evolutionary perspective, our minds do not always have control over our emotions. Where everyone chooses to strike this balance is something that I acknowledge, is an individual choice. I want that choice to say no to alcohol to be in our cultural zeitgeist. It need not be confined to the domain of the religious.
The video shared of Dr. Younis’ speech gives you an insight into some of my thinking. We may no longer believe in the same theology, but having heard Dr. Younis speak and having read his writings, I can only describe my connection to him as a bond of brotherhood and love.
Regarding drugs, I believe the word ‘drug’ is quite broad. I personally haven’t tried any in my life. Not even weed. In fact, I was an anti-smoking champion ever since I was a child, politely but firmly asking “uncles” who would light up in my house to please take it outside.
Yet, I do believe that there is a potential value in psychedelic trips of the kind people plan out for once or twice in a lifetime, where there is an emphasis on set and setting.
Many of these psychedelic experiences date back to religious rituals in non-Abrahamic religions. Psychedelics like Ayahuasca are not pleasant to take, and yet, they can have value.
As Ariel Levy writes in her 2016 article for the New Yorker:
Ayahuasca, like kale, is no joy ride. The majority of users vomit—or, as they prefer to say, “purge.” And that’s the easy part. “Ayahuasca takes you to the swampland of your soul,” my friend Tony, a photographer in his late fifties, told me.
Perhaps we may find similar experiences possible with even safer methods, such as the God Helmet. I do also feel that medicinal uses in alleviating pain are valid reasons to study and incorporate certain drugs.
As Dr. Younis relates in his speech, there is technical merit to suggest that marijuana is safer than alcohol. This is not to diminish the gravity of marijuana in non-medicinal settings; it is to underscore the gravity and risks of alcohol.
To my fellow non-theists, please don’t take this post as an attempt to judge you or to lecture you. As you’ve successfully challenged religion, I want you to now also revisit some different sacred cows.
If nothing else, I hope to gain some respect for my personal choices without people assuming that I’m just “shy” or “not adventurous” or haven’t “fully left Islam yet”, etc.
I won’t ask you to believe in the Qur’an, so please don’t insist that I have a drink or smoke a joint to make you happy. My philosophy for living may not be codified into a system or have a name, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hold to these values with conviction.
Thank you for reading and for watching.