Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim and renowned critic of Islam, has revealed her conversion to Christianity, describing her journey from Islam to atheism and ultimately to Christianity. In an Essay published on UnHerd, Hirsi Ali, who is known for her bestselling books and outspoken views, says her encounter with Bertrand Russell’s 1927 lecture “Why I am Not a Christian” led her to atheism, offering solace and escape from the fear instilled by religious doctrine. She found Russell’s views on religion, rooted in fear, resonant with her own experiences. “It did not cross my mind, as I read it, that one day, nearly a century after he delivered it to the South London branch of the National Secular Society, I would be compelled to write an essay with precisely the opposite title,” adds Hirsi Ali, who is originally from Somalia and is a survivor of genital mutilation. Hirsi Ali traces her initial disillusionment with Islam following the 9/11 terrorist attacks when she questioned the justifications for the attacks in the name of Islam.
During her teenage years in Nairobi, Hirsi Ali says she was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, which instilled in her a strict interpretation of Islam. This period was characterized by a strict adherence to religious practices and a deep-seated disdain for non-Muslims, particularly Jews. However, her later exposure to atheism through figures like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins provided a stark contrast to her previous beliefs. Hirsi Ali attributes her turn to Christianity to a broader concern for the challenges facing Western civilization. She cites threats from authoritarian regimes, global Islamism, and “woke” ideology as catalysts for seeking a unifying force. Christianity, in her view, offers a foundation of values and traditions that uphold human life, freedom, and dignity, and counters the divisiveness she associates with atheism. Responding to her embrace of the Christian faith, conservative Christian philosopher Dr. Robert George wrote on Facebook: “Two decades ago, under the influence of the writings of Bertrand Russell, she became an atheist.
Her thought was that atheism was smart and sophisticated — it was allegedly what intelligent people believed (the ‘brights,’ as Daniel Dennett embarrassingly labelled himself and his fellow unbelievers). It was the way to a world of rationality and civil liberty. Hirsi Ali is not the first to have gone down that misguided path. She now sees that it is indeed misguided and that there is, to quote scripture, ‘a more excellent way.’” Hirsi Ali’s embrace of Christianity also stems from a personal quest for spiritual solace and meaning in life. Hirsi Ali critiques atheism for leaving a “God hole,” which she believes has led to the rise of irrational ideologies and the erosion of Western values. She argues that Christianity provides a unifying story and foundational texts, like those in Islam, that can engage and mobilize people. Speaking at the National Press Club in 2015, Hirsi Ali offered five amendments to the religion of Islam that Muslims should take seriously if they really want to bring about a peaceful reformation to their religion.
She suggested Muslims should view the Quran and the hadith as creations of human effort, potentially divinely inspired but ultimately human in origin. This perspective challenges the traditional view of Muhammad as a moral guide post-Mecca, which Hirsi Ali finds problematic. As the second amendment, Hirsi Ali advocated for a change in how Muslims prioritize life after death over life before death. She called for a reorientation toward valuing earthly life more. She also argued that Shariah law is responsible for widespread violence and oppression in Muslim cultures, exemplified by regimes like Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Islamic State terrorist group. As her fourth amendment, she called for the elimination of the principle of “Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong.” This principle, according to Hirsi Ali, leads to vigilantism and mob justice, as seen in cases where citizens punish individuals for alleged violations of Shariah law or disrespect toward Muhammad. Hirsi Ali also called for an end to the concept of Jihad as Holy war, advocating instead for a focus on peace.
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