While religion has historically been an integral part of societies and cultures around the world, more and more people are embracing atheism.
Atheism is the disbelief in a higher power or any type of deity. With atheism on the move, people are living their lives absent of the religions they were raised with, which has both positive and negative consequences.
From Hindu to atheist
Abhishek Ravi, a Colorado State University student from India, became an atheist when he first moved to Colorado.
“I was raised in the Hindu faith because in my town, everyone was Hindu, everyone celebrated the same holidays and participated in the same rituals,” Ravi said. “I was basically a Hindu because everyone around me told me I had to be. When I came to Colorado for school, I realized that I no longer needed religion. I choose to be an atheist because I don’t need religion in my life. I’m happier just being myself and doing what I want instead of being told what I’m supposed to do.”
According to the Pew Research Center, about 16 percent of the world population identifies as atheist or irreligious. The most atheist region of the world is in Asia and the Pacific which makes up 76 percent of the atheist population on Earth. The Middle East and North Africa have the lowest rates of atheism at less than 1 percent.
I was basically a Hindu because everyone around me told me I had to be.Abhishek Ravi
Omari Asfour, an atheist from Yemen, said, “I think why the atheist population in the Middle East is so low is because their political systems are tied into religion, particularly Islam. This makes it harder for people to reject God because some countries make religion mandatory and any opinions against religion can be punishable by death.”
Religion and family
Family also plays a huge role in religion because religion outlines what it means to be a family. Children often don’t have the choice to be religious or not.
“In my case, I moved here away from my family where I’m free to be as irreligious as I want, but I know if I ever told them I’m no longer a practicing Muslim, they would be heartbroken because Islam is a fundamental part of their lives,” according to Asfour.
“If I were to just opt out of Islamic holidays or fasting, they would be so disappointed in me,” he added. “But, I’m happier not being religious than I ever was practicing Islam, so at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for me.”
I’m happier not being religious than I ever was practicing Islam.Omari Asfour
Even though religion is woven into the political and social systems of countries around the world, atheism is gaining popularity. While atheism is great for people who feel like they don’t need to believe in God or practice certain rituals, it can be hard to become an atheist when your family, your country and your government all tell you to believe one thing when your heart feels another way.