Ayaan Hirsi Ali says she’s a Christian, a Rational Response

In 2007, I was slated to interview Ayaan Hirsi Ali at an atheist convention. We were staying in the same hotel and being cared for by a security detail due to theistic threats on our safety. There was a very real and specific threat to her life that weekend, and as a result, I was told she didn’t have the time for the interview. However, my team and I suspected that the real reason was that taking an extra risk wasn’t worth the benefit, given the immediate and significant threat. This is the life of prominent atheist activists, and her experiences may have led her to seek relief from that fear. Many of us have great admiration for Ayaan speaking out against the dangers of Islam over the last 15+ years and may deal with some frustration when hearing that she just wrote an essay entitled “Why I am now a Christian.

Her essay pivots on several points that require a critical examination, particularly from an atheist and secular perspective. Her rationale for becoming a Christian lacks a concrete, tenable reason for god belief, relying instead on “tradition” and perceived civilizational threats.

Firstly, Ali’s subtitle claiming that atheism can't equip us for civilizational war is based on a false premise. Atheism doesn’t do anything, of course, it can’t equip us. Atheism, at its core, is simply a lack of belief in gods. It's not a tool, strategy, or ideology. However, secular humanism, often a result of abandoning archaic theistic myths, is a philosophy that values critical thinking, scientific understanding, ethical reasoning, and evidence-based knowledge. It can indeed play a crucial role in steering us away from conflict. If we shift our focus from arming ourselves for hypothetical wars to embracing the principles of secular humanism, we’d find ourselves discussing how to build a better, more rational, and peaceful world, rather than obsessing over potential conflicts fueled by divisive ideologies.

Ali's assertion that embracing Christianity is a response to global threats like authoritarianism and Islamism reflects a desire to seek solutions, but this solution rests on shaky logical footing. There were probably similar arguments pre-Scientific Revolution regarding the wide embrace of flat Earth theory and geocentrism. History is replete with examples of religions, including Christianity, being used to justify authoritarian regimes and violent conflicts. One must wonder: why hasn’t Christianity been a response to various global threats? Maybe it’s due to a deep-seated notion that while we say we believe these things, we know that these beliefs rest on a foundation of quicksand, easily demolished under the microscope of reason. Which is why beliefs in the modern age should rest on a scientific, logical, and provable foundation.

Ali cites tradition as a justification for belief. An appeal to tradition is a logical fallacy, and you can see how it’s not useful when contemplating the lives of Ancient Egyptians focused on Osiris, the god of the dead, and recognizing that you don’t hold this belief to be true simply because traditionally it was part of a culture. Similarly, the Norse gods, central to Scandinavian culture for centuries, have all but vanished from sincere religious belief. These examples illustrate that the longevity and tradition of a belief system do not equate to its truthfulness. Simply put, tradition doesn’t make a belief true.

Ali's claim that "freedom of conscience and speech" stems from "centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities" lacks historical evidence. Many cultures and religious traditions, including those outside the Judeo-Christian sphere, have grappled with these concepts. It's a disservice to attribute these universal human values solely to a specific religious tradition.

Ali notes that atheism didn’t provide her with the “meaning and purpose of life.” Human understanding, shaped by scientific inquiry and philosophical thought, has yet to converge on a definitive answer to any universal meaning of life. The lack of consensus extends to religious beliefs, which, founded on unverifiable premises, cannot claim to offer a reliable answer to the question of life's purpose. We see this in the actions of religious people. The world is full of religious fundamentalists that breed intolerance, hostility, and are at the center of the wars that Ali wants to avoid. The only universal constant about life, from a biological perspective, might be procreation, a fundamental drive for the continuation of life. However, many would like to believe that the human experience transcends mere biology.

As an individual and an atheist activist, I have crafted my own meaning of life, which is a liberty that atheism affords. My personal philosophy centers on embracing knowledge and reason, treating others as I would like to be treated, rejecting ignorance and superstition, maintaining an open mind, continually seeking new knowledge, and striving to make a positive impact on society. Ali was always free to find her own meaning as an atheist, and if she needed an atheist to dictate meaning to her, she can borrow mine.


The idea that we need to “fight woke ideology” to save civilization is not just misguided, it’s rooted in a regressive, often religiously fueled mindset that resists progress. Labeling societal advancements as 'woke ideology' – whether it’s the fight for racial equality, gender rights, or simply acknowledging and addressing historical injustices – is to misunderstand the very fabric of a progressive, enlightened society. These are not threats; they are evolutions towards a more equitable world. While Islam attempted to suppress the perspectives and physical visibility of women like Ali, it was the very essence of "woke ideology" – a commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusivity – that propelled the advancement of accepting and valuing voices like hers. Ironically, there’s an intersection in attempting to thwart societal progress (woke) and religious groups, clinging to dogmas incompatible with modern, inclusive values. Instead of fighting these so-called 'woke' ideas, we should be embracing and building upon them to create a society that is fairer and more just for all.

In conclusion, Ali's conversion, while a personal choice, was not an intellectually rigorous endorsement of Christianity. There was no defensible argument for the existence of God, an “appeal to tradition” fallacy, and a bunch of arguments about using religion as a tool of which we can see in society it has failed to be successful at. For those committed to rationality and evidence-based beliefs, this serves as a cautionary tale of how even unfounded beliefs can hold sway under the guise of tradition and existential fear.

My approach, rooted in reason and personal reflection, offers a meaningful and rational way to navigate life, devoid of the need for religious belief. And I can’t see how we as a society benefit by attempting to promote solutions to any problem that a 12-year-old can easily demolish in a debate.


Brian Sapient

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Brian37's picture

 Picking a club because

 Picking a club because there is a perception of kindness is not a reason to believe, there are plenty of points in Christian history where they were just as barbaric and oppressive as Islam. Are there good people in Christianity? Yes, and in Islam too. One may argue the Koran and Hadtiths and Saria Law and be correct that those are tools used to spread hate. But the bible has been and is still also used by many, even if not all, but many, to justify things like taking female body autonomy away, discrimination against LGBTQ, hate of Hispanics and Latinos, justifying science deying, and attempts to errase black history. 

"Athiest" as Brian Sapient said, merely means "off"on claimes of god/s. Outside that we are just as diverse in our politics and political views and education levels. I am not an atheist because Brian is nice to me. I am not an atheist because I like Dawkins and Hitchens, or even Cathern Hepburn. I am an atheist for one reason and one reson only. Lack of evidence of any and all gods claimed so far. Nothing more. 

And she falsely brought up athoritarianism like Christians often do and that is a fallacy. Cuba is not an atheist country, it is a Catholic majority. Hitler was not an atheist, he was his own brand of Catholic/Occult/diest. His book Mein Kompf mentions God several times. He is often seen in photos smiling with priests and shaking heir hands. The Nazi Belt buckles read "Gott Min Uns" and medival Priest Martin Luther was a huge antisemite and a big influence on Hitler. Authoritariansim is not an atheist idea, it is a dictator's idea. Theocraices are run on relgion like Saudi Arabia and Iran. But the history of England was not always the modern secular version we know of today. The early monarchy of England was a dictatorship, not the free society we think of today. Christianity was spread through Europe and the Americas by sword and musket. Christianity justified slavery for 400 years and there are verses in the bible that tell you how to treat your slave. 

None of what I just said is a call to force relgion out of existence or outlaw it. It is simply a warning not to think religion deserves no scrutiny or blashpemy. Human rights should always be defended. But the idea that Christianity brought civility to the West is false. It was the Age of Enlightement that put a secular leash on religon, not to silence it, but to insure it would not go off the rails. Jefferson's wall was never intended to institutionalize a social pecking order through government based on religion. Freedom of religion also has to include freedom from religon. 

"No religous test" is written into the Constitution's oath of office. 

There are 4,543 words in the Constitution and none of them are Bible, Jesus or Christian. 

The Barbary Treaty article 11 "As the Goverment of The United States of America, is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian relgion. Signed without dissent by our founders. 

And I am glad that is the case because the bible has verses in it that puts the punisment for rape at a mere fine in which the father can even force the victim to marry their rapist. It has verses that says if you sack an enmy loction you can take their females as concubine as prizes in war. It has David offering up 200 male foreskins as a dowery to marry Saul's daughter. It talks about smashing babies heads against rocks.  It justifies the infanticide of the Egypitan firstborn over a beef God had with an adult king. It condones the genocide of the flood. And worst, the last act of God before the credit's roll is another mass act of genocide, if beleived, would mean the distruction of Israel and the genocide of most of the 8 billion humans alive. I don't want anyone who believes the doomsday garbage of the bible in control over our nukes. Or anyone like Trump who panders to people who do. 

Ayaan falsely assumes America will stay a pluralistic government, and that is dangerous considering that the former President has pandered to the KKK and Neo Nazis and panders to Christian White Nationalist. He talks like a despot vilifying the press calling them the enemy of the people,  attacking our law institutions, and even our military. He has recently said the will be "retrubution". And recently called his own fellow citizens "Vermin". These are the exact same tactics Hitler used to rise to power and Hitler also used religion to get to power. 

It isn't enough that someone is nice to you to adopt their position. Ayaan's argument was full of fallacies and appeal to emotion. 


"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
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