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March 25th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

Christian to Muslim: A change of faith

Editor’s Note: "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door" features the Muslim community of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where Matthew Miller has lived since age 15. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien chronicles the dramatic fight over the construction of a mosque in the heart of the Bible belt. “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door” airing at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. E.T. April 2 on CNN.

By Elizabeth M. Nunez, CNN

The actual conversion was brief. It only involved one sentence: “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship but God, I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

For 30-year-old Mathew Miller, those words represented the culmination of a long religious transformation from Christianity to Islam.

Miller is a digital media communications major at Middle Tennessee University and works part-time at a golf course. He was raised Christian in California, surfing and dreaming of being a radio DJ.

“My first interaction with Islam was this movie called ‘Not Without my Daughter’. That was my first glimpse into what Western society believed was really going on in Islam,” he said.

"Not Without My Daughter" is a 1991 film in which Sally Field portrays an America woman who flees from Iran with her daughter. The movie, based on true story detailed in a book by the same title, was faulted by critics for portraying a stereotypical view of Iranians and Islam.

But in questioning his own beliefs, and after a conversation with a Muslim friend, Miller’s interest in Islam was piqued.

“I think for the most part I was afraid, don’t really know of what,” he said.

Later, attending Friday prayers at a small Mosque in Murfreesboro, he began to learn more.

“When I put my head on the ground with them, it felt like I could say anything to God, and what I was asking for at the time was guidance. I wanted to know whether what I was doing was the right thing to do.”

His mother had long expected his change of religious faith. “I told my mother I was Muslim in Disneyland. She said ‘I don’t necessarily know if I feel good about it, but if it makes you happy and it’s what you feel is the right way, then there’s nothing I can do.’”

Now he regularly worships at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro mosque.

Miller, a white convert in a diverse congregation, has heard comments about his faith - and the controversy surrounding his mosque. Once, an Iraqi war veteran told him that the new controversial Islamic Center of Murfreesboro should not be built because it could potentially harbor terrorists.

“I addressed his questions formally and it was funny because at the end of the conversation, he kind of started admitting, 'Well you know, I don’t know anything about Islam.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Interfaith issues • Iran • Islam • Mosque • Muslim

soundoff (3,206 Responses)
  1. Ro

    It seems all religions believe their way is the 'right' way. If one doesn't agree with another's religious views, but they are happy and not hurting anyone or breaking any laws, then let them be. Religion has become too political.

    Maybe the hippies had it right the whole time.
    Peace & Love, my babies. 😉

    March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • TruthMatters

      No , the real question is the same question was asked to Jesus: "What is Truth?" The search for truth is the thing mankind should strive for. Show me a group of Islamic intellectuals who truly try and disect what the believe and can it stand up to scruninty. Screw religions...Jesus claimed He was the Truth..

      March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ro

      @TruthMatters – I think you just proved my point and sorry, but I don't know everyone who practices Islam, so I can't tell you who has & has not sought the "Truth" you want them to find. But who knows, maybe some researched other beliefs, even yours, and weren't satisfied.

      The crazy things is you're all serving the same God, just different versions of Him.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  2. the cor

    Thank god (hehe) I am a rational thinker and understand religions are a social construct – created out of humanities outdated need to hope that maybe, just maybe, you go somewhere after you die, or that you're somehow rewarded for living a certain way.

    Sorry folks, you're "praying" to yourself without knowing it, to influence your own emotions and personal needs. "God" is in the mind. When you die nothing happens, the brain shuts down. The end.

    Want to live a happy life? Love one another. Live compassionately. These are't christian values, or muslim values, or morman values etc. These are HUMAN values.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • TruthMatters

      How do you know your premice is true? Do you really think something came out of nothing. People these days like to just throw around life philosopies without ever actually know what they are talking about. Your system requires as much faith or more than religions who follow some sort of deity.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  3. Michigan

    Wow, and another car bomb driver is born. Some day he will learn that Mohammed was a man ~ not a god.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • MINT

      LOL MUHAMMAD WAS A MAN, HE NEVER CLAIMED TO BE GOD! HIS FOLLOWERS BELIEVE THAT HE WAS A MERELY A MAN TEACHING THE ONENESS OF GOD. I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING AT THE IGNORANCE IN THESE COMMENTS. THEY HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT THIS FAITH AND YET YOU CAN WRITE PAGES AND PAGES AGAINST IT

      March 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  4. Bob

    They have a very high conversion rate in many countries, mainly because if you do not convert you are put to death.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  5. New angle from Nashville

    New angle. I found out that Timothy McVeigh was raised a Catholic. Since this Chistian was a terrorist, I say no more churches can be built in this country..... If a few Islamic terrorists makes all believers terrorists, then same rules must be applied to Christans. I think that's fair

    March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  6. jorge washinsen

    I would like for some of the Berkley educated scholars of the bible to tell me why there are 10,000 recognized religions and all agree there is but one God.After that each religion writes what they are willing to put up with to keep the donations coming.someone figured, along time ago.that if you could convince 10 people to cough up 10 percent one would not have to work.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  7. Zombiesite

    A story about converstion? Really? This isn't news.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  8. Major League Infidel

    I agree this is an agenda story, not so much to prop up Islam but to tear down Christianity. It both amazes me and scares me that so many believe in what they cannot see or prove while ignoring what can be proven. There is no one more dangerous than the "Righteous."

    March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  9. n3kit

    In Islam, you can have as many wives as you can afford. And why would God introduce Himself as Allah? Christ is a wise teacher, He teaches by his works and creations. It would be natural for Christ to introduce God as His Father, not as Allah, as father is a concept of authority in humanity.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • MINT

      wrong!!!!!! ONE CANNOT HAVE AS MANY WIVES AS HE WANTS! THANKS FOR SPREADING LIES. YOU ARE ALLOWED A MAXIMUM OF 4 WOMAN AND YOU NEED THE PERMISSION FOR YOUR OTHER WIVES/WIFE TO TAKE ANOTHER. IF PERMISSION IS NOT GRANTED, YOU CANNOT MARRY ANOTHER. THIS IS THE IMPORTANCE OF WOMAN IN ISLAM. IF YOU FEAR YOU CANNOT LOVE THEM EQUALLY MARRY ONLY ONE(THE QURAN)

      March 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  10. Carl Yastrzemski

    What happened to the surfboard? It seems like kind of a random thing to mention and then not follow up on. Does he now surf for Allah in Murfreesboro? Seriously, did the surfboard convert him to Islam? I don't get it.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  11. john

    We now know why the brain can "believe" in religion. It is indeed biology based. Even with knowledge, we will find ways to dismiss this, and it exactly fits the biology model as a result.

    http://fora.tv/2011/02/15/Robert_Sapolsky_Are_Humans_Just_Another_Primate

    March 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  12. Nathanito

    It is much more logical to believe in a higher power than to believe that everything started randomly by chance.
    There is too much evidence that points to creation: Complex machines within the human body(ex: bacterial flaggelum), the beauty of nature, orderly systems (lunar tydes, the many systems in the human body, photosynthesis, metamorphasis, etc.).
    Isn't it obvious????

    "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." – Francis Crick

    March 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Toby

      That, my good friend, is what is known as an argument from ignorance; we don't know, so why not "plug in" my idea of how things began (no evidence provided, just believe). No, that's not how science works nor is it how we build a scientific theory. What is lacking in your hypothesis is actual evidence. Peace.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • NyteShayde

      Just as there is a ton of evidence missing from Darwin's theory. None of it can be proven, so all possible explanations must be explored. The narrow and myopic view of the scientific community is just as stunted as that of the religious community. Kindly get off your intellectual and moral high horse.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Nathanito

      Toby – No sir. The evidence is legit. Do some research yourself instead of assuming I'm wrong. Prove me wrong, you can't.

      However, I can prove Darwin was wrong.

      "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." (Bacterial Flagellum) GG darwin, GG.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • n3kit

      To a believer everything is proof of God, to a non believer, nothing is. Some people will always want proof before they believe, TOBY, it will not do you any harm if you reverse your scientific process, believe first and you will have your proof.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  13. James Hall

    Why is this the front page lead story? Obviously nothing but shallow Islamic driven propaganda from CNN staff.
    Do your DAMN jobs and get back to responsible journalism!

    March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  14. Tom

    I won't be watching as there is another more interesting program on.....it's a show about fresh paint and watching it dry.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • doro

      theres also another after that where u watch grass grow, i'l be watching that one lol

      March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  15. I Am Always Right

    The real question that should be addressed is why would anyone want to join an organized religion in the first place?

    After all, all organized religions are completely fictional and is an organization that is only after your money. If anyone has 1/2 of a brain, they would make organized religion illegal because its even worse than a Ponzi Scheme. They all exploit people's invulnerabilities to make a profit.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  16. Toby

    Can men truly fly by winged horse up to the heavens? Can people really walk on water, raise the dead (who, by the way, say nothing of the event themselves), be born of a virgin (as if this proves anything), and change water into wine? I've never seen any evidence of any of this-it was only told to me by people who were themselves indoctrinated to believe these ideas. Even if these miracles were proved, it would not prove divinity or that the teachings of these religions were in fact true.

    H.L. Mencken~ "Man is an irrational animal; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones."

    March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • TruthMatters

      Toby , you act as though you have a corner on truth? Is truth relative? The search for truth should be mans quest. Not just haphazardly , but a full out assult. Jesus claimed to be the truth. Can this be trusted? Can it be tested? I believe it can. It really does little to advance your presuppositions by attacking someone , rather than rationally looking at them.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  17. smootheelishus

    yawn

    March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  18. Stefan Radu

    I read all this conversation and will not insult anybody, as some did, but I tell you that all those stones thrown at religion in general made me feel like 30 years ago in Communist Romania. That system thrived on atheism and Darwinism and all these attempts to avoid responsibility before the just Creator of the universe. He is love, but He cannot accept a wild walk of people forever. And that idea of being eternally tormented in fire? This teaching does not come from the Bible, but is a huge distortion of it. Yes, evil and evildoers will be destroyed because the normal world cannot be created out of hatred and rebellion, but that destruction takes place in a very short time. America executes evildoers: does the Creator not have that right after millennia of patience? Does the Bible and the church force me to believe? Am I controlled? Sorry, it is my happy choice; I read the Bible not 3 times but maybe 50 times and like it more and more! I belong to the healthiest group of people in the world because of living according to the Bible (see National Geographic and discover which that group is). Religious wars? Those who walk with God do not condone wars. You do not believe and still do what is right? What is right without an absolute and eternal code? Everybody would have another code of behavior – Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ceausescu!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    In love to all erring ones. Stefan

    March 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • NyteShayde

      Please shut up.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • ramon machtesh

      Finally someone who gets what America is all about! Yes, Stephan, I may be wrong, or you may be, that's what faith means, acceptance without direct evidence. But we all accept that the guy next door can worship in Hebrew or Arabic or Latin or Greek or Slavonic or Quechua or Sanskrit or whatever or not at all, as long as he doesn't try to stop me from trying to approach G-d (or not, in America, there's no requirement) however I want, and as long as my way doesn't screw with his ability to worship his way i his own house. And you are absolutely right, human nature demands an authoritative moral code. The "Character Counts" garbage, do what a boozing, drunken Reagan retread says because he gets $2 every time we use his material and booze is expensive, so many schools use is part of what's wrong with todays's youth.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  19. Louisiana Hot Sauce

    Personally i like this headline. Now is it front page news? Not really. I am a Christian. Do i "bible thump"? Not at all. To classify a religion as one thing is stereotypical. People in same religions dont all agree on certain beliefs. Say how most people think that all of Islam is bad. Not true. In some places the religion is very peaceful. The radicals are the ones that are doing the terrorizing. Christians that run around saying "you're going to hell" or "God hates you" are just radical. Most of them havent even read the Bible. A lot of people don't get their religion. Many of them try to "play God". Me personally ,from what i see as a actual Christians point of view, is that there is a Loving God who loves anyone and wants everyone to turn to him. Now if you dont, you are to spend eternity in hell. Whether you believe in God or not is your decision. Im not trying to convert people. Im just trying to say that The Religion itself is not bad, the people that screw up all the time with their radical beliefs are.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  20. hs

    Please learn the real philosophy of Islam of peace, love to all and family an not what politically motivated ignorant people or ruthless dictators who use the religion to achieve their goals. When you do so from the correct sources you will learn that Islam is not the way being presented by the mediat of killing innocent people, women abuse, etc.

    March 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • I Am Always Right

      Its called ignorance

      March 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • I Am Always Right

      Matt. Have you read the Bible?

      Stone your children for talking back at you.

      Yeah why dont you stick to your fictional book. I really enjoy the fairy tale of the guy who rises from the dead. It's a hilarious story

      March 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Toby

      Yes, let everyone read the foundational texts (Q'uran and hadith) and draw there own conclusions without "cherry picking" verses that support their agendas. We can look within the pages of these books and find mandates to love others and forgive our fellow creatures. We can also find explicit commands to kill non-believers, beat women, kill those who speak ill of the prophet, and regard reason and critical thinking as tools of satan. So by all means, let's take a close look at the foundational texts of all these totalitarian ideological systems of thought-control. Peace.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bernie

      Matt.... son.... the Bible is worse

      March 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • NyteShayde

      ...and apparently Matt has never read the Bible either. It's just as full of hate, bias, misogyny, and murder as the Koran (and these posts). So please, Matt, when he's done sucking on that 12 gauge, kindly reload and suck on it yourself

      March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • TruthMatters

      The question I have for you is, how do you know your assesment of Islam is true? What do you base it on? It seems these days people like to just throw words around without ever actually having any reasons for saying them. I have read in my own copy of the Quran about how Infidels are to be handled. It does'nt sound loving to me? Others questions worth considering are this: Is Islam True? How do you know what you believe to be true , is really the Truth? Is truth relative to what one wants it to be?

      March 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • I Am Always Right

      Toby. If you're trying to defend the Bible than know that the Bible is just as worse.

      You have contradictory statements that are riddled throughout the its fictional tales.

      March 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.