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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. Marklar

    Why are we even letting media outlets discuss this kind of topic. I for one don't care about someone's delusional belief system switching to an even more delusional belief system. If you open your eyes instead of "listening to your heart" (which is an excuse to say "think selfishly") you would understand that ALL RELIGION is there to make one feel lesser than the beautiful creation that you are.

    There is no God.

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is NOT omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able , and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able or willing? Then why call him GOD? ~Epicurus

    March 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  2. greenhands

    ya guys keep trashing eachother's religion and faith...back and fourth..
    ..that's exactly what all your Gods asked you to do right???
    Any faith in God that leads you to hate another relgion, race, or color.... is not a afaith in God/ or Allah.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Greg s

    If your just a person who never new Christ yet called yourself a Christian then i can believe it. Once you know the Holy spirit nothing else will do, that includes replacing God with your belief in self or giving up a loving Christ for a False God who instructs you that is now alright to Lie to Christians and Jews even to go as far as murder them without reprisal.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  4. Mark

    There is most likely NOT a god.

    Because of this, Mohammed is most likely not his prophet, Jesus is most likely not his son, and Moses most likely did not see his rear.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  5. Mike

    I don't think he'll stick with it... I'd put money on it. Dude is just trying to make sense of life and as he gets older he'll get tired of being Muslim and will jump to some other faith. There are a lot of religion jumpers out there, he's no different.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • fundies

      I wonder if anyone has ever "jumped" because of religion? My guess is YES.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  6. Amazed

    The inability of people to analyze what has happened with Abrahamic religion always amazes me. It's either 'I'm an athiest. You're stupid." or "I believe in an intellectually detached analysis of one book without any regard for the world from which it arose and I learned it all in my buddy's friend's basement... oh, and I read Left Behind."

    Here's a summary:

    1. Once there was a group of people who didn't fit in in Sumeria. They left. They were called in later years "Apiru" meaning "Landless Person". They wandered about.

    2. These people didn't have access to natural wonders or locations to associate with Gods because they were nomads. So, in contrast to the settled people around them, they developed an idea God was with them and was everywhere all at once. No shrine, mountain or waterfall required.

    3. In the beginning, these people had a male god and female god. The male god was concerned with war and boundaires. The female god with agriculture and fertility. The female god became less important simply because she had less application to the lives of wandering people who were afraid of and hated by everyone around them for being different.

    4. The landless people developed a religioun that was all about group preservation and cultural surivival. This was particularly strong with them as they were constantly afraid due to their isolation. Their religion therefore became brutal and was particularly hard on women who violated group norms: The easier way to fall apart as a group is to lose control of the women who are needed to perpetuate it.

    5. Eventually, the group became a settled society. They were still fanatical about self preservation and cultural isolation.

    6. A larger empire took over the group. This empire offended the group repeatedly and occassionally brutalized them for non-conformity. This empire thought the little nation they took over was very strange and foreign: They were so obsessed with independence and non-conformity. They would not play ball.

    7. People in the little group despaired under the foriegn occupation. Many individuals arose who presented themselves as holy men, men who blended religion with politics. They were nationalists. They utilized their faith to resist foreign occupatiion. Their contemporaries called them "Sons of God".One of these was John the Baptist.

    8. A very normal man in this little nation met John the Baptist and became his student. He was known as Jesus of Nazereth.

    9. Jesus developed a thought system that was completely indestructible. How? It stated there was only one rule : Love all. It used absence of love to decry all social evils of the day, whether they came from the elite of his own people, who were co-operating with the occupiers, or the occupiers themselves. Jesus was an equal opportunity critic. He railed against all self-righteous people. He railed against all rule mongers. He railed against all "holy" people and in fact pointed out that the more overtly holy a person appeared... the less holy they generally were. Thus. anyone who criticized Jesus was symptomatic of the malaise he described. The more you hit him, the stronger he became for you proved yourself to be what he said you were: A hypocrite.

    10. This upset the elite of Jesus's day. So... they killed him. He was, in effect, a political dissident and social critic. And... because his philosophy gave him strength when he was attacked... his death gave him functional immortality. Such was the impact this man's person and philosophy had on his peers.

    11. Centuries later, a religious system based on this man took hold of the old foreign occupier. It purported to be the natural continuation of the Jewish faith. However, it was profoundly internally contradicted. The Bible does not make coherent sense when read from start to finish. It has obviously contradicting themes. This should not be surprising because the practicioners of the old testament were the enemies of Jesus. Jesus existed because he opposed them and their rule mongering. For Jesus, Love was The Law. There was no Law but Love.

    12. In another part of the world, to the east and south, great social divides and conflicts had railed for centuries. The people there fought over most everything. This was because their region was both overpopulated and resource strapped.

    13. Social reformers emerged. One, Mohammed, utilized a "modernized" version of Judaism to try to unify the people. It emphasized a watered down version of the rules of Judaisim coupled with a call to compassion derived from the Judaic prophetic tradition and the person of Jesus.

    14. This sytem was aggressively spread through the region by the Arab Empire. The fusion of temporary more centralized political control and the universal adoptability of the new Jewish – Christian blend brought peace to a region that had not seen peace for nearly its entire existence.

    15. This system was Islam. It declared itself to be the perfected Abrhamic faith. It pointed out how Jewishness was open only to Jews, while Christianity was incoherent and produced hypocrites due to its incoherence.

    16. Centuries passed. The Christian world became a world riven with internal spiritual conflict between those who favoured old testament views and those that favoured new testament ones. This conflict was good in that is produced societies that would occassionally go through massive social reforms... driven by the reformist spirit at the heart of the teachings of Jesus. However, Christianity was so unstructured it began to lose its sense of self... It began to produce people who were, in effect, excellent Christians, who thought of themselves as atheists. It... effectively... submerged in its host cultures... yet persisted in directing them by way of cultural norms.

    17. Islam did not submerge. This was because it was rules oriented. It attempted to develop a comprehensive set of rules to answer all questions. Naturally, it has not completely succeeded and much internal hypocrisy has resulted.

    18. Today: Christianity is incoherent, barely visible and very confused. Yet, all countries that have hosted it for millenia have a deep seated affinity for mercy, humility and compassion.

    19. Islam's law has failed to keep pace with the times. It is under great strain. It's followers are as confused as the Christians.

    20. Islam responds with more aggressive attempts to impose order. Christianity responds with self mutiliation coupled with occassional flare ups of old testament inspired rage against "foreign" elements. Muslims sound "crazy" when they put forward medieval sounding responses to modern problems. Christians sound/act crazy when their societies lurch back and forth between vengence and mercy with devastating consequences.

    21. Atheists and Humanists in the west are not immune. They are as much a part of Judeo Christian culture as any other westerner. In fact, their critical assessment of the the current order coupled with their occassional calls for reform mirror the founder of the faith that has characterized their land for millenia.

    Yup. I said it. A socially conscious atheist who points out the modern failings of religion today is... acting like Jesus. In fact, that is why we tolerate them while the Muslim world will not.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  7. Jamoca

    I love how CNN is romanticing this story with the nice music and all...I wonder who is getting into CNN's pockets too 😉
    HINT: Check out the NPR sting from a couple of weeks ago...

    March 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  8. that's because

    @ Mao "Can you worship God in truth when you attach errors upon God?"
    I guess the short answer is I don't know. Perhaps I don't understand your question. However, I am of the opinion that humans are incredibly limited in their capacity to understand God –much less One who is infinite as I would believe Him to be.
    What I'm trying to say is I don't feel that a lack of understanding is a punitive offense...

    March 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  9. fundies

    church = business = driven by greed and power

    people = sheep = lamb chops = good flavor = beer

    March 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  10. From God

    Every man has to choose for himself or herself what path to follow. Given that there are so many paths that claim to lead to the same God(Heaven), it would be best to ask the real God to stand up and reveal himself personally and take a look at prophecies that were fulfilled by God's prophets. The evidence is overwhelmingly favored in one direction and the only living God has a gentle voice, saying come. Once truly experienced, that God will be undeniably & eternally accepted by the individual whose emersed in his confirming relationship.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  11. Mary

    And the dumb get dumber! This is 2011, how can any rational person believe in a Cosmic genie dolling out 70 virgins in the after life, or crowns of gold and wings when they get to heaven? All this religious irrationality is a threat to humanity. Either humanity will kill off religion or religion will kill of humanity.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  12. Samuel Barret

    Jews rule the media. I Dislike the Jews. Just because the holocaust happened doesnt mean that I have to support the state of isreal and allow them to kill palestines who are stupid. Their are only 16 million Jews in the world, yet they contain most of the worlds wealth. They built isreal on Muslims land.. And killed many Muslims. America should stop supporting the stupid Jews. And start supporting the black,hispanic,and asain population.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • wow

      You should have to pass an IQ test before being able to post.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • fundies

      Sam Goebels Barret

      March 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  13. mike

    One thing Christianity is a religion you can leave without death. God gave us a choice to serve
    him or serve another. Just read of Christian churches in the middle east being burned and the
    Christians being killed. What would people do if Christians went that route?

    March 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  14. PABLO TACO HISPANOLA BURRITO BEANS COCAINE BURRO

    HE OBVIUSLY LOVES MEN AND TO GIVE THEM KISSES

    March 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  15. Mat

    This move wont stop him from getting killed the next time the muslim freaks decide to blow up something.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • dragens

      Are you aware that only 6% of terrorist attacks on American soil in the past 20 years have come from Muslims? Did you know that Jewish people committed more terrorist attacks (7%)?

      March 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  16. Kenneth

    Islam is not the terrorist empowerment the media has made it out to be. That is a culture issue, PERIOD. God is God, why argue who got the story wrong or right? Anyone with a healthy faith in God deserves respect for their convictions. Look at how many have none at all, who would you rather be your neighbor?

    March 25, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      The one with none at all.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Tenthgen

      Kenneth,
      It's not the media that are confusing Islam and terrorism. Osama Bin Laden has done more damage to Islam than any other person dead or alive.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Tenthgen

      Kenneth,
      You say 'God is God'. So you're OK if I worship God as a Muslim, Christian, or Bhuddist, is that right?
      If so, I would rather have you as a neighbor than, well, who I have now.
      -Tenthgen

      March 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  17. MadMo

    Look what real islam is
    http://www.iraniumthemovie.com/

    March 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  18. EmmahR

    If a man wants to switch to that religion whether it may be a new found liking, or just because he sees that it is taking over the world, let him do it. Personally I think everyone's doing it because they want to be recognized as a Muslim and saved in whatever "peril" the Extremists' are planning. Keep that in mind.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      No problem. Islam won't take over the world; we atheists will see to that. Relax.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  19. Tom

    This man was a Chirstain in name only. Anyone in faith knowing Jesus Christ could not conceivebaly renounce Christainity for Islam or any other teahcing.

    March 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • R. Diane

      AMEN

      March 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • dragens

      You must not know Jesus very well if you believe that. His power lies in guiding people to their own highest path, not demanding worship and servitude like an insecure tyrant.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Mary

      Jesus warned his followers against false prophets. It's a sin to turn away from Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, to follow a false god. Jesus said He is the light of the world and no one can go to the Father except thru Him.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      Your statement is untrue. I freed myself from Christianity (and all other religions) and have never been happier.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Undisclosed

      His mother's response indicates that his family was probably not too particularly religious. Should hardly be considered Christian. The majority of California liberals who call themselves Christians are Christian in name only.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Mark

      As I read the article, I made a bet myself that someone declaring that the guy was never a Christian would be the first comment.
      I'm awesome. You crazy Christians!! 🙂

      March 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • dragens

      @Mary – You are referring to words written in texts compiled over centuries, rewritten, translated, and misinterpreted in ways that fundamentally changed the original meanings, and reflects the story of a savior born of virgin and raised from the dead that has existed in cultures thousands of years before. Please correct your mistake and remember that arrogance isassuming what God knows is a sinful path.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • gjwo

      What's ironic is that Christianity is just as discriminatory towards women as Islam. Say what? Women priests are forbidden? Women are only allowed to serve God but not speak for him? How is that different than placing women behind men in prayer?

      March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Steve

      Do not forget we are sons of Uncle Abraham...... Muslims, Christians, and Jews. we are all worshiping the same god and he is showing all of us love.....if we cannot realize that then the fighting between religions will never cease.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Mei

      You said that well Tom, Indeed, a true Christian would never follow a MAN like Mohammed. Jesus IS God!

      March 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Dawn

      I'm a Christian, but I don't "worship" Jesus. I worship God, for whom Jesus was a messenger. Religions all worship God, they just have varying loyalties to the messenger, but fundamentally in my study of theology the messages are for the most part all dogmatically the same. And anyone who chooses to chastise or demoralize another group for having faith, is allowing their human ignorance to tarnish the awe-inspiring omnipresence of God and spirituality.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • R-dawoud

      tom you wright

      March 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Rick

      @gjwo that is an odd statement considering I've had a pastor that is female

      March 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • efferverde

      As people evolve, they will stop with this petty "You must worship this one, not that one." They will learn that Christ's message was that the powers he demonstrated lie within all of us. They will learn that Christ never demanded worship. Until then, we will get posts like Tom's, who believe one must hitch his ride to the right path.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Amila

      He can not say he was a christian just because he was borne to a christian family or mother help to church with music. Everyone who wnats to be christian should follow jesus christ. Not church traditions. Christian=Christ followers. Then he helps us to understand things.

      March 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  20. Frankly Speaking..

    Thank you CNN, its a blog entry I have enjoyed reading and listening to. Not because it says what I want to hear but because it has FACTS in it for a change

    Regards,
    Ardent reader

    March 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Rickie

      It would be good to know why Mathew Miller join the christian faith in the first place

      March 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Undisclosed

      Was clearly born into it... Did you read the article? He converted as a child in Disneyland...

      March 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Rickie

      So it was not his choice to become a christian in the first place. He could had been sheep if his parents had raised him on a farm?

      March 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
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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.