Hello all. Been lurking for a few months and finally thought I'd take the plunge. Am a guy in India, of Hindu heritage, but pretty much Godless since I discovered Led Zep in my teens.
My nickname here is a reference to Charavaka - a school of Hindu philosophy originating in the 5/6th century BC. It is one of the oldest Atheist philosophies out there, and the mainstream Hindu schools tended to ignored it (but never persecuted adherents). The Charavaka philosophers ridiculed Vedic rituals as just a means for the priestly caste to earn money and stressed a materialistic approach to life - there is no 'afterlife,' so enjoy your life and die (one of their popular pieces of advice - 'Eat butter and live on loans'). The Charavaka school also stressed that all reality is based on subjective perception, and rejected anyone who claimed to possess 'truth.' You can read more about the Charavaka School on the net (some people write it as 'Carvaka')
My interest in Islam was sparked by 9/11. Prior to that, I had only a hazy understanding about Islam - just one of the many religions people practice out here. But upon a lot of research into Muhammad and Islam, I have come to the opinion that out of all the Abrahamic faiths, Islam has been the most resistant to reformation. As a result, it seems completely out of place in the 21st century. Putting women in bags and taking lives of unbelievers, to name just a couple of Islam's terrible injunctions, are unacceptable in today's times as they infringe on human rights. What is more distressing is to see a virulent Bedouin-inspired Islam taking over South Asia, with South Asian Islam - a colourful slapdash of Islam and the Vaishnavite Bhakti movement of medieval India - increasingly being rejected by 'mainstream' Muslims (I do have a lot of Muslim friends - guys and girls, but most are apostates). Arabic names, saying 'Salam Aleikum' instead of 'Adaab,' the increasing visibility of full body burkhas in Muslim areas (not the case in the 80s when I was growing up), and growing intolerance towards Shias and Ahmadis in particular is very distressing.
But I am hopeful that with the advent of the internet and the advance of secular education, a reformation in Islam is inevitable in the next 20 years - we shall see a kinder and gentler Islam soon, inshallah!