Thanks for your post, if you don't mind I'd like to take the liberty to reply to it.
I have searched this site and read through some stories on why some people converted to Islam. All of the stories rambled on and I never got a clear understanding of what it was they saw or learnt that convinced them that Islam was the will of God. I found reading those long rambling stories arduous so I’ll try and make mine more succinct.
I think the problem is that people don't just convert because of certain arguments, but instead there's also a segment of personal experience that play a part in it. I've dedicated a whole website (link in my signature) to try and answer "why" I converted, and I still think that the site doesn't quite cover it. The final choice to convert was the result of so many different factors, events, thoughts, and so on. It's nearly impossible to convey that to another person in writing.
Things that I like about Islam and the Muslim way of life:
The concept of ummah; belonging to one big family is very appealing.
The strong moral code and ethics which Muslims are compelled to adhere to.
The certainty of belief of the rewards that follow after death for those who worship God.
About that last point, being a Muslim doesn't guarantee a good afterlife, each person will be judged according to his actions. So according to Islam merely acknowledging Islam or testifying to it isn't sufficient.
I can see why all or any of the above might be very attractive to lots of people. The problem is the below (unattractive) things about Islam and some Muslims.
I think in the end true Muslims follow Islam not because it suits them, but instead because they are convinced it is genuine.
Things I don’t like about Islam and the Muslim way of life:
In my readings and study of the Qur’an and context in which it was written I can’t find anything which convinces me that it is the word of God.
Have you read the whole Qur'an front to back? For me, reading the Qur'an front to back was already very convincing by itself. But then again, the personal events in my life around that time might have made me more "open-minded" towards it. Also, when you read the Qur'an, do you read it at face value, or do you read it with the intention of not believing it? In other words, do you stop at every verse convincing yourself it's false, or do you stop at every verse and consider what if it's false, and what if it's true. Or do you just read it and go with your gut-feeling? (btw, I'm not trying to make a point here, I'm genuinely curious)
I can’t believe that God, knowing how much the world would change, would leave as his guide to all mankind for ever, a book which is so specifically focused on events in 7th century middle-east.
There are some parts which were focussed on 7th century middle east indeed, but the largest part of the Qur'an explains concept and ideas which are universal throughout all times. Then some other parts tell stories about previous prophets. So I really don't think your judgment there is accurate. Only a very small part is focussed specifically on the 7th century middle east. you're welcome to prove me wrong though.
I can’t believe that God would leave a guide to mankind so badly written that even after 1400 years of hadith and scholarly interpretation we’re still struggling to interpret it.
Rather then seeing this as a flaw and poor writing, most people see this as a rich writing that can be interpreted on many levels.
Furthermore, I wouldn't say people are struggling with interpretation. Most Muslims are in consensus about the meaning of the Qur'an. What happens though is that some innovators work the other way around. They go searching the Qur'an for evidence of whatever they want to prove. Bu those are just a small fraction of Muslims. But I can however understand how to an outsider, it might be confusing. Especially if there's several people like that on this forum debating over the actual meaning of verses.
I can’t believe that God would choose as his messenger a man who was clearly as a man of his time with fulfilling his worldly desires as any other man.
First of all there's nothing wrong with a man, any man to fulfill his desires within certain boundaries.
Secondly, the prophet peace be upon him never abused his positions as prophet for his worldly desires.
Thirdly, even non-muslims studying the life of the prophet (peace be upon him) admit that he was no ordinary man, but a man of most excellent character and gifted in many ways.
I am suspicious of a book teaching about converting non Muslims
Is it not logical, that if
Islam is indeed true, the moral thing to do is spread this truthness? Attempting to convert people is only immoral on the premise that Islam is false, therefor using this as an argument not to convert is circular. Furthermore the Qur'an clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion. So there should be no converting against people's will. How can you be suspicious of such a thing?
and teaching about Muslims not getting too close to non Muslims
Islam doesn't teach us to avoid non-muslims and isolate ourself. What you are probably referring to, is the verse saying not to take non muslims as closest friend. But again, this is only immoral based on the premise that Islam is false. It's a well documented phenomena in psychology and sociology that people will change depending on the company they keep. Therefor, if for the sake of argument you assume that Islam is genuine, then it makes sense that when a Muslims seeks a close friend, someone to confide in, someone to spend a lot of his leisure time with, that he would seek a fellow Muslim. They will then strengthen each others faith on the straight path. However that doesn't mean that you can't be friends, or can't be kind and warm to non-muslism.
and the penalties for Muslims who leave Islam
Those are simply wrong. There exist hadeeth which show that people who left Islam were not prosecuted. As for those hadeeths who do speak of penalties for people who left Islam, in every one of them, the person who were penalized also committed other crimes. So in conclusion there exist no scriptural evidence for this practice and it's un-islamic.
it makes me suspect that Muslims’ fear close scrutiny of their beliefs.
People generally fear scrutiny of their beliefs, I think it reflect more on human psychology rather then on Islam.
And, that has been reaffirmed on this site where the moderators watch out for and close down anything that gets close to making Islamic teachings look false or ludicrous.
(I had a lengthy exchange with moderators out of site of the general membership where I was accused of posting questions that ‘mocked’ Islam. The problem is any question that points to an anomaly is interpreted as mocking and that makes me suspect that you are unsure that your teachings will stand up to scrutiny),
Well I can't say anything about that, since I don't know which post of you have gotten deleted. What I can tell you is that from my experience as a member and as an ex-mod that this forum is fairly open. The only topic that isn't allowed is debate on which division/sect/group of Islam is right. Other then that anything can be asked or debated about as long as it's in the right section and brought in a respectful manner. Even things that potentially make Islam look bad, can be brought in a respectful manner. A lot depends on the way you formulate the question. Again I can't judge your posts, since I don't know which posts of you have gotten deleted, but are you certain they weren't deleted due to the manner in which you presented your arguments
rather then due to the arguments itself
I have asked and been told that the Muslims on this forum are typical. In that case I am disturbed because I think that some of your beliefs and practices are ‘extreme;’
Extreme in what way? In the sense that we do extreme things for our religion, or in the sense that we are extreme in following our religion, because those are two totally different things. And in what sense it is disturbing? I personally don't see any problems with striving as much as possible to follow the rules of Islam; since in my opinion the rules of Islam itself are very moderate. So then even being extreme in following them should make you a moderate person.
I also get a feeling that some of you are in competition to prove that you are more devout than the Muslim next to you.
I haven't noticed that before, but then again I'm only active in the comparative religion section. On one hand I can understand your concern, intentions are a very important concept in Islam. And each action will be judged on it's intention. On the other hand, are you sure that what you noticed is people trying to prove that they are more devout, and not just people trying to be more devout? Because frankly I don't see that big a problem with people being competitive in being 'good
In short, I know that people are people and there’s good and bad everywhere
Amen to that ^_^
and I have formed a huge respect for some of the members here but I can’t understand how intelligent people can believe that believe that the Qur’an is the word of God.
Well at the risk of sounding vain, I would consider myself fairly intelligent.
And at the risk of sounding condescending and smug, just because you don't understand something, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.
Peace and Respect to all of you
And to you to! =)