In my case, the Web liberated me. It helped free my mind from the dark, stinking and suffocating dungeons of religious dogmatism and intolerance.
Lucky for me, online and far away from those I resented, I found a growing tribe that was driven by the ideals of liberty: liberal Arab and Muslim bloggers, some of whom helped instigate, report on via Twitter and facilitate the youth-led Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt, demanding freedom and dignity.
Through my new online tribe, I discovered interpretations of Islam that were more rational, spiritual and humanistic. I later traveled around the world and met many of my online comrades.
The result, after a lengthy and messy process of critical thinking, has been profound.
Had my original personal grievances and temperament been different when I arrived online, however, I might have directed my attention to harmful, destructive content.
And here is where we need to look closer at what could have driven the Tsarnaev brothers toward their heinous act.
The role of religious belief can't be pinpointed as the sole motivating cause. We need to go deeper and explore the issue of the interpretation of religious texts, something that too many pundits ignore.
Yes, the Koran contains verses calling for violence against the unbelievers, though these ought to be placed within the appropriate historical context. Nevertheless, it also includes passages that encourage peace and compassion toward fellow human beings.
One of those passages was read by my friend Nasser Weddady at an interfaith memorial in Boston after the bombings. It reads, in part:
"Whoever kills a soul, it is as if he killed mankind entirely. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of mankind."
One could ask, why didn't Tamerlan Tsarnaev abide by an interpretation of Islam that places value on these verses rather than those related to war?
The answer is that interpretation is ultimately a choice. And when Tsarnaev ventured online, it looks as if he did so with established personal grievances.
I suspect that what psychologists call "confirmation bias" led him to consume militant interpretations of Islam that validated his feelings and confirmed his views, without seeking differing Muslim perspectives.
The Tsarnaev brothers bear responsibility for their criminal act. But let's not forget the sick demagogues who lure them in and poison their minds.
Amir Ahmad Nasr, author of the forthcoming book "My ...@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind and Doubt Freed My Soul," is a digital activist and entrepreneur. This column was distributed by Bloomberg News.