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Islam and Tolerance (27 Mar 2013 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Is There A Rational Basis For The Atheists To Oppose Religion?

 

 

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist has become the poster boy for atheism. I hope he is good at his subject of evolutionary biology but when it comes to religion, he appears to be as irrational as the Church was once upon a time regarding science. I suppose, his rejection of religion is related to the way the question of evolutionary biology and creation is presented. Either you choose evolutionary biology and therefore science or you choose creation and therefore religion.  Evolutionary biology and creation are not treated as equally valid models of the reality. “My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism” is what he says. He further says that “the theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity”.

I would think that organized complexity can be better explained as the work of a Creator just as the works of Shakespeare are more easily understood as the work of a person rather than as produced through some process of `natural selection’ by a computer. We can grant the possibility that a computer can be programmed by a linguist to produce intelligible works comparable to the works of Shakespeare, but there is a difference between what is deemed as conceivable and fact or even a possibility in the next trillion years. It is necessary that all works of literature are composed of building blocks (words and rules of grammar) that make it possible to express almost anything. That does not mean that every work of literature just happened by itself! Also, we need human beings to do the programming even if we can use machines to generate intelligible text. So why Dawkins should reject the idea of creation and hold as true the idea of evolution of higher life forms from the lowest? Just because fossils are available that date hundreds of thousand years ago and the Bible says that life began a few thousand years ago? The Church may have erred in a number of ways but that is not true of every religion. He is entitled to his preferred view but rejecting the idea of creation is a personal whim rather than a rational conclusion.

Religion And Morality

Evolutionary biologists glibly talk about morals and moral emotions, without pausing to wonder, why religion has been the sole source of all moral precepts. Why philosophers, who have dealt with the subject and have defined morality, been unable to generate any moral precept? Why secular thinking has not produced a single moral precept?  Religions, with their claim of divinely inspired messengers of God or avatars have on the other hand, contributed richly and exclusively. These moral precepts form the basis for the civil and criminal law of nations with necessary additions of a juridical nature. To borrow the words from the Quran, in this is a sign of God for those who think. The Quran gives out a challenge to humanity as follows:

17:88. Say: "If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.

2:23. And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true.

The challenge holds good for all that was revealed to every messenger, sent to every nation, from the beginning of time. My alternate challenge would be - Produce three moral precepts that do not owe their origin to religion or even one if you can!

Let us look at some possible arguments against divinity as a source of all durable moral precepts.  Are these precepts self evident which religion appropriated and since all the self evident moral precepts were already appropriated by religion there was nothing left for the secular thinkers?  As De Bono would say, every valued creative idea has to necessarily be logical in hindsight. If it were not so, we would reject it as without value. As the creative idea is logical in hindsight we are tempted to think that it should be equally accessible to logic in foresight. This need not be so. What chance does an ant on the trunk of a tree have of reaching a specified leaf? At every branch the chances diminish. In an average tree the chances are one in eight thousand. Now if we have an ant sitting on a leaf what are the chances of reaching the trunk of the tree? There is no forward branching in the journey so the chances are one hundred per cent. It is exactly the same with creative ideas. Once the idea has been reached then it is logical and obvious in hindsight. But reaching the idea is a different matter. The fact that no moral precept has come out of secular thinking and all moral precepts have come from only Religion is a good reason to believe that these are divinely inspired as claimed. There is evidence that every major religion, through its moral and social precepts, has pitch forked the followers at least a thousand years ahead of the rest and different civilizations have therefore enjoyed pre eminence at different points in time. A link is provided below to my article covering the Islamic principles whose application had taken Islamic society (tribal Bedouins) to great heights.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-history/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/causes-for-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-muslims/d/10880

 Response To Common Arguments Against Theism

a)       Morality is not the preserve of the theists alone

What makes it easy for even atheists to imbibe and follow the moral precepts? Man is endowed with reason, capable of understanding and discerning, and enjoys freedom by virtue of his reason to make moral choices ignoring his instinct and conditioning, his likes and dislikes and can act in accordance with the highest moral principles. That the moral precepts promote happiness and disregarding these has undesirable consequences for self and the society is self evident. We recognize what we must do and what we must avoid to promote the good of society and self. Hence, a rational human being will accept moral precepts that promote well being of self and the society irrespective of where these come from and without necessarily believing in any of the religions.

b)       Even Animals show pro social behaviour

Looking at animal behaviour, the evolutionary biologists think that altruism and reciprocity evolved among animals because these behaviours provided better survival benefits whereby those who learnt, did better than those that did not. They contend that all social animals, from ants to elephants, have modified their behaviours through an evolutionary process, by sacrificing self interest for the benefit of their group. Whether such behaviour is instinctive, or whether it evolved over a period as part of an evolutionary process is a controversial topic in evolutionary theory. While animals have shown their limited altruistic and pro social behaviour, and are not known to prey on and kill their own kind, it has taken much longer for man to learn the same behaviour, until which time, they lived in small communes and treated every other commune as hostile and preyed on and killed each other. The savage man of 10,000 years ago is known to have preyed on, and killed other men not belonging to their own group, with great predictability and regularity. The instinctive pro social behaviour was perhaps limited to the maternal bond, the immediate family and their commune. Man continues to kill other men, which is proof that it is learnt behaviour, and not biological instinct or behaviour modified by the evolutionary process that drives man to a greater extent. A man can be raised to be moral, amoral or immoral and his morality is shaped by the values that he imbibes. Abraham Maslow argued that what is called instinct is often imprecisely defined, and really amounts to strong drives. For Maslow, an instinct is something which cannot be overridden, and this is not true for humans. What man comes equipped with biologically are the emotions of happiness, sadness, pleasure, pain, disgust, ecstasy, anger and fear. Emotions and feelings are automatic physiological responses to external stimuli and help us take split second decisions such as fight or flight when facing danger or in simpler contexts like or dislike. Using reason is far slower and a very conscious and deliberate process. We are often too lazy to exert our thinking and let emotion or feelings decide for us. However, reason is capable of overriding instinctive and conditioned responses.

Morals are what help us in pro social behaviour and in propagating and preserving our species. Since pro social behviour is common for all living beings and seen among animals also, is no reason to believe that the process by which these skills are acquired is identical.

c)       Man possesses conscience or a moral compass which guides him to what is moral

Has evolution provided human beings with an internal moral compass or a conscience which guides him to make correct moral choices and is that the secret of man’s moral behaviour?

“Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment”.  They can through their reason alone, recognize, appreciate and accept all good moral precepts no matter from where these come. They can be trusted to enact good laws based on these and also support their effective implementation by setting up necessary institutions for detecting violations, prosecuting offenders, and for punishing the convicted. You therefore saw millions turn out in support of setting up of the Lokpal. People pointed out that cine actors, and many others like them, who accept black money in compensation, also came out in support and therefore, the show was sheer hypocrisy. I disagree. Yes, people who cheat on their taxes etc came out in support, but there was nothing insincere about their support. People look for a level playing field and will be happy not to cheat provided no one else cheats. They will therefore sincerely support the setting up of institutions that can prevent cheating and corruption. The government can make good use of the “splendid moral equipment” of people to create incorruptible institutions or institutions that are independent and share responsibility with other independent institutions so that each of these independent institutions is a check on the misuse of power by the other institutions and together, they effectively curb corruption and misuse of power.

 However, when faced with a situation, the very same people easily violate the laws they helped enact, if they think that they can get away with it. What about the moral compass and conscience? When presented with a situation that involves making a moral choice, our first impulse is to obey our feelings. The feeling generated is in accordance with our beliefs of what is right or wrong. If reason is applied, then there is a chance that we may subvert our `moral learning’ to do what we think is better suited for our self interest although not for the society. However, we experience unease and discomfort when our actions are not in accordance with our feelings or beliefs. This is nothing except the cognitive dissonance or a feeling of unease when our actions are not in consonance with our beliefs. The reasoning mind is however capable of rationalizing our preferred action and resolves the cognitive dissonance through a process of redefining or discounting the discordant factors. Robert Wright in his book the Moral Animal writes, “Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse.” They do not even acknowledge to themselves that they have done any wrong. The next time the cognitive dissonance felt is even weaker and the person breaks the law without feeling a twinge.

The effective way to make people follow the law is to have an all pervasive surveillance system to detect violations. People do have a threshold for crossing the line. They can be expected to follow the rules until the temptation to break the rule becomes stronger than the desire to conform or the fear of the consequences of getting caught. This threshold depends upon our relative position in life. A prosperous person has more to lose than to gain if he cheats for small amounts and gets caught. He can be expected to remain honest and even show generosity while dealing with people less fortunate than him, and in transactions involving small amounts. All other factors remaining the same, the people of a prosperous country will show a higher standard of morality in ordinary day to day life, since the consequences of cheating are more harmful to such people than the gain from cheating.  In prosperous countries therefore, you find little or no corruption in the day to day life of a citizen and all frauds and corruption are for very large amounts mostly.

Difference between the Pro Social Behaviour of Animals and Humans

 Animals are hard wired and are largely guided by their instinct and to some extent by conditioning. Mammals with complex neural system exhibit a greater role of their cerebral cortex and depend more on social learning and less on instincts. Lionesses and chimpanzees raised in zoos away from their birth mothers most often reject their own offspring because they have not been taught the skills of mothering. Such is not the case with simpler species such as reptiles. Animals display a range of very limited capacity to learn through conditioning which makes it possible to domesticate them. Although the larger mammals are capable of learning, their responses are guided by either instinct or conditioning and not from reasoning. They are not moral agents making moral choices through reason. Man on the other hand is guided by instinct, conditioning as well as by reasoning and his reasoning can overrule both his instinct and conditioning. While animals are mostly pre-programmed, man is entirely programmable and even reprogrammable. Animals instinctively show pro social behaviour. Humans need to learn the concepts of empathy, kindness, generosity, giving, sharing, nurturing, modesty and humility.  If these are not learned early enough, man will grow without the capacity for feelings and moral emotions and will exhibit psychopathic behaviour. The earlier, the moral precepts are learnt, the greater their chances of making an indelible mark on the person. Up to the age of 3 years, a person accepts all that it is taught without filtering. Beyond the age of 3 years, a person filters new messages through what he/she has already learnt. Noam Chomsky’s most powerful single idea is that there is a universal capacity for language but it is expressed in different ways in different cultures. Every baby has the capacity to learn all the world’s languages but what the neurologists call synaptic pruning in the early years reduces that child’s capacity to the languages around her. A songbird which does not hear other songbirds singing at the crucial stage of its development can never sing. That account of language can work for morality too – indeed the two are closely related, depending as they both do on human interaction.”

Another Irrational Objection Of Atheists To Religion

Dawkins also says “Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that.” Was 9/11 a political act or a religious one? Was it directed against Christians or the USA?

What does he think of the needless dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki then when the Japanese were ready to surrender but their overtures were ignored for at least 6 months, because the US wanted to test the destructive power of the bombs and also drive home a point to the USSR?

Conclusion

Is it possible to think of moral precepts as a product of human thought? Yes, it is possible. Is it a result of human thinking? I doubt it because if it was, then the works of secular thinking would be rich in these concepts?

Is it possible that all life began in its lowest form and the present higher life forms are a result of evolutionary process? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that the starting point of life could have been the higher forms? Yes, I think so.

The fact that mutations according to the law of natural selection are necessary to make us adapt to our changing environment, makes it necessary for the life forms to be composed of basic mutable building blocks which in turn show us the possibility of life evolving from lower forms. However, like the self evident creative ideas which are logical in hindsight just do not happen by themselves, nor are the works of Shakespeare composed of the basic building blocks of words created by computers, a Creator may have created the higher and most complex life forms and while evolution by natural selection goes on, the starting point for life could well have been the higher forms. Does evolutionary biology rule out the idea of the starting point of life being the higher life forms? I don’t think so. What about the existence of fossils that are hundreds of thousand years old? They just prove that the beginning of life on earth dates hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago. What about creation in 6 days as per the Bible? The Quran also talks about creation in 6 days but a day is according to 22:47 and 32:5 like a thousand years and according to 70:4 like 50,000 years.

Richard Dawkins is not an exception and western education displays a very strong anti-religion slant which may be mainly attributed to the Church taking an inflexible stand on:

1.       Evolution including mutations by natural selection

2.       Age of living things taken as a few thousand years when fossils show that life has existed hundreds of thousand years ago.

3.       Creation in 6 days whereas the big bang theory talks of a much longer periods.

4.       A geocentric view of the universe with the earth at absolute rest

5.       A flat earth.

The Church clearly took up positions in the past based on its world view which may not even be justifiable in the light of its own scriptures. Not every religion suffers from the same defects where what was claimed to be its divinely inspired scriptures have been proven to be wrong. Take just one case of the creation in 6 days which the Quran confirms but lest we confuse a day as 24 hours, there are verses which talk of a cosmic day which can be as long as 50000 years. The Quran does not speak about genealogy or of history or when life began or the age of the Universe. It is possible that the Church or mortals have added a number of details to make the Bible ‘complete’ providing ‘missing historical details.’ Errors are due to human accretions to divinely inspired scriptures where it has now become difficult to distinguish between inspired scriptures and human additions. Without doubt, the strong positions taken by the Church on a number of points which have been disproved have raised grave doubts about the claims of Religion as divinely inspired wisdom. However, looking at the Quran, which is claimed as the unaltered word of God, and without doubt preserved in the language of its revelation exactly as first revealed, we find none of the problems that we find in the Bible which was compiled by men, centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion.

The anti religious slant in western education however affects all those who pursue it and therefore we find even Muslims who have received western education drifting away from religion. These strata of highly educated Muslim society and its intelligentsia should have become the leaders of the Muslim masses but because of their alienation from Islam, they have distanced themselves from the people. Western education is therefore looked upon with suspicion with good reason and the Muslims to blame for it are the educated ones who are ‘lost’ to Muslim society.

I have tried to show in this article, that the anti religion slant in western education is understandable but unfortunate and not rational. While mutations by natural selection are undeniable, creation is an acceptable model of reality with a higher probability of being right than evolution of all life forms from the lowest forms. Moral precepts being the exclusive preserve of religion are further evidence of the claims of divine inspiration of the Religions which have contributed richly to these precepts. We have further explored how divine revelations and Islam’s charter of Human Rights granting various freedoms to all individuals unknown to Europe and rest of the World, pitch forked the followers at least a thousand years ahead of the rest of humanity.

This article is built on my previous article in NAI “Religion as a Civilizing Influence” which may also be read using the link below:

http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-tolerance/religion-as-a-civilizing-influence/d/10685

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-tolerance/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/is-there-a-rational-basis-for-the-atheists’-to-oppose-religion?/d/10910

 




TOTAL COMMENTS:-   130


  • Ok. You believe what you like. Forgive me if I do not share your partialities.
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 8:41:40 PM



  • SL, First get the broad picture. The Arabs over a period of 100 years, had an empire larger than the Romans at their peak which took the Romans a 1000 years to build. The Arab Empire comprised the two imperial powers of the day and Spain. In terms of land mass and population this may have been at least 10 times the size and population of  southern Arabia and most probably bigger than that. In order to achieve this feat, the conquerors must have a few essential virtues. These are:
    1. Avoid war when a threat or negotiation can succeed.
    2. Use minimum force. Using more than necessary force is to expose one's own small army to greater risk. The military strategy was therefore always to win a quick victory by overwhelming the enemy by the sheer force and daring of the attack.
    3. Since the objective was to govern the territories conquered, they had to necessarily rely on existing administrative structures and people.
    4. The fact that the Arabs could rule with a small number of their own people relying mostly on the conquered and going by the durability of the new religion which the conquered people adopted, it is clear that the people welcomed the new rulers and had respect and regard for them.
    You have presented from a Zoroastrian source a narrative account of the atrocities they had to bear. This is not a historical account and at the same time, I have no reason to dismiss it nor is it my intention to belittle another community's travails. At the same time, I do not see a people who succeeded so well, indulging in pettiness. Your account shows resistance and uprisings which necessarily have to be put down and result in blood shed. However, people tend to cook up stories of resistance and uprisings to show that they were not easily overcome and put up a good fight. So I do not know what to make of these except that long drawn out battles of attrition go against a small army and the larger army prevails if this happens. The arab armies were outnumbered even 1:6. So I take these accounts of uprisings and resistance with a pinch of salt. There may have been a couple of such uprisings which would have been put down brutally to discourage further attempts. When faced with heavy odds, ruthlessness against any sign of opposition is a necessity while at the same time it is equally necessary to avoid antagonizing the populace with unnecessary violence.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 11:03:51 AM



  • SL,  When discussing the civilizing influence of religion,  we are talking about  religions which have influenced people the most. The size of the following matters. Also without the existence of scriptures, we just do not know what that religion has contributed.
    The approach is based upon one's objectives. Jain's morals about not hurting microscopic beings and the Buddhists morals about non-violence have not proved to be durable with Jains and Buddhists themselves nor have these been incorporated as law by any country.
    By definition, only durable moral concepts have changed people.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 10:06:50 AM



  • And if, as you say, the converted Zorastrians persecuted the non converted Zorastrians, what does it say about your tall claims of Islam being a civilising influence?
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 7:01:32 AM



  • "may have been"?  You have any proof of that statement? I think it is highly unlikely. So it is a question of what you think "may have been" and other accounts from the time! How convenient!
    How can you say the discussion of morals is limited to people with scriptures? Even people with scriptures have different morals. Jains have scriptures that won't allow them to hurt microscopic beings; Muslims have scriptures that say it is okay to slaughter infidels in the middle of the night, if they have violated terms of contract. Are tribals not human beings with hoary traditions that may not be recognised by the mainstream society, for you to dismiss them so easily and contemptuously? How does this attitude make you any different from the Catholics who did their devilish deeds in the Americas?
    The fact is, Mr Ahmed, that the moral argument for religion has no leg to stand on!
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 6:56:42 AM



  • The Zoroastrians could have been persecuted by their own people who converted to Islam. The article talks about the plight of the Zoroastrians subsequent to conquests by the Arabs and not necessarily at the hands of the Arabs. The Arabs were just too few in number to indulge in unnecessary killings. If they had done that, they could not have achieved anything. They would have been wiped out themselves.
    The article "Religion as a civilizing influence" covers a discussion on the source of moral precepts. We are concerned with only religions with scriptures which have contributed durable moral precepts and not tribal beliefs and practices.
    The changing nature of morality over the ages has also been discussed in the comments.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 5:38:37 AM



  • You confuse me with your language, but at first reading, that seems neither here nor there.
    The argument you presented was this: We have morals because we have religion.
    I pointed out two things: One, it is stupid to say that GOD defines morals.Obviously he does not, or there would not be different morals for different people. Among the tribes of India, it is entirely moral to engage in sex when the rythyms of the body dictate that it is mature enough for the act. Marriage is not necessary for them. Having a child outside marriage is as natural for them as having one within a marriage. So are they immoral and heathen? My answer is no, they have just ordered their society differently. For you, it is entirely moral to have four wives; it was entirely moral for a Hindu man to have multiple wives, if he could afford them. That changed over a couple of centuries and monogamy is the new moral. In fact, the Prophet's marriage to a child comes in for so much flak because our morals have changed. That is how Muslims must defend it, saying it was in a different time and place, rather than arguing whether she was nine or nineteen at the time of consummation. It was a different society, such practices were allowed at that time. If you try to use the behavior of the Prophet as a template for ideal human behavior no matter how much the world has evolved since, you look as if you are defending the immoral.
    Man has intelligence, need for social order, and a yearning to be the best that he can be, the "best" being defined by the social thinking of the time. It is possible to be a moral person by the prevalent standards even without having to believe in a divine power.
    As for your steadfast views that even the Zorastrians were not persecuted and did not face genocide at the hands of Arabs, what can I say?I can present facts after facts, and you just dismiss them saying they are false and the work of Islamophobes.
    Why can't you believe that it really might have happened, the Arabs were not really as noble as the image that you have formed in your mind?
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 4:29:33 AM



  • SL,  I have discussed morals outside religion in the article.
    Religious impulse and religious institutions are two different things. Institutions are about power, influence and politics. The Institutions must be kept in check by the people who themselves should be knowledgeable about religion. Islam does not recognize any formal class of priests or muftis or scholars. The fatwa churning muftis wield influence because people seek fatwas. The government can easily restrict fatwa issuing power to authorized government channels or people can shun fatwas. Fatwas do not bind anyone except the fatwa issuer. However the governments rely on these muftis and it is this unholy combination that has been the bane of society.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 4:03:42 AM



  • SL, The account of Iranian history that you have sent is an account of many uprisings and many killings which went on for many years. From the account it looks like the Sassanian Empire did not give in even when the main battle was lost and each city/town continued to fight and resist.  The size of the Arab army was 55000 when they started out to conquer Persia, and this may have raised hopes that even the people from a town were enough to defeat them which may have emboldened the people to continue to fight. There will then be bloodshed as long as people choose to fight and resist.

    Considering the size of the population of Arabs at that time which may not have been more than a couple of lakhs (including women and children), it was not in their interest to fight and kill unnecessarily. They were happy when say Baghdad or Jerusalem surrendered without a fight with generous terms for the surrender. The Muslims who entered Mecca triumphantly numbered just 10,000.

    There are some relevant quotes of historians on the early conquests

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/earlyrise_1.shtml#h1
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 3:47:03 AM



  • You can have morals without religion.
    When you put morals within the context of religion, you automatically fossilise them, because morals are man-made; some morals eternal, some morals changing with time.
    See how Christians have changed their moral framework over time; What is immoral today becomes moral tommorow, what is moral today becomes immoral tommorow.
    It is better to not suggest that morals are the voice of God, because then you get into a situation where you say it is moral to whip a 14 year old girl who was raped on charges of adultery. Morals of the time dictated that Hindu widows burn themselves on the husband's pyre, today it is immoral as well as a crime. Morality of the time allowed christians to burn suspected witches at the stake, today's new morals have allowed them to rewrite their wedding vows to exclude the 'obey' from the "respect, honour and obey" wow that the bride makes.
    In Islam, very many things are considered moral which the Muslims of today would really like to give a quiet burial to.
    The moral argument for religion is really very weak.
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 2:37:54 AM



  • By the way, you have prompted me to enlighten myself on the history of the Arab conquests, and look what turned up:

    http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/History/Post-Sasanian/zoroastrians_after_arab_invasion.htm
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 2:29:17 AM



  • SL, I agree that when belief itself gets muddied it is time to do a clean up job.
    Belief apart from covering the nature of God and life in hereafter, is about a set of moral principles including those governing war and peace, believers and non-believers. These moral principles should be able to stand the test of a universally acceptable definition of good morality, for example,  the definition of the categorical imperative of Kant or any other definition that is seen to be reasonable. All interpretations, stories legends that do not support such an understanding should be discarded.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 2:22:27 AM



  • Well, all I can say is, to each his own.
    You think faith in one God makes more sense than polytheisim or atheism or agnosticism.
    I say one God, many Gods, what does it matter, underneath all those beliefs we share the same DNA that makes up homo sapiens and putting oneself on a higher moral pedestal because of some belief system that you are told is the only true one, and segregating yourself off on the basis of this one blind belief, is as good-or as bad- as believing in any system based on the unproven hypothesis of the existence of God.
    You can either be a believer in God, or a non-believer. But if you are a believer, the field is open to all sorts of belief systems, and each has equal standing in the eyes of the perfect imaginary being called God. It is all so convoluted, I find myself at a loss to express myself clearly.
    And thanks for conceding that at least a few of those Muslim invaders were barbaric - whether we should thank our stars they converted to Islam before invading India is a matter of great debate,but I will not belabour the point further.
    Each civilisation has its positives and negatives, but if you look at the whole package instead of singling out this and that, on the whole the western package is more attractive. And don't prophesise that there won't be another Chomsky. An intellectually vibrant culture regularly produces men of brilliance. An intellectually suppresed culture, on the other hand, has no option but to believe in things like the last prophet.
    By secular logic - 4/4/2013 2:03:48 AM



  • SL, People say with good reason that there wouldn't have been even 911 if the US did not want that to happen!
    We have discussed Mongols, their cruelty and barbarity and the fact that their invasion of India was a given. They had earlier in the 13th century destroyed Islamic centers of learning and indulged in genocide in Syria Baghdad etc where according to the historians millions were slaughtered not in war but after winning the war. They then converted to Islam in the 14th century and behaved far better as conquerors of India, than they had with the Muslims in Muslim countries.
    Who is denying what a Mahmud Ghazni or Allaudin Khilji or what Aurangzeb did? Mahmud was also equally rapacious raiding Muslim states. These were invaders like any other who happened to have become Muslims and come  to power after the decline of the Arabs.
    Read my last para of my previous post which says that individual freedoms are still very high in the US compared to other countries. I am not denying the good points  but mark my words, a young Noam Chomsky today would get sidelined and be jobless!
    News broadcasters who were anti war from Fox channel etc lost their jobs in 2003-2004.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 1:25:17 AM



  • SL, I just saw the documentary (atheism). I had already seen it earlier. I am a subscriber and get updates of new documentaries.
    The Quran opposes every superstition and there are verses that call these an abomination. Friday, you are aware is considered to be an unlucky day from pre Islamic days. It was made an important day for Muslims just to counteract the superstition. Belief in astrology, palmistry,  numerology about the number 13 etc. borders on kufr or disbelief or lacking of true faith. Magicians, tricksters and even apparently pious people who talk about miracles are suspect. For Sufis, claims of  miracles and miraculous powers is the norm and are therefore considered to be outside the pale of Islam by the orthodox.
    The Quran does not speak about miracles nor is the Prophet shown to have been anything but a mortal like everyone else "without the power to do good or harm" to anyone except as Allah wills.
    The world was created and functions according to laws that are 'unchanging' because it is not the practice of Allah to change what is already decreed. This by itself, negates the possibility of miracles which defy the natural laws.
    Empiricism to discover what these laws are, and acting in accordance with these laws is therefore very much what the Quran teaches.
    The true Quranic teaching only asks for a belief in a single God and for a life in the hereafter and  leading a moral and virtuous life in accordance with the best understanding of its moral principles. If a person can follow the moral principles without a belief in God  just like another person with a belief in God, he is sure to reap the same benefits. The Quran however says that this is impossible. This does not mean that everyone who professes a belief in God is morally superior to another who is an atheist. Anyone can profess belief but they should be able to stand the test when this belief is tested severely.
    As far as rewards in this World is concerned, more is promised to the unbelievers than to the believers because for the believers, a portion is for rewards in the hereafter and for the believer this world is a place where his belief is tested severely. False professors of belief will fail those tests.
    A believer is therefore not lead up the garden path  as far as comforts in the life of this world is concerned and therefore even prayer needs to be in accordance with 'the will of God' to be effective which is another way of saying that a true believer is happy with God and Gods decrees and the circumstances of his life. His prayer is therefore a prayer for guidance, for remaining stead fast in the face of adverse circumstances, for patience and for thanksgiving and for success in earning the pleasure of God with his conduct and not for worldly comforts and gains or for which team should win the trophy.
    A believer will of course make efforts to better his living conditions and standards and will gain success in accordance with those efforts but he is advised against seeking the comforts of the world beyond a point neglecting the remembrance of God. He can of course choose to serve God through service of the poor, if his efforts for earning more, is to enable him to give more.
    So, when I consider what the Quran invites me to, then I see that it invites me to live a moral life and I can choose to serve God in accordance with the talents that I have and my own inclinations and as long as all my efforts are guided by moral principles, I am serving God. So why should I not believe?
    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/4/2013 1:08:27 AM



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