Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Philosophy (bka Atheist) Club

Atheist AtomThis week I was invited to a small group discussion about atheism vs. faith. The original group was mostly atheist/agnostic and after discussion among themselves they thought it would be interesting to invite religious people to come discuss with them, to add another viewpoint. So there were quite a few Muslims (in proportion, 4 of us) but no Christians managed to make it.

A lot of atheism and agnosticism these days tends to begin with objections to Christianity, I think, more so than faith in general. But if we overlook that, the only way atheists typically need to defend their stance is against Christians. Against Islam, it's slightly different, and so, because there were not actually any Christians present, the main focus of discussion was belief or disbelief in the existence of "God."

We, the Muslims, each had a different approach which, uncoordinated, seemed to hinder productive discourse, unfortunately. But I think everyone (except perhaps, me) had valid points to initiate the discussion. I'm posting so I can think about them, and share them. For example, what is "God?" How do you define "God" so that you don't believe in it? For perhaps, your (atheist) definition of God is not my (religious/muslim) definition; maybe we don't believe in the same thing, and do believe in something else. That question was not explored as deeply as it might have been.

Another approach was to just lay out Islam in a neat package, inviting the listener to reflect on the wisdom in it. The problem with that approach, though, was that the audience was more preoccupied with "If there is no God in the first place, then why do I care about a particular religion or what it says?" So to the atheist, I think, any discussion of religion isn't important because the foundation of it--the existence of God--is not assumed. (In fact, the opposite is!)

One thing that I don't really understand about atheism, is why theories to describe the natural world (such as evolution, natural selection) are deemed incompatible with faith. There is, as yet, no explanation for the creation or beginning of the universe. Is it "just there?" What made it go bang? Evolution does not explain that. I remember a professor of mine asking once whether the universe was causal, and one student smartly replying that it depends on one's perspective. Yet if we ask who created the universe, and respond that God did, the atheist will ask "but who created God?" And the answer? God is not part of the creation. Entirely outside it, above it, beyond it, whatever preposition you prefer. So God is above all these rules and theories which attempt to explain reality. At some level, physical laws fail to hold, though they are practical enough for everyday observations. But to the atheist mind, there are always going to be some rules which govern the universe, whether we know them now or not. Instead of allowing an All-Capable and All-Aware deity to be the explanation to rules they cannot explain, they favor believing in laws and principles which have not even been imagined, much less verified scientifically.

I think that's a silly position, kind of like saying, "I don't accept your explanation because you have no logical, scientific proof... therefore there must be another explanation even though I have no logical, scientific proof for it."

To an atheist, atheism is default. I.e., if you can't prove God exists, then it's better to believe He doesn't. To a believer, and the other 95% of the world, you can't prove that God doesn't exist, and the natural default is to believe God exists, and belief is the natural default. As a Muslim, I explain this by the fitrah--that everyone is born with a pure nature which understands the existence of one God and seeks understanding on that point.

But once I get there, I don't really feel like arguing any more. Once the atheist says "it's human nature" to do such and such, or believe this way or whatever... I just kind of rest my case. If it's your nature to believe in God, and you think that you're superior (through intelligence or whatever) to your nature that you reject it so you can lay off the humility with faith demands of you... that's just the kind of arrogance which earns the term kaafir.

12 comments:

lubna said...

I accidently bumped into your blog and I am mighty glad that I did.. it actually answered many of my queries

Maya said...

The problem with proving God is that he can't be proven. When you state something as a fact, the burden of proof falls on you. Therefore, an atheist typically will state that they do not believe in God, but they will not state it as a fact.

Islam has fallen short of answering many pivotal questions of the nature of things, for me. The more I know, tends to correlate with the less I believe.

It's not arrogant to question, it's rational. As human beings, we need to make sense of the world. When our needs are not met (i.e. no answers found), we refrain from belief.

MyHijab said...

To believe that we are the world and that the world is all about us is arrogant in my opinion. We are not the only creation and the world didn't just bang itself into existance for the likes of us.

There has to be more to life than just life and death. There has to be a reason why we are on the earth for many, many years, some more than others, and are tried and tested again and again.

If life was just about life, wouldn't life have to be more pleasurable? Don't the 'evil' need to be made accountable at some stage? Don't the 'good doers' need to be accountable at some stage? For if you look around us, the 'evil' get away with things every single day and the 'good doers' go unnoticed.

That is my argument to Atheists and Agnostics.

Amy said...

Hi Lubna--thanks for leaving a comment; I'm glad the blog answered your questions, though I'm curious in what way...

Maya--

The problem with atheism is that it rests on beliefs which also cannot be proven. The atheist does not believe in God. That doesn't explain anything though, because there is no other explanation for many questions. It just rejects one explanation. So instead of proposing an alternate solution, the atheist assumes one exists which nobody knows. That is what he believes. There is no proof for that either. That's the problem with atheism, they have no more proof than a believer.

For my own part, Islam has answered questions I had, in fact it has taught me things I never knew and never would have thought to ask about in the first place. And the more I learn, especially about Islam, the more I believe.

And I don't think I said that questioning was arrogant--rather, the arrogance, the true irrational behavior, is to declare that one explanation (God) is insufficient to explain the universe, while another is sufficient, though they admit it does not explain the universe.

The atheist says he can neither prove the believer wrong, nor prove himself accurate, but still he rejects the believers opinion and is satisfied with his own--with nothing at all.

Amy said...

MyHijab--

I believe, as you do, that there must be some purpose, some meaning behind our ability to think and reason, and our presence on earth. I think it's natural to see that and that the rejection of it is truly bizarre.

I think the ideal atheist believes that rejecting the belief in God will allow mankind to reach some higher intellectual level, societal plane, whatever... but I think that if you examine the ideologies which have arisen from disbelief in God, you find a more sinister evil than what has ever arisen from belief in God.

Maya said...

MyHijab:

"To believe that we are the world and that the world is all about us is arrogant in my opinion. We are not the only creation and the world didn't just bang itself into existance for the likes of us."
Atheists don't believe that they are the all imporant creation. In fact, all believe that the possibility for life in the universe is great, and that we as human beings aren't special. It completely contradicts religious views which state that we're important enough to be given a book by god by which to live our lives. Atheists don't think they're that important. If someone follows a religion, by default they do think they're that important.

"There has to be more to life than just life and death. There has to be a reason why we are on the earth for many, many years, some more than others, and are tried and tested again and again."

Atheists have their own explanations for the reasons to why we exist. Many people can't morally accept an all loving deity that puts us through trauma and disasters in life, for no reason at all.

If life was just about life, wouldn't life have to be more pleasurable? Don't the 'evil' need to be made accountable at some stage? Don't the 'good doers' need to be accountable at some stage? For if you look around us, the 'evil' get away with things every single day and the 'good doers' go unnoticed.

"Atheists accept reality, that there are people with different desires, that tragedies (tornado's, etc), happen, because that is the makeup of the world. They don't think that we get what we deserve in the afterlife, instead, they insist that we receive it now (punishment for crimes, etc).

" That is my argument to Atheists and Agnostics."

We could go into this a lot more detail, but even I was a practicing Muslim, then I had questions that couldn't be answered by Islam. If you believe in something, it should be logical to you. If it's not, you're not going to believe in it. For atheists, God isn't logical. It's that simple.

Maya said...

Amy- Atheists do suggest an alternate answer, through science.


"The atheist says he can neither prove the believer wrong, nor prove himself accurate, but still he rejects the believers opinion and is satisfied with his own--with nothing at all."

The same could be said for the religious, as they reject any other explanation, and believe only theirs to be true.

The more I learn about Islam, history, the world, the less it makes sense.
By rejecting dogma, it makes more sense.

Amy said...

Maya wrote: For atheists, God isn't logical. It's that simple.

That is quite a simple summary of the entire bit!

For believers, God is logical.

Amy said...

Religious people do reject other explanations, that is true, but they have a legitimate basis for that, usually in the teachings of their prophet(s) or scripture(s) (or both.)

The Qur'an of course begs the reader or listener to THINK about what it says and not accept it dogmatically, so that even if a new text seems 'out of the question' for a believer of another faith, the strength of the Qur'an should be able to convince them of its divine origin. In many cases it is.

But I still maintain, the more I learn about Islam, history, and the world, the more Islam and everything else makes a lot more sense!

therehman said...

Assalamu Alaikum Amy,

I was wondering, Muslims have their Eids, Jews have their Hanukah, etc., but what do Atheists have? Oh I know, April 1st, that’s the day for Atheists to rejoice in thyself!

Seriously, God’s existence can’t be reasoned logically because we humans can’t conceive of any logic which is at variance with our brain structure. Take quantum mechanics for example where classical propositional logic, also used by Atheists to make their case, can’t reason many proven facts.

MyHijab said...

The argument of the existance of God is one I don't generally like to be a part of.

To me God exists, God is my lifeline and to argue anything else is illogical.

La illaha il Allah Muhammadan Rasul Allah

therehman said...

MyHijab:

It’s rather ironic that your conviction (2nd Para), admirable as it is, hoists the gist of my earlier comment by evincing how subjective an element of logic is.

In actuality, Prophet(PBUP) asked for refrain on any argument involving Allah’s existence. “Reflect upon the creation and do not reflect upon Allah." [at Tabaaraanee].

So mostly, I tend to talk about signs and creations of Allah but at times I do traverse, just to build a premise.