Do children naturally believe in God?

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A thought-provoking piece by Eric Hatfield

Published on his blog http://www.is-there-a-god.info/ under the title “Is it natural for children to believe in God or do they have to be taught it?” Read the original piece here: http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/clues/is-it-natural-for-children-to-believe-in-god-or-do-they-have-to-be-taught-it/
Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This comment was made on a blog I was visiting recently: “None of us are born with any smattering of whether or not there is a god, or for that matter, even what a god is (or is not) – we have to be taught that”

I was interested, for I knew of some scientific research that suggested the opposite. I asked the author of the comment whether they had any scientific evidence for the statement, but none was forthcoming. Instead, I was asked what evidence I had seen.

A blog comment isn’t the place for an extended review of evidence, so I decided to post it here. This post repeats some of what I wrote a year ago in Do children naturally believe in God?, but adds additional information I have found since then.

Science and opinion

In the following discussion, as always, I distinguished between the science (which I outline first) and opinion (mine and others’) based on the science. The science is by qualified professionals at recognised universities (I have found a number of different studies), and should be accepted by anyone who recognises the value of scientific study. Each person is entitled to their own opinion based on the scientific findings.

Scientific studies on the cognitive science of religion

Kelemen & Rottman (Boston University)

Deborah Keleman studies cognitive development in children and Josh Rottman is a PhD student working with her. In a chapter in Science and the World’s Religions they write (p206, 7):

…. religion primarily stems from within the person rather than from external, socially organised sources …. evolved components of the human mind tend to lead people towards religiosity early in life.

They discuss theories on the development of religious concepts in young children. They conclude that religion “cannot be understood as resulting primarily from education or passive acquisition from parents or society”. For them the question is whether children come into the world as “born believers” (a view held by others in the field but not by them) or that children develop religious views as they try to understand the world around them (the view they accept).

They say the research suggests that various factors inherent in children’s thinking lead to religious conclusions: understanding other minds, agency detection, beliefs about creation and purpose, and belief in mind-body dualism.

Paul Bloom (Yale University)

Paul Bloom runs the Mind and Development Lab at Yale University. He says that humans have a tendency to believe in God:

…. the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature.”

Like Kelemen & Rottman, Bloom sees several evolutionary causes that lead to religious belief in young children: distinguishing bodies and souls (“we are natural-born dualists”) and “we’ve evolved to be creationists”. He nominates Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, Justin Barrett, and Deborah Kelemen as other cognitive scientists who share these conclusions.

Bloom is convinced that all humans, even his own children, will inevitably see design and divinity in the world: “Creationism—and belief in God is bred in the bone.”

Bloom says of course much of the content of religious belief is learned but “the universal themes of religion are not learned. They emerge as accidental by-products of our mental systems. They are part of human nature.”

Bruce Hood (Bristol University)

Bruce Hood is professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University whose work suggeststhat magical and supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth.

Our research shows children have a natural, intuitive way of reasoning that leads them to all kinds of supernatural beliefs about how the world works

Like Bloom and Keleman, Hood believes this propensity to religious belief is a result of how our brains evolved: our brains have a mind design that leads us naturally to infer structures and patterns in the world, and to make sense of it by generating intuitive theories.

Hood believes it is futile to try to get people to abandon their beliefs because these come from such a “fundamental level”.

Olivera Petrovich (Oxford University)

Olivera Petrovich is a psychologist studying religion and human development at Oxford University. Her studies have led her to conclude that basic religious belief, primarily “the concept of God as creator” is hard-wired into the human psyche.

It isn’t religion that has to be learned, she says, but atheism. “Atheism is definitely an acquired position”.

The Cognition, Religion and Theology Project (Oxford University)

This study, led by Dr Justin Barrett from the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at Oxford University, drew on research by an international body of 57 researchers from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and theology. They conducted over 40 separate studies in 20 different countries that represented both traditionally religious and atheist societies.

According to the Oxford university website, “the project was not setting out to prove the existence of god or otherwise, but sought to find out whether concepts such as gods and an afterlife appear to be entirely taught or basic expressions of human nature.”

Barrett says “young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose”. He concludes “cultural inputs help fill in the details but children’s minds are not a level playing field. They are tilted in the direction of belief.”

The conclusions Barrett cites come from the studies that made up the project, including:

  • Studies by Emily Reed Burdett and Justin Barrett, from the University of Oxford, suggest that “in early childhood we have a natural tendency to attribute super properties to other humans and gods, including super knowledge, super perception, and immortality.”
  • Experiments involving adults, conducted by Jing Zhu from Tsinghua University (China), and Natalie Emmons and Jesse Bering from The Queen’s University, Belfast, suggest that people across many different cultures instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lives on after death.
  • Children expect that someone, not something, is behind natural order. Margaret Evansfound that children younger than 10 favoured creationist accounts of the origins of animals over evolutionary accounts even when their parents and teachers endorsed evolution.
  • Based on inputs from a range of researchers in UK and US it seems that the idea that some part of us — our mind, soul, or spirit — does not need a physical body and can persist after death may be largely intuitive and that we have to be talked out of beliefs in the afterlife rather than talked into them.

Summary of the science

It seems there is a broad consensus among cognitive scientists that the basics of religious belief – God as a creator, an afterlife and mind-body dualism – are innate. Some believe they are hard-wired at birth because of our evolutionary origins while others believe that early experience of life and the external world leads children to the religious predisposition.

But it is clear that, at the present at least, those who say religious belief wouldn’t occur without teaching are not basing their views on the best science, though of course much of the specific content of belief is taught. It appears in fact that it is unbelief that must be taught if it is to be acquired.

Draw your own conclusions

That is the science, on which there is broad agreement. And all seem to agree that these findings say little about whether God actually exists and the natural beliefs are in fact true. But the scientists have their opinions.

As a christian, Justin Barrett believes the innate disposition towards religious belief is part of God’s plan – perhaps what philosophers and theologians call a sensus divinitatis. On the other hand, atheists Paul Bloom and Bruce Hood believe the propensity to believe is a result of evolution and has nothing to do with any God.

We are each free to interpret the information as we choose. What appears not to be open to anyone who believes in science is to say that religion only exists because it is taught.

Religious indoctrination?

It has been claimed that teaching children religion is indoctrination that amounts to child abuse. These studies show that children don’t have to be taught to be religious, but will tend to be religious naturally.

Other studies (summarised at Faith and Wellbeing) show that giving content to children’s religious impulses improves their life in many ways. As Justin Barrett says, based on“considerable research on the relationship between religious commitment and psychological and physical well-being”, that religious beliefs “tend to better physical and mental health” and that believers are “psychologically healthier and better equipped to cope with emotional and health problems than non-believers”.

Doubtless the arguments will go on, but these studies suggest that atheists who continue to promote this view care more for polemics than for science.

THE IMPORTANCE OF DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN THE LAWS OF NATURE AND RELIGIOUS LAW

 

An argument advanced by atheists is that the law of nature cannot be the creation of a Highly Conscious or Wise Being, because it sometimes acts blindly and with great cruelty. They say that all of it seems to be running under an inherent system of cause and effect. For example, accidents which result in innocent people being killed or injured, the spread of epidemics and diseases, or the downfall of a person after a long successful career, etc., prove that there is no God, otherwise such blind and cruel destruction would never take place.

The above objection is raised because people think that the whole world is functioning under the same laws. The truth is that God has ordained two laws for the running of the world. One of these being the law of nature, which is responsible for the working of the universe and follows the system of cause and effect and the properties of different objects, whose effects we observe all around us. The second law is religious law, which pertains to the moral and spiritual condition of man and is brought to the world by Prophets and Messengers of  God. The consequences of this law, in the form of reward and punishment, shall be experienced in the next world. Those who raise the above objection, erroneously mix up these two laws.

What is the law of nature? The law of nature is that everything, every action, each simple or compound object in this world has a specific natural characteristic which manifests itself as a result of natural causes. For example, arsenic has the characteristic that it kills living things. Whenever a sufficient amount of it is introduced into the body of a living organism, it produces its natural effect, unless some other law of nature comes into play and negates it. Likewise, it is but natural that if the roof of a house becomes weak to a certain degree, it collapses. If someone is standing under that roof, he will be killed or injured, unless some other law comes into operation and supersedes it. It is also in keeping with the law of nature, that if someone goes into deep water without knowing how to swim, he will drown, unless some other law of nature intervenes to counteract this law. It is under such laws of nature that the great wheels of the world are perpetually set in motion. These laws know no friends or foes. Anything which comes within their sphere of action will be affected one way or the other.

As opposed to this what is religious law? Religious law is a code of life claimed by different  religions as having been sent by God for people to follow, so that they can improve their morals, get closer to God and receive the blessings and rewards which are reserved for the righteous. This law leaves everyone free as to whether they wish to follow it or not. Under this law, the reward or punishment of the deeds performed in this world is reserved for the hereafter.

Religious law urges people to pray to God in a prescribed way in order to gain His nearness and pleasure, but it does not force them to do so. If someone chooses to go against this law, there is nothing to stop him. Apart from some minor effects that appear in this very world, the real and final consequence is deferred till the hereafter. The sages have said that this world is the place of deeds, and the next world is the place for reward and punishment. In this sense, the law of nature differs from religious law, for under the law of nature this world is both the place of deeds and the place of reward and punishment. These two laws never interfere with each other—save in exceptional circumstances. Anyone who violates the law of nature is usually not spared punishment on the grounds that he did not violate religious law. Consider, for example, two people sitting under a ramshackle roof which is about to collapse. One of them happens to be pious while the other is wicked. In normal circumstances, were the roof to collapse, both would die. If the law of nature has some provision for saving them, they would both be saved. Similarly, if some pious and God-fearing person, who does not know how to swim, jumps into water, his piety will not save him from drowning. His piety belongs to  religious law, but now he is under the law of nature, which does not normally yield religious law. The general rule is that any good deed done under religious law contributes towards the reward of religious law, but has no bearing on the laws of nature, and vice-versa.

Atheists sometimes base their arguments on certain incidents: for instance, that a pious person went to the river and got drowned, while an evil person, who was bathing in the same river at the same time, did not drown and returned home safely. They also tell us of some chaste and dutiful girl who died on the second day of her marriage, while another girl of bad character got married on the same day and lived happily ever after. From many other such instances these atheists try to prove that there is no God.

But when we carefully consider the above objections, we find them weak and baseless, because even though the person who drowned or died was obedient to religious law, he or she somehow violated the law of nature and was duly punished. Nature takes its own course and is the same for everyone. The laws of this world are not cruel and we are not living in a blind world. It would be blind if no laws of nature had been broken yet someone was punished by nature; or if the laws of nature were broken, but the punishment came from religious law.

I wonder how people who boast of wisdom and intelligence can raise such objections. The abovementioned instances do not break any religious laws. The two laws, as I have explained, do not usually interfere with each other; and this is exactly what justice demands. Unfortunately, when something transpires under the law of nature, people look for its cause in religious law. When they fail to find it, they declare the world a blind game of chance. Explanation for an act of nature must be sought in the laws of nature. The effects of religious law should be referred to religious law. It is not a blind world. But it is Man who is blind because when someone drowns or is burnt to death for going against the laws of nature, Man alleges that he or she was unjustly treated as he or she did not violate any religious law. It is Man who is unjust in conferring the rights of the law of nature on religious law, and vice-versa, and then putting the blame on God.

Remember, nature and religious law are like two separate States. Like all civilised and sovereign States, they do not interfere in the affairs of one another. In everyday life, the law of nature and religious law act independently of one another, and are bound to their respective spheres. The only exception is when God, by special decree, chooses to save people from the effects of the laws of nature, despite the odds being stacked against them, often in answer to their prayers. However, the general rule is that the laws of nature will run their course whether a person obeys religious law or not.

This particular argument of atheists against God therefore stems from their failure to distinguish between the two laws.

Adapted from “Our God”, by Mirza Bashir Ahmad.

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Can Any Theory of How Life Began “Disprove God”?

Plankton

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A few days ago, the Independent was ablaze with the following headline:

“New theory could prove how life began and disprove God”

To add to the fireworks, the article went on to say that “a writer on the website of Richard Dawkins’ foundation says that the theory has put God “on the ropes” and has “terrified” Christians…” and that someone on the website wrote that “the theory could make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”.”

It is always amusing to see how, in their desperation to “disprove” God, certain people confuse PROCESS with AGENT. Whatever the process was through which life was created from dead matter and made to evolve, knowing its finer details will not rule out the assertion that the process was guided by a super-intelligent agent, any more than knowing how an apple is digested will rule out the eater. Nor will it explain how the universe, in which the apple exists, appeared in the first place.

This may remind some readers of the joke in which God was approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.” God replied, “Don’t need me, huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being?” The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like He did in the good old days. “Fine!” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.“Whoa!” says God, “Not so fast! You get your own dirt.”

The new theory, proposed by a researcher at MIT, is that “when a group of atoms is exposed for a long time to a source of energy, it will restructure itself to dissipate more energy. The emergence of life might not be the luck of atoms arranging themselves in the right way, it says, but an inevitable event if the conditions are correct.” The researcher is reported to have said: “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”

It is quite shameful for a researcher, who one would expect to be a dignified member of the scientific community who is always circumspect when it comes to drawing conclusions and making them public, to talk of atoms “arranging themselves” and the first life forms in the same breath, as if these two things were just a step or two away from each other. The layman will come away with the idea that the first life forms must have been rather basic, primitive things, not much more than rearranged atoms.

More discerning readers will of course know that for cells to function, they require the presence of a whole series of molecular machines to run like clockwork from Day One. Whatever the processes were that led the simple rearrangement of atoms to a fully functional, self-replicating, conscious cell, they were certainly more complex than simply shining light on atoms and ending up with a plant.

The key delusion here is shining a light “for long enough”. In other words, we are being asked to believe that TIME creates life. This is extremely dishonest, when mathematicians have demonstrated time and again that the amount of time available since the universe began is simply not suffient for life to appear by unguided processes. To circumvent this unavoidable mathematical reality, the fantastical idea of a “multiverse” has been conjured up; something which has absolutely no evidence to back it up with, and which only exists on paper because there are scientists who are obsessed with the idea of disproving God by any means instead of humbly following the mathematical and scientific evidence wherever it leads.

For a glimpse into what goes on inside a human cell, watch THIS

And for plant cells, THIS

As for the smug declaration that this new theory will make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”, six-24-hour-day creationists and 6000-year-old earth protagonists are already in a whole heap of scientific trouble, so it is difficult to imagine how this new theory will make things any worse for them. The fact that they ascribe unscientific actions to God in no way changes what really happened. All they do is give an opportunity to the noisier anti-theists to further ridicule the idea of God. In fact, such creationists and anti-theists both have equally ridiculous conceptions of God. And of science. The ones say that plants appeared all of a sudden, the others affirm that if you keep shining light on a clump of atoms, you’ll inevitably get a plant. They truly deserve each other!

The Qur’an, like the Bible, speaks of creation in six days. However, there is a big difference between the two accounts. Unlike the Book of Genesis, which limits each day to 24 hours by specifying that there was an evening and a morning,  the Qur’an leaves the expression as simply “six days”, and explains that in God’s parlance, a “day” means a period of time of any length; some “days” are equal to 1000 years, others to 50000, others still to far longer periods as we will now show.

In one verse, the Qur’an declares:

Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six periods; then He settled on the Throne. You have no helper or intercessor beside Him. Will you not then reflect?

In another verse, it proclaims:

Say: “Do you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him?’ That is the Lord of the worlds.”

Thus, the creation of the whole universe is said to have occurred in six “days”, of which our planet took two “days” to be created. Or in other words a ratio of 2:6 or 1:3.

When we turn to what science has discovered so far, we find that the approximate age of planet earth is 4.56 billion years and that of the universe is 13.77 billion years. If 13.77 billion years is divided into six periods of equal length, planet earth will take up two of them. Again, a ratio of 1:3.

That an illiterate 6th-Century inhabitant of the Arabian desert could make such a declaration has implications that are for our readers to reflect upon. He said that it was God Who had told him to say this:

“Do you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him?’ That is the Lord of the worlds.”

No matter how much knowledge of the creative process can be acquired by Man, it will never explain away the Agent behind it all. Au contraire.

 

Is Life Sacred in an Atheist World?

With the recent controversy over whether Humanism should be taught in UK RE classes, this belief system is getting more attention than it’s ever done. We thought we’d help out the British Humanist Association with their policy of promoting critical thought around Humanism by publishing a series of posts examining whether Humanism makes, well… any sense at all. Enjoy!

Humanism assumes universally accepted precepts such as the inherent sanctity of human life. It tells us that human life is something worth fostering and promoting, and that it is morally despicable to actively try and harm it. I agree. I cannot help but note, however, that humanism offers absolutely no intellectual basis for these laudable ideals. In fact, as it is a moral philosophy based on God’s non-existence, it seems to offer quite the opposite.

In a world without God, the universe is at best an accidental one, the origin of which is entirely unexplained, but certainly not the result of a Higher Power. Similarly, human life is not at all intended. Rather, it is simply the happy byproduct of Darwinian evolution – the dubious idea that a fortuitous, unexplained, fully-functioning cell appeared one day, consequently underwent countless copying errors in its DNA, and after being ravaged by similarly undirected environmental changes, produced you, me, and that barking dog that keeps you up at night.

If this outlook is true in all its serendipitous details, then in what way is human life sacred? It is simply the accidental product of an accidental universe, a fluke that will disappear entirely in the blink of a cosmic eye. At best, one can say that human life is rare, remarkable only in a probabilistic sense. But that does nothing to obscure the obvious fact that in an atheistic perspective, human life has no intrinsic worth. It was an accident. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. A good philosophy for a night out perhaps, but the sombre hangover is sure to kick in soon. If human life is an accident, then why should we value it? If a callous, uncaring oppressor seeks to trample on the rights of others for his own selfish ends, then by what argument will we silence him? ‘Be good!’, we cry.‘Why?’, he retorts. ‘The law of the jungle is what brought us into this world- why not continue it?’ In this bleak atheistic outlook, the idea that life is valuable can be chalked up to a psychological survival instinct drilled into us by the selfish dictates of natural selection. If someone ignores its compulsions, can we really argue against such cruel principles coherently? After all, an unspoken truth is being acted upon: none of this really matters anyway.

A theistic outlook however, radically alters this. We are not an accident. The universe did not bring itself into being through sheer force of non-existent will; rather, it was created by an eternal Higher Power for a very specific purpose. That purpose was to produce conscious beings capable of high moral and spiritual endeavour – beings that could know their Creator, develop a relationship with Him, emulate His Mercy, and thus work to produce peace amongst creation.

Human life therefore is absolutely valuable- it has a purpose, and belongs in reality to its Creator. To take a life away is to rob that life of its potential to fulfil the purpose of its existence, and experience the spiritual bliss that comes with it. To take a life away it is to take a life that was never ours to take.

Of course, believers and non-believers alike know that life is sacred. It is a principle which screams inside our very core. The difference is, alas, that the atheist’s heart finds no support from his or her head.

Note: That there is a cosmic plan for Man is obvious. Take a pygmy child from the Congo, or a Tuareg child from the Sahara, or the child of a Samoyed nomad from northern arctic Russia; bring them up in an upper-class household in England. Send them to Cambridge. One becomes a brain surgeon, the second a great musician, the third an astrophysicist. Why did these children have that hidden potential within them? Had time travel been possible, we may just as well have made a caveman’s child pass through the same process, with the same result. What use could such potential have for the survival of children born in tribes who had always been nomads or hunter-gatherers? Why should such children have the hidden potential to read, write, and comprehend the sciences and the arts? Clearly, this potential was placed in them long in advance, despite bringing no evolutionary advantage for millenia, so that one day it could blossom. Blind selection cannot create such amazing potential in any creature. The human race is special, and has had a noble purpose willed for it long before the purpose could reveal itself.

 

The first part of this article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

Are Islamophobes Right – Does Islam Motivate Muslims to Carry out Acts of Terror?

Today’s world is home to horrific attacks of violence, extremism and terror of all kinds. Many people directly blame religion, in particular Islam, for much of the violence carried out in its name. But as a Muslim, I have something to tell you: There is no link between Islam and terrorism.

Don’t get me wrong – there is obviously a strong link between certain Muslims and terrorism, but Islam is a teaching, and therefore has to be judged on what it actually says. So what does the Holy Qur’an say?

Chapter 2 states that you can never force people in matters of religion. Chapter 5 likens the murder of one innocent life to the murder of the whole of mankind. Chapter 60 tells Muslims that they must live in peace with people of other faiths and backgrounds, in ‘kindness and equity. Chapter 109 says that people are free to follow whatever religious beliefs they want.

These verses, and many more, were carried into action by the Prophet Muhammad of Islam. He lived in peace and harmony with people of many different faiths. He hated fighting, and the early Muslims only ever fought in self-defence. As Historian Reverend De Lacy O’Leary wrote:

“The legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races, is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.” Islam at the Crossroads

Islam is not to blame. A tiny, tiny fraction of the 1.6bn Muslims may well be. But why blame Islam for extremism, when extremism and terrorism exist in every ideology? Do we blame the Gospels for the IRA? Do we blame Buddhism for Buddhist extremists in Burma? Do we blame atheism for organisations like the League of Militant Atheism that murdered religious people in Soviet Russia? And what about eco-terrorism, or terrorism done by extreme right-wing, left-wing, or separatist groups?

The reality is that even in very recent history, a huge part of global terrorism is not motivated by religious ideologies, but by political and social causes. What this tells us is that extremism isn’t the exclusive domain of any ideology – be it religious or secular. There have always been, and perhaps always will be, people who are willing to trample on the rights of others so as to satisfy their own desires. To justify their horrific actions, they have to appeal to the highest authority in their society. In more religious settings, it will be God who is appealed to. In less religious settings, it will be noble ideals like freedom, democracy and justice. But whatever virtuous ideal is used to justify the murder of innocent lives, we can always discern political, financial, racial, or territorial ambitions at their heart.

So don’t fall for it. Religion doesn’t create terrorism. People create terrorism. In fact, the true teachings of religion are the solution, not the problem. If those who murder in the name of religions ever truly studied their own teachings, they would drop their guns. And if those who promote terrorism indirectly through their own injustices cared about the disorder they would create, then the world would be a very a different place indeed.

“Verily Allah requires you to abide by justice, benevolence, and unconditional grace; and He forbids indecency, manifest evil, and transgression. He admonishes you that you may take heed.” 16:90

The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

More on the Saudi man sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2000 lashes and fined twenty thousand Riyal, after posting about his atheism on Twitter

Daesh Saudi

According to an Al-Watan report, “religious” police in charge of monitoring social networks in Saudi Arabia have claimed to have found more than 600 tweets denying the existence of God, making fun of Koranic verses, accusing prophets of lies and saying that religious teachings fuelled war.

The 28-year-old behind the tweets admitted being an atheist and refused to recant, saying what he wrote reflected his beliefs and that he had the right to express them.

Once again, the Saudi regime has demonstrated its Wahhabi ideological affinity to Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), shamelessly trampling on human rights guaranteed by the Qur’an. It is a matter of great concern that so many non-Muslim nations around the world are perfectly willing to do business with these barbarians, while they continue to persecute their own citizens with such cruelty. Even more alarming is the fact that, not caring one bit about the future suffering of all those who would fall into the claws of such an evil ideology, the United States actually encouraged the spread of Saudi Wahhabism around the world, as per Hillary Clinton’s own testimony (apologies for the poor video quality):

So, what DOES Islam say about apostasy, or abandoning Islam publicly? A former Judge at the International Court of Justice, in the Hague, the Netherlands, opens up this important issue HERE. The time has come for Muslim-majority nations to shake off the influence of Wahhabism imposed upon them by false champions of Human Rights, and to return to the reasonable and peaceful teachings of their Holy Book.

The “End of Atheism” team explain who they are!

EndofAtheism is a cerebral response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ bestseller ‘End of Faith.’

Are you a theist, and have you benefited from EndofAtheism’s videos and blog posts? Would you like to suggest topics for future ones?

Or are you an atheist or agnostic, and have comments and/or questions for the EndofAtheism team?

Contact www.endofatheism.com.

 

 

Do we all disbelieve in some gods? A countryside story…

Copy of Should Religious Parents leave their kids alone- (2)

I live in a small village in the British countryside. Not much happens. Anything vaguely interesting would be the talk of the town. So I want to give you an example. Imagine that I’m walking down the street, and one of my local friends comes up to me and says that he saw this horse earlier that day, just a few roads away, running wildly up and down, frightening children and pensioners alike. I become concerned, but hey, I’ve got a life to live. I walk on.

An hour later I decide to end my walk by getting some lunch in the village. I run into another group of friends, (I’m a popular guy in my imagination it seems), who tell me they’ve heard there were two or three horses running around the village earlier, wild and free. I shrug, but keep my ears attentive for the sound of hooves just in case.

I finally get to the sandwich shop towards which I’ve been slowly meandering, and settle down to a tuna panini. The cheese and fish medley melts deliciously into my hungry mouth. I eat contentedly for a while and settle down to reading this popular new book my university lecturer recommended. A couple of hours later, just as I’m leaving,  I hear a group to the left of me saying that apparently there was a whole herd of horses surging through the village earlier. My forehead wrinkles. One guy said there was one horse. Then I met a group which said there were a few horses, and now I’m hearing that there was a whole herd of horses?

What should I do with this information? The reports clearly conflict and it’s difficult to tell which one is correct. I could try and investigate further, assuming that there’s some essence of truth, which has maybe become distorted through people mishearing or exaggerating the number of horses as the hours went on.

But after reading that great atheism book at lunch, I decide that there was no horse, everyone in my village is crazy, and that I really need to move out of this town.

Makes sense right?

 

This analogy was adapted from Hadhrat Mirza Basheer-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, 2nd Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Community. Header image originally from Carlo Scherer.

The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

Richard Dawkins & Natural Selection: a Love Affair

Richard Dawkins & Natural Selection (1)

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is. (Qur’an 2:118)

Why is there something rather than nothing? That is the question that has plagued philosophers, scientists, and billions of people, throughout time and space. It is a question that is not only related to the Universe but is related to us on an individual basis, personally. Observing the Universe around us, it lies within our intuition that the Universe too has not existed forever. This observation has recently (as far as Human History goes) been confirmed by scientific, empirical research. The Universe as it is today, has not always existed. It has continuously expanded from a singularity, before which in both space and time, it did not – to our current observation – exist. To surmise that it did would be to assume something for which there is scant evidence currently. In short, the Universe came from a state of nothingness, into a state of existence.

Professor Richard Dawkins does not believe that the question “why is there something, rather than nothing” is worth acknowledging. In his book “The God Delusion”, instead of first solving the riddle of how the Universe came from nothing, he raises the same question against God. What follows is the intriguing construction of a house of cards.

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.”

“The God Delusion” is several hundred pages in length and yet remarkably, it only gives one actual argument against the existence of God, and that too, borrowed from his favourite atheist philosopher, David Hume. There are many pages of his book that talks about why he doesn’t like religion, why he believes you can live without religion, why believers in God are self-deluded fools, etc., etc., but it is only after some one hundred pages on page 138 that the Professor actually shoots the only bullet in the barrel of his gun:

The creationist misappropriation of the argument from improbability always takes the same general form, and it doesn’t make any difference if the creationist chooses to masquerade in the politically expedient fancy dress of ‘intelligent design’ (ID). [i] Some observed phenomenon — often a living creature or one of its more complex organs, but it could be anything from a molecule up to the universe itself — is correctly extolled as statistically improbable. Sometimes the language of information theory is used: the Darwinian is challenged to explain the source of all the information in living matter, in the technical sense of information content as a measure of improbability or ‘surprise value’. Or the argument may invoke the economist’s hackneyed motto: there’s no such thing as a free lunch — and Darwinism is accused of trying to get something for nothing. In fact, as I shall show in this chapter, Darwinian natural selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from. It turns out to be the God Hypothesis that tries to get something for nothing. God tries to have his free lunch and be it too. However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747. (The God Delusion, p. 138)

In short, Professor Dawkins’ argument is that if you believe the Universe’s complexity requires a designer, then surely God, who must be as complex or if not, more complex than the Universe, must require a Designer too. Who then, created God? The argument is however, riddled with false assumptions.

The first of these is that believers in God believe that the Universe requires a Designer because it is complex. This is an error. The reason the Universe requires a Designer is because prior to the Big Bang, there was no Universe. As far as current science can tell us, prior to the Universe, this Universe did not exist. It then came into existence. For this process of something coming from nothing, one requires a Designer. Why is this?

To answer this we will have to examine another aspect of Professor Dawkins’ claims, and that is, that besides “design” and “chance” there is a third alternative possibility of the motive force driving the Universe:

A deep understanding of Darwinism teaches us to be wary of the easy assumption that design is the only alternative to chance, and teaches us to seek out graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity. Before Darwin, philosophers such as Hume understood that the improbability of life did not mean it had to be designed, but they couldn’t imagine the alternative. After Darwin, we all should feel, deep in our bones, suspicious of the very idea of design. The illusion of design is a trap that has caught us before, and Darwin should have immunized us by raising our consciousness. Would that he had succeeded with all of us. (The God Delusion, p.138)

Thus Professor Dawkins claims a third type of process: Natural Selection, but on a cosmic scale. He claims that there may be a process whereby different universes of increasing complexity are created, and which are selected for. Those that are unable to survive, due to their physical constants being incompatible with continuation of that universe, automatically die off, while universes which can continue, do, and of them, those that produce life may be a tiny fraction. We just happen to be in a Universe that has produced life. This theory is also called The Multiverse Hypothesis.

The Multiverse (NB: not actually the multiverse).

The Multiverse
(NB: not actually the multiverse – just an artist’s representation)

The gaping hole in this argument, is that how did the laws that govern the creation and selection of the universes, come about? Did they also come about through a process of cosmic selection? Are these laws eternal in and of themselves? If there is a process of producing Universes and selecting for them through a process of graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity then what is the process by which this all occurs? Ultimately therefore, the laws that govern the generation of Universes, or the selection of them, must themselves either be designed, or have come about by chance. Or were the laws and processes which governed the creation and selection of the laws, themselves the product of a similar process of selection? Once again, an infinite regress of absurdity sets in, in which one continues to ask, by which process did the laws themselves that govern correct “selection” come about.

Unfortunately, all Professor Dawkins seems to have is Natural Selection as his hammer, and when all you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.

In short therefore, the notion that there is a third option besides “design” and “chance” is false. All ordered processes must themselves be explained; the very method of Universe production and selection must itself be explained, if it is an ordered process. If it is not an ordered process, then what differentiates it from random chance? If it is a gradual process of possible but improbable steps in a linear fashion – graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity – then this too is illogical, for how did those steps come about in the first place? Did this Universe-producing machine create the laws of cosmic selection which were required to create itself in the first instance?  Did the child give birth to it’s own mother? Did the omelette scramble itself into an egg, and thence into a squawking chicken?

When we look at it this way, and realise that there is only “design” or “chance”, one realises that the very origin of anything can only be “design”. This is because “chance” is defined as the random selection of an outcome from a set of possibilities. If those possibilities do not yet exist, then chance cannot act. Dice which have no sides cannot be rolled and a racehorse without any horses doesn’t offer much of a gamble. Even if one was to apply the theory of cosmic selection, selection is not a creative process, but rather, a culling process. Without an initial creation, there is nothing to cull, nothing to “select” and nothing for “chance” or any other selective process to act upon. When the issue is looked at from this point, the creation or existence of anything which had a beginning and an origin will always be by “design”, not “chance”, “selection” or any other non-creative process. Unsurprisingly, you need a creative process to create something. Neither chance nor any process reminiscent of natural or cosmic selection are adequate.

What, however, if the Universe existed prior to the Big Bang, and then merely came into a new form of existence? Thus the Universe did not come from nothing, but merely was developed from one state into another. One Universe collapsed upon itself, produced another black hole and developed into our current universe.

This too does not satisfy reason. Suppose for a moment that the Big Bang occurred due to something called The Big Cause, and The Big Cause was caused by The Bigger Cause. What then caused the Bigger Cause? This chain of cause and effect cannot extend infinitely, as otherwise, there would be no beginning to the chain of cause and effect, and without a beginning, how would we have reached the present moment? If there wasn’t a beginning to this blog post, how do you find yourself reading in the middle of it (it’s coming to an end soon, don’t fret)? If there isn’t a beginning to a race, how to do you find yourself running in it? In short, an infinite chain of cause and effect can never reach any point anywhere along it’s chain, because it will always be infinitely behind the present position on that chain. You will have an infinite regression of causes.

This indicates that everything that has a beginning is dependent on having originated with an Uncaused Cause. This is because, something that has a beginning cannot have created itself. To create itself, while it didn’t yet exist, would require it to both exist and not exist, simultaneously. Without an Uncaused Cause therefore, anything that has a beginning, cannot exist. Moreover, such an Uncaused Cause does not suffer from the deficiency of requiring a designer, because such an Uncaused Cause did not itself originate from anything, rather, it has always existed. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, David Hume, Julian Baginni, etc., all misrepresent this argument by citing it as stating that everything that exists must have a cause. This is erroneous; the argument states that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Thus, an Uncaused Cause that does not have a beginning, such as God, does not require a “designer”. An Uncaused Cause is therefore a logical necessity and an imperative.

It is interesting to note that atheists, by assuming the Multiverse argument, have also accepted the belief in an Uncaused Cause. Many atheists accept that the Uncaused Cause is a logical necessity, only they claim that a Universe-generating machine, is the Uncaused Cause. This is logically inconsistent; because if they are willing to accept the existence of an Uncaused Cause, then what is the big leap in saying that such an existence could also be conscious of itself – thus making it a Divine, or Personal Entity. Thus, by assuming the Multiverse hypothesis, they jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. They run into precisely what they wished to avoid.

To Allah belong the East and the West; so withersoever you turn, there will be the face of Allah. Surely, Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing. (Qur’an 2:116)

To summarise then, something did not come from nothing. Something (the universe) came from something else (an Uncaused Cause). The universe must have had a beginning – an origin, as an infinite chain of cause and effect is an illogicality.

Furthermore, all things that have a beginning, must take their origin in “design”, not “chance”. There is no third alternative such as “cosmic selection” because any process or laws that govern such selection must themselves be either the product of “design” or “chance”, lest a further infinite regression of absurdities be created.

Thus, the only logical outcome for this Universe, which must have began either with the Big Bang or at an event prior to it, is that it came into existence from nothingness, by the Design of an Uncaused Cause.

Gosh. That sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought…

 

The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

The Difference between a Divinely-Revealed Economic Programme and a Man-Made one: How Islamic Economic Theory Can Prevent the Looming Global Recession

If they switched to the economic programme revealed in the Qur’an, today’s super-rich in both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds could still live very comfortable lives, and everyone could be a lot happier. But are they brave enough to want to free themselves from the powerful grip of materialism and greed?

by Syed Muhammad Saleh Nasser & Syed Muhammad Tahir Nasser

Economic inequality is bad news for both rich and poor, as economists are slowly realising. House of Debt, acclaimed by the Financial Times as the “most important economics book” of 2015, by Princeton’s Professors of Economics, Atif Mian and Amir Sufi, demonstrated this well. They showed that the main cause of the 2008 U.S-led global recession was that indebted households pulled back on spending more during an economic downturn than the less indebted, driving businesses big and small into the ground and putting the whole economy into recession. Given that as of December 2015 household debt in the UK stands at a staggering 135% of income, and that U.S household debt is the highest it has been since 2010, we have good reason to worry.

The root of this problem is debt and the consequent wealth-gap between creditors and debtors. Interestingly, Islamic economic theory addresses such inequality and provides real solutions. Did you even know that Islam teaches economics?

Islamic economic theory differs from our current model in two particular ways: firstly, capital taxation, known as zakat (meaning: “that which purifies”) is advocated over income taxation, and secondly, interest is prohibited. In truth, these two mechanisms go hand in hand. Here’s how.

There are two things in an economy: 1) money; 2) goods (like ice cream) and services (like launderettes). The value of money is only in its ability to obtain goods/services. Beyond this, it has no value in and of itself. This is the basic premise of money and the basic premise of Islamic finance. It is this principle that is violated by interest.  How so?

Let’s take a society comprised only of 100 bottles and £100. 1 bottle = 1 pound. If the number of bottles increases by 50 but the amount of money in society increases by £200, then we will have 150 bottles and £300. Now 1 bottle = £2. The value of each bottle has gone up but the value of £1 has gone down. Now £1 only gets you half a bottle, whereas before you could get a whole bottle. This is called Inflation and occurs when the amount of money in society rises quicker than the goods/services. This process results in 1) goods/services getting more expensive and 2) money becoming relatively devalued.

Interest is the key driver of inflation. This is because interest results in money multiplying itself without any increase in goods/services. An individual with £100,000 in the bank gets an increase on his savings of £2000-£3000/year at an interest rate of 2-3%. His money has grown without any commensurate increase in the goods/services of society at all. This is the key driver of inflation: as the money of the rich grows exponentially and since sale is always to the highest bidder, the price of goods/services increases exponentially too.

The key to understanding how inflation drives wealth inequality in society is to understand that the rich live on their assets (acquired goods/services) through the generation of money via interest and inflation, not on their income. On the other hand, the poor live on their income, as they don’t have assets to any great extent. As inflation pushes the value of assets up while devaluing cash, the rich who hold assets get richer, while the poor, who live on cash from their incomes, have rising interest-driven debts to pay with a currency that is increasingly devalued, while trying to buy assets that are continuously increasing in price. Is it any surprise then that the wealthiest sixty-two individuals in the world hold as much wealth as the poorer 50% of humanity?

Islamic teachings address these issues very simply. Instead of taxing income, it advocates capital taxation of assets unused for one year (zakat). At the same time, it prohibits the system of interest, thus preventing inflation and preventing the devaluation of the income of the poor. Instead of providing loans with interest, Islam encourages banks to make investments, meaning that money would only be printed if a commensurate increase in goods/services were to occur. In cases where interest-free loans are made, it encourages debt-forgiveness as healthier than debt-enforcement – something that governments are today catching on to.

By taxing assets unused for one year instead of income, the poor, who live on their income, are freer to spend, thus driving the wheel of economic consumption, keeping businesses big and small, afloat. Capital taxation would also drive economic growth as it would be an incentive to invest into businesses. Furthermore, it would enrich the government, as demonstrated by Daniel Altman of the New York Times, who showed that a capital taxation rate of 1-2% on wealth over $500,000 would generate more tax for the U.S Treasury than their current income taxation rates. 0% taxation on assets up to $500,000 would also give ordinary individuals the freedom to build wealth. Additionally, by ridding us of interest, the indebted would be more able to move out of debt. Finally, given that the Qur’an commands that zakat money be used to aid social mobility, through distribution to the poor, needy, imprisoned, indebted etc., the gap between the rich and the poor would be further rapidly reduced.

So if a capital taxation, non-interest based system is so much better for 99.9% of people, why don’t we use it? Why have we got a system that works for only the 0.1%? Simple: the 0.1% have access via back-channels to the law-makers of our nations. If anything the Sanders-Clinton race has exposed, it is the degree to which financial manipulation of our representatives is occurring behind the scenes. If such an unjust system in which the poor continuously feed the rich continues, then the dissatisfaction of the masses, epitomized in the rise of such leaders like Corbyn in the U.K and Sanders in the U.S, will inevitably get worse.

So there you have it, the difference between an economic system revealed by God and a worldly economic system built on the backs of the poor, now on the brink of collapse. Given however, that “Muslim” countries don’t even practice these economic principles though, I wouldn’t hold out much hope that anyone else will either before the economic recession we are about to slide into, takes hold.

On that note, here’s a good website for calculating how much food to stock up on.

Reproduced from http://www.patheos.com/ where it appeared under the title of “Can Islamic Economic Theory Prevent the Looming Global Recession?” posted by Qasim Rashid. For the original article, click HERE.