Looking for scientific proof of God’s existence?

The videos below have been reproduced from www.rationalreligion.co.uk (previously http://www.endofatheism.com). Do yourselves a favour : keep updated by bookmarking this highly informative and entertaining website, and following it

on Twitter @RRanswers,

on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RRanswers/,

and on YouTube here.

Like, retweet, leave comments, challenge and ask questions, before you’re forced to face up to http://www.endoflife.net and http://www.TooLate.com (And yes, I’ve checked – these domain names don’t exist yet :op)

Enjoy!

 

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The Revival of True Sainthood by the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam

This is an extract from the autobiography of Mawlawi Ghulam Rasul Rajeki (may Allah be pleased with him), who was born into a family affiliated to the Qadiriyyah Order having produced, generation after generation, a profusion of Saints, both men and women, who were reputed in the Punjab for their visions and miracles. From his very childhood, Mawlawi Saheb was assiduous in his Salaah (daily prayers), and diligent in his invocations of blessings upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and other devotions. Allah the Most High led him while he was still in his teens to recognise the truth of the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him), and to become his follower, after which, people began to witness saintly miracles at his hand which astounded even his own family. Mawlawi Ghulam Rasul Rajeki (may Allah be pleased with him) stood as a living testimony to the sanctifying power of the Imam al-Mahdi whose coming for the rejuvenation of true Islam had been promised by the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Based on ” The Revival of True Sainthood”

https://theartofmisinformation.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-revival-of-true-sainthood/

An Incident at Jamun Bola

“The village of Jamun Bola is situated two miles north of our residence. Many landlords of that village had been the well-wishers of our elders. When they came to know of the circumstances surrounding the illness and miraculous recovery of Jeewan Khan [through the prayers of Mawlawi Ghulam Rasul, in a previous episode], an inhabitant of Dhudrha named Khan Muhammad, who was one of these landlords, came to see my father and said: ‘For some time my younger brother, Jan Muhammad, has been suffering from tuberculosis. As an act of kindness, please instruct Mian Ghulam Rasul Sahib to stay at our house for a few days so as to pray for Jan Muhammad, that Allah the Almighty may grant him health too.” Following his request, and as per my father’s instructions, I set off towards them. Upon my arrival, and having refreshed my ablutions, I began to pray for his brother. After having ended with the salaam, I enquired as to how his condition was. The family replied: “The fever has completely disappeared and he has even started to feel hungry.” Afterwards, within a few days, such strength was born in his thin and weak body, that he was able to walk around. Having witnessed this sign, these people began to entertain some positive feelings about Ahmadiyyat; however not a single person entered into the allegiance of the Promised Messiah (pbuh). As a result, Allah the Almighty informed me: “THE HEALTH THAT HAS BEEN GRANTED TO THIS PATIENT WAS A FINAL ARGUMENT FOR THEM; AND IF THEY DO NOT ACCEPT AHMADIYYAT, THE PATIENT WILL BE MADE TO ENTER THE GRAVE ON THE TWENTY-EIGHTH OF THE MONTH OF SHA‘BAAN, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.” Subsequently, as soon as I awoke I asked for pen and inkpot and wrote down this divine revelation on a piece of paper and entrusted it to some of the non-Ahmadis of the village, cautioning them not to disclose the prophecy [to anyone] before the appointed time of death. Afterwards, I set off for the holy court of the Promised Messiah (pbuh) and there I spent the blessed month of Ramadan. When Allah the Almighty, in His wisdom, had caused the incident of Jan Muhammad’s apparent return to health to be talked about everywhere, the disease resurfaced and on exactly the twenty-eighth night of the month of Sha‘baan, he departed from this mortal earth. Following his demise, when the non-Ahmadis exposed my writings in front of the public, they were left speechless. How unfortunate it is that even after this, those people still did not accept Ahmadiyyat.”

An incident at Sa‘dullahpur

“Sa‘dullahpur village is about three miles south of our village. Most of its Hanafi inhabitants were on good terms with our elders. For this reason, I used to visit every so often and preach to this village and try to convince them of the truthfulness of the Promised Messiah (pbuh). In this village, there was an Ahl-e-Hadith scholar, Mawlawi Ghawth Muhammad Sahib, who was a student of the Ghaznavi family in Amritsar, and was therefore exceedingly hostile and opposed [to Ahmadiyyat]. One day, after the Salaat-al-Zuhr (midday prayer) at the mosque, I began to preach Ahmadiyyat in their presence and gave them some books and periodicals to study. When they found out from my preaching and from the Promised Messiah’s books that I believed Hadrat Mirza Sahib to be the Promised Messiah and Imam al-Mahdi, they started using foul language and abusing the Promised Messiah (pbuh). I reasoned with them saying that they could swear at me all they wanted, but that they should refrain from insulting the Promised Messiah (pbuh). In spite of this, they did not stop their abuse. Retiring to a private place, I fell down in prostration praying before the threshold of God with great sobbing and weeping. During the night, I returned to the mosque without having eaten any food and slept there. When morning drew near, Mawlawi Ghawth Muhammad Sahib came up to me in the mosque and begged for forgiveness, beseeching me to do the following: “For God’s sake, please write a letter for my allegiance to Mirza Sahib, otherwise I fear I will die right now and be cast into hell!” Observing his repentance, and greatly astonished, I enquired the reason for it. The Mawlawi Sahib proceeded to give me the following explanation: “I have seen in a dream that it was the Day of Judgment and the decree of my being cast into hell had been issued. To act upon the decree, angels of a terrifying appearance came towards me. They carried enormous clubs that reached all the way up to the sky. These angels grabbed hold of me and declared: “You have attacked the honour of the Promised Messiah (pbuh), the Imam of the Age, so go now to Hell and face your punishment.” I cried out in horror: “I repent! Please let me go!” The angels took no notice, and said: “Now he repents?” They then raised their clubs to strike me. Out of sheer terror I woke up and in this state I have come to you. For God’s sake, please have my sins forgiven and write a letter certifying my allegiance to Hadrat Mirza Sahib.” Due to this dream, he became an Ahmadi; and thereafter as a result of our combined preaching efforts, dozens of men and women entered into the Ahmadiyya Community.”

Why “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” Is Mere Claptrap: How The Qur’an Solves Atheism’s Greatest Argument

2

There is a weapon in the arsenal of atheists believed by some advocates of piffle to be so powerful and holy that only the anointed priests of the holy order of balderdash, also known as the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, can deploy it without all matter in the universe collapsing in on itself during a cosmic game of Flapdoodle. Dr. Stephen Hall summarises it thus:

Are things morally right/wrong, good/bad because God says so, or does God say that they are right/wrong, good/bad because God recognises that they are? If the first option is true, then that means that right/wrong are arbitrary. If the latter is true, then we don’t need God to know what is right/wrong, as we can recognize it just as God does. [Hall.S; Humanism, A Very Short Introduction, p.74]

Taking torture as an example, Dr. Stephen Hall, advocate of Humanism, continues:

If the theist says things are morally right or wrong only because God says so, then morality, it turns out, is still arbitrary and relative. Prior to God’s issuing any commands, there is no right or wrong, and thus whatever commands he issues must be morally arbitrary… In response, some theists insist that, as God is himself morally good, he wouldn’t command us to torture innocent people… Had God said torturing the innocent was right, then it would have been. (In that case) God does not make torturing the innocent wrong by virtue of issuing his commands. Such torture would be wrong whatever God commanded. God’s commands are issued, as it were, for informational purposes only… The theist is now acknowledging that torturing the innocent is wrong anyway – it’s objectively wrong – whether or not there exists a God who issues commands. But then atheists and agnostics are free to help themselves to this same objective moral yardstick.

Is this not a veritable victory for atheism? Is this anything less than a splendid scimitar to the jugular of the Divine? A coup d’état so precipitous and dashing that it left you gob-smacked?

Or, maybe it’s just a short-sighted, sanguine argument. Gibberish. Poppycock. Hogwash and claptrapping barney, as my butler (in one of the multiverses) would call it.

Here’s why.

The Qur’an answers Euthyphro’s dilemma in a very simple, understandable way:

And by the soul and its perfection —And He revealed to it what is wrong for it and what is right for it —He indeed truly prospers who purifies it, And he who corrupts it is ruined.
[Qur’an 91:8-11]

In these verses, God sets out what is ‘right’ as what will lead to the attainment of our purpose in life, namely, spiritual purification and what is ‘wrong’ as the opposite. But what is “spiritual purification”? A bit wishy-washy, is it? Not at all. The Qur’an clarifies:

Verily, he truly prospers who purifies himself, And remembers the name of his Lord and offers Prayers. [Qur’an 87:15-16]

Fulfilling the purpose of our life is how the Qur’an determines what is ‘right’, and spiritual purification is the process of deepening and promoting a relationship with our Creator through remembrance of God’s attributes and communication with Him in prayer. Thus, God’s determination of right and wrong is not arbitrary but is related to the objective of our creation. Moreover, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are not independent of God, as the argument states, for what is ‘right’ is what will improve our relationship with God. This is a matter dependent on God’s nature for the more we imitate God’s attributes as set out by His revelation and also by the conscience He has provided us, the more we are purified through nearness to Him. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ do not, therefore, exist outside of God either. Thus, the premise of Euthyphro’s dilemma that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are “one of two things,” is flawed. What leads to God is what is related to His Nature and constitutes what is ‘right’, while what leads away from God is ‘wrong’ as it is contrary to His Nature.

The nature of our conscience, according to the Qur’an, testifies to the character and Nature of God. The psychology of humans, in its unadulterated form, is a torch-bearer and a reminder of the Nature of God:

So set thy face to the service of religion as one devoted to God. And follow the nature made by Allah — the nature in which He has created mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. That is the right religion. But most men know not. [Qur’an 30:31]

The right religion, God tells us, is the teaching in which the nature of mankind is kept pure and unadulterated, upon the pattern of God’s Nature. This can also be seen by the fact that God is never described in the Qur’an as “good”, termed “Ihsan” in Arabic. Ihsan or “goodness” is only a characteristic of humans. Why? Simply put, if God was described as “good” then Euthyphro’s dilemma would be valid, as “goodness” could then be said to exist outside of God. Instead, it is goodness that is defined by God’s nature: goodness is God – not the other way around. This can be appreciated by the fact that the opening verses of the Qur’an describe God as the one in whom all praiseworthy qualities originate and find their authorship:

All Praise belongs to and returns to Allah, Creator, Developer and Sustainer of all the worlds [Qur’an 1:2].

All praise returning to God means that anything you see, which you deem praiseworthy, is in fact, merely a reflection of God’s attributes. The Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, echoed this when he described Ihsan or “goodness” in the following manner:

Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state of devotion, then know at least that Allah sees you. [Sahih Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 300]

Goodness is therefore to be able to “see God” rather than “seeing goodness”. To see God means to know God’s attributes, to love those attributes and to be motivated to imitate those attributes. Such worship does not simply consist of formulaic prostrating and bowing, but consists of living one’s entire life on the pattern of such praiseworthy qualities. Those who cannot partake of such a high degree of nearness to God, such as to have God’s attributes before the mind’s eye at every moment, can partake of it by remembering that God is aware of them and that they will be held to account for any acts contrary to His nature, also known as “evil deeds”.

Thus, the higher state of “goodness” or Ihsan, is to spontaneously follow God out of love for His attributes, as reflected in one’s own pure conscience. Such a condition is one of total love and obedience and constitutes the active doing of deeds that please God – known as “good deeds”. The lower level is to merely abstain from deeds that run contrary to God’s nature and pleasure, through being aware of one’s accountability to God. Thus, the former consist of positive virtues – the active doing of good, while the latter consists of negative virtues – abstention from evil.

The above phrase of the Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, is both simple and remarkable insofar as he captures with such brevity the entire panoply of human goodness, while simultaneously drawing attention to the roots of those actions: knowledge and adoration of God’s attributes as the motivator of good deeds; and accountability to God as the means of restraint from evil. In tying goodness or Ihsan to God’s essential nature, he cuts to the heart of Euthyphro’s dilemma, exposing the atheist argument for the bunkum it really is.

 

Note: The present post has been reproduced from the End of Atheism blog. The author is Dr Tahir Nasser @TahirNasser

When chickens come home to roost

The following challenge is doing the rounds on social media:

MUSLIMS, REFUTE THIS ANALYSIS OF FREE WILL IN ISLAM.

My comments are preceded by the word “COMMENT“.

 

Four Premises

  • Allah is omniscient.
  • Nothing happens except by Allah’s will.
  • Allah Himself has free will.
  • Allah cannot make a mistake.

COMMENT: Premise 2 is false. Islam informs us that nothing happens except by Allah’s PERMISSION. Allah does not WILL anyone to commit crimes; however He PERMITS them to do so. This is borne out by the following Qur’anic verse:

“And if thy Lord had so willed, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers?” (10:99)*

Forcing people to do things is not Allah’s way.

 

Analysis

1: Because nothing happens except by Allah’s will, all human beings are created only according to Allah’s will.

COMMENT: As pointed out above, everything happens with God’s permission, but that does not imply that God wants everything to be the way it is.

2: Because Allah is omniscient, Allah knows the eventual fate of every person even before the moment of their creation.

COMMENT: This is correct.

3: Because Allah has free will, he has the free will to create or not create any human being he chooses.

COMMENT: This is correct.

4: Therefore, at the moments of creation, Allah is choosing to create some people that he already knows will be saved, and others that he already knows will be condemned to hell.

COMMENT: This is correct, but incomplete. Allah creates people who He knows will CHOOSE to act in a way that will save them, and others that He knows will CHOOSE to act in a way that will lead them to hell.

5: Therefore, since the results of every lifetime are already known even prior to creation, the “test” for salvation is already complete even before the created individual is born.

COMMENT: This is partially correct. The test results are already known to Allah, but knowledge of the results does NOT mean that God is the one producing these results. As for the test being complete, see below.

Q.E.D. Life on earth cannot be a test for salvation. The test is already complete before life on earth takes place.

COMMENT: This is incorrect. God’s knowledge of future events will only be true if the events take place. The test is only complete when all human choices have been made and all future events have happened.

 

Further Analysis

6: If a human being were capable of doing anything to change his fate from the one Allah already determined, then Allah would have made a mistake.

COMMENT: Allah does NOT determine the fate of anyone. They determine their own fate, and are consequently made by God to carry the burden of that self-chosen fate. The question of a “mistake” does not apply.

7: Since Allah cannot make a mistake, a human being cannot do anything to change his fate from the one Allah already determined.

Q.E.D. Human beings cannot have free will.

COMMENT: Incorrect. See above.

 

 Conclusion

  • Life on earth is not a test for salvation. For what is there to test if the results are known ahead of time and there is nothing we can do to change them?
  • Qiyamah, the Islamic Day of Judgment, is a farce. For we are not being judged based on our behaviors, but on Allah’s previous decision.
  • People are not led to Islam because it is superior message or religion, but because Allah decided that they would become Muslims whether they wanted to or not.
  • Since the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived, and who are living today are not Muslim, Allah must have created the vast majority of human beings for the express purpose of condemning them to Jahannam. Therefore the primary purpose of creation must be hell and suffering, not paradise and salvation.

COMMENT: This conclusion is entirely erroneous, due to the false assumption made in premise 2. Certain parameters in life are determined by God, such as the place and date of birth, ethnicity, height, physical abilities, etc., but within these parameters Man creates his own fate. The fact that God already knows what Man will do even before the universe was created, in no way means that God forced Man to make those choices. God sends guidance through His messengers to the whole of mankind. It is entirely their choice whether to arrogantly and viciously oppose it or to accept it with humility and gratitude. Their choices are not forced upon them, and they will have to face the consequences of those choices.

A farmer knowing – even before they hatch – at what time his chickens will come home to roost everyday is not the one making them do it.

 


*This will be 10:100 in translations where the Basmalah (In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever-Merciful) is counted as verse number 1.

 

Why Religion Succeeds where Humanism Fails

Why religions succeeds where humanism fails

By Umar Nasser

The original post can be read HERE. Photo credit: Joel Duggan. 

Attempting to critically assess Humanism’s moral teachings is a bit like studying subatomic particles in quantum physics: the closer you look, the less you seem to know. Out of the many moral philosophies on offer, which should we follow? Consequentialism or virtue ethics? Hume or Kant? Is utilitarianism good, bad, or somewhere in between? And who’s setting these rules anyway?

So much for scientific specificity. In the absence of any clear doctrines to critique, one can only go by generalities. Indeed, generalities are the only thing that Humanism can really offer – the more specific we get, the quicker we descend into dissent and disagreements amongst its own ranks. A top-level framework is what is needed, and Humanism’s is essentially to increase well-being and reduce suffering. It’s a position defended explicitly by popular atheist writer Sam Harris, and typifies the Humanist approach. And let’s be honest – it sounds pretty good. Surely every religious person would agree on increasing well-being, and reducing suffering? And if atheists and theists can agree on it, then where’s the need for religion? Can’t we just follow it anyway? Well, let’s find out.

The first and most obvious problem we come across with a principle like this is the issue of utilitarianism. If increasing well-being becomes a numbers game, then surely the heaviest set wins? As such, if I could torture one person and elicit information that could save a hundred, does that make torture OK? Apparently. Similarly, what of situations where an individual feels their well-being increase, without obvious harm being done? Does that make such an action moral? For instance, if someone was inclined towards a consensual incestual relationship, would that be OK? So we are told.

These are common examples, but one is spoiled for choice. Under Humanism’s vague directions, we are left precisely where we began – lost. Take an accountant of the Rothschild’s, the richest family on Earth. Imagine he is one day tempted to steal some money from his luxury-loving employers. Just £1000. He has the skills to easily get away with it. He will certainly benefit from the extra money, and he knows for sure that his billionaire employers will never miss it. He looks at religious morality that tells him such theft is unlawful, and that he will be held responsible. But our accountant is much too enlightened for this religion nonsense. To Humanism he goes! And what does he find? Maximise well-being, minimise suffering. Well he thinks, no-one will suffer, and his well-being will increase. And so it would seem that theft is not only not immoral, but positively a good thing!

Then let’s turn to a rather more sordid affair – literally. A married woman and her tempting lover. She finds herself in a dissatisfied marriage, but feels that it could all pick up if she lets herself indulge just once with her new-found friend. She waits until her husband is out of the country so he can’t find out, but then, her conscience prickles. This is adultery. That can’t be right, can it? As she pauses for thought, Humanism, wonderful Humanism, comes to her aid. She remembers that delightful Stephen Fry video which said we should do what makes us happy. Maximise well-being and reduce suffering…

Well, needless to say, she decides to go and maximise her well-being.

The examples are endless. Imagine the criminal, asked if he committed a crime for which there are no other suspects. Lie with no consequence, or tell the truth with punishment? Or the drug addict who’s considering another high, a unique sensory experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Which version of well-being should he follow, and what compelling reason does Humanism give him to follow one path over the other? The reality is that without a justified model of what well-being is, we’re shooting in the dark. We end up with 7 billion different versions of well-being, everyone’s conception clashing with the other’s, and none being any more right than the next one.

And what then of suffering? Is reducing suffering always good, and increasing suffering always bad? Well, what of the mother who deprives her child of his/her wish, out of knowledge of what is best for it? Is that an immoral act? Clearly not – the child may suffer, but the Mother has an endpoint in mind to which she wants to nurture it. So how could the Mother allow her child to go down a path that she knows is harmful with respect to its ultimate end? Thus suffering is sometimes beneficial.

Indeed, not only is sometimes suffering necessary to be saved from the bad, it can be a prerequisite of achieving the good. Can we develop steadfastness without trials? Can we nurture patience without pestilence? Can we summon courage without obstacles? Ask any toiling student, or sweating body-builder, or weary charity worker – suffering is not only something to be avoided, but often something to be sought after. As such, we do not always suffer when we are suffering.

It should be clear by now, that empty words of well-being and suffering are meaningless without defining a set goal towards which they are directed. Without this, we may well end up doing harm to someone whilst thinking that we are helping them, or imagine that we are saving them from harm when only holding back from them good. Without such a reference point, the villains of the world will seek to justify the suffering they inflict by the well-being they envisage, and Humanism is unable to coherently justify what makes such a vision wrong. Humanism, by failing to offer a set model of what we should be shooting for, allows our morality to become a slave to transient passions and social pressures. We lose sight of our target, before realising we never had one to begin with.

Religion on the other hand gives us a model of well-being, as articulated poignantly in the Qur’an:

Surely, I have not created men high and low, but that they may worship Me.” (Holy Qur’an, 51:57-8)

The Arabic word used here for ‘worship’ means far more than what we are accustomed to from the familiar school assemblies and occasional Church visit. It means to serve, to assimilate the qualities of a Master, to follow in a beloved’s footsteps. Thus, the meaning of this verse is as the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Communitywrote over 50 years ago:

“[One’s purpose] is to subject oneself to a rigorous spiritual discipline, working with all one’s inherent powers and capacities to their fullest scope, in perfect harmony with and in obedience to God’s design, so as to receive the Divine impress and thus be able to manifest in oneself God’s attributes. This is, as stated in the present verse, the great and noble aim and object of man’s creation and this is exactly what worship of God means. The external and internal endowments of human nature give us clearly to understand that of God-given faculties the highest is the one which awakens in man the urge to search after God and incites in him the noble desire to completely submit himself to His will.”

As is clear, the purpose for which we are created is to become Godly, and thus attain the love of our Creator. As imitation truly is the highest form of flattery, we then seek to become a benefit for others in society by mimicking in our own spheres divine beneficence. But that beneficence takes a form, a shape which is in line with the guidance from the Being Who created us. As He knows all our potentials and inner natures, His guidance is the only one qualified to truly tell us what well-being is and how to achieve it. Only He can tell us what suffering we should endure for a higher purpose, and what suffering must be avoided at all costs.

This is the key difference between religious and atheistic morality. Humanism has no basis for calling one thing right and another thing wrong – such concepts are mere illusions according to its prerequisite beliefs. Moreover, it is fundamentally incapable of furnishing us with any useful guidance on how we should live our lives as it has no purpose towards which it can aim. Each person is a law unto themselves, justified in working towards their own idea of well-being and disregarding anyone else’s, whatever the cost may be.

On the other hand, religion calls towards a Divine Creator who has created us with a set purpose in mind. Achieving that aim is what will give us true satisfaction, for we have been constituted as such. We are given models in the Prophets of how to emulate divine qualities and thus win divine love. This is the well-being that religion tells us we were born to seek. It reminds us that within us lurk souls which act as a barometer telling us how well or poorly we are doing this: an in-built navigation system whose call we all hear. The moral and social teachings of God in religious scripture are designed with all our capacities and temperaments in mind, and are thus effective in creating a society which gives everyone the best opportunity to realise their divine purpose – should they so please. Otherwise they are free to ignore their purpose and enjoy the provisions provided to the spiritual and the worldly alike, though by doing so they deprive themselves of the true inner satisfaction which we have all been created to enjoy.

Without such a destination and route laid out by a Creator, we’re completely rudderless, with no lighthouse on the horizon towards which we can sail. Thick waves roll over us, and we are left in darkness no matter the direction in which we turn.

Find out about some of the moral teachings of Islam as explained by the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam over at trueislam.com


 

Follow Umar Nasser on twitter @UmarN91

Do humans have moral obligations? The contradictions of the atheist’s worldview

“Humans are nowhere near as special as we like to think”, writes Melissa Hogenboom on BBC Earth’s “The Big Questions”.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett tells us consciousness is an illusion.

And that’s not the only illusion, apparently. “Free will is an illusion, so what?” scoffs Raj Ragunathan Ph.D.

And why not, after all? Theoretical Physicist, Lawrence Krauss says “I like to say, the universe doesn’t care about our common sense.  We have to force our ideas to conform to the evidence of reality rather than the other way around.  And if reality seems strange, that’s okay.”

In a nutshell, we’re not special, we aren’t really deciding what we want to do, and whatever we do, the universe doesn’t care.

Most living creatures certainly don’t seem to care. So why, as human beings, should WE care?

Consider the following picture:

Tiger trapped

Had the caption shown a man in the clutches of the tiger, and had it read: “This magnificent poacher dies in agony, trapped without hope. A tiger becomes fatter eating body parts”, few would have condemned the tiger. So why do we condemn the poacher – if we aren’t any more special than a tiger and the universe doesn’t care what we do?

Now take a look at this:

Cecil the Lion.JPG

Cecil the Lion 2.JPG

The death of Cecil the Lion caused international outrage and drew widespread condemnation. Had Cecil eaten the hunter alive, not only would the lion not have been criticized, the hunter himself would have been blamed for putting himself in harm’s way.

So, if human beings aren’t as special as many of us think, why do we reserve special treatment for other humans and not for animals?

One more example:

Animals for target practice.JPG

As a cat lover myself, I find this particularly upsetting. But if the universe doesn’t care about our actions, why is using animals for target practice any more reprehensible than what mother cats do themselves: bringing home injured birds and rodents for their kittens to practise their killing skills on?

Why should atheists care about what humans do to these animals? According to their own logic, it shouldn’t matter.

Raj Ragunathan Ph.D. makes a feeble attempt to counter this with “whether or not you act of out of free will in denying yourself the unhealthy-but-tasty cake, you will still have to face the health consequences of eating unhealthy meals. Likewise, whether or not you acted out of free will in committing a crime, you will still have to face the consequences of your misdeeds. So, from a purely consequentialist perspective, it makes sense to sometimes curb your temptations.

But why is making oneself or other people ill, bad? Why is trying to be healthy good?

Likewise, why should punishing a criminal be good, and not doing so, bad?

In a universe where humans have no special moral obligations, if we have to face the consequences, so what? Why should life be any better than death? It shouldn’t matter either way.

Yet, it DOES matter. Whether we are believers or atheists, we prefer life over death, and well-being over suffering. Moreover, there is a universal sense of duty in humans towards other creatures on their planet. Clearly, in our sense of moral responsibility, we are not like animals or plants – and our condemnation of any human behaviour deviating from the norm shows we all know it.

Islam teaches that human beings do indeed have a moral duty towards other creatures, and that because we, unlike animals, have free will, we shall be answerable to God for causing undue suffering to His creatures.

…Eat and drink but exceed not the limits; surely, (God) does not love those who exceed the bounds.” (the Qur’an, 7:32)

The Prophet of Islam cursed those who used animals for target practice, and warned that humans should only kill what they need for food. He said a person who brought water up from a well for a dog dying of thirst had all their sins forgiven. He also said that a person who starved a caged cat to death was bound for hell. He forbade the killing of predators for their skins. He even forbade taking baby birds out of their nest, saying that it would cause distress to their mother. And he cautioned his followers against setting fire to termite mounds.

This teaching is in accordance with human nature, that nature which separates us from all other creatures; the same human nature that compels us to denounce the crimes of the tiger’s poacher, Cecil’s hunter, and those cruel people taking animals to the target range.

 

Do children naturally believe in God?

Photo credit: http://www.thisfabtrek.com/journey/europe/latvia/20100605-riga/daniel-david-hats-looking-bug-4.jpg

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.

 

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