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Pak Tea House » Islam, Religion, secularism » Atheism and Faith

Atheism and Faith

Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

imagesI am a believer in one God. But I am always fascinated by atheist because it seems fantastic that they could reject the idea of God despite the inadequacy of science to explain physical world around us with certainty. To understand their argument I am always eager to meet an atheist with a hope that some new information will be revealed to shake foundation of my faith. But most of the time I hear the same arguments again and again. Religion has always argued that faith has certain element of irrationality to it although Quran has presented the idea that science will eventually find God.

I heard about Richard Dawkins and his book The God Delusion as a much quoted text on atheism. I was hoping he will use the power of his rationality to prove non-existence of God rather than criticizing the irrationality of believers. He has adopted the process of elimination which is to prove that a concept is not true to deduct that the opposite could be true. I understand he is disappointed that God does not react to human impulses and in a world of instant gratification does not discharge punishments for sins and errors on the fly.

The smart Alec examples quoted by Mr. Dawkins to prove Godless world, like a hypothesis that a person could believe there is a flying kettle in the cosmos, are actually proof that science has limitations to confirm a hypothesis. These examples show that language as a human enterprise has both rational and irrational expressions intrinsic in it. Because if language was absolutely rational then it would be impossible to express irrational thought through it. It is interesting that whenever he quotes a scientific example, it is almost always followed by a suggestion that more progress must have been made by the time reader is reading those lines. In a way confessing that science is still inadequate to explain everything with a certainty. I feel sorry for Mr. Charles Darwin, whose 130 years old theory of evolution is quite leisurely quoted in the book.  It is important to note that Mr. Darwin never rejected the idea of a Creator that set evolution into motion.

Science is hinged upon predictability of recurring phenomena without fail for example sun rising/setting everyday or an electron revolving tireless around a nucleus. A phenomenon that is unique with unpredictable outcomes and behavior is beyond the comprehension of science. Since God is beyond predictability it is difficult for scientist to measure God and hence their disbelief in Him. Quran has made it clear that the mankind will find God through scientific explanation of the universe but until then they have to rely on their irrational self to have faith while keep the quest alive. In a way science is a commentary on physical world around us rather than a creative force that has developed any new laws that were not already present in nature. Using a commentator to reject a creative force is an unbridgeable paradox. It’s like an art critic telling Picasso how he should have painted his masterpiece.

Acting in the similar fashion as Mr. Dawkins let me throw three scientific challenges at him. I would like him to gather all the scientists to achieve one of the following three feats i.e. create a living thing even a mono-cell from nothing or maintain a living thing such that it never dies or create a product that does not age. What has these challenges got to do with the question of existence of God? Well if an imaginary kettle flying in the space could be used by Mr. Dawkins to prove there is no God then at least these challenges can be tried in a lab on earth. His book mentions survey results whereby majority of scientists overwhelmingly confess to be atheist. Well no wonder as there is an occupational hazard to believe in an entity that can not be proved in a lab and subject a person to ridicule among his peers. He has equated believing in dogma as equivalent to believing in God when in realty these are two independent actions and mutually exclusive.

Reading Mr. Dawkins book makes me feel that he is looking for a humanoid God i.e. a God that exhibits human like characteristics having sense perceptions and judgments. Although he does confess that science has not worked out all the mysteries of universe but that does not dissuade him from rejecting God altogether or at least delay the verdict until science progress some more. Referring to theory of natural selection he confesses that scientists do not know why birds or some other species engage in a particular act but he is sure the most intellectual of all species humans are wasteful by believing in God. He thinks all other species are economizing in their acts but it is the silly human that is wasting time and resources (prayers, sacrifices, fasting, and charity etc.etc.) by pursuing a faith. So in a way he is suggesting humans are not as intelligent as they think of themselves since they are not as good an economizer in nature as other species.

Mr Dawkins selectively assume that people of faith do not believe in evolution. It is noteworthy that to explain origin of life he allowed himself to have an element of statistical luck while from there on rational explanation of natural selection could be scientifically justified. For his information Quran has validated the evolutionary nature of life. Using the examples quoted by him let’s suppose an ant has achieved the highest level of evolution and does not need any further progress so it keeps doing same thing again and again without questioning who created and why? If that is the destiny Mr. Dawkins is interested in where everything has a logic, rationality and predictability of behavior than I guess humans have comparatively regressed as they still have superstition, emotions and mysticism that can not be explained by science. It is this superstitious nature that produces music and art. If this superstition produced dogma as well it can not be attributed to God.

Humans are not completely rational in their intrinsic nature or they would not have emotions. Emotions like love, hate etc are not rational but irrational side of human consciousness. It is not possible to separate rational from irrational as it co-exist in a human consciousness. I do not know any scientist that is devoid of emotions. The day they achieve complete rationality of self will be a big leap forward to settle the question of God. Superstition is a heightened state of irrational part of human psyche which is blamed by atheist for believing in existence of God. The picture of heaven presented in Quran is such that there will be no feelings of envy, jealousy or longing as these emotions will have no utility. In that state God will be an unquestioned phenomenon.

God conveys to us that it is not possible for an intellectual or rational self alone to recognize Him. To help men God revealed books (it is unfortunate all those texts are lost except Quran) and designated Prophets to convey it. Islam wanted to reduce the reliance on irrational and appealed to the rational side of men to believe in God. It was for this reason God has challenged mankind to ponder over the physical world and it was probably for this reason that no miracle was granted to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The challenge is to recognize God using a balance approach between rational and irrational consciousness. The combination of these two is unique to each person. Those that rely too much on rational side has a chance to make a wrong judgment similarly those that rely heavily on irrational side also has a chance to over play their hand and commit excesses displeasing the very God they want to please. I agree with Mr. Dawkins that the followers of a faith have a tendency to commit excesses but he should know that God has warned these people in Quran not to associate lies with His message.

Majority of atheist that I have met have an emotional argument against God. In their view somehow they can not reconcile existence of a God and the wars, illnesses and injustices of life. In their view existence of God should have guaranteed elimination of these trial and tribulations. But God never promised that this life would be easy. In all scriptures God informed us that the life on this earth is a trial and a challenge. Those that go through this challenge with an upright character are offered a reward. My understanding of Mr. Dawkins argument is that he has a utilitarian view of God. In his view since the universe can function on auto pilot hence it proves non existence of God.

He has spent considerable ink and paper to talk about abuses committed by people of faith. What I fail to: understand is how these actions can be attributed to God while the subject of the book is to reject existence of God rather than highlight acts of people in the name of God. Mr. Dawkins feel that religion has failed the society by instigating wars and conflicts. If China can be considered as an atheist majority country then the evidence does not suggest they are any different. Similarly in the West we do have a political equivalent in the form of a secular government. The evidence suggests that secular governments are as deadly as a theocracy. We can look at wars in Libya, Iraq, and Vietnam just to give few examples.

I am surprised he allowed his book to be published in his lifetime because he has stated that he is willing to change his position if compelling evidence is presented. I hope that he is still learning and growing intellectually so the question of God should remain open to him rather than being final. Since Mr. Dawkins is a well known evolutionary scientist, I would like him to inform us why one species i.e. humans have evolved to such high intellect and creativity while there is no other species that comes even close to us on Earth. I am quite disappointed at the process of natural selection not to allow any other species to at least acquire 10% of human intellect, diversity in language and ability to produce art. My advice to him would be to focus on this question that is within his reach rather than try to understand the mind of God which is beyond his capability.

Disclaimer: I am not a preacher so I am not proposing anything to people. I am just a lowly politician trying to improve lives of people in Pakistan. But if Mr. Dawkins has time I am willing to have a public debate with him on the question of God. Since Mr. Dawkins is intimidated by large number of believers in the world, I am willing to engage him in a debate at a place where I am the only believer present. I dedicate this writing to my guide and mentor Mr. Irfan Hussain.

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164 Responses to "Atheism and Faith"

  1. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @heavy_petting
    If you chose to do what you stated I bet you will be doomed.
    Humanity suggests that even chimpanzee’s are ‘persons’,,,,,you could serve as a valid specimen in matter of religions. So, buck up and fight your case like a ‘person’ ie in your own name without petting heavily at the Ashoka kee laat!!

  2. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    NO Pigs No Cows…. if you can try having fun with these insects, they ar e ‘persons’ too!!
    .

    http://buzzhootroar.com/five-insects-we-never-want-to-have-sex-with/

  3. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    AKB, Try writing something meaningful. You don’t have to write anything if you are left with no argument!

  4. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Blessings of Civilized Nations..
    Now it ponders about the importance of Segregation of SExes
    ,
    Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 09:33 PM PST
    The sexism of “selfie-gate”: America’s dangerous suspicion of women working with men
    Too many Americans still believe attractive women in the workplace are sex objects and home-wreckers
    Carolyn Edgar

    When photos of President Barack Obama laughing and taking selfies with the prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, began to surface on the Internet, people were eager to spin the photos as though the popular ABC drama “Scandal” were being acted out in real life: President Obama, a stand-in for the fictional President Fitz, flirting with a pretty blond version of Olivia Pope, while his angry wife looked on. When Michelle Obama was photographed sitting between Thorning-Schmidt and Obama, some claimed she made her husband switch seats to put a stop to his flirting. Lost in the fictitious stories about out-of-control husbands and angry wives was any mention of the Mandela memorial itself – including President Obama’s warm and enthusiastic reception before the South African crowd, and his powerful eulogy of Mandela.

    MSNBC’s Irin Carmon argued that the president and first lady were the victims of stereotypes of the “oversexed black man” and the “angry black woman.” It is fascinating that so few people saw simply two heads of state engaged in friendly banter – as they might have if Thorning-Schmidt were a man, or a less conventionally attractive woman.

    A photo of former President George W. Bush chatting with Queen Rania of Jordan while Laura Bush stared straight ahead was subjected to similar treatment. The New York Daily News ran the picture, along with the Obama selfie photo, in an article with the breathless headline, “Presidents behaving badly? Obama, Bush get looks from wives over funeral flirtations.” In the article, Laura Bush was said to be “less than thrilled” about her husband’s chat with the “stylish” queen. Not surprisingly, an image showing Laura Bush having her own conversation with the queen while her husband stared off into the distance never made the rounds.
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    Many people have defended the endless tweets about the photographs of the Obamas and the Bushes as simply jokes — and, to be fair, a lot of the Twitter commentary that has been derided as racist and sexist was silly and jokey in context.

    But behind those jokes lie uncomfortable and persistent stereotypes about women — first, the notion that an attractive woman, even one in a position of power and authority, will always be, first and foremost, a sexual object to men; and second, that wives will always be jealous of their husbands’ interactions with attractive females, even when the interaction is professional — or work-related. And as cases in which women have been fired for being “too pretty” show, in the real world, these stereotypes can lead to devastating consequences for women.

    In July of this year, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a dentist did not violate gender discrimination laws when he fired his dental assistant because he found her attractive, and he and his wife worried that the attraction was a threat to their marriage. Critics were justifiably outraged at the decision. Legal analysts, in particular, worried that the case set a dangerous precedent that would allow men to avoid liability for workplace discrimination and sexual harassment because they simply couldn’t help themselves. The idea that the mere presence of an attractive woman employee might tempt her vulnerable heterosexual male boss to break his marriage vows was long used as an excuse to keep women out of the workforce, and then to keep them out of leadership roles. Even after the Iowa ruling, the notion that a man cannot control himself working in close quarters with an attractive woman seems outmoded and absurd.

    “Selfie-gate” suggests that these attitudes remain with us, unspoken and beneath the surface. But if women are to continue to make equity gains in employment and leadership, we need to get rid of our lingering fears that close working relationships among men and women are time bombs of sexual tension that can threaten marriages.

    The photographer who took the now-infamous photo of the Mandela memorial selfie has come forward to provide some much-needed context for the photographs. But his explanation shouldn’t have been necessary. As Roxane Gay eloquently noted, “President Obama’s selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service was a mirror, reflecting the biases people may not even realize they hold.”

    And there’s no excuse at all for the deplorable sexist treatment of Thorning-Schmidt. Rush Limbaugh referred to her at “the Denmark babe,” while Fox News contributors called her a “Danish pastry” and suggested she was likely to cause trouble in the Obamas’ marriage – a theme picked up by the New York Post in its Dec. 11 cover caption, “Flirting With Dane-ger.”

    Reducing the Danish head of state to the status of blond bimbo is insulting and offensive. And presuming that wives like first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush cannot handle their husbands’ relationships with attractive female world leaders is both a slap in the face and a step backward for feminism.

  5. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @heavy_petting

    Mine all is meaningful…I told you I won’t throw pearls before pigs and that’s it. You gotta live with what i put in your begging bowl…you cannot be a chooser, pet!

  6. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    AKB, If something is meaningful it must mean something. You appear to have forgotten this cardinal rule of being meaningful. In any case will you like to be my Exhibit A or not, I want a straight answer, without equivocation!

  7. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @heavy_petting

    In which court? who will be the judges? What’s your case?? If you are a gay you will only be allowed to ‘exhibit’ in ‘camera’


    Meaning means meaning and you are certainly devoid of it.

  8. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    AKB, In a court of law. Judges will be humans. The case is, a perfectly witty and educated human being can be sapped hollow of humanity by faith in a religion. You will be the first exhibit to prove my point. Since it is you who will be “exhibited” the court will decide (upon your appeal) if they will allow it “in camera”. Now, I want a straight answer, yes or no, in a meaningful way (which means, since it’s not clear to you, it must make sense).

  9. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @heavy_petting
    As you are wont to insist adamantly on moving a motion I accept provided the court comprises of Pakhtuns or Talibans in Waziristan;
    Tell me when would you like to motion?? I am ready to face the jirga….and don’t mind your wanting me to attend as an ‘exhibit’.

  10. heavy_petting United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Okay good. How about your brother Mumtaz Qadri, will he be game being Exhibit 2? Concerning judges, as this is still an unsettled issue (because religion has also occasionally produced good people like the Pakistani Muslim scientist, Pakistan’s first and only Nobel Laureate, Abdus Salam), we need judges who are unbiased and who have not already made up their minds (by humans I did not mean biased humans). The Pakistani or Afghan Taliban don’t qualify as unbiased. Plus they have a bad habit of murdering anyone even if the one is a friend, so beware (think Colonel Imam).

  11. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @heavy_petting
    I have NO sympathy for Qadri or even Taseer. Let both of them be given the Mongol treatment. Do you know how the Mongols treated the killer and the killed?? No? Google so that you come prepared with knowledge in court.
    The Mirjai scientist you refer to was originally an Indian…and he only acquired Pakistani citizenship by default.
    As for taliban etc I have no sympathy for them but I want someone like them who won’t kill innocent people but punish criminals (wayward liberals and seculars like you find over here) with ruthless Shariah punishments. Maybe Pk needs a leader like Khomeni or someone milder like Kamal Ataturk?? At least we Pakiss don’t want leaders like Nehru, Gandhu, Indira, etc etc ,…..we don’t want to be ruled by scum bags.

  12. Your way of explaining everything in this paragraph is actually nice, every one can effortlessly be aware of
    it, Thanks a lot.

  13. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    “So why do those who oppose AiG’s message get so upset when we are able to articulate our message publicly in the secular media? It’s because they really are intolerant of any beliefs but their own,” Ham wrote Tuesday on Facebook.

    “Anti Christian ideology has permeated much of the secular news media and so often Biblical Christians are mocked, misrepresented or attacked for what they believe by anti-Christian agenda driven reporters. Secularists have had their way so long in the secular media now, when a Christian is allowed to represent a Christian worldview, even if for a short time, the opposition goes ballistic,” the creationist continued.

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/creation-museums-ken-ham-says-atheists-went-ballistic-after-fox-interview-110977/

  14. parliament certified muslim United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    @Heavy Petting

    religion has also occasionally produced good people like the Pakistani Muslim scientist, Pakistan’s first and only Nobel Laureate, Abdus Salam

    Abdus Salam was not a Parliament-certified Muslim, according to the inspirational Second Amendment of the 1973 Holy Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Remember, Pakistan is an Islamic Republic and therefore has every right to decide who is a Muslim and who is not. Hazrat Gen Ziaul Haq Shaheed (the spiritual father of all Taliban/True Pakistani Sunni Muslims) was so generous that he invited Abdus Salam, knowing that Salam was not a Parliament-certified Muslim, to address the Islamic Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The kafir scientist caused nothing but inconvenience to the pious President, by repeatedly quoting from the Quran during his speech. The poor and already over-worked PTV staff had make unnecessary efforts to censor and delete all those parts of Salam’s speech before the Parliament, before broadcasting it. Moral of the story: Never invite a non-Muslim to speak to an Islamic parliament.
    .
    @AKB

    The Mirjai scientist you refer to was originally an Indian…and he only acquired Pakistani citizenship by default

    Actually, Salam’s family belonged to the town of Jhang. He was born in Sahiwal (Pre-Partition) India in 1926. Therefore, he was originallyan Indian, and therefore an “enemy of Pakistan”. It should be noted that the only Muslim Scientist that ever walked the earth is Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.

    Pk needs a leader like Khomeni or someone milder like Kamal Ataturk

    Wrong. Pakistan needs a leader like Hazrat Maulana Munawwar Hassan (Ameer Jamaat-i-Islami), who can tell the difference between a Shaheed and a Maqtool. Hazrat Maulana Munawwar Hassan has recently told us that all the 5000 Pakistan Army men who got killed fighting against the Taliban, are actually Maqtools and not Shaheeds, whereas all Taliban killed by the Pakistan Army are Shaheeds.

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