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    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: Superstition -> Polytheism -> Monotheism -> Atheism ???

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    A common belief of some atheists is that a belief in God is something that has developed amongst human beings due to various factors, and gradually evolved into the religions we find today. Here is a relevant debate I had with an atheist (indirect debate- someone pm'd me their claims, I responded, they responded back etc.):

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Thats a very objective look through history. Sure somewhere in there God came in, but for me that seems rather unlikely and extrenous information.
    What you've stated is a theory of anthropologists. The theory roughly states that the evolution went from superstitions to polytheism to monotheism. Hoewever, it is based on two forms of evidence, both are very weak.

    1) archaeological remains-
    Ancient civilizations that show traces of polytheistic or superstitious cultures are taken as the primary evidence. However, there are two flaws with this argument:
    a)this is only evidence of one specific time frame
    B) a monotheistic culture would not leave such traces!

    2)primitive cultures today-
    by examining the superstitions and polytheistic practices of primitve cultures, an extrapolation is made. However, the major flaw is that:
    a)this extrapolation is itself unjustified and only mere conjecture

    In light of the above, I would discard this claim and uphold the Islamic claim that God has enjoined monotheism from the start.

    Polytheistic religions were the religions of choice for many cultures prior to Christian and later Islamic expansions.* Hardly showing a lineage from Adam and Eve.
    I find it interesting that you mentioned that, because even in the so-called polytheistic civilizations, we notice a surprising pattern. There was always one Supreme Entity recognized, as it is the logical conclusion closest to the human's innate nature or moral compass. Even the greek civilization you mentioned believed in the supremacy of a single god over others, eg. Zeus
    With the Romans it was Jupiter.
    With the Sanatana Dharma (hinduism) adherents its Brahman.

    This religious belief is so deeply rooted, even in ancient times. It makes atheists hard pressed for evidence.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Which leads me to your statement about having a "King" god in every deity, which is not necessarily true - for even in Roman-Greek religions the "King" changed over time.
    What relevance is that? Does that negate the fact that there was a Supreme Deity? Of course not. Its a strawman.

    You did not address the mythology of Norse, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Maya, or Aztec.
    Aztec:
    Tloquenahuaque - a creator god or ruler

    Norse:
    Odin is considered to be the supreme god of late Germanic and Norse mythology

    Egypt:
    varies considerably with time and place.

    Mesopotamia:
    Marduk was the supreme God.

    Maya:
    various interpretations, most would say Tepeu.

    Anyway, I'll provide you with some more evidence if you still are skeptical.

    As one article wirtes:
    There is no valid reason to assume, for example, that monotheism is a later development in the history of religions than polytheism. There exists no historical material to prove that one system of belief is older than the other, although many scholars hold that monotheism is a higher form of religion and, therefore, must be a later development, assuming that what is higher came later.
    This is the only reason why historians have attempted this conclusion, which is clearly a feeble argument.

    As far back as the second century, the monotheistic roots of world religion were defended. In his hortatory address to the Greeks, Justin Martyr used their own prophets and poets to show that Greek religion was fundamentally the worship of the One God. He quoted the great poet Orpheus of the sixth century B.C. as saying, “Look to the one and universal King—One, self-begotten, and the only One, of whom all things and we ourselves are sprung… And other than the great King there is none” (1972, p. 279). Likewise, the ancient Sibyl, considered a prophetess, said: “There is one only unbegotten God, Omnipotent, invisible, most high, All-seeing, but Himself seen by no flesh” (p. 280). These are the most ancient sources he mentioned, but he also included Homer, Sophocles, and Plato.

    More recent scholarship has vindicated Justin Martyr’s thesis. George Rawlinson, professor of ancient history at Oxford, affirmed that a

    historical survey has shown us that in the early times, everywhere, or almost everywhere, belief in the unity of God existed—barbarous nations possessed it as well as civilized ones—it underlay polytheism that attempted to crush it—retained a hold on language and thought—had from time to time its special assertors, who never professed to have discovered it (as quoted in Jackson, 1982, pp. 5-6).

    Sir Flinders Petrie, dubbed “the father of modern Egyptology,” wrote in agreement:

    Were the conception of a god only an evolution from such spirit worship, we should find the worship of many gods preceding the worship of one god…. What we actually find is the contrary to this, monotheism is the first stage traceable in theology… (1908, pp. 3-4).

    Stephen Langdon, also of Oxford, concluded:

    I may fail to carry conviction in concluding that both Sumerian and Semitic religions [which he considered to be the oldest historical civilizations—AB], monotheism preceded polytheism…. The evidence and reasons for this conclusion, so contrary to accepted and current views, have been set down with care and with the perception of adverse criticism. It is, I trust, the conclusion of knowledge and not of audacious preconception (as quoted in Custance, p. 113, emp. added).

    To quote all the authorities that have come to this conclusion would be tedious (and has been done many times over), but the message is clear. Evolutionists would do well to take the advice of one their own, Robert Lowie of the American Museum of Natural history, who said: “The time has come for eschewing the all-embracing and baseless theories of yore to settle down to sober historical research” (as quote in Zwemer, p. 59). Every culture in the world originally worshipped only one God. This holds true for the ancient Chinese, Native Americans, the Australian Aborigines, the Bushmen of the Congo, as well as the better-documented civilizations of the Old World (cf. Fraser, 1975, pp. 11-38).
    Please read this as well:
    http://custance.org/old/evol/2ch1/2ch1.html
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Interesting: Aztec's believed in more than one creator God, and the one you mentioned is hard to characterise as* there have not been many depictions found, if any of this God.
    That's clearly the whole point. Current methods emplyed by anthropologists have these flaws. Aside from the shortage and poor quality of evidence, which you mentioned, a true monotheistic culture would not leave such traces.

    The second thing to note, is that the merging/assimilation of seperate cultures/civilizations brought about the plural gods. Two warring tribes, for example, may come to an agreement and decided that what they worshipped, were two seperate Gods, and for the sake of unity they attributed divinity to both.

    And then there are the other deviations that the Qur'an mentions, these gradually led to Shirk, and the idolatry/polytheism in various civilizations.

    Then you listed various gods, but they were all subordinates in their respective mythologies. There was always the supreme GOD. And they assigned seperate roles to each god, they never had polytheism in the roles.

    Hunapu, however:
    "
    The Mayan creator god. He is the son of Hun Hunahpu and a virgin. Together with his brother Ixbalangue he went to the underworld and killed the evil demons Hun Came and Vucub Caquix, thus avenging the death of their father. Afterwards they are taken to the heavens where Hunapu became a sun god and Ixbalangue a female moon deity. They are the parents of the first pair of humans. "
    This only proves what I previously mentioned. That these civilizations did not have one mythology. There were seperate groups amongst them, and these things changed with time. But the supremacy of ONE creator was recognized since ancient times.

    What would have been a more interesting tact was to drop this debate over male dominated power figure religions and tried to argue that the adam and eve story is more true. It appears in both the Aztec and Mayan mythologies.
    I appreciate your consideration, but I think it would be more beneficial for you if you attempted to respond to my arguments rather than advising me to change them.

    This shows little to no parallel to your stetch that these central gods some how represent a jewish monotheistic god.
    once again, you're misrepresenting my arguments. My argument was never that they believed in God's true attributes, nor did I ever claim that they did not deviate or corrupt their understanding of God. I was merely pointing out the fact that all cultures recognize a Supreme Creator- a fact to which you conceded, but attempted to divert the focus of the discussion with strawmen such as this argument about the "family concept" of God, or the changing titles of the Supreme God. It is of no concern to me what they called their supreme Creator, or how little they knew of His true attributes. I repeat that the focus is that all cultures in ancient have been rooted in the belief of one Supreme God.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Um no, see yes there are problems of understanding all of the mythology. But it doesn't mean a monotheistic culture would leave no such trace. I don't understand how you assume that to be the case.
    Its not an assumption. Why don't you explain what kind of traces a monotheistic culture would leave behind?

    But the God you mentioned is not a very popular God,
    Can you tell me how you arrived at that conclusion? No doubt, the most common description of him you will find on the net is:
    In Aztec mythology, Tloquenahuaque (or Tloque Nuhaque) was a creator god or ruler, the creator of the first pair of humans, and the ruler of the first four ages of the world. He is primarily a god of mystery and the unknown. No surviving depictions of him are known to exist.
    And obviously no surviving depictions exist, because monotheism, in its purest form does not allow such:
    Tloque Nahuaque, the Unknown God, the God of Causes, the Master of the Close and the Near, the Lord of the With and the By, He Who Invented Himself, the Giver of Life, Who is as Night and as the Wind", and in the temple of the god at Texcoco Nezahuacoyotl allowed no images whatsoever, and no sacrifice of anything except flowers and incense.
    If we examine the story of Tloque Nuhaque in detail, it becomes even more clear:
    One of the most complete creation-stories in Mexican mythology is that given by the half-blood Indian author Ixtlilxochitl, who, we cannot doubt, received it directly from native sources. He states that the Toltecs credited a certain Tloque Nahuaque (Lord of All Existence) with the creation of the universe, the stars, mountains, and animals. At the same time he made the first man and woman, from whom all the inhabitants of the earth are descended. This "first earth" was destroyed by the "water-sun." At the commencement of the next epoch the Toltecs appeared, and after many wanderings settled in Huehue Tlapallan (Very Old Tlapallan). Then followed the second catastrophe, that of the "wind-sun." The remainder of the legend recounts how mighty earthquakes shook the world and destroyed the earth-giants. These earth-giants (Quinames) were analogous to the Greek Titans, and were a source of great uneasiness to the Toltecs. In the opinion of the old historians they were descended from the races who inhabited the more northerly portion of Mexico.
    Now the truth becomes clearer. And further:
    The Aztecs gave the name of Teotl to a supreme, invisible, eternal being, whom they never attempted to portray in visible form, and whom they called Tolque-Nahuaque, Creator of all things, Ipalneomani, He by whom we live. The Mayas called the same supreme being, Hunab-ku, and neither does this tribe seem to have ever attempted to give form and personality to their deity. The Michoacans adored Tucupacha, one god and creator of all things...Among the Aztecs the idea of the creation had been preserved. They believed that Tloque-Nahuaque had created a man and a woman in a delightful garden
    I believe the above is overwhelming evidence, of the pure monotheistic origin in Aztec mythology. Furthermore, if you read the description of Aztec "gods" you can see that they were not really gods at all, in our understanding of the term. They were concepts, heros, imaginative figures, who were eventually exaggerated to the point of worship. Their worship deviated from Tloquenahuaque to the worship of these lesser servants of Tloquenahuaque.

    I don't see how you attributed him to being a supreme God.
    Hopefully you can, now.

    You are attempting to draw allusions to your own God by emphasising supreme God.
    There is only ONE God.

    They may be "ruled" by a king God, but this king God is far from supreme and often is fighting to maintain power.
    I agree, true supremacy is taken away as soon as one begins to commit SHIRK, or associating partners with God. As soon as you attribute power or worship to anything else, you immediately dammage your concept of God, and we can see that this gradually lead to the deviations visible in these mythologies, where the servants became more and more exaggerated until the True Creator was forgotten. This is a well understood concept in Islam.

    I depected two Aztec gods sharing a responsibility of creating the stars
    Attributing power to servants does not change the Supremacy of the True God. No where in Aztec Mythology will you find these two recognized as powerful deities alongside Tloquenahuaque. Muslims, for example, believe that God sends an Angel for many different functions in the universe, including the placement and removal of souls from bodies i.e. life and death. Their task in this regard does not grant them the status of "creator gods" in Islam.

    Development of Theism?

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Hello Callum,
    I'll answer your point here because its related to this thread a little more.
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    This is broadly true. However, many anthropologists give a different explanation for the origin of this belief than you do. Many think that the god-belief is a result of fear, particularly fear as a result of being unable to explain natural phenomena. Primitive people living thousands of years ago would not understand why their citizens or crops would suddenly die, as they had little or no understanding of disease and infection; they would not understand why the seasons occur, since they had no understanding of planetary motions or climatology. These and many other inexplicable, unpredictable events might well have caused them to think that they were at the mercy of some higher power, rather than the forces of nature, and, what is more, that this higher power was to be feared, supplicated, worshipped. This belief would have been beneficial for the community, since it would encourage a strong group bond. It would also be useful for the leaders of the community, as a highly effective method of social control. (Incidentally, some anthropologists believe that the cycle of the seasons explains the prevalence of another common belief in primitive religions: that of the death and resurrection of the god. This belief is well known in certain contemporary religions too, though not Islam).

    What I'm saying here is the gist of a particular (fairly widespread) anthropological view. It is the one I subscribe to - what do you think?
    In the above quote, you point out that the belief in a deity arose because:
    -it aided in explaining natural phenomena
    -fear of the unknown
    -ability to excercise power on others
    -built a stronger community

    The first point to be noted is that this is merely speculation, I haven't seen any examples which support this. Moreover, if we look at historical examples, such a theory doesn't seem very accurate.

    As for aiding in explaining the universe, you said yourself that belief in God requires more explanations itself in comparison to how much it explains. I don't think natural phenomena would motivate people to build religious practices and devote themselves to worship of such beings. I think your theory may hold for those mythologies that personify all natural phenomena into a figure, which we identify as a God, such as the greeks. But the greeks themselves often viewed these mythologies as the expressive imaginations of poets, rather than a strict belief system that merited religious practice. People tend to desire liberation from fears and don't impose limitations on themselves. The greeks had a very lax society in terms of religious views of morality.

    With regards to power, most people who advocated belief in God, such as Zoroaster, Moses or Jesus, they all suffered immensely as a result of their beliefs. Take a look at Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who advocated the worship of One God. The persecution that he suffered as a result was unbearable, and his followers were tortured continuously. Why would they subscribe to such beliefs? For power? Not likely, as they lost any bit of power they had when they embraced Islam. Out of fear? Probably not, since they had more to fear from the Quraysh after they accepted Islam, so why would fear motivate someone to join a religion whose followers were in fear of persecution?

    In fact, if we look at examples of many people who had immense power, we find that they often did not subscribe to a belief in a superior being. Alexander the Great bellieved himself to be divine as did many of the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt. There is no apparent power is submitting onself to the authority of someone else.

    And lastly, with regards to building a stronger community, I think its far-fetched to suggest that someone would invent beliefs in gods to unite people as we find examples of tribalism being influenced when each tribe had their own deity/idol.

    These are just some of my thoughts on the issue. As for me, I follow what I see as certain knowledge, not mere speculation and opinions.

    Qur'an 45:18 Then We have placed you upon the law of the religion. So follow you that, and follow not the fancies of those who know not.

    Regards
    Last edited by Ansar Al-'Adl; 08-11-2005 at 12:37 AM.
    Development of Theism?

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Hello Callum,
    I'll answer your point here because its related to this thread a little more.
    Yes, and I'd very much like to discuss some of the points raised in the posts above, but I'll do it in another post. For now:

    In the above quote, you point out that the belief in a deity arose because:
    -it aided in explaining natural phenomena
    -fear of the unknown
    -ability to excercise power on others
    -built a stronger community
    The third point here is not quite what I said; it was "a highly effective method of social control". I'll come to this shortly.

    The first point to be noted is that this is merely speculation, I haven't seen any examples which support this. Moreover, if we look at historical examples, such a theory doesn't seem very accurate.
    Yes, it is a speculative theory. I'm speculating about how religion may have developed in very basic societies - long before the ancient Greeks, for example.

    As for aiding in explaining the universe, you said yourself that belief in God requires more explanations itself in comparison to how much it explains.
    Yes, but would people in primitive societies have thought that? With little or no understanding of science, what better explanation was on offer?

    I don't think natural phenomena would motivate people to build religious practices and devote themselves to worship of such beings. I think your theory may hold for those mythologies that personify all natural phenomena into a figure, which we identify as a God, such as the greeks. But the greeks themselves often viewed these mythologies as the expressive imaginations of poets, rather than a strict belief system that merited religious practice. People tend to desire liberation from fears and don't impose limitations on themselves. The greeks had a very lax society in terms of religious views of morality.
    It's really the fear and uncertainty arising from natural phenomena that would have encouraged people to long for something secure, that they felt they could rely on.

    As for the Greeks, their religion was very different from the way we tend to think of religion today. The ancient Greek gods were more of a soap opera rather than ideals to be imitated. The gods themselves were frequently immoral, even Zeus.

    With regards to power, most people who advocated belief in God, such as Zoroaster, Moses or Jesus, they all suffered immensely as a result of their beliefs. Take a look at Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who advocated the worship of One God. The persecution that he suffered as a result was unbearable, and his followers were tortured continuously. Why would they subscribe to such beliefs? For power? Not likely, as they lost any bit of power they had when they embraced Islam. Out of fear? Probably not, since they had more to fear from the Quraysh after they accepted Islam, so why would fear motivate someone to join a religion whose followers were in fear of persecution?
    (After all his suffering and persecution, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did find himself in a position of power - but I accept that he is (I think?) unique among religious leaders in having done this.)

    What you say here is basically reasonable, but unfortunately it's not relevant to the point I was making. The social control aspect I mentioned is related to the idea of a strong group bond. Moral beings can only exist in communities. Without a community, morality is almost meaningless. Sure, if you were on your own in a vast space, you could perhaps harm an animal, or start a huge fire, or various other things that may be considered immoral, but without other people, most of your scope for moral action does not exist.

    Community living encourages the survival of the species. A successful community demands loyalty and sacrifice. How are these to be instituted, for the greater good of the community? A community member might not lay down his life for a stranger in the same community, but they would both be prepared to do so if the larger thing of which they are both a part (the community itself) were to be threatened. Membership is the important concept to remember here. The difference between members and outsiders will become a point of great importance for the group. The criteria of membership, the objects, rituals and customs of the community will all also assume great importance, actually transcending the importance that any individual could give them. It is not you or I who decided on what the customs should be, and it is not your will or mine that our moral customs enact - it is something larger than any individual in the community. It gives us a moral imperative: you belong, you are members, and you owe the duties of membership. But to whom are these duties owed? Enter god, with all the accoutrements of worship already fully instantiated.

    The ideas in this paragraph are not my own original thoughts; they are based on the work of Emile Durkheim.

    And lastly, with regards to building a stronger community, I think its far-fetched to suggest that someone would invent beliefs in gods to unite people as we find examples of tribalism being influenced when each tribe had their own deity/idol.
    The origination of god-belief was not an idea that developed in one person's brain at a conscious level, and I agree that this would be far-fetched. I'm talking about an idea that developed over time, and arose within groups.

    (I'm not quite sure what you mean in your tribalism example.)

    These are just some of my thoughts on the issue. As for me, I follow what I see as certain knowledge, not mere speculation and opinions.
    I believe certain knowledge is extremely elusive, and that it is rash for someone to assume they have it. As Socrates said, "The only thing I know is that I know nothing". Fewer wiser words have been spoken. I, for instance, cannot be 100% certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, since the best argument that it will is an inductive argument. Unfortunately, the best argument in favour of accepting inductive arguments is itself an inductive argument. This is why science always tries to keep an open mind, since it is always possible for us to be proven wrong.

    In many cases, such as the subject currently under discussion, speculation is the only option available to us if we wish to discuss the matter at all.

    Peace
    Last edited by czgibson; 08-11-2005 at 06:37 PM.

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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    Yes, but would people in primitive societies have thought that? With little or no understanding of science, what better explanation was on offer?

    It's really the fear and uncertainty arising from natural phenomena that would have encouraged people to long for something secure, that they felt they could rely on.
    I'm highly skeptical of such a claim because I don't think that they would have gained certainty and security by theorizing beings behind the phenomena. In fact, most of what ancient people did was mainly personify the phenomena, and this usually did not culminate into religious practices and organized religion.

    As for the Greeks, their religion was very different from the way we tend to think of religion today. The ancient Greek gods were more of a soap opera rather than ideals to be imitated. The gods themselves were frequently immoral, even Zeus.
    I agree and this is what I think is flawed with your theory. Your theory is supposed to explain ancient civilizations, not "the way we tend to think of religion today". The greeks are one example, but it shows that when people invent myths to explain their universe it normally does not result in organized religion. Also, your theory becomes even more difficult when we examine religious followings that initiated with a revelation.

    (After all his suffering and persecution, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did find himself in a position of power
    First of all, even if that were true, it would be meaningless since no reasonable human being could have foreseen the victories that would be granted to a few tortured slaves and outcasts of Makkan society. Secondly, there are authentic narrations which demonstrate that even when the Muslims attained military supremacy in Arabia, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh used to lived a humble lifestyle. He used to sleep on a strawmat that would leave marks on his back. There were many days when he had nothing to eat. His followers witnessed that whatever he had, he used to give it away.

    How does your philosophy explain the call of Islam? That called people to the worship of One Sovereign Lord, who created everything. Fear? Power? Community strength? Doesn't seem likely to me.

    - but I accept that he is (I think?) unique among religious leaders in having done this.)
    So you admit then that your theory does not apply accurately to Islam?

    What you say here is basically reasonable, but unfortunately it's not relevant to the point I was making. The social control aspect I mentioned is related to the idea of a strong group bond. Moral beings can only exist in communities. Without a community, morality is almost meaningless. Sure, if you were on your own in a vast space, you could perhaps harm an animal, or start a huge fire, or various other things that may be considered immoral, but without other people, most of your scope for moral action does not exist.

    Community living encourages the survival of the species. A successful community demands loyalty and sacrifice. How are these to be instituted, for the greater good of the community? A community member might not lay down his life for a stranger in the same community, but they would both be prepared to do so if the larger thing of which they are both a part (the community itself) were to be threatened. Membership is the important concept to remember here. The difference between members and outsiders will become a point of great importance for the group. The criteria of membership, the objects, rituals and customs of the community will all also assume great importance, actually transcending the importance that any individual could give them. It is not you or I who decided on what the customs should be, and it is not your will or mine that our moral customs enact - it is something larger than any individual in the community. It gives us a moral imperative: you belong, you are members, and you owe the duties of membership. But to whom are these duties owed? Enter god, with all the accoutrements of worship already fully instantiated.
    Of course just because the idea of God benefits a community does not mean that the idea of God was built for a community. I agree that Godlessness leads to chaos and harms the community, that as always been my view, which is understood clearly within the philosophy of Islam.

    (I'm not quite sure what you mean in your tribalism example.)
    Many tribes had their own idols and gods and we have many instances in history of tribal warfare that lasted generations. In fact, even within tribes, families had a personal god. Everyone wanted their own personal agent in the realm of divinites, advocating their needs. So it can easily seperate communities as well. Monotheism, however, can only unite people and communities.

    I believe certain knowledge is extremely elusive, and that it is rash for someone to assume they have it. As Socrates said, "The only thing I know is that I know nothing". Fewer wiser words have been spoken. I, for instance, cannot be 100% certain that the sun will rise tomorrow, since the best argument that it will is an inductive argument. Unfortunately, the best argument in favour of accepting inductive arguments is itself an inductive argument. This is why science always tries to keep an open mind, since it is always possible for us to be proven wrong.
    Of course this is where personal experience comes in.

    In many cases, such as the subject currently under discussion, speculation is the only option available to us if we wish to discuss the matter at all.
    I agree, that is why I feel that any conclusions that can be drawn from such a discussion will be inherently limited and of little value.

    peace.
    Development of Theism?

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    I'm highly skeptical of such a claim because I don't think that they would have gained certainty and security by theorizing beings behind the phenomena. In fact, most of what ancient people did was mainly personify the phenomena, and this usually did not culminate into religious practices and organized religion.
    They would surely have accepted it if it was the best explanation on offer, and this shared belief of the community would have made individuals feel safer than if it had not been present.

    I agree and this is what I think is flawed with your theory. Your theory is supposed to explain ancient civilizations, not "the way we tend to think of religion today". The greeks are one example, but it shows that when people invent myths to explain their universe it normally does not result in organized religion. Also, your theory becomes even more difficult when we examine religious followings that initiated with a revelation.
    Woah! I don't think you've grasped the point of what I'm saying. I'm talking about religion long before the ancient Greeks. This is long before any of the revealed religions, and indeed before historical accounts are available. This is why the theory is entirely speculative. It's based on human psychology, which has generally been constant for as long as we know.

    First of all, even if that were true, it would be meaningless since no reasonable human being could have foreseen the victories that would be granted to a few tortured slaves and outcasts of Makkan society. Secondly, there are authentic narrations which demonstrate that even when the Muslims attained military supremacy in Arabia, the Prophet Muhammad pbuh used to lived a humble lifestyle. He used to sleep on a strawmat that would leave marks on his back. There were many days when he had nothing to eat. His followers witnessed that whatever he had, he used to give it away.
    OK. Two points remain, however.

    1. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) attained a position of some power within his lifetime. However, this is not relevant to my main point because:

    2. As I've mentioned, I'm talking about the origin of god-belief, long before Islam,Christianity, Judaism or even the ancient Greeks.

    How does your philosophy explain the call of Islam? That called people to the worship of One Sovereign Lord, who created everything. Fear? Power? Community strength? Doesn't seem likely to me.
    Islam follows on from Christian and Jewish revelation; the final revelation given to Muhammad (pbuh) adapts and (Muslims say) updates these revelations; all that is common to all three is considered true, all that was mentioned in the previous holy books but is not present in the revelation and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) is considered false. What I'm saying is that the Muslims are the last in a long line of god-believers. As each religion was developed it took aspects from the one preceding it. For the Christians, whose history I'm most familiar with, persuading the general public to accept Christian doctrine (I'm mainly thinking within the Roman Empire here), it was seen as necessary to "hijack" previous religious festivals and replace the previous god (often Mithras) with the new god. Thus the date of Christmas, for example, has no relevance to the actual birthdate of Jesus, December 25th was simply chosen because it coincided with the Roman festival of Saturnalia.

    So, when the Prophet (pbuh) began his mission, belief in god was hardly a new thing.

    So you admit then that your theory does not apply accurately to Islam?
    Again, it is the theory I subscribe to, but the theory itself is not mine, it is Emile Durkheim's. Since you have largely missed the points I'm making with regard to it, my exposition of the theory can't be very clear. I apologise for this, reminding you that there have plainly been times during our discussions when I have missed the point you were making too. Perhaps I'm missing the point now, but I assure you I'm trying (and struggling) to see the relevance of your questions here.

    To see what this theory is about, it would perhaps be useful to look directly at Durkheim's work. Here is a link to the wikipedia entry on him. You can find more links (leading to full etexts) at the bottom of the page.

    Durkheim

    Hopefully he can explain his ideas more clearly than I can!

    Of course just because the idea of God benefits a community does not mean that the idea of God was built for a community. I agree that Godlessness leads to chaos and harms the community, that as always been my view, which is understood clearly within the philosophy of Islam.
    It shows that god-belief conferred a survival advantage for primitive communities. We clearly disagree on your second point about godlessness.

    Many tribes had their own idols and gods and we have many instances in history of tribal warfare that lasted generations. In fact, even within tribes, families had a personal god. Everyone wanted their own personal agent in the realm of divinites, advocating their needs. So it can easily seperate communities as well. Monotheism, however, can only unite people and communities.
    Yes, provided everyone believes in the same god!

    I accept your main point about separating communities. This is undoubtedly true, and it continues to the present day as we all know. What I'm talking about, though, is the origination of god-belief. There may well be battles between respective communities, each defending their conception of god, but this all comes after the point I'm referring to.

    Of course this is where personal experience comes in.
    OK, but it's still not absolutely certain knowledge. Are you familiar with the problem of induction?

    I agree, that is why I feel that any conclusions that can be drawn from such a discussion will be inherently limited and of little value.
    Any conclusions drawn from a speculative discussion are likely to be of little value? Surely that closes off a huge section of human inquiry to you. Why would you choose to close your mind to so much? Remember that all the sciences were speculative at one stage. When Aristotle invented physics and biology, evidential data was more scarce and unreliable. This is why the vast majority of Aristotle's statements about these subjects turn out to be wrong. However, as better experimental and observational methods were devised, the reliability of these sciences improved. Indeed, any science that you can name was once a part of philosophy, or else had its roots in philosophy. It's only when the findings of a science become testable and repeatable that it becomes an independent science, separate from philosophy. A relatively recent example of this is psychology, which became an independent science in the 19th century, at around the same time as sociology, which was founded by Durkheim. So you see, the theory I'm presenting, which you say is speculative and therefore of little value, has (with other similar theories) actually given rise to an entire scientific discipline.

    Hopefully what I've said here clarifies my position a bit. These views are not uncommon in the West - when I was at university, they were the standard position on this question in both the English Literature and Philosophy departments.

    Peace

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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    Woah! I don't think you've grasped the point of what I'm saying. I'm talking about religion long before the ancient Greeks. This is long before any of the revealed religions, and indeed before historical accounts are available. This is why the theory is entirely speculative. It's based on human psychology, which has generally been constant for as long as we know.
    I looked at this theory a little bit more, and I found the following quote that somewhat describes my feelings on this issue:
    But suppose our interest is in explaining why theistic belief is widely held. We might offer this explanation: Theistic belief is widely held because it satisfies psychological needs such as the needs for comfort and security. But even if this explanation is a good one, all it does is specify a psychological cause of the prevalence of theistic belief. It does not specify a reason for believing that God exists. Since the causal explanation has nothing to do with reasons, it would be a mistake to think that the only reason why theists believe in God is because holding that belief comforts them. What cannot be a reason, cannot be the only reason. Given that theistic belief has sociological and psychological causes, it doesn’t follow that it cannot also have reasons, and among these, some good reasons.

    Consider an analogy. Among the causes of my knowing the multiplication table is its having been drummed into me by rote in the third grade. But from the fact that I was caused to learn such truths as that 6 x 9 = 54 by rote memorization, it does not follow that these truths are not rationally justified. Thus, my believing that 6 x 9 = 54 can have a cause without prejudice to the fact that the proposition believed has a reason. (One way to specify the reason would be via deduction from the Peano axioms.)...The main point I am making is that the question of whether or not a belief is true cannot be resolved by any inquiry into the causal genesis of the belief’s being held. To think otherwise is to commit what is called the genetic fallacy.
    So, since there is no historical records that we build this discussion on, the discussion doesn't have very much substance to it. And when I said that conclusions drawn from it would be more likely of little value, what I meant by that is that they would carry little weight since they cannot demonstrate very much, being devoid of factual evidence and limited to mere speculation. On the basis of speculation I could argue that fear drove people to reject God as they were afraid of the consequences of their actions and the notion that their entire life would change and be filled with the purpose of serving a Supreme Being. I could argue that power drove people to reject the common deities and claim divinity for themselves. I could argue that for the sake of preserving the community, the chieftains would reject anyone who called to God, as an outcast because they were afraid of dammaging the structure of this community with change. Because we know from human psychology that human beings are afraid of change.

    So these are all arguments, but they don't carry weight when making conclusions.

    So, when the Prophet (pbuh) began his mission, belief in god was hardly a new thing.
    I used the Prophet Muhammad pbuh as an example because he called people to God just as you propose someone from ancient societies would call people to God. He didn't believe in God because of fear nor did he propagate the belief for power. Nor was he influenced by Christians and Jews to begin this call.

    I apologise if I have missed your points in previous replies, hopefully this post will be more on target.

    Thanks for the link, I'll take a look at some of his works when I have the opportunity.

    Regards
    Development of Theism?

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Greetings Ansar,
    This post is more on target than the previous ones, but I think we're still slightly at cross-purposes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    I looked at this theory a little bit more, and I found the following quote that somewhat describes my feelings on this issue:
    But suppose our interest is in explaining why theistic belief is widely held. We might offer this explanation: Theistic belief is widely held because it satisfies psychological needs such as the needs for comfort and security. But even if this explanation is a good one, all it does is specify a psychological cause of the prevalence of theistic belief. It does not specify a reason for believing that God exists. Since the causal explanation has nothing to do with reasons, it would be a mistake to think that the only reason why theists believe in God is because holding that belief comforts them.
    Absolutely. I don't recall saying anything to the contrary. In fact, the quote you've introduced here seems to be answering a different question to the one posed by Durkheim's theory. This is more about why people believe in god at any time, whereas Durkheim was talking about the origin of god-belief.

    What cannot be a reason, cannot be the only reason. Given that theistic belief has sociological and psychological causes, it doesn’t follow that it cannot also have reasons, and among these, some good reasons.
    OK, but the original reasons for god-belief would not even have been conscious, unlike the reasons believers give for their belief today. It's my contention that god-belief arose unconciously within groups.

    Consider an analogy. Among the causes of my knowing the multiplication table is its having been drummed into me by rote in the third grade. But from the fact that I was caused to learn such truths as that 6 x 9 = 54 by rote memorization, it does not follow that these truths are not rationally justified. Thus, my believing that 6 x 9 = 54 can have a cause without prejudice to the fact that the proposition believed has a reason. (One way to specify the reason would be via deduction from the Peano axioms.)...The main point I am making is that the question of whether or not a belief is true cannot be resolved by any inquiry into the causal genesis of the belief’s being held. To think otherwise is to commit what is called the genetic fallacy.[/color][/indent]
    I see the point being made here, but unfortunately mathematics is a terrible example to choose. Mathematics cannot be rationally justified by reference to anything outside itself. In other words, mathematics is rational provided we all agree on the basic rules of the system. This is what axioms are: the basic unproved propositions of mathematics. We simply have to assume them, they cannot be proven. For example, it is impossible to prove that 1 + 1 = 2. It's been tried many times, notably by Russell and Whitehead in their Principia Mathematica, but all attempts at this have ended in failure. It was not until the 1930s that the Austrian mathematician Kurt Godel proved that any mathematical system must always be incomplete in this sense.

    The point I'm trying to make here is that there is a clear distinction between the truths of mathematics and those of religion. Mathematical statements are analytically true. That is, their truth or falsehood can be determined by reference to the definition of the terms involved in the statements. Religious truths are largely synthetic, that is, the concept of the predicate is not included in the concept of the subject. For example, sura 2 ayah 161:

    Those who reject Faith, and die rejecting - on them is Allah's curse, and the curse of angels, and of all mankind.

    "Those who reject Faith..." are the subject; "on them is Allah's curse..." is the predicate. As I see it, there is nothing in the concept of rejecting faith to imply that Allah's curse is part of its definition, therefore the sentence is synthetic; it gives us additional information about the meaning of rejecting faith.

    However, since religious texts are more difficult to assess than mathematical ones, in terms of truth-value, people disagree about whether religious statements are analytic or synthetic. For instance, you might believe that the verse quoted above is analytically true, that is, you might believe that the concept of being cursed by Allah is actually held within the concept of rejecting faith; even if this is so, we are back to the same difficulty as with mathematics - we can only accept such a statement as being rationally justified provided we all agree on the definitions of the words involved.


    On the basis of speculation I could argue that fear drove people to reject God as they were afraid of the consequences of their actions and the notion that their entire life would change and be filled with the purpose of serving a Supreme Being. I could argue that power drove people to reject the common deities and claim divinity for themselves. I could argue that for the sake of preserving the community, the chieftains would reject anyone who called to God, as an outcast because they were afraid of dammaging the structure of this community with change. Because we know from human psychology that human beings are afraid of change.
    I see the point you're making, but I think the arguments you give are much less psychologically convincing than those in Durkheim's theory. The situations you suggest would not confer any survival advantage on the group, which could explain why there are no recorded primitive societies (to my knowledge) that were atheist or entirely non-religious.

    I used the Prophet Muhammad pbuh as an example because he called people to God just as you propose someone from ancient societies would call people to God.
    I'm not suggesting for one moment that the idea of god-belief arose due to the efforts of one person. The pressure to believe in god would have been applied by several community members, and they would have phrased their ideas in terms of the security of the whole community. The community is the most important thing here, belief in god is simply a means to an end, to ensure the community works together and survives.

    He didn't believe in God because of fear nor did he propagate the belief for power.
    I never ascribed these motives to him. I said that he did end up in a position of some power within his lifetime, but I would never suggest that that was his main motivation in the first place. The Prophet (pbuh) clearly thought he was doing the right thing; I don't believe any accusations that he began his mission for selfish reasons would be convincing.

    Nor was he influenced by Christians and Jews to begin this call.
    Surely he was influenced by Christian and Jewish prophets - who were rebranded as Muslims?

    I apologise if I have missed your points in previous replies, hopefully this post will be more on target.
    No need to apologise - we're both dealing with unfamiliar ideas here, so we're bound to confuse each other at some stage!

    Peace
    Last edited by czgibson; 08-13-2005 at 09:34 PM.

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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Hello Callum,
    Thanks for the interesting post. There were definitely some great points you made, food for thought. I agree with much of what you've said, and seeing as I don't really have any new information to add, I'm not going to respond just for the sake of responding. I'll just address this point:
    Surely he was influenced by Christian and Jewish prophets - who were rebranded as Muslims?
    Not sure what you mean here. The Prophet before Muhammad (pbuh) was Jesus (pbuh), who came around almost years before him. So how could he have been influenced by such prophets? He knew about them from the divine revelation.

    peace
    Development of Theism?

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Greetings Ansar,
    Thank you for your kind words. I realise I've introduced quite a few new ideas and concepts into the discussion. For the purposes of clarifying them, here are some links with more information (all from wikipedia):

    On the analytic / synthetic distinction:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_proposition
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_proposition

    And the man who introduced the distinction, perhaps the greatest of modern philosophers, Immanuel Kant:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant

    Finally, Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorems:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6...teness_theorem

    These are all useful ideas to know about, and hopefully the expositions in wikipedia will clarify any oversights in mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Not sure what you mean here. The Prophet before Muhammad (pbuh) was Jesus (pbuh), who came around almost years before him. So how could he have been influenced by such prophets? He knew about them from the divine revelation.
    I think I see the point you're making. So Muhammad (pbuh) only knew about the previous prophets from divine revelation?

    I didn't realise Jesus was the penultimate prophet. There was a gap of around six hundred years between them. You learn a new thing every day.

    Regards

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    Re: Development of Theism?

    Thanks for the links Callum,
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    I think I see the point you're making. So Muhammad (pbuh) only knew about the previous prophets from divine revelation?
    Yes. Other than that, he may have heard tales that Abraham was the legendary father of the arabs, and Prophet Luqman appeared in some arab tales as well.
    I didn't realise Jesus was the penultimate prophet. There was a gap of around six hundred years between them. You learn a new thing every day.
    Yes, I meant to type almost 600, but looks like I made a typo.

    peace
    Development of Theism?

    The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
    "Surely I was sent to perfect the qualities of righteous character" [Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Mâlik]


    Visit Ansâr Al-'Adl's personal page HERE.
    Excellent resources on Islam listed HERE.

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