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  1. #1
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

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    Hi Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    How do you know? Every believer in God I personally know, believes in God because they find no other adequate explanation for the universe.
    Every theistic scientist I've read on belief in god uses the argument from design in some form, or an appeal to ignorance. That may be tantamount to saying "there is no other adequate explanation", but look at how many theories have ended up being wrong due to that reasoning! (e.g. phlogiston, humours)

    I think that if atheists did treat belief in God as a scientific theory, it would wipe out a lot of their objections. How often do we see atheists ask, "Prove to me that God exists" - yet we know in science that there is no 'proof', there is simply evidence used. The atheist wants to set unscientific criteria upon us and then accuse us of being unscientific for not fulfilling them!
    Of course there are proofs in science. Straightforward mathematical proofs are abundant (such as those of Euclid), and experiments often prove that something is not the case. For example, if I claimed that water boils at 5 degrees C, it would be easy to prove me wrong. Proving the non-existence of something is a different matter though.

    The truth of the matter is that there is no evidence for atheism.
    Absolutely - atheism argues from the position that there is a lack of evidence for god. Is it possible to have evidence that something doesn't exist? It's like Saddam Hussein trying to prove he had no weapons - it can't be done.

    There is plenty of evidence for God, and the first part that I discussed just now was the evidence for God in cosmology - that our knowledge of the universe leaves us with only one logical conclusion.
    I would call it a hypothesis rather than a conclusion.

    Such as?
    The oldest one in the book - "Whence cometh evil?" I haven't found a satisfactory answer to this question, posed so memorably by Epicurus, from any theistic belief-system.

    I don't know which texts you've read, but it all depends on the field. If you're reading a text on Islamic Jurisprudence, then it begins with the assumption that the reader has already accepted Islam. Its not going to spend time discussing the proofs of Islam.
    Absolutely - texts witten for Muslims are less likely to rely on arguments for Islam, and more likely to rely heavily on the argument from authority. However, dawah pamphlets and readings that I've seen also rely on the argument from authority to a great extent, even though that clearly won't convince someone who is not already a believer.

    Why not? What he means to say is that he [initially] foudn that religious theology could not rationalize human existence, it could not logically provide a comprehensive theory. Evidently, he found out otherwise.
    Theology may include some logic, but to follow that logic one needs to accept its premises [i.e. the study of god needs to have something to study in the first place]. For someone who is an atheist, all of theology appears to be a massive fictional structure built by humans. I don't see how this could provide an adequate rational explanation for anything. Here's Thomas Paine talking about Christian theology - this sums up my feelings on theology in general:

    The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.
    I think all of theology does work towards a conclusion - "god exists", but since this is the major premise of theology as well, it's not a conclusion with any real value.

    I don't really understand the point of your above comment. Lang was reading the Qur'an seriously, expecting it to provide a coherent explanation to support its principle of belief in God. Its not about him feeling it necessary to serarch for God, he's saying that since Islam is a theistic religion, he would expect the Qur'an to provide some coherent explanation bringing God and man into the picture - a task he felt others had failed at.
    OK - but the whole text is about his search for god isn't it? When you say "reading the Qur'an seriously", do you mean that if one reads the Qur'an without expecting a coherent explanation, one is not reading it seriously? That is, if one has no expectations one way or the other?

    As you can see from the excerpt, that's not necessarily what convinced him. What convinced him, as he explains throughout his books, was the complete and coherent explanation that the Qur'an provided. It is exactly as I eexplained to you that we search for the most comprehensive theory that is able to expain all the observations and evidences adequately.
    You may feel it is able to explain all observations, but if it isn't falsifiable then it's a theory of little value. For instance, I could claim that, contrary to what everyone believes, the universe and everything in it came into being at 4.20 yesterday afternoon. It would be possible to explain everything in terms of that belief, but it would be difficult to prove me wrong.

    As I clarified in the very first post in this thread, God will only guide those who seriously seek his guidance.
    This reasoning seems circular: you will only believe if you believe already.

    agnostic |ag?nästik| noun a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

    atheism |?????iz?m| noun the theory or belief that God does not exist. (Oxford American English Dictionary)
    I would question these two definitions: I understand the terms slightly differently (perhaps it's due to the difference between Standard English and American English). With regard to "agnostic", I agree with the highlighted part, but the rest actually describes aspects of atheism as I understand it. The definition given for "atheism" is actually a definition of strong atheism, not atheism per se. There is a difference between saying "I don't believe in god" (weak atheism) and "god does not exist" (strong atheism). A weak atheist says "it is not possible for me to have any knowledge of god, therefore I don't believe he exists." A strong atheist says "it is not possible for anyone to have knowledge of god, hence I believe he does not exist." The second of these is my position. Again, though, this is simply a belief - it can't be proven.

    Since you always mention that 'we just don't know yet' and you always talk about lack of evidence for God rather than evidence for the nonexistence of God, I don't know how you can claim to be an atheist and not agnostic. Atheism is possibly one of the weakest positions I've seen, since it relies on completely no evidence whatsoever but the mere existence of other hypothetical possibilities.
    Atheism is a belief, just like theism. Neither can be proved, since both sides lack evidence. Agnosticism is a far easier position to maintain, since it's always possible to say "I don't know". I call myself an atheist for two main reasons. Firstly, it seems massively more likely to me that god does not exist than that he does. This is because god, as traditionally described, has attributes possessed by nothing else that we know of. If there were an example of anything observable being infinitely existent, knowledgable, powerful or good, then it would be far easier to believe in god. Secondly, the more I have read about the history of theistic religions, the more I am convinced that they have been entirely constructed by humans, essentially as elaborate (and highly effective) methods of social control.



    I gave you this exceprt to show you how crucial the divine attributes are to the Islamic theory behind the purpose of life - the divine attributes which you quickly dismissed as simple assertions. Divine attributes are part of a comprehensive theory, linking together various ideas in Islam and defining the focus of human life.
    Sorry if my description of them as assertions seemed brusque to you, but I'm struggling to see them as anything more than that. How do they fit into a comprehensive theory? What ideas do they link? How can they be said to have any objective reality? To me they seem to be anthropomorphic constructions of an ideal perfect being, hence my reference to the ontological argument.

    Peace
    Last edited by czgibson; 10-26-2005 at 02:14 PM.

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  3. #2
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Callum,
    I'll begin with your comments on science because they are fundamental to the rest of the topic.
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    Of course there are proofs in science.
    Nope. True scientific hypothesis and theories can never be proven. Science progresses not on the basis of proving some ideas, but disproving others. You cannot prove the theory of gravity, you cannot prove evolution, you cannot prove a heliocentric model of the solar system nor a geospherical model of the earth. You can't prove the existence of dark matter, anti-matter, photons, electrons, protons, magnetic domains, etc. Even though you believe [I hope] that an atom exists, you cannot prove it. So why do you ask a theist to prove the existence of God? Should you not instead ask him to give you some evidence for the existence of God?

    Straightforward mathematical proofs are abundant (such as those of Euclid), and experiments often prove that something is not the case.
    Mathematics is not an experimental science, it is purely abstract. And experiments can never prove a theory, they can only falsify other theories.

    For example, if I claimed that water boils at 5 degrees C, it would be easy to prove me wrong.
    Yes, we can disprove various theories with science, but we cannot prove them. And the boiling point of water is a single observation, not a theory, although it is explained using the kinetic theory of molecular motion.

    Also, it should be noted that belief in God is not a theory in itself. It is a common postulate of many religious theories, Islam being the one I advocate.

    That may be tantamount to saying "there is no other adequate explanation", but look at how many theories have ended up being wrong due to that reasoning! (e.g. phlogiston, humours)
    As mentioned before, the basic methodology in science is that a theory is not proven but disproven. Thus, for a theory to gain support, it must provide the best explanation of the evidence - it must be comprehnsive without being overly complex.

    Absolutely - atheism argues from the position that there is a lack of evidence for god.
    The problem is that you need to begin by deciding what evidence is sufficient and reasonable to prove the existence of God. If you have decided that, then what is it?
    Is it possible to have evidence that something doesn't exist?
    Logical arguments can be used in order to disprove the religious theory behind God. For example, your next question.

    The oldest one in the book - "Whence cometh evil?"
    To me, this is also the easiest question in the book. I did respond to this question awhile ago in this same thread (here) but maybe you didn't notice my response. Also, see the origin of calamity and the barber analogy on God.

    Absolutely - texts witten for Muslims are less likely to rely on arguments for Islam, and more likely to rely heavily on the argument from authority.
    In which case your original statement was inaccurate:
    The idea of uniting all observations under one theory is an attractive one, no doubt, but there are many questions I think Islam leaves unanswered. Plus, despite your demur, every Islamic text I've seen relies heavily on the argument from authority.
    Just because texts addressing Muslims beginw ith the presumption that the reader is a Muslim, does not mean that Islam leaves unanswered questions or simply dismisses objections without offering logical explanations.

    However, dawah pamphlets and readings that I've seen also rely on the argument from authority to a great extent, even though that clearly won't convince someone who is not already a believer.
    Well, again, several Dawah pamphlets are intended for Christian or Jewish readers. But nevertheless, there are many Muslim texts which deal with atheism solely on the basis of logic. And even [for the sake of argument] if there weren't, that still doesn't support your claim that Islam leaves questions unanswered.

    Theology may include some logic, but to follow that logic one needs to accept its premises [i.e. the study of god needs to have something to study in the first place]. For someone who is an atheist, all of theology appears to be a massive fictional structure built by humans.
    That's true, but again, you're missing a basic point here. Lang [an atheist] was reading the Qur'an to find out how it explains human existence. He was trying to see if theology (in this case, Islamic theology) could provide a comprehensive explanation behind man's existence. Just because it is built on the premise that God exists doesn't mean that it is incapable of explaining anything. Evolution is built on the a priori assumption that life existed. Does that mean that biologists cannot use evolution to explain anything.

    You're making this a lot more complicated than it should be. He is simply stating that he was looking for any comprehensive theory behind the belief in God, that could support itself and explain questions like why there is evil in the world, why we were put here, etc.


    OK - but the whole text is about his search for god isn't it? When you say "reading the Qur'an seriously", do you mean that if one reads the Qur'an without expecting a coherent explanation, one is not reading it seriously? That is, if one has no expectations one way or the other?
    What I mean by reading the Qur'an seriously, is that one doesn't pick it up with the thought, "So let's see what these crazy mozlems believe" but rather with the thought, "Maybe this text might have the answer. I'm going to read this book objectively and sincerely search in this book for the answer I seek."

    You may feel it is able to explain all observations, but if it isn't falsifiable then it's a theory of little value.
    There are many challenges that Islam puts forth to its opponents. For example,
    56:83-87. [If you are indeed independent of a Supreme Being] Then why do you not [intervene] when [the soul of a dying person] reaches the throat?
    And all the while, you are [helplessly] looking on,
    But We are nearer to him than you, but you see not,
    Then why do you not -if you are exempt from the reckoning and recompense - Bring back the soul (to its body), if you are truthful?


    The challenge here is to either prevent death (become immortal) or to bring someone back to life.

    If anyone here has friends or relatives who have passed away, they might be able to relate to the scenario described.

    For instance, I could claim that, contrary to what everyone believes, the universe and everything in it came into being at 4.20 yesterday afternoon. It would be possible to explain everything in terms of that belief, but it would be difficult to prove me wrong.
    No, it would be very easy to falsify that scientifically, in fact as easy as possible, since we were all witness that your statement was not true.

    This reasoning seems circular: you will only believe if you believe already.
    No, you will only believe when you desire that belief, or when you are open-minded enough that you are willing to accept such a belief.

    Firstly, it seems massively more likely to me that god does not exist than that he does. This is because god, as traditionally described, has attributes possessed by nothing else that we know of. If there were an example of anything observable being infinitely existent, knowledgable, powerful or good, then it would be far easier to believe in god.
    An electron is described as having a particle-wave duality nature. We know of nothing else that acts like an electron or has the characteristics of an electron. Do you believe in an electron?

    Secondly, the more I have read about the history of theistic religions, the more I am convinced that they have been entirely constructed by humans, essentially as elaborate (and highly effective) methods of social control.
    I think you would have a difficult time proving this in the case of Islam. Why would Muhammad (saws)- who was respected as the most truthful and trustworthy person amongst his people, who had a very promising future in his community - why would he suddenly come out and claim that there was a God - One God - who had inspired him with the truth. Why would he go through all the persecution and abuse/slander/defamation? If his followers wanted control then why all this?

    Read the history of the early converts to Islam, and every heart would melt at the sight of the brutal treatment of innocent Muslim men and women. Sumayya, an innocent women, is cruelly torn into pieces with spears, An example is made of " Yassir whose legs are tied to two camels and the beast were are driven in opposite directions", Khabbab bin Arth is made lie down on the bed of burning coal with the brutal legs of their merciless tyrant on his breast so that he may not move and this makes even the fat beneath his skin melt." "Khabban bin Adi is put to death in a cruel manner by mutilation and cutting off his flesh piece-meal." In the midst of his tortures, being asked weather he did not wish Muhammad in his place while he was in his house with his family, the sufferer cried out that he was gladly prepared to sacrifice himself his family and children and why was it that these sons and daughters of Islam not only surrendered to their prophet their allegiance but also made a gift of their hearts and souls to their master ? Is not the intense faith and conviction on part of immediate followers of Muhammad, the noblest testimony to his sincerity and to his utter self-absorption in his appointed task ? (Ramakrishna Rao, Islam and Modern Age)
    Why would they want to be driven out of their home city and forced to be taken in like beggars in another city? The truth of the matter is that there is no material gain involved here. The Prophet Muhammad pbuh frequently repeated that he desired no material gain (Qur'an 6:90, 42:23) and in the hadith it states that they offered him the position of the highest chief amongst them and marriage to any amongst their citizens that he desired - but he refused it all. Why would he go through all that?

    Indeed, the promise of Allah was true and despite all odds, the Muslims prevailed and soon became the rulers of the very land in which they were persecuted and made homeless.

    Sorry if my description of them as assertions seemed brusque to you, but I'm struggling to see them as anything more than that. How do they fit into a comprehensive theory? What ideas do they link?
    As Lang mentions, they connect the struggle of man to do good with coming to know God.

    Regards
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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.

  4. #3
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Greetings,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Nope. True scientific hypothesis and theories can never be proven. Science progresses not on the basis of proving some ideas, but disproving others. You cannot prove the theory of gravity, you cannot prove evolution, you cannot prove a heliocentric model of the solar system nor a geospherical model of the earth. You can't prove the existence of dark matter, anti-matter, photons, electrons, protons, magnetic domains, etc. Even though you believe [I hope] that an atom exists, you cannot prove it.
    This is absolutely true, and if you read my post carefully you'll see I had this in mind. You're referring to Karl Popper's falsification theory, as expounded in The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

    So why do you ask a theist to prove the existence of God? Should you not instead ask him to give you some evidence for the existence of God?
    I do ask for evidence - all the time!

    Mathematics is not an experimental science, it is purely abstract. And experiments can never prove a theory, they can only falsify other theories.
    You said science, so I felt free to include mathematics.

    Also, it should be noted that belief in God is not a theory in itself. It is a common postulate of many religious theories, Islam being the one I advocate.
    I would never describe it as a theory, but as a hypothesis. In fact, I recall it was you who first compared it to a scientific theory.

    The problem is that you need to begin by deciding what evidence is sufficient and reasonable to prove the existence of God. If you have decided that, then what is it?
    As I've said, I would be closer to being convinced if there existed anything else that we know of that was eternal, omnipotent, omniscient etc.

    Logical arguments can be used in order to disprove the religious theory behind God. For example, your next question.
    Sorry?! Does my next question really disprove the existence of god?

    To me, this is also the easiest question in the book. I did respond to this question awhile ago in this same thread (here) but maybe you didn't notice my response. Also, see the origin of calamity and the barber analogy on God.
    I'm glad you find it an easy question to answer; I did see your original response, but I was distracted by other issues.

    As I see it, there are three main answers to this question given by theists: free will, test and punishment. You essentially gave the free will argument - that god has entrusted us with free will, and therefore it is our job to prevent evil, not his. So, in this case, god has deliberately limited his omnipotence, thus tying his own hands when it comes to human actions. The problem with this defence is that it does not account for "natural evil", such as the tsunami, or apparently pointless evils. Imagine that a young animal burns to death in a forest, and no human is around to observe it. This apparently pointless evil does nothing to advance the cause of human free will, and, I contend, would not be permitted by an omnibenevolent god.

    I believe I've responded to the test and punishment arguments before.

    In which case your original statement was inaccurate:
    How?

    But nevertheless, there are many Muslim texts which deal with atheism solely on the basis of logic.
    Do you have any links to any of them?

    Evolution is built on the a priori assumption that life existed. Does that mean that biologists cannot use evolution to explain anything.
    Assuming that life exists or existed does not take a huge leap of faith, in my view. And why does this have to be a priori? Surely we observe life every day?

    You're making this a lot more complicated than it should be.
    Sorry about that - the more questions someone has, the more complex the discussion becomes.

    What I mean by reading the Qur'an seriously, is that one doesn't pick it up with the thought, "So let's see what these crazy mozlems believe" but rather with the thought, "Maybe this text might have the answer. I'm going to read this book objectively and sincerely search in this book for the answer I seek."
    That is how I approached my reading of the Qur'an. (Honestly).

    The challenge here is to either prevent death (become immortal) or to bring someone back to life.
    Why would we expect anyone (atheist or not) to be able to prevent human death indefinitely? After all, this is something even Allah cannot do.

    No, it would be very easy to falsify that scientifically, in fact as easy as possible, since we were all witness that your statement was not true.
    Au contraire - when the universe was created at 4.20 yesterday afternoon, everyone on the planet was created with implanted memories, and the Earth itself was created to look much older than it actually is. Any witness statements would be severely limited by that.

    Of course, this is ludicrous - but you wouldn't be able to prove that from pure logic.

    No, you will only believe when you desire that belief, or when you are open-minded enough that you are willing to accept such a belief.
    So you believe if you want to believe. That's an awful lot like saying "Believe what you like."

    An electron is described as having a particle-wave duality nature. We know of nothing else that acts like an electron or has the characteristics of an electron. Do you believe in an electron?
    Electrons have been observed, so yes, I do.

    I think you would have a difficult time proving this in the case of Islam. Why would Muhammad (saws)- who was respected as the most truthful and trustworthy person amongst his people, who had a very promising future in his community
    [Argument from authority again]

    - why would he suddenly come out and claim that there was a God - One God - who had inspired him with the truth. Why would he go through all the persecution and abuse/slander/defamation? If his followers wanted control then why all this?
    I'm aware of the suffering he brought upon himself and his followers - I'm also convinced that Muhammad (pbuh) fully believed that what he was doing was right. I have no doubt he believed he was directly inspired by Allah, and that this is what spurred him on. I'm not suggesting for a moment that he consciously decided to invent an entire religion for material gain. The point is that he and his followers gained control in the end, and it's been maintained (in one form or another) ever since.

    As Lang mentions, they connect the struggle of man to do good with coming to know God.
    Forgive me, but that in itself hardly constitutes a comprehensive theory.

    Ansar, please tell me if I'm getting irritating. We're discussing the core of your faith here, and I'm trying not to sound disrespectful about it. Sometimes, I know, I go overboard and end up offending people. This is of course not my intention, as you know. The question of god's existence fascinates me as few other questions do, and I'm grateful for the privilege of discussing it with you. As I said though, let me know if I'm going too far.

    Peace

  5. #4
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Callum,
    Sorry for the 'delayed' response. I couldn't access the server yesterday.

    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    This is absolutely true, and if you read my post carefully you'll see I had this in mind. You're referring to Karl Popper's falsification theory, as expounded in The Logic of Scientific Discovery.

    I do ask for evidence - all the time!
    The point here, of course, is that atheists who ask theists to prove the existence of God are making a fundamental and in fact hypocritical mistake. They accuse their opponents of being unscientific, yet they themselves place unscientific standards on their opponents.

    You said science, so I felt free to include mathematics.
    At any rate, the point is irrelevant.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathema...s_a_science.3F

    Quote Originally Posted by cvgibson
    I would never describe it as a theory, but as a hypothesis. In fact, I recall it was you who first compared it to a scientific theory.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    Just as in science we search for a theory that comprehensively addresses all the facts, similarly, when examining groups claiming to know God, we must examine each theory to see which is the most logical and comprehensive.

    ...Also, it should be noted that belief in God is not a theory in itself. It is a common postulate of many religious theories, Islam being the one I advocate.
    Quote Originally Posted by cvgibson
    As I've said, I would be closer to being convinced if there existed anything else that we know of that was eternal, omnipotent, omniscient etc.
    You mentioned this in response to what you would find as suitable evidence for God. Is simmilarities to His Creation really suitable evidence for God? If He was like His creation, He wouldn't be God! So I think you still need to answer the question - what do you consider to be suitable evidence for God?

    Secondly, there's nothing we know of that is like dark matter or dark energy or electrons. Concerning electrons you said:
    Electrons have been observed, so yes, I do.
    How have they been observed?

    I'm glad you find it an easy question to answer; I did see your original response, but I was distracted by other issues.

    As I see it, there are three main answers to this question given by theists: free will, test and punishment. You essentially gave the free will argument - that god has entrusted us with free will, and therefore it is our job to prevent evil, not his. So, in this case, god has deliberately limited his omnipotence, thus tying his own hands when it comes to human actions.
    It isn't a limitation on His omnipotence. It's a matter of assigning the task to others in order to test them.

    The problem with this defence is that it does not account for "natural evil", such as the tsunami, or apparently pointless evils.
    What's wrong with the tsunami explanation I provided? Its a test for everyone, a reminder for everyone of the Day of Judgement as well as our own deaths, and a punishment for some people. What about children who died in the disaster? Their death is a test for others and no injustice is done because they will be compensated for what they suffered, as God is the Most Just.

    Imagine that a young animal burns to death in a forest, and no human is around to observe it.
    Okay, as soon as you mentioned animals here, you've changed the whole scope dramatically. How have you established that animals are anything more than a bag of chemical reaction that react to their environment without any conciousness? How have you determined that animals are not practically pre-programmed unconcious rocks, or like virtual animals in a video game? The fact of the matter is that we have no way of knowing what exactly they experience.

    Secondly, I noticed from the start that there was a lot of ambiguity in your question, with the word 'evil'. To discuss injustices perpetrated by human beings or inflicted upon human beings is one thing, but when we look at nature, we see a totally different picture. When trillions of bacteria are squashed in a single movement, is that evil? When a lion leaps onto the back of its prey, using its claws as leverage to pull it down and tear it apart, is that evil?

    If it is, then are we not evil for not attempting to destroy ever predatorial relationship in the world? Are we not evil for not trying to prevent animals from eating eachother? Am I evil if I watch a praying mantis eating a bumble bee, and I don't leap into action?

    If we focus on a single part of any ecosystem it may seem to be the most brutal picture imaginable. It may seem horried. Yet we don't destroy these ecosystems because there are so many other positive benefits that arise out of them, and a little suffering here and there is necessary for overall growth.

    But if your next comment would be, 'Well a baby animal burning to death in the forest is not necessary for something else to survive" then since when are evil means justified by their goal? A praying mantis tearing a bumble bee to shreds is no different than a little animal being burned to death. Both are brutal 'evils' in that they inflict what we percieve to be injustice on the undeserving. But they are in reality not evil. They are just features of the natural change that takes place in the world. Animal's insticts are sharpened by these kind of events and it is an integral part of population dynamics and the nature of these animals. The animal world is not full of evil, on the contrary the amazing features and changes that take place within are signs for the believers.

    45:3-4. Behold, in the heavens as well as on earth there are indeed messages for all who [are willing to] believe. And in your own nature, and in [that of] all the animals which He scatters [over the earth] there are messages for people who are endowed with inner certainty.

    This apparently pointless evil does nothing to advance the cause of human free will
    Do atheists even believe in human free-will? Since, according to them, life is nothing but the result of the transfer of energy and matter in accordance with the natural and inviolable laws of our universe, are human beings not just bags of chemical reactions? (Argument from a Christian).

    Do you have any links to any of them?
    If I find some I'll let you know, inshaa'Allah.

    Assuming that life exists or existed does not take a huge leap of faith, in my view. And why does this have to be a priori? Surely we observe life every day?
    Evolution does not explain where life came from. That is what abiogenesis does. Evolution assumes that life already existed and then proceeds to describe how it develops.

    Sorry about that - the more questions someone has, the more complex the discussion becomes.
    I didn't understand the relevance of your questions to the simple point being made.

    That is how I approached my reading of the Qur'an. (Honestly).
    Well, then that's good. And the important thing is that you're honest to yourself. I was just pointing out that people who approach the Qur'an with the incorrect attitude should not be surprised if they leave empty-handed.

    So you believe if you want to believe. That's an awful lot like saying "Believe what you like."
    Not really, what I meant by my statement on belief was really what's been described about one's attitude towards the Qur'an.

    Why would we expect anyone (atheist or not) to be able to prevent human death indefinitely? After all, this is something even Allah cannot do.
    First, you've made an obvious logical error here. You're projecting the absence of any violation of God's decree as an inability of God. But the fact is that just because we can't stop or reverse death doesn't mean that God can't. In fact He already has on numerous occasions (2:259, 2:260, 2:73, 5:110, 18:25, etc.) and indeed, He will repeat this on the Day of Resurrection. Now I know that you don't believe in these occurances, but then why are you making a statement about someone you don't believe in, in the first place? Why should it matter to you what Allah can or cannot do? - You don't believe in Him.

    So, if there really is no God, and life is just the a bunch of chemical reactions, why should the atheist not be able to respond to this challenge? Why can we not bring the dead back to life or prevent others from dying? It shouldn't be such a difficult task. There's no soul to worry about, so just prevent the body from dying.

    Au contraire - when the universe was created at 4.20 yesterday afternoon, everyone on the planet was created with implanted memories, and the Earth itself was created to look much older than it actually is. Any witness statements would be severely limited by that.

    Of course, this is ludicrous - but you wouldn't be able to prove that from pure logic.
    If you're going to argue against people's memories, then what difference is there between this and solipsism. From there you can argue that the universe doesn't exist at all. But of course, if you make these kind of arguments, they actually have no real value, they're inconsequential because you're just changing the definition of reality. If everyone has experienced these memories in the past, then there's no real distinction between those and the memories we live today. Thus, even if it exists only in our minds, time and space still existed before 4.20 yesterday (or the day before, whatever).

    [Argument from authority again]
    What - the fact that he was renowned among his people for his good character?

    I'm aware of the suffering he brought upon himself and his followers - I'm also convinced that Muhammad (pbuh) fully believed that what he was doing was right. I have no doubt he believed he was directly inspired by Allah, and that this is what spurred him on. I'm not suggesting for a moment that he consciously decided to invent an entire religion for material gain.
    Then you're suggesting that he was deluded, or possesed, or mad? He was deluded for 23 years, and during that time he called people to the most inspiring revolutionary system of life that advanced the world so dramatically?

    The interesting thing is that no matter which of these allegation you choose against Prophet Muhammad (saws), the Qur'an refers to all of them.

    53:2-5 Your companion has not gone astray, nor is he deluded, and neither does he speak out of his own desire: that [which he conveys to you] is but [a divine] inspiration with which he is being inspired.

    68:1-6. Nûn. By the pen and what the (angels) write. You (O Muhammad ) are not, by the Grace of your Lord, a madman. And verily, for you (O Muhammad ) will be an endless reward. And verily, you (O Muhammad ) are on an exalted standard of character. You will see, and they will see, Which of you is afflicted with madness.

    69:41-43. [This Qur'an] is not the word of a poet, little is that you believe!Nor is it the word of a soothsayer (or a foreteller), little is that you remember! This is the Revelation sent down from the Lord of the Universe.

    25:4-9.Moreover, those who are bent on denying the truth are wont to say, “This [Quran] is nothing but a lie, which he [himself] has devised with the help of other people, who thereupon have perverted the truth and brought a falsehood into being.” And they say, “Fables of ancient times which he has caused to be written down, so that they might be read out to him at morn and evening!” Say [O Muhammad]: “He who knows all the mysteries of the heavens and the earth has bestowed from on high this [Quran upon me]! Verily, He is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!” Yet they say: What sort of apostle is this [man] who eats food [like all other mortals] and goes about in the market places? Why has not an angel [visibly] been sent down unto him, to act as a warner together with him?” Or: “[Why has not] a treasure been granted to him [by God]?” Or: “He should [at least] have a [bountiful] garden, so that he could eat thereof [without effort]!” And so these evildoers say [unto one another], “If you were to follow [Muhammad, you would follow] but a man bewitched!” See to what they liken thee, [O Prophet, simply] because they have gone astray and are now unable to find a way to the truth!


    I could provide more verses, but I think these are sufficient. The fact is that the opponents of Islam have not been able to come up with a suitable theory for the past 14 and a half centuries. Again: why would he go through all this?

    The point is that he and his followers gained control in the end, and it's been maintained (in one form or another) ever since.
    Are you trying to imply that he knew, a single person, that the message which he was persecuted for and driven out of his house for, would soon become the message practiced by over a billion adherents continuously around the world? How is it possible for a man with no divine knowledge to foresee that? Do you really think that he did this for material gain?

    Forgive me, but that in itself hardly constitutes a comprehensive theory.
    That is one aspect of it. But needless to say, the divine attributes form the foundation of Islamic beliefs; they're not in the Qur'an for no reason. You'll also notice that each pair of attributes is connected in some manner with what was mentioned in the preceding part of the verse. Some verses take some thinking to recognize the connection. There are all sorts of amazing connections in the Qur'an that people don't notice unless they pay more attention and ponder over it.

    For example, what is the conenction between the following two verses:
    75:1-2. Nay! I call to witness the Day of Resurrection; But Nay! I do call to witness the self-reproaching soul.

    What's the connection between resurrection day and the self-reproaching soul? I'll leave that one for you to try.

    Warm Regards
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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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  7. #5
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    The point here, of course, is that atheists who ask theists to prove the existence of God are making a fundamental and in fact hypocritical mistake. They accuse their opponents of being unscientific, yet they themselves place unscientific standards on their opponents.
    True.

    You mentioned this in response to what you would find as suitable evidence for God. Is simmilarities to His Creation really suitable evidence for God? If He was like His creation, He wouldn't be God! So I think you still need to answer the question - what do you consider to be suitable evidence for God?
    I thought humans were created in the likeness of god? Maybe that's only in Christian thought. In the Qur'an, Adam is created to be Allah's deputy, as though Adam assists in ruling over Creation in some way.

    Suitable evidence for god could be provided by a miracle. After all, miracles are reported as happening relatively frequently in the past - when was the last one, would you say?

    How have they [electrons] been observed?
    Indirectly! Here's how electrons were discovered: http://www.aip.org/history/electron/

    Electrons can also actually be used, as in the electron microscope.

    It isn't a limitation on His omnipotence. It's a matter of assigning the task to others in order to test them.
    I see: so you would link the free will and test arguments, without making the distinction I have?

    What's wrong with the tsunami explanation I provided? Its a test for everyone, a reminder for everyone of the Day of Judgement as well as our own deaths, and a punishment for some people. What about children who died in the disaster? Their death is a test for others and no injustice is done because they will be compensated for what they suffered, as God is the Most Just.
    I'm not sure that any of this would be comforting to grieving parents who had lost children in the disaster. How will the parents be compensated?

    Okay, as soon as you mentioned animals here, you've changed the whole scope dramatically.
    Good point. Animals are not a very good example.

    Secondly, I noticed from the start that there was a lot of ambiguity in your question, with the word 'evil'.
    True. Lets leave animals out of it, and stick to human evil (e.g. murder, rape etc.) and natural evil (e.g. tsunami, earthquakes and other natural disasters).

    If it is, then are we not evil for not attempting to destroy ever predatorial relationship in the world? Are we not evil for not trying to prevent animals from eating eachother? Am I evil if I watch a praying mantis eating a bumble bee, and I don't leap into action?
    Of course not - and you phrased that beautifully!

    A praying mantis tearing a bumble bee to shreds is no different than a little animal being burned to death. Both are brutal 'evils' in that they inflict what we percieve to be injustice on the undeserving. But they are in reality not evil. They are just features of the natural change that takes place in the world. Animal's insticts are sharpened by these kind of events and it is an integral part of population dynamics and the nature of these animals.
    And evolution, I would say.

    Do atheists even believe in human free-will? Since, according to them, life is nothing but the result of the transfer of energy and matter in accordance with the natural and inviolable laws of our universe, are human beings not just bags of chemical reactions? (Argument from a Christian).
    Some atheists believe this, some don't. I believe there are parts of our experience which are unexplained, and which could account for free will.

    Evolution does not explain where life came from. That is what abiogenesis does. Evolution assumes that life already existed and then proceeds to describe how it develops.
    Yes, but as I say, assuming that life existed at some point in the past doesn't take a huge leap of faith (in my view anyway).

    First, you've made an obvious logical error here. You're projecting the absence of any violation of God's decree as an inability of God. But the fact is that just because we can't stop or reverse death doesn't mean that God can't. In fact He already has on numerous occasions (2:259, 2:260, 2:73, 5:110, 18:25, etc.) and indeed, He will repeat this on the Day of Resurrection. Now I know that you don't believe in these occurances, but then why are you making a statement about someone you don't believe in, in the first place? Why should it matter to you what Allah can or cannot do? - You don't believe in Him.
    OK, Allah may be able to bring the dead back to life, but he surely can't cause something to live forever. All living things die - that's one of the characteristics of living things. Although I don't believe in the things you mention, you have claimed Allah can do something that is logically impossible.

    So, if there really is no God, and life is just the a bunch of chemical reactions, why should the atheist not be able to respond to this challenge? Why can we not bring the dead back to life or prevent others from dying? It shouldn't be such a difficult task. There's no soul to worry about, so just prevent the body from dying.
    That's what medical science tries to do, to extend human life. It can't be done indefinitely (why anyone would want to live indefinitely is a mystery to me), but to say that it's an easy challenge is somewhat belittling to the work of medics. Incidentally, I wouldn't claim that life simply consists of chemical reactions. To the best of our knowledge, that seems to be the case, but that doesn't mean there aren't other aspects to life that haven't been discovered yet.

    If you're going to argue against people's memories, then what difference is there between this and solipsism.
    Not a lot. But can metaphysical solipsism be defeated using pure logic? (Epistemological solipsism is slightly different to what we're discussing here).

    What - the fact that he was renowned among his people for his good character?
    That may well be a historical fact, but using that fact to argue that we should therefore believe everything he says constitutes one form of the argument from authority.

    Then you're suggesting that he was deluded, or possesed, or mad? He was deluded for 23 years, and during that time he called people to the most inspiring revolutionary system of life that advanced the world so dramatically?
    I am suggesting he was deluded, yes. He believed what he was doing was right, and that he genuinely was divinely inspired; I contend that such inspiration is impossible. The question of whether what he was doing was in fact right is a much broader one though.

    The interesting thing is that no matter which of these allegation you choose against Prophet Muhammad (saws), the Qur'an refers to all of them.
    The Qur'an does refer to all of them. It asserts that these objections are false. Any debater knows that it is wise to pre-empt your opponents' claims.

    I'd like to emphasise that I am not bringing these "allegations" against the Prophet (pbuh) for the sake of it. I simply want to explain what I believe is responsible for the rise of Islam.

    I could provide more verses, but I think these are sufficient. The fact is that the opponents of Islam have not been able to come up with a suitable theory for the past 14 and a half centuries. Again: why would he go through all this?
    Because he believed what he was doing was right.

    Are you trying to imply that he knew, a single person, that the message which he was persecuted for and driven out of his house for, would soon become the message practiced by over a billion adherents continuously around the world? How is it possible for a man with no divine knowledge to foresee that?
    I'm not suggesting he knew exactly how successful Islam would become, but I'm sure he would be pleased with any success he could achieve. Islam, like other religions, is an excellent method of social control; whether Muhammad (pbuh) consciously aimed for this or not is unknown.

    Do you really think that he did this for material gain?
    Not at all. I don't think I've implied this either. The fact that he gained political power in his lifetime is a by-product of his success, but I don't think that was necessarily his guiding intention.

    For example, what is the conenction between the following two verses:
    75:1-2. Nay! I call to witness the Day of Resurrection; But Nay! I do call to witness the self-reproaching soul.

    What's the connection between resurrection day and the self-reproaching soul? I'll leave that one for you to try.
    I would guess the idea is that people should examine themselves strictly for any transgressions as preparation for the Day of Judgment, berating themselves for their sins. Of course, I'm likely to be wrong about that!

    Peace

  8. #6
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Callum,
    Thanks for your response.
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson
    I thought humans were created in the likeness of god? Maybe that's only in Christian thought.
    Yes, that's only in Christian thought. The Qur'an is very clear on this point,
    42:11 There is nothing like unto Him (God)

    Suitable evidence for god could be provided by a miracle. After all, miracles are reported as happening relatively frequently in the past - when was the last one, would you say?
    Well in Islam, the major miracles that you are referring to, mu'jizat, occur at the hands of Prophets, by God's will. So the last miracle would have been at the time of the Prophet saws.

    But I find it very interesting that you mention miracles. Suppose you witnessed a blazing flame explode in front of you and a voice commanded you to believe. Would you not think you had hallucinated? Would you honestly conclude from that there is a God and you must now worship Him? If you believe that everything can be explained in terms of science and that there is no such thing as miracles, how do you know you will recognize something you don't believe exists?

    More importantly, are you saying that God must now perfom some miraculous occurances, violating His laws regularly, for each person in every generation? The fact that He has brought us into concious existence out of nothing is not sufficient?

    It's most interesting because this request for miracles has been mentioned in the Qur'an. Some of the verses were given in my previous post. Here are some more:

    25:21-22. But those who do not believe that they are destined to meet Us are wont to say, “Why have no angels been sent down to us?” – or, “Why do we not see our Sustainer?” Indeed, they are far too proud of themselves, having rebelled [against God’s truth] with utter disdain! [Yet] on that Day - the Day on which they shall see the angels there will be no glad tiding for those who were lost in sin; and they will exclaim, “By a forbidding ban [are we from God’s grace debarred]!”

    Another passage in Suratul Anbiyah accurately depicts the uncertain and frantic allegations the unbelievers hurled at the Prophet (saws) and their requests for miracles...

    21:5-10. “Nay,” they say, “a jumble of dreams! – Nay, he forged it! – Nay, he’s a poet! Let him produce for us a sign, just as they were sent before!”
    [Yet], none of the previously destroyed nations had believed [though they witnessed signs], will they then believe? And before you, We sent only men whom We inspired – ask those who posses the message, if you know this not. Nor did We give them bodies that could dispense with food, nor were they immortal. In the end, We fulfilled Our Promise to them, and We save them and those whome We pleased, but We destroyed those who transgressed beyond bounds.
    We heave revealed for you [O men!] a book in which there is a message for you. Will you not then use your reason?


    Prophet Muhammad pbuh was asked to produce a sign like Prophet Moses (28:48) even though Moses's signs were rejected as sorcery (28:36). Even the New Testament mentions Prophet Jesus being asked for a sign:

    Mark 8:11-13. The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

    [Just for the record, Muslims believe that the Bible may contain some truth but it has become corrupted over the years, which is why God sent the Qur'an as a Criterion - distinguishing the truth from the falsehood.]

    So the scriptures indicate that previous Prophets were all asked for miracles, yet it was nothing more than an excuse. For the people did not accept the truth even when they witnessed the miracles. Another Surah in the Qur'an, Ash-Shu'araa (ch. 26), begins by discussing the request for miracles and then proceeds to demonstrate the signs of God that already exist.

    Indirectly! Here's how electrons were discovered: http://www.aip.org/history/electron/
    Thanks for the link, Callum. I particularly liked this page because it describes how they arrived at the electron concept from their observations. To quote:
    What could these rays be? One possibility was that they were waves traveling in a hypothetical invisible fluid called the "ether." At that time, many physicists thought that this ether was needed to carry light waves through apparently empty space. Maybe cathode rays were similar to light waves? Another possibility was that cathode rays were some kind of material particle. Yet many physicists, including J.J. Thomson, thought that all material particles themselves might be some kind of structures built out of ether, so these views were not so far apart.

    ...Drawing on work by his colleagues, J.J. Thomson refined some previous experiments, designed some new ones, carefully gathered data, and then... made a bold speculative leap. Cathode rays are not only material particles, he suggested, but in fact the building blocks of the atom: they are the long-sought basic unit of all matter in the universe.
    The concept of the electron has developed into something very different from what was originally theorised as described on the webpage. But the main point to note is that the electrons were identified, not by direct observation but by observing their effects on our environment. The fact is that we believe in an unseen entity based on these effects, so to believe in God doesn't differ very much from this, does it?

    Electrons can also actually be used, as in the electron microscope.
    We believe that the electron microscope uses a beam of electrons, just like the Muslim believes he is communicating with God in His prayer. Neither are observed but their effects are witnessed.

    I see: so you would link the free will and test arguments, without making the distinction I have?
    They all come together in Islam and are part of a unified theory that cannot be divided.

    I'm not sure that any of this would be comforting to grieving parents who had lost children in the disaster. How will the parents be compensated?
    The parents can rest peacefully knowing that their children were martyrs in the cause of God, and will be rewarded as such. As the Prophet Muhammad saws said:
    "Five are martyrs: One who dies of plague, one who dies of an abdominal disease, one who dies of drowning, one who is buried alive (and) dies and one who is killed in Allah's cause." (Sahih Bukhari vol. 1, Book 11, #624). [on another occasion he mentioned other groups as well].

    And the parents who suffered such a loss yet persevered in their faith will have a comparable amount of sins expiated and a reward in the hereafter.

    Some atheists believe this, some don't. I believe there are parts of our experience which are unexplained, and which could account for free will.
    Could you elaborate on the above? Which parts of our experience are unexplained?

    OK, Allah may be able to bring the dead back to life, but he surely can't cause something to live forever. All living things die - that's one of the characteristics of living things.
    That is the law of God. He has mentioned in the Qur'an that every living thing must die, so its not that He is incapable of making immortal beings (angels for example).

    And how is it a characteristic of all living things that they must die?

    Although I don't believe in the things you mention, you have claimed Allah can do something that is logically impossible.
    How is resurrection logically impossible?

    Incidentally, I wouldn't claim that life simply consists of chemical reactions. To the best of our knowledge, that seems to be the case, but that doesn't mean there aren't other aspects to life that haven't been discovered yet.
    I'm glad to see that you recognize that there is another element to life that science hasn't grasped. Naturally, I would agree with you completely on this point.

    Not a lot. But can metaphysical solipsism be defeated using pure logic?
    It can't exactly be defeated, but I would say that it's inconsequential. It just redefines reality.

    That may well be a historical fact, but using that fact to argue that we should therefore believe everything he says constitutes one form of the argument from authority.
    It's not used to say that we should believe everything he says, I only mentioned that to add some context and show how credible he was.

    I am suggesting he was deluded, yes. He believed what he was doing was right, and that he genuinely was divinely inspired
    Okay, so how does a person genuinely believe that they are recieving revelation from God and communicating with angels? They must be insane, right? So, how does an insane person manage to compose a revelation that becomes the constitution of billions of followers for centuries around the world? How does an insane man achieve such a massive following?

    If Muhammad was not inspired by God then he must have had an incomprehensible amount of foresight and intellectual capabilties.

    I'm not suggesting he knew exactly how successful Islam would become, but I'm sure he would be pleased with any success he could achieve. Islam, like other religions, is an excellent method of social control; whether Muhammad (pbuh) consciously aimed for this or not is unknown.
    Yes, Islam is a system of social control, that's not the issue though. You mentioned that you believed every theistic religion was intenionally constructed as an elaborate method of control. I'm still interested to see how you would defend such a hypothesis with respect to Islam.


    I would guess the idea is that people should examine themselves strictly for any transgressions as preparation for the Day of Judgment, berating themselves for their sins.
    Well, I can't say that there is only one possible answer here. But the clearest answer, which bears some simmilarities to yours, is that both the day of resurrection and the self-reproaching soul are like courthouses. In the words of Shaykh Suhaib Hassan Abdul Ghaffar,
    There is a common factor between these two entities, which is that both are courts of justice. The Nafs al Lawwama is an inner court of justice within each person; when he acts wrongfully. his conscience or soul reprimands him, and it is then up to him to pay heed to it or to ignore it. Besides placing an inner court of justice within each person, the Creator has also prepared a larger Court which will operate on the Final Day and will mete out justice to all of mankind.
    I think these are good excercises because they give one a greater appreciation for things in the Qur'an which they may at first have glanced over. There are many things in the Qur'an that we should ponder over. The Qur'an is of course believed to be the greatest miracle.

    47:24 Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur'an, or are their hearts locked up by them?

    Regards
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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.

  9. #7
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
    If you believe that everything can be explained in terms of science and that there is no such thing as miracles, how do you know you will recognize something you don't believe exists?
    I believe science can (in theory) explain what exists. Of course, we haven't discovered everything that exists yet, and even of those things we do know exist, there are certain objects which are so complex that science can only progress slowly in explaining them (e.g. the brain).

    I don't believe miracles have actually happened in the past, but if I witnessed one (possibly along with many other people) I'd have to reassess my position. Religious believers of many persuasions often point out supposed miracles in different parts of the world (often of the "Jesus' face appearing in a loaf of bread" variety). I'm sure if a genuine miracle occurred, they would not be slow in pointing it out to the rest of us who may have missed it.

    More importantly, are you saying that God must now perfom some miraculous occurances, violating His laws regularly, for each person in every generation?
    That's up to god, I suppose. But why not? Why would he do something in the past but not now?

    The fact that He has brought us into concious existence out of nothing is not sufficient?
    He didn't create me out of nothing - I was created by a sperm and and egg from each of my parents. I assume you're talking about the reputed creation of humans, i.e. Adam and his wife. Two questions:

    a) Were they created out of nothing?
    b) When do you believe they were created?

    It's most interesting because this request for miracles has been mentioned in the Qur'an.
    I'm aware of it being mentioned in the Qur'an and the Bible. The famous story of Jesus being tested by Satan in the desert has Satan asking him to perform miracles.

    But the main point to note is that the electrons were identified, not by direct observation but by observing their effects on our environment. The fact is that we believe in an unseen entity based on these effects, so to believe in God doesn't differ very much from this, does it?
    I think it does. The postulation of the existence of electrons actually explains many observations without being a huge hypothesis, and making a minimum of assumptions. This is totally different to the god-hypothesis, as I see it. Also, since electrons can be used in various technologies like electron microscopes, even if we are totally wrong, and there are no electrons at all, but something else exists where we thought they should be, these mysterious objects still behave in the way we would expect electrons to behave.

    We believe that the electron microscope uses a beam of electrons, just like the Muslim believes he is communicating with God in His prayer. Neither are observed but their effects are witnessed.
    What effects can be witnessed as a result of prayer? (I'm not being facetious here, I'm just curious to find out what you believe prayer accomplishes).

    The parents can rest peacefully knowing that their children were martyrs in the cause of God, and will be rewarded as such.
    Is this assuming the children were believers, or would it make no difference whether they were or not?

    And the parents who suffered such a loss yet persevered in their faith will have a comparable amount of sins expiated and a reward in the hereafter.
    This isn't testable, of course, unlike the fact of their child's death.

    Could you elaborate on the above? Which parts of our experience are unexplained?
    This goes back to the point I made about science being able, in theory, to explain what exists, specifically the brain. People's acquisition of language or bodily co-ordination skills can be explained by reference to specific areas of the brain, since people experience dysfunction in those abilities if certain areas of the brain are damaged. This perhaps implies a deterministic interpretation of experience, although since there are thoughts, feelings, ideas etc. which cannot be explained in this way (whether it's because we don't know enough about the brain, whatever the reason). Therefore, I would shy away from subscribing to an entirely deterministic explanation of human experience. (I think I might have mentioned this before).

    That is the law of God. He has mentioned in the Qur'an that every living thing must die, so its not that He is incapable of making immortal beings (angels for example).
    Are angels living beings? Do you believe in them for any other reason than that they are mentioned in the Qur'an and in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh)?

    And how is it a characteristic of all living things that they must die?
    Are there any living things which don't die?

    How is resurrection logically impossible?
    I wouldn't say resurrection is logically impossible; I was referring to the idea that something could live forever - that strikes me as logically impossible since all living things die eventually.

    It can't exactly be defeated, but I would say that it's inconsequential. It just redefines reality.
    True. That's what I would say religions do as well.

    It's not used to say that we should believe everything he says, I only mentioned that to add some context and show how credible he was.
    Fair enough. It just sounded like the argument from authority to me. It never seems to be very far away.

    Okay, so how does a person genuinely believe that they are recieving revelation from God and communicating with angels? They must be insane, right?
    Not necessarily insane, just deluded. That's my belief anyway.

    So, how does an insane person manage to compose a revelation that becomes the constitution of billions of followers for centuries around the world? How does an insane man achieve such a massive following?
    Because he managed to strike a chord with many people in his lifetime. Plus, he obviously didn't have billions of followers within his own lifetime. (Btw, I didn't realise there were "billions", i.e. 2 billion or more, Muslims in the world: closer to 1.5 billion isn't it?)

    If Muhammad was not inspired by God then he must have had an incomprehensible amount of foresight and intellectual capabilties.
    I don't doubt his intellectual capabilities - anyone who could have as much success as he did was clearly very able. I don't see why you say he would have needed "an incomprehensible amount of foresight", though. I'm not saying he would have been able to predict the success of Islam after his death.

    Yes, Islam is a system of social control, that's not the issue though. You mentioned that you believed every theistic religion was intenionally constructed as an elaborate method of control. I'm still interested to see how you would defend such a hypothesis with respect to Islam.
    I don't recall saying theistic religions were intentionally constructed as a method of social control. Whether the respective prophets or religious leaders were conscious of this aspect of religion or not makes no difference to my argument - social control is the result.

    Well, I can't say that there is only one possible answer here. But the clearest answer, which bears some simmilarities to yours, is that both the day of resurrection and the self-reproaching soul are like courthouses.
    Hey, I was close!

    You say the Qur'an is the greatest miracle of all, and I can partly understand why you regard it with such esteem. I say partly, because I obviously haven't managed to read all of it, and I can't read Arabic. From what I have read, there are some beautiful passages, with writing of great power. If I knew more about other examples of Arabic literature, then I'd be able to compare the Qur'an to other works from the same culture, and think about questions like: does the Qur'an stand out in terms of style / content / persuasive power? Does it have aspects that mark it out clearly to be not the work of human authorship?

    That's the issue I have trouble with really - it's almost like someone telling me that the works of Shakespeare were written by god. Even though Shakespeare's works contain some of the most awe-inspiring, unbelievably ingenious writing I've ever seen, I could never believe they had anything other than human origin. What is it about the Qur'an that convinces so many people that it was written by Allah?

    Peace

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    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Greetings Callum,
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
    I don't believe miracles have actually happened in the past, but if I witnessed one (possibly along with many other people) I'd have to reassess my position.
    If you witnessed one on your own, you might think you were just hallucinating, right? Is that why you would have to witness one along with many other people?

    That's up to god, I suppose. But why not?
    Do you really think your demand is reasonable? The only evidence acceptable from God is that He must break His laws and perform a mircaulous occurance for every human being since the dawn of humanity? As the Qur'an says in reply to such demands, "Indeed, they think too highly of themselves, having rebelled against God with utter disdain. [25:21]."

    Saying that this is the only acceptable evidence of God is akin to saying that all evidence save the accused's confession is inadmissable in court! Of course in a Court trial when evidence is brought against the accused there are always ways of expaining it away with absurd explanations; that's why the requirement is that someone be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    But let's think a little bit more about the idea of God revealing a miracle for every human being. This would mean that as every human being approached a certain level of maturity God would reveal to them, individually a miracle of great magnitude. The problem with this is that firstly, if one's belief in God is based solely on the occurance of a miracle, they may very well began to doubt (later on in their life) that such an event occurred in their past. Also, what if someone never reaches that level of maturity? Secondly, if the miracle occurs in the same manner for everyone, they may begin to think that it is simply a natural phenomenon and not miraculous. On the other hand, if it was always different we would have absoloutely no predictability in our lives! One would never be able to anticapte what tremendous event was going to befall them.

    Once you begin to dig deeper, the demand for a miraculous occurance is exposed as totally ridiculous and illogical. If God truly does exist, then there is no religious philosophy that would explain why God would create a race that would need to be regularly reassured of His existence through the violation of onbe of His laws. At any rate, such a notion is not consistent with Islamic theology and the Islamic explanation of life. If this life is a test, then God would certainly not need to maintain this practice of miraculous occurances.

    Why would he do something in the past but not now?
    if you read about the miraculous occurances in the past, they were never the primary means used to call people to the truth. In fact, there are hardly any people in history who converted solely on the basis of a miraculous occurance. Take the following verse for example:

    2:260 And (remember) when Ibrâhim (Abraham) said, "My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead." He (Allâh) said: "Do you not believe?" He [Ibrâhim (Abraham)] said: "Yes (I believe), but to be stronger in Faith." He said: "Take four birds, then cause them to incline towards you (then slaughter them, cut them into pieces), and then put a portion of them on every hill, and call them, they will come to you in haste. And know that Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise."

    Here Abraham already believed. God doesn't show people miraculous occurances to get them to believe. He has already implanted in every human being an innate sense of truth which causes people, even atheists, to call upon God in times of need. There is already reasonable evidence for someone to believe in God, as He says:
    26:4-7. If We will, We could send down to them from the heaven a sign, to which they would bend their necks in humility.
    And never comes there unto them a Reminder as a recent revelation from the Most Beneficent (Allâh), but they turn away therefrom.
    So they have indeed denied (the truth this Qur'ân), then the news of what they mocked at, will come to them.
    Do they not observe the earth, how much of every good kind We cause to grow therein?
    Verily, in this is an sign, yet most of them are not believers.


    He didn't create me out of nothing - I was created by a sperm and and egg from each of my parents.
    When I mentioned 'out of nothing' I was primarily referring to all creation as a whole coming into existence out of nothing. Also, our conciousness was nothing and suddenly here we are on a beautiful planet communicating with eachother.

    I assume you're talking about the reputed creation of humans, i.e. Adam and his wife. Two questions:

    a) Were they created out of nothing?
    b) When do you believe they were created?
    a) They were created from clay, which itself was created from nothing.
    b) I think I answered this already in another thread when you asked me a long time ago. I'm not sure exactly what kind of answer your looking for, but essentially the point at which historians describe the first appearance of human beings on this planet.

    I think it does. The postulation of the existence of electrons actually explains many observations without being a huge hypothesis, and making a minimum of assumptions. This is totally different to the god-hypothesis, as I see it.
    The existence of God also explains some of the fundamental questions human beings could not answer otherwise, such as those I asked concerning the origin of the universe.

    Also, since electrons can be used in various technologies like electron microscopes, even if we are totally wrong, and there are no electrons at all, but something else exists where we thought they should be, these mysterious objects still behave in the way we would expect electrons to behave.
    An interesting point. Well, towards the beginning of the thread you agreed with me that, A, the mysterious source of all energy and life in our universe is also logically the Creator and Sustainer. Is this not an entity that has affected us in a similar manner to God?

    What effects can be witnessed as a result of prayer?
    Amongst the effects is that the person praying feels a sense of tranquility and calm come over them and there is a definite spiritual change experienced.

    Is this assuming the children were believers, or would it make no difference whether they were or not?
    All children are born Muslims. Islam and belief in Allah are part of the innate nature of every human being. It is after that, that they may change becuase of their environment.

    This isn't testable, of course, unlike the fact of their child's death.
    True, but I wasn't mentioning this as evidence. Remember, this is the explanation of why God allows this kind of suffering.

    So you have any more questions on the subject of evil?

    This goes back to the point I made about science being able, in theory, to explain what exists, specifically the brain. People's acquisition of language or bodily co-ordination skills can be explained by reference to specific areas of the brain, since people experience dysfunction in those abilities if certain areas of the brain are damaged. This perhaps implies a deterministic interpretation of experience, although since there are thoughts, feelings, ideas etc. which cannot be explained in this way (whether it's because we don't know enough about the brain, whatever the reason). Therefore, I would shy away from subscribing to an entirely deterministic explanation of human experience. (I think I might have mentioned this before).
    Okay, so you feel that certain thoughts and feelings cannot be explained by science. So how did we come to posess these faculties? If life emerged as the result of random chemical interactiions and gradually developed into independent masses of chemical reactions (aka human beings), how do we explain the existence of aspects of the human being that are beyond just chemical reactions? According to your view, shouldn't we just be a bag of chemical reactions?

    Are angels living beings? Do you believe in them for any other reason than that they are mentioned in the Qur'an and in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh)?
    Yes, Angels are living beings, and yes I only believe in them because they are mentioned in the Qur'an and Ahadith.

    Are there any living things which don't die?
    I think we're going in a circle here. The above question depends of course, on what your definition of 'living' is, and if your definition of living things includes death, then naturally all 'living things' will die, by definition. But my question was, what is the basis for the assertion that death is a characteristic of living things, i.e. why include death in the definition to begin with? The only reason why it has been included in the definition is mostly because of our experience. Which does not mean that it is logically impossible to not have death.

    But going back to the original point, the Qur'anic challenge here is that if we are nothing more than bags of chemical reactions as atheism suggests, then we should be capable of even reversing the chemical reactions. The fact that we are utterly powerless at the time of death indicates, as you agreed, that there is something more to the human being than science tells us. There is something more to life. Once you've recognized that, you really have to ask yourself how much is left between you and those who believe in a spritual side to human beings, which you call a 'fantasy'.

    True. That's what I would say religions do as well.
    Religions do add to what we describe as reality, but [most of them] don't negate the reality of this life; of what we observe directly.

    Not necessarily insane, just deluded. That's my belief anyway.
    Again, I don't understand how someone can be deluded into thinking they are recieving revelation without being insane. Deluded means deceived, mislead and/or fooled, right? So how can someone be mislead into thinking that they are speaking to angels, that they are preaching the literal word of God... it just doesn't make sense. I'm hoping you can elaborate on how exactly he was deluded.

    Because he managed to strike a chord with many people in his lifetime. Plus, he obviously didn't have billions of followers within his own lifetime. (Btw, I didn't realise there were "billions", i.e. 2 billion or more, Muslims in the world: closer to 1.5 billion isn't it?)
    Currently yes, but I was including all the followers throughout time as well.

    I don't recall saying theistic religions were intentionally constructed as a method of social control.
    What you said was:
    Secondly, the more I have read about the history of theistic religions, the more I am convinced that they have been entirely constructed by humans, essentially as elaborate (and highly effective) methods of social control.
    So if something is constructed as a method of soical control, does that not imply that that was the purpose behind it? That's the impression I got anyway. Regardless, I'm still interested to see how you will account for Prophet Muhammad saws.

    Hey, I was close!
    Yes, you were.

    You say the Qur'an is the greatest miracle of all, and I can partly understand why you regard it with such esteem. I say partly, because I obviously haven't managed to read all of it, and I can't read Arabic. From what I have read, there are some beautiful passages, with writing of great power. If I knew more about other examples of Arabic literature, then I'd be able to compare the Qur'an to other works from the same culture, and think about questions like: does the Qur'an stand out in terms of style / content / persuasive power? Does it have aspects that mark it out clearly to be not the work of human authorship?

    That's the issue I have trouble with really - it's almost like someone telling me that the works of Shakespeare were written by god. Even though Shakespeare's works contain some of the most awe-inspiring, unbelievably ingenious writing I've ever seen, I could never believe they had anything other than human origin. What is it about the Qur'an that convinces so many people that it was written by Allah?
    This is a good question and naturally you'll get varied responses as different people find different things convincing. I'll try to give you a comprehensive answer as to why the Qur'an is regarded the way it is by so many people.
    1. The Power of the Qur'anic Message:
    -it is universal, unrestricted by time and applicable to any nation/culture. The Qur'an is by far the most widely followed and acted-upon book in the world. As for the Bible, most Christians follow the Church over the Bible, and each denomination has its own bible anyway. The fact that there is no other book in the world that forms the constitution of the lives of billions of followers is itself a sign.
    -it is practical and logical, it can be established practically in society and is logically able to address the fundamental questions relating to all aspects of our universe.
    -it is comprehensive, addressing all fundamental sectors of human life, be it spritual, physical, mental, social/societal, politcal, environmental, economic, etc.
    -it is natural, in concordance with a person's nature and what they feel deep inside to be the truth.
    -it is clear and consistent, free of the changes in worldview and understanding that dominate the works of human beings.
    -it is deep, having provoked thousands upon thousands of volumes of exegesis, expounding upon its meaning and revealing fascinating details that many people otherwise miss in their reading of the Qur'an.
    2. The Power of the Qur'anic Style:
    -it is Interactive, the text seems alive as it responds to the very questions that arise in one's mind at that moment. It speaks to the reader and delivers specific yet universal advice.
    -it is Inerrant, free from contradictons and discrepancies, or other errors that would normally be found in the works of human beings.
    -it is Memorizable; the Qur'an is the only book in the world which is continuously being memorized by millions of people and recited daily. No other book has been committed to memory by so many followers, as though it fits in one's mind as a key in a lock.
    -its Language, the Qur'anic arabic is a stunning miracle in itself, its style is powerful and its recitation is melodious. More info: Here, Here, Here.
    3. The Power of the Qur'anic Text:
    -it is Preserved, even after fourteen and a half centuries, the Qur'an is recited today exactly as it was first revealed. Thus it was free of the tampering that befell other religious scriptures.
    -its other Remarkable features; many Muslims find a striking concordance between many Qur'anic statements and established scientific truths, which could not have been known by any normal human being 14 centuries ago. (see here). Many Muslims have also found the Qur'anic perfection extends even to various mathematical miracles within the text. As well, there are the Qur'anic Prophecies.
    -its Authorship; the context in which the Qur'an was revealed leaves the reader with no other conclusion than the fact that it could only be the word of God.
    This is just my summary of the miraculous features Muslims find in the Qur'an. For more information, please see section 3c of The First and Final Commandment.

    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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.

  11. #9
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post
    If you witnessed one on your own, you might think you were just hallucinating, right? Is that why you would have to witness one along with many other people?
    Well, I didn't say I would have to witness a miracle with other people; it's just that the evidence of many is always stronger than the evidence of one.

    Do you really think your demand is reasonable? The only evidence acceptable from God is that He must break His laws and perform a mircaulous occurance for every human being since the dawn of humanity?
    Of course it wouldn't be reasonable to suggest god perform a miracle for every human being, for the reasons you give - chief among them being that we wouldn't know what was miraculous and what was natural. However, there does seem to have been a very large gap in time since the last one.

    Once you begin to dig deeper, the demand for a miraculous occurance is exposed as totally ridiculous and illogical. If God truly does exist, then there is no religious philosophy that would explain why God would create a race that would need to be regularly reassured of His existence through the violation of onbe of His laws.
    OK, but, as I'm sure you'll understand, I have difficulty with the idea of there being a "religious philosophy" in the current situation of philosophy as I understand it. To the vast majority of Western philosophers, such a thing is an oxymoron. (That's a cultural issue, of course).

    if you read about the miraculous occurances in the past, they were never the primary means used to call people to the truth.
    They were used that way in the Bible, but of course that's different.

    What were the primary means to convert people? I would assume they would include prophets with great charisma, such as Muhammad (pbuh) - what else?

    God doesn't show people miraculous occurances to get them to believe. He has already implanted in every human being an innate sense of truth which causes people, even atheists, to call upon God in times of need.
    I can honestly say that I've been in several dire situations in my life, but I've never felt it necessary to call upon god.

    There is already reasonable evidence for someone to believe in God, as He says:
    26:4. If We will, We could send down to them from the heaven a sign, to which they would bend their necks in humility.
    Sorry to cut up your quote like this, but it seems that Allah is here using the same argument as I have done - i.e. if he so willed, he could give a sign that would convince everybody.

    b) I think I answered this already in another thread when you asked me a long time ago. I'm not sure exactly what kind of answer your looking for, but essentially the point at which historians describe the first appearance of human beings on this planet.
    There was something like this, but I think it was about Noah. Do the historians you speak of agree with scientists on this question (i.e. homo sapiens originating about 200,000 years ago)?

    The existence of God also explains some of the fundamental questions human beings could not answer otherwise, such as those I asked concerning the origin of the universe.
    Yes, it's certainly the most pervasive hypothesis for answering those questions.

    An interesting point. Well, towards the beginning of the thread you agreed with me that, A, the mysterious source of all energy and life in our universe is also logically the Creator and Sustainer. Is this not an entity that has affected us in a similar manner to God?
    I suppose so. However, A would not necessarily have the qualities of being eternal, omnibenevolent, omniscient, or of having issued revelations to various people. (That is insofar as I understand the concept).

    Amongst the effects is that the person praying feels a sense of tranquility and calm come over them and there is a definite spiritual change experienced.
    The spiritual change I can't really comment on, since "the spiritual" is something I've never understood, and which (I assume?) is subjective. The sense of tranquility and calm could be attributed to lots of things, though. I've always thought that prayer might be analogous to psychiatric treatment of some form. Many people have reported a similar feeling of calm after undergoing psychoanalysis to release their neuroses ("the talking cure"). Do you think something like this happens with prayer?

    All children are born Muslims. Islam and belief in Allah are part of the innate nature of every human being. It is after that, that they may change becuase of their environment.
    I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I believe every child is born an atheist, and that the concept of god is introduced to them during their development.

    So you have any more questions on the subject of evil?
    To be honest, I still have the same questions I arrived with, I'm afraid. For me, the problem of evil is the clincher, and I don't think Epicurus' question has ever really been answered.

    Okay, so you feel that certain thoughts and feelings cannot be explained by science. So how did we come to posess these faculties?
    Nobody knows.

    If life emerged as the result of random chemical interactiions and gradually developed into independent masses of chemical reactions (aka human beings), how do we explain the existence of aspects of the human being that are beyond just chemical reactions?
    They remain unexplained.

    According to your view, shouldn't we just be a bag of chemical reactions?
    Perhaps, perhaps not. The jury is still out. That's the way I see it, in any case.

    But my question was, what is the basis for the assertion that death is a characteristic of living things, i.e. why include death in the definition to begin with?
    The way I see it is that if it were not for death, we would not know when something was alive, just as we would not know if something was good were it not for our experience of evil. In fact, I think you relied on a similar dichotomy earlier on, when you argued for the distinction between natural and miraculous events.

    The only reason why it has been included in the definition is mostly because of our experience. Which does not mean that it is logically impossible to not have death.
    I was following the logic of the characteristic of death that I claimed (not unreasonably, I thought) exists at the end of life.

    Here, you are arguing from the evidence of something outside our experience, i.e. something of which we can have no knowledge, unless we accept the argument from authority. I prefer to accept neither of these arguments: that from ignorance or that from authority, since both are logical fallacies.

    But going back to the original point, the Qur'anic challenge here is that if we are nothing more than bags of chemical reactions as atheism suggests, then we should be capable of even reversing the chemical reactions. The fact that we are utterly powerless at the time of death indicates, as you agreed, that there is something more to the human being than science tells us. There is something more to life. Once you've recognized that, you really have to ask yourself how much is left between you and those who believe in a spritual side to human beings, which you call a 'fantasy'.
    Ansar, this is not a fair summary of my position, and I think you are well aware of that.

    1) I do not state categorically that we are nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions. We may very well be, but that is not something that can be certainly ascertained at this point.

    2) The atheist position as a whole does not necessarily lead to the view that we are nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions. I am an example of an atheist who does not believe this is a necessity, and there have been many atheists before me of the same view.

    3) There are indeed aspects to life that are unexplained by science. This is because science is a continuous process of discovery - it does not claim to have all the answers, now, or at any time. I say there are things which are unexplained, and leave it at that. I do not posit the existence of entities entirely outside our experience, which people who affirm the spiritual side of life claim to have knowledge about.

    Religions do add to what we describe as reality, but [most of them] don't negate the reality of this life; of what we observe directly.
    True - and that's a very fair distinction between religious thought and solipsism.

    Again, I don't understand how someone can be deluded into thinking they are recieving revelation without being insane. Deluded means deceived, mislead and/or fooled, right? So how can someone be mislead into thinking that they are speaking to angels, that they are preaching the literal word of God... it just doesn't make sense. I'm hoping you can elaborate on how exactly he was deluded.
    Someone is deluded if they believe something which isn't true. For example, I'm an atheist; you think atheism isn't true, so you would be justified in calling me deluded. Do you think I am insane, though?

    Currently yes, but I was including all the followers throughout time as well.
    Good point - I hadn't thought of that!

    So if something is constructed as a method of soical control, does that not imply that that was the purpose behind it? That's the impression I got anyway.
    I see I've been loose with my phrasing, and I can see how you might have got the impression I was talking about Islam. I was speaking in general terms, thinking of primitive religions. However, I do believe that all religions work in that way, whether their founders are consciously aware of it or not. At some level, Muhammad (pbuh) wanted people to do what he saw as being the right thing, and he felt that that imperative was divinely inspired.


    I'll have to stop there, since I've written quite a large post here (some things never change...) although I'm keen to carry on the discussion about the authorship of the Qur'an at a later stage. Perhaps it would merit another thread, since it seems slightly tangential to the existence of god question? What I will say now is that your answer to my question was very helpful indeed, approaching it from several different angles. I'll look forward to discussing it later on.

    Peace

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    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Callum,
    I expect this to be a bit shorter, inshaa'Allah. There are only a few major points left that need to be addressed. Nevertheless, let me know if I missed out on something important.
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
    Of course it wouldn't be reasonable to suggest god perform a miracle for every human being, for the reasons you give - chief among them being that we wouldn't know what was miraculous and what was natural.
    So perhaps you need to re-assess what you'd consider as suitable evidence for God?
    However, there does seem to have been a very large gap in time since the last one.
    The gap in time is the gap between the Last Prophet and the Day of Resurrection. There were often lengthy gaps between many Prophets as well.


    OK, but, as I'm sure you'll understand, I have difficulty with the idea of there being a "religious philosophy" in the current situation of philosophy as I understand it. To the vast majority of Western philosophers, such a thing is an oxymoron. (That's a cultural issue, of course).
    Okay, I suppose I should have used better wording - religious theory.

    Sorry to cut up your quote like this, but it seems that Allah is here using the same argument as I have done - i.e. if he so willed, he could give a sign that would convince everybody.
    He could show us all a miracle but it would be pointless for the reasons I gave earlier. Yes, Allah could easily make us all believers just like you could easily hand out an answer sheet along with your student's next exams.

    There was something like this, but I think it was about Noah. Do the historians you speak of agree with scientists on this question (i.e. homo sapiens originating about 200,000 years ago)?
    I meant scientists, sorry.

    Yes, it's certainly the most pervasive hypothesis for answering those questions.
    I'm glad to see we're agreeing on more points.

    I suppose so. However, A would not necessarily have the qualities of being eternal, omnibenevolent, omniscient, or of having issued revelations to various people. (That is insofar as I understand the concept).
    You're right, but we never said that an alternative concept had to match the original concept exactly otherwise it would be the same concept! So an alternative to electrons would have a few of the same characteristics, but not all of the same characteristics like movement in orbitals, particle-wave duality, magnetic spin, etc.

    I've always thought that prayer might be analogous to psychiatric treatment of some form. Many people have reported a similar feeling of calm after undergoing psychoanalysis to release their neuroses ("the talking cure"). Do you think something like this happens with prayer?
    Its possible as prayer in Islam incorporates many medical and psychological benefits. But there are still the spiritual benefits, which as you pointed out, one would have to experience to know.

    I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I believe every child is born an atheist, and that the concept of god is introduced to them during their development.
    Actually, I am a little surpirsed. I always thought atheists explain the prevalent belief in God by explaining it as the natural psychological instinct of man to trust in a higher being to relieve him of difficulties. Because historians have found that no matter where in the world, in whatever period, we find an established belief in a Supreme Being, even in the most remote communities. In a previous thread I discussed some of the famous ancient civilizations and demonstrated how, even polytheistic nations still retained the belief of one Ultimate Deity in control above others.

    To be honest, I still have the same questions I arrived with, I'm afraid. For me, the problem of evil is the clincher, and I don't think Epicurus' question has ever really been answered.
    Could you explain the objections you have to the explanation I have given, or perhaps any gaps in my explanation I've overlooked? I'm struggling to understand what remains the issue here as the theory I've presented seems to address all aspects of the problem. Perhaps you just don't find the theory overall very convincing? Although that doesn't mean it has left anything unanswered.

    Speaking of unanswered questions, here comes a string of them... kay:
    Okay, so you feel that certain thoughts and feelings cannot be explained by science. So how did we come to posess these faculties?
    Nobody knows.

    If life emerged as the result of random chemical interactiions and gradually developed into independent masses of chemical reactions (aka human beings), how do we explain the existence of aspects of the human being that are beyond just chemical reactions?
    They remain unexplained.
    hmmm... Can you guess at how I'm going to interpret these answers and what they mean to me?

    To be honest, this discussion has shown to me a lot of holes and problems int he beliefs of atheists that I didn't see before. Not only do these issue remain unexplained by atheist philosophy (hope I'm using the right word this time), but they specifically contradict atheist philosophy, that's why atheists don't have answers to them.

    If these faculties and aspects of human beings remain unexplained and unknown according to the theory of the universe which you accept (atheism), why do you not move to a theory which is able to succesfully deal with these issues and actually takes steps forward to progessively develop our knowledge of these things which are beyond science.

    According to your view, shouldn't we just be a bag of chemical reactions?
    Perhaps, perhaps not. The jury is still out. That's the way I see it, in any case.
    How can it be 'perhaps not'? According to atheist beliefs, the only logical conclusion is that we're bags of chemical reactions without purpose.

    The way I see it is that if it were not for death, we would not know when something was alive, just as we would not know if something was good were it not for our experience of evil. In fact, I think you relied on a similar dichotomy earlier on, when you argued for the distinction between natural and miraculous events.
    True. But this only relates to how we recognize life, not what actually defines it.

    Ansar, this is not a fair summary of my position, and I think you are well aware of that.

    1) I do not state categorically that we are nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions. We may very well be, but that is not something that can be certainly ascertained at this point.

    2) The atheist position as a whole does not necessarily lead to the view that we are nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions. I am an example of an atheist who does not believe this is a necessity, and there have been many atheists before me of the same view.

    3) There are indeed aspects to life that are unexplained by science. This is because science is a continuous process of discovery - it does not claim to have all the answers, now, or at any time. I say there are things which are unexplained, and leave it at that. I do not posit the existence of entities entirely outside our experience, which people who affirm the spiritual side of life claim to have knowledge about.
    I don't think I have any objections to what you've said above, but I would just like to clarify my comment which relates to the highlighted portion of the above excerpt. You mention that you simply refrain from commenting on the existence of entities outside of our experience while people who believe in a spiritual side claim to have knowledge about it. My point is that since you've accepted that life has more aspects to it that have not yet been discovered by science, and even obvious aspects which cannot be explained by science, why do you criticize those who take one step forward and attempt to discover these aspects of life which you already recognize to exist? How can you dismiss their claims so easily as "fantasy" when in might be the explanation for those aspects which you are in need of?

    Someone is deluded if they believe something which isn't true.
    I understand that. What I don't understand is how someone can be deluded into believing they are recieving the literal word of God and speaking to Angels; someone who comes before people and says, "look, God has literally revealed to me this, '....'." If such a person was just relying on subjective spiritual feelings of what God is saying, how could they come up with the specific concrete laws, regulations, past stories of Prophets, and creed which are available in the Qur'an.

    Please forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but I still haven't recieved a satisfactory answer to the question.

    For example, I'm an atheist; you think atheism isn't true, so you would be justified in calling me deluded. Do you think I am insane, though?
    Your example isn't really accurate because I believe you're deluded because you have not sought God, but your not claiming the occurance of supernatural events in your life.

    Let's look at an example. One of your friends one day claims to you that he has been inspired by a Supreme Being. The next day he tells you this Supreme Being has appointed him as a prophet. The next day he claims that he is regularly speaking to angels who are reciting to him the literal words revealed by God, and he shares some with you. The next day he starts describing the laws he has recieved, that if you do this the punishment is this, and if you do this the punishment is that, and this is permissable and that is forbidden... if you believe this person is deluded, then your 'delusion meter' would now have risen to the level of 'insantiy'. How can someone be deluded to make these claims?

    As for atheism, someone can be deluded into believing in atheism, if they follow their desires, if they turn away from God, if they never make the effort to connect with the divine, if they don't think reasonably and listen to the voice of their conscience.

    Hopefully you can see the difference between the two. So my question is again, how can someone be deluded into thinking that they are a Prophet of God and that they are giving you the literal words of God?

    I'll have to stop there, since I've written quite a large post here (some things never change...)
    lol, in good discussions like this, we find a steady chain of enormous posts.

    although I'm keen to carry on the discussion about the authorship of the Qur'an at a later stage. Perhaps it would merit another thread, since it seems slightly tangential to the existence of god question?
    Yes, I agree it should be discussed in a different thread, then we can look at the various features in greater detail.

    Regards
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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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  14. #11
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Ansar,

    Sorry for the lateness of my reply - a combination of me being busy and my internet connection going AWOL for a while...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post
    So perhaps you need to re-assess what you'd consider as suitable evidence for God?
    I'd still stand by my request for a miracle - not for every person, but it would certainly be more difficult to argue against god's existence if he performed miracles more frequently.

    The gap in time is the gap between the Last Prophet and the Day of Resurrection. There were often lengthy gaps between many Prophets as well.
    I would say that the reason no "genuine" miracles have been witnessed for so long is that humanity's knowledge of how the laws of nature operate has advanced so much since Muhammad's (pbuh) time. Many more things would have been inexplicable then, and so it would be a straightforward step to attribute such things to a divine intervention.

    He could show us all a miracle but it would be pointless for the reasons I gave earlier. Yes, Allah could easily make us all believers just like you could easily hand out an answer sheet along with your student's next exams.
    Does Allah want everyone to be believers, do you think?

    I'm glad to see we're agreeing on more points.
    I'm not sure I was expressing agreement here. Just to be clear, I said "pervasive", not "persuasive".

    You're right, but we never said that an alternative concept had to match the original concept exactly otherwise it would be the same concept! So an alternative to electrons would have a few of the same characteristics, but not all of the same characteristics like movement in orbitals, particle-wave duality, magnetic spin, etc.
    In my example I was assuming that the mysterious "something else" in the place of electrons would be indistinguishable from them in every respect that we're able to detect.

    Actually, I am a little surpirsed. I always thought atheists explain the prevalent belief in God by explaining it as the natural psychological instinct of man to trust in a higher being to relieve him of difficulties.
    Yes, but these difficulties are only experienced after birth, surely?

    Because historians have found that no matter where in the world, in whatever period, we find an established belief in a Supreme Being, even in the most remote communities. In a previous thread I discussed some of the famous ancient civilizations and demonstrated how, even polytheistic nations still retained the belief of one Ultimate Deity in control above others.
    What about Buddhist societies?

    Perhaps you just don't find the theory overall very convincing? Although that doesn't mean it has left anything unanswered.
    You're right about me not being convinced by the overall theory. The punishment aspect is clear enough, but I don't really understand why Allah would want to perform a test of the type you describe. Of course, it may not be possible for people to know what Allah's motives are, which only makes him seem even more nebulous.

    hmmm... Can you guess at how I'm going to interpret these answers and what they mean to me?
    Of course. The difference between us on these questions seems to be that, at a certain point, I'm happy to say "I don't know", or indeed "nobody knows".

    To be honest, this discussion has shown to me a lot of holes and problems int he beliefs of atheists that I didn't see before. Not only do these issue remain unexplained by atheist philosophy (hope I'm using the right word this time), but they specifically contradict atheist philosophy, that's why atheists don't have answers to them.
    If by "holes" you mean "unknowns", then fair enough, there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I'm not sure how you see these matters as contradicting atheist beliefs, though. The reason atheists don't have answers to these questions is that, in a strict sense, there are no genuine or confirmed answers to them.

    If these faculties and aspects of human beings remain unexplained and unknown according to the theory of the universe which you accept (atheism), why do you not move to a theory which is able to succesfully deal with these issues and actually takes steps forward to progessively develop our knowledge of these things which are beyond science.
    If I was convinced by such a theory, I would have no hesitation in adopting it. The "knowledge...beyond science" that you speak of is confusing to me, since the word "science" comes from the Latin root scientia, which means "knowing". So to talk about "knowledge beyond knowing" seems odd.

    How can it be 'perhaps not'? According to atheist beliefs, the only logical conclusion is that we're bags of chemical reactions without purpose.
    That seems to be the most likely situation, but, as I keep saying, we don't have all the facts. Discoveries could yet be made which alter our thinking radically.

    True. But this only relates to how we recognize life, not what actually defines it.
    OK, but any definition you'd care to give is inevitably conditioned by our own perceptions and the particular organisation of human sense-organs.

    I don't think I have any objections to what you've said above, but I would just like to clarify my comment which relates to the highlighted portion of the above excerpt. You mention that you simply refrain from commenting on the existence of entities outside of our experience while people who believe in a spiritual side claim to have knowledge about it. My point is that since you've accepted that life has more aspects to it that have not yet been discovered by science, and even obvious aspects which cannot be explained by science, why do you criticize those who take one step forward and attempt to discover these aspects of life which you already recognize to exist? How can you dismiss their claims so easily as "fantasy" when in might be the explanation for those aspects which you are in need of?
    Is revealed religion a genuine attempt at discovery? As far as I can see, the revelations have happened in the past, and life after that is made to fit with them. Is objective discovery even possible through religious means in such a state of affairs? I dismiss religious hypotheses as fantasy simply because I can see no objective evidence for their validity. That may be a limitation on my part, and it may be a bit premature of me to judge them as being fantasy for that reason, but I also think it is premature to decide that one has the right answer when many explanations are possible. Even within the sphere of world religions, there are many contradictory explanations for the origin of the universe, life, how we should live and so on - they can't all be right, but they could all be wrong.

    I understand that. What I don't understand is how someone can be deluded into believing they are recieving the literal word of God and speaking to Angels; someone who comes before people and says, "look, God has literally revealed to me this, '....'." If such a person was just relying on subjective spiritual feelings of what God is saying, how could they come up with the specific concrete laws, regulations, past stories of Prophets, and creed which are available in the Qur'an.
    Who is to say all of that is not subjective? Would Muhammad (pbuh) have been unaware of the stories about previous prophets?

    Let's look at an example. One of your friends one day claims to you that he has been inspired by a Supreme Being. The next day he tells you this Supreme Being has appointed him as a prophet. The next day he claims that he is regularly speaking to angels who are reciting to him the literal words revealed by God, and he shares some with you. The next day he starts describing the laws he has recieved, that if you do this the punishment is this, and if you do this the punishment is that, and this is permissable and that is forbidden... if you believe this person is deluded, then your 'delusion meter' would now have risen to the level of 'insantiy'. How can someone be deluded to make these claims?
    In the modern world, perhaps I would consider such a person insane, but I'd be wary of making such a judgment with regard to someone living 1400 years ago who made such claims. I think religious belief of such intensity would have been far more acceptable in those days.

    As for atheism, someone can be deluded into believing in atheism, if they follow their desires, if they turn away from God, if they never make the effort to connect with the divine, if they don't think reasonably and listen to the voice of their conscience.
    I don't think this is a very accurate or fair way of describing atheism, or at least my own atheism. For a start, atheism in general is not about following one's own desires. Why would it be? It's simply a metaphysical belief. As for turning away from god, since I have never believed in god, I have never turned away from him. I have made efforts to connect with the divine: 9 years of Catholic schooling gave me plenty of opportunity for that. I try to think in as rational a way as possible, and, in Western philosophy at least, atheism is generally seen as being a more rational position than theism. Finally, I know the difference between right and wrong: I do not ignore my conscience when it comes to ethical questions.

    lol, in good discussions like this, we find a steady chain of enormous posts.
    It is a good discussion we're having, isn't it? It's one of the very oldest questions in human memory, so the chances of us settling it are exceptionally minuscule; it's certainly interesting to try, though!

    Peace

  15. #12
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Callum,
    Thanks for your post.

    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
    I'd still stand by my request for a miracle - not for every person, but it would certainly be more difficult to argue against god's existence if he performed miracles more frequently.
    But of course that wasn't the question - do you think this is the only reasonable evidence for God? At this point you have to assume that the Islamic belief system is true, and if it was, what would reasonable evidence of its veracity be? Delivering a miracle for every human being is not in accordance with any logical theory about God, Islam included. You said, maybe it doesn't have to be a miracle for everyone - well that wouldn't be fair, would it?

    I would say that the reason no "genuine" miracles have been witnessed for so long is that humanity's knowledge of how the laws of nature operate has advanced so much since Muhammad's (pbuh) time. Many more things would have been inexplicable then, and so it would be a straightforward step to attribute such things to a divine intervention.
    I'd accept your explanation if modern science had provided us with possible explanations for the miraculous occurances of the past. Of course it has provided no evidence for how Moses split the sea and travelled with the Children of Israel through it, nor how Jesus molded a clay bird which subsequently became alive, nor how Muhammad fed hundreds from a single serving of food - all these occurred by the permission of God.

    Does Allah want everyone to be believers, do you think?
    39:7 If you disbelieve, then verily, Allâh is not in need of you, although He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you.

    Hopefully that will provide you with the answer. God desires that human beings come to Him on their own without being forced, because that is far more beautiful and the struggle towards God brings out the best in man's characteristics.

    I'm not sure I was expressing agreement here. Just to be clear, I said "pervasive", not "persuasive".
    Maybe I misread that.

    In my example I was assuming that the mysterious "something else" in the place of electrons would be indistinguishable from them in every respect that we're able to detect.
    That wouldn't work - they would only have the same detectable characteristics, but many of the characteristics of electrons that have been theorised are based on the theoretical model of the electron, in concordance with experimental evidence. Yet, it is entirely possible to come up with an alternative concept that would exhibit the same outer characteristics while still having differences.

    Yes, but these difficulties are only experienced after birth, surely?
    Yes, but the psychological characteristics behind them are ingrained in every human being at birth.

    What about Buddhist societies?
    I believe that the beliefs in Buddhism deserve a more in-depth analysis which goes beyond the scope of this discussion. Briefly, what I will say here is that Buddhism is solely a spiritual philosophy, with many differing groups, it does not refer to any particular nation or civilization in history. Nor would it be appropriate to paint all Buddhists by the same brush, especially since Buddhism is mostly silent about the existence of God and in no way offers a clear rejection of God, though many Buddhists are atheists. And still in Buddhism we find many descriptions that seem suspiciously close to the image of one transcending deity:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_...ical_Doctrines

    We can discuss this further in a seperate thread, if you'd like. Yet the point remains that throughout history, belief in God has remained the predominent belief in every civilization. If human beings are born atheist, as you suggest, how do you explain this? Even if religions were being invented by liars, how is it possible that belief in God would be almost universal across the globe?

    You're right about me not being convinced by the overall theory. The punishment aspect is clear enough, but I don't really understand why Allah would want to perform a test of the type you describe.
    First, it should be clear that this is a matter beyond the theory itself. You asked for a theory that could explain the evil in the world and I gave it to you and you haven't provided any objections to it. As for why God would want to test human beings, then it should be clear that the human being has something in them more beautiful than the automatic obedience of angels. The human being can come to their Lord willingly, and struggle to recognize and love and worship Him, and in doing so this brings out the best characteristics in human beings. And this is only possible if there is evil against which such human beings must struggle against.

    Of course. The difference between us on these questions seems to be that, at a certain point, I'm happy to say "I don't know", or indeed "nobody knows".
    To me these answers (or rather non-answers) are an indication that atheism is not capable of providing a rational explanation for our universe, while Islam is. You were unable to answer my objections to your system of beliefs, yet I answered all your objections your raised against mine, for example the 'problem' of evil in the world. When one theory is capable of providing a comprehensive explanation for all the facts and the other one is not - which theory do we accept in science?

    And its not a matter of not having the information to answer the questions, I was asking for any possible rational explanation which atheism could provide for this. The fact that we are more than chemical bags contradicts atheist philosophy.

    If I was convinced by such a theory, I would have no hesitation in adopting it. The "knowledge...beyond science" that you speak of is confusing to me, since the word "science" comes from the Latin root scientia, which means "knowing". So to talk about "knowledge beyond knowing" seems odd.
    According to that definition of science, I am allowed to use terms such as 'Islamic sciences' and 'Qur'anic sciences' and 'Hadith sciences'. But that isn't the science I was referring to. I was referring to moving beyond simply experimental investigation and observation to inner-discovery, scriptural investigation and contemplation. Once we have confirmed through logic that Islam is the only comprehensive, logical and complete solution to our questions, then we study Islamic scripture to derive our knowledge from it.

    If you disagree that Islam is the only comprehensive, logical and complete solution to out questions, then did I not just prove that atheism was not a complete solution to our questions from the many questions that were left unanswered? Atheism does not provide us with a comprehensive and logical answer to our questions, and if you recognize that, I'd like you to admit it.

    That seems to be the most likely situation, but, as I keep saying, we don't have all the facts. Discoveries could yet be made which alter our thinking radically.
    That is the only situation currently for atheists. You have no reason to believe that we'll suddenly find information that will negate that notion for atheists. For an atheist, you seem to have a lot of faith in the unseen.

    OK, but any definition you'd care to give is inevitably conditioned by our own perceptions and the particular organisation of human sense-organs.
    Sure, but that doesn't mean we deny all other possible definitions.

    Is revealed religion a genuine attempt at discovery? As far as I can see, the revelations have happened in the past, and life after that is made to fit with them. Is objective discovery even possible through religious means in such a state of affairs?
    Once someone studies a religion and is confirmed of its truth, they move to the next step within that religion, and that is adhering to the legal code revealed.

    Even within the sphere of world religions, there are many contradictory explanations for the origin of the universe, life, how we should live and so on - they can't all be right, but they could all be wrong.
    True, they could all be wrong - even atheism. But we look for whichever theory is able to provide a complete, comprehensive and logical explanation for our universe, and the way I see it, there's only one - Islam.

    Who is to say all of that is not subjective?
    Do you really think that a sane person can actually believe that he has been not inspired - but revealed legal codes and rulings, stories of the previous prophets that no one knew of, descriptions of the day of resurrection, etc. You ask would he have been unaware of this? Yes, the stories he told such as the 'Ad and Thamud were not known to any people, whether they be Christians, Jews, Sabians, Zoroastrians or the Pagans of Makkah.

    You are suggesting that he came up with 600 pages of revelation through the subjective inclinations and feelings of his heart. Tell me, how does someone subjectively feel in their heart that God is telling them this:

    4:11 Allâh commands you as regards your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females; if (there are) only daughters, two or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is half. For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased left brothers or (sisters), the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts. You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit, (these fixed shares) are ordained by Allâh. And Allâh is Ever All Knower, All Wise.

    People can get simple ideas they believe may be inspired by God, such as 'God loves me', 'this is the right choice for me', 'I shouldn't do that' etc. But please tell me how someone can be so deluded as to come up with fractional inheritance shares on the basis of subjective inclinations!

    Muhammad's daily words differed so greatly from those of the Qur'an. Never before had he composed any poetry, he was known for only one work in his entrie life - the Qur'an. The Qur'an was memorized by his companions and his sayings were not. There was always a distinct difference that would come over him when he was receiving revelation - he would speak to an angel, or he would feel the tremendous feeling like the ringing of a bell. If you really wish to maintain the delusion hypothesis you would be left with no choice but to consider such a man insane. Yet the Qur'an can in no way be considered the work of an insane man by any reasonable person. Anyone having read the biography of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh finds the example of a person who was intelligent, loving, caring - all the best qualities a human being should have. He was not in any way insane.

    I'm still waiting for a reasonable explanation with regard to Prophet Muhammad pbuh, but unfortunately I'm not getting much of an answer from you, Callum.

    In the modern world, perhaps I would consider such a person insane, but I'd be wary of making such a judgment with regard to someone living 1400 years ago who made such claims. I think religious belief of such intensity would have been far more acceptable in those days.
    No matter where or what era a person is in, to come up with such ideas - no, not just ideas, but literal words containing rulings, that one believes is not one's own but God's - is either a lie, insanity, or the truth. Choose your pick.

    I'll leave it at that for now.
    Regards
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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.

  16. #13
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post
    But of course that wasn't the question - do you think this is the only reasonable evidence for God?
    You're now asking a different question. If god was objectively detectable, atheism would be a harder position to maintain. That detection could come through miracles or from any other means at his disposal.

    At this point you have to assume that the Islamic belief system is true, and if it was, what would reasonable evidence of its veracity be?
    Is that reasoning blatantly circular or am I misreading it?

    You said, maybe it doesn't have to be a miracle for everyone - well that wouldn't be fair, would it?
    Is god's present system of prolonged unwillingness to show himself fair? Has god ever been fair?

    I'd accept your explanation if modern science had provided us with possible explanations for the miraculous occurances of the past. Of course it has provided no evidence for how Moses split the sea and travelled with the Children of Israel through it, nor how Jesus molded a clay bird which subsequently became alive, nor how Muhammad fed hundreds from a single serving of food - all these occurred by the permission of God.
    What evidence is there that any of these things actually happened?

    39:7 If you disbelieve, then verily, Allâh is not in need of you, although He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you.

    Hopefully that will provide you with the answer.
    "He likes not disbelief for His slaves" indicates that he does want his slaves to believe. Is everyone automatically his slave, or only those who already believe? Also, why would Allah be "in need" of any human?

    God desires that human beings come to Him on their own without being forced, because that is far more beautiful and the struggle towards God brings out the best in man's characteristics.
    Is this mentioned in the Qur'an too?

    That wouldn't work - they would only have the same detectable characteristics, but many of the characteristics of electrons that have been theorised are based on the theoretical model of the electron, in concordance with experimental evidence.
    Right, and they remain theoretical.

    Yet, it is entirely possible to come up with an alternative concept that would exhibit the same outer characteristics while still having differences.
    True, and that's what I proposed in my original example.

    Yes, but the psychological characteristics behind them are ingrained in every human being at birth.
    How do you know this?

    I believe that the beliefs in Buddhism deserve a more in-depth analysis which goes beyond the scope of this discussion. Briefly, what I will say here is that Buddhism is solely a spiritual philosophy, with many differing groups, it does not refer to any particular nation or civilization in history. Nor would it be appropriate to paint all Buddhists by the same brush, especially since Buddhism is mostly silent about the existence of God and in no way offers a clear rejection of God, though many Buddhists are atheists. And still in Buddhism we find many descriptions that seem suspiciously close to the image of one transcending deity:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_...ical_Doctrines
    This is all true, but none of it negates the fact that, as you say, many Buddhists are atheists. Therefore, Buddhist communities exist which are (explicitly or implicitly) atheist in character. This is the point I was making.

    If human beings are born atheist, as you suggest, how do you explain this? Even if religions were being invented by liars, how is it possible that belief in God would be almost universal across the globe?
    People are born atheist, and the concept of god is introduced to them during their development. Also, is it necessarily the same god that all these societies believe in? Think of all the gods that have existed which people no longer believe in. Who is to say that the gods people worship today will not follow the same fate? Have a look at this article by the American journalist H. L. Mencken:

    Memorial Service

    As for why God would want to test human beings, then it should be clear that the human being has something in them more beautiful than the automatic obedience of angels. The human being can come to their Lord willingly, and struggle to recognize and love and worship Him, and in doing so this brings out the best characteristics in human beings. And this is only possible if there is evil against which such human beings must struggle against.
    Ansar, none of this is empirical, testable or observable in any way. When your explanation begins by comparing humans to angels, forgive me if I disagree. What you are talking about does not even begin to count as a theory - you're just making unfounded assertions to back up your initial premise. This does not count as a valid argument in any way.

    To me these answers (or rather non-answers) are an indication that atheism is not capable of providing a rational explanation for our universe, while Islam is.
    There is no complete and rational explanation for the universe, whatever such a thing may be. The fact that atheism can't entirely explain the universe is hardly a shortcoming - no viewpoint can, at present.

    You were unable to answer my objections to your system of beliefs, yet I answered all your objections your raised against mine, for example the 'problem' of evil in the world.
    What objections have I failed to answer?

    You may believe you have satisfactorily solved the problem of evil - in your own mind, you clearly have. However, I am still not convinced. Do you think this is because I am being stupid, or wilfully perverse? Your solutions to the problem consist of baseless assertions which would only convince a believer.

    When one theory is capable of providing a comprehensive explanation for all the facts and the other one is not - which theory do we accept in science?
    One which provides a complete explanation and is falsifiable. If Islam genuinely was the complete rational explanation for everything in the universe, surely every scientist would be a Muslim by now?

    And its not a matter of not having the information to answer the questions, I was asking for any possible rational explanation which atheism could provide for this. The fact that we are more than chemical bags contradicts atheist philosophy.
    Not so. What you're arguing against here is in fact determinism, not atheism. Your words here are a classic example of the straw man fallacy.

    According to that definition of science, I am allowed to use terms such as 'Islamic sciences' and 'Qur'anic sciences' and 'Hadith sciences'. But that isn't the science I was referring to. I was referring to moving beyond simply experimental investigation and observation to inner-discovery, scriptural investigation and contemplation.
    None of which constitutes knowledge in the strict sense.

    Once we have confirmed through logic that Islam is the only comprehensive, logical and complete solution to our questions, then we study Islamic scripture to derive our knowledge from it.
    Adopting the Islamic belief system is a choice, it is not a matter of logic. If it were, then it would be a simple matter for a believer to prove its validity to someone like me.

    If you disagree that Islam is the only comprehensive, logical and complete solution to out questions, then did I not just prove that atheism was not a complete solution to our questions from the many questions that were left unanswered? Atheism does not provide us with a comprehensive and logical answer to our questions, and if you recognize that, I'd like you to admit it.
    Ansar, I think at some point quite recently you must have decided to stop reading my posts carefully before responding. I've mentioned several times that there remain many unanswered questions; moreover, I've never claimed that atheism does offer a complete answer to all these unanswered questions - it's simply a metaphysical position.

    You have no reason to believe that we'll suddenly find information that will negate that notion for atheists.
    If you examine the history of science, you will find that important discoveries can often cause paradigm shifts in prevailing belief-systems. It's always possible, no matter how unlikely it may seem to us now, that future discoveries will have this effect upon atheists.

    For an atheist, you seem to have a lot of faith in the unseen.
    I'm not sure what you mean here.

    Sure, but that doesn't mean we deny all other possible definitions.
    I'm not sure what you mean here, either.

    Once someone studies a religion and is confirmed of its truth, they move to the next step within that religion, and that is adhering to the legal code revealed.
    Right, but does any of this constitute objective discovery?

    Do you really think that a sane person can actually believe that he has been not inspired - but revealed legal codes and rulings, stories of the previous prophets that no one knew of, descriptions of the day of resurrection, etc. You ask would he have been unaware of this? Yes, the stories he told such as the 'Ad and Thamud were not known to any people, whether they be Christians, Jews, Sabians, Zoroastrians or the Pagans of Makkah.
    He told stories of the previous prophets that no-one knew of? So who is to say that they were not fictional?

    The day of resurrection is something prophesied by Muhammad (pbuh). Prophets have often made predictions of this kind, and I see nothing extraordinary in his having done so, nor that such a thing would necessarily mean he was insane.

    People can get simple ideas they believe may be inspired by God, such as 'God loves me', 'this is the right choice for me', 'I shouldn't do that' etc. But please tell me how someone can be so deluded as to come up with fractional inheritance shares on the basis of subjective inclinations!
    Since I have never experienced god in any way, I am unable to explain how someone could believe god is telling them certain things. The possibilities are endless: maybe he thought those particular inheritance shares were the best way of dealing with the issue. God would only want the best, so it must have been god's will that they were instituted; maybe he made up whatever rulings seemed most reasonable to him and attributed them to god. I don't know why you expect me to be able to explain his thought processes here.

    The Qur'an was memorized by his companions and his sayings were not.
    How were his sayings recorded for posterity?

    If you really wish to maintain the delusion hypothesis you would be left with no choice but to consider such a man insane. Yet the Qur'an can in no way be considered the work of an insane man by any reasonable person. Anyone having read the biography of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh finds the example of a person who was intelligent, loving, caring - all the best qualities a human being should have. He was not in any way insane.
    Insanity is a medical category that has only been created relatively recently in parallel with theories of mental illness. Certain behaviours which we would now call "insane" may well have been attributed in the past to divine interventions, but I'm not prepared to describe Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as insane (though you seem keen for me to do so), since to do that would be anachronistic.

    He believed he was receiving revelations from god, and he put forward these revelations to people. This is what is known. Whether he made them up himself and attributed them to god, or had dreams that inspired them I really don't know. Both of those are possible, I suppose.

    (With regard to the link you provided, I should mention a few things: of course, the writers' descriptions of Muhammad (pbuh) seem fair enough - I would have no argument with them. Their high opinion of him did not stop some of them from being atheists, such as Edward Gibbon and Bernard Shaw. Also, Thomas Carlyle found himself struggling to continue believing in god in the intellectual atmosphere of his time. As an aside, some of the dates given by various quotes are liable to cause confusion: the dates 1823 and 1870 are given next to quotes by Edward Gibbon, but since he lived from 1737 to 1794 it's not possible for him to have made those statements at those times, so you might want to have those changed.)

    No matter where or what era a person is in, to come up with such ideas - no, not just ideas, but literal words containing rulings, that one believes is not one's own but God's - is either a lie, insanity, or the truth. Choose your pick.
    Delusion, or unconscious lying, seems to me to be the most likely explanation. Or perhaps he was consciously lying on certain points - how can I tell that he firmly believed everything in the Qur'an was from god? Maybe he put some of his own ideas or prejudices in there as well. At a distance of 1400 years, and bearing in mind that so many people have a vested interest in believing his prophetic work to be the truth in its entirety, it's very difficult for an outsider to tell.

    Peace
    Last edited by czgibson; 11-05-2005 at 11:10 PM.

  17. #14
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Callum,
    It seems that in many places here we're starting to go in circles and I'm repeating the same points over and over again. I'm also finding that in many places the original point has been lost and we find ourselves getting frustrated about an apparent gap in communication. So, I'm going to write this post a little differently so that I can re-emphasize the main points.

    The first question was: If God existed, what would be reasonable evidence of His existence? Now for you to answer this question you have to go by the same definition of 'God'. It doesn't make sense for you to say, "God's death would be reasonable evidence that He existed" because if He was God He wouldn't die in the first place! So the point here is that you cannot place such unreasonable limits on acceptable evidence for God. The evidence that you propose as reasonable should be logically consistent with the definition of God we are discussing. So to say that God should show some people miracles and not others is also inconsistent, since part of the definition of God here is that He is the Most Just, the Most fair.

    At several stages in this discussion you seem to have missed or forgotten the original point. For example, you mentioned that the reason why miracles occur 'less' today is because science has progressed so less things seem miraculous. I countered that point by mentioning that the miracles that happened thousands of years agao would be just as miraculous if they happened today, such as the splitting of the sea. At which point you asked:
    What evidence is there that any of these things actually happened?
    It seems you have completely missed the point here! I never was trying to prove that such miraculous occurances happened. I was disproving your claim that advancement in science has resulted in a decrease in things being considered 'miraculous', because I pointed out that science still has not and cannot explain the miraculous occurances that happened in the past. So no one believed in these occurances because of lack of scientific knowledge as you have tried to claim! This is just one example where you've changed the discussion completely.

    And yes, God would like His servants/slaves (creation) to believe, but He is not going to force them into belief. It is for every human being to open their heart to God and look for a deeper meaning in life beyond the purposelessness of determinism.

    Which brings me to the next point. You believe that we are more than just mere bags of chemical reactions, even though from an atheist perspective, this is the only logical conclusion. Whenever I confront you on these issues, rather than admitting that yes, from what we know this is the only logical solution, you place your faith in some future discoveries that have not occured, and assert that we just don't know yet. True, we don't know yet but from where we stand now, you have advocated a position (atheism) that logically leads to determinism. Why do you choose to advocate such a theory concerning the universe when it fails to explain the universe and requires that you place so much faith in a mythical future discovery that will suddenly come out of nowhere and answer all my objections which you left unanswered. Which objections? Everyone for which you responded, "No one knows" or "It is unexplained". Imagine, what it would mean to you if you showed a theist your 'problem' of evil, and asked him to solve it, and he said, 'it remains unexplained'. You'd pounce on him and take that as evidence of his failure to provide a complete and rational explanation. Yet, you do the exact same thing when I point out my objections to your worldview.

    Now about civilizations. I made the point that every major civilization in the world, no matter how isolated geographically or chronologically, has always maintained some form of belief in a single supreme deity in control abvove all others. How can you explain this if people are born atheists? If that were truly the case, then why would we have an unbroken chain of belief in God, from all around the world, dating far back in time. Where did this belief come from? You said that people are introduced to the concept of God during their development - who introduces them to this concept, and why would such people believe in the concept to begin?

    You provided an article discussing 'dead' Gods. It is not a matter of gods dying, the fact is that everyone believes in the same Supreme Being, but knows Him by different names. So if one particular group that used to call Him by 'Tloquenuahauqe' dies out, that doesn't mean that 'Tloquenuahauqe had died. Moreover, the gods listed in the link are minor gods. According to the Old Testament, the word 'God' was used very freely, any rigtous person was considered a 'god'.

    Next, I pointed out that Islam is the only complete rational explanation for everything in the universe. When you began to ask questions about it, and I gave you the Islamic philosophy that explained away your objections, you complained that the things being mentioned weren't empirical or testable! Again, this is like the previous example I gave where you're changing the debate completely. If I can provide an explanation to your objection to belief in God, then you're objection stands resolved. It's as simple as that. Whether my explanation is observable or empirical is totally irrrelevant. How can you claim that my explanation which resolves your objection is invalid because it's not testable?!

    There is no complete and rational explanation for the universe, whatever such a thing may be. The fact that atheism can't entirely explain the universe is hardly a shortcoming - no viewpoint can, at present.
    I maintain that Islam can, and I have answered your objection on the problem of evil. Now you didn't accept my explanation, and that's fine. But, you have to show me how my explanation fails. I explained why there is evil, and you just dropped the objection but still maintained that I couldn't answer it! You have to tell me why my answer is deficient.

    Do you think this is because I am being stupid, or wilfully perverse? Your solutions to the problem consist of baseless assertions which would only convince a believer.
    Again, you're committing the same logical fallacy that I've pointed out here twice before. You're confusing two seperate issues: on one hand there is the issue of proving Islam, and on the other hand there is the issue of determining whether Islam is successfully able to provide a complete and rational answer. Your claim was that belief in God failed when it came to the problem of evil. I answered your 'problem of evil' and instead of showing me something wrong with my answer, you rejected it because you said it wasn't testable! I'm not asking you to accept my answer, but the least you can do is accept that I have provided a rational explanation which resolves your objection.
    Consider the example of the doctor and the patient. Doctor diagnoses patient with disease Q due to symtoms. Patient objects and argues that he does not really have disease Q. Patient states that the Doctor' is incapable of answering the Patient's objection to the existence of the disease. Doctor answers patient's objection. Patient maintains that the Doctor in unable to answer the patient's objection because the doctor hasn't proven to the patient the doctor's answer.
    Like the patient, you're confusing providing an answer with proving that answer.

    A point to note here: when I say 'atheism' and speak of it as an explanation for the universe, I'm not simply referring to the position on the non-existence of God. I'm referring to that position and all the logical conclusions and explanations that result from it. Hence, I include evolution and abiogenesis for example, in the theory of atheism, as well.

    If Islam genuinely was the complete rational explanation for everything in the universe, surely every scientist would be a Muslim by now?
    That's a terrible argument! You're assuming that every scientist has had Islam explained to them in a clear, logical and thorough manner! And did I not repeatedly emphasize that only the sincere seeker of truth would be guided?

    Now, concerning Prophet Muhammad pbuh.
    He told stories of the previous prophets that no-one knew of? So who is to say that they were not fictional?
    That's what I've been trying to ask you all along! Do you think that he was just a liar and made up all this? Or do you think he was insane and imagined up all these things?

    Since I have never experienced god in any way, I am unable to explain how someone could believe god is telling them certain things. The possibilities are endless: maybe he thought those particular inheritance shares were the best way of dealing with the issue. God would only want the best, so it must have been god's will that they were instituted; maybe he made up whatever rulings seemed most reasonable to him and attributed them to god.
    So then he was a liar? How is it possible that he would arbitraily make up such rules on the basis of what he thought was right, and then claim that it was not inspired by God, but revealed by God? And in light of this, how do we explain the following verses?

    2:79. Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say, "This is from Allâh," to purchase with it a little price! Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for that they earn thereby.

    39:60. And on the Day of Resurrection you will see those who lied against Allâh their faces will be black. Is there not in Hell an abode for the arrogant ones?

    69:44-47. And if he (Muhammad ) had forged a false saying concerning Us (Allâh), We surely should have seized him by his right hand (or with power and might), And then certainly should have cut off his life artery (Aorta), And none of you could withhold Us from (punishing) him.


    If he was really just relying on the subjective inclinations of his heart, on what he felt were rulings of God, then how on earth would he have the audacity to claim that he was uttering the literal word of God and that if he said even the slightest thing that was not in accordance with God he would be destroyed. At such a point you must claim that he is either a liar or insane [or truthful, which is the only reasonable position here]. How on earth does someone 'imagine' an angel visitng them regularly at night and reciting the verses in arabic with them.

    Consider another example. In the Qur'an, Maryam, the mother of Jesus, is praised continuously for being the best of women (eg. 66:12). There is no mention of the Prophet's first wife Khadija whom he loved more than anyone else and constantly thought about her even after his death. She was so dear to him - surely if he was relying on the subjective inclinations of his heart he would have praised her in the Qur'an, not Maryam. But he didn't.

    I don't know why you expect me to be able to explain his thought processes here.
    I don't know why you feel you shouldn't have to support your argument if you maintain he was deluded.

    Delusion, or unconscious lying, seems to me to be the most likely explanation. Or perhaps he was consciously lying on certain points - how can I tell that he firmly believed everything in the Qur'an was from god? Maybe he put some of his own ideas or prejudices in there as well. At a distance of 1400 years, and bearing in mind that so many people have a vested interest in believing his prophetic work to be the truth in its entirety, it's very difficult for an outsider to tell.
    I knew you wouldn't be able to rationally support your argument for delusion so now you've switched to liar. This is possible an even more illogical position to maintain as Muhammad called to a religion of morality and was harshest against the liars! He maintained that liars would have blackened faces on the day of resurrection (39:60) and there are thousands of ahadith I could show you condemining the liars. He once said abot what he witnessed in his vision:
    "Then we came upon a man who was lying flat on his back, and another man was standing by him, holding an iron rod. With that rod, he would rip apart his cheek right up to the back of his neck and then did the same for the eye. Then he did the same for the other one. Even before he completed ripping, the other side would repair itself and then he would do it again. This would go until the day of resurrection. I asked who this man was and was told that this is a person who used to spread falsehood from the moment he stepped out of his house in the morning." (Sahih Bukhari).

    In light of this, how can anyone claim that he was that person spreading falsehood from the start of every day? And why would Prophet Muhammad endure all the torture that I pointed out to you and refuse the most noble positions amongst his people - for what? For a lie?!
    Clearly this is not a rational position.

    I'd like to summarize the main arguments here in my post:
    1. You've been unable to provide an example of reasonable evidence for God that would be consistent with the concept of God itself. Thus, how can one complain about absence of evidence when they have not decided what reasonable evidence would be? How can one compalin about an absence of evidence if they have set limits on the evidence that conflict with the concept of God (eg. "If God died, that would be reasonable evidence")

    2. I have answered your problem of evil from an Islamic standpoint and explained why it is not a problem. If you feel that your objection is not resolved, you must point out to me where my explanation fails. You cannot claim that your question is unanswered simply because I haven't proven the premise of my answer. Besides, your objection against God is built on the same premise as my answer to your objection! (the premise being the existence of God). So you cannot claim my answer is simply invalid because its not testable, you have to show me specifically where my answer fails.

    3. Your were unable to answer my objections to atheism, the first being that atheism necessitates determinism. You simply shrugged this objection off with a "We just don't know yet". Since you haven't provided me with an explanation with how we can be more than mere chemical bags of reactions according to atheism, I think it's fair to say that you haven't answered my objections.
    On the basis of the above two arguments, I maintain that Islam is the only complete and rational explanation for the universe, while atheism fails to answer these objections.
    4. Another minor point raised here is that if you believe people are born atheist (i.e. it is the natural position for human beings), then how do you explain the fact that belief in one Supreme Deity has completely dominated practically every civilization across the globe in our history. Secondly, if atheism is the disbelief in God, how can someone be born believing that God does not exist?!

    5. The last point concerns Prophet Muhammad pbuh. You have still not been able to provide a ration explanation behind his mission. Why would he go through all that suffering? You simply don't have a rational explanation. Out of the three possibilties (liar, insane, or truthful) the latter is the only logical position to maintain.
    I would appreciate it if we could focus on these five arguments in upcoming discussion as it will hopefully prevent us from going off on various tangents and then losing the original point which can be frustrating for both of us.

    Warm regards.
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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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  19. #15
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post
    Hello Callum,
    It seems that in many places here we're starting to go in circles and I'm repeating the same points over and over again. I'm also finding that in many places the original point has been lost and we find ourselves getting frustrated about an apparent gap in communication.
    You're right. It's getting a little tedious since we're both repeating ourselves.

    The first question was: If God existed, what would be reasonable evidence of His existence? Now for you to answer this question you have to go by the same definition of 'God'. It doesn't make sense for you to say, "God's death would be reasonable evidence that He existed" because if He was God He wouldn't die in the first place!
    OK. I don't remember saying this.

    So the point here is that you cannot place such unreasonable limits on acceptable evidence for God. The evidence that you propose as reasonable should be logically consistent with the definition of God we are discussing. So to say that God should show some people miracles and not others is also inconsistent, since part of the definition of God here is that He is the Most Just, the Most fair.
    Well, it is your position that god has shown miracles to some and not to others, isn't it?

    It seems you have completely missed the point here! I never was trying to prove that such miraculous occurances happened.
    You were asserting that they happened as part of your argument, no?

    So no one believed in these occurances because of lack of scientific knowledge as you have tried to claim!
    I believe that they did.

    Which brings me to the next point. You believe that we are more than just mere bags of chemical reactions, even though from an atheist perspective, this is the only logical conclusion.
    Not so. Again you are presenting a false picture of atheism, which I've tried to disabuse you of, but you don't seem prepared to listen.

    Whenever I confront you on these issues, rather than admitting that yes, from what we know this is the only logical solution, you place your faith in some future discoveries that have not occured, and assert that we just don't know yet.
    Because this is the way science works. In a strict sense, absolute knowledge is not possible. We know certain things are not the case; the best we can say for positive assertions we believe to be true is that they haven't been proven wrong yet.

    True, we don't know yet but from where we stand now, you have advocated a position (atheism) that logically leads to determinism.
    Again, not so.

    Why do you choose to advocate such a theory concerning the universe when it fails to explain the universe and requires that you place so much faith in a mythical future discovery that will suddenly come out of nowhere and answer all my objections which you left unanswered.
    Atheism as a belief has never claimed to be able to explain the universe.

    Which objections? Everyone for which you responded, "No one knows" or "It is unexplained".
    You may think you know the answers to these questions, but in fact nobody does. If you wish to continue believing you have the correct answers, fine. You do not have knowledge in this regard, you simply have assertions based on faith and nothing more.

    Imagine, what it would mean to you if you showed a theist your 'problem' of evil, and asked him to solve it, and he said, 'it remains unexplained'. You'd pounce on him and take that as evidence of his failure to provide a complete and rational explanation. Yet, you do the exact same thing when I point out my objections to your worldview.
    True, I would pounce on him. Theists and religious people in general claim to be able to explain why the universe is here and what the purpose of life is. I do not.

    Now about civilizations. I made the point that every major civilization in the world, no matter how isolated geographically or chronologically, has always maintained some form of belief in a single supreme deity in control abvove all others. How can you explain this if people are born atheists? If that were truly the case, then why would we have an unbroken chain of belief in God, from all around the world, dating far back in time. Where did this belief come from? You said that people are introduced to the concept of God during their development - who introduces them to this concept, and why would such people believe in the concept to begin?
    I think we've been through this on the development of theism thread.

    You provided an article discussing 'dead' Gods. It is not a matter of gods dying, the fact is that everyone believes in the same Supreme Being, but knows Him by different names. So if one particular group that used to call Him by 'Tloquenuahauqe' dies out, that doesn't mean that 'Tloquenuahauqe had died. Moreover, the gods listed in the link are minor gods. According to the Old Testament, the word 'God' was used very freely, any rigtous person was considered a 'god'.
    Can you see the contradiction there?

    Next, I pointed out that Islam is the only complete rational explanation for everything in the universe. When you began to ask questions about it, and I gave you the Islamic philosophy that explained away your objections, you complained that the things being mentioned weren't empirical or testable! Again, this is like the previous example I gave where you're changing the debate completely. If I can provide an explanation to your objection to belief in God, then you're objection stands resolved. It's as simple as that.
    That is a ludicrous oversimplification, and I beg to differ. Your explanation may be satisfactory to you, but that is because you believe in god, angels and all sorts of other things already. Simply providing an explanation doesn't answer all objections - it has to be a good explanation that can be objectively verified.

    Whether my explanation is observable or empirical is totally irrrelevant. How can you claim that my explanation which resolves your objection is invalid because it's not testable?!
    It's an appeal to objectivity - i.e. your explanation should be able to convince someone even if they are not already a believer.

    I maintain that Islam can, and I have answered your objection on the problem of evil. Now you didn't accept my explanation, and that's fine. But, you have to show me how my explanation fails. I explained why there is evil, and you just dropped the objection but still maintained that I couldn't answer it! You have to tell me why my answer is deficient.
    I've tried to do this several times, but you don't seem to have noticed.

    Again, you're committing the same logical fallacy that I've pointed out here twice before. You're confusing two seperate issues: on one hand there is the issue of proving Islam, and on the other hand there is the issue of determining whether Islam is successfully able to provide a complete and rational answer.
    How are these two separate issues?

    Your claim was that belief in God failed when it came to the problem of evil. I answered your 'problem of evil' and instead of showing me something wrong with my answer, you rejected it because you said it wasn't testable! I'm not asking you to accept my answer, but the least you can do is accept that I have provided a rational explanation which resolves your objection.
    If it were indeed a rational answer, it would be objective / empirical / testable / based on pure logic and not on faith. Furthermore, if it were a rational answer, I would accept it.

    Like the patient, you're confusing providing an answer with proving that answer.
    This comes back to the argument from authority. Do you expect me just to accept your answer on trust, without asking any questions? As well as providing an answer, I was hoping you'd be able to convince me as well.

    A point to note here: when I say 'atheism' and speak of it as an explanation for the universe, I'm not simply referring to the position on the non-existence of God. I'm referring to that position and all the logical conclusions and explanations that result from it. Hence, I include evolution and abiogenesis for example, in the theory of atheism, as well.
    Well, evolution does not necessarily follow logically from atheism, does it? Evolution is a theory, atheism is a belief. There are many theists who believe in evolution, too. I don't know where you've got these "logical conclusions" from.

    You're assuming that every scientist has had Islam explained to them in a clear, logical and thorough manner! And did I not repeatedly emphasize that only the sincere seeker of truth would be guided?
    Rationality and logic do not depend on people being sincere seekers of truth. Rational truth is self-evident, and requires no striving in the sense you're talking about.

    Now, concerning Prophet Muhammad pbuh.

    I don't know why you feel you shouldn't have to support your argument if you maintain he was deluded.
    It's not really an argument, it's just a belief. Either he was deluded, or he was a liar, or some combination of the two - I really don't know. You claim your position is more rational, but since you invoke angels to support your belief I find this impossible to credit.

    You'd like me to explain the harshness meted out to liars in the Qur'an - this would be an obvious thing to do if someone wanted to distract attention from themselves.

    He once said abot what he witnessed in his vision:
    "Then we came upon a man who was lying flat on his back, and another man was standing by him, holding an iron rod. With that rod, he would rip apart his cheek right up to the back of his neck and then did the same for the eye. Then he did the same for the other one. Even before he completed ripping, the other side would repair itself and then he would do it again. This would go until the day of resurrection. I asked who this man was and was told that this is a person who used to spread falsehood from the moment he stepped out of his house in the morning." (Sahih Bukhari).
    Sometimes people are only impressed by a brutal, gruesome story like this.

    Peace

  20. #16
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Callum,
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
    OK. I don't remember saying this.
    It was an example.

    Well, it is your position that god has shown miracles to some and not to others, isn't it?
    First, I wasn't claiming that miracles are reasonable evidence for God. Second, yes we have miracles too - the Qur'an.

    I believe that they did.
    Okay, let me try this again, wording it slightly differently.

    Claim (from Callum): Miraculous occurences were percieved due to lack of scientific knowledge.
    Premise: Scientific knowledge provides a rational explanation for those things previously considered miracles.
    Response (from Ansar Al-'Adl): It doesn't. The miracles of the past such as the splitting of the sea, etc. have still not been explained by science.

    Now it's okay if you don't believe that these miracles happened. But why would you make such a claim in the first place? To make such a claim entails that science has made some discoveries that provide a rational explanation for those things previously considered miracles. As I've shown, it hasn't provided a rational explanation.

    As for determinism and atheism, I'm sorry that you feel that I'm 'not preapred to listen'. Could you please point out for me [again?] why determinsim is not the only logical conclusion from atheism based on our current knowledge?

    Can you see the contradiction there?
    What I meant by minor gods is that in polytheistic nations, they had numerous minor deities but they still believed in one major sumpreme deity who ruled over all their minor ones.

    That is a ludicrous oversimplification, and I beg to differ. Your explanation may be satisfactory to you, but that is because you believe in god, angels and all sorts of other things already. Simply providing an explanation doesn't answer all objections - it has to be a good explanation that can be objectively verified.
    I disagree, and I'll explain why. The problem of evil and other such atheist objection to God begin with a supposition. For example, the God-rock analogy begins by stating, "Supposing God was omnipotent, could He create a rock so big that He couldn't lift it?" (answered here). Now if a theist comes along and resolves the problem by elaborating on the concept of God's omnipotence, the atheist cannot claim that the objection is not resolved because the theist's answer involved God - a non-testable entity! i.e. the atheist cannot say that the objection is unanswered simply because God's existence has not been proven; the reason is because the entire objection was based on the supposition that God existed and that He was omnipotent.

    Similarly, you objected to God on the basis of the problem of evil as expounded by Epicurus. But your objection begins with the supposition that God exists in order to prove that His existence is illogical. You can't reject my answer on the basis of it containing unproven entities like God and Angels, since your objection contains God as well! The point of the objection is to prove that the concept of God is illogical by beginning with the suppositon that He exists. This is a method known as reductio ad absurdum (aka. proof by contradiction).
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/r/reductio.htm

    So by beginning with the supposition, one proceeds to either prove it or disprove it by considering all the logical possibilites that arise from the supposition. This is exactly what Epicurus has tried to do.

    Premise - Evil exists.
    Supposition - God exists.

    Possibilties:
    a. He is willing to remove evil, but unable.
    b. He is able but not willing.
    c. He is both willing and able.
    d. He is neither willing nor able.
    Thus, this is the summary of your objection. I resolved the objection by pointing out that b was the correct possibilty but Epicurus's conclusion that this would mean He is malevolent was incorrect since He has entrusted the duty to us, and I brought the concept of punishment and tests in as well. Thus, I disproved Epicurus's conclusion that God would be malevolent in the event of possibility b, and consequently I resolved the objection. Now, you can't claim that I haven't resolved the objection simply because I haven't proved the existence of God! That was the supposition upon which the objection was built!

    Hope we're clear on this now. If you attempt to disprove X by way of proof by contradiction and create an objection in this manner, then if I resolve your contradiction, you cannot claim that the objection is unresolved because I haven't proven the validity of X. Proving X and disproving your objection to X are two different matters.

    Coming to the subject of Prophet Muhammad pbuh.
    It's not really an argument, it's just a belief.
    Are you saying you shouldn't have to provide a rational explanation to support your belief? :confused:

    Again, I maintain that the only rational position with regard to Prophet Muhammad pbuh is that he was truly what he claimed to be. The only other possibiltiies are illogical.

    You claim your position is more rational, but since you invoke angels to support your belief I find this impossible to credit.
    By disproving all other possibilities, we are left with the logical conclusion that he must have been truthful. After arriving at this conclusion we accept the metaphysical concepts that he preached.

    You'd like me to explain the harshness meted out to liars in the Qur'an - this would be an obvious thing to do if someone wanted to distract attention from themselves.
    Okay, assuming he was a liar (another example of a supposition used for an objection) - if that were the case you'd have to explain why he would go through all that suffering for a lie. You'd have to explain why someone immoral (a liar) would strive so hard to bring morality into the world and condemn lying so severely. You'd have to explain why they would not use their claims to support their desires. You'd have to explain that after all their successful following why they would continue to live in poverty, sleeping on a mat of straws. You'd have to explain how someone who was famous for his honesty and trustworthiness for 40 years would suddenyl turn around, begin spreading lies, and persevere through so much persecution for lies, turning away all the benefits of this worldly life.

    You were much closer when you said he must have truly believed in what he was preaching to be the truth.
    Sometimes people are only impressed by a brutal, gruesome story like this.
    It is not a matter of impressing others. The symbolic vision of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh is meant to illustrate the gravity of the crime of lying.

    Warm Regards
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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.

  21. #17
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Ansar,

    Sorry for the delay - school is very busy! I'll have to be brief, so I apologise in advance if I sound brusque in any of this...
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post
    Now it's okay if you don't believe that these miracles happened. But why would you make such a claim in the first place?
    I'm not categorically stating "these things never happened". It just seems to me that the evidence for them having happened is thin.

    To make such a claim entails that science has made some discoveries that provide a rational explanation for those things previously considered miracles.
    Not necessarily, since you're still assuming that they did in fact happen.

    As for determinism and atheism, I'm sorry that you feel that I'm 'not preapred to listen'. Could you please point out for me [again?] why determinsim is not the only logical conclusion from atheism based on our current knowledge?
    You're right that atheism does seem to imply determinism, but this is not a matter of pure logic since discoveries have been made in the past that have upset our previous belief systems, and there is no reason to suppose that that will not happen again. Also, since many aspects of our experience seem to contradict determinism, it does not appear to be a complete or satisfactory position.

    Thus, this is the summary of your objection. I resolved the objection by pointing out that b was the correct possibilty but Epicurus's conclusion that this would mean He is malevolent was incorrect since He has entrusted the duty to us, and I brought the concept of punishment and tests in as well. Thus, I disproved Epicurus's conclusion that God would be malevolent in the event of possibility b, and consequently I resolved the objection. Now, you can't claim that I haven't resolved the objection simply because I haven't proved the existence of God! That was the supposition upon which the objection was built!
    You're right about the stone paradox, and you've proven me wrong on that one before, but I can't agree over the problem of evil. What you've done here is to add to the definition of god by saying that he has "entrusted that duty to us", which is not something I've assumed.

    Are you saying you shouldn't have to provide a rational explanation to support your belief? :confused:
    The only "rational" argument I can put forward here is that the whole situation seems unbelievable to me. It's not really a question of logic or rationality, we're talking about beliefs here.

    Okay, assuming he was a liar (another example of a supposition used for an objection) - if that were the case you'd have to explain why he would go through all that suffering for a lie. You'd have to explain why someone immoral (a liar) would strive so hard to bring morality into the world and condemn lying so severely.
    I'm not saying the Prophet (pbuh) was immoral per se, just that he told (white?) lies in order to promote what he saw as the greater good. Besides, many immoral people have instituted their own moral systems, no?

    Peace

  22. #18
    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Callum ,
    Welcome back!
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
    Sorry for the delay - school is very busy! I'll have to be brief, so I apologise in advance if I sound brusque in any of this...
    No problem, I understand and I hope everything is well with you.

    Not necessarily, since you're still assuming that they did in fact happen.
    I'm afraid I didn't get that point, sorry. I'm not sure how the above quote relates to what I said.

    You're right that atheism does seem to imply determinism, but this is not a matter of pure logic since discoveries have been made in the past that have upset our previous belief systems, and there is no reason to suppose that that will not happen again.
    But discoveries in the past falsified one theory amongst many, causing scientisist to turn to an alternative theory. To me it seems that if you falsify determinsim, atheism goes down with it unless there is an alternative theory which is also compatible with atheism. If there is such a theory, could you point it out to me?


    You're right about the stone paradox, and you've proven me wrong on that one before, but I can't agree over the problem of evil. What you've done here is to add to the definition of god by saying that he has "entrusted that duty to us", which is not something I've assumed.
    The fact that you were arguing against a different definition (perhaps concept is a better word) of God is not my problem. Besides, you advanced the problem of evil as an objection to the Islamic concept of God, didn't you? If not, then there is no point to your objection since I do not accept the Non-muslim concept of God, anyway. So you claimed the problem of evil to be an objection to the Islamic concept of God, and I resolved your objection by simply explaining the Islamic concept of God.

    Thus, these are the two possibilites:
    -either your objection was specific towards a non-muslim concept of God and not the Islamic concept of God. If it was, then I agree your objection remains unresolved but it poses no problem to me or to islamic beliefs since I accept only the Islamic concept of God. Thus, your objection would be non-existent in temrs of Islam, and your argument against the Islamic concept of God would be reduced to a strawman fallacy.
    -or, your objection was towards the Islamic concept of God, in which case that concept was included as your supposition and I resolved the problem by elaborating on the Islamic concept of God.

    Either way you put it, I've resolved the objection from an Islamic perspective. The problem of evil does not exist in Islam.

    The only "rational" argument I can put forward here is that the whole situation seems unbelievable to me.
    What makes it unbelievable? The fact that it contradicts your belief system (atheism)? Perhaps in light of the Prophethood of Muhammad saws, you need to re-evaluate your belief system?

    I'm not saying the Prophet (pbuh) was immoral per se, just that he told (white?) lies in order to promote what he saw as the greater good. Besides, many immoral people have instituted their own moral systems, no?
    That still doesn't answer the objections I put forward. If he conciously invented these lies against God then he wasn't doing a good thing by falsely misleading others into something that caused their persecution and torture. Someone would have to be extremely evil and corrupt to do such a thing.

    Peace!
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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.

  23. #19
    czgibson's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hello Ansar,
    Quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl View Post
    I'm afraid I didn't get that point, sorry. I'm not sure how the above quote relates to what I said.
    My point was simply that if these events did not happen, then there would be nothing to explain.

    But discoveries in the past falsified one theory amongst many, causing scientisist to turn to an alternative theory. To me it seems that if you falsify determinsim, atheism goes down with it unless there is an alternative theory which is also compatible with atheism. If there is such a theory, could you point it out to me?
    I'm not sure it's possible to falsify determinism, I'm just saying that I don't believe it.

    The fact that you were arguing against a different definition (perhaps concept is a better word) of God is not my problem. Besides, you advanced the problem of evil as an objection to the Islamic concept of God, didn't you?
    True, my mistake. Epicurus was obviously not arguing against the Islamic conception of god, though.

    If not, then there is no point to your objection since I do not accept the Non-muslim concept of God, anyway. So you claimed the problem of evil to be an objection to the Islamic concept of God, and I resolved your objection by simply explaining the Islamic concept of God.
    OK, you have resolved the objection by making assertions about what kind of being you believe god to be, and saying that you believe god entrusted humans with freedom and responsibility; the way I would view it is that the idea of god entrusting responsibility was created by people and added to the concept of god simply in an attempt to resolve the problem of evil, not because it represents anything real.

    What makes it unbelievable? The fact that it contradicts your belief system (atheism)? Perhaps in light of the Prophethood of Muhammad saws, you need to re-evaluate your belief system?
    I don't see any reason to move away from atheism. I will try to explain why I find the situation of Muhammad receiving communications from god unbelievable. Obviously it contradicts my belief-system: I don't believe there is a god, just as I don't believe that such things as ghosts, spirits, demons or angels exist, or that there is an afterlife. Therefore communication from god is something I don't believe can happen. Whatever anyone claims is a message from god must have originated in their own (or somebody else's) mind.

    One aspect of the revelations that I find suspicious is the way that certain rules, such as the number of wives Muslim men are permitted to marry, are different for the Prophet and the rest of the people. That suggests to me that the Prophet was devising these rules himself.

    That still doesn't answer the objections I put forward. If he conciously invented these lies against God then he wasn't doing a good thing by falsely misleading others into something that caused their persecution and torture. Someone would have to be extremely evil and corrupt to do such a thing.
    I'm not so sure. Surely you would see the development and growth of Islam as a good thing? That is the "greater good" for which, I believe, Muhammad would have been prepared to put up with the persecution of his followers.

    Peace

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    Ansar Al-'Adl's Avatar
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    Re: The existence of God

    Hi Callum,
    Quote Originally Posted by czgibson View Post
    My point was simply that if these events did not happen, then there would be nothing to explain.
    Then why did you claim that the advancement of science resulted in less claims of miracles? :confused:

    I'm not sure it's possible to falsify determinism, I'm just saying that I don't believe it.
    For obvious reasons it would seem.

    True, my mistake. Epicurus was obviously not arguing against the Islamic conception of god, though.

    OK, you have resolved the objection by making assertions about what kind of being you believe god to be, and saying that you believe god entrusted humans with freedom and responsibility; the way I would view it is that the idea of god entrusting responsibility was created by people and added to the concept of god simply in an attempt to resolve the problem of evil, not because it represents anything real.
    The belief that God has entrusted human beings with a responsibility goes back to the very basic Qur'anic doctrine of the purpose in life. It is the foundation upon which our whole worldview is built: that our life is not meaningless and we do have a responsibility. So now that I've resolved your objection to God, to make such a claim like ideas being invented later etc. really seems to me like escaping the obvious admission that I have resolved your objections to God. And besides, though I have argued according to the Qur'anic concept, the reality is that many Christians and Jews would employ the same argument that humanity is entrusted with the responsibility to remove evil. All through the Bible human beings are called to worship God, do good deeds and eradicate evil. So this is not a new idea that I came up with at all. It has explicit basis in not only the Qur'an, but the scriptures of many theistic religions as well.

    I don't see any reason to move away from atheism. I will try to explain why I find the situation of Muhammad receiving communications from god unbelievable. Obviously it contradicts my belief-system: I don't believe there is a god, just as I don't believe that such things as ghosts, spirits, demons or angels exist, or that there is an afterlife. Therefore communication from god is something I don't believe can happen. Whatever anyone claims is a message from god must have originated in their own (or somebody else's) mind.
    I know this is what you believe, but the problem for you occurs when there are facts contradicting your belief. Quite clearly, this is the case with Prophet Muhammad pbuh.

    One aspect of the revelations that I find suspicious is the way that certain rules, such as the number of wives Muslim men are permitted to marry, are different for the Prophet and the rest of the people. That suggests to me that the Prophet was devising these rules himself.
    There are a couple of points to be noted here. First of all, there wasn't a double standard established in the religion as the limit on the number of wives was revealed after the Prophet's marriages indicating that from now on Muslims should not exceed this limit. Secondly, the claim that the Prophet pbuh was inventing revelation to suit his own desires is an extremely weak argument once compared with the fact that the Prophet lead a life of self-denial. Specifically with regard to the claim against his wives we find that when the Prophet pbuh was in his youth he married someone fifteen years older than him and stayed with her alone until her death. After her death, almost all of his wives that he married later were middle-aged widows. You may find the following useful on the topic:
    http://www.islamonline.net/English/I...rticle10.shtml
    Moreover, when there were differences between the Muslim ummah and the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, the vast majority of these were to the Prophet's disadvantage. For example, the Prophets do not leave behind any inheritance (it is all to go in charity) so the Prophet could not allocate any of his own money to his beloved family members. There are many more examples that we could explore in a seperate thread on the Prophet of Muhammad saws, perhaps.

    I'm not so sure. Surely you would see the development and growth of Islam as a good thing? That is the "greater good" for which, I believe, Muhammad would have been prepared to put up with the persecution of his followers.
    But then you only bring in a greater problem of explaining how the Prophet knew that a band of tortured slaves in Makkah could arise to become a global superpower, capable of bringing good. From a purely human perspective, all he would have known is that he was fasely causing the suffering of other people.

    Peace.
    Problem of evil [temp. split from TEOG thread]

    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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