Describing Sight to the Blind

A blind man once asked a friend to describe sight to him. Endowed with the four remaining senses, he asked for a parallel by which he could understand what sight is like.

“Please explain it to me, is sight like touching? Is it soft or hard, rough or smooth? Please explain,” the blind man asked.

Not sure what to say, the friend responded, “No, its something else. Its not at all feeling something”

“Then does it smell or taste sweet”, the blind man asked, “Or bitter? Maybe its bland?”

“No, you cannot describe it like that either. Its something completely unique”

Growing frustrated, the blind man asked, “Then what does it sound like? Is it deep or hitched? Is it loud or quiet?”

Sending the frustration, the friend did not know how else to reply. “It has no sound. Its something completely different.”

“So, this ‘vision’ you speak of has no sound, texture, smell or taste. Its comparable to none of the known senses. How do I know you are not just making it up? I have no reason to believe that it is real, and every reason to believe that you are delusional with this so-called ‘vision’.”

This is the state of the atheist. He does not experience what the believers experience. But rather than humble himself to accept the possibility that there is a reality in the perceptions of the believers, he arrogantly denies their experiences as mere delusion. I feel the following verses of the Qur’an are most apt.

  1. Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe.
  2. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.
  3. And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah and the Last Day,” but they are not believers.
  4. They [think to] deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive [it] not.
  5. In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they [habitually] used to lie.
  6. And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.”
  7. Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they perceive [it] not.
  8. And when it is said to them, “Believe as the people have believed,” they say, “Should we believe as the foolish have believed?” Unquestionably, it is they who are the foolish, but they know [it] not.
  9. And when they meet those who believe, they say, “We believe”; but when they are alone with their evil ones, they say, “Indeed, we are with you; we were only mockers.”
  10. [But] Allah mocks them and prolongs them in their transgression [while] they wander blindly.
  11. Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided.
  12. Their example is that of one who kindled a fire, but when it illuminated what was around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness [so] they could not see.
  13. Deaf, dumb and blind – so they will not return [to the right path].

– Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verses 6-18

Your thoughts?


About Nahraf
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4 Responses to Describing Sight to the Blind

  1. ubi dubium says:

    “This is the state of the atheist. He does not experience what the believers experience.”

    Your analogy is not even close. As part of the atheist community, I can tell you that most atheists started out as believers. Some of us were extremely fervent in our belief, just as devout as you are now.

    Then we started examining what we believed was true, why we believed it, what made us think it wasn’t all in our heads. And then we realized it was all in our heads, that the god we believed in was simply the invention of human beings. So we stopped believing.

    Your statments could only apply to someone who has never believed in anything supernatural. And although those people do exist, most atheists you will meet will be ex-believers of one kind or another.

    • Nahraf says:

      Most people believe in God because its what the rest of society tells them to believe. But, I think when a person begins to deeply question their faith and try to analyze it using logical tools, they’ll find that the only true reason to believe in God (or anything for that matter) is direct experience. In the West, this is called the Gnostic tradition.

      I’ve been through very frequent periods of doubt – and continue to to this day. But having spent time with atheists and analyzed their stories, and my own experiences, I’ve concluded that people generally don’t become atheists because of some new compelling argument comes their way. That’s just a facade. (Dawkins’ God Delusion was a joke) I also don’t think its because they’re smarter or dumber than your average person. Instead, its because of anger or frustration with God that morphs into disbelief. I describe it in more detail here:

      Personally, I would support psychological studies of the atheist community, to understand their mentalities, psyches and document what led them to that point. I’m confident that you’ll find very quickly that it has nothing to do with reason, but emotion.

      • ubi dubium says:

        I’m confident that you would find that the shift to non-belief might have begun with emotion, but that’s never the whole reason. It might start with anger at realizing that one has been lied to, or disappointment that the promises of religion were not holding up, or frustration at being expected to believe things which clearly are in direct contradiction to reality. But that emotion is a trigger for further search, not an endpoint. The typical story goes: “I was angry/frustrated/miserable/abused/despairing, so I decided to ask some hard questions. I wasn’t happy with the answers, so I asked more questions And I didn’t get any satisfactory answers to those questions from my religion. So I looked to see if any other religion had answers, and none of them did either. So I thought about it really hard. And finally I realized that the whole thing was a scam, and now I’m thrilled to be out of it”.

        You dismiss The God Delusion far too lightly. It’s not a joke, its helped many many people have to courage to finally admit to themselves that they don’t believe in their religion any more. Many non-believers go through a period where they feel like they are the only one who ever lost their faith. Finding out that it’s a common experience is tremendously empowering. It’s not easy to admit that the ancient books and the old men in the funny hats that are given so much respect and deference don’t have any more answers than anybody else does. Dawkins is just one of many writers that are helping people discard antiquated belief systems.

        Basing a belief system on an emotion, or on a “personal experience of the divine” is really dangerous. The brain’s ability to perceive reality is faulty (an “experience of the divine” can be generated by stimulating the temporal lobe of the brain, for example) and we are really good at deceiving ourselves. And preachers know how to manipulate human emotions. So some “holy man” works people into having an emotional response, then tells them that what they were feeling was “divine” instead of just a product of the workings of their brain. And people believe it because they want it to be true. Without insisting on a “reality check”, you could wind up believing in almost anything.

        • Nahraf says:

          Your first paragraph hit the nail on the head. What’s important to recognize is that atheism is fundamentally not based on reason/logic, but based on emotion – reason/logic comes to afterwards to back-fill their position. The same is true for believers! That’s why I never was into apologetics and “logical proofs for the existence of God”, I think the spiritual approach to religion (ie, Gnosticism) is the most valid and reason/logic only serve to answer differences between experience and reason. Imam al-Ghazali, a famous Muslim theologian and master of Philosophy and Logic, studied all of the religions, sects, cults of his time, including atheism and ultimately concluded the same thing.

          There are atheists I consider worth their weight, and Dawkins is a lightyear away from one of them. He’s basically a charismatic preacher, he’s quick witted and eloquent – but if you actually analyze his arguments, any basic student of logic could deconstruct and destroy them in 30 seconds. Some of his arguments are, frankly, stupid and laughable. He just presents the opposition in extremely foolish ways, while employing his rhetorical prowess in his own points. There are better atheist thinkers out there…

          In your last paragraph you talk about being weary of personal experience of the divine. The entire purpose of this post was to get people to recognize if we are to be consistent and weary of such experiences, then recognize that we too can be weary of our own sight, or taste, or feel or whatever. By that logic a blind person has every right to say “sight does not exist” because its not demonstrable to him. But the person with sight sees the sky and has personal experience that its blue. Likewise, the adherent experiences God – but atheists deny this “sense”.

          Why are we so quick to dismiss “personal experience of the divine”? Because most atheists are not starting from absolutely nothing in their beliefs, they start from certain philosophical premises, one of which is that the only things that exist are what we can objectively measure and quantify. Everything outside of that is considered to “not exist”. This is a premise in Modernism Philosophy. So, sight is based on photons, which we can measure. Smell is based on particles in the air, so we can measure it. But since God is not a physical object, we cannot measure our experience of God, and we therefore conclude that God does not exist.

          I look forward to your thoughts.

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