Atheists Cannot Make a Moral Claim

Yes, I mean it. Atheists cannot be moral.

Why? Because if they applied their lack-of-beliefs (for lack of a better words) to its logical conclusions, they would recognize that morality is not objective. It cannot be measured, observed, or even speculated about. It is a non-rational concept.

Typically, atheists appeal to things like “universally” accepted human rights or notions like “harm no one and do as you please”. But these concepts are arbitrarily, they have no basis. They do not rest upon anything tangible or objectively measurable.

Most atheists presume that, absent of religion, we will all fall into a secular utopia, where humanistic values are self-evident and adopted by all. But this isn’t true. Removing religion does not default to humanism, in fact it does not default to anything.

For this reason, when I hear “that is wrong” from an atheist, my immediate question is “wrong based by what standard?” And I never get an answer.

There only thing holding morality is the last vestiges of Christianity – although, even that is on a sharp decline.

May the “New Atheists” live to see the results of their project.

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?

The Atheist and the Mureed

A city bus carries a diverse array of individuals. Crowded and weathered, it just so happened that on this particular day the bus carried an mureed, deeply immersed in his faith, and an atheist, very much in the belligerent tradition of Dawkins.

The atheist had recently returned from a skeptics meeting, where they purported to champion reason and science over dogmatic superstitions. As he sat there, looking around on the bus, his eye was caught by the Mureed. Sitting there with his unusual black headcovering, loose clothing, and prayer beads, he was chanting something under his breathe, just barely audible.

The Mureed’s whispered chanting continued through the ride, and the atheist grew more and more angry. This person is practicing a backwards, archaic, antiquated faith that should be destroyed in the light of reason. In an instant, the bus passed over a pothill, shook the bus, and the mureed’s chanting was heard for a split second. “il Allah…” he said, and then his voice went back to normal.

At this, the atheist had enough. “Who are you talking to? There’s no one on this bus who can hear you, but you keep mouthing off.”

The Mureed looked up. “I was reciting a dhikr…an incantations. Its a prayer. Sorry, was I disturbing you?”

“Prayer? To who? God? There is no God. You know that, right? You’re wasting your time and youthful life. Enjoy what you have in this one life, because there is nothing after it.” This grabbed the attention of the entire bus. Some were Christians who felt sympathetic to the mureed, others were apathetic, and a few more agreed with the atheist.

“There is a God, I believe in him”, responded the mureed. The atheist smiled. He knew the line of reason he would take the mureed upon to get him to admit his lack of proof, lack of evidence – mere blind faith. He had done this before, and no one had ever stood up to him.

“You believe in God? Show me proof. I demand you give me evidence, verifiable, demonstrable evidence. Prove to me that your God exists.”

At this, the Mureed smiled. He closed his eyes, placed one hand in his pocket, and recited an incanation. A moment passed as everyone waited for his response. Eyes still closed, he removed his hand from his pocket to produce a brown string of prayer-beads, demarked with a silver bead at regular intervals and a long ending, scrunched up in his hand.

He then spoke. “Pretend for a moment that I am blind. Pretend that I have never experienced sight in my entire life. Describe to me what this object in my hand looks like.”

The atheist was confused. This was certainly not the answer he expected. But he decided to humor the mureed. “It looks like small pieces of lint, some are different colors, with a black string connecting them. It also has a few shiny silver beads” Was that sufficient?

The mureed immediately responded, almost interrupting the atheist. Still with his eyes closed, he said “You described this object as black, brown, shiny. These are all terms a blind person has no understanding of. What does color mean to a person who has no experience with it?”

The atheist thought for a moment. “Then I would describe it in physical terms. Brown is a frequency of visible light that bounces off of the object. Shiny means light complete reflects off of the object. Its describable in scientific terms.” What would the mureed say to a scientific answer, he thought.

The mureed immediately responded, “I asked to describe what it looked like, not to describe it in physical terms. Wavelength helps me conceptualize it, but does not help me experience what it look like. How do I know sight is real? Describe it to me.”

The atheist was somewhat annoyed. This was not the direction he anticipated the conversation to go. “Well, obviously the experience of sight cannot be communicated to someone who has never seen before. He has no frame of reference. But, that doesn’t mean sight does not exist, we can all see, unlike your God who has no proof.”

“We all know light exists. But the experience of sight cannot be described in scientific terms, its something each individual has to experience himself. Then we come to recognize what it is and believe in it based on our experience of it.” He stopped for a moment, a pause. What does this have to do with God, the atheist retorted, protesting he asked about God, not colors.

“Because God is not a mere intellectual proposition. He isn’t something you study through measurement and describe in physical terms. God reveals himself to us, and we taste that experience, just as you see or hear or feel. It is not something I can describe to you, other than to say its real. I’ve experienced it.”

The atheist did not know what to say. This mureed was speaking a language he was not used to. Then the atheist borrowed a line from Dawkins. “Your God is just a delusion you’re inducing on yourself.”

The mureed smiled. “Your sight is a delusion you’re experiencing. Prove otherwise to a blind person.” The bus gasped and the atheist was dumb-founded…

God is not something only the intellectual elite can examine. Sometimes, the mind can even get in the way. God is something to be experienced, specifically, by reflecting on his signs in natural beauty, reciting his divine words and excessive worship.

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

This quote was popularized by Carl Sagan, the astronomer, educator, physicist and skeptical philosopher. His quote is used by many atheists to reject the belief in God. They argue that the claim of the existence of God is so grand that any evidence to support this claim must be equally grand. In this short essay, I will explain why this statement is not only grossly subjective, but in reality the claim that there is no God is more difficult to prove than the claim that there is one.

What is an extraordinary claim?

Really, how do you define what that means? What one defines as extraordinary another might define as ordinary, and vice versa.

For example, I personally know people who consider it common-place to see visions holy men of the past. Not only do they experience these visions on a regular basis, their fellow community members also experience these apparitions. (And for the record, these are sane, educated and coherent people). For me, their experiences are extraordinary, but to them they are common-place and not even worth discussing. Conversely, I heard a story of my grandmother seeing a TV for the first time and being completely perplexed about how a man could fit inside a small box. To her, that was an extraordinary occurrence. And most some see the idea of God as well within the realm of normality.

What is an extraordinary claim, by the definition Sagan intended, is subjective from person to person.

Whose claim is more extraordinary?

The only objective way to measure whether a claim is extraordinary is by the amount of evidence required to make the claim. What the evidence consists of is inconsequential, as previously explained. Based on this objective standard, the atheist claim that there is no God requires more evidence and is therefore more extraordinary than the claim that God exists.

To understand why, consider a sample population of one million people. To make the claim that amongst them is a redheaded person, you would only need to produce a single redheaded person out of the million. This one person would be sufficient to support your claim. Conversely, if you wanted to say that there was not a single redheaded person amongst the population, the only way to verify this claim would be to check every single person amongst the million. Even a single exception would violate the claim, so one’s examination would have to be absolute.

The positive claim that a redhead exists in the population requires only a single piece of evidence. But, the negative claim that not a single redhead exists requires an examination of every single person in the population- one million pieces of evidence. Therefore, the statement “no redhead exists amongst the population” is an extraordinary claim that requires more evidence.

Now compare this to the belief in God. A believer must bring forth only a single piece of evidence for his belief in God. However, the atheist must examine every corner of the universe and personal experience claiming that God exists and conclude that they are mistaken. This is complicated by the fact that Jewish and Muslim theologians argue that God’s existence is outside of time and space, and we are incapable of examining outside of time and space. The claim of the atheist requires more evidence and is therefore the extraordinary claim.

While Sagan and other atheists used this quote to reject God, in reality, its reality goes against them.

Personal Experience or Empirical Evidence?

In this short essay, I am going to explain why I believe “personal spiritual experiences” are a valid form of evidence for the belief in God. Let me start with the objection:

Atheist Objection: One of the main problems with the “God hypothesis” is the complete lack of evidence. If one wanted to prove the existence of, say, an apple, he would bring forth observable, demonstrable evidence of its existence. This can come in many forms, such as a picture, its weight, or even its taste. These observations can be confirmed by others and thus we can conclude that the apple exists. However, the same method of analysis cannot be performed with God. To date, there are no objective measurements of God. Thus, just as a person with the complete lack of evidence of an apple is likely to conclude that the apple does not exist, no theist can demonstrate the existence of God. Therefore, we conclude that God does not exist.

I say: While the reasoning is acceptable, the main problem with this argument is the rejection of certain kinds of evidence. This is usually done through ridicule rather than a genuine argument. When a theist attempts to bring forth evidence in support of God, his evidence is dismissed as a delusion.

To understand this, juxtapose a deaf person and a person who can hear, both in a concert hall. From their vantage point neither can see the orchestra. But, the person without the physical challenge can hear their music. He insists that the orchestra is around a corner. But, the deaf person demands proof. From the deaf person’s perspective, there is no evidence whatsoever of their existence. In reality, the deaf person is not aware of his own state- his lack of auditory faculty. To him, no evidence exists. To the one who can hear, his experience of the sound is proof.

To the person who can hear, the orchestra’s existence is confirmed by the personal experience he has of the sound it produces. The skeptic deaf person may reject the orchestra’s existence because he has had no experience. Similarly, it is because of the personal experiences that a believer has that he believes in God. This is why core testification of Islam can be understood as “I witness [ie. personally experience] that there is no God but Allah”.

Atheist Objection: The problem with the “personal experience” evidence is obvious. It cannot be independently verified or objectively measured. For example, if a theist is in a state of experiencing God, there is nothing that an atheist can do to experience what he is experiencing. It is more reasonable to conclude that his experience is either a self-created delusion that has no reality.

I say: This response is rooted in ignorance and inconsistency. By its nature, all experience is personal. For example, the deaf person could not personally experience sound because he lacks the faculty to perceive it. But, that does not mean it has no reality. The atheist is arguing from this perspective- a person who cannot hear and therefore denies the existence of sound. The Qur’an refers to the spiritual heart as the root of his faculty of the perception of God and parallels this with other faculties by calling those who deny it as “deaf, dumb and blind”. Thus, on would argue that the atheists have dead hearts.

As for independent verification, it already exists. Attend any Pentecostal church on a Sunday. One can witness many individuals all going through the same personal spiritual experiences, and is therefore independently verified. It can be repeated, every Sunday or day of worship. It can even be measured, as many comment on the strength of their experiences with the Holy Spirit or other divine beings.

I say, all experience is personal. In fact, to say “objective observation” is an oxymoron, because observations by definition are personal and subjective. But, we arbitrarily define some as empirical while relegating others to subjective and potentially delusional. This is leads to our conclusion that there is no evidence for the existence of God.

The Nature of God

I enjoy listening to Richard Dawkins. He’s brilliant, sophisticated, and has wit. I was recently watching some short video clips of him on YouTube. In general, I agree with, if not his conclusions, at least the logic of how he got there. But then, I came across this video clip:

If you don’t feel like watching, let me summarize the relevant parts. He parallels the incoherence of matter coming about on its own with the idea of God’s existence coming about on its own. He argues that God is too improbable to have formed completely by chance. A questioner from the audience asks, isn’t it problematic to apply natural laws and probability on God? Dawkins retortes, “Well isn’t that just convenient? You talked your way out of providing a rational argument by just decreeing by fiat that God simply declares himself outside of matter… If you’re convinced by that kind of thing, you’re welcome.”

I’m sorry, but this highlights the deep-rooted ignorance in the New Atheist Movement. They don’t even know what they’re arguing against. Its akin to a creationist declaring that humans did not evolve from monkeys. At least know what you’re arguing against! Dawkins is a biologist, not a theologian, and his banter only serves to demonstrate this fact. And here’s why:

But first, a tangent to help illustrate the point!

Imagine if someone programmed an Artificial Intelligence (AI). This AI was truly self-aware and existed entirely inside  a computer. One day, it questioned the existence of a programmer. It pre-supposed that everything is composed of bytes/bits and obeys the laws of the CPU. Employing the scientific method, it sought evidence of a programmer. It combed every bit of computer memory and applies every law of the CPU, but returned empty handed. Therefore, it concluded that there is no such thing as a programmer.

Seem problematic? It should. The fallacy of the AI was to assume that all existence was contingent on the laws of the CPU and composed of bytes/bits. But, the programmer’s existence is outside of the AI’s world, distinct, separate and sharing virtually no common qualities.

By its very nature, the creator can share no common qualities with the created, nor be subject to any of the laws that govern it. This fundamental principle is adhered to by most theologians, and is especially strong within the Islamic and Jewish tradition by al-Ghazali and Rambam, respectively. They argue that God’s existence is not contingent on any created things, including and especially time and space.

The fallacy of Dawkins is the same fallacy of the AI. While the AI assumed that all of existence was within the laws of the CPU and consisted of bytes, the Dawkins implicitly assumes that everything in existence obeys the laws of physics and consists of particles. Ironically, this he implicitly declares “by fiat”. Both limit the scope reality and dismiss all that might exist outside of that scope.

I do not believe in a God that exists within the 3 dimensions, is subject to time-space or consists of particles. Most traditions state that his existence is unlike the existence of anything else. As a theologian once said, anything that comes to your mind about God is in opposition to him.

Next is the improbability of God coming about on his own, because of how complex God must be. This is the same problem rehashed in a different way. Again, we do not believe in a God that consists of physical particles and is mechanically complex, like some sort of divine machine. No, nearly all classical theologians argue that God is indivisible, unique, absolute oneness. But, Dawkins explores this “definition” of God and substitutes it with a God who is essentially a big machine in the sky who formed through an improbable occurrence. A true Strawman fallacy.

So, when Dawkins says things like “you’ve just declared by fiat”, he’s demonstrating his profound ignorance of exactly what he’s arguing against. Again, I’m sorry, but naiveté backed by rhetoric is no substitute for an argument. The problem is, this kind of ignorance is as rampant amongst the New Atheist Movement as science is amongst the radical Christians who interpret the Bible literally. No one denies (or should deny) the New Atheist Movement’s scientific acclaim, but that does not translate to other areas of knowledge, namely theology.

There was a time when anyone who read Dawkin’s The God Delusion would laugh and move on. But now his books convince the masses.