To the monotheists, the atheist says, “You reject many gods and I only reject one.” – but which god is it that he rejects?
Is it Thor, wielding a hammer and making thunder? Is he Zeus of Olympians? Can he be Hanuman, the god who is half human, half monkey, or even Jesus, the supposed human manifestation of God? These are just a few choices from the many dozens available.
It is understandable that intellectuals, academics and other thinking people turn away from belief in God. Gods that look like people (or indeed animals), have emotions, weaknesses, and die or commit suicide are poor candidates. Add to this their demands for blood sacrifice, pointless prayer and rituals, and the case against god and gods becomes stronger. It is not surprising, therefore, that the intelligent person is quick to discard the religious notion of God.
In many eastern countries to be openly atheist is almost impossible. Prominent atheists tend to be from the west, and as many have a Christian background, give little attention or credence to eastern literature such as the Quran. Coming from a religious background or growing up in a society that believes God is like a man, the son of God, born of a virgin mother, who is sacrificed by his father would deter any reasonable person.
But atheism has a problem. This position gives atheists a blind spot because they look at God through the prism of religion. They reject God when in reality they should be rejecting religion. It is religion that steals the identity of God and distorts it.
What then exactly is the nature of God? God’s description in the Quran does not give Him shape, form or animate features but attributes. The word Allah in the Quran is not a name for God. It simply means the One God. Even the Arabic speaking Christians use Allah for God.
The short chapter in the Quran titled Al-Ikhlaas [Sura 112], meaning TheAbsoluteness, expresses these attributes in a most succinct manner, attributes that, as the Absolute Self, can belong only to God.
The first verse of this Sura emphasises the attributes of ‘Ahadiyyah’ or Oneness: “Proclaim: He is the One and only God.” The word ‘One‘ (Ahad) is exceptionally rich in meaning. It connotes unity, uniqueness and wholeness. It identifies the implicit qualities of Self-identity, Self-consistency and peerless integrity. Nothing from outside can secure a lodgement in it. Its unity is not paralleled anywhere in the universe. Of course, only the ultimate Self possesses unity of this kind. A weak personality, with its ever-changing attitudes and whims, cannot lay claim to such oneness.
The second verse refers to the divine attribute of “samadiyyah” or Self-dependence. The term defines independence, Self-reliance and Self-sufficiency. “Samad” is the being which depends only on its own Self and on nothing else, a being that is eternally enduring and absolutely free.
The third verse, “He does not beget. Nor was He begotten.” refers to another important divine attribute. God, as the Absolute Self, is Self-subsistent. God did not come into being through the process of procreation and does not have a spouse and therefore neither does He procreate. God exists and has always existed.
The fourth and last verse, “And there is none comparable with Him”, shows that this divine Self is unique. No copy or replica of this Self can exist. In the realm of the divine Self, there is no room for duplication. No laws are applicable to this Self, which is a law unto itself; in fact, laws emanate from God.
This, in short, is the true description of God: unique, in every sense of the word. With this description in view, is it possible that the human being, who barely understands the world he lives in, a world which is like a grain of sand in the universe, can encompass the one who sustains all that is in the heavens and the earth? It would be like a fruit fly trying to understand Einstein.
However, this does not confront the difficult questions that the atheist seeks the answers to. One of the main arguments of atheists is that, if there is a God, He would not allow pain and suffering such as bone cancers and the existence of deadly creatures like worms that burrow into the eyes of children, making them go blind. This, the atheist says, is utterly unfair. Why should I, the atheist asks, respect such a capricious, mean minded, stupid god who creates a world so full of injustice and pain? The world is clearly created by a maniac, the atheist says, and we have to spend our lives on bended knees thanking him. God could easily have created a world in which these things did not exist. These things aren’t the fault of humans, he says: so why do they have a place in the world? It is perfectly apparent, the atheist concludes, that God is monstrous, and deserves no respect whatsoever and the moment you banish Him, life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner and more worth living.
After reading this argument it may be quite easy to reject the idea of God as a beneficent and merciful being, but let’s not stop here: there may be something else that needs attention.
We believe that, because of gravity, releasing a heavy object will make it fall, but we don’t suddenly reject the force of gravity because we see an aeroplane that weighs at least 70 tonnes and carries hundreds of passengers, flying 30,000 feet above in the air. This is because we also believe there are many other factors involved. Perhaps rejecting God along with religion may not be such a reasonable idea, especially as we now have the Quranic description of God before us.
Did God create evil or is evil the consequence of human wickedness? Rather than placing blame on God, perhaps we need to rethink our own contribution in this world.
There are many health hazards in the world which could easily be minimised by wealthy and influential people, as well as governments, who are keen to spend billions in the killing fields around the world but have never invested as much for the rice fields that would feed starving millions.
Social welfare is an act of immeasurable virtue and repeatedly emphasised in the Quran, so help would not go amiss to create environments that reduce the chances of children suffering from parasites, starvation and displacement that cause such misery to the most vulnerable people on earth.
It may come as a surprise to atheists who use the argument of an uncaring God, but there are many disasters that are the fault of human beings and they cause a great deal of misery. Humans left to their own devices are more likely to be greedy, avaricious and murderous.
The sinking of the Titanic killed more than 1500 people; how the ‘unsinkable’ ship sank is still a mystery. Questions have been raised as to the true nature of the ‘accident’, as some claim that it was the Olympic, its sister ship, that was sunk in an insurance scam by greedy men in a position to do so. This may not have been an ‘act of God’ after all.
Equally, who could we blame for the immeasurable misery caused by atomic bombs dropped onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What were the effects on the innocent children in these two devastated cities? What about the Bhopal disaster in India? How many people suffered? Should we blame God for these too? Is He the monster that caused these catastrophes? Or was it state and corporate greed for yet more profit and power?
An atheist says that God is selfish when he allows bad things to happen. Did God arrange the potato famine in Ireland (1845-1852), for which Prime Minister Tony Blair issued an apology in 1997, killing over one million men, women and children? Or was it the self-interested absentee English landlords and economic instability caused by English laws that changed dearth into disaster? Thalidomide, a lucrative drug of the fifties, caused at least 10,000 children to be severely disabled. Did God cause the disabilities or was it the greedy drug company, Chemie Grünenthal? Cancer and ill health can be caused by smoking. How does this affect the children who become, by default, passive smokers? Will the avaricious tobacco corporations and the tax-hungry governments put an end to this misery? The atheist whines about the misery in the world, but what is he doing to bring to account the perpetrators he does know about?
Do people make this a life ‘simpler, purer, cleaner and more worth living?’ If the majority of people on earth are decent, good human beings, then why is the world not a better place? In reality it is the human beings that are most eager to exploit and profit from the very chaos that they create and the misery that befalls on their fellow human beings. This is because they can, and they can because they have the choice and the freedom to do so.
Should God stop all the bad things happening in the word? This is presuming that we all agree on what ‘bad’ means. Would people prefer that the world was liberated from all the pain, misery and disaster? There would be no pain of birth, no illness and no death. The world would have no animals that lived by hunting and no death caused by savage killing on a daily basis. Presumably we want a world such as the one where there are no meat eaters and no plant eaters – some Hindus don’t even eat certain vegetables. No child would play in case they fell and grazed their knee, or could be hit by a ball in case they cried. No one would sit any exams in case they failed, and everyone would look the same in case someone felt inferior because of their looks.
God created everything in truth, to allow mankind to develop by his own endeavour. It is man’s actions that give the consequence of evil. God gave man choice, and good or evil are the consequences of that choice.
The real monsters are around us and if we deem ourselves to be good, it is our incumbent duty to get rid of them. In the Quran we have a beacon to recognise who they are. It is the good examples that will be the real threat to these monsters, and the sooner we banish them, the sooner we will have a world free of turmoil and fear.
We live in a world where we grow, develop, both physically and mentally, and where our Self has the opportunity to flourish.
This may be a tough world but in reality it’s our friend. In this life the odds are set against us, but the obstacles are there not to frustrate us but to bring out the best in us. They are designed to put us on our mettle and permit the indomitable spirit we possess to reveal itself in all its glory.We develop ourselves in the course of overcoming obstacles.Frustration forces us to reconstruct our personality. Rebuffs and set-backs toughen and harden us, and by facing challenges, we develop a mature personality, so even at times when the world appears to be cruel and unkind, in the long run it turns out to be not our enemy, but our friend.
The atheist does not believe in God because he says there is no proof. But he is quite happy to believe a scientist who says there are a billion stars and never thinks he should count them. He is happy to believe in Socrates, Queen Victoria and Hitler, none of whom he has ever met, yet he accepts the books and films that tell us about them as if they were the whole truth. For most people the evidence of the lives of the rich and famous, whom most of us are never likely to meet, is inferential, just as is the evidence for God. But evidence for God is more than just inferential.
The assertion of the Quran is that it is the message from God, with God making a claim on ownership of your life. Would it not be an intelligent thing to check if this claim stands up? God speaks to us in the Quran and points to His signs, the evidence that is in the universe for us to discover. Yes, the most conclusive proof would be if He were to present Himself and perform a feat that only God could perform. But then, that would be the end of the matter. A person who sees God would be compelled to believe and to follow His guidance – then the atheist would cry foul and claim that he is robbed of his freedom of choice. In truth, enforced goodness has little value and cannot and does not enrich the Self.
How a person sees God depends on his or her upbringing. People generally see God as having human qualities but in more perfect form than their own. The earth, as we now know, is an oblate spheroid. Through time it did not change its shape but people, through discovery, changed from believing it to be flat to now accepting the truth. But does it matter, just now, if we believe or not? Even today millions don’t know or care. You could no more prove that there is God than prove to the majority of people that the earth is round. As long as the earth does what it’s supposed to do, most people don’t care if it’s flat or round.
When we demand proof we need to ensure it is relative. If DNA information was available 1000 years ago, would an atheist then be able to understand and accept it? Should we only accept evidence that we can see? People may not believe in life after death but a smart individual prepares for the next day because he expects to wake up. He may even have a nest egg investment to see him through the winter of his life. If this is not belief in a continuous future then what is?
“If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Pepsi and a bottle of Coke You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions. Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much pizza and beer the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over putrid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.” (Edited version from the original quote by Douglas Wilson).
To believe in God is not just to believe, it is to accept responsibility and ultimate accountability. The majority of people feign, to one degree or another, highly desirable qualities and attitudes that receive great approval, while in their private life such opinions belie their public statements. For example wars are waged for profit, not to fight against aggressors or to defend the oppressed that political statements imply.
Belief in God inspires us to be conscientious and to do things that are good. People who don’t believe in God may be very decent, moral people, but for many, with no belief in God or accountability, might is right.
Those who take part in corruption are often intelligent, educated and wealthy. Why do their selfish desires prevail? Why do the laws not inhibit them? Without ultimate accountability, people may do good, but there is no real reason why they should.
In Deen-Islam the utmost importance is the focus of value in the development of the individual Self. Everything else is subordinate to this. The Quranic guidance is aimed at producing free good people who expend themselves for others of their own free will, because they realise that it is this action that strengthens their Self making it fit for the future. A potent belief in God, accountability and the life yet to come is a powerful incentive to generosity and selfless service to others. Those who believe in the life yet to come will naturally attach a far greater importance to values that they can carry over to a higher plane than to the material goods that have to be left behind after death.
The atheist can reject God but he cannot deny that we need order. To progress, we need rules and regulations. We need Permanent Values. Countries are consistently trying to move forward by applying common standards of measurements, common standards of trade laws and universal standards of human rights. We see this increasingly in Europe as well as worldwide.
The Quran gives absolute standards for the welfare and progress of mankind – for individuals and societies – without the need for any trial and error. Indeed, these permanent values in the Quran ensure that each individual is accountable to God through His Laws of Requital. The Deen-Islam, the Established Order, is a challenge to atheism as much as it is a challenge to religion because both extremes are wrong.
The real reason people don’t believe in God is not that belief is not intellectually possible but because belief in God compels the thinking person to face the fact that he or she will be held accountable to the ultimate Reckoner: God.
If a man is a tyrant, and wants to be a tyrant, and has the power to be a tyrant, why should he not continue to be a tyrant? Who has the motivation to stop him? See footnotes 3:158; 7:201.