An Atheist/Agnostic?


ISLAM’S RESPONSE TO ATHEISM – (taken from IERA’s ‘The Divine Reality’ course)

Atheism: Past Present and Future

  • Defining Atheism – Professor Antony Flew confesses:

“The word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way. Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence of God…But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-‘ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in… words as ‘amoral’…In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist” (Quinn, P, Taliaferro, C, “A Companion to Philosophy of Religion”, Oxford, Blackwell, 1997, “The Presumption of Atheism” by Antony Flew.

  • Professor Craig – “If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view. But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof. So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions. They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/definition-of-atheism).
    • Atheists in the past: Islam – The nearest equivalent is ilhad which literally means “deviation” or best translated, “godlessness”. The impetus for discussing the existence of God was a perceived intellectual threat of creedal heresy by some public figures and thinkers. A group of people labelled as the Dahriyya were the modern equivalent of what we call Atheists. For example, Farah al-Isfahani in his Kitab al-aghani, mentions a Arab living around the 120s/740s who is said to have been a Dahri and the famous jurist and founder of the Hanafi School of thought, Abu Hanifa (RA) is supposed to have refused such Dahris in public discussions. (See Atheism {pre-modern}, Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kramer, G, Matringe, D, Nawas, J, Rowson, E and Online, B, 2012).
    • Ants on Paper – The 5th/11th century philosopher and theologian al-Ghazali (RA) was a key source on the Dahris who identified them as ancient philosophers. In his Kimiya-yi sa adat, he describes the Dahris as some form of reductionists who do not have a holistic understanding of the universe and its purpose. He asserts that they are like ants on a piece of paper who cannot lift their eyes from the ink or the pen they see before them, and fail to see who is writing. (Al-Ghazali, Kimiya-yi sa adat, 1:57).
    • Atheism in the Past: Antiquity – “…atheism never developed into a popular ideology with a recognisable following.  All we have in antiquity is the exceptional individual who dared to voice his disbelief or bold philosophers who proposed intellectual theories about coming into existence of the gods without, normally, putting their theories into practice or rejecting religious practice altogether. If we find atheism at all, it is usually a “soft” atheism or the imputation of atheism to others as a means to discredit them” (Bremmer, J,N, “Atheism in Antiquity in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism”, Edited by: Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007, page: 11).
    • Atheism in the Past: Modern History – “If, as I have suggested and as is commonly held, there is more than a coincidental relationship between atheism and modernity, one would perhaps expect atheism to have manifested itself somewhat earlier than it did…Michael J. Buckley traces its first use in England to the Greek Scholar, Sir John Cheke, in a translation of Plutarch’s On Superstition in 1540…Michael de Certeau points out that in France in the early seventeenth century, atheism became a focus of not only a whole body of literature, but also of political measures, judicial sentences and social precautions against atheists” (Hyman, G, “Atheism in Modern History in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism”, Edited by: Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007, page: 29).
    • Atheism Today: UK and Europe – 25% of people in England and Wales have no religion, with over 30% increase in UK campuses. (UK consensus, 2011).
    • –          46% of people in Europe do not believe in the traditional conception of God, with 20% stating that they do not believe there is a spirit, God, nor life force (http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf).

    •  Atheism Today: Global – “…We can deduce that there are approximately 58 times as many atheists as there are Mormons, 41 times as many atheists as there are Jews, 35 times as many atheists as there are Sikhs, and twice as many atheists as there are Buddhists. Finally, nonbelievers in God as a group come in fourth place after Christianity (2 Billion), Islam (1.2 Billion) and Hinduism (900 million) in terms of global ranking of commonly held belief systems” (Zuckerman, P, “Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism”, edited by: Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007, page: 55).

    “Between 500 million and 750 million humans currently do not believe in God…High levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low poverty rates and strong gender equality. In many societies atheism is growing…” (Zuckerman, P, “Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism”, edited by: Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007, page: 61).

    • Academics Disagree – Theoretical Physicist and Mathematician Freeman Dyson said, “There are two kinds of atheists, ordinary atheists who not believe in God and passionate atheists who consider God to be their personal enemy” (Williams, P, S, “A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism”, Paternoster, 2009, page: 36).

    Philosopher Tim Crane, an atheist himself, writes: “It seems to me that many of the claims made by the new atheists are simply not true, and that their view of the role of religion in world affairs is in many ways mistaken…going on in this way about religion is not a very sensible approach to tackling the problems of the world…it is surprisingly difficult…to change people’s beliefs. But if there is one thing which should be obvious here, it is that the way to do it is (generally) not to tell them that they are stupid, irrational or hopeless lesson ignorant” (Williams, P, S, “A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism”, Paternoster, 2009, page: 41).

    • In Fighting – Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse exclaims, “I think Dawkins is ignorant of just about every aspect of philosophy and theology and it shows”.

    He adds, “I think that you and Richard (Dawkins) are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design – we are losing the battle…what we need is not knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues – neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas – it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims, more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in a fight, not simple alienate everyone of good will” (Williams, P, S, “A Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism”, Paternoster, 2009, page: 44).


    The Absurdity of Life without God

    • There is no ultimate value and hope – if our lives just end in the grave, does what we do, say, achieve or aspire have any value? Therefore, what does it matter if we work for others, help others and strive to serve humanity if it has no value?
    • There is no ultimate purpose – the chair you’re sitting on has a purpose, most inanimate objects do. Yet what about you? Accepting no purpose is self defeating.

    Without purpose a lot of things we have achieved as human beings most probably would not have happened as many of the people who have accomplished amazing achievements including the discovery of penicillin, would not have the drive to attain what they did.

    Also, a sense of purpose is essential to progress. Is it a necessary delusion or does it indicate our lives have purpose too?

    • We are just matter – if we are just matter, then does it really matter? If we all end up as worm buffet, what ultimate significance or meaning can we give to our lives?
    • Atheism explains nothing! – D. Wood, teaching fellow at Fordham University aptly writes:

    “Atheism explains, quite literally, nothing. Atheism doesn’t explain the existence of our universe or the fact that our universe is finely tuned. It doesn’t explain the origin and diversity of life. It fails to explain the rise of consciousness or objective moral values…The point here is that if atheists expect theists to take the denial of theism seriously, they must offer a hypothesis at least as powerful as theism.

    Yet atheism can’t explain even the most basic facts about the world…If we’re going to reject hypotheses because they fail to explain the data, we must reject atheism long before we reject theism”(Dembski, W, A and Licona, M,R, “Evidence for God” Baker Books, 2010, pages 45-46).

    • No true happiness – imagine you woke up on a train. You had a first class seat with the finest food and drink and breathtaking scenery. The service was immaculate and the seats were heavenly. Would you be truly happy?Wouldn’t you be at ease and truly happy if you knew where you were going and how you got there?


    The Argument from Nature– Fitrah

    • God is a properly basic belief – God’s existence does not require evidence, God is a “properly basic belief”. A properly basic belief is a self-evident or universally recognised truth. In science, a properly basic belief is that “the real world exists”.
    • What is the FitrahThe Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Every child is born with a true faith of Islam i.e. to worship none but Allah Alone) and his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism, as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?” (Bukhari).
    • We are born believers  – “Scientific research  on children’s developing minds and supernatural beliefs suggests that children normally and rapidly acquire minds that facilitate belief in supernatural agents. Particularly in the first year after birth, children distinguish between agents and nonagents, understanding agents as able to move themselves in purposeful ways to pursue goals…Who is the creator? Children know people are not good candidates. It must have been a God…Children are born believers of what I call natural religion…” (Barrett, J, L, “Born believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief”, Free Press, 2012, pages: 35-36).
    • Sanctification Instinct – Fitrah is related to the need or capacity to worship. Many societies, even atheist societies display signs for the capacity or need to worship, something which can be called the sanctification instinct. Consider communist China or Russia, they would revere and sanctify statues of Stalin, Lenin and Mao.

    From the monotheist to the atheist, the instinct of worship manifests itself as a reverence for something or someone that is regarded as higher than oneself. The object of veneration can be God or many Gods, objects, people and even ideas and beliefs.

    • There is no doubt – God’s existence is part of your nature. You do not need complex rational arguments to prove that which is self-evident.

    The fact that Atheism is appearing to be a popular trend shows it’s always been a basic belief of people to believe in a higher being.

    “Their messengers said, ‘Can there be any doubt about Allah, Creator of the Heavens and Earth?’” (Qur’an, 14:10).

    • How to awaken the Fitrah – Arguments, concepts, ideas and values from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    “So direct your face towards the religion, inclining to truth. Adhere to the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created all people. No change should there be in the religion of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know” (Qur’an, 30:30).

    Reflection, pondering, mediating and introspection:

    “…Thus do We explain in detail the signs for a people who give thought” (Qur’an, 10:24).


    The Qur’anic Argument for God’s Existence

    • It makes you think! – An Associate of Islamic studies: Rosalind Ward Gwynne comments, “The very fact that so much of the Qur’an is in the form of arguments shows to what extent human beings are perceived as needing reasons for their actions…And God invites human beings to consider the evidence of his signs…” (Gwynne, R, W, “Logic, Rhetoric and Legal Reasoning in the Qur’an: God’s Arguments”, Routledge, 2004, pages:  ix and x).

    Gwynne concludes in her book, “Reasoning and argument are so integral to the content of the Qur’an and so inseparable from its structure that they in many ways shaped the very consciousness of the Qur’anic  scholars” (page: 203).

    • The Response of the Qur’an – “Or were they created by nothing?  Or were they the creators (of themselves)? Or did they create the heavens and earth? Rather, they are not certain? (Qur’an, 52:35-36).
    • Perpetual Creation – Ibn Taymiyya (RA) held the view of perpetual optimism. Since Almighty Allah is eternally perfect and perfection entails action, and He is al-Khaliq (The Creator), therefore He has been creating for eternity.God has been active from eternity when He willed with acts that subsist His self by His power and His will one after the other. (Minhaj As-Sunnah. 1: 147-8/1:36).

    Infinite regress of events is possible, but not causes.

    Creation is eternal, but each act of creation is finite. “It does not follow necessarily from the perpetuity of His being an agent that there is an individual, eternal enacted thing with Him…Everything except God is created and came into being after it was not”. (Minhaj As-Sunnah, 1:336/1:92 and 1:359/1:100)

    • In the beginning there was nothing – The Prophet (ﷺ)  said, “First of all, there was nothing but Allah, and (then He created His Throne). His throne was over the water, and He wrote everything in the Book (in the Heaven) and created the Heavens and the Earth” (Bukhari).
    • Point of contention – Al-Ghazali (RA) and Ibn Taymiyya (RA) disagreed on the Divine Will.Al-Ghazali argued in his “The Incoherence of the Philosophers” that it is the very nature of God’s will to have designated the time at which the world originated. The world or creation did not come into existence until the point at which God in His eternal will had set(“The Incoherence of the Philosophers”, Translated by Michael E. Marmura, Brigham Young University, 2000).

    Ibn Taymiyya rejected this in the first volume of Minhaj As-Sunnah. He argued that an eternal will cannot give rise to a finite cause. He argues that everything therefore should be eternal if that were the case. Rather, God’s willing of something to happen occurs at the time that it happens. God’s will is dynamic which explains finite creative acts that have been coming into existence for eternity.(Minhaj As-Sunnah, 1;234-5/ :161 and 1:296-8/1:80-1).

    Did the Universe begin to exist?

    • Can we have an actual real physical infinite in this universe? – The answer is simply: No.

    David Hilbert states, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought…the role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea” (Hilbert, D, “On the Infinite:  in Philosophy of Mathematics”, ed. With an introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hilary Putnam, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall, 1964, pages: 139-141).

    • The Universe is NOT eternal – “The world’s past eternity is impossible because it leads to affirming circular movements of the heavenly sphere whose number is infinite and whose individual units are innumerable, even though they (divide into) a sixth, a fourth, a half and so on…”. Al-Ghazali (RA) began by noting the contradiction in saying that the revolutions of the planets are enternal while at the same time one can determine the length of their rotations around the world” (Al-Ghazali, “The Incoherence of the Philosophers”, A Parallel English- Arabic Text Translated, annotated by Michael E. Marmura, Brigham Young University Press, 2000, pages: 18-19).
    • What about the Infinity of God – God’s infinite is not referring to a collection of items of an infinite number of elements. The infinity we are rejecting is the infinity based on an infinite number of elements or discrete parts.

    God’s infinity is, as it were, qualitative and not quantitative. It is not a collection of items to form a total quantity. God is metaphysically eternal, omnipotent etc.  When God is referred to as ‘infinite’, it is in His qualities. God is unrestricted in His Love, Mercy, Justice, Wisdom, etc. There is no upper boundary to these attributes. However, in terms of numerical quantity, God is uniquely and eternally One! There is only One Creator, One King, One Judge, One Eternal Supreme Divine Authority.

    • Astrophysical evidence – “…the discovery of the century, in cosmology at least, was without doubt the dramatic discovery made by Hubble and confirmed by Einstein’s equations, that the Universe is NOT eternal, static and unchanging” (Gribbin, J, “In The Beginning: The Birth of the Living Universe”, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993, page: 19).
    • A Cosmic beginning – “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Vilenkin, A, “Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universe” Hill and Wang, 2006, page: 176).
    • Therefore, the Universe began…
    1. If the universe never began it implies it implies that it is infinite.
    2. An actual physical infinite cannot exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe is finite.
    4. Therefore, the universe began.
    • Things that begin to exist were either…
    1. Created (or brought into being) via nothing, “If there is anything we find inconceivable, it is that something could arise from nothing” (Zwart, P, J, “About Time”, Amsterdam and Oxford, North Holland Publishing Co, 1976, page: 240).

    Ibn Taymiyya interprets the verse mentioning “from nothing” to mean that Allah created the thing after it was nothing.

    Note: The Definition of nothing is the absence of something in this case, an absence of the universe.

    2.      Self caused or self created – Can something exist and not exist at the same time? Can your mother give birth to herself?

    3.      Created by something else that was created – “There would be no series of actual causes but only a series of non-existents, as Ibn Taymiyya explained. The fact, however, is that there are existents around us; therefore their ultimate cause must be something other than temporal causes” (Dr. Jaafar Idris, http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/491).

    Example: The Sniper – If a sniper had to shoot the enemy but before he could shoot he had to ask permission from the sniper behind him, and this went on forever, would he ever shoot?

    4.      Created by something uncreated.  The best explanation: “He neither begets nor is born”, (Qur’an, 112:3).

    • Quantum Vacuum = Nothing? – The term ‘nothingness’ in this context refers to the absence of something. The Quantum vacuum is something.

    “Hence, even in a true vacuum, matter field may appear briefly. Even if the matter fields involved in the vacuum state are rather peculiar and certainly not observable in the sense that real particles are, it is a mistake to think of any physical vacuum as some absolutely empty void” (Ray, C, “Time, Space and Philosophy”, Routledge, 1991, page: 205).

    • Science can’t address Nothing – Science cannot address the idea of nothing or non-being because science is restricted to problems that observations can solve. The philosopher of science, Elliot Sober verifies this limitation of science who writes, “At any moment scientists are limited by the observations they have at hand…the limitation is that science is forced to restrict its attention to problems observations can solve” (Sober, E, “Empiricism in the Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Science”, edited by: Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd, 2010, pages: 137-138).
    • Something Always Existed – The Philosopher Abraham Varghese in the appendix to Professor Anthony Flew’s book ‘There is a God’, explains this conclusion in a simple yet forceful way, he writes: “Now clearly, theists and atheists can agree on one thing: if anything at all exists, there must be something preceding it that always existed. How did this eternally existing reality come to be? The answer is that it never came to be. It always existed. Take your pick: God or universe. Something always existed” (Anthony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese. “There is a God”. HarperOne, 2007, page: 165).
    • A Created God = Delusion – “I can hear an Irish friend saying: ‘Well, it proves one thing – if they had a better argument, they would use it.’ If that is thought to be a rather strong reaction, just think of the question: Who made God? The very asking of it shows that the questioner has created God in mind. It is then scarcely surprising that one calls one’s book The God Delusion. For that is precisely what a created God is, a delusion, virtually by definition – a Xenophanes pointed out centuries before Dawkins. A more informative title might have been: The Created-God Delusion. The book could then have been reduced to a pamphlet – but sales might just have suffered… For the God who was created and upholds the universe was not created – He is eternal. He was not ‘made’ and therefore subject to the laws that science discovered; it was he who made the universe with its laws. Indeed, the fact constitutes the fundamental distinction between God and the universe. The universe came to be, God did not” (Lennox, J, C, “God’s Undertaker: Has Science buried God?”, Lion Books, 2013, page: 183.)
    • The Argument of Exclusion – Possible scenarios:
    1. They both cancel each other out. This is impossible as there must be at least one will, as creation exists.
    2. One of the wills over powers the other. This implies there is only one will or one is more powerful than the other.
    3. Both wills are always in agreement. This still implies only one will, because if they always agree, then it is only one will.

    Whatever happens, it logically implies only one will, therefore one creator.

    • Apply this to Polytheism – Suppose we imagine that two Gods exist, called God X and God Y. Also suppose that whatever is true of God X is true of God Y. For instance, God X is All-Powerful and All-Wise: so God Y is all Powerful and All-Wise. If A is identical to B, then whatever is true of A is true of B. We can turn this law into a hypothetical proposition “if whatever is true of A is true of B, then A is identical to B.

    Since the polytheist (or sceptic) agrees that whatever is true of God X is true of God Y, then God X and God Y are identical. This means God X and God Y are the same entity and not two different entities.


    The Designed Universe

    • Qur’anic Basics – “And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who reason” (Qur’an, 16:12).

    “And it is He who has made the night and the day in succession for whoever desires to remember or desires gratitude” (Qur’an 25:62).

    “The sun and the moon (move) by precise calculation. And the stars and trees prostrate. And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance” (Qur’an 55: 5-7).

    • Summary – The universe has constants and physical laws that must be precisely set for life.

    This is called the fine-tuning of the universe.

    • Fine-Tuning of Laws – Fine–tuned means that the universe must have exactly the right set of laws in order for (highly complex) life to exist. Examples:  Existence of Gravity, Existence of Electromagnetic Force, Existence of Strong Nuclear Force.
    • No Gravity = No Life! – If there were no gravity there would be no planets, no stars and therefore no life. Gravity is a long-range attractive force between all material objects, whose strength increases in proportion to the masses if the objects and falls off with the inverse square of the distance between them…If no force existed, then there would be no stars, since the force of gravity is what holds the matter in stars together…This means that there would be no planets…” (Collins, R, “The Teleological Argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology”, ed, William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pages: 211-212.)
    • No Electromagnetic Force (EMF) = No Life! –

    No EMF = No Atoms = No Life!

    No EMF = No Chemical Bonding = No Life!

    The Electromagnetic Force is a special force that affects everything in the universe because (like gravity) it has an infinite range. It has the ability to attract and repel charges. Since material in solid and liquid forms are made of charges having a unique order, they too, may be manipulated by this force.

    It is also responsible for giving things strength, shape and hardness. The EMF can be generated by three types of fields knows as the electrostatic field, magnetostatic field and the electromagnetic field.

    • Without Electromagnetism, there would be no atoms since there would be nothing to hold the electrons in orbit. Furthermore, there would be no means of transmission of energy from stars for the existence of life on planets (Collins, R, “The Teleological Argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology”, ed, William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, page: 212.)
    • The Universe would be a Black Hole! – “Further, to keep atoms of limited size, it must be very short range – which means its strength must fall off much, much more rapidly…(if it did not)…it would act just like gravity and pull the protons and neutrons in the entire universe together. In fact, given its current strength, around 1040 stronger than the force of gravity between nucleons in a nucleus, the universe would most likely consist of a giant black hole” (Collins, R, “The Teleological Argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology”, ed, William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, page: 212.)
    • Fine tuning of constants – A Physical Constant – The constants of physics are fundamental numbers that, when plugged into the laws of physics, determine the basic structure of the universe.

    If any of these constants were changed by a hairs breadth, the universe would not contain life. (http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/tables/funcon.html and http://physics.info/constants/).

    • Interesting Statement – Dr. Dennis Sciama, formerly director of Cambridge University Observatories states, “If you change a little bit of nature, or you change a little bit the constants of nature…it is very likely that intelligent life would not have been able to develop”. (From the BBC special, “The Anthropic Principle”).
    • There’s still a chance… – Some (typically those who deny God) argue that we cannot rule out the possibility that our universe simply exists as an extraordinarily lucky accident. True, but…
    1. This is counter discourse – Would those people say such as thing if an elephant appeared on their driveway overnight? Or what if a jumbo jet was parked in your garden when you woke up in the morning? We can claim anything!
    2. We can say that the fine-tuning provides significant evidence in support of theism over the “there’s still a chance” hypothesis.
    • Likelihood Principle – Whenever a body of data is much more unlikely under one hypothesis than another, the data counts as evidence in favour of the hypothesis under which it is more likely.
    • Applied to our argument – Fine-tuning is more likely under the design hypothesis. Fine-tuning is unlikely under the chance hypothesis.
    • The Logic:
    1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, the multiverse or design.
    2. The fine-tuning of the universe can’t be due to physical necessity, chance or the multiverse.
    3. Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design.
    • God is simple – In Islamic theology, God is uniquely One. Professor Antony Flew explains, “This strikes me as a bizarre thing to say about the concept of an omnipotent and omniscient Spirit, an idea so simple that is understood by all the adherents of the great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam?” (Flew, A, “There is a God”, HarperOne, 2007, page: 111).

    The Argument from Consciousness


    1. Consciousness cannot be explained by materialism.

    2.   Consciousness is not a product of matter.

    1. Consciousness is best explained by theism.
    • The Hard Problem of Consciousness – “The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. The subjective aspect is experience. When we see for example, we experience visual sensations; the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a physical field.

    Other experience go along with perception in different modalities; the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion; and the experience of a stream of conscious thought.

    What unites all these states is that there is something which is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience…If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one. In this central sense of “consciousness”, an organism, and a mental state is conscious if there is something it is like to be in that state”

    (Chalmers, D, “The Character of Consciousness”, Oxford University Press, 2010, page: 5).

    • Problem of experience – materialist perspectives can correlate you eating a strawberry with areas of your brain. But they can never find out or examine what it is like to eat a strawberry for you!

    The personal subjective conscious experience is outside the scope of the materialist framework.

    Some key points:

    • You can’t describe conscious states with the language of state.
    • If all you have is matter, and the history of the universe is taking these chunks of matter and rearranging them, you will not get consciousness.
    • If you start with matter, you will not end up with mind (consciousness).
    • If there is such a thing as consciousness and it is non-physical, then there will never be a scientific explanation.
    • God is the best explanation – There is no such thing as consciousness being possessed by anything other than a unified ‘I’ or a living entity or being.

    If the universe begins with consciousness and that consciousnesses is a fundamental feature of reality, it must belong or to have come from a unified ‘I’. The counter argument would be to find conscious states not belonging to a self but you can’t!

    There are no clear examples of consciousness existing outside the subjective experience of a subject or a living entity.

    • What does painfulness mean without a self or an ‘I’ or ‘thoughts’.
    • I cannot conceive a thought without a thinker.
    • I am independent of my thoughts.
    • I am aware of myself, I am aware of me.
    • Do they not contemplate within themselves” (Qur’an, 30:8).


    Know God, Know Good


    • If morals are objective, it necessitates God’s existence!
    • Is killing an innocent 5 year old objectively wrong?
    • If so, God must exist.

    What we are saying:

    • If God does not exist then there are NO objective moral values.
    • Moral values such as “Murdering innocent people for entertainment is wrong” and “Defending the innocent is good” are merely social conventions without God.
    • Just like saying it’s wrong to burp loudly at the dinner table.


    Because without God there is no foundation for objective moral values:

    • God is the only concept/idea/truth that transcends human subjectivity
    • Other possible foundations fail to provide an objective basis:
    1. Biology
    2. Social pressure
    3. Moral Realism

    What do we mean by objective?

    • Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
    • Not dependent on the mind for existence
    • In the context of morality:
    1. Not based on personal feelings or opinions.
    2. Not dependent on individual perceptions in one’s mind.


    If the whole world agreed to the fact that eating a dead person is a good thing to do, it would still be an immoral act to do.

    If the whole world claimed it was morally OK to kill an innocent person, it would still be immoral and abhorrent.

    If the whole world claimed that it was morally good to set up unjust trade agreements with Africa, it would still be wrong.

    No God= No Objective morals

    Philosopher Ian Markham explains:

    “God explains the mysterious ought pressing down our lives; and God explains the universal nature of the moral claim.

    As God is outside the world, God the creator can be both external and make universal commands”. (Markham, I, S, “Against Atheism: Why Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris are Fundamentally Wrong”, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, page.34).

    Why is God Good?

    God is definitive of what good is. Why is God the definition of good? Because He is the only being worthy of worship and the only being worthy of worship is the most perfect and moral being.

    Moral truths are ultimately derivatives of the divine will.

    Some Notes

    This is not about moral epistemology, meaning how we get to know what is moral.

    This is about moral ontology, meaning the foundations and nature of morality.

    For instance, if something is good, is it objectively good? If it is objectively good, then it necessitates God’s existence, as He is the only foundation for objective good.

    Islamic basis: Objective Good/Evil

    • If any good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah” but if any befalls them, they say, “This happened because of you”. Say, “All things are from Allah” What is wrong with these people that they do not understand any word? (Qur’an, 4:78).
    • “It is Allah who creates you and what you do (Qur’an, 37:96).
    • Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is, over all things, Disposer of affairs” (Qur’an, 39:62).
    • These verses imply that the nature of “good” and “evil” are objective.

    Ibn Taymiyya (RA)

    God commanded and prohibited according to His knowledge of the benefits and detriments to servants in the command, the prohibition, the thing commanded and the thing forbidden”.


    The Islamic Response to the Problem of Evil and Suffering

    If you reject God due to the existence of evil, you’ll have to accept God due to design. Why?

    The Problem of Evil and Suffering

    1. A Good Omnipotent God exists.
    2. God Exists and Suffering Exists.
    3. Therefore, a Good Omnipotent God doesn’t exist.

    Three Daring assumptions

    1. That God is just Good and Omnipotent.
    2. That God doesn’t have good reasons to permit evil.
    3. Evil is objective.

    Is God just Good and Omnipotent?

    Misrepresentation of the Islamic conception of God:

    • Many Names and Attributes such as The Wise, The Knowing.
    • If God is The Wise, there is wisdom behind the perceived evil.
    • Wisdom = reasons.

    What Wisdom?

    Argument from Ignorance:

    • Argumentum ad ignoratium
    • Just because wisdom cannot be seen or understood it doesn’t mean there is no wisdom
    • Moses and Khidr (peace be upon them) (Qur’an, 18: 65-82). Contemplate over the story…

    God Knows and We Don’t

    ‘And when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority”. They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?”

    Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know”’ (Qur’an, 2:30).

    Profound Wise Purpose

    • “We made everything good He created”, (Qur’an, 32:7).
    • Ibn Taymiyya (RA) writes:

    “If God – exalted is He – is the Creator of everything, He creates good (khayr) and evil (sharr) on account of the wise purpose that He has in that by virtue of which His action is good (hasan) and perfect (mutkin)…God is the Creator of illnesses, aches, hateful odours, ugly forms and noxious bodies like snakes and human excrement on account of a profound wise purpose in them”. (Minhaj As-Sunnah, 3:142/2:25).

    God does not create Pure Evil

    • “God does not create pure evil. Rather, in everything that He creates is a wise purpose by           virtue of what is good. However, there may be some evil in it for some people, and this is    partial, relative evil. As for total evil or absolute evil, the Lord is exonerated of that”.  (Ibn   Taymiyya, “Hasana”,MF, 14:266).

    Does God give us good reasons to permit evil?

    Life is a test

    “He who created death and life to test you as to which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving”. (Qur’an, 67:2).

    Our Purpose

    “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me”. (Qur’an, 51:56).

    Free Will

    God has given us free will, and free will includes choosing evil acts. Without free will “good” and “evil” are meaningless. This explains personal evil.

    Future Sins

    People can also suffer from past, present or future sins. God has knowledge of everything which is not contingent on time.

    Objective Evil Necessitates God’s Existence – Remember…”Know God, Know Good?”

    How can the atheist formulate an argument against the existence of God when God is required as an objective basis for the formulation of the argument in the first place?!


    The Emotional/Spiritual Argument

    Purifying Hearts

    “…So that Allah might test what is in your breasts and purify what is in your hearts. And Allah is Knowing of that within the breasts”. (Qur’an, 3:154).

    Relief and Paradise

    “Surely with the every difficulty there is relief. Surely with every difficulty there is relief”. (Qur’an, 94: 5-6).

    “…Anyone who dies of the plague is a martyr. Anyone who dies of a stomach illness is a martyr. Anyone who drowns is a martyr”. (Muslim).

    It’s All Good

    “Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him, he is patient and that is good for him”. (Muslim).

    Entering Paradise

    “Do you think that you will enter paradise without any trials while you have known the examples of those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with suffering and adversity and were so violently shaken up that even the Prophet and the believers with him cried out: ‘When will God’s help come? Be aware, God’s help is close’” (Qur’an, 2:214).

    To confirm God’s Revelation

    ‘Each time the servant increases in knowledge and faith, some of God’s wisdom and his mercy will appear to him that will dazzle his intellect. This will make evident to him to count as true that about which God has informed in His book’, “We will show them Our signs on the horizons and in themselves until it becomes evident to them that He is the Real’”. (Qur’an, 41:53), (Ibn Taymiyya, Irada, MF, 8:97).

    Evil is not Directly attributed

    “Guide us to the straight path: the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone astray” (Qur’an, 1:6-7).

    The verb here anger is not attributed to God. There is a “linguistic” adab in the Qur’an that doesn’t directly attribute evil to God.

    Take the story of Musa and Khidr (peace be upon them) (Qur’an, 18: 65-82), Khidr attributed the perceived wrong to himself and the wisdom behind his actions to God.


    Does Science lead to Atheism?

    What do Scientists believe?

    In “Science and Religion: What Scientists Really think”, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and her associates randomly selected researchers from across seven natural and social science disciplines at twenty-one elite U.S. research universities.  The 1.646 respondents answered detailed questions about their religious beliefs and their views of the relationship between religion and science. They then conducted in-depth interviews with 275 of the surveyed scientists, again selected at random.

    The conclusions were that most scientists do not become irreligious as a consequence of their becoming scientists.

    “Rather, their reasons for unbelief mirror the circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experiences with religion; they disapprove of God or see God as too changeable”. (http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/what-scientists-believe), Ecklund, Howard and Scheitle “Religion among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines and Demographics”, Social Problems, 2007, 54 (2): 289-307).

    Biologist Sir Peter Medawar

    “The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions such as, ‘How did everything begin? ‘What are we all here for?’ ‘What is the point of living?’” (Lennox, J,C, “God’s Undertaker: Has Science buried God?”, Lion, 2009, page.31).

    Definition of Science

    • The word science comes from the latin word scientia, meaning knowledge.
    • Science, as defined by the philosopher Betrand Russell:

    “The attempt to discover, by means of observation and reasoning based upon it,…particular facts about the world, and the laws connecting facts with one another” (Russell, B, “Religion and Science”, Oxford University Press, 1935, page: 8).

    Professor Elliot Sober

    “At any moment scientists are limited by the observations they have at hand…the limitation is that science is forced to restrict its attention to problems that observations can solve” (Sober, E, ‘“Empiricism in the Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science”, edited by Psillos, S and Curd, M, 2010, pages: 137-138).


    A White Cat in a Snow Storm – we know that the Cat is likely to be in the storm but because we can’t see it, does it mean it doesn’t exist?

    Great Grandma X 7 –can you empirically justify the existence of your great,  great, great,  great,  great,  great,  great Grandma?

    No Direct Observation

    • If Empiricism demands direct observation then it means God’s existence is not a question it        can answer, as God by definition is unobserved.
    • If indirect observation is required then science can answer the question by using supportive      evidence such as the beginning of the universe or consciousness but it could never deny          God. To do so would assume that we have all the possible (or an infinite number) number of      observations. Since we do not, then it means we always have to be open to the question as a      future observation can change our current conclusions.

    Naturalism: The Wrong Lenses

    • Philosophical Naturalism: The view that the super-natural does not exist. The universe is  like a box, a closed system, nothing outside can interfere. Natural laws are an inadequate  account for all phenomena.
    • This is the ontology of most atheists and scientists. They believe that plain cold matter is the source and nature of reality.
    • Many atheists presume philosophical naturalism to be true. This is why they blindly reject metaphysical conclusions.

    Naturalism is incoherent as it cannot explain consciousness, the existence of objective morality and other facts that resist its worldview. Therefore, it follows that it is not in a position to deny or reject God’s existence as it is philosophically shallow.

    Islam is Pro-Science

    • According to historians of science, it was the Muslim intellectuals and scientists that were  the pioneers of the scientific method.
    • For instance, the Muslim physicist and scientist Ibn al-Haytham used experimentation to obtain the results in his “Book of Optics” published in 1021 CE. He combined observations, experiments and rational arguments to support his intromission theory of vision. (Lindberg,D,C, “Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler”, University of Chicago Press, 1976, pages:   60-67).

    Qur’anic Influence

    “Do they not examine the realms of the heavens and the earth and whatever God has created” (Qur’an, 7:185).

    Conflicting Atheist views

    • “The conflict of science and religion is unavoidable” (Harris, S, “Letter to a Christian Nation”, Bantam Press, 2007, page: 63).
    • “I do not see that committing oneself to science necessarily implies that one thinks that all of religion is false” (Ruse, M, “Fighting the Fundamentalists: Chamberlain or Churchill?” Skeptical Enquirer, 31 (2), March/April, page: 40).


    God Worship and Freedom
    Are you free?

    We had no choice over our:

    • Biological make-up and DNA
    • Social conditions in which we were brought up in
    • Our parents
    • Siblings
    • Ethnicity
    • Gender


    We are shackled by our own ego or lack of sense of who we really are:

    The 11th Scholar Al-Ghazali (RA) in “The Alchemy of Happiness writes:

    “There is nothing closer to you than yourself. If you don’t know yourself, how will you know others? You might say, “I know myself” but you are mistaken…The only thing you know about yourself is your physical appearance. The only thing you know about your inside is that when you are hungry you eat, when you are angry you fight, and when you are consumed by passion, you make love. In this regard, you are equal to any animal. You have to seek the reality within yourself…What are you? Where have you come from and where are you going? What is your role in the world? Why have you been created? Where does your happiness lie? If you would like to know yourself…the reality of your existence is in your inwardness. Everything is a servant of your inward heart” (Kimiya-yi Sa’adat or go to: http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/tah/tah05.htm).

    “Have you seen he who has taken his lord as his own desire?” (Qur’an, 45:23).


    We are shackled by social pressure, norms and social influence. Social norms are generally adhered to and major motives for conformity involve the need to be right, known as informational social influence and the need to be accepted by others known as normative social influence (Turner, J,C, “Social Influence”, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1991, Hodder and Stoughton, “The Science of Mind and Behaviour”, 2001, pages: 385-386).

    Servitude to God

    Worshipping, enslaving and referring to God liberates you from the ephemeral world. This is true liberation. You become liberated from your ego, society and your context.

    • God knows you better than you know yourself
    • Worshipping God defines who you are; it is your nature (Fitrah).
    • “And be not like those how forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves” (Qur’an,59:19).
    • God is The Truth, The Free/Self-sufficient

    Is Religion a Force for Good?

    Religion and Altruism

    “An analysis based in findings from a questionnaire survey of 300 undergraduate students in the USA indicated that religious persons were more likely to carry out altruistic acts (Zook, 1982). Lynn and Smith (1991) reported that those who did voluntary work in the UK gave religion as one of the main reasons for their participation…Research by Perkins examined the relationship between Judeo-Christian religiosity and humanitarianism. The study was based on data collected during 1978-79 at five different Colleges and Universities in England and the USA and data collected during 1988-90 at the same institutions.  This study shows that religiosity was more salient in directly promoting humanitarian compassion and that the influence of other socio-demographic factors failed to attain any level of significance” (Edited by Clarke, P, B, “The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion”, OUP 2011, pages: 883-884).

    Secularists give less

    Social scientist Arthur C. Brooks analysed data that consisted of nearly 30,000 observations drawn from 50 communities across the United States and ask individuals about their civic behaviour:

    “The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25% points more likely than secularists to donate money (91% to 66%) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67% to 44%). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, this data shows that practising a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behaviour.

    For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92% of Protestants give charitably compared with 91% of Catholics, 91% of Jews and 89% of other religions”. (http://www.hoover.org/publications/policy-review/article/6577).


    Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion and Research Center and the Pew Organisation conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being “very happythan the least religiously committed people (Myers, D.G, “Religion and Human Flourishing in the Science of Subjective Well-Being”. Edited by Larsen, R and Eid, M, Guildford Press, 2008).

    A Buffer Against Mental Distress

    In 2001, Schnittker in the Journal  for the scientific study of religion examined a data set of 2,836 adults from the general population and he found religious involvement had no significant relationship with depression. He also found that religiousness was a buffer against mental distress (Schnittker, J, “When is Faith Enough? The Effects of Religious Involvement in Depression, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion”, 2001, 40, pages: 393-411).

    Lower Risk of Depression, Drug Abuse and Fewer Suicide Attempts

    In 2002, Smith, McCullough and Poll in their journal (see below) carried out an analysis of over 200 social studies and found that high religiousness predicts a rather lower risk of depression, drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts (McCollough, M, Smith, T, and Poll, J, “Religiousness and Depression: Evidence of a main effect and the moderating influence of stressful life events”, 2003, Psychological Bulletin, 129, pages: 614-636).

    Well-Being, Self Esteem and Crime

    In 2002, 498 studies had been published in peer reviewed journals. They concluded that a large majority of studies showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self esteem, and lower levels of hypertension, depression and criminal delinquency. (Ward, K, “Is Religious Dangerous?” Lion Hudson PLC, 2006).

    Non Religious States

    Even in China, an officially non-religious state. A recent study by Paul Badham and Xinzhong Yao for the Ian Ramsey Centre at Oxford University, reported that a majority of those felt religious experiences had a positive effect on their lives.

    Amongst the interesting finds is the high response rate of the Han Chinese regarding the question as to whether they had experienced a ‘kind of (spiritual) power…’ 56.7% answering in the affirmative (Yao, Z, Badham, P, “Religious Experience in Contemporary China”, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2007, page: 275).

    Membership of Volunteer Organisations

    In 2000, Political Scientist and Professor Robert Putnam surveyed 200 volunteer organisations and it showed that there was a strong correlation between religiosity and membership of volunteer organisations (Putnam, R, D, (1995) “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital. Journal of Democracy, 6 (1), pages: 65-78).

    Moral Motivation

    • “And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind”. (Qur’an, 20:124).
    • “No good is there in much of their private conversation, except for those who enjoin charity or that which is right or conciliation between people. And whoever does that seeking meansto the approval of Allah – then We are going to give him a great reward” (Qur’an, 4:114).
    • They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is a great sin and yet, some benefit for people . But their sin is greater than their benefit”” (Qur’an, 2:219).
    • “And of the people is he who worships Allah on an edge. If he is touched by good, he is  reassured by it, but if he is struck by trial, he turns on his face to the other direction. He has lost this world and the Hereafter. That is what is the manifest loss” (Qur’an, 22:11).


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