Sunday, March 25, 2007

RE: The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists

I found 'The Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists' to be an interesting article and while it did have some typical Atheist thinking it did touch on subjects that I would like to respond to.

Bare in mind this is just an intellectual exercise, I am not trying to convert anyone to any religion of any sorts, just going through the point by point article.

As a Muslim I'm often frustrated by Atheists blanket labeling religious people, actually, as a Muslim I'm tired of people blanket labeling people period. I would just like to say I am not prepared to lie or make up half-truths, I'll endeavor to write what I know to be fact from my knowledge, if I'm not sure I'll simply say so, I do not want to think of myself as 'ignorant' but rather cautious, unlike an Atheist I believe I have to answer for what I do in this life to a higher power and am not prepared to make stuff up out of conveniences sake at the same time I am willing to 'concede to parts I don't know a correct response to however I won't be conceding in the sense that I'm simply 'giving up'. I only know so much of my religion and it certainly doesn't make me a failure if I'm unsure about any one aspect of it.

The article goes point by point so I'll attempt to reply to it as such,
The article asks for 'Verified, specific prophecies that couldn't have been contrived' to this I have the following verse from the Quran,
The Romans have been defeated in the nearest land (to the Arabian Peninsula), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious within bedd’ (three to nine) years....

Quran, 30:2-4
Detailed Explanation

There are many more such examples, and Hadeeth of prophecies that came to pass, I don't have the sources with me hence I won't go into them.

Next point the article asks for 'Scientific knowledge in holy books that wasn't available at the time'. Islam is built on faith and on fact, on miracles and on science, my faith is equal parts just sheer (blind if you will) belief and scientific fact.

There are several verses referring to science which I believe to be very strong and not vague, however if you are to see these verses as vague it is purely your choice.

I'll take verses from the Quran which anyone can verify for themselves, the interpretation is from my version, it is more detailed than other condensed versions.

On the Human Embryo,
We created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed. Then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech, suspended thing, and blood clot), then We made the alaqah into a mudghah (chewed substance)...

(Quran, 23:12-14)
(alaqah has three meanings: (1) leech, (2) suspended thing, and (3) blood clot)

Detailed Explanation

On Mountains,
Have We not made the earth as a bed, and the mountains as pegs?

(Quran, 78:6-7)

And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that it would not shake with you...

(Quran, 16:15)
Detailed Explanation

On The Origins of the Universe (No, I don't believe the Galaxy is 6000 years old, if I did I wouldn't be much of a Muslim)
Then He turned to the heaven when it was smoke...

Quran, 41:11

Have not those who disbelieved known that the heavens and the earth were one connected entity, then We separated them?...

Quran, 21:30
Both the above verses are alluding to hydrogen ('smoke') and how everything came from this smoke, the earth and the heavens (i.e. planet Earth, the stars).

Detailed Explanation

Other scientific revelations in the Quran, Cerebrum, Deep Seas and Internal waves and Clouds.

Furthermore Islam is hardly a religion at war with science, as scientists have commented favorably on the Quran. Historically Islam is full of scientific discoveries and even god asks Muslims to learn about the world around them to better understand how he created everything.

The next point the article asks for is 'Miraculous occurrences, especially if brought about through prayer', for our time the only Miracle that Muslims have that they can and should rely on above all else, (including trees that bend down as if in prayer) is the Quran. Muslims are not magicians, were as human as every other human on earth, we don't believe in psychic powers or telling of the future through star signs (it is actually a grave sin to do that), we believe in God because of the Quran and its Miracles, not because of so-called 'miracles' that could be attributed to any number of natural phenomena or just plain coincidence. This is null and void when applied to Islam, perhaps it looks like a conveniant escape, and it probably is, but as Muslims we are not to look for 'miracles' besides the Quran simply to strengthen our faith as this is not the way to do so and would lead us down the wrong path. As such the only Miracle I have is the Quran. Believe what you want from this and take what you want from it.

The next thing the article asks is for 'Any direct manifestation of the divine' and refers to old times, such as Moses who 'knew him (God) on a first-name basis'. This goes back to the above, it is essentailly asking for a Miracle, I cannot provide that and the only communication God gives us is the Quran which is the word of God (word for word), it's as close to hearing the words of God as you'll get, as before, believe what you want of it.

'Aliens who believed in the exact same religion' is a rather interesting proposal, God says that Islam is the final and complete religion for all mankind but does not refer to Aliens. Theoretically speaking if we ever meet with Aliens that are human (i.e. 'man') then if they aren't Muslim I think their history will indicate traces of Islam, and as crazy as it sounds they will have an exact replica copy of the Quran. Of course this is sci-fi, pending we find aliens we'll see how it goes, I'm just guessing here for my own amusement.

The only interesting point I can make here is that Muslims believe in 'Jins' which are invisible beings that share the same religion of Islam and follow the same messengers (including Muhammed). Before anyone jumps on the 'supernatural' bandwagon we as Muslims should not go about looking for them, their world is seperate from ours and they can have as much physical interaction with our world as we can of theres, virtually nill. The only advantage they have over us is that they can see us and we can't see them, but that is basically all there is to it, given they share the same messenger as we do (the exact same one) we have to leave them be. No, they won't be peeking at you while you're in the shower or anything like that :-)

The Jin aren't our concern nor are we theirs, this is just an interesting fact I am bringing up to illustrate the point I'm trying to make, that if we do come into contact with an extra-terrestrial civilization I will be somewhat disappointed but not fully shaken in my faith.

Now the article moves on to the 'circumstantial', not required but would be strong evidence to support a faith.

'A genuinely flawless and consistent holy book' I'd say the Quran is genuinely flawless and consistent however this is up to the minds of people and the way they wish to interpret the verses. This is another case of 'to each his own' as is pretty much all of religion in their own relative ways, in the end the question is if you can find the one that makes most sense to oneself. Personally I think anyone who doesn't accept Islam is mistaken however I as a Muslim am obliged to respect peoples decisions.

'A religion without internal disputes or factions.' Muhammed said that near the end of time there would be many different sects of Islam and only one sect would still be on the correct path, and that is the path of those who follow Muhammeds teachings and hadeeths (i.e. Sunni's). Politics has found its way into Islam and now we can't simply say 'Muslim, non-Muslim', the only way you can be sure that you are a Muslim is if you still follow the Sunnah. It is difficult for me to explain this in a short amount of space so I will leave it as it is.

The articles writer reasons that if God is perfect hence has created the perfect religion that no one would argue over aspects of and everyone would agree on the same points, however the writer failed to take into account peoples imperfections. Greed, envy, pride and arrogance are the bigger problems in Islam that has led to the massive divides between Muslims and the so-called 'internal' conflicts.

'A religion whose followers have never committed or taken part in atrocities' I can tell you for sure that according to Islam any and all forms of deliberate or careless actions that lead to 'collateral damage' of a civilian population be it Muslim or non-Muslim is punishable by death. Simple as that. So while Muslims may misguidedly partake in such actions they will be held accountable for their deeds on judgment day. Like I already mentioned it is the failings of people who follow the religion, not the religion itself, that is the problem. Don't judge a people by the actions of the very few, thats what being a Muslim in the current political climate has taught me really well.

'A religion that had a consistent record of winning its jihads and holy wars.' Without boring with too much details the first war that was fought under Islam was won, the second was lost. God wanted to teach the Muslims a lesson, that victory is never guaranteed. However on the whole during the early days of Islam there were many great victories, but looking at it as a Muslim a victory on the battlefield is either winning the war or dying for your country and religion. So it is a great honor to die for your faith and that is seen as a victory in itself. However, like all things, God doesn't guarantee Muslims anything without the trials of failure. If every war Muslims went into back so many years ago was won what point would it serve? It would weaken them in both their strengths and faiths. God asks us as Muslims to earn our dues, nothing is free in Islam.

The article goes on to speak of things that won't work in convincing anyone, I agree with it, I don't base my faith on blindness or other peoples stories and I really don't expect anyone to do so.

So this is the end of my response. When I started writing it I was not under the illusion I would convince anyone to convert to Islam, I was simply doing this as a bit of an intellectual exercise and I stand by it. If anyone has any questions they can ask (email or comments here). If you believe the scientific facts are too vague to call on and are literally expecting as the original article suggests "Verily, verily, I say unto thee that thine energy is as thine mass times the speed of light multiplied unto itself" then I can't help you here, call me an ignorant religious fundamentalist but I wouldn't feel too comfortable with such a thing.

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