As per the definition of God by Amer Husain, a Muslim, Muhammad's Allah is a false God or He doesn't exist at all.
I do not normally want to go into a general discussion of the existence of God. The problem is Islam, not belief in God in general. Both atheists and theists are capable of doing both good and bad acts. Islam’s teachings, which incite terrorism and all sorts of human rights violation, are our major concern, and that’s where I want to stay focused.
And despite my best effort to abstain from a debate on God exists or not, I was tricked into it by a Muslim gentleman. I’m posting the conversation here, just for you to have an idea of the Muslim mind of all varieties.
Amer Husain wrote:
I came upon your website purely by accident. I found it interesting. I proclaim to be a muslim so I read your views with interest in particular where you have called for a debate with muslims.
I wondered if this was only rhetorical or whether you were actually interested in receiving comments from individuals who claimed to be Muslims. I choose my words carefully because I do not claim to speak for Islam but only what I believe it to be, for that is the limit of my true knowledge.
I look forward to hearing from you and then may be sharing and exchanging some views if you like. Also, I am not here to preach or to lecture but simply to share some philosophical thoughts, which I have found at the deepest level is really about whether there exists a creator or designer or whether its all a random event. The specifics of one particular religion over another is a matter of human history not of intellect.
Anyway, I think I am getting ahead of myself here. I look forward to hearing from you.
M. A. Khan wrote:
Dear Amer, Thank you for your query.
Yes! Our challenge is for real, but it has very few takers. You may consult a couple of previous takers of our challenge to close down the site.
You would be welcome to take on the debate. Please be sure that the debate must focus on Islam.
Amer Husain replied:
Dear Editor, Thank you for your response. I took a few moments to browse the two links you provided. I also noted in your response that you have asked the debate to be specifically about Islam. I think that will be a problem for me as I am not a historical expert on Islam.
I do however note that if you had scrutinized any of the other religious texts (Bible, Torah or any other religious book) in the same manner as you did in these debates, your group may well have arrived at the same or similar conclusion i.e. that the whole basis of the religion is humanly manufactured etc etc.
So, it would seem to me that the real core of your debate is not Islam but religion? or may be you are concentrating on muslims because a significant number of that group is currently engaged in violent activity against the rest of the world based on their absolute dogma. Therefore, if your debate is about the latter then may be your debate is really not about religion at all but sociology i.e. the sociology of a sub group of people who claim to be muslims and draw justifications for their violent actions from a book called the Quran. The debate is not about how to rationally get to the absolute truth but how to deal with a people's social behavior. I emphasize this point again in a slightly different way i.e. winning or losing this debate will not determine whether Islam is a true religion or not, it will simply enlighten who has a better understanding of the Quranic text and its historic context.
If you believe that Islam is a false religion and you want to prove that then your first step must be to prove that Islam is based on a false premise. You will have to prove that God does not exist. In doing that your debate is not with Islam but with all religions / beliefs that are non-materialistic non-reductionists.
This is how I have understood the core of such debates. May be, I have not done you justice, May be I have misrepresented you. If I have done any of these I apologise.
Nevertheless, I look forward to hearing from you, should you like to engage in this wider debate. I do not see this as a challenge or a competition. I think of myself more of a student of thoughts than a proclaimer of absolute facts.
M. A. Khan replied:
Dear Amer, Thank you. I assume that you have read our 'About us" page; there, we have clearly said that all relgions are manmade---Islam is one of them. So, you are correct in suggesting that our premise should be: "all religions are false". Lots of people have criticized other religions effectively: Biblical criticism has a 500-year-long history. Hindiusm has faced criticism for nearly two centuries now. Here, we have started for Islam, and primarily because of our Muslim background, and understanding and knowledge of Islam. We hope to bring about a similar change in Islam as sustained by other faiths.
You may say we are talking about sociology, in the context that "Islam is complete way of life", "Islam is perfect social system", of divine origin. That's what, you can say, is are true concern: the sociology of the Quran, hadith and Sharia, not so much of the Muslim extremists, except that how the fundamental Islamic doctrines drive these otherwise normal human beings, like you and me, into doing violent acts. And we are ready for a debate on this "core concern" of our project.
Concerning your asking us to prove 'there is no God', it's a silly of shifting your responsibility onto others. You claimed first that there is a God, without any proof or evidence whatsoever, and started religion. We said 'no'. Next, it's your duty to prove or show evidence for God's existence. Our next step will be to try to prove your evidence wrong.
Look forward to you next..
Amer Husain wrote:
Dear Mr Khan. Thank you for clarifying why there is a greater emphasis on Islam in your website then on other religions. This puts what your forum is doing on a sound rational footing.
Before I discuss some points further I would like to clarify what I mean when I referred to sociology. I think we are talking about the same thing but this is important to my discussion and so therefore I would like to belabor this a little. I apologize if you have already covered this in your response.
When I refer to sociology I am referring to all human actions and behaviour. I make this arbitrary distinction because I need to give myself the ability to construct an axiom which at its heart is supernatural in its origins, yet provable in theory but not proven as yet. So this axiom in this context would be that the universe and its laws are created by an intelligent designer. In contrast to this axiom I would refer to religions (all religions) with all their texts, personalities, histories, rituals etc etc as the sociology of religions. So for me the final determination of 'truth' is not in this 'sociology' but in the axiom. If Islam or for that matter any other religion is the truth then this axiom that I have taken to be true must in fact be true. If the ultimate truth is to be established then its determination lies at the axiomatic level not in the sociology.
So, where do I stand in this quest for this final truth? I will now take this opportunity to dig myself into a hole!! and the purpose of this is to establish the limitations of my position. I will then see how well I can dig myself out of this hole when I carry out a similar review on the opposing view.
If a creator exists and that creator is omnipotent and has created the universe(s) and its laws then I am good. The only drawback I have is that I have no rational proof of this. All I have is a conviction, a belief that this is the case. I will discuss another time why I hold this view in the absence of any rigorous proof. The only thing I can say though is that this statement is theoretically provable (I hope you will grant me this on logical grounds) but it is not proven and may never be proven in practice. Nevertheless, it is a statement capable of proof. How you may ask? Well, the obvious manner would be a direct revelation of the creator. Speculating a little, there may be avenues reached in modern science, which may force that conclusion also. The point is though that this statement has at its core an ability to be proven if it is true.
Having now dug myself well and truly into this proverbial hole I am going to jump across the divide into the opposing camp and investigate the opposing position. There is no intelligent designer to the universe(s) and only materialistic reductionist mechanisms are responsible for creation and natural laws. I have included the terms 'materialistic' and 'reductionist' here to ensure that the statement is entirely devoid of any metaphysics or any supernatural elements. An atheist may be entirely comfortable with this statement as self-evident truth. You may also argue that the onus of proof is on the other side to prove that a creator exists and in the absence of any such proof it is entirely rational and natural to hold a belief that a creator not only does not exist but that one is not needed. Now, I have heard this argument presented to me many times and I have rationally listened to it and have tried to find out why there should be this breakdown in symmetry between these opposing positions. Is this argument really akin to Wittgenstein's 'invisible pink rabbit' whose existence (for its believer) is for that believer to prove. May be it is. If this symmetry breakage between these two positions is a hard rational fact then this fact must be available for all to review and study and critique. But it appears that this symmetry breakage is taken as self-evident because 'that is the only rational position to take'. It is the proof of this assertion that I have not seen. In the absence of such a proof (for substantiating this symmetry break between these two positions) I am left to conclude that this acceptance of the 'self evident' truth is also an axiomatic leap of faith. Now that's okay, most of mathematics is based on unproven axioms as a starting point. But then here is the difficulty. The position of the atheist (at its intellectual rational core) is then no different to that of a person who believes in a creator. Both have at their core an axiom and both axioms are unproven and in essence a leap of faith.
So, have I just presented an argument that believers (please excuse the religious connotation here, I just needed a simple word for this) and atheists are sitting at opposite ends of the same unknown. Happy with their individual self-evident truths but ignorant to the severe limitations of their belief systems. Could I even refer to atheism as a 'religion' because it is a belief system based on an unproven axiom?
Now what happens if I side step this entire issue of whether atheism is a rational state of mind and therefore is not required to state a position beyond stating that this is a 'self evident' position. In the absence of a logical construct that allows me to give this view a unilateral elevated position over the other side I will progress this discussion forward but now on a level playing field. I will examine the atheist statement again but this time I will expect the same onus of proof from it as I do from the opposing position.
Here is that statement again: There is no intelligent designer to the universe(s) and only materialistic reductionist mechanisms are responsible for creation and natural laws. So, what am I really saying here? I am stating that there is no creator, no designer of the universe. Clearly, as with the opposing position this statement is unproven. So, there is a draw one might conclude. One un-provable statement clashes head long with another and all you are then left with is an axiomatic unproven belief and all that follows from there. But is that really what we have. Have we really established that symmetry between the two positions to that fine extent. Let's look at this statement closely again and its logical implications. It is not lost on anyone that the atheistic statement is a negative statement. The establishment of its truth lies in proving that a creator does not exist. How do you prove a negative? Empirically speaking, as long as no creator is found the atheistic statement is preserved. But if you are determined to prove it on a rational basis you must devise a rigorous proof of this negative. I would therefore conclude that unless a mechanism is discovered for proving negatives we can resolve that this atheistic statement is actually unprovable on top of the fact that it is currently also unproven.
So, it would seem that the two positions are actually not symmetric. Whilst both positions are currently unproven, additionally the atheistic position it seems is unprovable since it is a negative statement. Is this therefore it? the end of the argument? No, I think there is more that we can explore. We need to look at this so-called unprovability a little more closely to gain a better understanding of it and its context. Let's ask ourselves this question. What is the nature of the atheistic statement and does that nature contain any unique properties, which can shed further like on the conjecture that the statement is inherently unprovable. Another way to tackle the same issue is to ask the question in reverse. If we wanted to develop a mechanism to establish the provability of the atheistic statement are there any properties emanating from the nature of the statement that impact the type of mechanism that is allowed? So, what is this statement and what are these properties, if any? Well, the atheistic statement is not only a statement of negative it is also a reductionist and materialist statement. The latter places certain restrictions of what is permissible for its provability mechanism since it will demand that that mechanism reside exclusively in the realm of the physical world and that in turn is because the atheistic principle does not allow for anything outside of this physical world either as initiator, sustainer, agitator or other wise. Further more, the atheistic principle demands that the mechanism of provability must also be consistent with the principles of reductionism and materialism i.e. they must arise naturally out of material matter from the ground up. Thus this may invoke mathematics but only to the extent that it complies with the physical material laws. Therein lies a dilemma. In order for the atheistic statement to be proven only a physical mechanism is permitted. But note that this mechanism due to its restriction can never be complete. At best it will only be able to 'prove' that possible self consistent mechanisms exist, it cannot ever be shown to prove the non existence of a creator since that will require it to break out of its materialistic / reductionist parameters. If it attempts do break out it will contradict its basic principle of physical material reductionism. So, we are led to conclude that the atheistic mechanism is essentially incomplete and also at its most fundamental level forever unprovable.
So, so far perhaps all we have achieved is to demonstrate that there are some severe intellectual limitations on the atheistic position as soon as we step outside of the 'self evident' argument comfort zone. So, I hope that I have at least in some little way demonstrated that the believers position is neither mindless nor irrational when discussed purely on a rational level and when discussed on a logical level playing field. Tackling these fundamental, complex and unanswered issues are not a question for me of winning or losing the discussion but a means for exploring the human mind further and discovering what limitations are placed upon it. Perhaps we can discover and gain a better understanding of the limits of not only what we understand, but what is available for understanding and thereby get closer to the ultimate truth. With this I will conclude.
I need to develop this discussion on a slightly different level next. That is by exploring whether there is a rational basis for believing in a creator. That's for another time. For now I will conclude and thank you for your time.
M. A. Khan:
Dear Amer, I have told you that we do debate/discussion mainly centered on Islam---Islam’s God, Prophet, History, and Ethics etc. So, I have no time to spend on a general discussion on the existence of God. You may visit other forums, like Richard Dawkin’s blog, Internet Infidels, New Humanist and such other sites that take a general interest in discussing the topic of the existence of God.
Nonetheless, let me make a few observations to your last email, a confusing word-game, to make big claims.
Point one: You suggested that atheists are also believers like theists, but of a different kind.
Contrary to your ridiculous claim, atheists simply negate the theists’ belief in a Creator, because it comes with no sound logical or physical evidence whatsoever. Believers’ belief is, thus, a blind belief. Negating a “blind belief”, which the atheists do, can no way be equated with 'belief'. It stands opposite to belief. I hope that you understand this basic reasoning.
Atheists subscribe to scientific methodology and arrive at conclusions based on evidence—logical, physical, experimental etc. In the case of God's existence, a belief thousands of years old, there hasn’t been any evidence toward proving Her/His existence; instead, with the progress of science and rational philosophical progress, the accumulated myths surrounding God gets thinner by the day. Having said that atheists, being believers in scientific methodology, would readily believe in God as soon as solid evidence are found, just like scientists do. Scientists may not subscribe to something today, but as evidence becomes available, they quickly accept it. This happens in the realm of science all the time.
Point two: You say:
Now that's okay, most of mathematics is based on unproven axioms as a starting point. But then here is the difficulty. The position of the atheist (at its intellectual rational core) is then no different to that of a person who believes in a creator. Both have at their core an axiom and both axioms are unproven and in essence a leap of faith.
In this statement of yours, you are wrong on both counts that believers base their belief in God based on an axiom, and that atheists also base their disbelief in God based on an axiom. I have made clear above that atheists look for evidence to accept something; they are waiting for evidence for a Creator’s existence, which is lacking as of now, and until no evidence presented, they would refuse to submit to this ‘blind belief’. This is not an axiom, i.e. a self-evident truth, which is universal and eternal in nature. Atheists are looking for evidence, and the question of axiom in this seeking for evidence simply does not arise.
It is equally untenable, if not wild, to claim that belief in a Creator is based on an axiom. The ‘belief in a Creator’ is a ‘guess’, if not a ‘wild guess’. A guess is not an axiom, i.e. a self-evident truth. A guess cannot be “truth”, let alone be something self-evident. An axiom, such as 4 + 6 = 6 + 4, is an axiom, because there is no mathematical expression to prove it, but it is self-evident, because every individual can experience it in real life. For example, whether you add 4 matchsticks to another 6 (i.e. 4 + 6) or add 6 matchsticks to another 4 (i.e. 6 + 4)—the end result is the same, 10 matchsticks in either case.
Can the existence of a Creator—the so-called believers’ axiom—be experienced by everyone in anyway?
Point three: You also say that “I need to give myself the ability to construct an axiom which at its heart is super natural in its origins, yet provable in theory but not proven as yet.”
This is another preposterous statement you make. Supernatural is something that does not occur in the natural world, in our real world. Existence of the Supernatural, the existence of God being one, is another wild, probably absurd, guess, without any evidence whatsoever. Most of all, humans (you included), the natural being, has no way to experience or know the Supernatural. It is, therefore, impossible for you, unless you make a claim of prophethood and making a contact with the Supernatural, that you can construct a so-called axiom of Supernatural nature. When you have no way of knowing what the Supernatural is like, what are the properties of the Supernatural realm or entity, it is outrageous to claim that you may have an “ability to construct an axiom which at its heart is supernatural in its origins”.
Let me emphasize that your so-called axiom in your own words—that “the universe and its laws are created by an intelligent designer” and that “that creator is omnipotent and has created the universe(s) and its laws”—stands, as of now, simply a “guess”. It is a guess—or a Supernatural axiom as you call it—like any other mythological creatures, such as fire-breathing dragon, of old, which have become obsolete today. Certain mythological creatures, like Devil, Satan, and Genie etc., having been incorporated into Abrahamic religious faiths, have received perpetuity to their existence, without gathering any evidence at all. They would, otherwise, have become obsolete mythical figures/beliefs of old.
And, as far as proving the existence of God is concerned, it stands alongside fire-breathing dragon—nothing less, nothing more. As things stand now, belief in existence of dragon is as true and as good an axiom, as the belief in existence of a Creator. Human beings have given specific characteristics to God and dragon, respectively, and they remain equally unproven till today, and therefore equally true or untrue.
Having said this, I’m quitting this conversation for reasons I have stated already, i.e. I want to focus on Islam on this Website. I’m inviting you again to a debate/discussion on Islam.
Amer has written to me charging that my response above was from the standpoint of an agnostic, not an atheist. He said,
It seems you do not even understand the basic difference between an atheist and an agnostic as you seemed to have spent your entire response writing as the latter… It’s a person who categorically denies the existence of a creator. An agnostic is the one who has an open mind based on evidence.
I disagree. According to wikipedia, “Atheism can be either the rejection of theism, or the position that deities do not exist. In the broadest sense, it is the absence of belief in the existence of deities…. Atheism tends toward skepticism regarding supernatural claims, citing a lack of empirical evidence.”
For an atheist, there is no evidence—either logical or empirical—for the existence of God. Atheist’s lack or absence of belief in God proceeds from the lack or absence of evidence in favor of God’s existence. This plainly means that had there been availability evidence for God’s existence, they would’ve accepted God’s existence.
But for an agnostic, the existence of God (and such metaphysical/supernatural beings/ entities) is possible, but is unknown or unknowable. According to wikipedia, ‘an agnostic may also be a theist or an atheist’.
Agnostics are noncommittal on God exists or not, even when there no is evidence. Atheists are categorical, simply because of lack of evidence in support of God’s existence. As soon as the lack of evidence is replaced by availability of evidence, whether for the existence of God or fire-breathing dragon, atheists would immediately accept their existence. It’s as simple as that.
Let me explain how it would follow. Suppose that proof for the existence of the Hindu God become available tomorrow—i.e. it is proven that Hindu God, and hence the Hindu religion, is true—atheists would immediately acceptance it, but not probably Muslims, Christians and Jews (or they would find it awfully hard even if they do)—because, for thousands of years, they harbored the thought the only through annihilation of the idolatrous peoples, like Hindus (previously through extermination, now persuasion and other trickery), humanity would achieve salvation.
Amer also wrote,
It is a typical self-righteous response I have come to expect from the so-called rational atheist. These are the same old pathetic, baseless and mindless arguments put forward in the 19th century. Looks like your arguments, Dawkins alike have not moved off the Galapagos. Its time you did if you want to get closer to untangling the truth in the 21st century.
What Amer fails to understand is that atheists’ absence for belief in God—whether it was two thousand years ago (e.g. Greco-Roman philosopher poet Lucretius, d. 55 BCE), two hundred years ago or today—is for the same simple reason, absence of evidence. As long as atheism survives—whether for eternity or otherwise—the reason for the atheists’ absence of belief in God would remain the same. It’s as simple.
And, it’s only the theists, who keep inventing new criteria about the nature of God (despite nothing is known about God, including gender, although believers have no scruple in emphasizing God is a male), as works of rationalists keeps discrediting the old ideas about God. Muhammad thought God has hands, feet and beautiful face, and that he sat on a throne in heaven etc. Now you construct a so-called axiom of God (although its completely impossible), whose attributes are infinitesimally different from Muhammad’s idea of God.
Let me conclude by saying that as per the definition or axiom of God that Amer presented above (look here for getting a complete idea of Allah: A Complete Guide to Allah), Allah is definitely not God or a God of the nature of Allah does not exist.
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