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The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology by Tim Winter

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The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology is a good introduction to the topic of Islamic theology and its relationship with Sufism. It was edited by Timothy Winter, known to Muslims as Shaykh Abd al-Hakim Murad. The essays are by many well-known and highly respected scholars, such as Shaykh Umar Faruq Abd-Allah and Yahya Michot.

The essays are mostly introductions to their topics and do not delve too deeply into the details. In fact many of them end right when things seemed to start to get interesting to me, for example Steffen A. J. Stelzer’s highly interesting chapter on ethics.

The book could have as well been titled An Introduction to Islamic Theology. This makes it different from other Cambridge Companions I have read where scholars delve deeply and present new interpretations and theories of their own. Here the scholars almost entirely limit themselves to presenting overviews of the topics they discuss, which is beneficial for beginners to the topic, but not so beneficial for those wishing for detailed discussions.

The two exceptions are Steffen A. J. Stelzer’s essay on ethics and Toby Mayer’s essay on theology and Sufism, which present new and interesting analysis.

The Crucible of Islam by G. W. Bowersock

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G. W. Bowersock’s 2017 book The Crucible of Islam is a very brief survey of the religious and political situation of Arabia in the centuries leading up to the coming of Islam. There is mention of the relationship of the Byzantines, Persians and Ethiopians with the Jews and Christians of Yemen and Arabia.

The purpose of the book is to shed light on the “crucible” in which Islam was made. Due to the extreme lack of documentary evidence on the situation in Mecca and its surroundings, the book is restricted to retelling the stories of a few major events in the surroundings that may (or may) not have had an important influence in the way Islam came about. The Ethiopians conquered Yemen and Christianized it. The Persians and Byzantines competed for influence over the region through their relationships with allied Arab tribes. I cannot really say that much light has been shed on the crucible of Islam; due to its briefness and the lack of documentary evidence, the book serves mostly to show how little we know about the reality of the facts on the ground.

The most interesting thing I learned from this book is Michael Lecker’s theory that the Ghassanids in Medina may have had a role in encouraging the Jews and pagans to unite under the rule the Prophet Muhammad . The Byzantine emperor Heraclius may have encouraged his clients the Ghassanids to do this in order to ensure that the Persians did not regain influence over the Medina region.

Below are some notes on (mostly minor) issues and errors that I encountered in my reading.

On page 39 he says there are no daughters of Allah mentioned in the Quran. While it is true that no daughters of Allah are mentioned by name, the Quran does contain mention of the pagans attributing daughters to Allah:

Glen Bowersock, Professor of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

And they attribute to God daughters—exalted is He—and for themselves what they desire. (The Quran, verse 16:57)

Ask them, “Are the daughters for your Lord, while for them the sons?” (The Quran, verse 37:149)

Or for Him the daughters, and for you the sons? (The Quran, verse 52:39)

He considers the Wars of Apostasy an inappropriate label because he assumes they were majorly aimed at false prophets like Musaylama. But according to Muslim sources these wars were aimed first at tribes that refused to pay the zakat which they had paid during the time of the Prophet . The war on Musaylama was a sequel to these, and rather than being directed at extinguishing a rival religion specifically, the war was an act of statecraft; Musaylama had established a state that was at war with the Muslim state, and the Muslim state responded.

He mentions the word ukhdūd as referring to the Trenches in the Battle of the Trench, even though the name universally used is khandaq. He mentions that chapter 85 of the Quran al-Burūj commemorates this battle when there is no relationship between the chapter and the battle whatsoever. This chapter in fact commemorates that killing of Christians by Yemeni Jews, a chapter of pre-Islamic history that Bowersock himself mentions often. The chapter of Quran the actually commemorates the Battle of the Trench is chapter 33, al-Aḥzāb (“The Confederates”).

He mentions that the relics of the True Cross had been moved to Baghdad in 614, possibly meaning al-Madāʾin because Baghdad did not exist at the time.

He says that the Prophet’s cousin ʿAlī b. Abū Ṭalib did not belong to the Quraysh tribe but to the Banū Hāshim, confusing clan differences with tribal differences. Banū Hāshim were actually a clan within Quraysh.

He mentions that the Prophet “reconstructed” the Kaʿba. The phrasing implies that he did this as part of his mission. There is no evidence as far as I know that the Prophet made any changes to the Kaʿba. He had taken part in repairs to the Kaʿba before he became a prophet.

His treatment of the Dome of the Rock seems to suggest that he is unaware that the mosque (al-Masjid al-Aqṣā) is actually the original mosque that was established on the Mount. He expects the traveler Arculf to have seen the rock in the mosque, but since the mosque does not actually include the rock and is hundreds of meters away from it, it is quite natural that Arculf does not mention the rock. The Dome of the Rock itself is not a mosque but merely a shrine.

Ibn Taymiyya and His Times

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Ibn Taymiyya and His Times is a collection of high-quality scholarly essays on Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328 CE) edited by Yossef Rapoport and Shahab Ahmed. It is highly worth reading for anyone interested in this important and controversial character of Islamic history. Maybe I should mention that I do not consider myself a follower of Ibn Taymiyya. I do like some aspects of his thinking as do many important mainstream Islamic thinkers, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Yasir Qadhi.

The book is an important contribution to our understanding of Ibn Taymiyya, refuting the views of both his extremist supporters and his critics. The essay show that Ibn Taymiyya is a far more sophisticated and multi-dimensional thinker than is commonly imagined. This book will hopefully serve as a landmark in ending the simplistic, biased and prejudiced treatments that Ibn Taymiyya has so far received in both Muslim and Western sources.

The first essay by Caterina Bori shows that Ibn Taymiyya was not a representative of the Ḥanbalī school, quite the opposite. He was something of an outsider to the school and was surrounded by a very small group of highly dedicated followers.

Jon Hoover’s essay focuses on Ibn Taymiyya’s theology. Ibn Taymiyya has unique theological views that differ greatly from Ḥanbalī orthodoxy and that do not follow directly from the views of the Salaf (“Pious Predecessors”, the earliest few generations of Muslims). He argues that God’s relationship with humans is personal and dynamic. He acts directly in time and interacts with humans. This is a far more satisfying view of God to the modern mind compared to the impersonal God of more popular versions of Islamic theology.

M. Sait Özervarli’s essay continues the discussion of Ibn Taymiyya’s theology. Ibn Taymiyya, like Ibn Rushd, argues that there can never contradiction between rationality and scripture. When there is a contradiction, either scripture has been misunderstood, or the rational evidence has been misconstrued. According to Özervarli, Ibn Taymiyya argues for a Quran-centered empirical rationalism that shuns the complicated arguments of the kalam-theologians and takes its inspiration from the basic facts of life that we observe around us. According to Ibn Taymiyya there is no need for philosophical proofs of God’s existence since the Quran is full of signs that point to God. These signs are a sufficiency to those who understand them properly.

Racha el Omari’s essay focuses on Ibn Taymiyya’s polemics against Ashʿarite theology (the “orthodox” theology of scholars like al-Ghazālī and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī). Ibn Taymiyya argues for a “theology of the Salaf” that goes beyond Ḥanbalī theology and tries to always re-derive its theological views from the views of the earliest Muslims, although just how much Ibn Taymiyya’s theology agrees with that of the Salaf has to be studied further. It is seems more historically accurate to me to say that the Salaf did not really have much of a theology beyond their faith in the Quran’s literal meaning. This means that any effort to develop an intellectually satisfying theological framework will always need to go far beyond what the Salaf ever said or imagined, and Ibn Taymiyya’s theology seems to fit this description: whenever he tries to build a sophisticated argument in support of some view, he has to venture out on his own onto territory that the Salaf never explored. For this reason he was criticized by other Ḥanbalīs for engaging in too much philosophical thinking.

The essay by Walid A. Saleh examines Ibn Taymiyya’s approach to interpreting the Quran as it is laid out in his short treatise Muqaddima fī uṣūl al-tafsīr (An Introduction on the Foundations of Quranic Exgesis). Saleh calls Ibn Taymiyya’s approach “radical hermeneutics” since it attempts to throw away the existing exegetical tradition in order to take the field back to its origins among the Salaf. It tries to force the authority of the hadith tradition and the opinions of the Salaf on the field so that no one would be allowed to interpret the Quran in any way save the way of hadith and the Salaf. Anyone who tries to put forth an interpretation of a Quranic verse will have to find a basis for it in hadith or the opinions of the Salaf. This intellectual caging of interpretive freedom is meant to ensure the “purity” of Quranic interpretations so that heretical and misguided interpretations do not enter into it. Among scholars who followed his methodology are his student Ibn Kathīr (d. 1373 CE), who continued to respect the existing exegetical tradition, and Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī (d. 1505 CE), who according to Saleh produced the classic work of the genre of exegesis that Ibn Taymiyya called for. Modern Muslims who are not entirely happy with this restricted methodology can still benefit from sources that try to follow it, considering them one legitimate voice among others (even if such sources consider themselves the only legitimate voices).

Livnat Holtzman discusses Ibn Taymiyya and his student Ibn al-Qayyim’s theological views on human freedom and choice. Ibn Taymiyya breaks with existing views on God’s guidance to say that while all humans are born in a state of purity and guidance, a person can go on to choose what is good or evil, and according to this choice, God goes on to guide them further or misguide them. This is a refreshingly rational treatment of the question compared to the views of other scholars. There is still an important question that his theology does not answer; how can free-willed decisions be really free if they can be predicted with 100% accuracy by God beforehand? I have never read an intellectually satisfying answer from any Muslim scholar on this.

Yossef Rapoport discusses Ibn Taymiyya’s unique legal methodology, such as his rejection of accepted legal tricks that used lawful means for unlawful ends, and his breaking away with Ḥanbalī tradition in order to call for persistent ijtihād (striving to solve issues of law and theology using one’s efforts rather than merely relying on the opinions of past scholars). Intention is of primary importance to Ibn Taymiyya; even if all the proper legal forms are obeyed, if the aim is evil, he wholeheartedly rejects it. As is usual with Ibn Taymiyya, his views are in general refreshingly modern and rational.

Tariq al-Jamil’s essay is a short discussion of Ibn Taymiyya’s anti-Shia polemical views. The essay by David Thomas is on Ibn Taymiyya’s polemical response to a Christian piece of writing that attempted to insinuate that all Muslims would embrace Christianity if they understood the Quran and the Bible better. Rather than responding to the Christian piece directly, Ibn Taymiyya uses it as an occasion to discuss why Islam is superior to Christianity.

The essay by Khaled el-Rouayheb argues that Ibn Taymiyya’s popularity in the post-classical era has been greatly exaggerated. He was a marginal figure who was rarely mentioned or taken seriously by the scholars that came after him. This state of affairs continued for five centuries after Ibn Taymiyya’s death. It wasn’t until the 19th century that a movement started to rehabilitate his image and popularize his works. The most important figures in this movement were Nuʿmān Khayr al-Dīn al-Ālūsī (d. 1899 CE) and Rashid Rida (d. 1935 CE).

Raquel M. Ukeles’ essay argues that Ibn Taymiyya’s rejection of such things as the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad was more sophisticated than is realized or acknowledged by his modern admirers. While he considered such things false innovations (bidaʿ, plural of bidʿa), he recommended tolerance toward its practitioners, saying that they could even get a great reward from God for their good intentions. He therefore takes a highly intelligent stance on the issue:

  • Those who follow the way of the earliest Muslims and believe in rejecting innovations must shun such things. If they engage in them, they would be committing a sin.
  • Those among qualified scholars whose own personal opinion (ijtihād) has convinced them that such celebrations are religiously acceptable should be respected. They have the right to their own opinions.
  • Those among the Muslim masses who celebrate such things should be judged by their intentions. If they do it out of good intentions, their deed is accepted. If they do it for other intentions, their deed is rejected.

That is an amazingly tolerant view compared to that of some of those who today think they are representative of Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings.

The last essay is by Mona Hassan. She argues that Ibn Taymiyya’s views regarding the caliphate have been misconstrued by much of Western scholarship. Western scholars like Henri Laoust wrongly believed that Ibn Taymiyya had done away with classical scholarly view of the necessity of the existence of a ruler that followed the ideals of the Rashidun caliphs. She also discusses his fatwas regarding the permissibility of fighting the Mongols. The group that assassinated the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 claimed that their actions were legitimate according to Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwas. Hassan says that this group completely misread Ibn Taymiyya, whose framework is actually concerned with fighting outlaws and rebels. Ironically, that extremist group itself falls within the definition of those groups that Ibn Taymiyya believes can be legitimately fought by the Muslims. She discusses Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s statements in support of peaceful political participation. Al-Qaradawi uses two of Ibn Taymiyya’s fatwas to show that Ibn Taymiyya’s was not an isolationist as some of his admirers believe but rather believed in participating in politics where this could serve a constructive purpose.

Ibn Taymiyya and His Times should interest anyone interested in a sophisticated understanding of Ibn Taymīya, Islamic intellectual history and the origins of Salafism.

An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims

My new book An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims is now available on Amazon.com. This book grew out of a review of Shahab Ahmed’s wonderful What is Islam? that I was preparing last January. Once it passed 15,000 words, I decided that I might as well to turn into a book on the sociology of Islam. Reading Robert R. Reilly’s ridiculous caricature of Islam in his Closing of the Muslim Mind gave me extra impetus to work on it.

At some point I became dissatisfied with my work and put the project on pause. I went on to read 30 books and close to 100 scholarly papers on relevant topics (mainly Western Islamic studies and the evolutionary study of culture). Roger Scruton was especially helpful in clarifying the important issue of human sexuality and how it relates to religion. Recently I felt confident enough to pick up the project again. I rewrote the book and integrated some new essays into it, and this is the result.

From the introduction:

Many Western intellectuals cause Muslims to want to cringe as soon as they open their mouths to speak about Islam. Even if they have read multiple books on Islam, they are often capable of the most gargantuan mischaracterizations of the religion. There is a serious gap in knowledge between Islam as it is described in books and Islam as it is understood and practiced in the real world—and this book aims to fill that gap.

The Moral World of the Qur’an by M. A. Draz

Dastūr al-Akhlāq fī l-Qurʾān might one of the most important works of Islamic philosophy in the 20th century. It is a work on Quranic moral philosophy by Muhammad Abdullah Draz (1894-1958), a highly intelligent Egyptian Islamic scholar who had thoroughly studied the Western philosophical tradition. The work was originally written in French as a PhD dissertation titled La morale du Koran presented to Sorbonne University. It was translated into Arabic by Abd al-Sabur Shahin and published in 1973. The English version, titled The Moral World of the Qur’an, was published in 2008 by I. B. Tauris (Amazon link, it is absurdly expensive at the moment unfortunately).

When picking up a book by a non-Western Islamic scholar, one fears to see modes of reasoning that are centuries behind the times (as commonly seen in polemical and partisan works). Draz is an early example, perhaps one of the earliest, of an Islamic scholar who is willing to engage with the West with a thoroughly open mind, willing to take Western thinkers seriously and willing to view Islam from a Western framework. He does his best to predict attacks on his lines of reasoning and answers many possible criticism. I did not expect to learn too much from this work, being so familiar with the Quran. But I am pleased to say that some parts of it were highly enlightening.

Unfortunately both the Arabic and the English translation leave much to be desired. The Arabic translation appears to be a somewhat word-for-word translation of the French, extremely difficult to follow due to the near-complete absence of Arabic modes of expression. The English is not much better; its language feels almost as outdated as a book from 1850.

Shorter (and cheaper) version on Amazon. Also available as Kindle ebook.

Maybe the reason is Draz’s own French writing still (his Arabic writings in his other books and articles are extremely easy to follow). What the book needs is a thorough modernization effort that does not merely translate the paragraphs but translates his thoughts into modern English.

I found the following version (published 2018) by Basma Abdelgafar titled Morality in the Qur’an: The Greater Good of Humanity and bought it from the Kindle store. It shortens the work in order to make it more accessible. While this is a very welcome effort, unfortunately it is more on the order of study notes due to its highly abridged nature, and it uses many technical words that even college graduates will likely struggle. Still, it might be the best introduction to Draz’s thought that there is.

The Way of the Spiritual Muslim

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My new book The Way of the Spiritual Muslim is now available on Amazon.com as a paperback and Kindle ebook. This book contains all of the sayings of Ibn al-Jawzī and Ibn al-Qayyim from my previous books along with new sections presenting the sayings of Ibn ʿAbbās, al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, al-Fuḍayl bin ʿIyāḍ, Imam al-Shāfiʿī, Imam Aḥmad, Imam al-Ghazālī,  Jalāl al-Dīn Rumi and Ibn ʿAṭāʾ-Allāh.

An Islamic answer to Sam Harris and other deniers of free will

This article is an Islamic answer to Sam Harris and those who follow in his tracks. Below is a video that shows the dynamics of the free-will-denying discourse; the way it uses a collection of scientific facts to leap to the conclusion that there is no room for free will:

The main argument of the video can be stated as this: if this universe is a closed physical system, then everything that happens inside it is a consequence of the system itself.

If you imagine this universe as a closed box with atoms floating inside it, when you see an atom move faster than another, you do not say that atom chose to move faster. The atom has no free will. You instead say that the way this atom interacted with those other atoms caused it to move faster.

Sam Harris’s philosophy is therefore entirely reliant on the assumption that the universe is, when it comes to free will, a closed system. If everything we do is a consequence of the design of the brain and body and our past experiences, then naturally this means there is no room for free will. According to this view, if you have perfect knowledge of everything that goes into a person’s brain, and perfect knowledge of their physiology, then you can predict with 100% accuracy every one of their thoughts and actions. They are just a highly sophisticated robot responding to their own design and their environment.

Islam’s answer to that is this: this universe is a simulation with the soul residing outside of it. We are happy to acknowledge everything scientists say about the way human behavior is affected by material causes. But we reject the unproven hypothesis, the leap of faith of free will deniers, that this leaves no room for free will. By placing the soul outside the universe, we can say that the soul can act independently of the universe. It can “transcend” the universe and do its own thing when it chooses.

The most fundamental question when it comes to the question of free will, according to the Islamic perspective, is whether God exists. From there we can come to whether the soul exists. And from there we can come to the material universe. The soul, according to Islam, is “more real” than the universe, the same way that in the film The Matrix the real people are outside the universe, controlling avatars inside it. The universe is merely like a computer game, with the players residing outside.

While as a soul I am constantly affected by the universe, by my hormones and past experiences, since I am “more real” than these things, I can “sit back”, think apart from all that, and come to choices that are not demanded by the material factors. I am like Neo in the Matrix; my avatar inside the Matrix an send all kinds signals to my real self which resides outside of. But since my real self is outside of it, it continues to maintain a form of independence from the Matrix; it can transcend it. I can choose to be selfless and generous even if all material causes make me want to be otherwise.

As Muslims we say the player is more real than the game and controls it. They say there is no player; there is just the game. They are like characters stuck inside a video game, or inside the Matrix, denying that there could be anything outside the game. And they keep telling us about the wonderful features of the game and how it affects the avatar as if this proves there is no reality beyond it. To them everyone in the game is an NPC (non-playable character) controlled by the game itself. To us, humans are real players who are not deterministically controlled by the game, even though the game affects them strongly.

They will say that since there is no proof that there is anything outside the game, we must believe the game is all that there is. That is another way of saying that there is no reason to be Muslim (and have such beliefs about the universe) since there is no proof that Islam is God’s one true religion. To that I say that since I have experienced God through the Quran, and since thousands of great men and women before me have also experienced God in similar ways (and not just Muslims), I could not be anything but Muslim. To me my framework, my worldview, is more authoritative than theirs. There is no scientific proof that God or the soul do not exist, or that Islam is false. But there is strong soft (not hard) evidence for the truth of Islam. Therefore my view of the universe, to those who have had similar experiences to mine, actually has more evidence on its side than their view of the universe. I take a leap of faith based on experience and soft evidence. They take a leap of faith that goes against experience (all humans act as if free will exists even if they can come up with clever theories to deny it) and that only has soft evidence behind it (suggestive facts about the way human behavior is affected by physiology and the environment).

If they say that only foolish people believe in religion and that more intelligent people will believe in their worldview, the evidence of the real world disproves their claim. There are highly religious Muslims and Christians who believe in a worldview similar to mine who are just as intelligent as any atheist or non-believer in free will.

For more on the Islamic theory of the universe as a simulation and a discussion of soft versus hard evidence, see my essay: Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template: A Plausible Reconciliation of the Quran and the Theory of Evolution

This article is based on an email I sent to a friend who sent me the video above and asked for an Islamic answer to it.

Impiety by Mahwi (1836 – 1906 CE)

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The cover of an edition of his diwan (collected poetry)

A famous poem by the Kurdish poet and Islamic scholar Mahwi (1836 – 1906 CE, full name: Mullah Muhammad son of Mullah Uthman Balkhi)

In impiety–woe to me!–my life has passed;
O God, let me go on living till I die at a pious man’s doorstep.

Wasted in meaninglessness my whole lifetime has gone:
I must even pray for time to die in from the Lord of Time.

The hour of death has come: “Be ready! It is the time of resignation and submission!”
Yet I, in obliviousness, am only starting to busy myself with childish matters.

The empty thoughts of the worldly life have so overcome me,
Only on the Day of Judgment will I be able to remember the Day of Judgment.

I have become a cripple, yet like a child I desire the world:
The frailty of old age prevents me from holding my head up, yet in worldliness my ego feels as if it is just beginning to walk.

What is its sin and crime that it has become a home of torment?
My grave, to the gravedigger, will be complaining thus until the Day of Judgment.

Tomorrow is the Day of Resurrection, my friends, it is your chance today:
Disown me–let no one’s judgment be with mine!

I do not know what my villainous ego can want of me anymore:
I am already an evil-doer, evil-mannered, evil-minded and evil-natured.

My only hope is that His attribute of the Coverer of Sins covers me with a wave of the sea of His Mercy
Otherwise my correction is unlikely, the covering of my sins impossible.

Kurdish text:

له‌ ناکه‌سکاریا خاکم به‌سه‌ر، رۆیی به‌با عومرم
خودا، تۆ بمژێنه‌ تا له‌به‌ر قاپی که‌سێ ئه‌مرم
به‌ ظایع چو له‌ مالایه‌عنیا، وه‌قتم هه‌مو یه‌عنی
ئه‌بێ وه‌قتێ له‌بولوه‌قتێ بخوازم، تا تیابمرم
ئه‌جه‌ل ده‌ورم ده‌دا، حاظڕبه‌ واده‌ی ده‌وروته‌سلیمه‌
منی غه‌فڵه‌تزه‌ده‌، تازه‌ خه‌ریکی مه‌سئه‌له‌ی ده‌ورم
خه‌یاڵی پوچی دنیا، وا ده‌ماغو دڵمی پێچاوه‌
قیامه‌ت هه‌ر مه‌گه‌ر رۆژی، قیامه‌ت بێته‌وه‌ فکرم
له‌پێ که‌وتومو نه‌فسم بۆ هه‌وا ده‌شنێ وه‌کو منداڵ
له‌به‌ر پیری سه‌رم خۆی ناگرێتو، تازه‌ پێده‌گرم
چیه‌ سوچو گوناهی؟ بۆچی ده‌یکاته‌ جه‌زاخانه‌؟
له‌ قه‌برهه‌ڵکه‌ن هه‌تا رۆژی جه‌زا، ده‌عوه‌ت چییه‌ قه‌برم
سبه‌ینێ (یحشر المرء)ه براگه‌ل، فورسه‌ته‌ ئه‌مڕۆ
ته‌به‌ڕابن له‌ من، با که‌سنه‌بێ حه‌شری له‌گه‌ڵ حه‌شرم
!له‌ من نازانم ئیتر، نه‌فسی به‌دخو چی ئه‌وێ (مه‌حوی)؟
که‌ به‌د کردارو به‌د ره‌فتارو به‌د ئه‌فکارو به‌د طه‌ورم
مه‌گه‌ر به‌ر مه‌وجی به‌حری ره‌حمه‌تمکا، وه‌سفی سه‌تتاری
وه‌گه‌رنا، زه‌حمه‌ته‌ پابونه‌وه‌م، نامومکینه‌ سه‌ترم

On Islam’s view of psychology and scientific reductionism

What do you think of theory of psychology like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? Is it worth it to study it to understand human personality or is it just a mere fun and entertainment? Also, how does Islam view the majority of theory of psychology which was born in Western? Thank you. I love your blog!

Islamic theology embraces science because it considers this universe a simulation-like thing that is designed to work according to scientific principles (as I explain in my essay Al-Ghazali’s Matrix and the Divine Template – PDF file). So whatever is established by science will also be automatically confirmed by Islamic theology.

Psychology is like any other science. Whatever objective and verifiable results it discovers will be accepted by Islam. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not firmly established (see the criticisms section on Wikipedia), so Islam’s view of it will have to take these criticisms into account.

Psychology has what is called a “replication crisis” where studies conducted to verify previous studies often come to different results. For this reason psychology is not as respectable as the other sciences and its results should always be treated with skepticism unless some result is validated by many studies.

There is, however, the issue of scientific reductionism which is likely what led to your question. Science tends to treat humans as if they were nothing more than “clever apes”, animals who happen to be intelligent and use language. This view operates under the belief that science can work out everything there is to know about humans through scientific studies.

Islam is opposed to that view. It will accept all empirical and verifiable results of the sciences, but similar to Christian philosophy it views humans as “embodied spirits” not clever apes. We all have an “inner ape” that can be studied by science; this refers to the parts of our biology and psychology that are under the control of physical factors like genes. Islam fully accepts this.

But Islam and Christianity both go a step beyond that: Humans also have uniquely human part that is layered on top of the ape part and that controls it. The uniquely human part has self-consciousness, free will and inviolable dignity.  There is nothing wrong with the biological and evolutionary study of humans, but there is something wrong with suggesting that that is all there is to humans. We believe that humans can transcend their physical limits and overcome the inner ape’s instincts in order to do what is better, more just and more admirable.

The view of Islam and Christianity is that humans have inner apes and potential inner saints. The perfect human in both Islam and Christianity is the one who strives always to embody the divine attributes that are fit for a human to have (generosity, fairness, mercy, compassion, empathy). We believe that all humans have been given a nature (what Islam calls a fiṭra and which is also mentioned by Christians like Thomas Aquinas) that seeks to transcend itself by communion with God and the embodiment of His attributes. This, needless to say, is a far more beautiful and humane worldview than what scientific reductionism believes about humans.

If someone uses psychology or other fields of science to build a theory that reduces humans to nothing more than clever animals, then that is rejected by both Islam and Christianity. But that is not science anyway; there is no proof that humans are merely animals. It is just an unproven conjecture that some people like. As for the respectable, non-conjectural parts of science that are supported by studies, they are accepted by modern Islamic theology and the Christian theology of thinkers like Alister McGrath.

The Islamic Case for Scientific Empiricism and Skepticism toward Supernatural Phenomena

In answer to questions regarding people observing miracles

I would explore all possible scientific explanations for seemingly miraculous events before thinking of supernatural causes. Even if there is no scientific explanation now, one may find such an explanation one day. As I mention in my essays on why God allows evil to exist and on reconciling Islam and the theory of evolution, one of God’s self-imposed rules is the principle of plausible deniability: God never performs anything provably supernatural for us to see.  God always wants Himself to be hidden from us. That is what His dual attributes of al-Ẓāhir al-Bāṭin (The Clearly Visible, the Hidden) refer to. God is everywhere to be seen for a person who has faith in Him. But He is also completely hidden from direct observation.

We hear stories about some person’s friend’s relative who saw a clear and obvious miracle but miraculously failed to take a video of it. Rather than believing such stories, if we were to take the Quran seriously, we would be as skeptical about them as an atheist is. We fully believe in the miracles mentioned in the Quran, but we also believe the Quran when it says God will no longer show us any miracles that force us to believe in Him.

God is involved in our lives every moment of every day, but, and this is a very important point, He never provably involves Himself in our lives. He will always leave sufficient room for doubt so that when He answers a prayer we can always later say it was actually just an accident that the prayer came true. God does not want us to see Him or see effects of His actions directly. He wants our faith in Him to be a completely free and unforced choice. He wants us to proactively appreciate Him and love Him. He does not want us to passively be forced by external evidence to submit to Him.

I occasionally get messages from Muslims asking what “proof” there is that God exists and that Islam is the true religion. They have the mistaken idea that it is the job of Islamic scholars to prove Islam for them. They got it backward: It is their job to seek God and seek proofs of the correctness of Islam. Islamic scholars can help, but ultimately the business of faith is a personal business between each person and God. God has zero need for people. A person who fails to do their homework of proactively seeking God has no one to blame but themselves on the Day of Judgment.

HTML, CSS & JavaScript for Complete Beginners Code Examples

var text = 
    'And this is Dorlcote Mill. I must '
  + 'stand a minute or two here on the bridge '
  + 'and look at it, though the clouds are '
  + 'threatening, and it is far on in the afternoon. '
  + 'Even in this leafless time of departing February '
  + 'it is pleasant to look at,–perhaps the chill, '
  + 'damp season adds a charm to the trimly kept, '
  + 'comfortable dwelling-house, as old as the elms '
  + 'and chestnuts that shelter it from the '
  + 'northern blast. ';
  
var text_analyzer = {
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};

function print_object(the_object) {
    document.write('{
'); for(var i in the_object) { var key = i; var value = the_object[i]; document.write('"' + key + '"'); document.write(' : '); if(Array.isArray(value)) { print_array(value); } else if(typeof value === 'object') { print_object(value); } else { document.write(value); } document.write('
'); } document.write('}
'); } function print_array(the_array) { document.write('[
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'); } document.write(text_analyzer.get_word_frequencies()['on']);

Chapter 12 “Program” starting code:


 
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 12 four rectangles example. Remove the lines that say “remove this line” otherwise the code will not work.



Rectangle 1
Rectangle 2
Rectangle 3
Rectangle 4

Chapter 13 cookie-related code:

Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors?

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Chapter 24 Reading Journal example (live demo)


My Reading Journal

  • Rebecca Stott, Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution 2012
  • David W. Deamer, First Life: Discovering the Connections Between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began 2011
  • Alister E. McGrath, Dawkins’ God: From The Selfish Gene to The God Delusion 2015

 

The Quran and the Shape of the Earth: Is It Round or Flat?

There is some propaganda on the Internet about the Quran suggesting the earth is flat. They do not mention that respected and highly orthodox Islamic scholars like Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim all believed the earth to be round. They also refer to a fatwa by Ibn Baaz (a follower of Wahhabism, a version of Islam probably followed by less than 1% of the world’s Muslims) who said that no Muslim has the right to say that the earth is round. To anti-Islam propagandists the opinion and thinking of 99% of Muslims can be dismissed in favor of the fringe 1% since it helps validate their prejudices against Islam when they can focus only on the most negative examples of Muslims they can find.

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi writes:

I was in a discussion yesterday with a young Muslim struggling with his faith. He mentioned that he had read from sources critical to Islam that the Quran clearly contradicts known facts and represents the world-view of its time (7th century CE). And of the most blatant examples, according to him, was that the Quran clearly preaches that the world is flat. Now, I have said and firmly believe that the genre of 'scientific miracles in the Quran' that we all grew up reading is in fact a dangerous genre, because it reads in 'facts' where no such facts exist, and because it posits one's faith on a purely scientific basis (so that when 'science', which is ever-evolving, might seem to contradict the Quran, this will lead to a weakness of faith). Nonetheless, to claim that the Quran preaches that the world is flat is an outrageous claim. In fact there is unanimous consensus amongst medieval Muslim scholars to the contrary.

Ibn Hazm (d. 1064 CE), wrote over a thousand years ago in his book al-Fisal, "I do not know of a single scholar worth the title of scholar who claims other than that the earth is round. Indeed the evidences in the Quran and Sunnah are numerous to this effect" [al-Fisal, v. 2 p. 78].

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328 CE), someone who is typically accused of literalism, wrote that there is unanimous consensus of all the scholars of Islam that the world is round, and that reality and perception also proves this, for, as he writes, it is well known that the Sun sets on different peoples at different times, and does not set on the whole world at the same time. In fact, writes Ibn Taymiyya, it is truly an ignorant person who claims that the earth is not round. [Majmu al-Fatawa, v. 6, p. 586]. And there are many others scholars, such as al-Razi, who wrote on this subject, and I do not know of any medieval scholar who held another view.

It is true that most of the Quranic verses on this issue are vague; there is no strong proof one way or another. There are verses like the following which could be referring to a flat earth or they may just be using literary language to speak of God’s active and highly thoughtful and considerate involvement in the design of the earth for the specific benefit of humans:

15:19 And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.

20:53 He Who has, made for you the earth like a carpet spread out; has enabled you to go about therein by roads (and channels); and has sent down water from the sky.” With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from the others.

43:10 (Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out, and has made for you roads (and channels) therein, in order that ye may find guidance (on the way);

50:7 And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)

The Quran says:

"He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He wraps the night up in the day, and wraps the day up in the night." (Surah az-Zumar 5)

The word used for “wrap” is kawwara, which is used in Arabic to refer to wrapping something around a spherical thing, such as wrapping a turban around the head. The Arabic word for ball is kura, from the same root. In Arabic all words belonging to the same root have a similar theme to them; when the Quran says the night is wrapped around the day and uses kawwara, this creates the image of darkness overcoming a spherical thing in the mind. It is extremely silly to say there is no suggestion of the earth’s roundness in this verse.

The Quran also uses daḥāhā (”he threw it in a rolling motion”) in verse 79:30  to refer to God creating earth in space. The Meccan children used to play a game with stones similar to marbles that they called al-madāḥi (from the same root as daḥāhā). The root of this word brings up the image of a stone rolling, which is again in consonance with a round earth.

In another place, 41:11, it speaks of interstellar dust gathering to form the earth. It also speaks of the expansion of the universe:

We constructed the universe through power, and We are expanding it. (Verse 51:47)

A fair-minded reader of the Quran will find in it some incredibly suggestive hints toward its truth (such as the strange mention of the expansion of the universe) while not finding anything in it that clearly and unequivocally says the earth is flat. A person who starts out by thinking the earth is flat can certainly re-interpret everything in the Quran to make it support their theory. But such a person’s opinion stands against the opinion of the vast majority of scholars, who also studied the Quran and found it to support a round earth theory.

The flat earth issue in Islam is therefore made up of a fringe group of Islamic scholars, atheists and anti-Islam propagandists saying the earth is flat, and 99% of the world’s Muslims since the Middle Ages saying the earth is round.

JavaScript for Complete Beginners Code Examples

var text = 
    'And this is Dorlcote Mill. I must '
  + 'stand a minute or two here on the bridge '
  + 'and look at it, though the clouds are '
  + 'threatening, and it is far on in the afternoon. '
  + 'Even in this leafless time of departing February '
  + 'it is pleasant to look at,–perhaps the chill, '
  + 'damp season adds a charm to the trimly kept, '
  + 'comfortable dwelling-house, as old as the elms '
  + 'and chestnuts that shelter it from the '
  + 'northern blast. ';
  
var text_analyzer = {
    current_text : text,
    get_words_array : function() {
        var text = this.current_text;
        var split_text = text.split(' ');
        return split_text;
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        var length = words_array.length;
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    get_longest_word : function() {
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        var longest_word = '';
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        return word_frequencies;
    },
};

function print_object(the_object) {
    document.write('{
'); for(var i in the_object) { var key = i; var value = the_object[i]; document.write('"' + key + '"'); document.write(' : '); if(Array.isArray(value)) { print_array(value); } else if(typeof value === 'object') { print_object(value); } else { document.write(value); } document.write('
'); } document.write('}
'); } function print_array(the_array) { document.write('[
'); for(var i in the_array) { var value = the_array[i]; if(Array.isArray(value)) { print_array(value); } else if(typeof value === 'object') { print_object(value); } else { document.write(value + ','); } } document.write(']
'); } document.write(text_analyzer.get_word_frequencies()['on']);

Chapter 12 “Program” starting code:


 
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 12 four rectangles example. Remove the lines that say “remove this line” otherwise the code will not work.



Rectangle 1
Rectangle 2
Rectangle 3
Rectangle 4

Chapter 13 cookie-related code:

Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors?

+ Increase size
- Decrease size

 

The Muslim view of Orientalists

Brother, I've heard that orientalists are westerners studying Islam and their purpose is to cause distortion of knowledge among people about Islam. My question is, what orientalists really are and for what purpose do they study Islam? Thank you.

“Orientalist” is a word that was used to refer to Western scholars of Islam until the middle of the 20th century. It is true that some Orientalists had negative views of Muslims and this affected their research. But on the whole, Orientalists were like any group of Western academics (social scientists, historians), trying to objectively study Islam. The work of Orientalists was perhaps the greatest contribution to the field of Islamic studies in the 20th century. They helped solve various mysteries that Islamic scholars had not solved, for example the origins of the Islamic schools of thought (madhhabs).

Orientalists like Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921) and Joseph Schacht (d. 1969) had a low opinion of Islamic scholars and they believed that the vast majority of authentic hadith narrations were fabricated by them. Their theories upset many Islamic scholars and made them think there was some sort of conspiracy against Islam (especially since Goldziher was Jewish). Regardless of their motivations, since they were working within a Western academic field, the field continued to develop and refine its theories, so that by 2000 the theory of widespread fabrication of hadith was disproven by other Orientalists (who are no longer called Orientalists), especially the scholar Harald Motzki.

Louis Massignon

The French Orientalist Louis Massignon (1883 – 1962), a Catholic priest, was one of the greatest servants of the Islamic scholarly tradition in the 20th century and worked hard to increase Western respect for Islam. His students include important Islamic scholars and thinkers like Muhammad Abdullah Draz and Ali Shariati, and important Western scholars like George Makdisi who continued his tradition of respecting Islam and Muslims.

So it is unjust to color all Orientalists with the same brush. They were humans with different motivations, but the majority were trying to be objective in their study of Islam.

Additionally, their Western method of study is extremely valuable because it helps encourage balanced and objective discussion of the issues. Their method of study is now being adopted by Islamic scholars throughout the world since it is so valuable. In the past scholars from one school would often refuse to study the works of other schools and would defend their own ideas even if there was evidence that contradicted them. But the Western method of study, which requires publishing one’s ideas in papers that are peer-reviewed by other scholars, makes it impossible to defend false ideas for very long.

In this way, today’s Western field of Islamic studies, which was established by the Orientalists, is helping make the life of Islamic scholars much easier because their research is so objective and high in quality. Examples are the works of Frank Griffel and Kenneth Garden on Imam al-Ghazali, which have helped completely change how we understand this important scholar (they show that he was not against philosophy, quite the opposite).

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Draz on saints

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Draz (1894 – 1958) with a granddaughter.

In fact, what a saint strives for is not so much to avoid the gross sins, to prevent himself from slipping into the lower strata of morality, as to guard against remaining at an average degree of self-perfection, and always to raise himself to superior levels. The morality of the saints is not a struggle; it is rather a life, with all that life bears in the battle for progress. This is why, during the short intervals in which they rest, they feel called to recommence the task. In the Qur'an, this inner call takes on the form of an express invitation to the Prophet:

When your task is done, start again and strive towards your Lord. (The Quran, verses 94:7-8)

This shows us that, far from allowing a creature to dispense with its struggle, an infinitely broader perspective opens up to pure souls in which to apply their effort. Even when one no longer has to fight against inclinations contrary to the law, one will always have to conquer the inertia of matter, to triumph against the weight of nature in order to soar higher and higher into the heavens.

Muhammad Abdullah Draz, The Moral World of the Qur'an (1951)

 

An algorithm for predicting US stock market crashes (applied to 2018)

1. Is it an election year? Yes.

2. Will a stock market crash help weaken the party that is currently too strong in Congress for the good of the bankers and billionaires? Yes. A crash in 2018 will help make the Republicans look bad, giving Democrats a fighting chance. This will help break Republican power, helping prevent them from having too much power in Congress to pass unfriendly laws.

3. Have the bankers and their friends already cashed out of the stock market? Yes.

Courtesy of Palisade Research.

4. Has the Federal Reserve started to aggressively raise rates and has it started to say that it will continue doing so? Yes.

The red line shows the Federal Reserve raising rates (making it more difficult for businesses to borrow money). The Fed continues to do that until it causes a market crash by making
business impossible. Courtesy of Value Walk

5. Has the mainstream media switched its rhetoric so that it now tells people about the possibility of a market crash (promoting fear, uncertainty and doubt) rather than telling them to continue buying stocks? Yes.

The above is the headline article at MarketWatch on October 30, 2018.

Then a crash is baked in the cake.

The crash that is currently being orchestrated by the Federal Reserve and their banker and billionaire friends is going to be blamed on Trump and his policies. Even though this is unfair, he fully deserves to carry the blame because he was fully willing to take credit for the stock market doing well (when it had nothing to do with his policies). If you take credit for the stock market doing well, don’t be surprised if you are made to take blame for it doing badly.

I do not suggest that the stock market’s future is perfectly deterministic. Ultimately it relies on investor sentiment. If the Fed’s rate raising and the media’s promotion of fear, uncertainty and doubt manage to seriously bias investors against risk-taking, the market will crash.

Update (Nov 7, 2018)

The crash hasn’t materialized as soon as I expected. This could mean that:

  • The powers that be miscalculated how fast investors would panic, so that the crash will now happen after the elections (since fundamentals haven’t changed, the housing market is collapsing as I write this). A crash helps kill a whole lot of birds with one stone, so even if they failed at causing it to happen before the elections, there are still immense profits to be made even if it happens after the elections.
  • Some sort of deal was made between Trump or the Republicans and the bankers to delay the crash.
  • There are other important variables that I have failed to account for.

Terry Pratchett and “The People”

Night Watch art by Marc Simonetti

Upon re-reading (well, re-listening to) Terry Pratchett’s 2002 novel Night Watch yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised with the following passage:

People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so, the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.

As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.

The quality of Pratchett’s thinking declined sharply from 1999 onward (the 1999 novel The Fifth Elephant is barely 5% as clever as his earlier novels). Night Watch follows the same pattern, but it still has a really good plot and atmosphere that make up for it. I am also glad that it sold so well, since it is a good argument against the Marxism-inspired utopianism that is so common in the West today. America’s Democrats are outraged that the American population dares to vote for people they do not approve of. Hidden between the lines of their rhetoric is the all-pervading assumption that they are too good for the American population.

Did Islamic scholars impede the development of science? A questionable meme

Scholar by Ludwig Deutsch (1895)

Ali Paya (an Iranian professor of philosophy) writes in a 2016 article regarding al-Ghazali’s saying that Islamic jurisprudence is a science that is superior to the non-religious sciences:

Such an attitude, which can be seen both among fuqahā’ and mystics (Ghazzali belonged to both groups) has had a continuous and seriously negative impact upon the healthy development of science and technology in Islamic culture’s ecosystem.1

Is it really surprising that religious scholars should think that their field is more important than other fields? And where is the evidence that their attitude “has had a continuous and seriously negative impact upon the healthy development of science and technology in Islamic culture’s ecosystem”?

Imagine if there had been no religious scholars at all in the Islamic areas. Would their absence have removed this supposed negative influence on the development of science? I would say the opposite is much more likely. Their activities could encouraged intellectual exploration in the following ways:

  • Since the works of Islamic scholars were by far the largest genre of literary production in the Islamic world, their activities may have been essential for the establishment of a book production culture. This culture, in turn, may have enabled non-religious scholars, philosophers and naturalists to get involved in literary production since, thanks to the Islamic scholars, a market had been established that could help them produce and sell their books.
  • Islamic scholars had a need for linguistic knowledge, helping encourage the creation of the most advanced linguistic literature ever written until Europe caught up in the past few centuries. By helping create an independent, non-religious field of knowledge that gained wide acceptance and respect, Islamic scholars helped make secular knowledge respectable and even desirable.
  • Certain Islamic scholars had a strong interest in logic and philosophy, helping maintain interest in these topics and spreading them through their books. Al-Ghazali himself helped popularize the use of Greek logic in Islamic legal theory and theology.

As far as I can tell, the theory that Islamic scholars held back scientific development is nothing but armchair theorizing. It is obvious to certain type of thinker that religious scholars should have a negative influence in this regard. But without strong empirical evidence, this should be treated as groundless hypothesizing; Islamic scholars may have been essential to all intellectual developments the Middle East enjoyed until recently.

It is true that Islamic scholars have at times opposed philosophy and science. But even more scholars have embraced these things and even promoted them. Without a statistical analysis of the number of scholars who tried to impede intellectual progress versus the number who tried to encourage, we know nothing more than the fact that some scholars tried to impede intellectual progress and some scholars tried to encourage it.

For propaganda reasons, there are many (not speaking of Paya) who like to focus on the rare Islamic clerics who espouse anti-modern attitudes while ignoring the far greater number of clerics who fully embrace modern science and knowledge.

When it comes to history, blaming the presence of a certain influence is always a dangerous business because there is no way to conduct experiments to find out whether the blame is really justified. Unless someone goes back in history, removes all or most of the Islamic scholars, then looks to see if centuries later scientific progress happens earlier or later, they should not presume to voice strong opinions on this matter (unless they find another way of empirically testing their hypothesis). For all that we know, the Islamic world may have been far more undeveloped by 1800 had it not been for the influence of Islamic scholars. And there is good reason to believe this, because there are no sustainable civilizations that lack a strong religious basis. Once the religious influence is removed, the civilization enters a phase of slow-motion collapse (low fertility rates being a very good indicator of the civilization’s unsustainbility, as is the case in all modern secularized nations). The presence and activity of Islamic scholars helped maintain Islam’s relevance through time, helping maintain its power over the Islamic world. Had they not done that, Islam could have fallen into irrelevance as happened to Greco-Roman religion.

Of course, Islamic scholars could have done more to promote science. But we can say the same regarding just about anyone.

Jordan Peterson eclipsed Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris in 2018 when it comes to search interest

Jordan Peterson doesn’t really have too many insights to offer, he tries to teach what the best religious mysticism teaches but without the religious ingredient. He may change a few lives, and he may have a good influence on changing many people’s notions about leftism. But I do not expect him to have a lasting effect, because his teachings lack the essential aspect of replicability which religion has. Without replicability, teachings like those of Peterson will fail to spread beyond a small group of true believers.

It is very difficult for parents to ensure that their children grow up morally upright because, as the sociocultural evolutionists Richerson and Boyd point out, the effects of non-parents on children’s values and beliefs are much stronger than the effects of parents.

In Small Gods (1992), the atheist writer Terry Pratchett expresses his belief that it is possible to be a nice and decent human being without having to carry all that religious baggage:

What have I always believed?
That on the whole, and by and large, if a man lived properly, not according to what any priests said, but according to what seemed decent and honest inside, then it would, at the end, more or less, turn out all right.
You couldn’t get that on a banner. But the desert looked better already.

Maybe it would have been great if things were really like that. But the reality is that atheists suffer what might be termed the generational devolution of morality. An atheist born to religious parents can perhaps be just as upright as his parents while abandoning their religious ideas. But that is not the true test of irreligious morality. The true test is this: can the atheist bring up children just as morally upright as themselves? And can their children bring up grandchildren just as morally upright as the children?

While a minority will likely be able, through much hard work and care, to bring up morally upright children, for example by having them read the classics, when it comes to the majority, the abandonment of religion always, generation after generation, leads to the abandonment of moral uprightness.

The scientific reason for this might be that religion enables parents to “outsource” the transfer of moral uprightness. The hard work of ingraining all those moral ideals into the brains of your children is done through a society-wide mechanism that is all-pervading, always-on and self-perpetuating (the child acquires the “virus” of religion, likes it and passes it on). Atheists have to “reinvent the wheel” by bringing up morally upright children who believe in the same principles as they themselves believe, without enjoying this vast system of persuasion and perpetuation. If the religious mechanism sounds scary and dystopian, I want to point out that it does not have to be. You can be as kind and gentle as the kindest and gentlest person you can imagine and still enjoy the benefits of these mechanisms on your children, raising them to be kind and gentle and religious like yourself.

The results of secular efforts to replace religion with alternative moralities are as pathetic as you would expect. There is no secularized society whose majority is not made of juvenile-minded, unprincipled, selfish and short-sighed men and women. They complain about unethical and anti-consumer corporations while investing their retirement savings in these very same corporations’ stocks. They complain about the banks while constantly borrowing from them. They complain about corrupt politicians while continually voting the same enemies of the people and puppets of the banks and the state back into office because they promise them shiny new things.

There are many decent irreligious people. But the longer the society continues without religion, the rarer they will become.

The reality seems to be that it is simply impossible to bring up morally upright, responsible and long-term minded citizens in a secularized society. Secular morality is always a defective wannabe religion that is incapable of convincing the majority of people to act by it. The nice, kind and moral secular people you see in the West are perhaps all second or third-generation offspring of upright Christians who continue to enjoy Christianity’s teachings in an unsystematic and vague manner, for now. With each generation those teachings are going to fade more, out-competed by the influences of secular society (films, songs, books). It has taken just one human lifetime for the United States to go from a world where Wall Street and Congress had many highly principled humans (thanks to Christianity’s influence) to a world where they have become almost impossible to spot. I am not saying there was some golden age 80 years ago when Christian morality was still taken seriously. It is, rather, the difference between 10% of the elite being principled 80 years ago compared to 1% being principled today. And that makes all the difference in the world. A few good men and women in a power structure can prevent a great deal of evil.

Those who think that humanistic ideals can replace religion should remember that the greatest historical humanists were all highly religious people and many were priests. Secularism is just a recent social experiment, and the results are not encouraging.

Programming for Complete Beginners Code Examples

var text = 
    'And this is Dorlcote Mill. I must '
  + 'stand a minute or two here on the bridge '
  + 'and look at it, though the clouds are '
  + 'threatening, and it is far on in the afternoon. '
  + 'Even in this leafless time of departing February '
  + 'it is pleasant to look at,–perhaps the chill, '
  + 'damp season adds a charm to the trimly kept, '
  + 'comfortable dwelling-house, as old as the elms '
  + 'and chestnuts that shelter it from the '
  + 'northern blast. ';
  
var text_analyzer = {
    current_text : text,
    get_words_array : function() {
        var text = this.current_text;
        var split_text = text.split(' ');
        return split_text;
    },
    count_words : function() {
        var words_array = this.get_words_array();
        var length = words_array.length;
        return length;
    },
    get_average_word_length : function() {
      var all_word_lengths = 0;
      var words_array = this.get_words_array();
      for(var i in words_array) {
          var current_word = words_array[i];
          all_word_lengths = all_word_lengths +
              current_word.length;
      }
      return all_word_lengths / words_array.length;
    },
    get_longest_word : function() {
        var longest_length_seen_so_far = 0;
        var longest_word = '';
        var words_array = this.get_words_array();
        for(var i in words_array) {
            var current_word = words_array[i];
            if(current_word.length > 
                longest_length_seen_so_far) {
                longest_word = current_word;
                longest_length_seen_so_far =
                    current_word.length;
            }
        }
        return longest_word;
    },
    get_word_frequencies : function() {
        var words_array = this.get_words_array();
        var word_frequencies = {};
        for(var i in words_array) {
            var current_word = words_array[i];
            if(! (current_word in word_frequencies)) {
                word_frequencies[current_word] = 1;
            }
            else {
                var previous_frequency = 
                    word_frequencies[current_word];
                var new_frequency = previous_frequency
                    + 1;
                word_frequencies[current_word] =
                    new_frequency;
            }
        }
        return word_frequencies;
    },
};

function print_object(the_object) {
    document.write('{
'); for(var i in the_object) { var key = i; var value = the_object[i]; document.write('"' + key + '"'); document.write(' : '); if(Array.isArray(value)) { print_array(value); } else if(typeof value === 'object') { print_object(value); } else { document.write(value); } document.write('
'); } document.write('}
'); } function print_array(the_array) { document.write('[
'); for(var i in the_array) { var value = the_array[i]; if(Array.isArray(value)) { print_array(value); } else if(typeof value === 'object') { print_object(value); } else { document.write(value + ','); } } document.write(']
'); } document.write(text_analyzer.get_word_frequencies()['on']);

Chapter 12 “Program” starting code:


 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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