Tag Archives: religion

Should I be a Muslim? Some answers for doubtful people

Below is a question I received on tumblr, I decided to answer it in the article below.

Can you tell me how you know islam is true? I’m considering converting. But I don’t know if I should

To begin, there are two main ideas about how the universe works. The atheist idea is that the universe is a closed system, like a closed cardboard box. Inside it everything happens and nothing that happens inside is caused by anything outside of it. This theory has very important consequences. For example it nullifies the ideas of free will, responsibility, and the existence of a soul. If everything inside the box is caused by particle interactions inside the box, then everything that a human does, or everything that a human thinks, is simply caused by particle interactions, atoms and photons colliding and interacting with each other. When you decide to be kind to someone, it is not because of a choice you made, but because the universe at that moment (your memories, your way of thinking, the environment you are in) lead you to do that act.

The second theory is that the universe is an open system, that the human soul resides outside of it, which means that even though a person is affected by their environment, the part of them that lies outside the universe can act independently for itself, meaning that the person has free will. If we assume this second theory is true, then we immediately need an explanation for why the universe is this way, how it is arranged and for what purpose.

The two theories (whether the universe is closed or open) are rival theories. Atheists believe in the first one, religious people believe in the second one. But the truth is that there is no scientific way (so far) to prove whether the universe is open or closed, therefore almost all arguments between atheists and religious people are futile, since neither side has a conclusive proof. It is also probable that there will never be a conclusive proof (until the world ends).

Assuming that it is impossible to scientifically prove whether the universe is closed or open, we look to other sources of knowledge regarding this matter, and the only source of knowledge available to us regarding the nature of the universe is scripture, which explains the nature of the universe, how it was made and for what purpose.

Atheists have no evidence that the universe is closed, but the religious have evidence (scripture) that the universe is open. Therefore the matter stands on whether we take this evidence seriously or reject it. Atheists reject scripture, even though they have no conclusive scientific proof that their rejection of scripture is justified. And the religious accept scripture, even though they have no conclusive scientific proof that their acceptance of scripture is justified.

Science and reasoning cannot help us to decide the matter (since everything depends on whether the universe is open or closed, which cannot be proven by science/reasoning). Therefore, when it concerns the individual, the matter fully depends on the act of acceptance or rejection of scripture.

I have made the conscious decision of accepting scripture, as it explains the reason for the existence of the world, and things like why good people suffer and bad people enjoy life (scripture says this life is a test and the true life is after death, therefore a person’s suffering in this world does not prove anything about God’s kindness or cruelty. A person can suffer for many years, but if they are rewarded with an infinitely long and pleasurable afterlife, we can say that God is very kind).

As for telling whether Islam is the best religion, it is for yourself to decide. I have read the Quran and parts of the Bible and I have read books on Christianity and Judaism. When you look at the most pious Muslims and Christians, you will see that they are extremely similar in their way of thought and behavior. For example the Lord of the Rings, which was written by a Christian writer and is full of Christian ideas of good and evil, could have been written by a Muslim.

Christianity is encumbered by the idea of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Islam simplifies the matter by saying that Jesus was a human being like any other, he belonged to a long line of prophets sent by God to inform and educate people. Therefore according to Islam Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad all were sent by the same God to give people the same message (that there is one God and that there is a day of Judgment). Each message was specifically written for its recipients, thus according to Islam Jesus was a Jewish prophet sent to the Jews to correct their religion and remove the various corruptions that the rabbis had added to the Torah (such as legalizing usury).

Christianity too was eventually corrupted, and when the time was right God sent his final message, the Quran, which is the simplest and the most global. The Old and New Testaments are mostly concerned with the Jews, which makes sense since they were meant for the Jews.

The books of the Testaments were written and re-written by humans, thus for example we have various gospels covering the same topics, each written by a different person. This made it easy to introduce errors and corruptions into the text, accidentally or otherwise.

The Quran, however, is very different. It is meant to be the direct word of God communicated to the prophet, and the way it is written, and the language in which it is written, make it very hard to change or corrupt it. It is easy to memorize (since it is musical or poetry-like), and during the prophet’s lifetime many people memorized the entire text, and since then it has been passed down orally until the present day. After the prophet’s death the written Quran was collected and many ancient collections exist and can be read to verify the correctness of the oral tradition.

If we assume there is a God and that he acts logically and sensibly, then the Quran is a very good successor to the Bible, written in a manner that makes it nearly impossible to change. God did not make the other scriptures like this perhaps as a test, to see what humans did with God’s words, and perhaps also because God was constantly sending new prophets to correct and guide people. However, during the 7th century, it appears that God decided that the world had reached a sufficient level of development to only need one final prophet and one final text.

The Quran contains some tantalizing scientific statements that add strengths to its authenticity. For example it makes a reference to the Big Bang (“Do not those who deny the truth see that the heavens and the earth were joined together and that We then split them asunder?” 21:30), and to the stages of the growth of the human embryo (which were not known at that time). However, the Quran is not meant to fully stand on its scientific statements, otherwise God could have provided more. If the Quran contained so much science to make it impossible not to believe in it, then that would be like God showing himself to humanity. In such a situation there would be no more point in having faith; it would be like forcing faith upon humanity, which God does not want to do.

Thus the Quran provides a great amount of evidence for its truth and authenticity, but there is always a little room for doubt. We can never be perfectly sure that scripture is true, we always have to take some of it on faith. Only after death we can find out whether the scripture we believed in is true or false.

I prefer to believe in the Quran rather than the Bible since the Quran is clearly superior. The Old Testament contains many ridiculous things, such as Jacob wrestling with God, which seems to be taken right out of pagan mythology, and the idea of the Christian Trinity is too cumbersome and unnecessary. There is no good reason for God having a son, and this too seems too similar to pagan mythology.

The Quran provides elegant and logical solutions to the problems of the Bible. There is one God, who sent various prophets to guide various sections of humanity, ending with Muhammad as the last prophet and the first global one, meant to teach all of humanity. God does not show himself to us, and he has made it impossible to prove his existence, so that humans can have the choices of believing and disbelieving in him. The reason why God saw it necessary to create humans and this universe is not very clear to us, but if he is a God then he can do what he pleases, and he doesn’t have to explain himself to us. Therefore even though we do not know the perfect explanations for God’s actions, if we believe that the Quran is true, then the only logical thing to do is to follow it to gain a good afterlife. God says in the Quran that his plan for mankind is that they should spread on earth while acting according to God’s commands, and this is basically every Muslim’s program in life: to build a good family and make the world a better place through doing good and avoiding evil (which is very similar to the program also followed by many faithful Christians and Jews).

Thanking God for saving us from calamities He sent

God is the originator of everything, so what is the point of thanking Him when He sends us blessings to save us from hardships that He could have prevented from happening in the beginning?

If we believe that God created us and knows all about us, and that He has infinite knowledge and wisdom, then we can be sure that He does not play games with us; He does not send us hardship solely for the purpose of us asking him to remove such hardships, but rather, there is always another purpose. There is always a wisdom in it, and it is a tremendous foolishness and arrogance to think otherwise–to think that we can see flaws in God’s actions that He Himself cannot see or mend (sadly, though, the God of Christianity too often seems this way, at least the way Christians paint Him).

Therefore there is nothing intelligent in making fun of “God saving us from calamities He Himself sent”; the clever atheist thinks this is yet another proof of the falsehood of the idea of God, when in fact he has rigged the equation to get the result he wants, he is simply saying “if God is false, then God is false”: First, he corrupts the idea of God, creating a God that is so unwise, unintelligent and unkind that He sends calamities only for the purpose of removing them, and then, with much smugness and pomp, he says that this God must be unwise, unintelligent and unkind.

This type of thinking is more of a sign of the incoherence of Christianity than of the faithlessness of the people of the age, for it is Christianity (at least its modern incarnation) that teaches the type of thinking that puts the burden on God to prove His kindness and greatness, rather than putting the burden on humans to prove their faith and perseverance in an All-Powerful Lord that does what He pleases.

God acts and is not acted upon. God is free to do as He likes, to serve His own purposes, to reward and to punish, to give and to withhold. It does not befit a human, in his smallness and powerlessness, to question God and ask Him to prove Himself. A human being, by the virtue of existing and being alive, is given infinitely many blessings. He has eyes with which to see, a blessing beyond appreciation; for how great it is to see and how terrible not to see! And how good it is to be able to taste, to breathe, to think and imagine, to smell, to touch, and to hear the voices of the ones we love.

This simulation that we live in is like being inside a video game. The characters inside a video game have no power of their own, all the action happens inside the computer’s brain. You do not raise your hand except that God does it for you, you will it, God does it. You are nothing but a thinking thing plugged into a simulation. You think you have power because God so reliably does what you will. There is no guarantee that your arm will raise when you will it, God has to uphold the laws of physics to enable it, He has to transfer the electric signals from your brain to your arms, and create all the other changes necessary in the Universal Register for your arm to move to where you want.

In our state of infinite powerlessness and need, we have to thank God in His Greatness for every blessing, small or big, and we have to thank Him for every calamity He saves us from, even if we assume He sent the calamity. We are powerless, we are completely under God’s dominion, a God who can bring us to the highest peaks of happiness or throw us into the deepest pits of misery. There is nothing preventing God from tormenting us with unimaginable torment, yet He chooses not to do that, isn’t this worth being thankful for? He gives us so many blessings, food and drink, eyes and limbs–blessings we did not earn–isn’t this worth being thankful for?

An atheist would say that God created us, therefore it is His “job” to give us things and take care of us. But God does not have a job assigned to Him. He does what He pleases. I want you to understand this important fact: God does not have to do anything for us. We are infinitely unimportant compared to Him. We are less important than the millions of bacteria that live on the palm of your hand: you probably kill hundreds of thousands of them every day without giving them the slightest thought. There is nothing preventing God from giving us the same treatment, or worse, except God’s own will.

The truth is that we have no rights. You do not have the right to breathe, or see, or think, or even exist. God gave you those, for His own reasons. We are free to rage at Him, but our rage is impotent. We cannot move an atom except that God moves it for us. We can use God’s own technology and power to think arrogant thoughts about our greatness and His smallness, but at the end of the day, the joke is on us. We are crossing a bridge, both ends of which are held up by God, and we ourselves are nothing but puppets controlled by strings that God moves (to our commands, but only because He is humoring us), and yet we are making fun of Him, saying He doesn’t exist, or saying “no thank you” for His blessings.

Arrogant humans think of their imaginary rights over God. Humble humans think of God’s very much real rights over them, for God has a right to be appreciated and worshiped by us, for He has endowed us with so many great things that none besides Him can give.