February 2, 2009

Response 2a to Nizar

Because Nizar has been waiting so very patiently for my response to his comment, and I'm going to be tied up through this Friday at the very least, insha'allah, with PhD application matters, I thought I'd post what I had written so far; insha'allah, I'll get to his other questions later.

Second, I wouldn't really call my self slipping, because my actions are not the result of what you might call an accident caused by carelessness, lake [sic] of attention or self occupation in life but rather a conscious choice taken that based on logical thinking.

I think your so-called "conscious choice ... based on logical thinking" is partly rationalization (led on by your nafs). I do think, to a degree, that your decision is based in part on a carelessness in studying your religion. (When was the last time you read the Qur'an? When was the last time you read the Qur'an very carefully, including reading someone's exegesis?) I suspect that your case is somewhat monkey-see, monkey-do. A lemming-like desire to follow the path of other scientiests. "If they are so smart and yet they became atheists, then maybe I should be like them in that regard too."

Third, I doubt that you understand me simply because all the switching that you have done is just from a religion to another, which doesn't make a lot of difference because you still worship the same ancient myths that hasn't been proven to exist in any way just in a different method.

First, I don't think you read what I wrote very clearly (just as in your next point). Secondly, you not knowing me, I only told you part of my religious background; you're probably assuming that I'm only familiar with Abrahamic religions; in fact that's not the case at all. As for proof, we'll discuss that below. BTW, do you know how much you sound like the pagans of the Prophet's (pbuh) time?

Of them there are some who (pretend to) listen to thee; but We have thrown veils on their hearts, So they understand it not, and deafness in their ears; if they saw every one of the signs, not they will believe in them; in so much that when they come to thee, they (but) dispute with thee; the Unbelievers say: "These are nothing but tales of the ancients." (6:25)

When Our Signs are rehearsed to them, they say: "We have heard this (before): if we wished, we could say (words) like these: these are nothing but tales of the ancients." (8:31, and so on)

Fourth, Rationality is not a trap!

I didn't say rationality is a trap; I said that the Cult of Rationality is a trap. There's nothing wrong with rationality per se; in fact it's encouraged by Allah (swt) in the Qur'an. What's a problem is when people begin a form of "worship" for rationality. Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah (swt), gets pushed back by the cultists in favor of a reliance upon rationality, thinking that rationality is the panacea for mankind's problems. Not all problems can be solved by science, logic or technology.

Fifth, Science and logic are no replacement product for morals and ethics.

Unfortunately, the Cult of Rationality believes that the opposite is true.

Morals and ethics are not a product of religions although religions have contributed a lot in developing human morals to the point that it is at today.

Don't begin to contradict yourself. Morals and ethics are indeed a product of both religions and philosophy, with religion probably contributing much more to the development of both morals and ethics than philosophy.

...nor is it [technology] vital for human existence because it is more of a luxury than a necessity.

Riiight. So do you eat your food raw with your hands? Or do you use kitchen utensils, stoves, microwaves, etc., and dine on plates, bowls, and so on? When are you moving out of your home to live in the forest? Be sure not to build a lean-to or use any knife or axe; that's technology too, you know. (I point this out, even though it's a tangential issue, to show that you're not fully reasoning through some of your arguments.)

So you claim that science and logic are not the right tools to pick if I want to understand life, but instead I should choose morality?

No, I'm saying you use the right tools for the job. Science, logic and technology are fine for the purposes they were designed for, which you stated in your definitions. To live a good life you're going to use tools like morality, ethics and philosophy. However, even living a "good, moral life" is not requisite enough to get into heaven (jannah), even if you do believe in an afterlife. (Allahu alim.) According to the Qur'an, the three minimum requirements are belief in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, and to work righteousness (which I would take to mean living a "good, moral life"); this is per 2:62. Based on other readings I believe the worship of Allah (swt) is also extremely important. (Certainly prayers will be counted first above all other actions on the Day of Judgment, as per Ahadith Qudsi (#9).) As Naeem pointed out the other day, you can gamble: if you don't believe in an afterlife and there is none, then nothing is lost (nothing is gained, either). However, if there is an afterlife and you've gambled the wrong way, then the penalty may be very severe; likewise, the reward for having gambled the right way may turn out to be better than the penalty (although you may then face a charge of hypocrisy and face the same penalty as an unbeliever would). Ideally, you live your life as a pious, true believer. Islam, as you know, provides the basis for both belief in Allah (swt) and the tools for living a good life (morality, ethics, philosophy). Living a good, moral life is only one-third of the equation.

...but what if I tell you that non-believer behave better morally than believers and I can prove to you that with statistics.

I already know the "statistical" argument, and it's quite weak. You're going to want to say that the percentage of atheists/agnostics in prison is much lower than the percentage of atheists/agnostics in the general public. Here are three reasons why that argument is weak:

  • You're trying to define "moral behavior" in terms of who goes to jail and who doesn't. However, going to prison is not always equivalent to "immoral behavior." A person can behave immorally and yet not go to prison. One could, for example, lie, commit adultery, be mean (stingy, miserly), be a party to abortions, dishonor one's parents, and so on, and none of those would necessarily land you in jail. Yet the person is still behaving immorally. Your "statistics" don't capture that data. Immoral behavior is a far broader category than just those people who go to prison.
  • Not all criminal behavior requires a jail term. People might be charged with crimes for immoral behavior and receive other forms of punishment (fines, community service, probation, house arrest, restitution, etc.) while never actually stepping inside a jail cell. Neither side of your equation takes into account both sets of data.
  • Going back to the idea that "going to prison is not always equivalent to 'immoral behavior,'" one does not necessarily need to commit immoral behavior with the intention to do wrong and still end up in jail. For example, manslaughter. "A" hits and kills "B" with his car while "B" was crossing the street legally. "A" did not intend to kill "B" as the incident was purely an accident. Even so, almost all states in the U.S., for example, have vehicular homicide statutes on their books and people like "A" may find themselves in jail for a very long time.

These are three reasons off the top of my head; if I spent more time, I might be able to think of a few more. The surprise for me is that atheists and agnostics, who pride themselves on their "rationality," fail to take into consideration these flaws.

Sixth, How do you know that God exists outside the universe?

I'm actually working on that post; however, it's been pushed to the back burner as I have several other higher priorities to do right now.


Qwaider قويدر said...

That's one awesome long post. But, I really like your calm, cool, level headed responses. I would normally brush off and get too distracted and confused to answer. The problem is that there are so many contradicting and non-relating points that it's impossible to reason.

I guess, it takes a lot to differentiate between knowledge and wisdom

Good job

JDsg said...

LOL. Thanks. Remember, this is only response "2a"; I hope to write "2b" later, insha'allah, which would add to the length of the post. :)

Thanks for visiting; come again.

Tha2ir said...

Thanks for this post, and welcome to the team against Nizar's irritatting comments. I hope you'll do better than me. I got exhausted

JDsg said...

Tha2ir: You're welcome. To be honest, I had more or less given up on this type of argument several years ago, having burned out from dealing with numerous people who were obstinate time-wasters. Still, something about Nizar's post seemed to deserve an answer. ;) I am pretty amazed at the response this post has gotten so far, at least in terms of the number of people who have dropped by to read it.

bambam said...

I find it really interesting at how many people actually cared about nizar's opinion and proving him long, i would have left the space empty except that you did a sweeping statement at the end.
In essence the point of such discussion are mute since at the end the point is never to reach a mutual understand but to proove the other wrong in a philosophical duel... cal l in an article of faith and philosphy or rational thought breaks so i won't try to prove you wrong i'll just try to expose a different point of view of what your wrote.
This will be slightly lengthy so bear with me.
It is really interesting to me that you would choose (6:25) since you read in it that god veils the hearts of non believers against believing, basically condemning them to his hell without any chance of reprise theoretically, the exegesis for this aya is also revealing.

IT is not always the imitation in us that drives us to move further away from religion, sometimes it's knowledge that does that. History is full of examples where people of highly regarded religious knowledge move away from religion because of moral conflicts.

The second part of your rebuttal was the part about morality being exclusive to religion and we do it for the reward of afterlife.

well depends on what you define by the word religion, if you mean it in its most basic form of a social contract then yes.
The 10 commandments are an example, for instance "thou shall not steal" is a very basic social contract it didn't stem from only social code either. (you will find it in social codes from the beginning of documented history). If you take a look at evolutionary psychology, there is ample proof to suggest that morality exists because its beneficial and it is far from exclusive to humans. So that removes the requirement of morality.
Regardless of all what is said and discussed - like i mentioned i have no interest in proving anybody wrong, i just rather point out different approaches - The reality that religion (abrahamic and otherwise with few exception) creates moral conflict in our current society and doesn't allow the space for it to be more encompassing of growing trends or realities. So the result is that people either create new sects with encompassing understand of their own religion or drop it all together into the ritualistic sphere ... others adhere strictly (usually causing conflict) and they should all co-exist.
ps. pascal's wager (believing in god mentioned by a comment) has two short fallings in that it doesn't tell you whether you have the right god, and it doesn't tell you if god would reward genuine questioning or fearful and disingenuous adherence. I leave you all with one question, would a person who leads a moral life and does his fair share of goodwill and is religious deserve to be incarcerated and tortured for an eternity in a place called hell because he picked the wrong god ?

bambam said...

beh ... sorry for the abundance of misspellings and errors...should get into the habit of reading what i wrote before i hit the button

JDsg said...

@ Bambam: Insha'allah, later, I'd like to respond to several points in your comment; I may have to wait a day or two, though.

sorry for the abundance of misspellings and errors

Don't worry about that; we don't grade for spelling, punctuation or grammar here. ;)

JDsg said...

BamBam: I responded to your comment here.