“Why should I allow a religion to restrict my way of life? If we only live once, it makes our lives more meaningful. So live life to the fullest!”
A typical objection to religion is that specific regulations over one’s personal affairs and the promise of an afterlife “cheapens” the value of life in general. Why should we allow for any ethical code to limit our freedoms; robbing us of whatever our hearts desire? And isn’t life more precious, more sanctified, and more worthy of preserving when there isn’t anything to look forward to beyond death?
Yet, all of these sentiments are vacuous and contradictory when examined and brought to their most logical conclusions.
Let’s imagine that death is in fact the end of all individuals — that there is nothing after this life; no heaven, no hell, no final judgment, and ultimately no God. What do we have? We have a finite existence where everything and everyone is finitely valuable — where everything has an expiration date. And no, I’m not just talking about food. I’m even talking about morals themselves.
In a world where you exist with an end, there is nothing more rational than to live your life to the fullest; without any obstacles nor any burdens. It means that the best way to live life is to be as selfish as possible; without sacrifice and without remorse. To serve or attempt to put your life at risk for others would ultimately be ridiculous, because you’d be cutting your one and only life short for something that ultimately doesn’t matter — ‘love’ has no transcendental value beyond what you make of it. And if you’re dead, so dies the value you place in others. Hence, self-sacrifice is a contradictory notion for the limited existence of a free agent whose only goal should be to “live [my] life to the fullest”.
Survival of the species? Who cares. It’s not your life. That’s just a genetic predisposition with no real value. Who in their right mind would even bother to have children? For what? Do children really fulfill living life to the fullest or are they just another burden? What makes life fuller with an additional mouth to feed, house, and rear till that person has full control over your every action and choice in life? You desire companionship or a sense of accomplishment? There are easier ways to obtain these things than to go through such insignificant pain and toil over something you’ll never get to experience: the future.
To believe you actually have an investment that will outlive you is an absurdity as much a waste of time as the myths you claim to abhor.
And what of older individuals who give nothing to society — like the elderly? Why should we care to take care of them? Because of past affections we no longer need like a childhood trinket? Because of some personal favor? What are these to a life that wishes to “live to the fullest”? They are no longer of any asset to us sitting in their wheelchairs clamoring about for our attention. We should only give our attention to those who will give us something in return — that will help us to “live life to the fullest”. To do otherwise only helps us to regurgitate a no-longer-existing past.
And what of the sick, the injured, the disabled, and the mentally ill — why should we sacrifice our time and energy to assist their lives when it only gets in the way of fulfilling our own? Oh, you have a’heart’ you say? It makes you personally feel good to do things for others? That’s your motivation? So then what meaning do these people’s lives have beyond fulfilling your arbitrary desires to make yourself feel a sense of accomplishment? I suppose that aligns with being as selfish as possible, but I’m not sure such a selfish understanding of value is what you had in mind when you said “life is precious”. Because if the worth of individuals is entirely dependent on how they make you feel in this limited existence, I’m very certain there are others out there who find your existence a mere obstruction to their own goals; worthy of death because it brings them closer to their own satisfactions. Are they not also living their lives to the fullest? So, tell me, why should they follow your arbitrary restrictions?
“Because we should treat others as we want to be treated!” you may retort.
But why? If you have the power to avoid any consequence, the privilege to leave the sick and dying to their own ends, and the good sense to avoid angering the wrong people — what is the “Golden Rule” other than a mere archaism for the gullible? Only the pathetic and weak want others to follow this guideline, because their only means to living their own lives to the fullest is by groveling at the feet of the strong. But even then, such a guideline is a ruse, because most doctors desire high salaries in exchange for their “high altruism”. And those who don’t? How foolish for them to believe being commended is something that actually has any worth in this one forgettable life? What value is there in being called “good” when it doesn’t produce anything to further your own existence?
Oh, but maybe that’s what you want: a pat on the back. That’s what you live for? Then your goodness is merely another form of selfishness — and I doubt that’s the sort of ‘good’ you had in mind.
“But aren’t those who wish for Heaven also selfish?”
Truth be told there is a bit of selfishness in all of us. We all want to be rewarded somehow, someway, and somewhen. But there is a difference. You see, there is an actual rational incentive to sacrifice in a world where there is more to this existence; where there is something transcendent that gives us value and purpose. In the YOLO world? What meaning is there to sacrifice if the only purpose is to strive to “live life to the fullest”? What value is there to sacrifice if what you lose [your life] is the only means to valuing anything at all? And what reward is there in giving up the only rewards you’ll ever achieve in the one life you live?
The greatest moral exemplars of mankind looked to a life beyond their own. That’s why they were able to sacrifice so much of their desires and material means; they believed there was more to existence than just existence itself. They sought a reward alien to everything they could see, taste, touch, or hear — anything they could possibly imagine in the small amount of time they had on this earth.
And this is why they were good, not because they “lived life to the fullest”. #PleaseReflect
Atheists often advance the argument that God’s Mercy is canceled out by virtue of eternal Hellfire. However, I’ve always found this objection wanting and more an evidence of the vacuity of those proposing it. How so? Because such an argument seems to redefine the concept of mercy entirely; twisting it into a juvenile trait uncharacteristic of any moral standard.
Allow me to explain.
Prior to getting into the notion of eternal punishment, let’s discuss what ‘mercy’ actually is. The concept of mercy today — when applied to those who have committed some sort of wrong — has come to be construed as a selfless act of forgiveness towards the wrongdoer, without any necessary reciprocating factor. Meaning, to be defined as ‘merciful’, one is obligated to release a criminal from punishment without any strings attached.
But this isn’t mercy. To forgive a criminal who refuses to repent for their crimes is not forgiveness, but stupidity. Without the reciprocity of remorse and guarantee of reform, such “mercy” ultimately becomes a means of supporting criminal behavior and completely invalidates every ideal of justice ever conceived. Thus, the type of mercy that many atheists seem to have in mind is really no different than that of a child’s; one who seeks to evade reproach every time he’s caught with his hands in the cookie jar. In other words, It is an irrational plea for moral agents to sanction immorality. But how can a moral agent complicit and still be considered moral? Is that not a contradiction?
But the atheist(s) reading this post may retort that I’ve strawmanned their understanding of mercy. But have I really? Because when examining their reactions to the Islamic version of Hellfire, it seems that I’m right on point. You see, in Islam, people don’t go to Hell for eternity because of one single finite criminal act, nor does God force them to remain in Hell arbitrarily. Rather, the punishment is eternal because the offense is eternally committed. This is stated in the Qur’an itself in numerous places, including the following:
If you could but see when they are made to stand before the Fire and will say, “Oh, would that we could be returned [to life on earth] and not deny the signs of our Lord and be among the believers.” But what they concealed before has [now] appeared to them. And even if they were returned, they would return to that which they were forbidden; and indeed, they are liars. (Al-Qur’an, 6:27-28)
Here, Allah states clearly that those who are being punished in Hell will never get a chance to leave, because He Knows they’re insincere in their remorse and desire to reform. They are far too arrogant to admit they were wrong in any meaningful way. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes that Hell is for the “arrogant” (4:36-37, 4:137, 40:76, 7:36, 34:31-33, etc.).
Thus, because these people refuse to accept God’s Mercy, it cannot be argued that God lacks mercy. It would be fallacious to state otherwise.
That said, I expect a subsequent retort from atheists, such that it reveals yet again the vacuity of their objections. No doubt the following argument will be given: “Why doesn’t god just not create people he knows will go to hell? Or why not just make these people cease to exist?”
And the answer is simple: because both these options would be a contradiction to God’s attribute of Mercy. By denying people their free will to make the choice to rebel against God for all of eternity — whether by refusing to create them or having them cease to exists — God therefore destroys any potential for Him to give His Mercy eternally. Remember, mercy requires the potential for reciprocity. And if there are no people willing to violate the rules and be given mercy, then such mercy ultimately becomes meaningless. In other words, claims that God “lacks mercy” also become meaningless, because this objection rules out the eternal potential for mercy to be given. In summary, there can be no mercy without justice — and no justice without punishment.
But really, is this so hard to grasp? Or are atheists just projecting their own failure to comprehend what a Divine Being should be like? As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to believe in atheists’ juvenile version of an “ideal god”.
I’d much rather prefer to believe in an All-Merciful God where the word ‘mercy’ actually means something.
Imagine the Ottoman Empire was never dismantled and went on to win World War 1 and World War 2. As a result, it ends up conquering most of Europe and dividing it on ethnic-nationalistic lines.
Subsequently, in an attempt to avert a future world war, the Ottomans form the ‘United Empires’ between itself and its allies — hoping to spread its influence across the world.
As a result of rising costs and a faltering economy, the Ottoman’s start looking to the United States so as to procure more natural resources. In order to weaken the federal government, it stokes the flames of dissent in the southern states and funds Christian separatists. As a result, the Second Civil War begins and the Confederacy is reborn. The Protestant Christians of the south end up being resilient against the Northern forces and their Catholic/Orthodox allies. However, they are also extremely violent; slaughtering and enslaving any sect that disagrees with their views (e.g. the Mormons).
However, the Ottomans aren’t particularly concerned with any of this, despite having Catholic/Orthodox allies over in Europe, because they’re only goal is to destabilize the region.
Eventually, the Confederacy wins and a deal is made between the new Christian nation and the Ottomans for discounted oil exports and other natural resources. As time goes by, things seem stable despite the numerous conflicts occurring over in the Americas. The Ottoman’s continue to sell weapons to the Confederacy and the natural resources keep coming in.
Back over in Europe, the conquered and oppressed people of the province of France have become agitated by Ottoman rule. A new resistance has formed idolizing the first French Revolution and the works of Auguste Comte. These upstart French youth decide to call themselves the ‘New Jacobins’ and begin terrorizing the population — seeing religion as the reason for their woes. Having no conventional weaponry, they plot numerous bombing campaigns in and around Paris. Some even go so far as to advance the idea of suicide bombing. Finally, one young man volunteers to be the first sacrifice for the New Republic.
He waits for the Friday prayers to begin at the government mosque and watches as thousands come to attend the Imam’s sermon. The facility is packed full of devout worshipers wearing “normal” clothing. Putting on the same Ottoman dress, the young man rushes into the middle of the swelling crowd and shouts “For Liberty!”
He detonates himself.
Body parts are strewn across the courtyard. The images of innocent men, women, and children, lifeless and bloodied on the floor, are broadcasts all across the world to see. Soon, the Ottoman Empire begins to clamp down on radical Secularists. Discussions about the dangers of Secularism begin to be had on all major news stations. Ex-Secularists are interviewed to give their expertise about the barbarous nature of secularism and its teachings. Separation between Religion and State? No. The eradication of religion from the state.
But just as one threat is being identified, another is about to arrive. Back over in Confederate lands, an extremist group of secular rebels wants to reclaim the land under secular-liberal principles. They too blame the Ottoman Empire for their current plight, so they decide to send a message. A select few of them apply for immigration visas to the Empire and begin working there as pilots in training. Eventually, on November 9th, they hijack 3 commercial airliners and slam them into the Hagia Sophia and the Instanbul Military Office while screaming “For Liberty!”.
Another terrorist attack. Thousands are killed. Caliph Erdogan and his administration soon find out who was behind it. They call themselves ‘The Federalists’ — a splinter were once part of the Northern Army during the Second Civil War. Enraged, the Ottoman Empire demands the Confederate territories give up the rebels, but the latter have no clue where these people are and whether or not they really did it.
Dissatisfied with this response, the Ottoman Empire declares war and invades the Confederacy. The Ottoman Army searches everywhere for the terrorist leader, George Bush Jr., but to no avail. They take down state after state, killing both Confederate and Federalists alike with the help of disgruntled Native Americans. The country is completely destroyed. Millions are slaughtered.
“Mission Accomplished” the Caliph declares. The Ottoman’s take over all the natural resources as payment and divide the country accordingly. In thanks to their Native American allies, they turn California into the Native American homeland and promise to teach about the genocide that occurred against them by secular forces so many generations ago.
However, the mission was not accomplished. More and more mosques are bombed. People become increasingly scared over time. The radical secularists still terrorize the population while the ‘moderates’ declare they have nothing to do with their principles. “‘For Liberty’ is meant for peace, not war”, they say. Discussions about Ottoman values become a central theme. Combating radicalization and extremism become the next items on the list — then stricter immigration laws. The wars continue and no one is to blame, but the terrorists themselves. And the story goes on with no end in sight…
The world as we know it.
Research Fellow Asadullah Ali gives a pragmatic look at atheism, particularly focusing on 3 areas of doubt in today’s world: the problem of evil, the problem of representation, and the problem of belief.
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In the past few years, many Muslims have been doubting their faith and some have left the religion all together. There are numerous factors as to why, ranging from intellectual confusion, emotional issues, and pressures from dominant societies. However, one aspect has rarely been discussed: the fact we also live in what is called the ‘Information Age’ and its negative influence on the way we perceive and understand Islam and Muslims.
But not in the way that you may think.
Many hail the rise of the Internet and its peripheral services as a form of progress – and indeed it is. However, with all major developments in the world, there are usually negative byproducts. The negative byproduct of the Information Age has been the over-saturation of information to the extent where the majority of people cannot distinguish between credible knowledge and pseudo-knowledge. And this dilemma has been exacerbated by a hyper-individualism promoted through Western hegemony, which regards all people as not only capable of self-study, but also self-expertise (even if it’s not explicitly stated).
The situation we have today essentially amounts to a limitless buffet of food provided to individuals who believe anything that can be consumed is nutritious simply by virtue of the fact that it can be consumed. Unsurprisingly, this analogy is not merely an analogy, but also a real life problem that has resulted in epidemics of obesity and natural diseases throughout the world.
As the author Nicholas Carr has largely proven in his book ‘The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’: “Technology is making us shallow thinkers — multi-tasking, unable to digest speeches, even songs, perpetually flicking.”
And there is no greater testament to this than the recent phenomena of popular online atheism and apostasy from Islam.
Take for example a recent video released by Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research titled ‘Our Muslim Youth Are Hurting’, which showcases that nearly 23% of young Muslims no longer identify as Muslims (or struggle with their faith) due to their doubts. While it garnered a large amount of support, it also got the attention of numerous ex-Muslims and atheists online who used the video as a means to declare they were winning some intellectual war and that the Internet was largely responsible for this. For example, Abdullah Gondal stated in a recent post:
“The tides are definitely changing…There is only so much you can do to defend ideas that you have absolutely zero evidence for. Let us all ask questions that were deemed uncomfortable in the past. Let’s normalize dissent!”
Here, Gondal implicitly promotes the view that the reason behind Muslim’s doubting their faith has to do with the fact that their ideas are not rationally justifiable – largely in part because their questions were deemed “uncomfortable” and dissent against such ideas was somehow suppressed. But what reasonable argument (or evidence) has Gondal offered for such a conclusion? The answer is simple: none.
There has been no deep statistical analysis performed here nor any reference to any sort of erudite academic publication declaring as such. Rather, it’s merely one person’s unsubstantiated anecdote in a sea of online anecdote. But the problem isn’t the fact that it’s anecdote – the problem is that most of these people don’t care that it’s anecdote.
Due to the negative byproducts of the Information Age, anecdote has become a reasonable justification in and of itself. It doesn’t matter if your opinion isn’t backed by any sufficient evidence or reason as long as it fits a narrative facilitated by a culture that deems knowledge a popular democracy. Thus, the irony of attacking people who apparently believe in things “without evidence”.
But what reasonable justification do we have of the above claim regarding anecdote? Since this post is primarily about doubts Muslims are experiencing we need only revisit the ex-Muslim phenomena that is currently thriving online:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a well known figure who has often called for violence against the Muslim world in general. Having no formal education in Islamic studies nor other subjects she discusses, she has been granted asylum in the United States after constantly lying about her personal biography regarding “the dangers of Islam” in Somalia. She is now a fellow at a Harvard think-tank and has been offered several honorary degrees – all because she is an ex-Muslim.
Armin Navabi has declared in the past that “Islam is worse than Nazism” and runs the popular online atheist hive Atheist Republic – a Facebook group that largely functions through memes and cliches of religion and its followers (not exactly MENSA worthy achievements). Armin’s qualifications are in finance, but he is considered by many an authority on the subject of Islam simply because he’s an Iranian ex-Shia Muslim. Recently, he has promoted the burning of Qur’ans in the Islamic Republic of Iran, because apparently this is indicative of an intellectual protest (said no rational person ever).
Ali Rizvi, a Pakistani clinician, has become popular for his Secular Jihadists podcast and his book ‘The Atheist Muslim’. He has recently suggested that “Anyone who believes truth can be arrived at via revelation cannot, by definition, be called a critical thinker”, ironically despite his own attempts to rationalize the self-identifier ‘Atheist Muslim’ through postmodern semantic gymnastics. Curiously, his constant calls for evidence and reasonable justification of beliefs is often found missing in his own claims, such as the following: “Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don’t, and aren’t.” And once again, he is granted authority on matters concerning Islam simply because he is an ex-Muslim.
Maryam Namazie, another Iranian ex-Muslim, has become popular for being the spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and has no real formal education to speak of. However, it is unlikely that she needs any as her career is solely based around her being an ex-Muslim and only an ex-Muslim.
Sherif Gaber, a popular Egyptian YouTube ex-Muslim, has recently become the subject of news headlines due to his unsubstantiated claims to an arrest warrant being issued because of him being an atheist. He is largely uneducated, having dropped out of college to make YT videos full-time. Many people give him their money, not because he holds any credentials in the subjects he speaks about, but because, once again, he is an ex-Muslim. That’s it.
And the list could really go on – all with similar if not identical profiles; all having no real education or expertise in the subjects they’re discussing while commanding large followings of similarly uneducated individuals (and being opposed by nearly all academics in the field). Yet, those who follow these figures have little concern for academic credentials or actual erudition and have largely conflated the discipline of Islamic Studies with “learning about fairy tales”.
However, such a sentiment exposes their ignorance, because even if it were the case that these were studies in “fairy tales”, it doesn’t take away from the complexity of the subject nor the reality that there can be facts about fairy tales. For example: it’s one thing to disagree with Christianity, but it’s another to declare that Christianity and Jainism are exactly the same or have the same teachings and theology. There are even facts about fictional stories. I mean, no one would reasonably conclude that Voldemort is the head of Gryffindor when reading Harry Potter; it’s literally impossible to do so – fiction or not.
Likewise, these same individuals attack academic institutions and faculty members as being insufficient to inform them of the nature of other people’s beliefs – often even going so far as to suggest that these institutions are part of some grand conspiracy headed by an Illuminati regressive shadow government attempting to stifle free speech and intellectualism among the masses. But such sentiments not only reveal a profound ignorance, but also a profound arrogance that completely undermines the educational institutions which made the Information Age possible to begin with.
No doubt, there are problems in many university departments (nothing is perfect), but to suggest that one doesn’t require any formal education in these subjects – or needs to refer to formal research – is the height of arrogance and indicative of a catastrophic stupidity facilitated by myths of self-grandeur.
But, more disturbing is the fact that neither of these individuals have actually earned the right to be authorities. None of them have been rigorously peer reviewed by those with an actual education in the subject matter. None of them have ever submitted articles to peer reviewed journals. None of them have ever displayed any erudite arguments or profound insights on the world. None of them have actually contributed to knowledge or advanced civilization in the slightest. All they’ve done is served as cheerleaders for those who already agree with them — and earned hefty paychecks in the process. They are literally entertainers and nothing more. Much like radical SJWs, they merely identify as authorities and demand others submit to their lived experiences. Facts need not apply.
If you asked them all basic things about Islam that even a first year student of Islamic studies should know, they wouldn’t be capable of answering. If you asked them to provide evidence and reasons for their own assumptions about ethics, morality, reality, science, etc. they wouldn’t know where to start with respect to researching or even writing an article in defense of their ideas — they literally can only resort to memes and anecdotes. And their followers? Memes and anecdotes are all that matter.
Needless to say, this article will be controversial for calling out such a culture. Certainly, it will be considered offensive. But the fact is these individuals and their “skepticism” have not gained traction on the basis of merit or any sort of intellectual acumen. Rather, they have all gained a following because of a general lack of concern for real education and research embedded in the bigotry of the masses towards Islam and Muslims.
This is further evidenced by the fact that these polemicists wouldn’t be popular today had it not been for 9/11 and the War on Terror. No one would care to listen to them had Western culture not been fertile for their message. Ironically, it’s the very bigotry these ex-Muslims claim to fight which has given them a platform (and in many cases, fame and fortune). They are literally nothing without it. Yet, we are asked to be fair in analyzing their arguments? But what arguments have they proposed that haven’t been heard before from the likes of other arm-chair scholars like Bill Warner, Sam Harris, and Robert Spencer – all of whom likewise hold no formal education in any of the subjects they’re discussing?
Despite lacking any real credentials, all of these people are being taken seriously in the so-called “Information Age”. But is this what the Age of Enlightenment was supposed to promote? A lack of concern for real academic credentials and research? Is this what the Age of Intellectualism has bred? Polemicists that can only be regarded as relevant because of their identities? Should we really be doubting our religion when the standards for doubt today are so low that we disregard our own educational institutions and prop up pseudo-intellectuals in their stead?
In summary, the doubts faced by many Muslims today are merely the product of vacuous ridicule by an online mob that has become far too narcissistic for its own good; an intellectual peasantry that have risen up to overthrow the monarchs of old and replace them with court jesters.
Needless to say, in the next few decades, all the names I’ve mentioned and those like them will be forgotten in the annuls of history. They will not be mentioned as having done anything significant for the world. They will not be mentioned as intellectuals or pioneers of civilization. They will merely be turned into the very dust blown off the books they’ve dismissed; books which will still be used in the academic institutions that outlive them.
And it will be the last time these jesters are considered relevant or make anyone laugh. Because those books will still extol the achievements of the Prophet Muhammad (sallAllahu alayhi wasallam) and his followers. Those books will still mention names like Al-Ghazali, Ibn Rusdh, Ibn Al-Haytham, Fakhr Al-Razi, Sallahuddin, and the numerous other figures in the intellectual tradition of Islam as people who actually gave something to the world.
A delicious irony for all those celebrating their Pyrrhic victory of casting doubts into the Muslim youth, if I do say so myself.
 The Atheist Muslim: Journey from Religion to Reason, p. 71.
 The whole idea that ‘Islamophobia’ is just a term used to stifle free speech and criticism of Islam is yet another myth that backs this. Neither of these individuals have ever bothered to provide evidence of this conspiracy theory, yet it’s swallowed up so easily by their gullible followers.
The Mad Mamluks were gracious enough to interview me in November 2017 about my first paper for Yaqeen Institute, “The Structure of Scientific Productivity in Islamic Civilization: Orientalis’ Fables”