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 Topic: happymurtad vs. Ishina

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  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     OP - August 15, 2013, 03:47 PM

    Surely, all praises are due to Allah, so I praise him, I seek his forgiveness, I seek his aid, and I seek his guidance. I seek refuge in Allah from the evil of my own soul and from the wickedness of my own deeds. I bear witness that no deity has the right to be worshiped aside from Allah. He is alone and has no partners. I also bear witness that Muhammad ibn Abdillah is his servant and final messenger.

    It is with great pleasure that I accept the challenge from our esteemed Ishina to discuss the Qur’anic arguments for the existence of God. As there have been countless deities worshipped by mankind throughout the ages, I deem it necessary at the offset to define what I mean by the words God (capital G) and Allah, as I will be using them interchangeably.

    Also, given the great variance of ideas regarding the nature of any sort of deity, I deem it prudent to state now that I will not be arguing for the existence of simply an unengaged, distant, creative force. Rather, I will base my arguments on the rhetoric of what I believe to be the true word of God, the Qur’an, to show that our lord and creator is the only being worthy of our worship precisely because of those actions that I as a believer attribute to Him alone. As the unchanged, divine word of Allah, I believe that the arguments found in the Qur’an will suffice us in this debate, and as such, my positions will stay as true as possible to what I consider to be an orthodox interpretation of the scripture.

    Contingent to this argument, I hope to show that the Lord of Lords, the Causer of Causes, the Sustainer of All, Allah SWT alone deserves to be worshiped.

    So who is Allah? The Messenger of Allah PBUH was asked this question and was inspired with the following divine response:

    “Say, He Allah is One. Allah, the Samad. He begets not nor was he begotten. And there is no one comparable unto him.”

    The foundational role that this noble chapter plays within the Islamic creed can not be overstated. It imparts upon us some very essential attributes of God that are crucial to understanding his nature.  By understanding that God is one and that he is Samad, we can begin to expound upon why such a concept as God is both rational and necessary.

    Samad is an Arabic tem that implies both self sufficiency and centrality. It can be used to describe a central support beam that both stands on its own and bears the burden of everything that rests upon it. By describing himself as Samad, Allah lets us know that he is singularly the cause and sustainer of all that exists. He is necessarily the point at which we stop asking how. He is the uncreated creator, the unsustained sustainer, and the uncaused cause.

    While the atheist may be inclined to ask the proof for and origins of such a being, it should not be deemed illogical to accept that the only alternative to an uncaused caused is an infinite regression of causes. It is up to you to decide which of these two alternatives to accept, but as a believer, I am comfortable with accepting that at the root of all causes, there must be a cause that does not fit within the realm of questioning that allows us to demand another cause. And hence comes the description.  God is unique. God is one. And there is nothing comparable unto him. Nothing else in existence can fit these descriptions. As such, nothing else in existence apart from God can be God.  
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #1 - August 15, 2013, 09:36 PM

    The calm before the storm. Grin
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #2 - August 16, 2013, 06:44 PM

    Good evening Ladies and Genitals, it's a pleasure to be here. I'd like to start by saying what a privilege it is to be able to participate tonight. I am honoured to share the podium with such a distinguished speaker as Mr. Happymurtad. I thank him for agreeing to have this dialogue and thank this fine establishment for hosting us. I look forward to a very fruitful discussion.

    The motion is: Does God exist? And as I began to think of something to say for my opening statement, it occurred to me that I do not actually have anything to say against the motion. I have no coherent belief system or strong conviction to put forward for perusal. I have no alternative case, so to speak. I am an atheist. And by that I simply mean I not convinced that gods exist. Gods do not feature amongst the things I believe exist. I do not assert that a God does not exist. I simply do not see any reason to believe they do. When, perhaps, someone can put forward a God that isn't impossible, nonsensical, contradictory, unnecessary, meaningless, or is not demonstrably a human construct, or enclosed in the shell of incomprehensibility, I'll start wondering if I should believe in it or not. But until then, what can I really offer to the podium?

    That's all fine and dandy in daily life. I can go about my business without God ever entering into the equation of my worldview. In the context of a debate, though, this seems to be the intellectual equivalent of putting my feet up and expecting my opponent to do all the heavy lifting. Expecting the honourable gentleman to bring me offerings to turn down or deem acceptable, without ever putting my own head on the block or leaving my own beliefs and relevant epistemology prone to scrutiny.

    And so I put some thought into what would convince me that a God exists. Obviously I am not asking for the rotting carcass of a dead God to be hauled before me so we can perform an autopsy. Nor am I asking for a miracle to be performed right before my eyes. A claim that trespasses on the realms of the scientifically testable would indeed require empirical, verifiable evidence, but some essential propositions or talking points within the broader ambit of the 'God Debate' do not necessarily require hard evidence in order to 'prove' somewhat. A sound, logically consistent argument or compelling set of reasoning would be a great start.

    Much to my surprise, the honourable gentleman does bring me something: a God that still has some meat on the bones left to pick at. As I mull over Mr. Happymurtad's opening gambit, I see that he tackles the biggest question of all head on: How did the universe come to be? He proposes that his god, Allah, is a plausible answer. For how can the universe be without being brought into being, by a being? And how can that being be any other than Allah?

    There is a territory of 'plausible mystery' in which this discussion often ends up. The beginning of everything, if there is a beginning at all, exists beyond what we currently know. Beyond the reach of our telescopes, our mathematical models, our theory and philosophy. There is room for a lot of things to exist in the pure unknown. Whatever is there, we know will be strange, mystifying, extraordinary, fantastic, confusing, unbelievable. This territory is no-man's land. Ripe for imagination, and for exploitation. It is here that the wildest assumptions can hold some kind of superficial plausibility. But in a place where literally anything goes, is this really saying much about the credibility of such claims?

    The honourable gentleman makes his appeal to our intuitions, stating that there really isn't much of a choice in the matter. We can either accept that the biography of the universe is a causal sequence that just goes back forever without an explanation, or we can accept that Allah caused it, and that Allah is himself uncaused. At first glance, the latter is more intuitively appealing. It's something, at least. Not much of anything, but something. A toehold. Let's track this back a bit, though. These are not the only two options.

    Firstly, what's wrong with an infinite regress? It might not offer intellectual satisfaction, but that says nothing about whether it is the true state of things or not. What if the universe really is just a layer of the onion? And we just keep peeling it and peeling it back and back, and each time there is new layer just as interesting as the last. Are we supposed to just accept this is improbable?

    Secondly, why end the sequence at Allah? It has yet to be shown that things begin and end with Allah. The sequence of phenomena might go on one more stage after Allah, or three more stages, or thousand more stages after Allah, before we come to the real prime mover. Are we supposed to just accept that it must be Allah?

    Thirdly, why assume Allah is the God? You can make the same kind of appeals to the Christian God, or the Hindu God, or any God you happen to have to hand, or any God you invent on the spot. Almost all cultures have their own creation myth. There is a whole marketplace of gods on offer. Are we supposed to just accept that Allah must be the one?

    Lastly, but perhaps mostly: Why assume a causal model at all? The classical cause-and-effect universal model is clumsy and clunky, based on layers of prior primitive human thinking. Where things on a grander scale have to be 'created' by cosmic processes that are the same as commonplace human industry and artisanship, scaled up. Bang bang, hit stuff, build stuff, make it move, taa daa! Look what I just made; This is how Gods make worlds. It is an attractive idea. But not the most attractive. Can we really say what the universe even is? Are we supposed to just accept that our incomplete understanding of how things happen is sufficient to explain how everything happened?

    I've already gone over my allotted time. I will end on this note: I can't help feeling that if the Islam part was removed from the honourable gentleman's opening statement, there would be a net gain. We would be left with a good question instead of a bad answer.

    Too fucking busy, and vice versa.
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #3 - August 17, 2013, 10:42 PM

    Even the staunchest disbeliever must agree that there is something very human about belief in the divine. Across all cultures and continents, human beings have a seemingly ingrained disposition towards having faith in things that they can not see. As a believer, I consider this disposition to be a part of our fitrah, the natural inclinations of our being that have been bestowed upon us.

    To restrict our acceptance of matters to only those things that we can perceive and verify first hand is as contrary to our humanity as drawing our own blood with our own teeth. While some have argued that it is foolish to accept things on the basis of faith, a practical and honest consideration of many concepts that we all generally accept as “true” would prove otherwise.

    Even my interlocutor, as firm as she may stand in her own positions, must take a great deal of what she holds to be true about her world from the conclusions and assertions of others. They are the results of experiences and experiments that she is simply incapable of individually substantiating. Yet, she has trust. Or, to put it another way, she has faith.

    The Qur’an refers to itself as a guide for those who have faith in the unseen.  Accepting that there are things that we can not fully corroborate will have to, like it or not, serve as a caveat for our discussion.

    Still, I do not advocate gullibility here. My colleague has raised some very important questions--and rightfully so. They are exactly the sorts of questions I had hoped for her to ask in such a setting. As we explore the issues she has raised, we seek to piece together a compelling argument for why the Qur’anic claims about the origins of the universe and our purpose therein should not go dismissed.

    So firstly, why a deity? It’s a great question, really. Why should we accept that everything that is is because of a god? Interestingly, the Qur’an does not present much in the way of arguments for the existence of a deity. In fact, there are very few verses that address the issue of whether or not there are gods at all. Instead, Allah mentions two very important signs that, though they do not categorically prove things one way or another, do much to spark our consideration:

     Number One: We exist, and Number Two: The universe exists.

    Allah SWT says in Surat Toor, verses 35 and 36.

    “Or were (humans) created from nothing, or were they themselves the creators? Did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they have no certainty.”

    Allah asks us here to consider our own existence as a sign to point to his existence. We humans are remarkably complex. What is more, we are remarkably unique. While disbelievers in God point only to our evolutionary history to account for things like our intelligence, our morality, and our capacity for emotion and abstract considerations, there is no escaping the fact that we as human beings are remarkably different from any other creature of which we have knowledge. We have been given a conscious and a sense of awareness far more generous than anything that our mere survival would require. The fact that we are here, having this discussion, comprehending and interpreting abstract ideas across great distances about concepts far beyond our needs for food, shelter, and procreation points to an origin greater than our mundane existence. How did we get this way? Did we design ourselves? Or is this all from and for nothing? While we can never recreate and observe the circumstance leading up to our existence to answer these questions ourselves, these are things we must consider. As a Muslim, I do not believe that we can simply take these realities for granted. As we explore the Qur’an, we see that these are among the signs of God. It is up to us to accept them.

    Secondly, Allah asks us to consider the origins of the heavens and the earth, or more appropriately  according to some interpretations, matter and space.  Now, whatever you believe about the origins of the universe, the fact that there is something rather than nothing is astounding. As a Muslim, and as a rational human being, my judgments lead me to conclude that something must have caused this. Even as we uncover cause after cause after cause, we must eventually arrive at something that is separate, something that is unique in its nature as being uncaused and uncreated. This is what we call Allah and this is what we worship. As I mentioned in my introduction, he is one, he is separate and self sufficient, and he is unlike anything else in any way that we can comprehend. How else would such an uncaused cause be if not beyond our realm of comprehension?

     While my colleague has dismissively referenced a causal model as  a relic of our “primitive human thinking,” it can not be denied that our instincts tend to tell us that effects require causes. These instincts are what I referred to earlier as our fitrah. They are ingrained in us as a mercy from our creator to guide us even as we find no guidance. An infinite regression is certainly possible in a technical sense, but even my interlocutor  admits that such a reality would be intellectually unsatisfying. Why? Why would it be? Even in the darkest mists of her atheism, her fitra rebels against such an idea. It is a mercy from Allah unto her that it does.

    For ladies and gentleman, when we consider the uniqueness of our own selves in the context of the miracle of the existence of  anything, we find signs for the existence of a unique, uncreated creator. It is up to us to consider them.

    As Allah says in Surah 51 verses 21-23:

    “And on the earth are signs for the certain. And in yourselves, then will you not see? And in the heaven is your provision and whatever you are promised. Then by the Lord of the heaven and earth, indeed, it is truth - just as [sure as] it is that you are speaking.”

    A fitting verse with which to close.
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #4 - August 19, 2013, 06:08 PM

    Rather than take each of the good gentleman's arguments point by point, I'd like to concentrate on just a few areas of contention for my first rebuttal, mainly the idea of intuitive belief, the propensity of belief in God, and the concept of intelligence as it pertains to the prime mover. While this may not address all of my opponent's argumentation directly, I think there will be enough overlap to cover most of it, indirectly at least. If the gentleman feels I have missed anything important, I would be happy to revisit any point at a later time.

    As is the case with most religious apologia, there are two arguments being made in tandem; an appeal to the plausible, and an appeal to accept God. These two threads criss-cross and interweave each other into a single narrative so that as we follow it, it comes across as a compelling argument for God. There is a kind of bait-and-switch going on. The apologist will feed you some good stuff about cosmology perhaps, the mystery of the early universe, some neat-sounding logic about causation, or an appeal to complexity, or gentle nudges towards the limits of our understanding, where only speculation exists. Stuff to get you nodding along. Then when you decide to buy into the package, it's switched with God and all the other unjustified baggage that comes with it. And when the savvy buyer clocks onto it and points out the baggage, the apologists flip-flops back to the agreeable stuff. If you're not careful, you find yourself arguing against something unassailable in place of the easily assailable God.

    The gentleman appeals to our intuitions once more. He rightly suggests human beings are intuitive creatures. We apprehend and navigate the world around us to a large extent with our intuitions. We have a certain degree of 'working wisdom' that amounts to a certain provisional, reactive, immediate-access interface with the world. Our spacial awareness, our sense of motion, speed, balance, gravity, our sense of distance, heights and depths, weight, space, place, and time, are all generated real-time with very little conscious effort. Mostly an unconscious, reflex grasp. And we have those visceral feelings of foresight, fear, or confidence and faith in our ability or security, that are not always rationally or intellectually derived, and yet employed because they work, more or less. They are sufficient to get around.

    Somewhere in this mix of incidental, causal and interpretational relationships lies the truth about our universe and our existence. We yearn to understand. We have to make sense of it all. Intuition is a great starting point for acquiring knowledge. It gives us that immediate handle on the universe. But intuition is not a bedrock. It turns out that very little actually works the way we intuitively feel it does. The Earth is flat, intuitively. The Sun is smaller than the Earth, intuitively. Intuition tells us that, apparently, the Sun rotates around the Earth and, apparently, is similar in size to the Moon. And both are bigger than the stars.

    We form all kinds of superficial and premature beliefs about the universe. Flat Earth theory and Geocentricism are just two examples of where we end up when we rely too much on our limited intuitions. It seems to me that, historically, intuition has failed spectacularly to paint an accurate picture of what is factual or real beyond what is directly in front of our noses. And much of modern science is an endeavour to de-program our intuitive biases and to remove them from the equation of knowledge. The universe we know now is very different to how the ancients perceived it. Is it any wonder, then, that the cosmology reflected in ancient scriptures seems to reflect this intuitive human understanding of the world rather than the more accurate findings of the scientific method?

    The gentleman's second appeal is to the widespread disposition to believe in God. This is a huge error. Religious people simply do not believe in the same thing. They have vastly different ideas what God actually is. They are not all praying to the same God, do not all envision the same kind of God or the same idea of the cosmos, have a whole spectrum of hypothesis about where we came from and where we are going. You have thousands of ideas competing in a marketplace of ideas. Hundreds and thousands of different God concepts, different cosmic hypothesis, different universe models, many completely incompatible with each other. Some religious demographics reject entirely the notion of a personal deity. And monotheism itself is a newcomer to the world stage, at barely two thousand years old. Modern theology can be vastly different from classical theology, too. They can bear almost no resemblance at all, even within a narrow religious tradition. They can be as different as night and day, as different as fire and brimstone versus gentle spiritual guru. Not to mention be at complete odds on many fundamental moral and legal issues. Even Islam itself is divided into denominations, incompatible with each other and contradicting each other, often violently. The religions of the world do a great job of discrediting each other. They tell a thousand lies before they happen to stumble upon a single truth. It's absolutely impossible for them all to be right. But it's entirely possible that they are all wrong.

    Lastly, I'd like to address intelligence. The gentleman makes firm allusions to his God's intelligence, agency,  wakefulness, authority – as though he is speaking about a person. I'm glad he does because this allows me to articulate some of my foremost misgivings about theism.

    Agency, intelligence, design, comes with a heavy price. Consider how we determine intelligence. Intelligence is a function or capacity of an agent, arising when it is tested or tasked, where a problem must be overcome, where a goal must be met, or where options are presented and decisions need to be made, where something is approached logically or laterally. The consequence of this is that an intelligent agent must have obstacles, difficulties, limits, options, unmet goals, and so on, in order to be functionally intelligent. It must be imperfect, existing in an imperfect state, with an external, pre-existing reality to navigate with mechanics at least partially unfamiliar to it or uncongenial to it. So it seems to me that intelligence and perfection cannot both be features of the same entity. If this follows, then what are the implications of God's non-perfection for theism? It would seem to me that the entire idea is a write-off. You have deism, at best. A universe architect of unknown character and attributes and of unknown origin. It cannot be a perfect being. Unless it is perfect for a task it has been put to by external influences. It also cannot be said to be the source of all things, only some things within the set of all things.

    Moreover, how could one conclude the architect was intelligent if one cannot properly ascertain the agenda of the architect and how completely and efficiently that agenda has been met? Let's suppose there is agency for a moment. Let's suppose that it did indeed cause the universe to arise. What does this assumption alone tell us about the attributes of said cause? It doesn't tell us if there was intent or not. It doesn't tell us if it was ingenious or a clumsy accident. Or a completely unconscious action. This doesn't rule out the potential of the universe being just a wasteful by-product of some other kind of production. Or pure luck. It could be the case that the universe is nothing like the end goal, not at all resembling the task it was set, inefficient, ineffective. The agency might be a blundering incompetent fool getting something wrong all the time. The universe may be its waste bin. All of these scenarios are more plausible than a perfect creation by a perfect being. And all of them are still low down on the list of most plausible explanations on offer, which we might perhaps explore later.

    I content that God cannot be a perfect being, and that imperfections open up a big problem for the theist: how did God come to be this way? Did he decide to? From what options? Or must he be this way and no other? If so, who or what determines God's nature?

    Too fucking busy, and vice versa.
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #5 - August 22, 2013, 03:11 PM

    What if?

    This seems to be the question at hand. What if our basic intuitions, which have for millennia led our ancestors down the path of belief in the unseen, are actually flawed here, as they have been elsewhere? What if the universe, as grand and precise as it necessarily must be, is really only the product of haphazard groupings of atoms and random, violent chemical reactions? What if the causal onion can really be peeled back repeatedly ad infinitum and what if there really is no god?

    In such a case, nothing of our discussion here can matter. It is, at best, a futile exercise between two bored, conscious, chemical compounds who have purposelessly found themselves capable of comprehending and discussing abstract concepts—and who will, through their sure and coming demise and decomposition, soon prove both themselves and their discussion to be completely irrelevant. This is certainly a possibility.

    But it is not the only possibility.

    It is also entirely possible that a creator does exist and that this creator has intended a purpose behind his creation. It is possible that there are miracles, that there are souls, that there are angels and jinns, prophets and scriptures. It is possible that there is a heaven and a hell and a Day of Judgment, too.

    Two options, both entirely plausible, one with no consequences whatsoever, and another with strong implications for all parties involved, including Ms. Ishina.

    If the latter were in fact the case, it would be well within the realms of reason for us to demand from God an explanation: How did things become this way? What is our role? How are things going to end up?

     In the Qur’an, we find the explanation we seek.

    What my colleague writes off as exploitation of our lack of knowledge of the primordial universe and our intuitive dependence on a causal model, I consider to be a rhetorical appeal to our innate senses, a presentation of information that we could not otherwise know, and a fair warning of what is to come.

    For if human beings are born with the propensity for belief in the unseen, then the Qur’an guides those who can accept that there are things we can not observe.

    When my colleague seeks to ascertain the agenda of the Divine Architect in order to determine if his plans have been met, I propose that his will is clearly laid out for us, in eloquent fashion, in the form of revelation. It is his will, however he wishes to enact it, that demonstrates his perfection. It is the fact that things happen as he plans them, not as we wish, that demonstrates his dominion.

    Or is there for man whatever he wishes?
    Rather, to Allah belongs the Beginning and the End

    If we ponder the verses of the Qur’an, we find therein an explanation of God’s will. We find an unadulterated, standing contract between ourselves and the creator of the universe. We find a reminder in which roles, duties, expectations, and rewards are clearly spelled out.

    Now, we are free to do with our reminder what we will. But, once we have died and found the words therein to be fulfilled, could we argue that we were caught unaware? Or is it only that we were heedless to the signs? Or is it that we simply did not like the direction to which the signs pointed us?

    Islam is our invitation to not fall heedless to the signs of God. The choice is ours.

    As Allah says in Surah 80 verses 11-17

    No! Indeed, these verses are a reminder;
    So whoever wills may remember it.
     [It is recorded] in honored sheets,
    Exalted and purified,
     [Carried] by the hands of messenger-angels,
    Noble and dutiful.
    Woe to man! What hath made him reject Allah?

    Allow me to ask one final question, if I may. If there were a first cause to the universe—call him God, call him Allah, call him Dios, or Call him Khoda—if there were a first cause that requested your submission, would you submit? Even if he himself came down to you through the clouds, would you have reservations submitting to him?  Belief at that point would be a forced conclusion. Submission, on the other hand, would be your choice.

    If you answer no, then we can consider all of the Qur’an’s appeals, founded or not, to have been completely wasted on you. It would not be due to a lack of appeal, but rather due to your own haughtiness.

    But if you answer yes, then consider Allah’s mercy in that he promises to guide you if you seek his guidance. As Allah says in Surah 19 verse 76:

    And Allah will increase in guidance those who seek guidance.
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #6 - March 21, 2014, 11:11 PM

  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #7 - March 21, 2014, 11:21 PM

    Just finished reading back over your responses. Ah, Ishina, I adore you.  001_wub
  • happymurtad vs. Ishina
     Reply #8 - March 22, 2014, 12:39 AM

    Damn, we never did finish this did we.

    Too fucking busy, and vice versa.
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