Ask an Alim
Is Religion Really the Truth?Q:
A question I’ve asked myself ever since I can remember.
A question I am too afraid to voice. I can’t help but ask myself, does God exist or am I conditioned to believe he does?
There are many reasons why I disbelieve, and only a few why I believe. Here are a handful:
Reasons I doubt God:
> Our universe and being does not need a God to exist (even if just theories, their existence disproves the need for a God)
> The idea that because there’s so much order and design, a being must be its creator is flawed. For one, there exists much disorder and imperfections in our system- order is not found throughout. For example, humans may appear orderly and perfect, but we’re lacking in many ways! We call this disability, disease and illness. As for the ‘design’ we see, they’re products of processes filled with flaws. Our universe is made up of finite material, so what we see are finite products. Similar because in essence they’re made up of similar components/atoms, set up through the same bonds and laws.
> God may have been the best explanation for many things long ago. Why does the sun set? It must be a higher power. It is God Ra, the King of all Gods. So a non-divine origin of the concept of God is possible. Over time we modified the concept of God.
> The idea of God calms many people. With a God comes an afterlife. So if life is horrible now, I needn’t worry. Like a nightmare, it will be over and I’ll be met with my beautiful reality- heaven. Those who wronged me and didn’t see the face of justice, on the other hand, will get their punishment later. It calms people. This worries me because the idea of a God may simply just be the result of the psychological and emotional desperation of people.
> Change in religion always came with perfect timing- a revolution of some sort. What better to use than a concept/being like God to motivate and encourage people to move towards a certain goal/ideal, even if it did not suit them. Who can oppose God? He knows what’s best for us, surly what I am doing, even if seemingly wrong, in reality is right (e.g. modern ISIS). This is exactly perfect when it comes to the three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All were politically involved.
> In terms of Islam itself, there are many questions left unanswered. For example, how can a single couple in such a short time with so many supposedly near-extinction experiences (like with prophet noah) create a population as large as 7 billion? What about the apes before us? Where did they go? Adam’s children (habeel) were livestock farming, something that only started about 8’000 years or even later than that. What about all the humans before? The latest pure homo-sapiens skeleton we’ve collected comes from south Africa dating 200’000 years old. That’s a fossil we did find, how about the ones we didn’t? How old are humans and why is adam only as young as or less than 8’000 years? Now this is just ONE question. I have many more.
Reasons I believe in God:
> I love him. I really really love him. Something that I doubt, I love. But I fear it is a result of conditioning and desperation that gives me this emotion. I don’t want to believe all the children, families and elderly suffering world wide, all the animals hurting and the forests vanishing- I don’t want to believe this is all there is to their existence. Do you see? I don’t know if my emotions are making me believe in something that isn’t there, or if He really is there.
> I love ahl albayt and the prophet. I love their way of life and I hate to think of them as liars. But then, perhaps all these stories I hear are just exaggerated? I don’t know. There are many hadiths out there that put their infallibility into question (especially sunni hadiths) and many that put their good being into question also. But even without the infallibility, like in the case of the Moon of Bani Hashim Abul fazl Al-abbas the gate keeper of loyalty and brotherhood, I hate to think he was the protector and supporter of nothing more than just a political movement.
> The quran and all holy scriptures. Though possibly man made and with laws I don’t deem fit (e.g. acceptance of slavery), they intrigue me and are truly awe-inspiring in poetry and order. They can both encourage and discourage me from believing, but mostly they encourage me to believe
As you see, what makes me believe are mere emotions that can go any time! I don’t want to wait till that time comes. I hope you can throw me a rope or at least something I could hold on to. Something that strengthens my faith.
To a person like myself, what would you say? Can you help me?
Hope to hear from you and thank you for reading this far. Alsalamu AlaikumA:
Thank you for your question. I will answer it in two parts; a general answer which will answer all of the doubts and concerns; and an answer that deals with each issue you have mentioned individually.
You see my dear brother/sister, God is not something material that can be found using the five senses. He is above matter and so it is the inner nature of man that recognises Him. Man is so linked with God that his very nature is to be a spiritual being while he at the same time lives a material life in the material world. Once someone came to Amir al-Muminin (as) and asked him if he had seen his Lord? He replied that he would not worship a Lord that he had not seen. The questioner asked how he had seen God? The Amir (as) said that he had not seen Him with his eyes but had seen Him with the reality of his faith. Imam Husayn (as) in dua Arafat says: “When were You not present such that proof must be offered for You (i.e Your Presence/Existence)? Blind is the eye that does not see you!” So
you see it is not that you have been conditioned to believe in God, it is that you have been conditioned to doubt in God. When man believes in God he can truly become a human being, but when he is stripped of his belief he will flow with the wind of every idea and propaganda.
But because God knew that man would be drowned in the material world and
the knowledge of Him although existent in the very nature of the human
being would be covered by the conditioning of people who would like to
rule over His servants, he sent Prophets and Imams to remind and awaken
His servants. That is because a Prophet or an Imam can be sensed in a
material way and the success that he has attained is the proof of the
existence of God and the innate and intense spiritual nature of man. This
is one meaning behind the words of Imam Husayn (as) when one day entered
upon his companions and said: “O people! God did not create his servants
except to know Him, so if they knew Him they would serve Him and if they
served Him they would become needless through their servitude of Him from
serving others.” So a man asked the Imam (as) “What is the knowledge of
God?” The Imam (as) replied: “The knowledge of the people of each time of
their Imam whose obedience is incumbent upon them.”
So it is man who is essentially Godly and He has proved Himself through
His chosen servants. Tell me where has not believing in God ever taken
anyone? Just some material pleasures and servitude to their own desires.
But now compare any leader that did not believe in God to the holy Prophet
(saw). Where is he (saw) and where are they? He (saw) is God’s proof as he
(saw) was God’s servant.
God has touched the lives of many and if you still find doubts within
yourself after what has been said then ask Allah sincerely to give you a
proof that you will be satisfied with. It may not be what you expect and
it may not be immediate but if you ask with sincerity God will open your
ways and when that proof is in front of you, you will know. But the
question is how conditioned you are to doubt what you even know so
Answer to each issue
Reasons for doubt
1) This is an issue of theories as you have mentioned. You see some people
have even doubted the reality of the world outside (the extramental) and
would answer your question by saying “what do you mean that God is not
needed for the world to exist? The world does not exist!” But now if you
accept the necessary relationship between causes and effects then there is
no way to prove the existence of the world without an origin which is not
part of the world. If you take any of the scientific theories today
dealing with the origin of existence they are all unable to start without
matter. Basic matter is the start of all existence but then the question
is how did those basic building blocks come into existence. The only
answer is from the metaphysical, but since science today denies that
metaphysical it cannot answer the question of the origin of existence.
That is because this question has never been a scientific question. It is
and always will be a philosophical one. So God is not only needed for the
origin of existence He is also needed for its continuation. This is
explained in a detail in Islamic philosophy but that is the crux.
2) What is meant by design is not that everything should be without flaw.
What is meant is that even these flaws have their place in a whole system
of design. Indeed a material plane in its very definition is a plane of
lackness and flaws. Rather when one puts this material world in its place
with the metaphysical world the system is a beautiful and perfect system
because every plane has it’s purpose and its design which is suitable to
it. Perfection in its true sense belongs only to God. The argument of
design is one that is not intended to be a hard philosophical argument,
but it is intended to awake man and help him to understand the wisdom of
His Creator and His method. When a person lacks that wisdom he cannot
grasp this argument in its fullness. Rather stronger arguments for the
existence of God are provided in philosophical discussions. But at the
hight of all arguments is the innate spiritual feeling in every human.
That feeling is developed until it is a burning fire which drowns the
servant in the love of God and witnessing Him through the reality of his
3) The theory of the development of the idea of God is based on incomplete
induction. Ironically that is very unscientific. Incomplete induction is
when you take a limited sample and come to a theory based on that. For
example if i stand in a train station and take a sample of the age of
people taking the train on a Monday afternoon i may decide that according
to my sample 90% of the worlds population are advanced in age. In the same
way the development of God theory relies on a sample of some religions
ignoring others. From an Islamic perspective there was no development in
the theory of God. Rather while the theory of God was the same throughout
time humans distorted that theory in different ways such that Prophets
needed to be sent to correct those misconceptions.
4) There is no doubt that God calms people as faith and hope are two
beautiful treasures of religion. In fact it does more than give people
hope, it removes stress and makes every situation no matter how intense
beautiful. Like Lady Zainab (as) said when she was asked about what
happened to her brother (as): ” I did not see except beauty.” But now my
question is it a blindness that has this effect or is it a pure sight?
Rather those that experience these states will tell you that it is a
reality that brings calmness and not a simple idea. It is those that do
not comprehend this that accuse those that do for not basing their
calmness on anything other than a psychological weakness. Rather it is
only the strength of the intellect that comprehends the subtle and only
psychological weakness that pushes man to live in confusion and base their
world view on theories that cannot be proved.
5) Religion created revolutions as when man awakes he realises that he was
stripped of his very humanity by the powers that be so that those powers
could control his destiny and make him a slave to their ends. It is true
that religion is used as a tool by some in the same way that media is used
by others. It is only education that sets man free from all of those who
seek to use him no matter which tool they use. Indeed in the history of
Islam, within Islam itself ignorance of Islam was used as a tool to
control the Muslims and that is clear from the distortion of ahadith.
Rather it is as Amir al-Muminin (as) says: “Know the truth and you will
know its people.”
6) These unanswered questions can only be answered with knowledge and so
feel free to ask your questions and God willing what is known will be
answered. As for your population concern the question itself is floored
because the variables for the calculation are unknown. That is that while
the oldest skeleton may be 200,000 years old we have not found all
skeletons to know how old the oldest man was and so there is no way of
taking any guess about how old human life is and how long it would
mathematically take to populate the world. Rather any theory of that is
based on incomplete induction which has been explained above. So for this
issue it is not that there is no answer, it is that this is not reasonable
question with the parameters you have set.
Reasons to believe
1) As has been explained above you have been conditioned to doubt in these
feelings and dismiss them as emotion whereas the truth is that it is the
call of your soul. It is what has been explained to you that the only way
of proving something is to find its roots in matter. It is a philosophical
outlook that you did not consciously sign up to, whereas if you go back to
what the Amir (as) said and use that as your basis, witnessing God is from
faith and relying on those feelings. It is a completely different
philosophy of life and epistemology then the one you are constantly fed
and forced to swallow in the modern world.
2) The methods of verification of hadiths and stories of the Imam’s lives
are a science that needs to be studied. You may have come across some
exaggerations but i am guessing that most of the important issues you have
come across are verifiable. Because there are different methods of
verification different views are established according to those different
methods and this answers your question about infallibility as there is no
doubt according to Shii ahadith and intellectual proofs that the Prophets
and Imams are infallible. This again is an issue of education. But your
love for Allah and the Infallibles is something very precious and you
should not allow doubt to spoil that but rather seek answers for what
confuses you as the God and the Infallibles have left us with a religion
that can provide answers and it is only the lackness of the scholar in the
time of the ghayba of his Imam (af) that will prevent him from finding an
answer for you.
3) One of the traits of the Qur’an is that it guides those who believe and
those who are sincere and increases those who disbelieve in their
disbelief. As for the verses on slavery, you must understand that slavery
was a practical problem in the time of revelation as imprisonment or
killing were not practical solutions. Setting all slaves free also had
harsh economic consequences so God revealed laws of how to deal with
slaves. But what the Qur’an and Islam completely rejects is mental
slavery, which is the slavery of the modern world.
IA i hope these answers have gone some way to clear some of the doubts and
i pray that Allah casts His light in your heart and gives you every