Show Your Religion

We live in a world that is dominated by those who believe in a deity of some form or another.  The Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) alone account for the largest share of humanity that believes in a Supreme Being.  However, along with this common concept of belief comes the inevitable differences between religions and even within religious communities. These differences alone account for much of the violence and indifference toward humanity today.  History bears witness that some of mankind’s greatest atrocities and horrors have been committed by those who say “I believe”.  The question of what these individuals, groups, sects, and entire religions believe can often be answered and summarized in a paragraph or two.  One need not look further than official websites, Goggle, Wikipedia, etc. for examples of these declarations.

However, the most interesting thing to me is how universal the messages are.  Most if not all of the worlds religions especially those of the Abrahamic faith proudly boast and declare that their religion promotes peace.  Which is very interesting when one looks at the current state of humanity today.  One should not be surprised when atheists or other non-believers mock those of us who believe as those who believe in fairy tales especially when one looks at the results of our beliefs.

It is my firm belief that a great majority of us are hypocrites.  We pronounce one thing with our lips, but our actions show something entirely different.  If we were sincere in our beliefs collectively regardless of spiritual tradition, then how do we account for the decline of humanity in our world.  Surely the easy thing would be to blame others and maybe even blame Satan, but that is a weak position for a believer to take.  First of all, believers are supposed to produce change in their environment not the other way around.  Secondly, while the Satan may be able to whisper or suggest sin, it still takes the power of choice for us to engage in it.

So what is it that we are doing?  We hear terms like “Christian Nation”, “Muslim World”, or “Jewish State” yet are we seriously willing to call any of the countries in which these terms are attributed these names sincerely?  Which country on Earth would Jesus (as) readily claim represents his teachings, instruction, and will?  Which country on Earth would Moses (as) readily claim represents his clear instruction and adherence to the Law?  Which country on Earth would Muhammad (saw) readily claim represents his example, guidance, and recitation?

Yet we cling to these terms and slander the servants and messengers of God, peace and blessings be upon all of them, when we dare attribute these countries and nations with their righteous examples.

It is pure arrogance on our part to do so and great hypocrisy when we claim that which we are not actually doing.

However, those of us who proudly proclaim that ours is the right guidance or the true religion, sit back and do nothing to produce examples of that which we profess where it really counts.  We have not the courage or strength of character to do whatever it takes to realize these teachings and guidance universally.

We love to point the finger at one another, we love to claim how much better we are than others, but while we talk humanity suffers.  While we build ornaments to commemorate our arrogance, the least of the people, the poor, the orphan, the wayfarer, suffer.  Who are we that we will readily claim adherence to the guidance of God and given through His servants, yet not vigorously fight to realize what He has given us?

Why do we spend so much time trifling over one another’s experience looking for new and ingenious ways to discredit that which many hold so dear?

I humbly submit that we become the people of God we so eagerly claim to be by producing ACTIONS that magnify and testify to our claims.

Let’s not just be a people who talk, but be a people who do.

Certainly, each group, sect, religion, etc. that theirs is the correct path.  The fallibility of our flesh bears witness to our need to feel more important than the next human being in the sight of God.  We fill the internet, libraries, and lecture halls with volumes of articles, literature, and debate on this very topic.  We love to determine ourselves who is or is not Christian, Jewish, or Muslim enough.  It’s almost our most favorite and profitable pastime and hobby.

While this has as history of providing nothing but ill will and violence amongst mankind, it also has the history of providing much needed dialogue amongst groups, which is fine.  Personally, I don’t feel that there is nothing particularly wrong with claiming to adhere to the right guidance, would we be who we were if we did not have that belief?

But wouldn’t it be a great and wonderful thing if the people of religion, actually showed us why they have the right guidance?

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I feel pretty certain that the messengers of God (pbut) did not intend for our examples of their just guidance to be that which we see today.  Every type of excess, cruelty, and sin is exhibited daily in the lands in which these servants of God walked and in those lands that claim to have heard the message.  From the church to the mosque and to the synagogue they all stand as stale monuments and edifices that produce good feelings within and pitiful results outside.

We should be angry and outraged at ourselves when even in the lands that we call holy violence, injustice, and evil are the law of the land.  Women, children, the elderly, the destitute, the different, and the other, can not seek shelter, aid, or comfort in the places where the “believers” reside.  What should the non-believers believe with such shining examples of our supposed hearing the message?  Why would they want to seek out the truth we boastfully proclaim we alone have?

If our actions don’t produce that which we profess then can one really be counted amongst those who believe?  If we accept a world in which peace is nothing but a dream, where the free exercise and God given right to the pursuit of happiness is only available to a privileged few but denied to the masses, can we truly be labeled as a believer?

Who are we, that we will take the name of our Greatest God in vain to make ourselves look and sound good?

I humbly ask those among the believers to show your religion.  The world has heard enough words already.  What humanity needs now is the ACTIONS of the believers.  What we need to see is not how much the adherents can tear down physically and emotionally, but how much the adherents can build.  Or are we too ignorant to understand that evil is best fought against with that which is better?  Do we claim to know more than God?

To my dear Muslim Ummah, we are supposed to be the best example for mankind, ours is supposed to be a place of security and peace for all of humanity, but how many of us are willing to state this is the case?  If this is not so, then is it not our duty to ensure that it becomes the reality?  Have we truly become that which we claim to be the worst of creation, due to our inability to follow the criterion revealed to us?  If our religion is what we profess, then there should be no doubt in the minds of mankind, as our actions should reflect that which we affirm Islam to be.  Our inaction and unwillingness to do so makes us nothing more than cowards and unworthy to have the mercy of Allah (swt) and He it would be just if we were replaced with another people as were the communities who came before us.

To my dear Christian brethren, how can many extol the Good News of the Christ (as), yet allow a world to exist in which his very enemies are allowed to prosper?  The money changers, the rich and powerful rule and dominate with their feet on the neck of the least of the people, while many of you idly watch and do nothing.  Jesus (as) the One foretold who would usher the kingdom of God and who called the peacemakers the beloved of God would never side with a politic, agenda, or indoctrination that called for the destruction of others because of their differences, or would encourage the turning away of the downtrodden.

To my dear Jewish brothers and sisters, you have been the beloved of God.  He has sent messenger after messenger to you and have blessed you tremendously with guidance.  However, does that guidance make you any more or less superior than any other people?  Does your blessing mean that you are not to take part in the universal brotherhood of all mankind?  The essence of the law is not that one should be identified by rigorous adherence to ritual, but one realize that the Mercy of God in our submitting to His Will.  His Will and Mercy extends to all, the Earth is the Lords and the Fullness thereof, as active participants in the world that belongs solely to Him, we must remember to not value His land over the lives and justice of His people.  We would all be wise to remember this.

I pray for a day when the Children of Abraham (as) can be forces of action that produce change for all people.  I pray for a day when our actions reflect our words and the messages that we claim to adhere to.  I pray for a day when God’s Word will reign Supreme and our arrogance will fade in His Glory.

Ameen.

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7 Comments

  1. Wow Richard!  Good for you!

    I have lots to say on this topic and I would love to post a formal essay.  Unfortunately, I am in the throws of two papers for my graduate program, and so this project will have to wait.  I hope the dialogue goes well though!

    I would just like to say though, that I hope to show you why atheism is the most morally valid spiritual path available to humanity.  I know this sounds like a radical contradiction, but then most great truths contain an element of paradox.

    Have fun!

    Reply

  2. Bravo —-clap clap clap clap and maybe I throw in a flower or two as well!!—-that was awesome

    Hey Susac…how are you? …..

    Reply

  3. Susac, humanity has been waiting for the “Holy Grail” of Aethism.  If I were you, I won’t be focused on writing papers that won’t benefit a villager in remote Nigeria; nor will it stop the war in Afghanistan.

    Brother Robert, I have to take my hat off; you have answered a question that I have been searching for years in this wonderful post. Masha Allah. May Allah give you the ability to keep writing with such strong spirit.

    Reply

  4. Bravo —-clap clap clap clap and maybe I throw in a flower or two as well!!—-that was awesome

    Hey Susac…how are you? …..

    Reply

  5. Hi Robert, I have finally come to a place in my life where I feel I can do justice to this lovely post, and I want to take the time to answer it as fully and completely as I can.
     
    First I want to affirm to any of your readers who do not yet know me:  I am an atheist.  I have no belief in God, Allah, or any supernatural agency at all.  I do not believe  that the story of Muhmmad or the story of Jesus has any special weight, because I do not believe that either the bible or the Koran are the revealed words of god.  In fact, I do not believe that revelation is a valid form of knowledge.
     
    But more on that later.
     
    I do believe that human beings are a species of ape.  I believe that we probably evolved from a common ancestor with the chimpanzee and we diverged from that common ancestor about 3 million years ago.  I believe that we lost our body hair and gained sweat glands about 2.5 million years ago, and I believe that most modern humans (other than native Africans) are more or less related to the now extinct Neadertals as well.  I believe that we are more closely related to chimps than chimps are to orangutans.
     
    I believe these things for many complex reasons, and for one very simple reason:  The evidence shows that this story of our origins is probably true.
     
    I can go into the specifics of the complex reasons – DNA evidence of our ape-heritage, DNA evidence of head and genital lice which shows that the two species diverged 2.5 million years ago, fossil evidence, etc. etc.  Frankly these lines of evidence are broad and wide, and there are MANY people who are better qualified than I am to educate you on these things.  All you have to do is look. 
     
    Well, that is you have to look, AND you have to be willing to assume that your knowledge of the world and your place in it may be wrong.
     
    In short you have to look with an open mind.
     
    The complex reasons will take care of themselves.  Rather I want to get to the much more important reason I believe these things:  The simple reason.  This simple idea is the basis of my entire philosophy, and indeed it is the basis of all of western knowledge.  I am offering this simple thing as the cornerstone of not only my reason for believing what I do, but also the cornerstone of my moral integrity and the cornerstone of my “atheist spirituality.”
     
    The simple reason I believe these things is this:  Evidence is the ONLY valid path to knowledge.
    Not revelation.
    Not the word of an authority (ESPECIALLY a divine authority).
    ONLY EVIDENCE.
     
    This is a simple idea, but like all simple ideas it is much harder to practice than it is to think about.
    The idea that evidence is the only valid source of knowledge has many startling consequences.  I will cover 3 of them here:
     
    1)       I am constantly faced with the fact that the amount of stuff I know is completely dwarfed by the amount of stuff I do not know.  As a result, I am constantly confronted by uncertainty.  Because of this, the only real emotionally satisfying point of reference that I have to work with is uncertainty itself.  This is a mental discipline that I engage in.  You would understand it as a form of spiritual practice.
     
    Consider this for a moment.  Unlike you, I live in a world where I have no deity to define my moral reality.  I have no holy book to offer me a point of reference for how I should relate with my own desires, addictions, or relationships, and no community standard to identify with beyond the laws of my government.  I have no reason to think that Allah exists, so I have no reason to believe anyone who tells me “this is what Allah wants from me.” 
     
    Instead, I need to use standards of evidence, and standards of human suffering, empathy and authority as the benchmark by which I measure the moral integrity of my actions.  I live in a very different world than you do.  You may ask – but where did your moral standards come from?  The answer:  My personal psychology, which is a product of my evolutionary heritage and my cultural environment.  And you know what?  It works pretty darn well most of the time.  In fact, studies have shown that we atheists score no differently than you theists on psychological scales of moral reasoning – in short, your religion does NOT make you more moral than me.
    2)      Another consequence of my commitment to evidence-based reasoning is that I have had to systematically train myself to notice errors in my own thinking and in the thinking of others.  I am not a scientist.  Still, if I am to use evidence to decide what’s true, then I have to be able to tell good evidence from bad evidence.  So when someone tells me the story of how they prayed and their little girl was saved from disease, I’m the guy who says “that’s great, but how many parents prayed over their own little girls who died of the same disease?  How many parents who did NOT pray over their dying children also had them survive?  Why would you think that prayer had any effect whatsoever on the outcome of the illness?”  I’m the guy who asks that question.
     
    This is a form of spiritual practice.  It takes a significant degree of emotional detachment to ask these questions.  After all, who is not overwhelmed with relief to hear that a child has been spared an early death?  Still, it is EXACTLY the practice of asking these sorts of questions that has transformed our world.  It is the asking of these kinds of questions that has allowed us to tease out the real causal relationships in our world and have given us the amazing degree of control and knowledge about or world that we do have.
     
      Robert you said: “If we were sincere in our beliefs collectively regardless of spiritual tradition, then how do we account for the decline of humanity in our world.  Surely the easy thing would be to blame others and maybe even blame Satan, but that is a weak position for a believer to take.”
     
    I’m sorry Robert, but you are SO SO WRONG about this statement.  Humanity is NOT in decline!  Did you know that:
    A)      The average human life expectancy is several times what it was even 100 years ago?
    B)      In all of the 20th century (even counting the world wars), the chances of a man being murdered in an industrial society is only 10% of what it is in tribal societies?
    C)      The rights of women and minority populations world wide are being respected in greater numbers than ever before, even in so called “totalitarian regemes?”
    D)     The infant mortality rate has declined
    E)      The average level of wealth worldwide has skyrocketed and the global middle class is larger than ever before in history.
    F)      We cured polio
     
    NONE of these accomplishments were caused by Islam, Christianity or ANY religion.  They are all the product of evidence-based reasoning.  The only reason you, Robert believe that humanity is in decline is because that is what you have been taught by mullahs and imams who need you to be afraid in order to maintain control of your mind.  This leads me to my 3rd major conclusion:
     
    3)      Faith is bad.  Faith is one of those words that has a lot of different meanings, and it means different things to different people, and a lot of the things that faith means are good, but I am referring to one meaning in particular.  Let me review the meanings of the word faith:
    a.       Trust or confidence, as in:  “I have faith in your abilities”
    b.      Membership in a religious or spiritual community, as in “I’m a member of the Christian faith.”
    c.       To have allegiance or commitment, as in “keeping the faith”
    d.      To hold as true without evidence, a in “I take it on faith.”
     
    This last one is the big problem.  As you can see, the first three can often be quite nice, but that last one is a real bitch.  The problem with that last one is that not only do people hold ideas as true without any evidence to back them up, but they also build their whole sense of themselves on these stories of magic and divinity, and once a person does this, it becomes literally a point to kill and die over.  Well, I’m sure you know this story well enough.
     
    Faith is bad.  From my “evidence based reasoning” perspective, faith is not just a bad practice, it is an indicator of bad character.  A person who believes in magic is someone who is indulging in intellectual laziness.  Worse, they are cowards, who cannot face the truth of uncertainty.  That is, they are afraid of death and they are afraid of not knowing so they have to cling to children’s stories to deal with their fear.
     
    From my evidence-based perspective the WORST religions in the world are the 3 desert cults of Abraham:  Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  What is bad about these religions is right there in the story of Abraham – It is not moral to agree to sacrifice your child even if the creator of the universe commands you to do it!  Obeying a good leader doesn’t’ make you good. 
     
    The correct moral response of Abraham to god was:  “you want me to kill my own son?  FUCK YOU!!! Who do you think you are God?  You think that just because you created me you can command me to commit murder?  Get the fuck out of here!”
     
    Obedience to authority is a moral skill, not a moral principal.  Abraham got it wrong.
     
    See?  Faith is bad.
     
     This is not to say that one should not proceed on the basis of guesses or hunches, but you shouldn’t kid yourself that you know something that you do not.
     
    Let me give you a personal example in the form of my own spiritual practice:  I am a meditation practitioner.  I have been trained in Shamata-vipashnia meditation, and I am beginning to learn prana-yama meditation.  I am not a Buddhist or a hindu.  I do not believe in reincarnation, nirvana or enlightenment.  So why do I do it?
     
    I do it because I notice that when I do practice these mental disciplines I feel better, I think more clearly and I am more in control of my emotions and anxiety.  I also notice that other people who also practice exhibit character traits that I admire, such as open heartedness, peacefulness and self-confidence.  So I do it too.  I am using evidence to guide my guesswork as to what behaviors are constructive in my life.
     
    No belief in magic is needed, no supernatural authority figure need guide me.  It’s rather like jogging for the brain.
     
    Let me end with one more example of this practice.  I am going to tell you my own personal credo.  This is a guiding principle of my life.  It is a philosophical one, and it is the closest thing I come to having anything resembling “faith.”  I admit that it is a leap.  I do not know if this idea is true or not, but I hold it as true because I get better mileage out of my life when I do.  Still, I do not kid myself that I have any special knowledge.
     
    Are you ready?  Here it is:
     
    It is only by accepting the truth of who we are that we will be able to create peace on earth and goodwill toward all human kind.
     
    As I said, I don’t know if this idea is true.  Certainly our knowledge of the world had given us better control over our environment, but still we are struggling to gain control over ourselves.  It is a much harder task I think.  I study human nature.  I hope that I use that knowledge to make the world a better place.  I am sure that this knowledge can be abused like all knowledge can.
     
    But we are a powerful species.  Powerful enough to cause our own extinction.  There is no reason to believe that we will not meet the same end as so many other evolutionary dead ends.
     
    But we have to try.  And knowledge is our greatest tool for survival.  Martin Luther once said that “reason is the enemy of faith.”
     
    I agree, but I would add:
     
    “Faith is the enemy of man.”
     
    I do not believe that there is no god.  I simply do not see any reason to believe that there is one.  The commitment to evidence that leads me to this position requires reason, courage, self-discipline and an open, curious mind.  These are values and practices (spiritual practices indeed), that I hold dear.
     
    That is why I am an atheist.
     
    It is the only moral choice.
     

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