One day, an American Facebook friend, who is an atheist philosopher, sent me a paper from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy saying that there are a number of philosophical arguments that make a compelling case for atheism.
I replied to him saying:
To be honest with you, I’m not a good philosopher actually. I cannot even claim that I’m a good reader of philosophy. But I think I still can share with you my thoughts based on my own understanding.
I took a quick look (not in-depth to be honest) at the paper and found it is based on two main ideas; the hiddenness of God and the dilemma of evil. So let me try to summarize my reply in some points:
1- The Hiddenness of God
Believe it or not! The Muslim’s faith and belief are all about believing in the unseen. The pillars of the Islamic faith are simply based on this idea, believing in the unseen!
At the very beginning of the Qur’an, you will find that the first characteristic of those who are conscious of God ‘Almighty Allah’ is the belief in the unseen.
This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah. Who believe in the unseen, …” [Qur’an 2:2-3] (1)
The Power of Mind
Actually, I find this so logical and makes sense. If we cannot believe but in what we can see with our eyes, then where is the power of mind here?!
Not because I cannot see something, it means that it does not exist. Also, not because someone on the other side of the earth cannot see you, it means that you do not exist! Not because we cannot see our feelings and emotions, this means that they do not exist! I think this does not make sense. We still can believe in the existence of many things even when we cannot see them.
God ‘Almighty Allah’ gave us the mind as a tool, among other tools, to use in thinking, pondering and contemplating the signs around us in this universe. This reflective contemplation of the universe will ultimately lead us to Him.
And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and hearts [i.e., intellect] that perhaps you would be grateful.” [Qur’an 16:78] (2)
We were ordered to use our intellect and to walk in the earth to think and ponder; from where and how all this came!
You know what? Away from complicated philosophical thoughts, sometimes I talk to myself saying: Oh! This so simple-in-design light white paper can neither produce itself nor be produced by nothing nor move from here to there without a mover! Even if no person came to move it, at least some air did. So, still there is a doer! Then, how about this so intelligent, sophisticated, harmonized, accurate, amazingly systematic giant creature called “universe!” How come there is no doer, finder, or Creator behind it!
Say, [O Muhammad], “Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then Allah will produce the final creation [i.e., development]. Indeed Allah, over all things, is competent.” [Qur’an 29:20] (3)
So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” [Qur’an 22:46] (4)
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” [Qur’an 2:164] (5)
Let’s look at the issue from another perspective. What if all people can easily see what they should and are ordered to believe in?
How could people be tested?! Yes, tested! What about that test, which is the core reason for this whole life?
And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days – and His Throne had been upon water – that He might test you as to which of you is best in deed…” [Qur’an 11:7] (6)
Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.” [Qur’an 18:7] (7)
[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – …” [Qur’an 67:2] (8)
And this point is also shared with the second point in the argument, which is the existence of evil.
2- The Evil
So far I don’t know whether or not you agree that life is not fair and it’s, as I said earlier a test… big and hard test.
Let’s imagine this situation… Someone held a party and invited many people. In the place of the party, there were two entrances, one on the right and the other on the left. The owner of the party did not ask or force anyone to enter from a certain entrance of the two. He just opened them and let people “freely” choose which entrance to go through.
Man Made Evil
This is exactly the same. God created both the good and the evil to test us. He did not force anyone to choose this or that. He informed us that in this life there will be good and evil, good things and bad things. God told us about the consequences of each of them; the reward and punishment that follow them. Then He allowed us to “freely” choose what to do, the good or the bad. This is so fair I think. We are “free” creatures with “free” wills. Moreover, we know, let’s say, “the manual” of life and “the options” that will be available. We know the consequences of each of these options in the afterlife. Now we are “free” to choose accordingly.
… And We test you with evil and with good as trial; …” [Qur’an 21:35] (9)
God will judge every one according to his free choices which he makes in this present life.
Do you know when we can doubt that there is something wrong and there is, let’s say, a kind of randomness? If there is no other certain point of time, beyond this unfair time and place, when everyone will take what he really deserves, either good or bad, so fairly and justly.
Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.” [Qur’an 21:35] (10)
And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be wronged [i.e., treated unjustly].” [Qur’an 2:281] (11)
This is the last revealed verse of the Qur’an.
Prophets and Messengers of God ‘Almighty Allah’ are the most honorable and sacred persons chosen by Allah, Lord of all worlds. However, they are also the most severely tested people. Probably to be an example for us on how to conduct ourselves in this life; this life that is not the real one, and is not the real measurement of goodness and fairness. In Islam, God greatly rewards the believer for every hardship or calamity he faces if he accepts and shows patience towards it. Nothing will go in vain.
And be patient, for indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.” [Qur’an 11:115] (12)
How wonderful is the case of a believer, there is good for him in everything and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity attends him, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him; and if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is better for him.” [Hadith] (13)
If a thorn pricks a Believer or he is hurt more than that then that is expiation for his sins.“ [Hadith] (14)
Nothing afflicts the believer, whether fatigue, grief, disease – even a worry that concerns him – except that by it, Allah removes something from his bad deeds.“ [Hadith] (15)
… and know that in patience with regard to something that you dislike there is much goodness. …“ [Hadith] (16)
The Other Face of Evil
This is one side of the issue. Another side is that every face of evil, pain, or hardship, carries a face of goodness, even if it was a hidden face. There is no 100% pure evil!
Even the events that are beyond the control of humans, such as diseases, natural disasters, and so on, happen also for a reason and wisdom, and guess what? They also carry a positive and good face.
- With evil, life has meaning. Goodness is meaningless without the existence of evil.
- Evil is a stimulus to many things, like:
A. Knowing the philosophy of life and faith.
B. Generating innovations and inventions; since evil is a problem that humans seek to solve through inventing a cure for the disease and a solution to the difficulty.
C. Building up a challenging spirit for overcoming evil and gaining virtue and morality. Prof. Ewing, the Professor of Ethics at Cambridge, says: “We must overcome an evil to obtain the virtue of overcoming evil.”
D. Developing human abilities through facing evil and its various forms and levels.
E. The test in life is meaningless without evil; what is the meaning and importance of the values of charity, generosity, mercy, empathy, consolation, patience, support, cooperation, etc., without the existence of evil?!
Finally, If we can understand that behind this orderly and intelligently designed universe an All-Knowledgeable and All-Wise Maker, I think we will be able to understand also that everything happens for a reason and wisdom. We will be able to understand that there is wisdom behind everything, even the evil, pain, and suffering that take place in the world. Even if we do not know this wisdom or cannot understand it, we still will be able to believe that it exists!
These are my spontaneous thoughts for the moment.
Forgive me for this terribly long reply.
Here, my reply to my atheist friend ends. But there is an important note I have to tell you, my dear reader. Yes, he is an atheist. However, I talked to him with words like “Allah” and “Qur’an.” This is because he is searching for God, and is reading the Qur’an. Thus, I talked to him with the concept of God I believe in, and according to the Qur’an he reads.
Oh! I forgot to say something! I forgot to say that he is now an ex-atheist. He is not an atheist anymore. Now he believes in God. He believes that there is God.