Hi Sam, I hope that you are doing well. I have read al most all of your significant articles and your books, namely, “The End of Faith” and “A Letter to a Christian Nation”. So far, I have only been a passive reader of your work. And despite the fact that I am a Muslim, I enjoyed it. It gave me an alternative view on religion. An alternative view on how other human beings can look at religion. The answer to why I read your books is rather complicated and has many factors. But the most compelling answer to this, in my point of view, is that I have lived in Europe for quite a few years and the way the European society normally functions and the way the people are is often times extremely impressive. The people are good natured, honest with their work and candidly welcoming and despite all of this the countries are secular and people are mostly agnostic or atheistic. This is impressive. I wonder why an average European atheist is so nice. Nice to the extent that he normally doesn’t know anything bad. This drew me closer to your book titled “The End of Faith” around last year this time. I found it extremely well written and thorough. In the book you have a special chapter titled “The problem with Islam” which is also extremely well written and the excerpts from which can be found elsewhere on the web. I have to admit that even though I am a Muslim, I cannot completely argue about the portions of the book firstly because my knowledge about the Quran is limited and secondly because you have raised some logical issues in it that require special attention to detail by a learned and an unbiased person (possibly an Islamic scholar) who has specialized in Islamic studies. I also have to admit that after reading the book, I, for the first time, not only understood atheism but also seriously considered it. This is to say that I had to ask this question to myself again and again that, is there really a God? a divine force who has created the universe and the life? Or stated simply, Is Allah really the God or just a mythical figure. I remember that I was in Copenhagen around that time trying to look for a postdoc position in a nice Danish university.
What is the importance of religion then if people can live their lives by having good morals otherwise and can live peacefully? The need to having a religion becomes superfluous if people can get everything they need in their lives by the virtue of a good social order AND if there actually is no God. This last bit is something no one is sure about. Surely, as a religious person (like a Muslim or a christian or a Jew or a Hindu) cannot give the proof of existence of the God he or she believes in, an atheist cannot give a proof of the non-existence of God either. A religious person can only argue in favor of his existence by presenting the signs of his existence as portrayed in the religious texts. Similarly an atheist can only argue in the non-existence of God by possibly using scientific methods as tools. The end result of this is what we are seeing; a war of ideas, words and weapons on every level of the human society. For instance, your blogs are extremely heated up by the continuous bashing of Islam. Similarly, in various places in the Muslim countries there are uproars against the USA.
Religion, however, is only important if what religion claims to be or have is actually true. Stated more specifically, and that too about Islam, is that, Islam is the true religion of God (or Allah, to be more specific) IF AND ONLY IF what we know about Islam is in reality true. and IF AND ONLY IF the God (or Allah, for that matter) actually exists and IS not an invention of the prehistoric Arabs or people of the middle-east.
How can we know that? The answer is that it is not a very simple project to undertake. Nobody has ever seen God. And whether there is an afterlife is only known to the dead, with whom we cannot communicate.
To this end, to satisfy my curiosity about this matter, I further investigated on the Internet to try to know anything I could about a possible afterlife. I came across your lecture titled “death and the present moment”. In this lecture you say that we live in nothingness once we are dead. That mind is run by the brain and mind ceases to exist once the brain is dead. That we are as good as a dead animal once we are dead. That is to be dead is as if we were never born. That further intrigued me to research on as to what really happens once we are dead. I came across these ideas about “near death experiences” and “out of body experiences”. I am not going to go in to the details regarding the nature of these experiments but the crux is that there is a certain part of the “self” that exists even once we are dead. The guys (who were normally western researchers) inferred that there IS an afterlife for the dead human-beings.
Having said this, this does not mean at all that there is a God. Or even if there is one, that Islam is the true religion of God. This does not simply imply that. What it implies to me is that the existence of God is an all time open question the answer to which has not been found yet by so many scholars, scientists, and philosophers.
This, however, does imply that there might or might not be a God. And if there is one, there might be a true religion and hence a true word of God. The consequence of thinking like this is that both the religious people as well as the atheists should soften up a little bit on this topic and try to adopt alternative approaches to addressing this problem. For instance, adopting the scientific method is a really good option. So, for instance, you may appoint a PhD student in your lab to develop a thesis “Is there really a God?” (jokes aside). Burning Holy scriptures and mocking religious figures (like Muhammad (PBUH) or Buddha) only creates more unrest in the society.
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