What if you’re wrong? Isn’t it safer to believe in a god because if He is real, and you don’t believe in Him, then you’ll lose out?

In the 16th century, the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal posed a suggestion that the existence of God could not be determined through reason, so a rational person should wager as though God exists, because one living life accordingly has everything to gain, whilst one who doesn’t, has a lot to lose if God truly exists. This ‘wager’ is more commonly known as Pascal’s Wager. It is however, flawed in many ways and is a false dichotomy.
First thing I would ask you is ‘which God?’. Civilizations have believed in thousands of gods throughout human history, so first, you’ll have to pick the God to believe in. If you are a Muslim, Allah is just as real to you as Wotan was to the Vikings, or Zeus was to the Greeks, or the God Brahma, who has been believed in far longer than the Abrahamic God of the Muslims, Christians and Jews, is to the Hindus even to this day. Pascal’s Wager ignores all other possible religions. It ignores all other heavens and all other hells. It makes the claim that believe and worshipping costs you nothing. This is wrong. Time and money spent in deference to a God is wasted.
Secondly, it makes a complete mockery of your God’s intelligence by claiming that your God can be fooled into believing you have belief in Him. A rational individual can not come to make itself believe in something without evidence, but a brainwashed person quite easily will.
If God can be defined as omnibenevolence, all loving and caring, and omniscience, all-knowing, He would know me better than I know myself. He would know me better than any person knows me. He will know everything about me, including the turning point in my life when I lost belief in Him. He will be aware of all my experiences that led me to the conclusion that such a being as God can not exist. God will understand my reasoning, my thought process and how I came to the conclusions that I did.
Bertrand Russell once said if he had to present himself in front of God, he would say “God, you didn’t provide us with enough evidence”. I would go one step further and ask God that if He provided me with this critical mind, one that listened to reasoning, and questioned superstitious beliefs, why then punish me for something when I did exactly that?
If I did found myself standing in front of God, say specifically Allah, my immediate reaction would be of complete shock to find that such a being exists. I would want to know how my reasoning was wrong. I would really want to know that. I would beg for Him to explain to me where did I go wrong. If God truly is omniscience, He will know that I took truth very seriously. He will know that my disbelief was an involuntary reaction to what I perceived a deficit of evidence for God’s existence.
If God truly is omnibenevolent, then I can sooth myself with the knowledge that such a loving and caring God, would not see it fair to punish me for simply using the critical faculties that He provided me with. If God thinks I still deserve to go to hell, then He isn’t omnibenevolent and isn’t merciful, and He isn’t worthy of worship. In which case, I can reverse the question to you; what if you’re wrong about the God you worship?

Doesn’t it require as much faith to be an atheist then it does to believe in a God?

‘Faith’ by definition means to believe in something without evidence. Atheism is simply the absence of belief, or the rejection of the claim for gods. It wouldn’t make much sense if I told you that it takes as much faith NOT to believe in unicorns than it does to believe in them. In the absence of evidence, it takes faith to believe that unicorns exist.

So, why are you an atheist? Why don’t you believe in a God?

Theists, that are people who believe in a God, have made a rather large claim that a God exists, and since I have not been shown any proof of His existence, and the proof that theists have already put forward has failed under scrutiny, I reject their claim. The claims made by theists have not yet met their burden of proof. Until I’m provided with sufficient evidence and reason, my default position will remain that of disbelief.
When Bertrand Russell, the Welsh philosopher, was asked why he wasn’t a Christian, he had a wonderful response. You can substitute Christian with your own religion and your own God, and his response remains just as valid:

“Because I see no evidence whatever for any of the Christian dogmas. I’ve examined all the stock arguments in favour of the existence of God, and none of them seem to me to be logically valid.”

TOPIC: ATHEISM

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. – Edward Gibbon

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. - Stephen F. Roberts quoted in Like Rolling Uphill

What is an atheist?

An atheist is a person who doesn’t believe a God or gods exist, or in the broader sense, rejects the claim that a God or gods exist. I can make it even simpler: it is the absence of belief in a God.

If you are unsure a God exists, doesn’t that make you an agnostic?

Atheism and agnosticism mean two different things. Atheism and theism has to do with a person’s ‘belief’. Agnosticism and gnosticism are an address to knowledge; what is knowable and what can never be known. The ‘a’ in atheism turns the word ‘theism’ to ‘without’-theist. For example, atheism is latin for ‘without god’. Theism is ‘with god’, therefore, atheism is ‘without god’.

Here is a brief definition of each term:

Theism – belief a God exists.
Atheism – lack of belief that a God exists.
Gnosticism – the existence of something is knowable, and can be known. In this case, the existence of God can be known.
Agnosticism – the existence of something is unknowable, and can not be known. In this case, the existence of God can never be known.

Let’s take part in a little thought experiment. You were asked if you believed trolls existed. You can classify yourself in one of these categories:

Do you believe that trolls exist?:

- If you do, then you are a trolleist.
– If you don’t, then you are an atrolleist.

Let’s take this slightly further:

- If you say that you know that trolls exist, and that you have proof, and that existence of trolls can be known, and that you believe that they do exist, then you are a gnostic trolleist; you know trolls exist, and that’s why you believe they do exist.

- If you say that you can never know if trolls exist because we haven’t looked everywhere on earth and there might be a place on earth where trolls do exist, maybe in some underground cave in a remote jungle and they have kept themselves hidden from people, and you believe that they do/might exist, then you’re an agnostic trolleist; you can’t know if trolls exist, but you believe they do anyway.

- As above, if you say that you can never know if trolls exist, and their existence is something that can never be proven, but you believe that they probably/most likely don’t exist, then you are an agnostic atrolleist ; existence of trolls can never be known and you believe they don’t exist.

Now this situation can be applied with God. I am an agnostic atheist. I don’t claim to know that a God exists or doesn’t exist, because the question ‘does a God(s) exist’ is unknowable, but I believe that His existence is very unlikely, and most probably He doesn’t exist.

Atheism is NOT:

- a religion
– an ideology
– a belief system
– faith
– a guide
– a way of life

It is simply the absence of a belief in a God and gods.

I recently received an e-mail from a concerned Muslim brother about the content of my tweets. I have copied and pasted the e-mail below, and have responded to the issues raised.

Just a note, I refer to ‘you’ in this e-mail, but I’m mainly speaking to the general theist who might be reading this blog.

–BEGIN EMAIL–

Dear ‘thinkingsmurf’ [blogger’s note: I’ve replaced my name with my pseudonym],

I understand you no longer want to be associated with Islam and because it a ‘vile’ religion. Please kindly stop tweeting such things about Islam and our prophet (pbuh) or any religion. Cant we just respect each overs religion and beliefs.

I understand your concerns and reasons for protecting your religion, but religion, like as anything else, should not be exempt from criticism. Religion and its ideology plays a major part in shaping not just our lives, but my own life personally. I have had been a Muslim for 27 years. I, very sincerely, believed in everything that Islam had to say. I believed in the benevolence of God, the infallibility of the Quran, and the incorruptibility of His prophet. The sunnah was a way of life, and the Sahih Muslim and Al-Bukhari were a great source of inspiration. However, this faith was still blind and presupposed.

Faith, by definition, is a belief in something without evidence. Once I realised that religion should be questioned, it wasn’t long before I discovered the age of reason and skepticism. This opened my eyes and mind, and see past fakery of not just Islam, but all religions.

You’ve asked me to stop tweeting about Islam and your prophet. I would in return ask you; if you see injustice happening, lies being spread, person’s liberty and freedom being restricted, and individual rights being violated, would you not speak up and raise your concerns? Would you not try by any means in your power to raise awareness of such cruelty and atrocity being committed, and bring it to the attention of the masses? Would you not speak out against the injustice? Would you not fight for the rights of the individual who has no means to fight for his or her rights because of the society they live in?

I assure you, for as long as there is breath in my lungs, I will try to help generate an opposition to theocracy and its depredations to civilized society. I have to live every day in a society and environment that is democratic and secular in name but theocratic in nature. I respect people’s rights to practice their religion (to certain extent that doesn’t violate human rights) and to have religion, but I will not respect the ideology of religion. There is a difference. Again, I would pose the question to you; if I can give a theist respect and freedom for his religion, can I be given the equal respect and freedom from religion?

I am not a great writer, please kindly ignore my grammar. My message is simple, that most of us are decent human beings who love our religion and do not want any more hatred towards us.

I agree that majority of the Muslims and people of religion are decent human beings. My family, relatives and most of my friends are Muslims. They are also some of the most kindest people I have met and have in my life. I have no hatred towards you or people of religion. I do not need to attack you or people of religion. My quarrel is directly with the teachings and ideology of religion. I do not judge the religion from its followers; I do not need to. I get my sources directly from scripture i.e. the Quran, and the Sahih Hadiths which are considered equally canon in the Islamic theology.

I think I understand you have found a new belief and understanding of things, and you need to spread this but do you have to be so brutal. More so, because you a tweeting with 140 characters! With no backings of the reasons behind the teachings or practices.

You are under the same general misconception that atheism is a new belief system. I am merely responding to your claims as a theist, about the existence of God and the supernatural. Atheism in general is a lack of belief in God. As an atheist, I don’t believe that any of the claims about the existence of a God have met the burden of proof, sufficient enough to make me believe them.

I used to be in a position where I used to think that even questioning religion was considered an attack on it, and any criticism, no matter how subtle the language used, was considered ‘brutal’ and offensive. People of religion need to realise that religion needs to be questioned, and needs to be criticized.

By tweeting about what I consider are the dangers proposed by religion, I hope to create awareness in those moderate Muslims who have the power of reasoning and logic to raise their voices, step up, and stand against the fundamentalists that are dragging them, their religion, and society down and back to the 7th century. I’m hoping that one day, like I did by reading Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, my Muslim brothers and sisters can discover the age of reason and enlightenment.

By tweeting in 140 characters that Muhammad co-habited with a 9-year-old Aisha when he was in his 50’s, is not a claim without reason. That information has come directly from the Sahih Hadiths and the Muslim scholars. I need no backing for my tweet when stating a fact. When tweeting how many wars and raids Muhammad led on caravans, that is not a claim without reason. This information is again freely available to anyone who is willing to open up a copy of the Quran and the Sahih Hadiths and find out for themselves.

Please, as a fellow human being, stop tweeting things like that. I’m following you on twitter because I admire your photography skills and like your work.
I’m not about to unfollow you because stopped following Islam. I completely respect anyones decision to stop following any religion.

I have explained my reasons above why I can never stop tweeting about religion. I can also point you to my post Islam: The Battle with Religion which goes into more detail.

Again I’m really sorry writing this message so bad, with so many errors, but I just wanted to convey a message to you with total respect.

I hope I have not upset you in anyway,
Please forgive me if I have.

Regards,

Rahim

Thank you for your message and the kind words on my photography. I hope I went in some way to explaining my reasonings, and I can appreciate your sincerity.

I believe that in order for you to understand and defend your religion, you first need to understand what the arguments are against Islam and religion in general. Only then can you know how to defend Islam. I would highly recommend looking up on YouTube debates that involve Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens against religious apologetics.

Kindest regards,

Thinking Smurf.

Islam is not a religion of peace, neither does it stand for peace. Islam is a religion of submission. A Muslim fully submits himself/herself to the will of God.

The issue is that it is not the will of God they are submitting to but the will of the human being.

I have no quarrel with the majority of Muslims who practise their faith peacefully. They are loving, caring people – most of whom will not participate in homophobic hate mongoring, or agree with the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ punishments, or the lashing of adulterers and fornicators. Most of them won’t even agree that I should be put to death for being an apostate.

No. My quarrel is not with them. I hold issues with those that follow religion to the letter; with those that think they understand the will of God completely, and they must act on His behalf. These are the same people that are crying for homosexuals to be put to death; the same people who believe a person convicted of theft must have his hands cut off, and two consenting adults must be lashed and stoned till death takes them for having sex out of wedlock.

These people also decide how much of my penis must be chopped off to appease God, and what length should my hair be. These are the people who think a woman’s place is at home. They think slitting a woman’s throat is more honourable than letting her live in sin.

Before the uninformed defenders of Islam come to bash me and say these practices are cultural and not religious, who are you kidding? The importance given to female virginity in Islam gives the green light to those that follow this scripture to do the unthinkable things that ensures a woman’s virginity is protected. They will go as far as to cut the clitorous off, commonly referred to as female genital mutilation, or ‘female circumcision’ by those that want to make it sound like a legitimate practice.

Homosexuality is vigorously opposed by those that think it’s a sin, and that they have God’s permission to protect their society from a repeat destruction that happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.

I will not make friends with such people, and such people should be the enemy of every single moral human being who has even an ounce of dignity in them.

Luckily, majority of Muslims I know are some of the kindest people I’ve met, but when others take religion to its full practice, that’s when it becomes a vile doctrine that needs to be wiped out from the face of this planet.

Birth of a Skeptic

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Skeptic

I was, what one would consider, a typical British Pakistani Muslim boy. I had periods where I would be deeply religious – pray Namaz, read the Quran, thank God at every opportunity, not eat Haram food or drink, everything a good Muslim boy should do, but I was also a skeptic. Not a skeptic of religion, not till I was about 26 anyway, no. I was skeptic of anything supernatural. I had a hard time believing in ghosts, the paranormal, and invincible forces that had a mind of their own. To me, this was all rediculous superstition. There had to be a better explaination as to why cars roll “up-hill” at a forest in Essex when left in neutral than “supernatural forces are at work”; or why a person gets possessed by the devil and starts making strange noises, contorting their body in what might seem impossible postures. I’ve never believed in such stories when friends and cousins got together and started sharing anectodes of such events which may or may not have transpired in their own personal lives, or in someone else’s whom they knew. There were better, more plausable explainations available and I always looked for those – and found them, 100% of the time.

I remember when I was about 10 and in Pakistan, the kids and teenagers on my street would congregate outside their houses playing cricket, or just having chats. They were all convinced that one house further down our street was haunted and the shadow on the balcony could not be anything but a ‘jin’ (a ghost). I, however, thought differently. I knew there was a better explanation to this so instead of staring at the shadowy figure from a distance and wondering in ignorance, I went forward and investigated it. Turned out to be a metallic bucket with a mop casting shadow on the wall behind. Like I said; always a skeptic.

When it came to religion, I never applied the same logic and skepticism. It was only after years of doubt and self reflection that I realised that religion, like with everything else, is not exempt from criticism, and we must respond to its claims of the supernatural and its suspension of the laws of physics with the same degree of skepticism and credulity.

It was with this, that I started this blog. To explain my deconversion and acceptance of science, logic, critical thinking and reasoning.