For Muslims: How to Debate With an Atheist

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    • M Ali Khan
    • February 22nd, 2011

    Brilliant! 🙂 Muslims themselves are as, or even more, guilty of ‘taking things out of context’ in Islam as much as they accuse the next critic of doing so!

    Wah ji wah! Kya baat hai!

    • Frank
    • February 23rd, 2011

    Quick note: Most scholars of comparative religions like Deedat and Zakir naik do not debate with Atheist. Muslims are always interested with people of the BOOK not people of have nothing.

    • loneliberalpk
    • February 23rd, 2011

    That is true, which is a indicative of Muslims’ lack of confidence in their own teachings.

    Rarely have I seen an Atheist vs Theist debate in which a participating Muslim didn’t get completely pawned. Reza Aslam is a relatively better debater, but he too is little match for people like Harris or Hitchens.

    • Tanzeel
    • February 23rd, 2011

    You have a missed the last point, they say God has asked us to believe in whatever I say. Don’t question your faith.

    • loneliberalpk
    • February 23rd, 2011

    Hmm..

    • Tanzeel
    • February 24th, 2011

    Last but not least, the pro Shariah debaters would invite their Mullah mates to degrade you and run away by calling you Kafir.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 16th, 2011

    I actually know quite a few Muslims who generally debate atheists. For instance there is Sharif Hafezi and Hamza tzortzis, debates with people like professor John holmwood, dr Julian baggini, dr goatcher, dr Mark Hogarth and many others. And of all the debates I’ve seen the Muslim tends to prove his premise far better than the atheist. But hey I’m just an ignorant prejudicial Muslim what would I know.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 17th, 2011

      The debaters you mentioned don’t impress me much. While some Muslims like Reza Aslam are quite reasonable, people like Tzortzis debate only by infusing complex philosophical arguments into the dialogue and paying little attention to scientific fact.

      Even as a Muslim, I used to admire people like Dawkins. Despite my disagreement with most of what they said, I noticed that their words made immediate sense. For instance, as Hitchens once said, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    • Abu Laith
    • September 19th, 2011

    Well you can’t critique hamza if you don’t understand his arguments due to limited knowledge. It’s like saying I’m ignorant of Einsteins theory relativity therefore he’s wrong.

    Out of interest and perhaps it’s unfair because you’ve already admitted some ignorance in this subject matter, but what’s your view with regards to the argument that seeks to prove that an actual infinite (quantifiable infinity) is an impossibility, thus making time and space finite?

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 19th, 2011

      Just because I don’t agree with Hamza, doesn’t mean I have misunderstood his views. Hamza’s polemic sounds more impressive to those who are unable to look through the cosmetic appeal of his philosophical arguments, to sense the utter lack of coherence within.

      It’s like the Clinton defense during the Lewinsky scandal: “Depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is!”. Complexity isn’t always tantamount to accuracy.

      So no. I have not admitted to any “ignorance” on the matter, but I do appreciate the condescension! As for your question, I don’t believe in actual infinity. It is theoretical concept, and has not been proven yet.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 19th, 2011

    Also you mentioned you like Dawkins but what do you think of the criticism to his criticism on the kalam argument? That for his argument to remain true one would have to uphold an infinite regress which they say is an impossibility?

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 19th, 2011

    I can’t recall Dawkin’s critique, in specific, of the Kalam cosmological argument. I did read the “The God Delusion”, but that was a long time ago.

    I’m more familiar with Craig, Hawking and Sinclair’s arguments against Kalam. And they seem to make sense.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 20th, 2011

    If you understand hamzas complex philosophical statements then it’s not a criticism of his works by saying they are complex. That’s like saying Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is a complex concept but that’s not a criticism on the principle.

    However specifically my comment related to a factual error that Muslims don’t debate against atheists I gave a number of different Muslims that debate including hmaza, sharif hafeiz, hassan choudhry, abdullah andalusi, jamaludeen okay and others. In fact it’s Muslims who set up these debates not atheists.

    However I’m interested in two issues you’ve raised, firstly do you believe only science is the fundamental way to determine truths?

    Secondly why do you deny the existence of an actual infinite?

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 20th, 2011

      As I said, complexity is not necessarily tantamount to accuracy. Not all complex arguments are correct. I cannot possibly expand on that more than I did in my last post.

      And I never said that Muslims don’t debate Atheists. They do, but most of them offer no more than a handful of banal arguments, like the ones I mentioned here as well as in one of my other diagrams (“Why It’s Hard to Defend God“).

      I’m sure you’d say the same thing about certain Atheists, but I personally find the argument against God to be much more convincing.

      To answer your question, I believe in science as the most effective way to determine truths, if not the only fundamental way. In any case, scientific evidence always overrides faith. It cannot be dismissed as an “alternate opinion” to what we personally choose to believe.

      Anyway, can I ask your view on a very basic paradox? I’m sure you’ve encountered this one before in some form, but can a God of infinite power create a substance that he Himself cannot destroy?

    • Abu Laith
    • September 20th, 2011

    “Quick note: Most scholars of comparative religions like Deedat and Zakir naik do not debate with Atheist. Muslims are always interested with people of the BOOK not people of have nothing.” 

    You said in response. “That is true, which is a indicative of Muslims’ lack of confidence in their own teachings.”

    In response to this I said, “I actually know quite a few Muslims who generally debate atheists…”

    Sharif has given over a dozen debates and hamza over 2 dozen debates. In addition there are numerous other debaters from a Muslim perspective. And they’ve debated some real heavy weight atheist academics in philosophy, not mere polemist like hitchens or even Dawkins. 

    And in the debates I witnessed I didn’t see the Muslim ‘pawnd’ or defeated. In fact dr goatcher lecturer in philosophy and sociology stated he could agree in principle with the arguments presented.  Similar response also was seen with the atheist Rob Murfin part of Sheffield secular society. 

    The debate with guy otten, greater Manchester humanism, was so successful that Muslims students arranged another Muslim atheist debate the following year at the university of Manchester. 

    So this strange assumption that Muslims lack confidence in debating atheist isn’t factually correct nor is it correct that they were easily decked. 

    After I mentioned that sharif and hamza debate many atheists as a factual point, you said,

    “The debaters you mentioned don’t impress me much. While some Muslims like Reza Aslam are quite reasonable, people like Tzortzis debate only by infusing complex philosophical arguments into the dialogue and paying little attention to scientific fact.”

    Here your criticism of hamza isn’t related to his evidences but his use of ‘complex philosophical arguments’ my point on this issue is that complex arguments cannot be a premise to discredit someones arguments. It’s neither a proof nor a valid argument against him. 

    Anyways could I ask you to answer me other question as to why you disbelieve in an actual infinite? 

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 21st, 2011

      The best Atheism vs Theism debates that I’ve seen have all taken place among Atheists, Jews and Christians. Muslims too debate Atheists (I particularly enjoyed the Harris/Aslam debate), but not where I come from. In Pakistan (and many other Islamic countries), the only opinion that is allowed to fly publicly is the pro-Islamic one.

      If I, as an ex-Muslim Atheist, invite the Pakistani Islamic scholars to a debate, my invitation is more likely to be answered by a bullet than a cordial “yes”. And no, I’m not exaggerating, because it has already happened to me once. Your religion of peace confuses me.

      Hamza provides no “evidences”. He only offers a mess of philosophical statements to ensnare the feeble-minded, much like the Clinton defence. At least when people like Stephen Hawking say that God doesn’t exist, they offer actual scientific reasons to justify their claims.

        • Salafi/Oncologist
        • September 25th, 2011

        Pray tell me what evidence Hawking provides to conclusively show that God does not exist? I’ll give you much more leeway, what evidence Hawking provides which SUGGESTS/SUPPORTS that God PROBABLY does not exist?

        The moment science starts talking about God, it does not remain science anymore. Hawking is committing a fallacy by talking about something using scientific tools whence those tools can only be applied to the material. Maybe a feeble minded pseudoscientist can be convinced by that, not an oncologist like myself.

        All the best.

        • loneliberalpk
        • September 26th, 2011

        Hawking, or any other physicist, never disproved God…just like nobody has ever disproved Russell’s teapot (I hope that you’re familiar with this concept. If not, Google it out for I won’t expand on it here). Hawking has, however, explained very eloquently how the universe we see around us is the product of the four physical forces, and the stochasticity found at the quantum level. God might exist, but there’s no real need for Him to exist.

        There are many questions regarding our origin that are yet to be answered, but crying “God did it” does not answer anything. It only replaces a smaller question (the origin of the universe) with an even more complex question (how and why does God exist?).

        Also, being an oncologist does not make you the emperor of human knowledge. The origin of the universe is a matter more relevant to theoretical physics than oncology. So I hope you understand why I’m more inclined to believe in Hawking’s assessment, who happens to be a world-renowned theoretical physicist, than yours.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 20th, 2011

    There’s another point I wanted to mention, you claimed that “but most of them offer no more than a handful of banal arguments, like the ones I mentioned here as well as in one of my other diagrams (“Why It’s Hard to Defend God“)”.

    Let’s take the two Muslims I mentioned who between them have probably debated more 25 various atheists lecturers, scientists and philosophers, they haven’t used any of the arguments you’ve claimed. Hamza has argued based on a number of points including, the finitude of time and causality being an apriori knowledge. Sharif has argues that limitations necessarily means dependency and that a chain of interdependent limited things cannot regress ad infinitum nor can there be a mutual interdepedency of limited things that self perpetuates each others existence. If you want to watch his debate you can YouTube his name.

    So it’s a factual error to claim that the majority of Muslim lecturers and philosophers somehow present your strawmen arguments. This belies a bias towards Islamic positions. Rather as a skeptic who may be wrong he should have a level of humbleness to the opposing position as it may in your view be correct. This allows there to be at least an unbiased approach towards the opposing arguments.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 21st, 2011

      I’m not familiar with Sharif’s work, but I’ll be sure to check it out.

      The debaters you mentioned may not have used these arguments, but in my everyday encounter with Muslims, there’s not a single one who goes by without using at least some of them. I’m sure the more skilled debaters have learned to avoid these obvious sandpits.

      But even they can’t seem to resist the cliched arguments of Kalam and fine-tuning, many of which have not only been effectively countered by Atheists, but also nullified by prominent physicists.

        • loneliberalpk
        • September 21st, 2011

        I should also point out that the Kalam argument, although an invention of the Islamic theologians of the Kalam tradition, was almost unheard of until it was popularized by William Lane Craig, a Christian debater, in 1979.

        As I previously implied, the strongest contenders of Atheism are usually the ones from non-Muslim parties, in my opinion. Though I do give credit to some like Reza Aslan.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 21st, 2011

    Well it’s not my fault you’ve not come across Muslim debaters who used arguments of contingency and dependency of limited things to prove the necessity of a creator. Actually I have come across many modern Muslims who predate Craig in using intellectual rational arguments. Eg baqr as sadr in his our philosophy, sh taqiudeen and sh abdul qadeem zalloom come to mind. Plus these arguments are the mainstay at al azhar.

    But going back to my initial question why do u deny an actual infinite?

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 22nd, 2011

    Oh, I never suggested it was your fault at all. The Islamic societies are to blame for actively suppressing open exchange of ideas by emotionalizing these debates.

    Some theists, like yourself perhaps, have good reason to believe in religion (I personally don’t believe that a “good” reason exists, but some are still better than others). Most, however, are content with justifying their beliefs with banal and often dangerously fallacious ideas (like the one I’ve alluded to in my blog).

    To answer your question, I don’t strictly deny actual infinity, but I am ambivalent to it. It has not been practically proven. It exists on paper, in the world of mathematics, and in the battlefield of philosophy, but I’m not aware of any real scientific confirmation for actual infinity.

    Hawking believes that “science has buried philosophy”. While I don’t fully agree with him, I do believe that philosophy alone cannot enunciate objective truths.

    Anyway, if your interest in the concept of actual infinity is based on it being the opening act for the Kalam cosmological argument, then I might as well stop you right here…because that argument is lame.

    Also, I’m waiting for your answer to the question I posted earlier..

    • Abu Laith
    • September 22nd, 2011

    You don’t strictly deny it? Or you don’t believe in it?

    Which one is it?

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 23rd, 2011

    I said I’m ambivalent to it due to insufficient scientific evidence either for or against it. The existence of actual infinity seems improbable to me, but I try not to take sides on it.

    Would you care to answer my question about the paradox of omnipotence, or is this interview not yet over?

    • Abu Laith
    • September 24th, 2011

    From a position of I don’t believe in actual infinity to not strictly denying it and now you say you’re ambivalent. Sounds like a change in position. Which I commend you on as some people seem to always remain fixed in their views without acknowledging a certain level of ignorance or when they’ve over stepped the Mark. Well done.

    Why do u adopt science as the only way to ascertain the truth?

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 24th, 2011

    I made my position perfectly clear. I don’t believe in it, but I don’t strictly deny the possibility of its existence either (though that possibility is quite slim). I happen to take the same stance on the God hypothesis too (“Atheism: Certainty or Doubt?“).

    I don’t consider myself one of those dogmatic Atheists who believe with utter conviction in the absence of God.

    Also, it’s rather entertaining the way you’re attempting to side-step my questions and carry on psychoanalyzing me instead. Well, please continue..

    • Abu Laith
    • September 25th, 2011

    It’s not psychoanalysing u. It’s about laying foundations to a discussion point. What I’ve realised is that the problem some atheists have with belief in God isn’t to do with the available data but the methodology of analysis.

    Many atheists adopt an usual position they adopt that only science can establish truth. However this is a difficult position to maintain as there are mny truths we believe in which cannot be established in a strict empircal way. In the same way there are many principles that science relies upon which cannot be proven, thus they remain only assumptions. So science isn’t really about truth strictly speaking but rather it’s limited to a very narrow field and it’s built on unprovable assumptions.

    By understanding the methodology of thinking your questions and your doubts should be eliminated.

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 25th, 2011

    Science is built on unproven assumptions? I’m curious as to where you’re getting your information concerning science.

    Science is based on observable, measurable and provable data. What I admire about scientists is that when they don’t know the answer to something, they humbly admit, “We don’t know”.

    Theism demands certitude in the absence of evidence. God exists. Why does He exist? Because He exists. Can we prove his existence through observation or measurement? No, but He exists.

    That weakness is not shared by science. It is not the only way through which objective truths can be found, but it is by far the most reliable one.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 25th, 2011

    Have u read anything of David Hume on empiricism and how he harkens back to occaisionalism theory?

    • Abu Laith
    • September 25th, 2011

    Also are you definite that science is a true method of thinking?

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 25th, 2011

    I’m familiar with his work. I imagine you believe in dualism?

    Science guides our thinking in the right direction, because the universe and its mechanisms doesn’t always fit perfectly into our neat little box of philosophies.

    For instance, I could be the best physician on Earth and I would still need medical reports – blood work, CT scan, clinical examinations – to reach a a definitive diagnosis. Intelligence and logic alone would be meaningless without some real data to work with. That data is provided by science.

      • Salafi/Oncologist
      • September 25th, 2011

      Ignorance that could mimic the towering ancient British Empire.

      Science does not provide data. lol. Data collection provides data. Science is a methodology to experiment while collecting data, manipulating variables and controls, and making most simplest hypothesis and then testing them further.

      Science can explain in every single physical detail how universe was created, yet it can never conclusively say at that point “now, God does not exist.”

      Your mind boggling of insults in regards to theistic belief in God highlights your childish immaturity. You ask the question Why God exists and then you provide an answer for a theist yourself by saying “He exists.” What a man-child.

      Everyone has personal reasons to believe in God, guided by logic and his understanding of nature/reality. He can use science and logic to confirm his belief, or he can use science and logic to deny his belief. When people like you start making farted assumptions that science ONLY results in denial of God, I feel like irradiating you guys like how I irradiate a neoplastic tumor in a dying human being.

        • loneliberalpk
        • September 26th, 2011

        Science does not provide data? What sort of an oncologist are you (if indeed you are one, and not just trying to upstage others)? How do you diagnose tumours without your biopsies and microscopes, your PCR’s, Blood CP’s, CT scans and MRI’s? Where does all this data come from, if not from scientific devices and methodologies?

        I don’t deny your right to believe in a personal God. If believing in a higher power is what provides you comfort, then you’re free to do so. I only object to religion where it become a threat to scientific thinking, or restricts the freedom of those who don’t share your beliefs. I’ve seen smart, normal religious people support the murders of innocent beings in the name of religion, and I’m seen them denying scientific facts like natural selection, because of their convictions. This is the kind of ignorance our world can do without.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 25th, 2011

    That’s not my specific question I’m asking whether you believe that science is definitely the only method of thinking?

    So what do you think to humes discussion on empiricism?

  1. you mentiond Tzortzis in one of your comments…what if you get a chance to debate with him in Pakistan????? Prove yourself in public.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 29th, 2011

      I’m not sure if Mr.Tzortzis would be coming to Pakistan any time soon. And even if he is, I cannot debate him (or anyone) publicly. I’ve already been attacked once for the “crime” of being an ex-Muslim, and for my safety as well as that of a my family, I prefer some anonymity.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 29th, 2011

    Sorry loneliberal I’m not sure if you’ve understood my point or my question.

    If science is built on assumptions and if you believe it provides certainty then all you’ve done is adopted a dogmatic position that ultimately cannot be proven.

    Why do I say science is built on unprovable assumptions. Firstly science is an inductive process which means that one assumes that a particular holds true for a general rule, secondly that future events (non sensible) should resemble past events. Thirdly that causality has to be accepted in order for a conclusion to made and that only a naturalistic explanation can exist.

    Science is also limited to directly sensible things. Therefore language, conciousness, historical narratives or even believing that I exist (just by reading my posts) are beyond the capacity of science. This doesn’t necessarily make science redundant but it does show that science if true can only be a branch of a wider spectrum of rational thinking and not it’s sole basis.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 29th, 2011

      You might be confused as to what the term “dogmatic” implies.
      Dogma, by definition, is a doctrine proclaimed to be true without reason or evidence.

      Things “without reason or evidence” have no real place in science, so believing in scientific information is not a dogmatic position at all. It is not a “dogma” if I believe that my hand has five fingers – it’s a fact that I’ve confirmed through observational evidence.

      Science is limited to “directly (or indirectly) sensible things” because these are the only things whose existence we can confirm. It’s called Model Dependent Realism (MDR). If we relieve ourselves of the need to confirm our hypotheses through observation or measurement, then what’s to stop us from believing in any number of absurd, imaginary things?

      Person X: “The ghost of Elvis soars through the Andromeda at the speed of 4,700 mph.”

      Scientists: “That’s not true. We have no evidence to verify this claim.”

      Person X: “Oh, what do you scientists know? Your science is only limited to directly sensible things, and the ghost is beyond your capabilities to detect. Therefore, it must be real!”

      To dismiss science would be to lose ourselves in our own subjective versions of what reality “ought to be”.

    • Abu Laith
    • September 29th, 2011

    I know what dogma means and I stated that if science is premised on assumptions then to blindly adopt science as the only way to ascertain truth this is a dogma. Ie adhering blindly to an unprovable assumption.

    I explained four assumptions needed in science.

    • Abu Laith
    • October 1st, 2011

    Do you see my point about science loneliberal ?

    • Abu Laith
    • October 3rd, 2011

    Let me Explain further. Hume believed that causality couldn’t be directly sensed. Eg if I boil water I can sense the fire beneath the water and I can sense the waters change in temperature but I cannot sense the causal relationship. Rather what I do is assume that because one event exists with another event that there must be a causal relationship, this is just a habit not a necessary nor empirically provable observation. In fact this is almost an identical argument that the asharites like imam ghazzali used to argue for occaisionalism. Hume also believed that there is nothing necessary to determine that future events would follow the same pattern as past events. So just because water happened to boil while a fire was beneath it this doesn’t necessarily mean this would occur every time. 

    This didn’t stop Hume being an empiricist but what he showed is that empiricism on it’s own couldn’t determine key foundational concepts. So Hume existed in some semi skeptic state. 

    Let’s take another example of this if I wanted to conduct a scientific experiment I’d first have to design an experiment where I’d isolate a variable and isolate various testing conditions (causes) and record the result of subjecting the isolated variable to the various conditions. The conditions form the cause and the recorded results are the effects. In my conclusion I’d try to understand the causal relationship between the tested isolated variable and the various causes that yielded a particular result. That means the conclusion rests on the assumption that a causal relationship must necessarily exist between the isolated variable and the various conditions it were subjected to. 

    Causality then is firstly necessary for science to work and secondly causality has to be assumed for it to work. Therefore science rests on an unprovable assumption. And why is it unprovable, because you can’t use an assumption to then prove the assumption. Hence you can’t prove through the use of science, that rests upon causality, to prove causality that’d be circular reasoning. 

    So we are forced into two positions. Either we adhere to science dogmatically or we say that causality is rational but built on a different methodology of thinking other than science. Thus science becomes a branch of rational thought not it’s premise. 

    You get me 

    • Abu Laith
    • October 3rd, 2011

    Oh and as a side point this accusation of you holding onto a dogma holds even more true as you believe ideas and behaviours are the result of environmental conditioning. Effectiely a person who believes in god, according to you, is no different than one believing in atheism or science as both came to the conclusion through some sign stimuli response to the environment. Ie the thinking was just a response to environmental factors.

  1. February 24th, 2011
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