Answering Unbelief | Part 5: Epilogue

BY NOW, WE’VE spent a decent amount of time together. You’ve had to digest a lot of wordy argument. You’ve probably grown accustomed to the quirks of my writing/debating style. Maybe you’ve even imagined a speaking voice for me. But here we are, at the last installment of the series.

You may have noticed, while you were digesting, that not one argument in any of the five previous episodes constituted a positive argument in favor of God. In layman’s terms, I never tried to convince you directly of God’s existence—or, for that matter, gods’ existence—nor did I once try to sell you on the veracity of my own religion, Islam. I held to the promise made in the introduction that I would never try to convert you (presuming you aren’t already a Muslim). An odd strategy for an apologist. You may be wondering why I chose it.

For starters, I wouldn’t call myself an apologist. Not in the popular sense, at least. It’s easy to see why someone might mistake what I’m doing for apologetics, but as a general rule, I find the art of persuading someone with clever word games into or out of a particular religious belief a fairly ugly one. It’s the same reason that’s at the root of why I’m made sick by the smarter-than-thou, media-darling tactics of the likes of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens.

This is my promise to you: I don’t care, for one second, what you believe or don’t believe. I pray that I never will. Of course, I would be thrilled if more people my age recognized in Islam what I did and do. But I was never forced, or even convinced, to convert. Is there anything that would have cheapened it more? If Islam—or any religion—would add something to your life, you will come to it at the appropriate pace. Or, as in my case, it will come to you when the time is right. The inspiration for this attitude comes from a combination of two of my favorite passages of the Qur’an: To you be your Way, and to me mine [1], and Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error. [2]

Fine. Why, then, did I write this series at all? If my object was not to prove incontrovertibly the existence of my God, with a completeness and power with which nobody has ever done so before, then why even bother wasting the time? Because I am not comfortable with the amount of myths in the air. So relentless is the campaign of misinformation around belief, it is forming a mist through which only words like “irrational” and “antiquated” can be made out.

I can’t honestly tell you their motivations, but there are men  [3]  currently making millions off the spread of sinister fabrications about religion. Whether they are seriously misinformed themselves, or cynically distorting the truth, the effect of their words is the same: People of my generation are moving through life with horribly disfigured ideas about what it means to have faith. I can’t go out and be social without spending some part of the night being lectured by a drunk person about every issue that they have with the fact that I’m a Muslim. I barely have the energy to defend myself anymore; it’s just easier to nod and say, “That’s fine.”

I’m not going to tell you with certainty that there is a God. But I can tell you that the belief alone, whatever god it is, does not make someone stupid, bigoted, closed-minded, violent, or naïve. If this series hasn’t proved as much, then it hasn’t done its job. There may be elements within a religion who are, in fact, one or more of the above. I have never denied that.  [4]   But if you feel justified in using this minority to make generalizations about wider communities, you must not know much about history.

In fact, if we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that religion can be a powerful tool to shake a culture or people out of ignorance and injustice. The prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) was a revolutionary who rescued the Meccans from a cycle of economic exploitation.  [5]    Jesus, whether you believe in his divinity, or his prophethood, or neither, planted his feet between the Roman Empire and a small, remote nation of people called the Jews, and his lessons in pacifism and honesty before the unjust behemoth are still redeeming people today.  [6]   Moses crippled the whip-cracking pharaoh and led his people out of Egypt, away from centuries of slavery. Liberation theologians, social activists, and abolitionists alike have found in his struggle with and on behalf of his people a mission statement. [7]

Is this all that these men represented? No. There were particular spiritual aspects to each of their ministries that are far more significant than their political and social accomplishments, and to reduce them to secular figures alone would be a mistake. But riding on the back of each of their divine missions was great positive change for the people they touched.

The cult of Dawkins and Hitchens is just the newest manifestation of an age-old design to cede power and money into the hands of the privileged and self-absorbed. As it once was the Roman Empire, it then was the White Man’s Burden—the obligation of all “modern” (code for white and masculine) civilization to bring Christianity to the “brutes” of Africa, Asia, and the rest of the colored world.

Today, Dawkins and his cronies are pushing the illusion that “modern” civilization has now moved past Christianity and all superstition. They insist that the antitheists are a cleansing force hoping to correct the bad behavior of previous generations, most of which was obviously motivated by their pesky, backward religion.

Here is the real scoop on the antitheists: they are the White Man’s Burden repackaged as the Enlightened Man’s Burden. Their claims to bring rationality to the religious brute should be familiar to anyone who has ever studied colonialism, because it is the same old colonialist tendencies now dressed in new and fashionable clothing. Do not forget that some of the most devastating and humiliating blunders of human history, exactly those that our prophets fought against, were presented at the time as noble steps forward.

So, to honor the prophetic tradition, it is our duty as earnest believers to take up the pen (as we have before) and shake the culture of the opportunistic, bullying propaganda that characterizes the antitheist movement. Not only because it makes an undeserved mockery of our ways of life, but more importantly because it condescends to all people. It makes a dime on a falsehood—that there is only one acceptable worldview left, and it happens to be theirs.

And while the pen is in our hands, it is time to revive our love of science, philosophy, and the humanities that has so sadly dwindled over the last century. It is time to begin making progress again—to challenge ourselves with the ideas that presently face humanity. The whip-cracking pharaoh is now dust; but forces of manipulation and exploitation still exist, not just in the world of antitheism, but in corrupt governments, terrorist organizations, and even our own religious institutions. Let us clean our own communities to the point that there can be no doubt to the wider world that the antitheists are wrong about us. It is the only way that we will ever again be taken seriously.

I have such hope for the future of humanity. God willing, may we all live to see a day with less deceit, less judgment and more trust between peoples. The way we speed the approach of this day is by becoming less insular, and learning how to intelligently speak up for ourselves. Become an engineer, or a lawyer, or a philosopher. Study the world in all its shades, as the holy books command us to do. If you believe in God, continue to do so. If you don’t, don’t. But for heaven’s sake, may we all stop condemning one another where there is nothing to condemn. May we shake hands and turn our combined energies on those forces which stir the pot to fill their own pockets.

Is there a God? I’m betting my life on it. That said, I would never bet yours. If, however, you wake up in a few weeks or months, and you feel a renewed, gnawing hunger in your soul, come calling. The door is open.

Allâhuma âmîn.

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[1](Quran 109:6, trans. Yusuf Ali)

 

[2] (Quran 2:256, trans. Yusuf Ali)

 

[3] I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice, as it hasn’t escaped mine, that almost all of the high-profile antitheists are white men from developed countries.

 

[4] In fact, I’ve given plenty of examples.

 

[5] For more information, see Reza Aslan’s No god but God.

 

[6] For more information, see Sermon on the Mount, by Pinchas Lapide

 

[7] For more information, see America’s Prophet, by Bruce Feiler

Written By

James Campbell is a convert to Islam. He has written for Elite Daily, The Young Ummah, and now Aljumuah on the subject of his experience as a Muslim American convert. You can find him at https://twitter.com/TheReelJCamp. He is currently working on his first novel.

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