I recently watched an interview with Richard Dawkins in which he was asked what he would say if his militant atheism was proved false, and he met God after he died. ‘Which one are you?’ Dawkins responded accusingly. ‘Are you Zeus, are you Thor, are you Baal, are you Mithras, are you Yahweh? Which God are you, and why did you take such great pains to conceal yourself, to hide away from us?’
I found this response slightly puzzling, though perhaps not unexpected from a man like Dawkins. Puzzling firstly because it appears that Dawkins has the wrong idea of what the power balance would be like in such a situation. If the Lord of the Universe were to be presented with Richard Dawkins, Dawkins seems to believe that he would be the one in a position to interrogate God. If I were an atheist, and had spent my whole life belittling and mocking God and religious believers, I would like to think that hypothetically the first thing I would do when I discovered my glaring error would be to…well, apologise. This utter lack of humility (also demonstrated by Bertrand Russell and Stephen Fry) demonstrates firstly that atheism (in these well-known atheist church leaders at least) is not simply an impartial, just-following-the-evidence-type ‘lack of belief’ but an arrogant attitude that man is somehow superior to God, regardless of whether God actually exists or not.
Now to Dawkins’ main point, a point which many atheists commonly cite as being an argument against the existence of God. The argument goes as follows: Every one of us disbelieves in the vast majority of ‘gods’ that have been called upon over the course of human history, such as Roman gods, Greek gods, Arabian idols and so on. We are all atheists in those Gods, so what difference does it make if we simply reject the God we do believe in too? Odds are, since we’ve rejected all those others, it makes sense that we reject them all. Let’s just simply go ‘one God further,’ Dawkins argues.
There are two reasons why this argument is absurd. The first is that in no other sphere of life do we take this attitude. Imagine for example that I am asked by a friend whether I believe in the ‘Big Bang,’ as the cause for the origin of the universe. ‘No,’ I scoff, ‘what nonsense! I would have thought you would believe the same as me. If not you should. Look,’ I continue, ‘Neither of us believe in the steady state theory for the origin of the universe, nor the oscillating universe theory, nor any of the other ones. Why not just go one theory further?’
This illustration highlights that in life in general, we try to disregard wrong beliefs in place of the correct one. Simply saying that because there is more than one of something, all of them necessarily must be false, is an absurdity.
The second reason why this argument is fallacious is that the other so-called gods, such as Zeus and Thor, are within space and time themselves, so cannot be the overall creator. Even if those gods were true, there would still be a need for an overall Being, who acts outside the confines of the universe and who initiated the process of creation. The Holy Qur’an describes this concept:
‘And those on whom they call beside Allah create not anything, but they are themselves created. They are dead, not living; and they know not when they will be raised1.’
In the combined history of religion, we see remarkable similarities in many respects. For example, all Prophets, from all major faiths, preached the concept of One God, of the same moral values, of prayer and fasting and sacrifice. It is only later, with the passing of time that messages became corrupted and interpolated and wedded to material human desires. Islam claims that all religions prior to it were for only for a specific period, and it was only when mankind had advanced sufficiently in spiritual and mental capabilities that it was able to receive the final, everlasting message of the Qur’an. Therefore the differing religions and belief systems that exist only strengthen the argument for God’s existence, rather than weakening it. Thus the Qur’an states:
‘And we did raise among every people a Messenger, preaching: ‘Worship Allah and shun the Evil One 2.’
When religion is viewed in this encompassing manner, rather than viewing each faith as a separate, contradictory message, then suddenly the jigsaw begins to fit together, and suddenly Dawkins’ question of ‘which God are you?’ suddenly becomes far less pertinent. The answer is that fundamentally every people have received the same message from the same God, and all the other so-called gods are simply human creations that are corrupted offshoots of the initial pure message.
Dawkins then asks why God ‘hides away’ from the world. In light of the previous paragraph, the fact that every community on Earth has received a messenger to enable them to access God, suggests that in fact it is not God that hides away from us, it is we who try to hide away from Him. A cursory study of religious texts reveals to us that the primary way of accessing God is through prayer. If one prays to God with humility and dedication (since dedication is always required to achieve anything worthwhile in life), and even then God remains hidden, then perhaps we can conclude that He doesn’t exist. Until then, atheists are guilty of irrationality. They come to their conclusion (that there is no God) without conducting the experiments required to test it. In any other sphere of life, they would realise that any conclusion formed by such an attitude is dogmatic, unscientific and therefore completely rejectable.
‘And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way3.’
I shall end this article with the words of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, on whom be peace, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community:
“Our paradise is in our God. Our highest delight is in our God for we have seen Him and have found every beauty in Him. This wealth is worth procuring though one may have to lay down one’s life to procure it. This ruby is worth purchasing though one may have to lose one’s self to acquire it. O ye, who are bereft, run to this fountain and it will satiate your thirst. It is the fountain of life that will save you4.”
- Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 21-22.
- Holy Qu’ran, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 37
- Holy Qur’an, Sura Al-Baqarah, Verse 187
- Ghulam M.A, Roohani Khazain 19: Kashti Nuh, pp. 21-22
The header image was initially posted by Najda von Massow, and can be found here.