The Devastating Muslim Test for Christianity

The Devastating Muslim Test for Christianity November 23, 2016

You might think that I’m talking about Muslims’ challenge that the Trinity within Christianity is polytheistic (I explore the Trinity here and here). That challenge has a lot of merit, but that’s not today’s topic.

I want instead to propose a thought experiment. Imagine trying to convince a Muslim that Christianity is the one correct religion. Muslims are excellent candidates for conversion because they already accept the supernatural, the first stumbling block for atheists. Not only is Islam built on the stories of the Old Testament patriarchs just like Christianity, Muslims accept that Jesus existed and was a prophet.

But if you explain the Christian gospel story to Muslims, they will reject it. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, since they’ve probably been immersed in Islam for their entire lives. An hour-long chat about the gospel isn’t enough; more education is the answer.

Let’s try another version of the thought experiment, where we take a hundred Muslim scholars, well-trained within their tradition and well-respected within their community, and have them read the New Testament.

I think we’ll still see little movement.

All right then, send them to Bible college to give them a thorough education in Christianity. Focus on apologetics, the intellectual arguments for Christianity. There’s no emotional coercion, no love bombing, and no promise of asylum, but if the evidence points to Christianity, an honest and thorough evaluation from scholars accustomed to evaluating theological issues should do the trick.

After they’ve all gotten their degree, how many are Christian? I’m guessing few or none. The Christians may reply that this experiment still wasn’t fair, since these scholars were ideologically too entrenched. They were brainwashed, and they had positions of authority back home that they couldn’t turn their backs on.

To respond to that, let’s try one final thought experiment. Now, it’s a hundred Muslim laypeople rather than scholars. They embrace the supernatural, and after their course in Christianity, they thoroughly understand Christian claims and arguments. In fact, they’re far better educated than the majority of lay Christians.

So how about now? Do they agree that the resurrection was a historical event, playing out as the gospels describe it rather than how the Quran does? Have they gotten down on their knees to tearfully beg Jesus to accept them and forgive their sins?

Maybe a few, but not many. The Christian response will likely be that these Muslims were brainwashed and so couldn’t be objective. But if that’s true for them, why isn’t that true of Christians? If most Muslims follow Islam, not because Islam is correct, but simply because they were raised that way, that’s equally true for most Christians.

See also: Your Religion Is a Reflection of Your Culture—You’d Be Muslim if You Were Born in Pakistan

Theology is a subject without an object.
— Dan Barker

Image credit: Wikipedia

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Herald Newman

    Does the threat of death for apostates skew the results in your favor? Among apologist, certainly the popular ones, death threats are going to come his way. Among the lay people, they’re still likely to face death threats from (former) friends and family.

    • Joe

      That shouldn’t affect belief, only outward appearance. There are secret Christians in radical Islamic countries, just as people practiced Judaism in secret under Hitler’s rule.

      • Herald Newman

        If outward appearance doesn’t change, how do you know how many have *actually* converted? I understand the point of the thought experiment, but putting it into practice seems difficult.

        • Joe

          You would conduct a poll in secret. It’s a thought experiment anyway, so I think you’re over- analyzing things.

          It makes no sense to believe that Jesus is the only way to save your immortal soul from torture, yet not be a Christian because you may be killed. In which case you’d go to heaven anyway. The alternative is to live a brief existence worshiping the ‘wrong’ God, and die a natural death and face eternal torture.

          That sounds like theistic reasoning, which makes no sense.

        • TheNuszAbides

          not an answer, but this reminds me of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Converso

  • Michael Neville

    I read the Quran when I was becoming an atheist. Of course I read it in translation and Muslims would say that the only authentic Quran is the 7th Century Arabic version. While it was better than the Book of Mormon (described by Mark Twain as “chloroform in print”) I found the Quran turgid and Allah was a typical Abrahamist narcissistic bully. As someone leaving Christianity I didn’t see Islam as being an improvement. Quite likely Muslims leaving Islam wouldn’t find Christianity too inviting.

    • MNb

      “Muslims would say that the only authentic Quran is the 7th Century Arabic version.”
      Unfortunately for them there is no such version. Codification was only finished at the end of the 8th Century and possibly even a bit later.

      • TheNuszAbides

        they must have their meta-fundies who assume that the only reason they don’t all agree on interpretation is the loss of access to the Original Miraculous Dictation.

        • MNb

          As far as I know (but that’s not far at all) that’s the common explanation. It’s not a bad one; the muslims I know conclude from this that their own interpretation is not necessarily the correct one and hence that they should be careful judging other interpretations. As a result they are positive the Quran contains The Truth, but far less positive that their understanding is correct.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’m sure i know less, having no regular/serious contact with any practicing Muslims, but that matches what little i’ve heard about the generally decentralized nature of commentary & priesthood. certainly a more mentally cozy arrangement for all its unfalsifiables than the RCC has painted themselves into.

    • Sam

      I tried picking it up yesterday (although I’m familiar with some of the teachings as my family is mixed Christian and Muslim) and found it just as you describe it. In fact, I don’t think I got past the second page and this was some fancy new apologist translation.

      • The Two-Hour Koran (PDF) puts the chapters in chronological order and removes both redundancies and any bits that are abrogated (overridden by) chronologically later chapters. The author is a Christian whose job (I believe) is to promote Christianity over Islam, so you might be cautious about an agenda. However, this ought to be a good introduction.

  • Anri

    I think this argument loses a lot of its force if the person being presented with it believes, as the bible suggests a number of times, that the majority of people exposed to the gospel will reject it.
    A believer who accepts the wide way/narrow way concept of Christianity would have no trouble reconciling this argument with their acceptance of biblical truth. The saying about horses and water comes to mind.

    Of course, in circumstances where the majority of people do accept the gospel story (those raised with it, for example), the awkward fact that this seem to contradict the wide way/narrow way aspect of Christianity is conveniently ignored.
    Heads they win, tails you lose.

    • Joe

      I think Calvinists would say that some people are going to reject God anyway, so you’re right that this wouldn’t work on some Christians.

    • MNb

      “I think this argument loses a lot of its force if the person being presented with it believes ….”
      Actually not. This only reinforces it. You have presented an escape route for failure a priori: head you win, tail BobS loses. That’s an implicit admission the apologist realizes that his/her approach is not reasonable – exactly BobS’ point.

      • Anri

        A faith-based argument is inherently not reasonable – a feature not a bug.

        The theist’s view of the argument is also consistent with their side being right rather than reasonable: god’s word and faith in it is easily accessible to those who wish to believe and who are taught correctly, but will be rejected by those who prefer false gods and prophets.

        But no-one needs to take my word for this being an effective argument or not, we can check empirically: does this argument convince Christians that their faith is essentially the same as Islam?
        I don’t know the answer to this question, of course, as I haven’t used this argument. So what’s its track record? Do Christians regard this argument as “Devastating?” You can call a tactic that all you like but if your target disagrees with you about its effectiveness, a different adjective might be in order.

        • As this was a thought experiment, I was imagining an impartial judge. I agree that Christians would dismiss this argument as meaningless.

        • Anri

          A hypothetical devastation, then.

        • Devastating to all objective observers. That is, not many Christians.

        • Anri

          Fair enough.

          I don’t want to give the wrong impression – it is a good argument, and thanks for sharing it!

        • Jacob Thane

          “A faith-based argument is inherently not reasonable – a feature not a bug.”

          And therein lies the inherent issue in having conversations with Christians regarding faith/unbelief. They’ve been pre-programmed to assume it shouldn’t make sense. Belief without evidence – just because it’s a “feature” doesn’t mean it’s a good one.

        • Anri

          Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think that’s a positive feature – it’s a ‘get out of jail free’ card for bad philosophy and worse evidence.

          Some theists can be swayed by logical arguments, or by the notion that in rejecting logic, they must abandon pretty much the entire history of scholarly religious apologetics.
          But that’s a slow, brick-by-brick process even when it occurs, not something to be accomplished by a single argument, however articulate and logical (and this argument is both).

        • MNb

          “But no-one needs to take my word for this being an effective argument or not, we can check empirically: does this argument convince Christians that their faith is essentially the same as Islam?”
          This is based on the assumption that a strong argument is also a convincing argument. Alas psychological research has found that that’s not the case. Your empirical check doesn’t measure what it claims to check.

        • Anri

          I was under the assumption that the term “devastating” implied some effect on the other side.

          If you’re claiming to have devastated something and yet it remains intact, is your assessment accurate?
          It wouldn’t be my choice of words.
          “This tactic is devastating!” “What is it’s typical effect?” “Well, nothing, but it’s still devastating… in some way.”

        • Uh, yeah. I get it. No intellectual argument will convince most Christians, not because their view is correct but because evidence/argument isn’t what got them there. So it won’t take them away from there.

          Devastating from the standpoint of the objective observer.

        • MNb

          OK.

        • quinsha

          If the Christian God were to come to Earth and tell the fundamentalists that they were practicing their religion wrong, the fundamentalists would declared their God to be Satan in disguise. Nothing convinces a ‘true believer’.

    • Then there’s the bit about “Our proselytizing doesn’t matter; it’s only the action of the Holy Spirit that brings someone to faith.”

      So that none may boast, don’t you know.

      • Kodie

        I still don’t know why they think it’s all up to them, though. And something I’ve said before, because they say it all the time about us, why do they have to talk about god all the time? If their faith is secure and their relationship with god is real, what are they talking about so much? Something about the existence of other people and other beliefs threatens their fragile beliefs, and they have to prove their beliefs are very strong! They are told in the bible (as I’ve been led to understand) that this world is not for them, and they just have to put up with a lot of wicked shit outside their sterile bubbles of devotion, so why are they constantly trying to do stuff like protest coffee cups and issue death threats on teenagers who win the right to have religious prayer banners removed from a public high school? Yes, they have the right to worship, I don’t mind it. It’s much better if they are not subject to thought police and secret illegal churches. Why do they need to mark their territory like a dog whose owner leaves little poop bags all over the ground instead of carrying them to the trash? You know, poop on the ground is really rude, but picking it up in a baggie and then not carrying it to a trash receptacle is, just, what the fuck. Anyway, that’s what I think of most religious people – you give them an issue and they can’t be objective about it. Keeping public property secular is a fine goal. It doesn’t mean atheism wins. It should never upset people who are secure in their beliefs and their relationship with god. It is not a sign that they will soon have to attend church in secret and against the law.

        The lies religion has to tell just to activate people just tells me there is nothing under it. They’re willing to lie to motivate protest, then they are just willing to lie. The truth is not enough, because it’s not true.

        • Michael Neville

          Any attempt to rein in overt Christian symbols and pronouncements is seen as persecution by certain Christians. They are told in their Bible that they will be persecuted: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Tim 3:12 (NIV).

          Daesh is executing Christians for not being fundamentalist Sunnis. But American Christians aren’t screaming about that, since the victims are brown Oriental Orthodox rather than white Protestants. Instead the American Christians are whining about not having the 10 Commandments on the court house lawn or people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Their threshold of what constitutes persecution is quite low.

        • For some reason, secularism = atheism to many of them. That is, a secular environment (in schools, for example) isn’t the null state; it’s actually proselytizing atheism.

  • KarlUdy

    An interesting experiment Bob. Although I think your guesses would be wide of the mark.

    In the first place, one of the main barriers to Muslims leaving Islam is ummah. This is the concept which refers to the belonging that a Muslim has in their family, society, etc. For many Muslims, leaving Islam for any other belief system is not an intellectual issue. In fact, Christianity also is more than just an intellectual issue, as expressed in the concept of belong to the family of God.

    Secondly, there are actually many Muslims who are converting to Christianity, including in Muslim-majority countries.

  • sandy

    Ok, this works both ways. Try to convince a christian that Mohammed flew on a winged horse through the several levels of heaven on his night flight to meet allah and negotiate the amount of times a day prayer is needed. Probably not going to work. The christian wants to stick to their talking snake, original sin, impregnation by a ghost upon a teenage jewish girl resulting in a subsequent virgin birth of god in flesh who then goes in hiding for 30 years only to reemerge to be torchered to death for the sin of the original couple fooled by a talking snake that was sent by himself who had to die for what he himself sent. Sorry but not buying your story Mr. muslim.

  • JBSchmidt

    I fail to see the point as this works with any worldview or ideology. Including your own.

    • MNb

      That is the point, silly. It follows that worldviews and ideology are mere opinions and don’t provide knowledge. Only the scientific method does. Which you reject, of course, because of your worldview and ideology, but only when the results don’t suit you. That again makes your worldview hypocrite.

    • The point is that most people’s beliefs are based on biases they developed during childhood or from their surrounding culture. If you care about your beliefs being true, this should be pretty disturbing, since it implies that modifying your beliefs to reflect reality is so difficult that most people fail to do it, and persist in believing falsehoods despite having access to evidence contradicting those falsehoods. Unless you think you’re lucky enough to be immune from the biases that affect the rest of humanity, you have to accept the possibility that some of your own beliefs are a result of an unwillingness to seriously consider contradictory evidence.

      Yes, all of this is also true of me and my beliefs, and Bob, and Bob’s beliefs, etc. That is irrelevant to whether your own beliefs are justified. You may think that you have studied your own beliefs enough to justify continuing them; everyone else thinks the same thing about their beliefs, with equal sincerity.

      • JBSchmidt

        Then nothing is real. Everything is a construct of culture and one’s own willingness to adhere to one vein of thought over another. Nothing escapes the effects of one’s worldview. For the starting point of everyone’s work is a biased belief system.

        • MNb

          Correction: no belief is real.
          Science at the other hand tries to get rid of such biases. It too often fails, as remarkably scientists have pointed out, but it still tries and also quite often succeeds.
          But of course you accept and reject science depending on your religious bias and are just looking for excuses not to get rid of them.

        • JBSchmidt

          “Correction: no belief is real.”

          Do you believe in the abilities of science to come to truth? Is that belief real?

        • MNb

          No. No belief is real. Hence your question is wrong.
          So the correct question would be:

          “Do you think science is able to come to truth?”
          No. Truth, here defined (as opposed to scientists like Jerry Coyne) as 100% absolute eternal never changing certainty, is impossible. Stephen Hawking in A brief History of Time, chapter 1:

          “Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory.”

          That’s not faith based; it’s the result from observation and logic.

          Btw this is what makes the creationist argument “evolution is just a theory” so utterly ridiculous.

        • JBSchmidt

          “That’s not faith based; it’s the result from observation and logic.”

          The arrogance of your ideology assumes your observations and logic are correct. Why? Isn’t your ‘logic’ based first on your worldview and then on your observations? Can’t observations be interpreted differently based on perspective?

          For example, when atheists like to point out the fallacy of holding to one religious perspective by introducing the story of the blind men vs elephant story. In using that analogy, the atheist makes the same arrogant mistake. That is that someone can see the whole elephant. The same can be said here with observations and logic. In order to be without faith, then you need to be able to see the elephant; yet, in your own post you quote Hawking in saying, “Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it.” In a sense saying that no one can see the elephant.

          If you can never see the bigger picture, can never see truth; how do you have logic? Your approach to logic, not unlike Hawking’s approach to testing theories, is forever on a knifes of true/false. That being said, what gives it authority to judge anything?

        • MNb

          “The arrogance of your ideology assumes your observations and logic are correct.”
          Good job not understanding what Hawking wrote. Shrug. It has exactly nothing to do with ideology.

          “Isn’t your ‘logic’ based first on your worldview and then on your observations?”
          Have you never heard of feedback systems?
          Btw methodological naturalism, also called the scientific method, is not a worldview.

          “Can’t observations be interpreted differently based on perspective?”

          Yes. The question is which method – not perspective; that’s creacrap language and hence as usual incorrect – is most reliable. The scientific method yields the most reliable interpretation, as even creacrappers like you have to admit, or you wouldn’t be capable of using internet to spread your creacrap.

          “when atheists like to point out”
          Irrelevant for my comment. The scientific method can be used by theists just as well, exactly because it’s not an ideology or worldview, but a method. That’s how come quite a few christians recognize your creacrap for what it is: creacrap.

          “the fallacy of holding to one religious perspective by introducing the story of the blind men vs elephant story.”
          I have never introduced that story. Strawman. You’re talking out of the lower end of your digestive system with your (not mine) pointless analogy..

          “If you can never see the bigger picture, can never see truth; how do you have logic?”
          Thanks to smarter people than me who have developed that tool and tested it.

          “Your approach to logic, not unlike Hawking’s approach to testing theories, is forever on a knifes of true/false.”
          Thanks for confirming that you don’t understand Hawking’s quote indeed. In the first place it’s not his approach; you can find it with Richard Feynman and Karl Popper for instance, but in fact already was put into practice by Tycho Brahe, the first one to use empirical data to decide between two conflicting theories (and he managed to produce empirical data that contradicted both).
          “That being said, what gives it authority to judge anything?”
          For instance the fact that you use a computer and internet to write your comment.

        • JBSchmidt

          Nice rant.

          You give a lot of power to the scientific method. It’s as if it is infallible and deserves our full trust.

          Your observations and logic are used in the scientific method to determine the reliability of your observations and logic. You assume your ability to reason logically is both reasonable or logical, why? If there is no eternal truth, just the random interaction of chemical/physics processes, your reason and logic have no basis. As any change in those random interactions through time could have produced an infinite number of different reliable determinations of your observations and logic.

          Everything you know is a the product of accidental interactions of processes. You had equal chance to be an ‘creacrapper’ yourself. So why do your observations and logic, in their current form, have any more authority over any other possible outcomes?

        • MNb

          “Nice rant.”
          Stereotypal but nice creationist trick – when you have nothing substantial to write, get condescending.

          “You give a lot of power to the scientific method.”
          If you’ve got something that works better I’m all ears.

          “It’s as if it is infallible and deserves our full trust.”
          Another stereotypal but nice creationist trick. Those are your words, not mine.

          “Your observations and logic are used in the scientific method to determine the reliability of your observations and logic.”
          Yes.
          That’s how a feedback process works. Nice that you get it.

          “You assume your ability to reason logically is both reasonable or logical, why?”
          I already told you. That’s another stereotypal but nice creationist trick: ask questions that already have been answered. Saves me the effort to think up something new. I merely repeat:

          The scientific method yields the most reliable interpretation, as even creacrappers like you have to admit, or you wouldn’t be capable of using internet to spread your creacrap.

          “If there is no eternal truth, just the random interaction of chemical/physics processes,”
          One has nothing to do with the other.
          Plus those interactions aren’t random. That’s a stereotypal but not nice at all creationist blooper.

          “your reason and logic have no basis.”
          And there we go again: the proof is in the pudding. Or do you deny that you use your computer and internet to spread your creacrap? That’s my basis as I’ve told you several times by now.

          “As any change in those random interactions through time could have produced an infinite number of different reliable determinations of your observations”
          Almost correct. Those interactions aren’t random, but yeah, those interactions could have produced etc. Some outcomes are just more likely than others.

          “and logic.”
          Fortunately creationists never fail. Whenever they threaten to get something correct invariably some blooper follows.
          I never claimed that logic is the product of random interactions. You did, not me. On the contrary. Logic is part of mathematics and hence a tool, a language devised by humans to develop an understanding of our reality.

          “Everything you know is a the product of accidental interactions of processes.”
          You can repeat your blooper as often as you like, preferably using different words, it remains a blooper.

          “You had equal chance to be an ‘creacrapper’ yourself.”
          Perhaps. Could you provide the calculation to back up this claim?

          “So why do your observations and logic, in their current form, have any more authority over any other possible outcomes?”
          And there we go again – because even creacrappers like you are capable of using computers and internet to spread their creacrap. Computers and internet are products (there are many more) of the scientific method, the very same scientific method (on the most general level and that’s the one that matters here) that produced Evolution Theory.
          The real question is why you at one hand reject the scientific method and at the other uses its products. Fortunately many creationists already have told me.

        • JBSchmidt

          Tell me more about how the internet, designed through the use of human intelligence, relates to the unguided emergence of your ability to reason.

          Maybe you are using one of those computers and internet connections that appeared through the interactions of chemical/physics processes without any guidance by an outside intelligence.

        • MNb

          I already told you. The internet is the product of the scientific method, indeed applied by human intelligence.

          To use your words, I’m totally OK with

          “the interactions of chemical/physics processes that found Evolution Theory are guided by an outside immaterial intelligence.”
          I don’t object theist evolution. You do. The last time you explored this path you didn’t know how fast to back down.

        • JBSchmidt

          “The internet is the product of the scientific method”

          Can you list those steps? Specifically the method used by the scientists to take raw hardcopies of data and transmit them via an electric signal.

          Further, what of advancements done prior to the scientific method?

        • adam

          “”The internet is the product of the scientific method”

          Can you list those steps?”
          Why are you SO UNABLE to just look it up?

          Not that YOU could understand it:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet

          “Further, what of advancements done prior to the scientific method?”

          Belief that disease was caused by evil spirits
          Belief that serpents and donkeys can talk.
          Belief that one could see ALL THE WORLDS KINGDOMS from a hill

          Obviously all knowledge that was LOST when science arrived on the scene

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cc237be5ddc93f7585625b2a21b18651052707be1c85856d76c2e70b64c966eb.jpg

        • MNb

          “Can you list those steps?”
          Theory:

          http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/internet-infrastructure.htm

          which is founded on micro electronics amongst others. If you want more details you’ll have to consult an expert, which I’m not.

          Practice: as the link describes they began with four (I have also read two) computers and tries things out based on the available theory.

          “Specifically the method used by the scientists to take raw hardcopies of data and transmit them via an electric signal.”
          What do you mean with “raw” hardcopies? Data are data.
          Anyhow, data are “translated” in bits, which only can have values of 0 and 1. They can be represented by using diodes with a simple on-off function. Diodes or similar electric elements can be used to transmit information in the form of those values.

          “what of advancements done prior to the scientific method?”
          Such as? Take for instance the invention of the wheel. While the inventor obviously didn’t have any understanding of the scientific method he/she still applied it. He/she had an idea (even if not formally formulated as a hypothesis) about a geometric figure and tried it out.
          History of science is an interesting topic. You’ll have to study the Maia’s, the Chinese, the Indians, the Greeks, the Babylonians and the Egyptians among others. The pattern is always the same: the better the understanding of the scientific method the more advancements.
          At the other hand advancements tend to stagnate as soon as some text is treated as the ultimate truth, whether it’s the Bible of the works by Aristoteles. The Hebrews never achieved much and the Greeks and Romans stagnated as soon as the great Stagyrian got treated with way too much respect.

        • JBSchmidt

          While the internet was founded on 4 computers, the platform for that to exist needs to be traced back a hundred plus years to the first telegraph (probably further). Was that the act of the scientific method over the course of that time working to produce the interwebs? Are the countless failed attempts at advancement over the course of that time also attributed to the scientific method?

        • adam

          Funny how you understand the evolution of science, but deny the science of evolution.

        • But for a person who is self-aware and capable of introspection, shouldn’t it be possible to identify those biases and try to compensate for them?

  • This is tangential from your point, but is the supernatural necessarily religious or theistic? Even defining it seems like a problem. If you look at the word, it’s from the Latin root words that mean above or beyond nature. So is it really impossible for an atheist to believe in something above or beyond nature, if that isn’t a god? Though naturally definitions of gods differ too. Sorry, it just interests me.

    • MNb

      No. There are dualists who are non-believers. I was one for several years.

      • Some kinds of dualism seem to be naturalistic. Substance dualism is for some, I gather.

        • MNb

          Then you use a definition of naturalism that’s different from mine. I suppose you could have called me a substance naturalist, but I considered the (spiritual) substance the human mind was supposed to be made of a part of a supernatural reality.

        • It seems many different definitions of naturalism exist, yes. Apparently non-reductive physicalism sometimes is called substance dualism though. It was a surprise for me too.

        • Kodie

          I was going to ask if this was like the ghost thing I said in another thread (or possibly, over the years, several threads). Since I come from a completely nontheistic but curious upbringing, I considered that god wasn’t real (I later gave it a lot more thought before dismissing it for good), but that there was – possibly – a natural reason for ghosts. I was never sure one way or another about ghosts, it was just that I thought, if ghosts are real, there’s for sure a natural explanation for them, like electricity or something.

          I’ve also been even a little more interested in stuff like psychics, fortune-telling, tarot, runes, witch spells, pagan spells, biorhythms*, numerology**… not everything, but a lot of stuff, and at the time, I didn’t associate any of these effects with “supernatural”. I didn’t push anything on anyone, but I guess I lost interest first***, and then later, becoming active on internet forums that discussed atheism (if not as a main focus, then often enough), it didn’t take a lot to fall apart. “How would that even work?” Those kinds of questions really pushed me to think about it and let it go (it was already pretty gone, but not from thinking). Need I remind anyone how poor my science education was, and how little interest I had in it through school and college.

          *Although I don’t think biorhythms are real, I think the waves since the day you were born is calculated using a computer program, so, no bullshit, it really was weird when me and my siblings’ biorhythms were so closely aligned, and none of us with our parents, nor our parents with each other, which all made a lot of sense to me at the time.

          **Numerology was my huge thing. The numbers are based on letters of our alphabet, which means nothing. It’s like your sign of the zodiac crossed with Myers-Briggs, only you were determined by the name you were given, and the order of the alphabet of the language you speak – that is, you could give every number an identical character, and people would feel just like it was talking about them. This was well after I made the joke to myself that I would read a horoscope in the paper, and if I didn’t like it, read someone else’s.

          ***Like a lot of sheltered kids who go to college far away, tarot cards were kind of a thing, so I had the regular deck from a bookstore run by hippies, and never really did anything with them until my life was kind of at a shambly crossroads. I read how to do readings and I did my own self readings over and over again to try to get some kind of answers, and then I was (unrelated) on some kind of path I decided to go on, and had to move. While packing, I was nervous about the tarot cards. Most of me knew they were stupid, and then part of me thought if I threw them out, something bad would happen. They were also in decent shape, and I’m the kind of person who would donate items I don’t want that are usable, and part hoardy, like I might use/need them for something else, but then I just dropped them in the trash. Probably someone fished them out of a dumpster (like the mattress I’d had since childhood!), but I didn’t feel scared to taunt the spirits by dropping tarot cards in the trash.

          If I’m being totally honest, numerology came after the move, and biorhythms after that. Anything that feels like it’s based in nature and familiar things around us that are “signs” that dip beneath our conscious awareness seemed helpful, because I think people always want a way to forecast the future before they bother making an effort that may turn out shitty, but “how would that even work?” is something we need to keep asking.

        • MNb

          “I didn’t associate any of these effects with “supernatural”
          I did, but that’s not very relevant of course.

        • Kodie

          What’s also weird, now that I think about it, I didn’t really consider that there was no scientific basis for these things, either. I didn’t think they were researched, or even this bullshit “other ways of knowing” or anything. I would say my interest was pretty shallow except for the numerology thing, which was medium. I’d say I was pretty open to stuff like reincarnation, rain dances, shamans, and even mainstream religious belief, thinking pretty much that all of it was superficial, i.e., cultural. Recipes and architecture and dance and music are things that cultures develop by some necessity and some art; some ways to keep people oriented toward their own traditions and people… I mean, what is dance? It’s a movement, some say a language. It’s also a kind of hype – let’s get together and forget the chores – boosts morale and cohesion of the social group. It’s something you don’t have to do, or sometimes something you can’t help doing. If a leader decided taking a day off work to dance was frivolous, well, maybe there’s just no time, so what, it’s not a necessity of life. But if you’re to be a group together, sometimes you need to shut down the labor once in a while and groove. We celebrate our good times, and we also need to take time to cheer ourselves up when things aren’t great. It helps if we all shut down at the same time and call it a holiday, or even a group emergency meeting.

          What I’m getting at is that I didn’t much consider the value of belief in a god as a really serious thing until I was probably in my early 20s, and then my mind was blown. Likewise, with the effects I was sort of into, well, yeah, who doesn’t want to try to sort out their future before they make any definite steps? It sure would be convenient if it worked that way. I understood god to be supernatural, and rejected it, and I didn’t think Christianity was the only religion, but then there were so many other cultural things I didn’t put in the same category. I didn’t see any conflict being an atheist and thinking the numbers in the letters in my name defined my character. The best I could come up with why is that the numbers are also symbols that can be represented by their shapes and also represented by objects and patterns and prime numbers and all that stuff. I could not tell you how it really worked, but I didn’t think it was magical.

          Let’s just consider you do have a background in science and you know what isn’t it, and I don’t, and I might make a category error if it fell outside of what people normally consider theism or supernatural. I probably held onto ghosts the longest, and like I said, it was never a belief in ghosts, it was a neutral agnosticism of ghosts (and non-neutral phobia of ghosts).

        • MNb

          “I didn’t really consider …”
          I fostered the silly thought (hindsight is a beautiful thing) that science should start to investigate such stuff (yup, including reincarnation, rain dances etc.) without realizing that would draw it into the realm of naturalism. So Michael is right after all and I was inconsistent.

    • Interesting. Personally, I’ve rejected the religious along with the supernatural, never considering something like maybe a unicorn or a wizard with magic powers (which wouldn’t be religious) worth considering. But yeah, those are separate categories. Rejecting theism doesn’t reject all of the supernatural.

      • In a world where magic existed, might it not be natural?

        • Yes, if it’s part of the world and understood, that would presumably be “natural.”

        • Then supernatural would just be a word for something we do not/cannot understand. I think in such a case we should just say “unknown” or “unexplained”. Supernatural seems more than that.

        • TheNuszAbides

          was just thinking about how ‘supernatural’ could even begin to be formulated as distinct from ‘natural’. i start skirting things like models of gases, real & ideal, and how Newtonian mechanics reliably model the activity of physical forces … as long as they aren’t applied to the very tiny or extremely fast … etc. my hypothetical supernatural would be something like causal factors that couldn’t be consistently/reliably detected or measured even while their effects could. then again, how could we imagine that some such phenomena could/would never be reliably detected or measured? that obviously reeks of dogma. it certainly wouldn’t behoove science to ‘give up’. something ‘evading’ the scientific method indefinitely is all i can come up with so far, but since things like light waves outside the human-visible spectrum, artificial elements, etc. have not evaded it indefinitely, there would still be no justification for suggesting that the indefinite evasion merited a different term/classification, other than the “dunno how to model it yet” box. who knows what we’ll be doing with Lawrencium in 300 years?

          along similar lines i’m extrapolating from creatures with more sophisticated senses … we can figure out that many dogs have better olfactory resolution than we do; that some fish have more rods/cones in their optic systems; but can we ever “know what X looks/smells/sounds like” from their perspective? perhaps if we achieve the level of genetic modification to give our eyes/noses the same sophistication? (and fix our broken vitamin C synthesizer!)

          then of course, there’s the rabbit-holes of The Great Unanswered Questions. if time travel is impossible, wouldn’t that render some questions impossible to ever answer? (off the top of my head, “what ideas were contained in X, all copies of which were destroyed before Y?”) and who decides which of those questions are of no importance anyway, or whether it’s just a cop-out to say so? anyway … tangents!

        • The problem is, how do we know anything that’s detectable and verifiable doesn’t just have unknown natural causes? It doesn’t seem we have any good definitions.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i sort of agree (did you mean un<i?detectable or unverifiable, or did you mean the opposite of the stuff i was just riffing on, with additional-but-unknown causes?), hence the speculative brainstorming (but not giving the exercise the same significance it might be given by, say, a creationist or far-out new-age woo-ist). i do have a grain of raw, admittedly underinformed ‘skepticism’ when it comes to “we know the cause(s) of X” or “Y having no cause fits the known evidence”*. i won’t pretend it’s scientific to indulge in the more abstract and/or unfalsifiable flights of fancy, no matter how closely one stays tethered to naturalism. that’s usually just entertainment as far as i’m concerned. but of course, much science fiction has its place in the broader realm of ideas.

          *but i don’t pretend it’s rigorous skepticism; it’s on the same level as anything that i haven’t yet wrapped my head around either theoretically or according to actual discovery, like the time ~20 years ago when i blurted “but how can we know planet X has an atmosphere of such-and-such without ever being there or retrieving samples from it?” and was promptly schooled on just how sophisticated telescopes had become during the 20th century.

        • I mean that a lot of the things called supernatural are, at least in principle, detectable and verifiable (however much that’s usually denied), whether or not we know what causes them. The point is that, in such cases, it might be there are causes of them which are natural which we simply are still ignorant now. So the word “supernatural” seems empty of content in most cases, and also premature.

        • TheNuszAbides

          yes, i don’t see any coherent resolution to that ‘prematurity’. yet i agree with epeeist’s assessment in another thread of not making an absolute declaration, since it would be premature to declare some not-necessarily-imaginable exception impossible (rather than, quite justifiably according to the progress science has made, increasingly improbable). the ignostic stance is most appropriate in the meantime, and my speculations are the idle exercise of one more limited imagination.

        • I’m not saying it’s impossible, but rather as you say “ignostic” would best describe my stance.

    • Greg G.

      I think Karma would be in the class of the supernatural but not a god or a being. Some believe in luck as thing that controls destiny without considering it a being.

      • That could be, though I’ve heard people who believe in it call karma a natural law as well.

        • Greg G.

          I have heard that said as well but I never got the sense that they were referring to Newtonian physics or Relativity. It seemed to me that they were referring to supernatural means but calling it natural. It is still hidden behind the veil of the supernatural.

        • Well, what would be supernatural to you?

        • Greg G.

          I think people contrive the supernatural so that their wishful thinking cannot be tested. I do not think I am capable of contriving a definition for a supernatural effect.

        • It seems like a term that’s usually too vague to be really assessed either way.

        • Kodie

          As someone who sort of went in that direction for a while, it’s not unnatural or supernatural. I would think of it as some physical system of earth like the weather, and humans had invented various ways to try to tune into it. Maybe not karma for me, but other ways of tuning into psychic “waves” or “energy”. That’s probably because they use scientific types of terms that make people think they are science-based, or at least potentially not total bullshit, but something science would tell you how it works.

        • Myna

          As I understand it, karma has to do with cause and effect. Choice has consequence, perhaps.

        • Yes, though it’s specifically moral, and goes far beyond the ordinary “actions have consequences”. It’s believed karma cannot be escaped except by achieving enlightenment-if you do bad or good, that will come back around.

        • Myna

          It’s a very complex system, weaving between Hindu thought and Buddhist. I found this link that while reading it just now seems vaguely familiar, so I must have read it at some time: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm

        • Yes, I can’t claim to be an expert. That’s just the essence of if that I’ve gathered. It’s also believed in by the Jains, though a much smaller group than Buddhists or Hindus.

      • TheNuszAbides

        probability literacy ftw!

  • Rt1583

    “If most Muslims follow Islam, not because Islam is correct, but simply because they were raised that way, that’s equally true for most Christians.”

    I’ve got a simple verification for your thought experiment.

    I’ve got a cousin who was born in Iran to Iranian parents (born 1961 or 1962). For whatever reason he was put up for adoption. He was adopted by my aunt and uncle when he was 2 or 3. My aunt and uncle were/are Baptist. My cousin is to this day a Baptist and, to the best of my knowledge, he never questioned his religion.

    I say this is a simple verification because so many of any particular religious belief proclaim that their followers are born of their religion (the “true” religion), i.e. that they don’t have to be taught what the religion is and to follow it.

    That people may change from one religion to another or none through the course of their lives is no surprise. What’s surprising is that so many believe that knowledge of a religion and it’s requisite god is an inborn thing instead of being something which is wholly learned.

  • Bobby Gilbert

    Doesn’t the Spirit reveal who Christ is. Christ reveals who the Father is.

    Why are moslems who have no knowledge of the Christian books or apologetics coming to Christ through their dreams? This is the largest movement towards Christ in the world at the moment where there is the greatest chance of dying if you turn to Christ. Can you imagine here you are in your Moslem country and religion and everything seems just fine any you basically have no “Christian form fo exposure to who Christ is”. You have a dream one night and your world turns upside down. No one person is at fault except your dream and the person who talked to you in your dream. This is supposedly where the greatest number of conversions are taking place. In the Western world, it is pretty dead. The churches are dying faster than the conversions.

    No one can know Christ except to the Spirit. The Spirit is leaving the temple. The temple has to fall. Many who hate Christians will have their chance to destroy a temple legally.

    If you read comments from people who watched the New Ben Hur movie. Some critics write that they were rooting for the Romans. What a upside down world. It must be par for the course.

    It is absolutely false to believe that someone can be truly be convinced who Christ is, to know Christ and to believe and follow Christ only through apolegetics and any form of intellectual arguments. The Spirit is the only one who reveals the Son.

    The Spirit is leaving the temple. The temple has to be destroyed. Happy hunting.

    • Michael Neville

      How many people are converted to any religion because of dreams? I would guess the number is so small as to be meaningless.

      • Bobby Gilbert

        how much would be meaningful? is there a number that can be attached to make a point meaningful?

        • Greg G.

          Are you trying to invoke the Beard Fallacy? A beard is composed of many whiskers. Two or three whiskers is not a beard. What number of whiskers is the minimum number to make a beard?

          There are billions of people who are counted as Christians, most of whom haven’t even read the Bible or even the New Testament. A hundred thousand would be insignificant.

          I know people who became Christians due to waking dreams, thinking they had a real encounter with Jesus, an angel, or a deceased relative.

          I know a guy who said he called the police to report that someone crashed a car into his living room after he went to bed. When he investigated, nothing had happened. It had been a dream that he had thinking he was wide awake – a waking dream. The cops told him they get a lot of calls like that.

          Falling for a religion is dumb enough but to do it for something one actually dreamed takes the cake.

        • Michael Neville

          I have no idea. You’re the one claiming hordes of Muslims are converting to Christianity because the Spirit comes to them in their dreams. It’s your claim so it’s up to you to provide evidence you aren’t just blowing smoke. I’m guessing (note that it’s pure supposition on my part) that zero point zip percent of Muslims are converting to Christianity because of dreams. So show me wrong.

        • Joe

          More than the number of Christians who have converted to Islam?

    • I’d be curious to hear about just one Muslim who knew precisely nothing about Christianity but had a dream full of Jesus and Mary and all that sort of thing. I realize that there are such stories, but I doubt that there’s much verification behind them.

      It is absolutely false to believe that someone can be truly be convinced who Christ is, to know Christ and to believe and follow Christ only through apolegetics and any form of intellectual arguments.

      That’s kind of my point. The intellectual argument for Christianity fails. It looks like just another manmade religion.

      • Bobby Gilbert

        Paul, himself, who writes many of the letters did not come to Christ, intellectually. Paul was a trained intellectual who spoke several languages, came from the tribe of Benjamin and was trained under well known scholars of his time who were Jews. He knew the writings of the time and was a Roman citizen meaning that he was also well versed in Helenistic thought.

        Have you ever intellectually figured out what love is? If you have, you probably can sell you findings and become quite rich.

        • If you’re saying that there’s no point in trying to make an intellectual argument for Christianity, I’m fine with that. But that makes religion the odd man out. In every other discipline, “Let me tell you why you should believe what I believe” is done with evidence and intellectual argument.

        • MR

          It’s almost as if God is incapable of making an intellectual, reasoned case. I’d have thought the tri-omni God that I was taught about would have been capable of getting his message across any and all platforms. This argument diminishes the very concept of God.

        • Greg G.

          Paul clearly says he did not get anything from humans, only from scripture. This can be proved. If you look at everything he says about Christianity, you can find support for it in his favorite scriptures, mostly Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Genesis with more from other prophets like Hosea.

          The Acts version of Paul is fiction.

          EDIT: Paul came to Christianity from reading the scripture, but his logic is based on special pleading and wishful thinking.

    • sandy

      Doesn’t the Spirit reveal who Christ is. Like in rum? Have another drink Bobby.

      • Bobby Gilbert

        The next time you fall in love with someone. Go get drunk. It is not real. Not intellectual. It is very troublesome. Don’t worry. It does not exist.

        • Greg G.

          Love is a physiological condition. One can fall in love with someone who falls in love back. One can fall in love with someone who does not love back. One can fall in love from afar. One can fall in love with someone who does not actually exist, as happened a few years ago with a certain Notre Dame football player.

        • sandy

          You are not making any sense. Sorry dude.

    • Joe

      Doesn’t the Spirit reveal who Christ is.

      I would say no.

      • Bobby Gilbert

        Good. you are not missing out on anything. Collect your 200 and Go to Chance.

    • RichardSRussell

      Doesn’t the Spirit reveal who Christ is. Christ reveals who the Father is.

      Or, to paraphrase with equal coherence, “Doesn’t the Fairy reveal who the Leprechaun is? The Leprechaun reveals who the Unicorn is.”

    • Doubting Thomas

      If god wants everyone to know and love him, then why doesn’t he send everyone convincing dreams? Why do you think it is that the people most likely to experience these nocturnal conversions are superstitious rubes who are already semi-Christian to begin with?

      • Pofarmer

        And have other Muslims trying to kill and control them in every facet of their lives.

    • Lerk!

      That’s not even scriptural, Bobby. Romans 16 says it is the Gospel that brings salvation. The Word. It is by being taught, by reading, not by supernatural action of the Spirit. The Spirit gave the Word, and that is how you know “through the Spirit”. That’s what the Bible says.

      • Bobby Gilbert

        I did a funeral two days ago. This lady had a special §zen buddism christian faith. How would I put through meditation in buddism and through the word of God, she found her peace full circle in her Christian faith as a buddist. okay . . .

        The reading came out of John. Jesus is the only way. How do you find Jesus?

        Just by reading? If that was the case, why did not the religious leaders recognize him. I have learned that if you cannot find Jesus in the old testament. you will never find him in the new testament. This is where i found him first, in the old testament. The first time that I read the bible was the Old Testament and I was a agnostic.

        • … but Jesus isn’t in the Old Testament.

          If you insist on seeing him there, OK, but don’t think that that’s an exercise that an objective observer will get the same results from.

  • sandy

    Bob, your thought experiment comes down to this…your book against my book. So how do you convince someone that their book is wrong when in fact they are both wrong?

    • The snarky but practical answer is: it can’t be done. But what I’m trying to do here is imagine the Muslim trying on Christianity. I do the reverse in another post: I imagine the Christian trying on Mormonism. When the Muslim should convert to Christianity if it were true (but doesn’t) and the Christian should convert to Mormonism if it were true (but won’t), what does that tell us about the reasons people hold to their religion?

      • sandy

        You are right Bob, it really comes down to indoctrination, my biggest beef and a major reason why I come on these sites is to spread my hatred (yes strong wording) against “sunday school” this should be a focus among us atheists. Sunday school IS child abuse. But how do we stop it?

        • Dunno. Parents’ rights may not be something we want to tamper with.

  • RichardSRussell

    I realize that this essay proposes an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity as a thot experiment, but surely there must be real-world examples of missionaries who actually did make the effort — who traveled to Islamic communities and made their pitch in person. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 7th Day Adventists in particular really do their damnedest to reach all sorts of people who don’t already subscribe to their particular religions. Their target audiences probably include Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, etc. How successful have they been thru the years? Do data exist?

    • I’ve heard that the average Mormon on a 2-year mission converts 1 person.

  • SparklingMoon,

    But if that’s true for them, why isn’t that true of Christians? If most Muslims follow Islam, not because Islam is correct, but simply because they were raised that way, that’s equally true for most Christians.
    ————————————————————–
    Man should base his delicate beliefs (which he considers to be the basis of his salvation and eternal well-being)on absolute and decisive proofs rather than being proud and enamored by the tales one was told by his mother or nanny in childhood. To cling onto myths and conjectures for which there is no credible argument amounts to self-deception. Every rational person knows and understands that all Divine Books and the principles contained in them (which different nations regard as the means to their salvation and to winning divine approval) ought not only to possess the testimony of the divine word, but must also be verifiable through reason and logic.

    While it is true that divine revelation is the most trustworthy source of knowledge, absolute certainty being dependent on it, it is equally true that if a scripture makes a claim that is clearly in conflict with reason and logic, such a claim will have to be considered false and such a scripture will have to be regarded as fabricated or interpolated on account of its irrational teachings.

    If the truth or falsity of something,or its logical possibility or impossibility, rests on the verdict of reason, then the principles on which salvation is said to depend must also be validated by the same authority. If it is not possible to prove the various doctrines espoused by various faiths through rational arguments (and instead, they are proven wrong, incredible or impossible) how are we to know whose doctrines are true and whose are false, or that an ancient scripture of the Hindus is invalid and the Books of the Children of Israel are authentic. Moreover, if there is no rational way to distinguish between truth and falsehood, how would a seeker after truth tell them apart so as to embrace truth and shun falsehood. Moreover, how would anyone be held accountable before God for not believing in such doctrines? (Ruhanikhazain)

    • You demand that claims be backed up by evidence, but then you have this:

      While it is true that divine revelation is the most trustworthy source of knowledge

      Darn. And you were off to such a good start.

      • SparklingMoon,

        It is true that God has bestowed man with the faculty of reason. Nonetheless, it has one major flaw: it cannot, on its own, take us to the level of absolute certainty with respect to the true nature of things, for absolute certainty consists in knowing things as they actually are. The best that reason can do is to postulate the need for something to exist, but it cannot go further and confirm that it does indeed exist. Perfect certainty, whereby we rise from the level of ‘should be’ to that of ‘is’ is only achieved when reason finds an ally that is capable of confirming its speculative reasoning and bringing it into the realm of perceptible facts; and where reason says, ‘it should be,’ this ally is able to confirm, ‘it is.’

        Anyhow, reason requires an ally to make up for its imperfect and hypothetical claim of ‘should be’ with the confirmatory ‘is’ by revealing things as they actually are. Hence, the Ever-Merciful and Noble God,who desires to lead man to the level of absolute certainty, has fulfilled this need by providing human reason with many allies.. He has opened the path to certainty so that man may not be deprived of his most cherished goal of bliss and salvation, which is only possible through perfect conviction,

        Reason can have different allies from occasion to occasion, but they are no more than three as far as the limitations of reason allow: If the testimony of reason relates to perceptible objects that can be seen, heard, smelled or touched, the ally that helps it to reach the stage of certainty is called observation or experience.If the testimony of reason relates to events that happen or have happened in various ages and places, it finds another ally in the form of historical books, writings, letters and other records, which, like observation, bring clarity to the hazy light of reason, such that only a fool or madman will doubt them.

        If the testimony of reason relates to metaphysical phenomena, which we can not see with our eyes, hear with our ears, touch with our hands, or substantiate through historical records,then a third ally comes to the aid of reason.This is known as divine revelation.The law of nature demands that just as reason found allies in the first two instances, it should also find an ally in the third instance, for there is no contradiction in the laws of nature. If God did not desire reason to remain unassisted in knowledge of the sciences and arts (errors and lapses in respect of which are not of much consequence) it would be wrong to assume that He has forsaken man in matters of divine knowledge—which is essential for attaining eternal salvation, and ignorance of which could lead one to hell. It is unfair to think that God has limited the knowledge of the hereafter to notions based on mere conjecture and has not provided any means to verify it, so as to bring certainty to the heart and to confirm that the means for salvation suggested by reason are indeed true and not merely hypothetical. (Ruhanikhazain)

        • You’ve got a quote for every occasion, don’t you? Do you ever think for yourself?

          [Reason] has one major flaw: it cannot, on its own, take us to the level of absolute certainty with respect to the true nature of things

          So your flawed reason is going to conclude that there’s a way to get absolute certainty? You do see the problem with that, I hope.

        • SparklingMoon,

          You’ve got a quote for every occasion, don’t you? Do you ever think for yourself?
          ———————————————
          No doubt, candles are a source of light in darkness but their light after the rising of a heavenly sun is not preferable for light. It is the reason that I quote mostly from the books (Ruhanikhazain) of Promised Messiah who is the spiritual sun of this time, sent by God Almighty, to see the truths of religion. He has been given the name of Judge to solve religious conflicts through arguments to unite humanity.

        • adam

          “He has been given the name of Judge to solve religious conflicts through arguments to unite humanity.”

          Well, he is dead, and obviously FAILED.
          Just like Jesus.

        • SparklingMoon,

          It is written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad: I am fully convinced that it is the Powerful God Who has manifested Himself to me and Who has enlightened me of His existence and His Word and His work.I fully believe that the manifestations of His power which I see, and the knowledge of the hidden that He discloses to me, and the Strong Hand from which I receive help at every time of danger; are all the attributes of the Perfect and True God Who created Adam(as), and appeared to Noah(as), and showed the miracle of the flood, and helped Moses(as) when Pharaoh was about to destroy him, is the same God Who bestowed complete victory on Muhammad, Chief of the Messengers(sa), guarding him against the designs of the disbelievers and the pagans. This same God has manifested Himself to me in these latter days.

          The main purpose of the advent of Prophets(as) in this world and the grand objective of their teaching and preaching is that mankind should recognize God Almighty and should be delivered from the life which leads to hell and ruin and which is known as the life of sin. In fact, this is the most important objective before them. Now that God Almighty has established a dispensation and has raised me, the same purpose which is common to all Prophets(as) is also the purpose of my coming, namely, that I wish not only to tell the world what God is, but I actually want them to see Him, and to show them the way of desisting from sin.

          Whenever the prophet of an age makes his appearance in the world, he is accompanied by thousands of lights. There is jubilation in heaven and people’s good qualities are stimulated through the spread of spirituality and light. So, the one who possesses the capacity of receiving revelation, begins to receive revelation, and the one who has the capacity to gain understanding by reflecting upon matters of faith, his power of reflection and understanding is augmented, and the one inclined towards worship begins to find pleasure in worship and supplication, and the one who engages in discourse with the followers of other faiths, is bestowed the power of reasoning and carrying the arguments to a convincing conclusion. In fact, all this results from the diffusion of spirituality which descends from heaven with the Imam of the age and finds its way into every eager heart.

          This is a general phenomenon and a Divine practice. But the age of the Promised Messiah has a unique characteristic, which is that in the scriptures of earlier Prophets(as) is recorded that at the time of advent of the Promised Messiah, the spread of spiritual light will reach a degree that women will also receive revelations, children will be able to prophesy and common people will speak with the power of the Holy Spirit. All this will be a reflection of the spirituality of the Promised Messiah.

          When the light of the sun falls upon a wall, it is illuminated, and if it has been white-washed with lime it shines even more, and if it is studded with mirrors it reflects the light so strongly that the naked eye can hardly bear its reflection. But the wall cannot claim that the light is its own, for the light vanishes altogether after sunset. In the same manner, all the light of revelation is a reflection of the light of the prophet of the age.

        • adam

          “I am fully convinced that it is the Powerful God Who has manifested Himself to me

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9117d98ce11ef0bcc8dfa11a6f532081faecc5f2fb999318a4c4875b8c883b0e.jpg

        • MNb

          “I am fully convinced …..”
          Yeah. Others are convinced that the Earth is flat, that they are the reincarnation of Napoleon or that the Moon Landing is a hoax. So what?

        • MNb

          I wish he had a quote for every occasion. I would not mind to debate Ruhanikhazain through the mouth of SM. Almost always though he presents a quote for an entirely different occasion.

        • MNb

          “Perfect certainty, whereby we rise from the level of ‘should be’ to that of ‘is’ is only achieved when reason finds an ally that is capable of confirming its speculative reasoning and bringing it into the realm of perceptible facts.”
          Your great hero Ruhanikhazain is totally wrong. Perfect certainty is not possible regarding perceptible facts either. Give me an absolute and decisive proof that you won’t fall upward when you jump off a tower tomorrow – I leave deliberately unspecified when tomorrow actually is.

        • SparklingMoon,

          God’s Divinity and Godhead is related to His unlimited power and countless mysteries which man cannot confine within the limits of law. For the recognition of God, it is an important and fundamental principle that the Powers and Wisdom of God the Glorious are unlimited. By understanding this principle and reflecting deeply upon it everything becomes clear and one is able to see the straight path of the recognition of Truth and the worship of Truth.

          We do not deny that God Almighty always operates in accordance with His eternal attributes, and it would not be improper if we were to call this acting according to eternal attributes by the name of Divine law. What we question is whether acting in accordance with those eternal attributes, or in other words, the eternal Divine law, should be regarded as limited and defined. We believe that the effects of the attributes, which are part of God’s Being and are unlimited, are manifested at their appropriate times and nothing occurs outside of them and those attributes affect all creation in heaven and earth. The effects of these attributes are called the way of Allah or the law of nature; but because God Almighty, along with His perfect attributes, is Unlimited and Endless, it would be folly on our part to claim that the effects of those attributes, that is to say, the laws of nature, do not extend beyond our experience, intelligence or observation.

          It is a great mistake on the part of those who are philosophically inclined that they first regard the law of nature as something which has been completely defined and then they refuse to accept anything new which they encounter. It is obvious that this attitude is not well founded. Had this been true no way would have been left open to accept anything new and it would have become impossible to discover new things, for in such a case everything new would appear to contravene the laws of nature and one would have to reject it which would mean the rejection of a new truth. A contemplation or the lives of the philosophers would show along how many tracks their thinking has proceeded and how often they have discarded one view in favor of another, and having held for a long time that something was contrary to the law of nature and having denied it, they in the end accepted it remorsefully. What was the cause of this change? It was that what they had adhered to at one time was a doubtful thing which was falsified by new experience. As new experiences came to light their thinking went on changing in accordance with them.Their thinking has been guided by new experiences and yet even now there is a good deal which is hidden from their view and concerning which it is to be hoped that, after stumbling and passing through diverse humiliations they would in the end accept it.

          The laws of nature are not so firm within the ambit of human reason that they should exclude new research. Can any reasonable person imagine that in the school of this world, man, despite his short age, has completed his knowledge of eternal mysteries, and that his experience of Divine wonders has become so comprehensive that whatever falls outside this experience is outside the Power of God Almighty? It is only a foolish one who would entertain any such idea.Those philosophers who were truly good and wise and whose thinking was inspired by spiritual values have confessed that their thinking, which was limited and tentative, could not become the means of discovering and recognizing God and His limitless secrets and wisdom.

          It is an established truth that everything contains within itself a quality which continues to be affected by the limitless powers of God Almighty. This shows that the qualities of things are limitless whether we come to know of them or not. If all philosophers, ancient and modern, were to employ their intellectual capacities till the Day of Judgement in discovering the qualities of a grain of poppy seed, no reasonable person would believe that they would comprehend completely all those qualities.Thus there is nothing more foolish than to think that the qualities of heavenly and earthly bodies are limited to those which have so far been discovered through astronomy or physics. In short, the law of nature is something which cannot withstand an established truth. The law of nature means such Divine action which was manifested or might be manifested in a natural way,but God Almighty has not tired of manifesting His Powers nor has He become disabled from doing so,nor has He gone to sleep,nor has He moved away into a corner, nor has He been overpowered and has under compulsion ceased manifesting His wonders, leaving us only His actions during a few centuries. Reason, wisdom, philosophy, literature and education all demand that we should not confine the body of natural law to the few demonstrated phenomena of which hundreds of details are still to be discovered and we should not foolishly insist that the action of God Almighty cannot go beyond what we have already observed. (Ruhanikhazain)

        • MNb

          “By understanding this principle”
          I do – better than Ruhanikhazain. Because I recognize the circularity and he doesn’t.

          “and reflecting deeply upon it”
          Done so.

          “everything becomes clear.”
          Indeed. There is no god. That’s clear as crystal for those who understand the principle and reflect deeply on it.
          You don’t.
          Neither does Ruhanikhazain.

          “we should not foolishly insist that the action of God Almighty cannot go beyond what we have already observed.”
          I don’t. I just point out that Ruhanikhazain isn’t capable of showing how his god almighty is capable of saying anything in the Holy Quran with a non-physical mouth.
          Neither is he capable of giving an absolute and decisive proof that you won’t fall upward when you jump off a tower tomorrow (unspecified when tomorrow actually is). Again Ruhanikhazain doesn’t understand what he writes about – and you even less.

    • MNb

      “Man should base his delicate beliefs (which he considers to be the basis of his salvation and eternal well-being)on absolute and decisive proofs”
      Absolute and decisive proofs are impossible – that’s why you never even tried to provide even a single one but instead continuously present the ramblings of that chaotic thinker Ruhanikhazain.

  • SparklingMoon,

    After they’ve all gotten their degree, how many are Christian? I’m guessing few or none.
    ———————————————————–
    As far as the followers of Trinity are concerned, they are clearly opposed to the Oneness of God, for they believe in three ‘Gods’—the Father,the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Their explanation, that they believe ‘three’ to be ‘one’, is really quite absurd. No sane person can be expected to accept such flawed logic, especially when the three Gods are considered to be permanently self-existing and each is thought to be a complete God in Himself. What kind of arithmetic is it that shows them to be one, and where is it taught? Is there any logic or philosophy that can explain how beings which are permanently three can be counted as one? It is only a deception to argue that this is a mystery which human reason cannot understand, for human reason clearly understands that if there are three perfect Gods, they will have to be ‘three’ and not ‘one’.

    This doctrine has not only been rejected by the Quran, but also by the Torah. The latter, which was given to Moses (as), contains no mention whatsoever of the Trinity. If it had contained such a teaching, the Jews could never have forgotten it, for they were enjoined to stick to the teaching of the Unity of God to the extent that each and every Jew was commanded to memorize it, to inscribe it on the door of his house, and to teach it to his children. In addition, Prophets of God continued appear among the Israelites and gave them the same teaching. It is, therefore, inconceivable that, despite such great emphasis and coming of so many Prophets, the Jews could have forgotten the teaching of Trinity and replaced it with the teaching of the Oneness of God, which they continued to teach their children and which continued to be reiterated by hundreds of Prophets. This would go against all reason and logic.

    A doctrine that is to be found neither in the Torah, nor in the Holy Quran, nor even in the Gospels! Nowhere do the Gospels even hint at the Trinity, they only speak of the One God Who is without peer. Some eminent and even hostile clergymen have had to admit that the Gospels do not teach the doctrine of the Trinity.

    How then did this concept find its way into the Christian faith? According to Christian scholars, this doctrine was borrowed from the Greeks, who believed in three gods just as the Hindus believe in Trimurti (three idols). When Paul turned his attention to the Greeks, he wished to please them so that they could convert to Christianity. With this in mind, he introduced into the Christian faith the concept of ‘the three persons of the Godhead’, to mirror the Greek concept of three gods, despite the fact that Jesus(as) himself had never thought of such a thing. Like all Prophets, his teaching about God was simple and categorical. God is One and He has no partner. Jesus never taught the doctrine of the Trinity.As long as he lived, he only taught the Oneness of God and His being without partner. (Ruhanikhazain)

  • SparklingMoon,

    Do they agree that the resurrection was a historical event, playing out as the gospels describe it rather than how the Quran does? Have they gotten down on their knees to tearfully beg Jesus to accept them and forgive their sins?
    ———————————————————–
    Almighty God says in the Quran that the Jews neither murdered Jesus, not did they kill him on the Cross; no, they only suspected that Jesus had died on the Cross; they did not have proof which could have convinced and satisfied them that Jesus (on whom be peace) had really died on the Cross.

    It is not only the Quran but the descriptions of Gospels also have enough proofs to show that Jesus did not die on cross. Jesus remained on the Cross only for two hours, and his bones were not broken. Secondly,the Jewish tombs of those days were not like the tombs of to-day; they were roomy and had an opening on one side, which was covered with a big stone , in which Jesus was placed in a state of swoon.

    There is the statement of Jesus: ‘But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew: chapter 26, verse 32). This verse clearly shows that Jesus, after he had come out of the tomb, went to Galilee and not to heaven. Jesus’ words ‘After I am risen’ do not mean his rising up alive after he was dead; rather, as in the eyes of the Jews and the common people he had died on the Cross, he used words beforehand consistent with what they were to think of him in the future, and indeed, the man who was placed on the Cross, in whose hands and feet nails had been driven till he had fainted from pain, had become as good as dead; if such a man was saved from such a calamity and if he recovered his senses it would not be an exaggeration on his part to say that he had come to life again.

    Jesus after coming out of the tomb went to Galilee. The gospel of St. Mark says that after coming out of the tomb he was seen going on the road to Galilee, and ultimately he met the eleven disciples when they were at their meal; he showed them his hands and feet which were wounded and they thought that he was perhaps a spirit. Then he said to them: ”Behold my hands and my feet, that it is myself; handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have ”

    He took from them boiled fish and a piece of honeycomb and ate them in their presence. These verses show that it is certain that Jesus never went to heaven; rather, coming out of the tomb, he went to Galilee; — like an ordinary man, in normal clothes, with a human body. If he had been resurrected after death, how was it that this body of spirit could still have borne the wounds inflicted upon him on the Cross? What need had he to eat? And if he required food then, he must be in need of food even now.

    Now, to say that Jesus did all this with a spiritual body (which is supposed to be the nature of the body after death), which only the physical body was capable of doing, as, for example, eating and drinking, and sleeping, and making a long journey to Galilee which was at a distance of seventy miles from Jerusalem, is saying something impossible and quite against reason. In spite of the fact that on account of individual bias the accounts of the gospels have differed, the texts as they are, nevertheless, clearly show that Jesus met his disciples in the ordinary mortal human body, and made a long journey on foot to Galilee; showed his wounds to the disciples, dined with them at night, and slept in their company

    Here one has to consider whether, after acquiring an eternal spiritual body, i.e., after gaining that immortal body which entitled him, having been freed from the necessity of eating and drinking, to sit on the right hand of God and to be free of all wounds, and pain, and infirmities, it still suffered from one defect, although it had the glory of the Eternal and Ever-Existing God — the defect, namely, that his body had on it fresh wounds of the Cross and the nails, which were bleeding and were very painful and for which an ointment had been prepared, and even after acquiring a glorious and an immortal body, eternally sound, faultless, perfect, and unchangeable, that same body continued to suffer from defects of many kinds: Jesus himself showed to his disciples the flesh and bones of his body, and again, not only this, but there were also the pangs of hunger and thirst — necessities of the mortal body; otherwise, where was the need for him during the journey to Galilee to do such useless things as eating and drinking water, resting, and sleeping?

    Undoubtedly, hunger and thirst, in this world, are painful for the mortal body, which may even prove fatal if they become extreme. So there is no doubt that Jesus did not die on the Cross, nor did he acquire a new spiritual body: rather, he was in a state of death-like swoon. (Ruhanikhazain)

    • Instead of just quoting some boilerplate, why don’t you engage directly with the argument? I don’t mention Islam often, but it’s front and center in this argument.

    • MNb

      “Almighty God says in the Quran:
      Almighty God doesn’t say anything in the Quran, because Almighty God doesn’t have a mouth to speak nor a pen to write with. Almighty God is immaterial and mouths and pens are material.

      • SparklingMoon,

        Almighty God doesn’t say anything in the Quran, because Almighty God doesn’t have a mouth to speak nor a pen to write with. Almighty God is immaterial and mouths and pens are material.
        ————————————————

        God Almighty, in order to bestow perfect understanding upon His humble creatures, has set out in the Holy Qur’an two aspects of His attributes. First, He has described His attributes metaphorically as resembling some human qualities. For instance, He is Noble, Merciful, and Beneficent. He can be angry as well as loving. He has hands and eyes, legs and ears. He has been creating throughout eternity, though nothing has been eternally co-existent with Him.

        Thus God manifested His attributes of resemblance to man. For instance, God is Creator, but to some degree, man also creates or fashions; and man can be called noble for, up to a point, he possesses the quality of nobility; and man can be called merciful for, up to a point, he possesses the quality of mercy. He also has the quality of anger; and he has eyes and ears, etc. This could create a suspicion in one’s mind that man resembles God in respect of these attributes, and God resembles man. Therefore, God, by contrast, has also mentioned in the Holy Quran His attributes of transcendence, i.e., such attributes of which man does not partake at all in his being or in his qualities. God’s creation is not like man’s creation, nor is God’s mercy like man’s mercy, nor is His wrath like man’s anger, nor is His love like man’s love, nor is He in need of space like man.

        The Holy Qur’an sets out clearly that in His attributes God is quite distinct from man. For instance, it is said: Nothing in essence shares its substance or attributes with God. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. ( Quran42:12). At another place it is said:Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods and then settled Himself on the Throne.(Quran7:55). This means that having created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them and having manifested His attributes of resemblance,He then addressed Himself to His station of transcendence and aloneness, in order to demonstrate His attributes of transcendence which station is beyond of beyond and is farthest away from creation. That station which is the highest is called the Throne.

        The explanation of this is that in the beginning all creation was nonexistent and God Almighty manifested Himself at a station which was beyond of beyond and is named the Throne, that is a station which is higher than and above all the worlds. There was nothing except His Being. Then He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. When creation came into being, He hid Himself and desired that He should be known through His creation.

        All His attributes are appropriate to Him. They are not like human qualities. His eyes etc.are not physical and none of His attributes resembles human attributes. For instance, when a man is angry he suffers from anger himself and his heart loses its comfort and perceives a burning sensation and his brain is oppressed and he undergoes a change; but God is free from all such changes. His wrath means that He removes His support from one who does not desist from mischief and, according to His eternal law, He metes out to him such treatment as a human being metes out to another when he is angry. Metaphorically, it is called God’s wrath. In the same way, His love is not like the love of a human being, for a human being suffers in love also when he is separated from his beloved. But God is not subject to suffering. His nearness also is not like the nearness of a human being, for when a human being approaches near someone he vacates the space which he had occupied before. But God, despite being near is far, and despite being far is near. In short, every Divine attribute is distinct from human qualities. There is only a verbal resemblance and no more. That is why in the Holy Qur’an Allah the Exalted says.(42:12): That is: Nothing approximates to God Almighty in its being or its qualities.(Ruhanikhazain)

        • MNb

          “God Almighty, in order to bestow perfect understanding upon His humble creatures, has set out in the Holy Qur’an ….”
          God Almighty hasn’t set out anything in the Holy Quran, because Almighty God doesn’t have a mouth to speak nor a pen to write with. Almighty God is immaterial and mouths and pens are material.

          “His eyes etc.are not physical ….”
          And so are his mouth and the body parts he would use for holding pens. However The Holy Quran is material, sound is material and pens are material and hence your God Almighty by definition doesn’t have the means to set out anything in the Holy Quran, whether by producing sounds or by writing things down.
          That Ruhanikhazain guy of yours doesn’t understand what he writes himself. He only repeats the same mistake over and over again.