MYTHS & FALLACIES OF RELIGIOUS APOLOGETICS
Myths and contradictions of apologetics of religion:
#1. That their Holy Book is "perfect" because it is the word of God.
[ A perfect book should not suffer from flaws that only an imperfect book of human origin can suffer from. Some flaws that contradict perfect ness: (One flaw is enough to render it imperfect):
A perfect book cannot contain verses that lend itself to multiple interpretations, ambiguities and controversies. It should have been written clearly enough to guard against such possibilities and should have been above all controversies.
A perfect book cannot be hard to interpret/understand as is claimed by believers, when they try to refute the criticisms against certain verses for its negative connotations. Perfection implies clarity by unanimous judgment.
A perfect book should have mentioned the principles of science, if any, not in such a vague and ambiguous way like some verses that the believers claim to contain scientific facts of embryology and astronomy etc. It is inconsistent that text books written by humans contain scientific facts can be so clear and precise while a perfect book written by God can be so vague that there is no unanimity among humans as to its scientific accuracy whereas scientific facts written by humans in science books are unanimously agreed to by humans of all religions and beliefs. Also as a perfect book, it should have answers to all unanswered questions in science. It should at least certainly have the "Theory of Everything" in a succinct yet precise way since it is the most profound insight about nature that human can ever attain. Physicists all around the world of all denominations have been searching for it.
A perfect book by God should not contain cursing words of God against humans (As in some verses).
A perfect book, cannot be accepted as perfect only by a subset of humanity (followers of a certain religion), a truly perfect book should have been recognized as such by all of humanity. Perfection should be an objective concept .]
#2. That many verses of the Holy Book has to be judged in the light of its of its time when it was written and not judged by today's standards.
[ Well, then it is certainly not a timeless book, which it should be if it has to be a perfect book as is claimed. If the Holy Book (or its certain verses) only makes sense or has relevance in a certain period of history for a certain group of people then it is by no means a perfect book written by perfect God. It is of no more significance than handbooks or folk wisdom of various cultures/sects/tribes. There are many books or wisdoms of ancient civilizations (Chinese, Greek, Mayan, Egyptians etc) that can also claim relevance for their times and contained many useful info and scientific facts as well, in equally vague manner. A perfect book has to apply for all times. Also if the purpose of the verses are to provide solutions to a problem specific to a time and a society, then it is failing as a perfect book, since a perfect book should apply for all times and for all of humanity. Yes, it is true that certain verses do exist that satisfy these requirements, but then a perfect book should not contain even a single verse with limited applicability in terms of time and society to which it applies.]
#3. That all the criticisms by skeptics of negative verses in Koran are due to inaccurate translations or misleading interpretation. Koran is hard to translate as many verses are very subtle or complex and require great amount of knowledge in Arabic and Islamic background.
The above can be better rephrased as:
Koran is hard to understand.
Arabic is a difficult language.
It is difficult to translate Koran into other languages [ by a) and b) ]
One has to be well versed in Islamic history and Tafseers Interpretations of Quran by scholars) to fully understand Koran
[First of all, (a) is contradicted by Koran itself. Verses 44.58, 54.17, 54.22 clearly says "we have made Koran easy to understand so they may pay heed". Now is there anyone to challenge that the above translation of the three verses is incorrect? (a) is also contradicted by the assertion in #1 that Koran is a perfect book. A perfect book cannot or should not be difficult to understand.
(b) is contradicted by Koran since 44.58 also says that Koran was made easy to understand by revealing it in Arabic (Thy tongue).
Secondly any language is not difficult to its native speakers, or to one who has learned it well enough to be professor of Arabic in a reputed university of an Islamic country. It can be hard for all others. So (b) is irrelevant since all the major translations of Koran were done by native Arab speakers or Arabic scholars. Now lets see the logic behind (c) and (d). Firstly, the believers who propagate these views cannot be any more knowledgeable in Arabic than the respected translators like Dawood, Shakir, Pickthall, Yusuf Ali to challenge their translations as inaccurate. And once the translations are accepted as accurate, it cannot represent a factual error. Of course a translation will not always carry the poetic, aesthetic and emotional appeal or value of the original, but even a mediocre translation certainly cannot reverse its objective meaning or alter any factual content which is what has to be done to a verse to make it look negative and thus controversial if it is not genuinely so. There is no reason for a perfect God to make its meaning so enigmatic and open to misinterpretations. Often when a verse is quoted in a religious discussion the common remark heard is "You have to read the 'correct' translation". Sometimes Yusuf Ali is cited as reliable in these debates, sometimes another, depending one whose translation best suits one in a given context. Two interesting observations to make here:
First, the person making the above remarks is presumably not as versed in Arabic or Koran as these 4 authors are. So they are in no way to judge who is the best among the four or that some of them are inaccurate.
Second, all these four authors are recognized without dispute as well versed in Arabic and Islam (Some were professor of Arabic in Islamic Universities etc) and all are Muslims themselves and cannot have any hostile intentions against Islam and if their translations were judged to have been intentionally distorted to hurt the image of Islam then even a single copy of their translations (Let alone millions of copies sold) would not have seen the light of day and they would be outcast (possibly killed) by now. So to reject the translations of 3 in favor of 1 by someone who is not even as well versed as any one of these four scholars is highly questionable. For any reader not familiar with Arabic the translation that the majority of these four translators agree on should be taken as most reliable, even if the fourth one appears to be more favorable to Islam's image. Choosing one interpretation over another as the
correct one has no compelling reason behind it. After all no particular translator was approved by GOD or prophet as the only authorized interpreter! If Koran is the word of GOD then for anyone to say Koran is not easy to understand, only few "knowledgeable" person can truly understand it is plainly contradicting the word of GOD ! Finally, (d) suffers from two main contradictions. As perfect book, Koran should be self-sufficient, no supplementary reading should be required. A perfect book should contain all the knowledge that one needs to know. No human knowledge (History, science etc) should be a prerequisite to understand a divinely written book.
Consider the following 5 points:
(1) God says Qur'an is easy to understand (44.58, 54.17,54.22)
CONCLUSION: A person with average knowledge of Arabic should understand Qur'an and should be cognizant of the FACTS and INJUNCTIONS mentioned in it, athough he may not appreciate the poetic/aetshetic/phonetic quality in it.
(2) An average knowledge of English is required for someone who is cognizant of a FACT or an INJUNCTION in Qur'an to express it in English ACCURATELY (Like "4" cannot change to "3", or "yes" cannot change to "no" etc.)
(3) A translation by a person with average knowledge in Arabic and English may not convey the poetic/aesthetic/phonetic quality of the original, but CANNOT alter/twist the FACTUAL CONTENT of it. (Follows logically from (1) and (2) above)
(4) Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Pickthall 's knowledge of Arabic was much better than average. All of them had at least an average knowledge of English, and at least Pickthall had better than average knowledge in English being an English born.
(5) The translations of Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Pickthall agree with one another.
CONCLUSION: THE TRANSLATIONS BY EITHER OF THE THREE TRANSLATORS ABOVE CAN NEVERCONTAIN ANY FACTUAL MISREPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.VERSES OR
DISTORT THEIR INTENTS.
Regarding the advice on reading the Tafseer before reading Koran, it is again contradictory to the messages of Qur'an as Qur'an (i.e God) clearly says in three suras (44.58, 54.17,54. 22) that Qur'an was made easy to understand by God. Moreover verse 25.33 says that Qur'an itself is the best explanation of the truth.
If anyone who says Qur'an is not easy to understand and so should read tafseer is contradicting the words of God . Secondly when God revealed Qur'an, he did not mention that one should wait until tafseers are published before reading the Qu'ran.
The Qu'ran was revealed in easy language as claimed by God and was meant to be read/followed/ understood right when it was revealed. God never mentioned any tafseer by a designated author as the authentic interpreter of Qu'ran. A faith in Qur'an as the word of God and Muhammad as its messenger is only needed. The requirement that one should read tafseers to understand Qu'ran is a dictum issued by humans, God or his messenger never issued this dictum. So believing in this dictum cannot be part of the belief in God or Koran. Belief in, but an additional article of faith. No human has been divinely appointed to write an interpretation of Koran.
Finally it is worth noting that if someone points out some good points about a verse, no religious apologist ever makes any of the statements (a),(b).. etc although they should be equally applicable in principle, i.e if someone is possibly mistaken about a negative verse for not reading the Tafseer, then by the same criterion, one is no less likely to be mistaken about a positive verse if read without Tafseer. In fact this betrays the fact that the very definition of Tafseer is really nothing but a favourable interpretation of Quran. Many scholars who had studied Quran and but are critical of it are never recognized as scholars and their interpretation is never accepted as tafseers.]
#4. That all the negative Hadiths are results of intentional distortion of ill-intentioned people and do not truly represent the views of the prophet.
[Well, if one rejects the bad things written in Hadith as lacking authenticity, then there is no logical basis for accepting the good part as being authentic either. One cannot by any logic pick and choose in Hadith based on which one one likes and dislikes. One has to either accept the entire Hadith or reject it in its entirety since there is no objective criterion to decide which part is authentic and which part is not, if at all one claims that hadith is a mixture of both authentic and inauthentic parts. There is also no objective criterion to decide who is right between those who claim that the bad parts of hadith are concocted and good parts are true and those who claim vice versa or that both parts are authentic. Also there is no scope for arguing for a misleading interpretation as the wordings of hadith are quite straightforward and unambiguous. So to be consistent one has to either conclude that the bad parts are true or that all parts of hadith are false. Any other stance is a contradiction and is only to suit one's biased view.]
#5. That science vindicates the Holy Book. The Holy Book already contains many of the findings of modern science. It is a miracle that the verses in it are essentially accurate in discussing many scientific ideas even though they were revealed long ago when science was not as developed as today, and the ideas of DNA, gene etc were not known then.
[ If a perfect book written by perfect God did intend to reveal a scientific idea, it should not have been vague and metaphoric, but accurate and scientific enough that it can be put in a physics /chemistry/biology textbook without the need of any change. Not a single verse in the Holy Books contain even one scientific term, like atom, electron, Theory of relativity, Uncertainty principle etc. A "perfect" book cannot be lacking in precision so much. And regarding the defense of the vagueness of the verses for being thousands of years years old, point can be made whether God knew about science then. How can perfect God be constrained by lack of scientific knowledge millenia years ago to reveal scientific ideas more precisely? And as a perfect book, it could at least be as precise as a popular science book, if not as precise as a graduate text book. And most importantly, if the verses already contained scientific facts, then why as a perfect book, it needed the human knowledge of science to realize that they contain them? Why didn't the verses instill a scientific realization on its own, without having to wait thousands of years for the development of science (by mostly non-religious people) for its appreciation? It is also interesting to note some double standard that exists among dogmatic believers in religion. On one hand they claim that religion is beyond scientific analysis but on the other hand they would not shrink a bit in jumping to cite any scientific principle to validate their religious beliefs specially when some revelations/verses are vague and general enough to be easily fitted to a paraphrased form of a scientific principle. ]
#6. That a secularist/atheist is biased against believers/religion and that secularism/atheism is no different form any religion since they preach the "dogma" of secularism/atheism. Secularists have vested interest in their opposition to religious belief.
[ The myth here lies in the fact that a non-believer asserts his disbelief not as an attempt to promote or propagate a new dogma, but only in response (reaction) to believers' insistence that their belief is correct and their attempt in imposing it on the rest. The believers act proactively and are in the offensive whereas the non- believers/skeptics act reactively and are in the defensive. The
non-believers would not have to resort to the critical study/research to debunk the believers had the believers not taken their belief outside of their private life and tried to thrust it on others. Atheists/skeptics/agnostics exist BECAUSE OF blind believers and NOT the other way around. It is the constant claims and persuasive attempt to force the belief on others that created the skeptics/atheists etc as a counter reaction. A critical thinker hardly ever tries to debunk the belief's of Tibetan Monks or the Shaman priests of Japan. Most skeptics and critical free thinkers direct their time in refuting the claims and preaching of persuasive members of revealed religions. So one has to be very careful here. Believers of blind faith have great stake in the preservation and propagation of the perceived truth of their belief/dogma and hence would defend any criticism of it without caring to judge the merit of the criticism. On the other hand a non believer of a blind faith has nothing to gain just by not believing and criticizing any claims of truth of the blind faith holders. Their non- belief results from analytical thinking and thus they cannot accept a belief irrationally just because they being told so. Far from gaining anything from the non- belief they rather take on potential risk of back lash by the blind believers as well as depriving themselves from the pleasant feelings generated by the blind belief. Anything that has a rational basis will never be rejected or criticized by a rational person. So the bottom line is that a rational person who decides not to believe in a blind faith can never do it out of any bias against the believers since there is no apriority reason to be biased against believers just as an adult who does not believe in a fairy tale is not considered to be biased against children. The relationship between believers and non-believers is of a cause-effect nature. The non-believers have no agenda/dogma to propagate, their only raison de etre is to defend against the persuasive preaching of believers and to refute their arguments defending their dogma. Similarly atheism cannot be a religion, since atheism is nothing but a denial of theism (a-theism, the a- part indicates a negation). A negation of a dogma cannot be a dogma itself. Without theism, there cannot be atheism. A dogma is a stand alone belief that does not need another for its existence. So atheism cannot be a dogma. Also dogmatic believers describe Secular Humanists as another form of "fanatics" who are trying to fanatically promote their secular agenda etc. This is the height of fallacy and sophistry. One thing that has to be understood and emphasized very clearly is that humanists are committed to PREVENT/RESIST acts of human rights violation. Fanatics on the other hand are bent on PERPETRATING human rights violation. Human rights referred to above are clearly defined universally and in the Declaration of Human Rights Charter of United nations. Prevention/Resistance is a reaction to perpetration. Humanists came into existence because of the
Consider this. Long ago a believer called B-1 formed a certain belief (due to a divine oracle, an epileptic seizure, temporal lobe stimulation, whatever). Now look at then diagram below:B-1 (Somehow forms a belief "X") | | B-1 Preaches "X" B-2_____|_____N-1 (B-2 accepts"X", | N-1 rejects) | B-2 Preaches "X" B-3____|____N-2 (B-3 accepts, | N-2 rejects) | B-3 Preaches "X" B-4___|____N-3 (B-4 accepts, | N-3 rejects) etc..
So at the end of this three preaching we have a set of believers B= (B-1, B-2, B- 3, B-4..) and a set of non-believers N = (N-1,N-2,N-3..). Now what we see is that members of the set B now randomly picking on the members of set N to try to preach again or to criticize them for not accepting their belief, for example B-4 trying to preach/criticize N-2 etc. This provokes a backlash by the members of N and they also try to debunk randomly the preaching of the members of B, for example N-3 debunking B-2 etc. The end result is we have a tension between two groups as a whole, B vs. N. Now pause for a moment and think. Who do you blame for this adversarial polarization into two groups B and N? What is the root cause? It is clear that the N-'s are hanging free like a leaf with no trees below them (no preaching by them), whereas the B-'s are each creating a tree beneath them and becoming the root of that tree. Its the B-s' who are causing the birth and contributing to the growth of the set B and N by trying to preach their believes onto others. Now there are two sides to this. The only way to avoid this bickering between B and N would have been if none of the B-'s ever tried to pick on the N-'s to try to preach again or criticize them for rejecting their belief. Such is the case with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taosim, Shamanism, Bahai etc, in fact none of the religious beliefs except the three Abrahamic religions have this two polarized groups with tension between them. The other ideal way to prevent this polarization would be to stop preaching at all. If B-1 kept his belief and never tried to preach there would not have been this group polarization. So Mr. Aly, when you complain against a free thinker of attacking your faith, try to stare at the above diagram and understand who is the real culprit here., who really tried to impose their belief on others.
#7.) That non-belief in a faith is itself a faith, i.e rejecting a belief in God is a faith too like believing in God.
[ This is a very common glaring logical fallacy illustrating the SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF PROOF fallacy of logic. Non-belief requires logic, belief requires faith. Belief in a faith is generated (in one's heart) due to personal wishes and emotional needs. A non-belief is generated (in one's mind) as a reaction to preaching of a faith which cannot be justified by logic or evidence. If every rejection of a faith is characterized by faith, then one can literally create infinite number of faiths by simply rejecting the assertions that all kinds of entities like fairies, unicorns etc exist, or rejecting the claim that there is life on the sixth planet in star-X, an alien landed in one's backyard etc. Faith cannot be generated solely through negation. A faith needs to be a positive assertion postulating a truth about a belief.
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