Morality - An Atheist's perspective
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It is a response to the article "Islam Bashing – favorite pastime for some" written by Mr. K. Rahman which published in NFB on July 23, 2001. In his article, he made some brutal comment against the atheists in general, which led me to response accordingly.
What is morality? Morality refers to the human propensity to judge certain forms of behavior as good and deserving of admiration, encouragement, and reward, and to judge other forms of behavior as bad, not to be imitated, and worthy of punishment. Morality also includes the systems of rules which particular societies develop to codify these judgments. These systems of rules are developed gradually over many generations and represent the judgment of many individuals about exactly what sorts of behaviors are right, what sorts are wrong, and what rewards and punishments should accompany each form of behavior. Humans have not only a propensity to judge various forms of behavior as morally right or wrong, but also a propensity to be sensitive to the judgments of their community and to be strongly influenced by the particular rules of their own communities. This propensity to conformity is also a part of morality.
Now, Saying that without God, not everything is permitted, is not the same as saying that our complex ethical systems are possible without God. Such systems exist. Are they evidence of God? Or did they come about in some other way?
Mr. K Rahman traditionally wrote in his article - "Godless person can do anything without fear of consequences." and eventually Mr. Rahman concluded by saying - "The apparent innocence of the atheists is hypocrisy and once they get to the point of authority, they will be the worst murdered and ferocious creature I can think of!"
If we focus on historical evidences without being emotional we would have perceived that for a long time, devotion towards god has been the sanction for moral conduct. Our deshi culture promotes prayer, ritual customs, worship and devotion towards spirituality as an effective tool for constructing moral behavior. We have heard such statements from our parents, relatives, teachers for thousand times - “Beshi korey Namaj porille Allah Sha’ab mapp kare divey” (If you pray devoutly, Allah will forgive you for all sins). On the other hand, It's quite surprising to me how many people remarked, "Tumee Nastik ? Tobe to tumee ja khushi korte paaro - tomar choritro bole to kichu naai." (You're an Atheist? You must have no conscience about committing crime then.) Despite the attempt of making our society peaceful through namaz, roza, haj, jakat, krishna-lila, the spread of war, hate, poverty and prejudice shows that the belief in god has not proved any effective sanction. The reason is very clear. Faith in god has been the indirect method to ensure moral conduct. For religious belief tells that god blesses those that are moral and punishes the immoral. "If a believer could obtain god's blessings by means other than morality, he could afford to ignore morality with impunity. Prayer, worship, ritual and sale of Indulgence are methods to gain god's favor without caring to be moral. They pray loud who fleece fellow-men." [ -Gora]
Further, the growth of rationality and advancement of science reveals beyond doubt that god is an illusion. Therefore, by and large, faith in god is neither useful nor possible to keep man moral.
Atheism, in my opinion, takes a realistic appraisal of morality. Moral values, like truthfulness and compassion, are social imperatives. One should do what he says and say what he does in social relations. Otherwise common understanding is not possible. Hence morality is a social necessity and not a passport to heaven. As believers of god do not understand the social significance of morality, war and inequality have prevailed in theistic civilization, despite ages of belief in god. Look at the examples of the activities of our famous Razakar-bahini in 1971. They killed thousands of innocent Bangalee people, raped, murdered, destroyed, liquidated, slaughtered --everything they did by the name of Islam. Take the example of the activities of stubborn fundamentalist "Shiva Shenas" during the period when they destroyed Babri mosque. But atheism encourages the people to insist on truthfulness, because the untruthfulness of any disturbs the happiness of others in a social milieu. Thus social checks and counter-checks are real and affective to keep up morality. Atheism never produce vindictive Shiva Shena or Razakar Bahini. Atheism encourages to be a real man free from dogmatism and fundamentalism. As long as a belief in god lingers in the society, man's mind is divided between obedience to god and obligations to fellow men. When faith in god is wholly dismissed, social checks grow strong and the level of morality rises.
Not belief in god, but the disbelief makes man moral.
Mr. Rahman also mentioned in his article, "You bet a Muslim (who practices faith) will not be a thief or liar. The same cannot be said for a devout atheist who will work only for his material interest."
His intention is very clear - "Atheist people are immoral" and "Believers are obviously moral". Well, to evaluate whether spirituality and other religious values (I am not taking any specific religion in this case) is necessary for moral conduct, we should devise a test for morality. Non-killing is moral for a civilian but killing the enemy is the ethics of a soldier. Monogamy is a moral principle enjoyed by Christians, but Muslims resent interference with their right to be polygamous. Truthfulness is a commonly accepted axiom of morality, but governments administer the oath of secrecy on their officers. While moral values thus differ with custom and expediency, there should still be a standard for all humans. And that is the recognition of equality of all humans. Therefore, ethics of all religions and constitutions of governments proclaim equality as their pious objective.
Judged by the test of equality, the workings of religious belief through long ages of past history and the professions of spirituality have but failed to achieve equality. On the contrary, religious belief has justified existence of inequality on the plea of divine pleasure. Hindu faith attributes inequalities to the deeds of past birth. Islam also did the same. We get those X-rated version of heavenly bliss (eternal huri, wine, sex ..) described in all religious scriptures in afterlife. Those stories which are full of carnal gratification, sensual pleasures are reserved for man only should be the key for my present-life honesty?
" for them is reserved a definite
provision, fruit and a great honour in the Gardens of
Bliss reclining upon couches arranged face to face,
a cup from a fountain being passed round
to them, white, a pleasure to the drinkers .....
and with them wide-eyed maidens flexing
their glances as if they were slightly
concealed pearls." ( The Rangers 40: 45 )
How a rational person can make himself believe that he will remain honest to achieve those dishonest reward in afterlife ? All those "haram" things are cleverly, wickedly and dishonestly made "halal" in paradise, for which the believers are waiting so long!
While primitive people with simple thoughts lived equal, organized religious belief of 'civilized' life raised inequalities by suppressing free thought and free action and wickedly reconciled the faithful to their miserable lot by holding out the promise of heavenly bliss in after-life. So it is wrong to suppose that spirituality and belief in god would promote morality. Besides, attempts at raising moral standards were deemed irreligious, blasphemous, heretical or even atheistic by their contemporaries. Persecutions of prophets and their followers in every age are illustrations of the conservatism of religious belief.
The reason for the failure of religious belief to sustain morality is obvious. Of course, the honest objective of religious faith is to make man moral through hope of heaven and fear of hell. And many people are restricting themselves to do crime because of "Guna", I admit. But it is also true that god, heaven, hell and rebirth, being falsehoods, could be easily exploited by the clever people while the meek laity lay downtrodden. The same is the defect of all spiritual values. Their intangibility is their weakness. They hold out big promise -- but prove false in fulfillment. How long can people live in the hope of heaven after life, while the present is miserable especially in comparison with pomp and comfort of dishonest fellows? The present is real. So honest believers also are tempted to go dishonest and to reap immediate gains. Thus, instead of promoting morality, religious faith encouraged dishonesty and inequality. If only fear of "Guna" be enough to make mankind moral, then there would be no need for democratic rules, regulations, police forces, laws and courts in present life.
Real morality is possible when the sanctions for morality are also tangible and real. Therefore, atheism shifts the basis of morality from faith in god to obligations of social living. Moral conduct is not a passport to heaven; it is social necessity. As we are all humans, belonging to the same species, we should live equal. Any attempt to transgress the obligation should be checked and punished here and now by fellow-humans. The immorality of one injures the happiness of others involved in a social association. Therefore the checks on immorality are also social needs. There is no postponement of the punishment to the imaginary fires of hell or to fanciful faith in divine retribution.
Whether people can be so conscious of social obligations as to check immorality here and now, is a doubt that rises in the minds of people who are accustomed to religious faith. Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man's gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive the needs of morality. Atheism alone is the surest way to morality. Those who oppose atheism in any form betray their vested interests in inequality of some kind of other (from Gora).
So, It is completely wrong for Mr. Rahman to judge and conclude that all Atheists are immoral. Yes, If you define morality as obedience to God, then of course atheists are less moral as they don't obey any God. But usually when one talks of morality, one talks of what is acceptable ("right") and unacceptable ("wrong") behavior within society. If Mr. Rahman would remain his eyes open he would have seen that many atheists behave in a "moral" or "compassionate" way simply because they feel a natural tendency to empathize with other humans. Many atheists are respected father or loving mother, sister, daughter or son in their personal life and contributing a lot in their professional, social and cultural life like others. So it seems that at best, religion does not have a monopoly on moral behavior.
Yes, Naturally, there are some people who behave "immorally" and try to use atheism to justify their actions. Polpot, Stalin may be some of the examples. Yes, Polpot may be an atheist and may be he is also a monster. But I am also an atheist, and I am NOT a monster. So what is the conclusion ? If you mean "Does atheism have a characteristic moral code?", then the answer is obviously no. Atheism by itself does not imply anything much about how a person will behave. Most atheists follow many of the same "moral rules" as defined by HUMANISTS. Their view morality as something created by humans, according to the way humans feel the world 'ought' to work, rather than seeing it as a set of rules decreed by a supernatural being or dogmatically following so called "holy" books.
However what Mr. Rahman totally ignored that like Polpot/Stalin there are equally many (actually a lot more than atheists ) people who behave "immorally" and then try to use religious beliefs to justify their actions. For example,
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners... But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me... Jesus Christ might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever."
The above quote is from a statement made to the court on February 17th 1992 by Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious cannibal serial killer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It seems that for every atheist mass-murderer, there is a religious mass-murderer. But what of more trivial morality?
Look at the interesting comment of our famous Razakar Professor of Dhaka University (Abdul Jabbar) who prays to god five times a day made an in 1971----“The Razakars who are committing rape on Hindu women…are doing entirely legal…because, Islam legalized to get wives of enemy for the soldiers during wartime by mutaa marriage”. (source : Ekatturer Ghatok dalalera k kothay) How can a believer define those trivial remarks?
A survey conducted on hundred Indian prisoners in 988 by the "Bharatiya Biggan o Yuktibaadi Shamiti" (leaded by Prabir Ghosh) and was found that 100 percent all the prisoners are the believers of god [ Ref. Olukik Noy Loukik - Part 3, page 39] . If they would make the similar survey in Bangladesh, I am sure…they would get the same result. Again, According to the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95), while 72% affirmed affiliation with religious institutions (determined through answers to the question on "Religious Background" on the Penal entrance form) only 54% of Federal and State Prisoners actually consider themselves religious, and 33% can be confirmed to be practicing their religion. In "The New Criminology," Max D. Schlapp and Edward E. Smith say that two generations of statisticians found that the ratio of convicts without religious training is about 1/10th of 1%. W.T. Root, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, examined 1,916 prisoners and said, "Indifference to religion, due to thought, strengthens character," adding that Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers were absent from penitentiaries, or nearly so. During 10 years in Sing-Sing, of those executed for murder 65% were Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious. Where does the religious morality stand then? It could be that the above statistics merely indicate that religion has no effect on moral behavior, or insufficient effect to result in an overall fall in immoral behavior. The same study also demonstrated that the believers are generally, less educated than the atheists. Therefore the same researchers believe that the reason the atheists are less likely to commit crime is because they are more enlightened than those who believe in a god.
Bertrand Russell sums it up nicely:
"If the only basis of morality is God's decrees, it follows that they might as well have been the opposite of what they are; no reason except caprice could have prevented the omission of all the "nots" from the Decalogue." -- Human Society in Ethics and Politics (1962) p. 38
Atheists are most probably more enlightened than the believers. Many atheists actually became atheists because they were depressed by the words of god that revealed in those holy books. I would like to refer the famous testimony of Shabnam Nadiya (Why I Remain an Atheist) which was published in NFB as a feature article :
"That book told me that no matter how much I read, how much I knew, no matter what love and compassion for people I held in my breast, no matter my intelligence, my talents, my love of laughter, I would never ever be as good as even the lowliest of men. Because I was a woman. I was a field for a man to sow his seed, I was part of the spoils of war for a warrior, I was impure at times because I had the power to breed children, my word was not to be trusted against that of a man, I was the gateway to hell because men would desire me."
Please notice how she defined her life as an atheist :
"Instead I decided that I was human, the highest in the order of life, I was infinite possibility, I was the limitless sky, I was the sun’s laughter. I would be captain of my own ship. I would do good and not evil, not because I would be allowed a good time when I died, but because good was worth doing because it was good."
Yes, this should be the purpose of our life. We are humanists, not the soldier of god. We do good - because they are simply good - as simple as that. We do not consider a wrong and inhumane task as "good" just because they are revealed in some holy books. We judge and analyze everything from social perspective and from rational point of view and then we decide what to do. Albert Einstein also uttered in a same tune - "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. [Albert Einstein, Religion and Science, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930]
I'd like to conclude my article with an excerpt from the interesting George Carlin monologue (got from stupid Mike's Web page) for the readers:
The bloodiest wars were fought over religion, all because they gave the wrong answer to the god question.
"Do you believe in God?"
"Do you believe in God?"
"Do you believe in my God?"
"My God has a bigger di#k than your God"
Thanks to everyone. I feel sorry if the above satire sounds a bit vulgar, however, the main point of this issue lies in the fact that religious belief/ theism does not have a monopoly claim to morality -- but so to speak, all systems of morality should be human based, and nothing else.
The article is kept in Mukto-mona article page ( http://humanists.net/avijit/article ).
Courtesy : Positive Atheism of Gora: I was highly influenced by the articles of Gora who devoted all his life for the Propagation of atheism. Gora also founded Atheist Center and worked to end unsociability in India. He addressed hundreds of meetings in his extensive tours in India and abroad and answered many questions related to atheism, morality etc. This paved the way for clearing many doubts and confusion. I excerpted a significant portion from Gora's "ATHEISM -Questions and Answers" to form above article.
DOES RELIGION DEFINE MORALITY?
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It is the common claim of religious believers that sense of right and wrong can only come from religion/God/spirituality and that anyone secular is devoid of any moral virtue. So by their criterion it follows that scientists/philosophers who hold secular beliefs or are atheists have no virtue at all and virtues are monopoly of religious believers only. It must be emphasized that Theists declare it as a rule that "Morality cannot be enforced/defined without religion" whereas Humanists/ rationalists never declare it as rule that "morality can ONLY be defined/enforced WITHOUT religion. They only affirm that morality is POSSIBLE independent of religion, and that immorality is also possible WITH religion. So even if there exists immorality among some atheists or some secular society that does not change the fact that morality in some other non-religious society/individual can also and do exist, and similarly even if there exists morality in some religious society/ individual that does not change the fact that immorality in another religious individual/society can and do exist despite religion. Let me summarize my points as follows:
1. One exception breaks a rule.
2. Theists declare it as a rule that "Morality cannot be enforced/defined
without God of the religion"
3. There are moral societies (e.g societies based on Buddhism) and
individuals not based on God of the religion. Thus rule 2 is broken.
First let me state an incontrovertible fact - that there are theists who commit immoral acts and there are conscientious non theists who behave morally. This fact already shows a basic weakness of the view that religion has monopoly on morality. Theists might say that "if a person was a TRUE follower of religious belief, then he/ she would not have committed any immoral act and the fact that a "theist" committed an immoral act only proves that his/her conviction in religion is not strong or sincere." Whether or not they were true believers in religion the fact still remains that they were not "non-theists". And since there are "non-theists" who also behave morally so the immediate conclusion is that religious belief is not a necessary prerequisite for being moral. There are those who say "Only strict adherence to religious injunctions/scriptures can guarantee a peaceful society, free from crime, oppression, injustice etc. And any violent and extreme acts of radical followers of the religion is discounted by saying that they are not true followers of religion and true followers of religion would never have engaged in such acts. The flaw in these assertions is that it can be simply argued that strict adherence to the law of the land is adequate to ensure peace. And if everyone followed the rule of law then that would suffice to make a society free from crime and injustice. The fact that a strict theocratic state has less crime is not because people are so conscientious through deep belief in the true spirit of religion that they refrain from wrong doings but because severe punishments by the theocratic state machinery are enforced and serve as powerful deterrents. In other words it is not primarily a fear of God that
helps to prevent crime in a theocratic state, but a fear of human. Had there been any slack in the enforcement of law or if left to the people's religious conscience then those societies would be full of crimes and all sorts of immoral acts. The theocratic system of laws did not succeed in eliminating the evil instincts in the heart of the followers, only succeeded in putting a lid on it with the potential for that lid to rupture any time as is sometimes reported in those societies. On the other hand those secular non- theocratic states who have managed to enforce the civil laws effectively also are free from crimes, example is Singapore, communist China ( Before the openness). In fact it is ironically true that, autocracy in any form helps to enforce law in any society. Since theocracy is a form of autocracy it tends to give one an illusion that it is religion that is ensuring the peace in the society, where in fact it is the draconian
enforcement by humans of a (theocratic) authoritarian rule which which is responsible.
If one thinks carefully It will be evident that religious injunctions actually REAFFIRM what humans already intuitively know to be wrong or right through the faculty of conscience. CONSCIENCE is as much a part of inherent human instinct like any other . Like all human instincts it is rooted in the evolutionary biology of human over millions of years. Natural selection (acting on the profound laws of Physics over a long span of time) gives rise to those human instincts that help in its survival and propagation as a species. In more modern biological language, conscience is the inhibiting effect of our cerebral cortex on the primitive impulses coming from our reptilian part of the brain ( limbic system). It has been observed quite extensively by psychologists and neurologists that a serious damage to the cerebral cortex impairs the judgment faculty of humans and a conscientious person can become less conscientious while still functioning normally otherwise. These primitive instincts are also biologically rooted and are traced to the biological imperatives of aggression, dominance, mating and propagation needed for evolutionary survival. For lower animals only these baser instincts are necessary for their survival and they didn't evolve conscience (no highly developed cerebral cortex). Only humans evolved this faculty as evolution "chose" (randomly of course) humans to the most evolved species. Human species has the highest Encephalization Quotient (E.Q = 7) which is a measure of how large the brain is compared to the size that is required for a basic survivial. Humans are not limited to the basic survivial impulses of lower animals, but have memory, experience and knowledge all aquired through the extra amount of brain (mostly cerebral cortex) that helps him to judge his surroundings and make informed decisions, sometimes in contradiction to the basic urges.
So the assertion that morality is not rooted genetically is also not in accord with the contemporary view of biology. Our instinct of conscience developed long before the the relatively recent arrival (in evolutionary terms) of revealed religions, so stating that conscience (or sense of right and wrong) is a result of God's revelation is an anachronism. The revealed religions of Islam and Christianity came long after the Greeks already were familiar with and discussing the concepts of morality. All aspects of morality that religion preaches had been taught by Confucius, Buddha, and other ancient sages in different civilizations independent of divine
preaching of morality. Besides it contradicts simple common sense that if indeed God was the only source of morality then the complexity of human brain and its evolution and its well known role in judgment faculty would be totally redundant and unnecessary. After all God could just instill that faculty without this unnecessary structural complications in our brain which is known to affect our judgement faculty and hence sense of morality.
We can see there is an inherent fallacy in basing right and wrong on a divine entity. For example the usual explanation of religion declaring some action "X" as wrong (X= rape/stealing/murder etc) is that God, as the source of all righteousness cannot allow such an evil act "X" to be committed. Why is "X" evil? Here a satisfactory answer is not possible. Any attempt to explain why "X" is evil will defeat the premise that an evil is what God decrees as evil. So according to the religious believers, ultimately an evil is what God "decides" to be evil (criterion for such decision is supposedly unknown to human). There is no human criterion that can explain why something is evil. In other words to be consistent they have to admit they cannot explain in human terms why rape/murder/theft etc are evil other than saying that it is only evil because it is declared so by God. By the same token if these acts were allowed and declared moral then to be consistent a blind follower of revelations could not have challenged that and accepted them blindly to be moral as declared by God, he/ she would not need any justification/explanation in human terms as to why these acts are allowed or declared moral. But in reality if an apologist of religion is asked as to why these "evils" are not allowed, invariably the answer will be "God can never allow such acts since they are evil". So unwittingly they engage in circular reasoning and betray their own instinctive human perception of right and wrong in defending why these acts are not allowed by God. if things are neither right nor wrong independently of God's revelations, then God cannot choose one thing over another because it is right. An apologist might argue, for example, that God would never condone such killing, raping, stealing, and torturing, for God is all good. But if goodness is a defining attribute of God, then God cannot be used to define goodness, for, in that case, the definition
would be circular - the concept being defined would be doing the defining - and such a definition would be useless. Hence at the root of all these conceptual contradictions is the deeply rooted human instinctive notion of right and wrong (conscience) independent of God's revelation which a theist invariably appeals to when arguing about morality and its divineness as we saw above. So this instinctive notion of morality must be more fundamental and precede any belief in revelations and thus debunks the claim of theists that concept of morality can only be rooted in religion.
Religion seems to provide a deterrent by the threat of punishment in hell and reward of heaven to naive minds. But the same can be and is achieved in any civilized society by the civil laws. The reason a person with no strong conscience does not commit a rape in public is NOT because it is forbidden in religion BUT because he will be arrested immediately and thrown to jail or sent to death row. In old days, in some societies, laws and penal codes were not established or effectively enforced and integrated as part of Government/State machinery as it is now. So in those societies religious injunctions were the only deterrent against such uninhibited acts of "wrong" . In societies where there were other human methods of checks and balances this concept of divine arbiter to settle morality was not relevant or necessary. For example a large population of the world are Buddhist society. Buddhism is based on Godless morality. Even before Buddhism the morality of ancient Chinese was based (and to a great extent is still based) on the teachings of Confucius which in turn is based on human values, not divine. Even the ancient Incas and Mayas had evolved a highly organized society without the help of a revealed religion. Good people do good because they want to do good - not because they will personally benefit from it or because someone has forced them to do it. People who do good solely for personal gain or to avoid personal harm are not the ideal good people. Someone who saves a drowning child, for example,
only because he was offered a reward or was physically threatened does not deserve much praise. Thus, if one's only reason for performing good actions is his/her desire to go to heaven or his/her fear of going to hell - if all his/her actions are motivated purely by self interest - then ideally it should not qualify him/her for heaven because he/she acted out of pure self-interest and hence not a good person worth the reward, since heaven is for truly good people, who would be selfless. Thus the the religious concept of heaven/hell and morality leads to a contradiction. Besides, the threat of divine punishment cannot impose a moral obligation, for might does not make right. Threats extort; they do not create a moral duty. Thus, if our only
reason for obeying God is the fear of punishment if we do not, then, from a moral point of view, God has no more claim to our allegiance than Hitler or Stalin. Morality then literally becomes an unquestioning compliance of divine commands.
As mentioned earlier religious believers assert that a secular/Godless person has no sense of virtue or right or wrong. Hence according to their views, followers of philosophies (Buddhism, Confucius, Shamanism, Shintoism, Bahai etc, none of which believes in God or divinity of any kind) do not have or are capable of forming the judgment of right or wrong. But in reality these people do indeed show sense of right and wrong. and are just as capable of private moral behavior as theists. Thus belief in a certain God does not seem to be a prerequisite. It is true that some universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. But it is incorrect to assume that God/ religion is the ONLY or BEST possible source of such standards. Early and medieval Philosophers such as Plato, Kant, John Stuart Mill, George Edward Moore, and John Rawls did make convincing arguments that it is possible to have a universal morality without God and we see this is true in practice in any societies not based on revealed religions. Morality/virtue etc is an evolving personal and group code of conduct that seem to reflect the most efficient way of maintaining personal and group stability and peace in a community of people with clash of interests and values. It is a product of the natural selection, through trial and error. After all, human species itself is a product of evolution via natural selection, so morality also has to be part of that natural selection. It is part of simply being human, whether or not one believes in a higher personal God of the religion or spirituality.
We should realize that the notion of right and wrong exist because humans are being with needs, and that human beings have proven themselves capable of devising and then abiding by their own rules independent of religious decrees ( As the examples I have cited earlier show), within which an individual or society can pursue their varied interests with differing values yet maintain general peace and stability, then there is no longer any need to posit any perceived higher moral authority. The Universal Declarations of Human Rights is one such example of the reflection of the common shared moral values of humanity. Only when someone posits a law higher than what is already agreed to by humanity solely on the basis of common sense perception of what is good and effective for humanity, need any questions be raised --for it is only THEN that an explanation or justification of such a moral base is necessary. The burden of proof belongs on the one who steps outside the ordinary and common sense way in which morals are derived, not on the one who continues to keep his or her morals and values in conformity with that democratically established.
This article is taken from : http://www.geocities.com/aparthib/religion.html#article4
My Perspective on Atheism versus Theism
Syed Kamran Mirza
New York City, USA
Recently in NFB, Mr. K. Rahman has made several despotic comments that are utterly ridiculous, unfounded, illogical and deserve strong rebuttals. Avijit, Aparthib Zaman and Shabbir Ahmed did splendid job of rebutting those hilarious logic of Mr. Rahman. Because of the ridiculous writing style of Mr. Rahman (not putting quotations inside inverted coma), readers had difficulty in understanding, as to, who was talking what in his article. However, it is a well-known fact that there is an erroneous common perspective in general that religion makes human beings perfect, kind hearted and impeccable person.
This is only a century-old hypothesis, which has no practical impact at all. Sometimes ago, Mr. Aparthib Zaman wrote an excellent article in this forum with strong inconvertible logic and philosophical arguments to prove that religion has no strong basis to make a human being moral. But, Mr. Rahman is telling us completely a different story. According to him, all religious persons are good humans and conversely, non-religious persons are bad humans. In this essay, I shall use some historical facts to prove that Mr. Rahman’s theory has flaws and incongruity.
As Mr. Rahman says:
"I was not talking about any tom, dick or harry. I was talking about two institutions, i.e., atheism and theism [strictly speaking: ISLAM]. Islam in its institutional form of authority in ISLAMIC EMPIRE simply did not commit any genocide or demonstrate murderous behavior. Atheism appeared in institutional form in COMMUNISM and was a deadly blood thirsty institution".
Let us examine how Mr. Rahman is right in his assertion. According to his theory of institution—all communist countries are grouped into one institution-COMMUNISM. On the other hand, all religious countries are grouped into one institution-THEISM. Let me take first:
THE INSTITUTION OF COMMUNISM (ATHEISTS):
The following were the communist countries: USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cambodia, Cuba etc. were ruled (some are still ruling) by the constitution/doctrine of the Communism. As per I know the constitution or doctrines of the Communism is the best possible pro-people constitution in the whole world. Even the most pro-people constitution of USA is of no comparison with the constitution of Communism. Truly speaking, in theory, constitutional decrees of Communism are much more pro-peoples than the constitutional decrees of Capitalist America, although practically it has been proven quite opposite.Nevertheless, the book of the Communist Constitution never ever contains any order to: kill, hate, oppress, subjugate and punish any believers, non-believers or other race and creeds.
According to Mr. Rahman communism means an institution of atheists and this institution therefore should commit killings and every countries under communism must have killing fields throughout the country, because they are atheists. Now world knows—only some particular leader (not every leaders) in USSR, China and Cambodia had committed some political killings, again those killings did happen only under certain particular dictators like Stalin, Palpot, Mao Tse-tung, etc. Even in Russia—other rulers like Nikita Khrushchev, Gorbachev and others did not commit mass killings. Therefore, we did not see any general trend of killings in every Communist country.
A vast majority of Communist countries (mentioned above) never had any such political mass killings. Cuban President Fiddle Castro is ruling Cuba for forty some years by strict Communist constitution. Was there any evidence that Fiddle Castro did mass killings in Cuba? Certainly not! So where does stand the very ludicrous theory of Mr. Rahman that, Communism must commit mass killings? Besides, mass killings in communist countries were never documented like the killing fields of two World Wars; hence most of them were simply propagandas by Capitalist world during the Cold War period. Now let us draw our attention to the history of those countries ruled by theists.
THE INSTITUTION OF THEISM (BELIEVRS):
Let us take some prominent Strict Islamic Countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sudan whose constitution is Islamic Shariaat (Quran and Hadiths). In the constitution (Quran and Hadiths) of these Islamic countries—there are plenty of scriptural (constitutional) orders to: kill , oppress, subjugate, punish all non-believers, other believers. Also there are plenty of orders to suppress/oppress/subjugate women and minorities (Dhimmis). So what have we seen in these three countries of strong believers? Let us check one at a time:
In Iran: After the Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ruhulollah Khomeni immediately killed (by execution) half a million so-called anti-revolutionist Iranians. He killed another million young boys during the eight years of war with Iraq. After that this Islamic regime of strong believers continued endless killings and tortures to tens of thousands of innocent Iranians in the name of saving Islam and Allah.
In Saudi Arabia: A total despotic tyrannical dictatorship with sporadic killings by beheading, maiming, tortures of its citizen is routine. Oppression and subjugation of women and minority (of course no minority exists) are rampant.
In Afghanistan: Needless to mention that this true Islamic country is the reminiscent of modern day Caliphate of 7th century Arab. Killings, tortures, subjugating, suppressing people’s rights, suppressing women’s and minority’s rights are routine. In short one can say that—no civilized people can live in Afghanistan today. This country is the most black spot of the Islamic world today!
In Sudan: Since the inception of Islamic Govt. in Sudan, sectarian fights between Muslims and Christians are rampant, which had taken the life of tens of thousands of innocent human beings.
SO WHAT ARE WE OBSERVING IN THESE THEISTS RULED COUNTRIES MR. RAHMAN?
Let us take some prominent countries ruled by the rulers who is a believer or theist:
Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Uganda, etc., are some countries ruled by believers (and not by an atheist).
Germany: In the Second World War, Adolph Hitler killed an estimated 20-30 million peoples. Hitler was a Christian and strong believer (not an atheist) yet Hitler was a demon diabolic killer. When he became the glorious leader of Germany, Adolph Hitler thought that God’s invisible hands were behind his success. He incited his young followers to kill all Jews and Communists to please Christian God. (Personal diary of Adolph Hitler by: Adolph Hitler—Translated by Rukhsini Proshad Battacherji ).
Indonesia: A Muslim Country having rulers who believed in God’s existence unlike an atheist who does not believe in existence of any personal God. What have we seen there? Does any body remember Indonesian Military coup in 1965?
In October 1965, more than one million Communist workers and peasants were brutally slaughtered in the name of saving democracy and Islam by a organized army coup led by General Suharto, which swept aside Indonesia and simply wiped out Communist Party (PKI) within a few days of massive killings. In this cruel ordeal—Indonesian Mullahs gave full hand supports to General Suharto. These were all THEIST PEOPLE INDEED WHO DID THE KILLINGS IN Indonesia. Where stands the theory of Mr. Rahman?
Pakistan: In 1971, during the glorious Independence struggle of Bangalees, Pakistani soldiers who were theist/believers killed three million innocent peoples (Adam Santaan), raped 250,000 women and destroyed Billions of dollars worth property. All most 98% percent of all Mullahs, Maulanas, Madrassah students of Bangladesh helped Pak army in this brutal killing, and raping of Bangalees. Tikka, Niazi, Yahya they all were Muslims and believers indeed. So, where lies your theory Mr. Rahman?
Iraq: President Saddam Hussein who is known as a diabolic killer is a true believer. To many a Muslims, he is a Islamic hero who fought, or fighting infidels for the cause of Islam. This demon, diabolic Muslim killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi peoples. He used weapons of mass destruction (Chemical weapons) to kill several Kurd villages where he annihilated thousands of human beings. He even killed his own son-in-laws, nephews and other nearest relatives, and still continued assassinating peoples who opposes him. Where lies your theory, Mr. Rahman?
Uganda: Dada Idi Amin of Uganda was a true Muslim/believer who slaughtered tens of thousands of peoples. It was told that, he was a diabolic terrorizing ruler who was also a cannibal who loved to eat human liver and flesh. So, where lies your theory, may I ask you Mr. Rahman?
Now let us deal with the Institution of the Prophets:
Prophet Moses: was a blamed for killing human beings who fought wars and killed peoples at war and also killed people who surrendered to him.
Jesus: Jesus was an extremely kind-hearted forgiving Prophet. This prophet asked to forgive all sinners, love all sinners, never kill any body, never take any revenge, and love your archenemy. Even love and forgive thieves and prostitutes. He used to advise his disciples to conquer enemy’s hearts by love and forgiveness.
Muhammad: This Prophet of Islam, though in his early life was a peaceful, honest guy, begun his venture of establishing his new religion Islam by force. From the very early period he started a collision course with the pagan Arabs and used his sword to overcome all resistances from his rivals. In many wars, and in many secret conspiracies he killed tens of thousands of peoples who opposed Islam. He hired killers to annihilate his rivals by luring peoples with the dazzling heavenly pleasures and happiness. He even killed surrendered unarmed war prisoners in the Khyber war.
Buddha: was a Prophet who never killed any life (Humans, Animals, Insects etc.). He asked his followers to love, forgive and never kill even a Mosquito.
So what should be our honest and sincere conclusion by the above survey of world’s history? Here in the Prophetic institution also we have seen no consistency at all. We neither can claim that anybody who is a Prophet should be a killer/demon, nor can we say that anybody who is a Prophet should be a merciful, kind hearted benevolent human being!
When Aparthib Zaman and others pointed their fingers towards Yahya and Tikka khan’s cruelties then Mr. Rahman said, "Yahya or Tikka khan did not represent any Islamic institution. They represented a traditional power institution". Well Mr. Rahman, could you tell us why Stalin, Polpot and Mao Tse-tung could not be considered just as the likes of Tikka khan, Yahya who also represented a traditional power institution?
In his flip-flop sidetracking of real answer to those questions asked by Shabbir Ahmed, Aparthib Zaman and others, Mr. Rahman tried to get excused by saying: "well, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan is not the real Islam!" Now the question is what is real Islam? And where lies the real Islam? Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are being ruling by pure Islamic Shariaat (Quran and Sunnah). My fervent request to Mr. Rahman or any other Islamists -- please, could you give us just FIVE good reasons/criteria, as to why, we should not call Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia a true Islamic Country? Your FIVE reasons must have supports from Quran and hadiths.
Truth of the matter is — to be a tyrant killer, one does not have to be either an atheist, nor theism is the prerequisite qualification for a killer. More or less, people of both camps (atheism and theism) could turn into a despotic tyrant killer anywhere and everywhere in this world. Modern science has proved with well-founded theory that, killer instinct of a human being lies in his genetic make-up. And this genetic predisposing factor may get even stronger/worst by political strength and dictatorship. Nevertheless, a careful survey of world history will tell exactly the opposite of what Mr. Rahman asserted in his first essay that atheism insist killing spree in human minds.
To the contrary, the world history will tell us that it was the THEISM incited killing spree among the people for thousands of years. THEISM vehemently divided the human race for thousands of years causing tremendous harms to humans. Religions or belief systems of various types are the most prominent cause of blood shed in the mankind’s history. No other single factor killed so many peoples than the total number of peoples killed by the religion, for the religion and of the religion in the whole mankind’s history. Even today, religions are the main factor of sectarian killings in Pakistan, Sudan, Philippine, Indonesia and many other countries of the world.
Even the social oppressions and economic corruption runs high in those countries ruled by theist person (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, India, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, etc.), but social oppressions/corruption are much less in those countries ruled by atheists rulers (Singapore, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand etc.). I have a bitter personal true observation that tells me that the THEIST people are more inclined to commit crime than ATHEIST people, which I will bring in this forum sometimes next. Let me conclude this essay with a famous quote:
"Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."-- by Nobel Laureate physicist Steven Weinberg:
Published in NFB ( http://www.bangladesh-web.com/news/jul/27/v4n639.htm )
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