Modern Fallacies about God: where Theists and Atheists Agree
Many theists today objectify God by understanding him as an object that exists along side other objects in the universe. By objectifying God, theists put the Abrahamic God on the same level as the gods of mythology* who, as an immortal but limited and contingent being, exists in the same was as Zeus would exist. This lecture observes how atheists have taken advantage of this objectified and erroneous conception of God and made it a grounds for denying His existence. It concludes that the god which atheists are rejecting is also rejected by the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as).
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! This lesson will be an overview of one of the primary fallacies concerning God. The fallacy in question is the objectification of God. Objectifying God means seeing God as a limited and contingent being* akin to any other object in the universe existing within time, space and matter.
Although this conception of God was always present throughout history, even among Muslims, it was categorically rejected by the Prophet Muhammad and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). This is because it went against the real nature of God. Our intention, however, is not to put all theists in one basket, but to point out an incorrect understanding of theism.
We will then observe how modern atheists have adopted this common but erroneous understanding of God and made it the grounds for rejecting His wholesale existence. In this lesson, we argue that the God which atheists reject is also rejected by Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as).
We begin our series of lectures with this question as without a proper understanding of Tawhīd*, none of Islam makes sense. We also feel that for many Muslims, an incorrect understanding of the Islamic God is often the main source of doubts and misgivings about Islam. Our attempt in the next series of short classes is to rectify this problem which, unfortunately, is pervasive among many believing theists.
BODY OF TEXT
Say, ‘Do you order me worship other than Allah, O [you who are] ignorant of Allah?’ (Quran: Chapter 39, verse 64)
Within the last fifteen years, a great deal of literature has been published aiming to disprove the existence of God. God, this genre of literature claims, is merely a delusion akin to fairies. His existence is not verifiable or provable in anyway.
Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist writer and scientist living today, writes the following in his book The God Delusion, I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf…I just go one god further.
For atheists like Richard Dawkins, the God of monotheism, often known as Yahweh, Allah or Khoda (among other names), is just another version of a god akin to those of Greek and Hindu mythology. The Abrahamic God, they argue, is no different than the gods of polytheism except that this “god” is much more powerful, longer in duration, omniscient and most distinguishing of all, alone. Damon Linker summarizes the atheist argument in the following way:
Without exception, our clamorous and combative atheists treat God as if he were the biggest, most powerful object or thing in, or perhaps alongside, the universe. Then they use the findings of science to show that there is no evidence for such an immensely powerful object or thing. And ipso facto, there is no God.
When we talk about the “objectification” of God, we mean that God, like the smaller gods of polytheism and mythology, is conceived as an object among other objects in existence. In other words, God is a being among other beings, either within the universe or alongside it. If God is an object or being treading somewhere in or beyond the universe, then this begs the question of where this “god” is. Has anyone seen him? Where in the world is he exactly? Can he be detected? Can his existence be concluded via the scientific method?
Atheists answer that this God cannot be observed or detected in any way, meaning that like Zeus or Krishna, there is no reason to believe that he exists.
Some theists will reply that this God is like a spirit, which is why he cannot be seen or detected. Atheists, however, retort that such a claim in no way helps the case for God’s existence for all it implies is that by virtue of being undetectable, there will never be evidence for his existence.
As atheists like Dawkins conclude, a rational person only believes in the existence of things which there is evidence for, only a deluded and non-sensible person believes in things without evidence.
According to Islam’s school of Ahl al-Bayt (as), there are five usūl al-dīn, or principals of religion. The first principal is that of Tawhīd, or oneness of the Muslim or Islamic understanding of God.
The principal of Tawhīd states that there is nothing like God and that He transcends all that we can imagine, including space, time and matter. He is not contingent nor is He conditioned by anything. He is not an object among other objects, nor is he a being among other beings like the gods of Greek and Hindu mythology. The Qur’an rejects the existence of such gods:
They worship besides Allah that which can neither cause them harm or bring them any kind of benefit; and they say, ‘These are our intercessors with Allah.’ Say, ‘Will you inform Allah about something He does not know in the heavens or on the earth?’ Immaculate is He and he is exalted above having any associates which they ascribe [to Him]! (Quran: Chapter 10 verse 18).
He is not “in” or “alongside” the universe other contingent beings or objects would be. He is, instead, the source and fountain of all being and existence without whom nothing can exist, not even for a split second.
As the transcendental and unconditional grounds for all of existence, he is not subject to scientific inquiry as only contingent objects (like objects that depend on space, time and matter) can be observed in this way. Simply put, science is the study of finites and God is infinite, so we must use other methods to derive the existence of God.
The evidence for God, according to the school of Ahl al-Bayt (as), is to found in logic and in the experience of the human spiritual heart.
This will be covered in more detail in the next series of lectures.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
Unity and oneness of God.
A being who depends on something outside of it to exist, like other beings, or space, time and matter.
Gods of mythology
The gods in the stories of myths, like Zeus.
What is Tawhīd?
Tawhīd is the oneness and unity of God. It means that He is absolutely one and there is nothing imaginable like Him.
What is objectifying God?
Objectifying God or Allah means to consider Him as a being who exists like we do, that is, as a limited object among other objects that currently exist.
How does the Abrahamic God differ from the gods of polytheism?
The Abrahamic or Muslim God is the non-conditional, non-contingent source of all of existence, He is the condition of possibility for anything to exist. The gods of polytheism are contingent beings like any other except that they are immortal.
If I reject the existence of a contingent God, am I an atheist?
Not unless you believe in a God who is non-contingent.
What does it mean when you say “God is the fountain of all of existence”
It means that the totality of reality and existence depends upon Him.
Damon Linker, “Memo to atheists: God’s not dead yet” in The Week,
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. Yale: Yale University Press, 2014.
Ayatullah ʿAbdullah Jawādī Āmulī. A Commentary on Theistic Arguments.
Sayyed Mohammad Beheshti. God in the Quran.