By: Raden Roro, a convert to Islam Ahmadiyya
Here are common allegations, memes, and popular quotes spewed by many atheists against all religions and all religious peoples.
“Religions survive because they brainwash the young. Take away that brainwashing, and religions will die out”
“We are all born atheists until someone starts telling us lies”
“If you could reason with religious people there wouldn’t be any”
Whoa, talk about some very angry people! I can’t say that all atheists agree with these sentiments, and certainly don’t want to tar them all with the same brush. But there is a vocal contingent of atheists, inside and outside the public eye, who express similar sentiments regularly. The question we have to ask is—are these quotes a fair assessment of all religions? Imagine a statistician conducting an experiment with one sample and generalizing the findings to the entire human race. Imagine a scientist making claims without actually doing proper research… or any research at all.
Considering a pew forum survey estimated that 40% of atheists are between the age of 18-29, it is statistically unlikely that most atheists have had the opportunity to explore and understand a variety of world religions.
Since proponents of atheism emphasise a reliance on facts, reason, and the scientific method I argue that it is important to put some effort into substantiating the claim that “religious people are brainwashed”. For those interested in rigorous research methodology, in the realm of social sciences, scholars agree that it is crucial that researchers acknowledge their biases, worldviews, privilege(s)/ lack thereof, and upbringing. This is because one needs to differentiate between matters of fact versus matters of values.
So let’s take an example: If I make a sweeping claim , a value laden statement such as “university education is useless”, I should specify as a matter of fact:
- Which university?
- Which department in the university?
- Whether perhaps my negative experience was based on a particular course?…
- Or I was one of those students who never show up, don’t do the readings, submit a paper last minute and yet still expect great results?
Sorry doughnut lovers, but if you simply purchased a gym membership but don’t even go to the gym, that does not make the gym itself useless.
As for the first four, if you are an ex-Christian atheist, and you become an atheist because you felt you were being indoctrinated or forced to accept dogma, you should qualify which Christian sect, perhaps identify the church, where you are from, and so on and so forth. As an ex-Christian atheist, your idea of “religion” is based on your particular experience and you may have zero to very little knowledge of the beliefs of Christians of other sects, or the different sects of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Indigenous Spirituality etc. Thus, your bad religious experience and trauma cannot and should not be generalized to other non-Christian religions or even other Christian sects. Remember, the existence of “Fake News” (and lots of it!) does not mean that the fact (Truth) is not out there.
Oh, and by the way, since atheists claim to love facts and figures so much, they may be interested to know the majority of Nobel Laureates (89.5% to be precise) have been believers in God, while only 10.5% have been atheists. Want to tell the Nobel Laureates that they can’t reason or that they are brainwashed?
Why Islam Ahmadiyya is Different
When such atheists claim “all religions rely on childhood indoctrination to stay relevant” they would be hard pressed to explain the phenomenon of atheists who later on convert into a particular religion as adults. Were they brainwashed too? And if you’re somehow tempted to say yes then let us explain our particular religion—Islam, of the Ahmadiyya school of thought.
As Ahmadi Muslims, we are rational religionists. Our faith teaches us to employ our reason, that is—to learn, explore, experiment, and be inquisitive. Claiming to be rational when one makes inaccurate, unsubstantiated, and irrational statements like “If you could reason with religious people there wouldn’t be any” just makes you sound like a “Dogmatic Rationalist” (i.e. a person who claims they are rational but are in fact dogmatic and irrational). So here are some indications of why Islam Ahmadiyya is different to the religion you grew up with:
1) Ahmadi Muslims believe that spiritual law and natural law are consistent
When Dr. Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi Muslim physicist and the first Muslim to receive the 1979 Nobel prize in science accepted his honour for the electroweak unification theory, his Nobel speech outlined the perfect harmony between Islam and science:
“…the creation of physics is the shared heritage of all mankind. East and west, north and south have equally participated in it. In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says, ‘Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection; return thy gaze; seest thou any fissure? Then return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.’ This in effect is the faith of all physicists, the deeper we seek; the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze.”
It is important to note that Dr. Salam’s view is supported by the Holy Quran as 750 verses in the Quran speak of science and technology.
Speaking of the Holy Quran and Science, in a poll commissioned by polling firm Maskína on behalf of Siðmennt, an association of Icelandic atheists, it was found that the 0.0% of people younger than 25 believe God created the world. In fact, the poll found that of those younger than 25 years old, 93.9% said the world had been created in the Big Bang. But you see, there is something funny for me as a Muslim about the poll attributing the Big Bang to an “atheistic” view of the world. You see, I’m trying hard not laugh because 1400 years ago (i.e. in the 7th century), the Holy Quran clearly outlined the creation of the world via the Big Bang process with precision. A poll would show that 100% of Ahmadi Muslims (even more than Icelandic atheists!) believe that the universe was created via the Big Bang:
Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? [21:31]
Consistent with modern science, the Quran also explains that our universe is expanding
And the heaven We built with Our own powers and indeed We go on expanding it [51:48]
And that our universe is supported and filled with the unseen and elusive dark energy and dark matter:
He has created the heavens without any pillars that you can see…. [31:11]
And that the universe will end into a black hole, only to be reborn again:
Remember the day when We shall roll up the heavens like the rolling up of written scrolls, As We began the first creation, so shall We repeat it; a promise binding on Us; that We shall certainly fulfil [21:105]
We have more interesting verses and analysis on singularity, entropy, evolution and even a prophecy on the end of our current universe and its rebirth via a black hole. So click here if you are interested in reading more.
2) Ahmadi Muslims Prove that Islam Teaches Complete Freedom of Conscience
There is a common view promoted by atheists that in Islam, those who choose to leave the religion should receive the death penalty. Indeed, they see such a teaching being practiced under Muslim dictatorships, and falsely assume that this must be what Islam teaches. That would, however, be like ascribing everything we saw in the Crusades to Jesus Christ.
You see, Ahmadi Muslims spend a lot of their time educating those who spew those erroneous ideas, (be they Muslim or non-Muslim), by using the Quran. To make it easy for you (and we would appreciate your help to educate others), here are only a few samples from the numerous verses proving that Islam fosters the atmosphere of freedom of conscience:
There should be no compulsion in religion… [2:257]
And if thy Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers? [10: 100]
And if Allah had enforced His will, they would not have set up gods with Him. And We have not made thee a keeper over them nor art thou over them a guardian. [6: 109]
In these verses, God establishes clearly that not even the prophets were made as enforcers over others in matters of faith, let alone anyone else. If God wanted to, He could have made everybody not deify anyone or anything besides Him. Therefore, it’s futile for people to play God by acting as a “keeper” over people’s faith. However, the most important rebuttal to those who promote the idea that Islam teaches death to apostates is the following verse:
Those who believe, then disbelieve, then again believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor will He guide them to the way [4:138]
In essence, the punishment for apostatising more than once is that God will not guide them to the right way. No mention of killing here, even after the second apostasy. The verse could have easily said “Those who believe and then disbelieve // should be killed” but it did not!
Therefore, a religion that opens the door wide for people of all faiths and backgrounds to come together and learn, while promoting freedom of conscience, is not interested in brainwashing people. On the other hand, we are interested in dialogue. Yes, there are some interpretations of religion that forbid their followers to learn about other religions/ reading other scriptures etc.
This isn’t one of them.
3) Ahmadi Muslims believe that different religions are talking about the same God.
There’s another common criticism of religion in general, that if God really existed, then why would He allow so many different religions to exist? In fact, many atheists say that disbelieving in Allah is like Muslims not believing in Zeus or Thor. We all disbelieve in some gods, they say, atheists just disbelieve in all of them. Sounds like a smart argument right?
Not so fast. We hate to break it to you, but this complaint just won’t fly with us. Why? Because in order to be a Muslim, I have to believe in the truth of Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, even Socrates, and countless other religious reformers.
You see, we observe that all the founders and reformers of various major religions taught very similar concepts, like that of a universal Creator-God, revelation, and moral goodness. We don’t think this is a coincidence—we think it was because they were all directly inspired by the same God, whom they called by different names! God gave them messages that were relevant for their specific peoples, for a set period of time. Unfortunately, as time went on, their messages were changed, like a game of Chinese whispers that lasts a really long time—like millenia. That’s why we see the big differences that we know today. That’s also why we believe Islam came—to bring all people together for all time into one big spiritual family!
4) Ahmadi Muslims say NO to flying horses, sky daddies, unicorns, possessive jinns, Santa Claus and all that fairy-tale mumbo jumbo!
I still remember the day that an atheist told me to go back to my “sky daddy” or when another atheist insisted over and over again that Islam teaches me to believe that our Prophet (pbuh) flew on a literal flying horse, (seriously?!). Well you’ll be glad to know that our concept of God is far removed from the idea of a bearded man in a robe throwing thunder and lightning from the sky. Oh and unless the horse is wearing prosthetic wings and is part of some Hollywood movie set, we do not believe in literal flying horses either. For more information on our view of God, rationalists must check out this amazing book entitled “Our God: Proving the Existence of God by rational means”. In terms of the significance of the dream of the flying horse this video explains everything.
5) Ahmadi Muslims prescribe a very simple methodology to discover God for yourself.
It’s a recipe that I myself followed, and leads one to personal certainty regarding the existence of God:
- Being humble is key.
- Pure intention
- If you’re doing this as a joke then you’re sabotaging the process)
- Increase charitable acts
- During your journey, donate money, help your neighbor, volunteer, be as kind as possible.
- Pray in the morning, day and especially in the evening when it is peaceful and quiet. Why not simply and sincerely ask God if He is there? This is a powerful prayer to use.
- Be patient and persevere.
- If Olympic medalists, Nobel winners or even a crawling toddler gave up the first time they failed, there would be no Olympic medalists, Nobel winners, or walking children!
When one makes persistent sincere effort through both the head and the heart to discover God, then results are guaranteed. And remember, there is a promise in the Quran for those who truly seek:
When My servants ask thee about Me, tell them, I am near; I do answer the call of the caller when he seeks Me. So they too should respond to Me… [2:187]
So our message to all of the rational, curious, inquisitive, fact-loving, scientific, open-minded atheist researchers out there is…what are you waiting for?