Changing religion may have legal implications in the country you live. But, those may be considered temporary, also because life itself is temporary. Your future in the hereafter, is eternal. Religions have different answers to life after death. It's wise to consider that, also related to those you might want to share it with. And, study the religion you take in interest in. As I said before, it isn't impossible to keep your rights to goodness in the hereafter, when leaving Islam. But, there's no guarantee -- nor is there a guarantee you will be reunited with those you love. Supplication for your deceased loved ones, however, will increase their (and your) chances to paradise and a reunion with those you loved.
Second aspect you may need to ask yourself, before changing religion, is this:
Was my religious conviction, so far, untruthful?
If it's untruthful, it says a lot about my whole environment: Family, upbringing, education, and religious or other scriptures and literature I may have read. Latter aspect, study of scriptures, should be done or rehearsed, before making a change as drastic as religion. Denying an aspect of your past, ie your religious outlook so far, may be denying certain parts of yourself and those immediately around you. It's not something to think lightly of.
And, there is a third aspect. In drastic, unusual situations, in times of persecution and war violence only, it is allowed to killed those who left our faith, says Qur'an. Hadiths confirm killing of apostates. It's possible to give these texts a sincerely positive twist:
It is always, always possible to return to faith, because your membership is forever, even if you have been elsewhere.
Just like the lost son, mentioned in the Old Testament. It is always allowed to forgive and re-embrace. Unless you committed atrocities and didn't intend to stop them.
Applicable Qur'anic verses:
2:62, 3:85, 5:69, 2:256, 4:451, 9:113, 13:23, 32:17, 43:70&71, 50:61, 52:21; 60:1-10.
Hadiths of Sahih Bukhari:
Book 2, Belief; Book 88, Apostates.
Sources & Further Reading:
Islam Question & Answer
Friday, May 10, 2019
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Volume 1, Book 3, Number 131:
I was informed that the Prophet had said to Mu'adh, "Whosoever will meet Allah without associating anything in worship with Him will go to Paradise." Mu'adh asked the Prophet, "Should I not inform the people of this good news?" The Prophet replied, "No, I am afraid, lest they should depend upon it (absolutely)."
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 628:
Narrated Salim's father:
The Prophet sent Khalid bin Al-Walid to the tribe of Jadhima and Khalid invited them to Islam but they could not express themselves by saying, "Aslamna (i.e. we have embraced Islam)," but they started saying "Saba'na! Saba'na (i.e. we have come out of one religion to another)." Khalid kept on killing (some of) them and taking (some of) them as captives and gave every one of us his Captive. When there came the day then Khalid ordered that each man (i.e. Muslim soldier) should kill his captive, I said, "By Allah, I will not kill my captive, and none of my companions will kill his captive." When we reached the Prophet, we mentioned to him the whole story. On that, the Prophet raised both his hands and said twice, "O Allah! I am free from what Khalid has done."
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 630:
Narrated Abu Burda:
Allah's Apostle sent Abu Musa and Muadh bin Jabal to Yemen. He sent each of them to administer a province as Yemen consisted of two provinces. The Prophet said (to them), "Facilitate things for the people and do not make things difficult for them (Be kind and lenient (both of you) with the people, and do not be hard on them) and give the people good tidings and do not repulse them. So each of them went to carry on his job. So when any one of them toured his province and happened to come near (the border of the province of) his companion, he would visit him and greet him. Once Mu'adh toured that part of his state which was near (the border of the province of) his companion Abu Musa. Mu'adh came riding his mule till he reached Abu Musa and saw him sitting, and the people had gathered around him. Behold! There was a man tied with his hands behind his neck. Mu'adh said to Abu Musa, "O 'Abdullah bin Qais! What is this?" Abu Musa replied. "This man has reverted to Heathenism after embracing Islam." Mu'adh said, "I will not dismount till he is killed." Abu Musa replied, "He has been brought for this purpose, so come down." Mu'adh said, "I will not dismount till he is killed." So Abu Musa ordered that he be killed, and he was killed. Then Mu'adh dismounted and said, "O Abdullah (bin Qais)! How do you recite the Qur'an ?" Abu Musa said, "I recite the Qur'an regularly at intervals and piecemeal. How do you recite it O Mu'adh?" Mu'adh said, "I sleep in the first part of the night and then get up after having slept for the time devoted for my sleep and then recite as much as Allah has written for me. So I seek Allah's Reward for both my sleep as well as my prayer (at night)."
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 634:
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
Allah's Apostle said to Muadh bin Jabal when he sent him to Yemen. "You will come to the people of Scripture, and when you reach them, invite them to testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers to be performed every day and night. And if they obey you in that, then tell them that Allah has enjoined on them Sadaqa (i.e. Rakat) to be taken from the rich amongst them and given to the poor amongst them. And if they obey you in that, then be cautious! Don't take their best properties (as Zakat) and be afraid of the curse of an oppressed person as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 687:
The Prophet ordered me during Hajjatul-Wada'. "Ask the people to listen." He then said, "Do not become infidels after me by cutting the necks (throats) of one another. "
Volume 5, Book 59, Number 688:
Narrated Abu Bakra:
The Prophet said, "Time has taken its original shape which it had when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth. The year is of twelve months, four of which are sacred, and out of these (four) three are in succession, i.e. Dhul-Qa'da, Dhul-Hijja and Al-Muharram, and the fourth is Rajab which is named after the Mudar tribe, between (the month of) Jumaida (ath-thania) and Sha'ban." Then the Prophet asked, "Which is this month?" We said, "Allah and His Apostle know better." On that the Prophet kept quiet so long that we thought that he might name it with another name. Then the Prophet said, "Isn't it the month of Dhul-Hijja?" We replied, "Yes." Then he said, "Which town is this?" "We replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." On that he kept quiet so long that we thought that he might name it with another name. Then he said, "Isn't it the town of Mecca?" We replied, "Yes, " Then he said, "Which day is today?" We replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." He kept quiet so long that we thought that he might name it with another name. Then he said, "Isn't it the day of An-Nahr (i.e. sacrifice)?" We replied, "Yes." He said, "So your blood, your properties, (The sub-narrator Muhammad said, 'I think the Prophet also said: And your honor..) are sacred to one another like the sanctity of this day of yours, in this city of yours, in this month of yours; and surely, you will meet your Lord, and He will ask you about your deeds. Beware! Do not become infidels after me, cutting the throats of one another. It is incumbent on those who are present to convey this message (of mine) to those who are absent. May be that some of those to whom it will be conveyed will understand it better than those who have actually heard it." (The sub-narrator, Muhammad, on remembering that narration, used to say, "Muhammad spoke the truth!") He (i.e. Prophet) then added twice, "No doubt! Haven't I conveyed (Allah's Message) to you?"
Volume 6, Book 60, Number 430:
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:
We were in a Ghazwa and a man from the emigrants kicked an Ansari (on the buttocks with his foot). The Ansari man said, "O the Ansari! (Help!)" The emigrant said, "O the emigrants! (Help)." When Allah's Apostle heard that, he said, "What is that?" They said, "A man from the emigrants kicked a man from the Ansar (on the buttocks his foot). On that the Ansar said, 'O the Ansar!' and the emigrant said, 'O the emigrants!" The Prophet said' "Leave it (that call) for it Is a detestable thing." The number of Ansar was larger (than that of the emigrants) at the time when the Prophet came to Medina, but later the number of emigrants increased. 'Abdullah bin Ubai said, "Have they, (the emigrants) done so? By Allah, if we return to Medina, surely, the more honorable will expel therefrom the meaner," 'Umar bin Al-Khattab said, "O Allah's Apostle! Let me chop off the head of this hypocrite!" The Prophet said, "Leave him, lest the people say Muhammad kills his companions:"
Volume 8, Book 76, Number 515:
Narrated Abu Musa:
The Prophet said, "Whoever loves the meeting with Allah, Allah too, loves the meeting with him; and whoever hates the meeting with Allah, Allah too, hates the meeting with him."
Volume 9, Book 84, Number 56:
Narrated Ibn Mas'ud:
A man said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall we be punished for what we did in the Prelslamic Period of ignorance?" The Prophet said, "Whoever does good in Islam will not be punished for what he did in the Pre-lslamic Period of ignorance and whoever does evil in Islam will be punished for his former and later (bad deeds)."
Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"
Volume 9, Book 88, Number 200
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The Prophet said, "Beware! Do not renegade as (disbelievers) after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another."
Volume 9, Book 88, Number 201:
The Prophet said to me during Hajjat-al-Wada', "Let the people keep quiet and listen." Then he said (addressing the people), "Beware! Do not renegade as disbelievers after me by striking (cutting) the necks of one another."
Now try to go indepth and answer the question what it is: Faith according to Islam.
Source: University of Southern California USC-MSA Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement (Compendium of Muslim Texts) http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The practice of some Islamic countries doesn't always offer believers these liberties at all time. In some countries it is allowed to leave Islam, if one abstains from propagating the new creed. In others it is not allowed. Who leaves Islam, may encounter difficulties, and vice versa too. Believers of small religious communities like the Baha'i are not everywhere welcome at universities, nor can they always obtain a passport or other official document. In several Islamic countries religion is mentioned in the passport and a small creed like the Baha'i or Ahmadiyya is not everywhere officially permitted. There are Islamic countries where residents without religion cannot apply for official documents or admittance to institutions either, even in those countries where members of the various religious communities hold a proportionate number of seats in the national parliament. The situation differs per country, and it would be unjust to suggest that no freedom of religion exists in any Islamic country, meaning that one is allowed to change religion and has access to government positions or important documents and institutions.
However, that which the Qur'an says about change of religion, is the main rule in Islam. And it may very well differ from the present legal situation in existing states. Even the verdicts of the prophet pbuh should fit in the Qur'anic framework, according to Islam. They do so, but his sayings also treat the diverse situations that he had to deal with and they still function as exemplary to the believers, and the prophet's sayings explain practical situation into more detail. What does the Qur'an say on leaving the faith:
... But hold not to the ties (marriage contract) of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (unbelievers) ask for what they have spent. Such is the command of Allah: He judges between you. And Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. And if any of your wives deserts you to the unbelievers, and ye have your turn, then pay to those whose wives have deserted the equivalent of what they had spent and fear Allah, in Whom ye believe. Q:60:10,11
And those who accept Faith subsequently and emigrate and fight for the Faith in your company, they are of you. But kindred by blood have prior rights against each other in the Book of Allah. Verily Allah is well-acquainted with all things. Q:8:75
O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed. They swear by Allah that they said nothing, but indeed they uttered blasphemy, and they uttered it after accepting islam: and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was only return for the bounty with which Allah and His Messenger had enriched them! If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back, Allah (not me and you) will punish them with a grievous chastisement in this life and in the Hereafter: they shall have none on earth to protect or help them. Q:9:73,74
Those who believe, then reject Faith, then believe (again) and (again) reject Faith and go on increasing in unbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them on the Way. To the hypocrites give the good tidings (so do not kill them) that there is for them a grievous chastisement. Those who take for friends unbelievers rather than believers: is it honour they seek among them? Nay, all honour is with Allah. Already has He sent you in the Book, that when ye hear the Message of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them (this is not equal to killing them) unless they turn to a different theme: if ye did, ye would be like them. For Allah (not you and me) will collect the hypocrites and those who defy Faith all in Hell. Q:4:137-140
How shall Allah guide those who reject Faith after they accepted it and bore witness that the Messenger was true and that Clear Signs had come unto them? But Allah guides not a people unjust. Of such the reward is that on them (rests) the curse (this is not a death sentence) of Allah, of His Angels, and of all mankind, in that will they dwell; nor will their punishment be lightened, nor respite be their (lot); except for those that repent after that. And make amends; for verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. But those who reject Faith after they accepted it and then go on adding to their defiance of Faith never will their repentance be accepted: for they are those who have gone astray. As to those who reject Faith, and die rejecting, never would be accepted from any such as much gold as the earth contains, though they should offer it for ransom. For such is (in store) a chastisement grievous and they will find no helpers. Q:3:86-91
It may be that Allah will establish friendship between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies, for Allah has power; and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. Allah only forbids you, with regards to those who fight you for Faith, and drive you out of your homes and support in driving you out, from turning to them it is such as turn to them that do wrong. Q:60:7-9
... But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and take no friends or helpers from their ranks: except for those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty, or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you or fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and send you peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you. Others you will find that wish to be secure from you as well as that of their people: everytime they are sent back to temptation, they succomb thereto: if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever ye get them: in their case We have provided you with a clear argument against them. Q:4:89-91
O ye who believe! eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities, but let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good-will; nor kill yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful! If any do that in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire: and easy it is for Allah. Q:4:29,30
Nor take life - which Allah has made sacred - except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped. Q:17:33
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief in the land is: execution, or crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Q:5:33,34
The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) loveth not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend himself after a wrong to him, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a chastisement grievous. But indeed if any show patience and forgive, they would truly be an affair of great resolution. Q:42:40-43
Non-Muslims like to say: whoever leaves Islam, may, no must, be killed by the Islamic community. Who may be killed? The person who killed, or persecuted and drove out the believers physically. Verbal attack on the believers or plain conversion to another creed is most certainly no reason to kill a person! Indeed the person can sincerely return to the true faith and this chance must always be offered. This clearly shows itself from the verse on women leaving for the non-believers. Retribution is allowed, but we must retaliate at an equal footing. If someone is killed in the street, we are not allowed to kill a peaceful innocent soul from the adversary community. What's more, retaliation may be a punishment other than capital; a convict's expulsion is also an option. The Only who eventually will settle with those who left the Faith, is Allah Most High Himself.
Which traditions according the sayings of Prophet Muhammad saws -- the ahadith -- exist on the topic of leaving the Faith?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Once we spend some thought on belief, we inevitably meet the issue of plurality in religion. Is the origin of a new religion or a religious school of thought the work of a man, a thinker, or is it a new divine revelation? This is the most essential, as well as the most unanswerable question. However, the consequences of new religious ideas are considerable, and it is up to all of us to lead them into desirable directions. It is tempting to accuse a religious innovator of self-invented holiness, for what proof can he offer. And what proof can we offer, for that matter! Tolerance towards difference in religion and religious innovation has differed through history, as religion as a factor of truth and order in society has differed. In times that religion had a limited role, tolerance of dissidence increased -- apparently. Sometimes the ruling class was tolerant and had to put up with a minority that claimed to hold the final truth. For instance, in the Roman era the conquered peoples were allowed to leave an image of their god or gods in the Pantheon, together with the other gods, among whom the Roman gods. The freshly emerged Christians refused this, because their main concept was that of one unique god, next to whom no room is allowed for other gods. This apparently threatening attitude ended Roman tolerance towards Christians. Even today we witness persecution and oppression of minorities, sometimes even the majority of a people, by the dominant religious group.
Why does it exist: Intolerance towards dissident thinkers and believers?
Change of religion is always accompanied by guilt feeling, both in the person who changes religion, and in the people around him or her. There is fear for divine sanctions when a person leaves the truth, and there's painful self-criticism of those around him. And what is truth, when we have no absolute knowledge of it. Leaving the faith is therefore a painful process, also for the bystanders, who fear for the dissident's well-being and future. A change into the opposite direction -- from liberal or atheist thinking into orthodox religion -- is considered no less a threat to the modern, freethinking bystanders, than an individual leaving orthodox religion to a devoutly religious society. Apart from that, no one appreciates rejection of cherished truths. Guilt feeling, fear for unknown sanctions, and hurt pride are as much cause of religious intolerance as hunger for power is. These fears are also the reason for religious communities living in separation from each other. Most of all, the individual's transfer to the other community is sometimes felt as an extra threat, and therefore it is surrounded by heavy prohibitions and barriers. As soon as people perceive that their opinions have not been proved to be necessarily and obviously superior over other people's, tolerance towards others is likely to increase -- unless those others persist in defensiveness. The pure fear of the other's possible intolerance and conquest-greed leads to intolerance and defensiveness. Another way towards more tolerance is fatigue of intolerance, and the violence it leads to, or the lapse of time. Tolerance comes from within ourselves, however, we depend on others to practice it. Often people scream before having been hit, when we all should remember that we make tolerance and freedom ourselves, by our willingness to listen and negotiate with others. It takes trust not to immediately assume an aggressive propagandist agenda in others, when they open their mouth about their religious and other beliefs. This is a difficult yet compulsory task, if peaceful and pleasant cohabitation is what we want.
It should be noted, that there is a big difference between liberal and tolerant belief. Orthodox beliefs can be tolerant, when the believer enforces them on him- or herself only. Enforcing a view is not the same as propagating and stimulating others to follow it. As soon as liberal views are forced upon societies by law, and it's inhabitants disagree, one may wonder if they loose their liberating force. The most tolerant philosophies have been forced upon people through canon barrels and concentration camps. There is no natural connection between orthodoxy and (in)tolerance.
We also should note that ties of family and friendship are not confined to nationality, language or faith. People marry and make friends across the borders. This urges to lessons in trust and tolerance.
The other topic atheism wants to abolish, is divine sanctioning. Believers cannot imagine, that nothing comes after death. Every religion promises some form of life after death, either in a new world, or within the universe we know. Sanctioning behavior and intentions, good as well as bad, during life by the divine power or divine judge, is seen as an essential settlement. The aim of life and its meaning is improvement of position in the hereafter within a divine plan. Atheists, as rejectors of a divine plan and divine judgement, see this as an invention of power–greedy politicians to legitimize their position. Man's striving for power and rankings is in their view a biological selection-mechanism from which the strongest specimens triumph and survive in the end. Exercising power for power itself is another important motive for exercising religious dominance over others, according to many. Godly sanctions are as much a human invention as God himself, even when the intentions were decent. In the non-religious view, religion in the best sense of the word is a regulating, civilizing institution meant to avoid chaos in a society that gives little room to empirical, technological knowledge gathering.
The main item that non-religious people campaign against, is legal sanctioning of behavior, as part of a life based on religious scriptures and religious ideas. How can a human–invented authority impose limitations and penalties on living people? The usefulness of the sanctions is not the issue here.
For believers, however, divine sanctioning has a more complex, differentiated meaning, as determined by their creed. Sanctioning in the hereafter means in religions the final settlement of injustice or of negligence people may get away with in the present life, and 'now' the good ones aren't always properly rewarded for their good actions. Some religions consider divinely–inspired punishment carried out by people as a purification before the hereafter comes.
A special, complex place is reserved for divine sanctioning in the present life. The religions give their own answers to events like natural disaster, illness, death at young or at quite old age, but also to difference in wealth, intellect, race, or species. What is either underdevelopment, or its opposite, high development, to man – a punishment, a reward or a test? We can ask ourselves these same questions for dumbness, red hair, or for achievements that are highly valued – or, contrarily, that are considered highly destructive. Can we say that wealth and intellect are divine rewards – a proof that He has better intentions for the person blessed with them than for the disabled, sick slum inhabitant? Or is it the other way round? To what extend can we see living conditions, events, and people's natural abilities as God's work? A believer answers according the scriptures he or she adheres to, but also according his or her own philosophy. The vicissitudes of destiny cause the differences between people, which is sometimes seen in a negative way, and sometimes as a task to assume responsibility for each other as a community. Where non-believers reject any divine role in events, believers have – according their creed – specific answers to this question: Is God good, does God want good for mankind? The answer is not uniform. However, we see in every religion a connection between God's judgement and man's reaction to good or bad luck, as well as specific recommendations or tasks on how a believer should react to good or bad luck. Good and bad luck are part of the examination task for man.
In cases where high emphasis is put on divine sanctioning, religion poses high demands on the faithful. We may call a faith 'strict', when it strives for justice. It introduces aims and rules for behavior and for intentions, all with appropriate sanctions. The fewer second chances are possible, the more important becomes obedience to the rules. Islam acknowledges only one chance: This life. It will be judged, and we hear whether we go to paradise or to hell. Hinduism acknowledges reincarnation: The next life offers a new chance for improvement. The most liberal forms of religion, which we can find among several Protestant churches, do not acknowledge any negative sanctioning in the hereafter. Such easygoing faith doesn't strive for bringing law and order, nor does it pose demands on society and politics, and it doesn't need a forceful reigning god. The influence of religion on society should be limited, and faith is a binding emotional value rather than a source of guidance. There is an interesting aspect to liberal faith: Why, and on who's authority, have negative sanctions been abolished? One may wonder whether the adherents want to drive out the darkness for another reason: Fear. The big punishing snowman doesn't exist when we close the curtains. Does it work? Or is it arbitrary one-sidedness, for one. It is impossible to dogmatize about it, since we can't see what's in store for us.
Some religions see a connection between social and economic position, on the one hand, and divine sanctioning, on the other hand. Hinduism has a clear and simple view: Those who did well in the previous life, now enjoy a high position in society, and those who didn't, may now have returned as animals or as low–ranking people. Some Protestant schools of thought believe that good or bad behavior has no influence on our fate in the hereafter; they think that our behavior and fate in the hereafter are determined before birth. Islam abstains from a moral judgement on social-economic position and on good or bad luck. It emphasizes the way the faithful handle these events and these living conditions. A believer is always grateful and loving; punishment can also imply purification leading to a better afterlife.
In the modern era, we have seen people at a large scale loose belief in a god and holy scriptures. Especially in Europe and other countries of the west. However, scriptures like the Bible and Qur'an mention disbelief in God, and there are historic accounts about atheists during the Caliphate of 'Ali, son in law of the prophet Mohammed (pbuh). Every Biblical prophet had to cope with non-believers, this fact being the reason behind their mission: Trying to familiarize their people with God. So non-belief in God is not new, though nowadays it is (or seems) more widespread.
The reasons for disbelief are not only disbelief in a deity altogether, and disbelief in scriptures that proved to be incompatible with scientific knowledge. There is also a strong disbelief in the role of the clergy and a sense of disappointment in God as a source of goodness. The second reason – the influence of science – is in the west a relatively modern phenomenon. However, the first cracks in the Church's infallibility appeared during Renaissance – perhaps the most famous crack was Galilee's theory of the earth being round in stead of flat. The other three reasons for disbelief are more universal and exist in probably any culture and historical period. Not every person is interested in a truth that cannot be proved, but why is this the case? Why does one person accept God and does the other reject Him? And why do some people accept God in spite of natural disaster (like early death or tsunamis), or human corruption in His most prominent servants? Why do these very same phenomena scare others away from God? It seems impossible to solve, and the issue makes clear that belief is a matter of personal perception. Believers see their own existence and perception as sufficient proof for the truth of their beliefs – a thing that non-believers cannot accept. Rejection of the metaphysical world, however, cannot be proved to be solid judgement either. There is no proof that a metaphysical world doesn't exist. There is nothing wrong with rejecting holy scriptures that proved to be untruthful, nor with rejecting a corrupt religious organization in society, but that is of quite a different order than metaphysics. The scientific approach has many merits, but it is a limited one. It does not answer the questions, nor does it display the places that are beyond our shared observation.
So disbelief in a deity basically is another form of belief, no matter how sophisticated it may be worded. The question that follows, is: what is wrong with disbelief being another form of belief? Belief in a deity is a subjective, perceptive approach to life, but so is atheism. Belief stops and knowledge begins as soon as a phenomenon has been empirically observed and displayed to others. This is not (some say not yet) the case with the metaphysical world of God. Belief has become the bad apple in not only the west – it is blamed for oppression of the free will and for hindering scientific, economic and political development everywhere. There is some truth to that, as we have seen religious clergy in oppressive roles, but do the people really find more freedom in non-religious systems? The first thing we should acknowledge, is that we know many secular systems, but very few non-religious, atheistic systems. Communism is an atheistic political system, but apart from communism, there aren't many. Most other countries allow a role for religious political parties in their political landscape and even in their legislation. Almost every country acknowledges national religious holidays, to name something. We could go a step further: creating a formal atheistic state is incompatible with our nowadays most appreciated form of government, namely the secular state. It implies that atheism is the state doctrine and favors atheism over belief in God. What can we say in defense of the atheistic state as a liberal and equitable system? We can defend such a choice once atheism has been proved to be the truth beyond any doubt.
Contrary to what many think, disbelief in God is not a new phenomenon. The Biblical and Qur'anic scriptures give us many definitions and descriptions of disbelief in God. The Qur'an also accentuates that nonbelievers see their rejection of God as some form of modernity. What is modern about disbelief in a god? Religious scriptures are old, perhaps they are the oldest we possess. It appears that the first religious revelation came with the first man and that the first man raised us to be religious. The unprovability of God's existence, of which the Bible even makes a formal statement since Babel Tower, makes it likely that also in early days people came to doubt His existence. However, belief in God seems to have preceded rejection, hence the modern aspect of disbelief. This brings us to a second question: What is more difficult, to believe or to disbelieve in a god? Is disbelief reinventing the wheel, or is it an expression of creativity, sophistication and independence?
If we want to answer whether disbelief in God is just another form of belief or a creative and modernizing force, we should think about the aim of divine revelation.
Divine revelation in the first place intends to introduce the deity to man. Who is He (or they, or She), what is His plan for His creation, what is man's place in it, what future has He in store for both individual people and mankind.
Secondly, every revelation gives more or less detailed rules for how people should live together, and how they may or should communicate with the deity. If God is approached the right way, following established protocol, a relationship between God and man will develop. Rules for cohabitation of people with each other and with other creatures are important components of the ritual worship of God. Religious rules are to be applied for the whole life span, and therefore they demand discipline. We may classify discipline among the difficult aspects of belief. One of atheists' main criticism against religion is its dislike of obedience to God and religious verdicts. It is seen as something not belonging to the naturally curious human mind to believe in an invisible abstraction and therefore part of an oppressive tradition. The idea of obeisance to an abstract, non-empirical concept, God, is unacceptable to atheists, especially since there are more than one of these abstract concepts, religions. Only concrete, absolute truths should be enforced on society. Hence the modern preference for a secular system, a preference now also existing among many believers. The idea of not formally enforcing abstract concepts is not a prerogative for atheists, however.
On the other hand, not only atheists consider religious belief a less committal approach to life. It seems easier to believe in something of which absolute knowledge is absent than having to prove it. Therefore we can afford some freedom in our actions. Knowledge demands precision, whereas faith doesn't. We don't absolutely know if God exists, so how much do we need to worry about God's judgement or God's sanction to disbelief. Plus we do not absolutely know to what extend God 'needs' our commitment and obedience. Is God Himself enough, or does He really need our love and prayers? Is our life, our future in God's power? Will God grant fulfillment of our wishes for the hereafter, as we can't reach Him directly? The by nature easygoing commitment of religious belief gives great joy and space to the believer, which is the easy aspect of belief. Belief invites creative people to express and visualize their beliefs, and this visualization makes it possible to share beliefs with others. This challenge has inspired people through the ages to great works of art. However, also the creative process not only needs discipline; the believing artist inevitably stumbles upon the impossibility to observe the deity, the soul, mental processes, and the metaphysical world. Yet faith is a source of creativity and this creativity is perhaps the most attractive aspect of faith.
Non-absolute commitment to the faith, however, also explains the phenomenon of the corrupt and oppressive clergyman who does not live by his own religious rules – even he does not really seem to fear. Persistent faithfulness seems to be difficult, even for the clergy, even though the clergyman, as much as anybody else, has his own personal integrity and discipline. Or lack of it, all depending on the individual, when surrendering to invisible values. This commitment to the principles of an abstract concept, and the discipline and integrity it demands, is the difficult aspect of faith. Therefore it is not as self-evident as it seems: Religious belief as the lazy alternative to independent thinking.
Obedience to God, scripture and religious clergy seems a non-creative, easy way out of the exercise of forming oneself a life philosophy by free thinking and research. This is why atheists see believers as uncreative, credulous people. Those who believe can rely on the comfortable guidance of an expert organization. The believer has, in the view of the non-believer, an easy. Every question about every aspect of life is promptly answered by scriptures and their highly schooled authoritative commentators. Creativity, independent thinking, acquiring knowledge; and perhaps most of all; self determination are off-limits to believers – unnecessary also, in the atheist view. Indeed this makes non-belief in a god a difficult choice: What should come in place of a religiously inspired society and life philosophy? Can we really, by our own force, invent a system of values and rules, let alone make it consistent? A believer will answer to this question: Everything we think and act, our entire being, is under divine guidance, even when the deity grants us freedom. Therefore man cannot act independently, or at best within restricted fields, where the deity allows it. The non-believer says: Man emerged from natural processes where no god was ever involved. Man must on his own force build a just society and not hide himself behind self-invented, non-empirical philosophies, which are no more than organizational simplification instruments – harmful to detergent philosophies and most of all, to the truth. In the non-religious view, truth is no more than empirical observation and the conclusions thereof; everything else is mere opinion, "every person's own truth", or the unknown yet to be discovered. Non-believers are especially proud of how scientific achievement could improve comfort for man, and all this apparently against the sayings of the religious scriptures. Indeed technological and medical knowledge could enervate parts of the religious scriptures. And also traditionally low ranking people could emancipate from religious taboos that proved to be incompatible with reality. Therefore, much seems to plea in favor of the non-religious outlook. However, still no answer comes to the question why many topics in religious scriptures are dealt with adequately, as shown by archeological findings. Nor to the main question that science cannot answer: What does the secret room behind the blind door look like. So it is not necessarily true, that religious belief offers more ease and security than atheism. Too much emphasis is also laid on the social aspect of religion and too often people forget the most important personal choice that believers must make every time again. The choice for a religion is a choice for an abstract metaphysical world, not for a group culture, even though that may be a natural choice, especially when we choose for our family's tradition.
Validity is the necessary basis for authority, without clear proof one cannot say that a theory is true and enforceable. When considering religion, we meet a huge issue, namely its legitimate enforceability: Every religion claims to be truly revealed by a supernatural force to mankind through a messenger or prophet and claims witnesses to the process of revelation. Either the messenger, or the witnesses, or their descendants write this revelation down and publish it. This last aspect, witness, makes it unwise to discard or ignore the notion of revelation, even if the quality of written revelations should contain faults and imperfections. It's obvious there has been something that we may call an exchange of information. An important dimension for validation of any religious scripture is time. When religious principles appeared and were written down, they had live witnesses who could enforce them. Collective memory, however, becomes history and three generations later and it looses authority, unless the preservation of texts and other memorabilia is well taken care of. This care has not always and everywhere been good or sincere, which gives religion in general a bad cloud, even when not all written scripture is ill-preserved. Another aspect of revelation is its uniqueness. There is no structure, no repetition, no pattern in revelation. Revelation is therefore no part of the laws of nature nor science. The issue of a revealed concept of God naturally leads to the next question: what is religion?
Religion is the institutionalized worship of a supernatural power, usually called a God.
Institutionalized means a set of shared values and formalized rules that have a certain authority over a group of people who feel committed to this institution. This commitment also gives them a sense of connection to each other.
Faith can very well be an individual state of mind; religion, however, is a group phenomenon. The aim of religion is not only presenting individual people to God and vice versa, but also providing solid morals for leading the life that the supernatural power has intended for his creatures. Religion is always about promoting something positive for mankind which should be brought into practice, even though it doesn't always work out according the good intentions.
Religion as an institution is like any other institution linked to authority and sanctioning. The religion prescribes not only rules, but also systematic structures and leadership roles to teach and enforce these rules, set an example to the faithful, and punish transgressions. Many religions have complicated and appealing ceremonials concerning the worship of the deity, and concerning the roles the faithful are supposed to play. However, those who don't belong to the religious community, don't understand it, may disapprove, or at best find it an attractive scene to look at. Misunderstanding of other religious communities, combined with trying to impose one's own view on belief and morality, is the main cause of intolerance and violence between communities. Not only that, it also leads to intolerance and violence within the own community. Some members transgress the rules, or worse, quit the faith. In some religious communities this last phenomenon is unforgivable. Yet it is an inevitable part of faith: people may start or give up their belief in the deity, as the deity is invisible.
The origin of religion is a revelation of some kind, yet the origin behind this revelation is obscure. It cannot be exposed or validated, and that gives plenty of room to disbelief in a deity. Some people witnessed this mysterious revelation and can be convinced that its origin is supernatural and divine; others tend to say that it is a fraud, or that the messenger is in a state of mental illness. It is a fascinating question why people are so tenacious to their beliefs. Or their disbeliefs!