Atheism, the path to societal degradation

A question that has perplexed society for time immemorial, is whether this universe has been designed by an intelligence outside the realm of our scientific understanding. In other words, does God exist?

In answering this, I want first to draw your attention to the laws of nature. And we do not need to look too far to understand its intricacy. Every change in the environment relies on the punctuality of the change before. It is clear that a system like this cannot be sustained on its own – it needs a designer.

I struggle to see how the question can then arise that there is no intelligence behind it; that this perfect system was formed without the aid of a Supreme Designer. If you were to place the required components of a computer in a box and shake it, not even a child would expect the components to arrange into a fully working computer. So how can one believe the solar system, let alone the entire universe, to form such a perfect model for the habitation of life, such as Earth?

Time and time again, I am asked by so-called ‘avid scientists’: ‘If God exists, then why can’t He be discovered through our scientific understanding?’ In any scientific experiment, to determine the evidence to produce something, for example, carbon dioxide, through a chemical reaction, you must start with a hypothesis, such as ‘carbon dioxide is produced from the reaction between hydrochloric acid and magnesium carbonate’. Then you take the appropriate steps with the appropriate conditions to prove your hypothesis.

The exact same method can be utilised in one’s search to find God. The hypothesis is, ‘God exists’. However, the method of proving this hypothesis is through prayer; for God to provide a sign of His existence. After praying and asking for a sign from God, your evidence will be clear and thus prove the hypothesis.

God is not bound by the laws of nature, which is obvious considering He is the creator. This means that the methodology that one must undertake to find Him cannot rest alone in scientific experimentation. All that we can do is try to observe the perfection of His Being and pray for a change in the heart through a dream or a vision.

However, the question of God’s existence, in a universe where its answer is literally written on the walls, can only be answered fully when we understand society’s need for God. This brings me to the central question I will try to answer throughout this article; Does society need God and religion to progress?

Now this question has quizzed some of the greatest minds in philosophical history; from Socrates to Aristotle, we are replete with different takes on what society needs. However, as opposed to an arbitrary approach to the question, I will strive to delve into the reasons why society needs a religion that is alive, a religion that has a living God who ever so clearly protects its sanctity in the 21st century. That religion is Islam.

What has religion done for society?

When we cast our gaze towards the history of civilisation, we see that it has been a practice of God to send His prophets at a time when society has plunged into a period of moral darkness.

And then the era following the advent of that certain prophet, we see a major moral upheaval of an entire people; so much so that it gives birth to a brand-new civilisation and culture. Two things that exemplify the enormity of the change that the law of God had affected within the people. This establishment of a sudden change in the beliefs and morals of an entire nation through the teachings of a single man, who claims communion with God, in a society rife with injustice, violence and moral disease; should be enough of a sign for the sceptics of God’s existence.

In order to understand this, we must acknowledge that when God sends a prophet for the spiritual rejuvenation of a people, that prophet and whoever follows him are logically subject to immense disownment by their own people. Why? Because the new way of life they come to lay down is antagonistic to the status quo in society.

Just as when Jesus (as) taught of immense forgiveness, so far as to say one must turn his cheek, in the backdrop of a vicious Roman rule governed by the materialism of the Jews at the time. Or, when Krishna taught of war and ferocity at a time when his people were virtually slouched in materialism.

Even better so, when the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa) came to a society, whose world turned on the paganistic beliefs of their forefathers, to teach that God is One. He brought the respect of women back from the depths of darkness, he gave honour and nobility to the most rejected of society, he turned a band of drunkards into a single body of men whose only life purpose was to worship God and serve His creation.

This change not only affected Arabia, but within years, it spread to the entire peninsula and then into Europe and China, to name a few.

The point is, how did a single man, of such meagre means and a dearth of skill and support, come to achieve such loyalty and love to the extent that it illuminated the entire globe? This pattern cannot keep reoccurring without us acknowledging that there must be a divine hand that has guided these weak and innocent men from a position of nothingness to the station of kings and generals, secularly speaking.

Now, one may ask; all of these fancy descriptions of socio-economic change seem inspirational and all, but anyone with the right motivation could have achieved the same as the Holy Prophet (sa), so how does this make religion a pillar of social success?

This question is as daft as drinking soup with a fork because success is not really the point here. It is the fact that they foretold that success. It is the fact they started off their preaching with no helper nor friend. It is the fact that their message sought to uproot firmly established beliefs and practices. They were faced with opposition on a large scale, all seeking to wipe them off the face of the earth. But, somehow they always seemed to prevail against all odds. They showed thousands of signs and had an equal amount of prophecies that are being fulfilled in this day and age.

It is completely unacademic to compare prophets to worldly leaders who had reached stages of eminence within their respective times. Because when a prophet sets out to spread his message; his wealth, honour and life are at stake and if he were to be proven a liar in his message, he would lose everything. Contrarily, when a world leader begins his rise to power, he begins with the same contemporary outlook as the society he is in, he attracts the people with what they want to hear. And had he proven unsuccessful, he would not lose everything.

We see the big names of history such as Napoleon, Stalin and Genghis Khan. Can you find a nation or a people that follow them loyally? What we do see is despite centuries after the advent of a prophet, you have millions of people who shape their lives around the teachings and laws that prophets set forth. This is true love and obedience, transcending space and time, affecting millions of lives in the world even in the 21st century. A hallmark of someone who clearly has a supernatural edge to his success.

joseph stalin
Joseph Stalin – 1858-1953

Why accountability is an important aspect of progress

It is a well-known fact that violence and belligerence can arise over anything. Football matches, land, drugs and even a plain and innocent game of chess. It is in human nature to stand up and protest matters that cause us inconvenience. Where people cross the line of academia is when they say that religions command people to take up arms and defend their faith with bloodshed and gore. This is a totally wrong assumption and a childless proposition. I can only speak for the religion of Islam, but the general principle of religions is to reform a nation. And this is what we see in nations once they are gifted with a messenger. A teaching that reminds us of the one who possesses true justice.

What atheism takes away from the picture is accountability. To be answerable for your actions, hidden from the eyes of others or not, so that absolute justice can be truly served to all. A lack of accountability anywhere in society means relinquishing trust and paves the way for injustices to run wild.

It should be an undisputed fact that accountability is a driving force for society to progress in a way where people act with caution and kindness with each other because they know they are answerable for their actions. Now, taking this away from society is like kicking a walking stick away from a man who is struggling to walk. He would just fall to the ground. A similar fate that is facing our society.

This bleakness reminds me of the dystopia we saw in ‘The Purge’ movies. Where for 12 hours all laws on murder and theft were lifted. This is exactly the consequence of relinquishing accountability in society, kindly portrayed by the guys in Hollywood. When we apply this lack of accountability to personal scenarios, it almost certifies the destruction and degradation that faces a society which abandons God. It naturally leads to more violence, not peace. All feelings of guilt and consequences become non-existent.

Put a bank manager who believes in no God in a vault with millions. He knows that there is not a soul that knows of his being in that vault. What is there to stop him from stealing some of the money? He has no superior to answer to, nor does he have a God to answer to. He has no choice but to take from that money as it is of benefit to him. Contrarily, a believer has fear and love of the One that created him. He is answerable to Him in this life and the next. He is taught by his Creator to not steal and never cause any injustice in the world. He has a reason not to. That is the atheism fallacy. A lack of belief results in a lack of accountability. And this opens the door to ‘justifiable’ injustices across all aspects of society.

Taking this rather obstinate outlook on life and applying it to more scenarios, my heart becomes bleak. Bleak at the prospect that there exist human beings who have no reason whatsoever to effect good in the world. There are those that do but with no reason. They are like walking sacks of organic earth that will one day return to the earth with no greater purpose to serve. What is stopping an atheist from usurping the rights of other people? What is stopping an atheist, who knows they can get away with it, from committing homicide? “Everyone knows not to kill, it is inhumane and against human nature. We want better for all our brothers and sisters of the world…”. Well, I am pretty sure the likes of Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot (just to name a few) all had the greater good in mind when they slaughtered millions. They preached futures of greatness and good for all people, whilst imposing an atheistic system of life on a nation of believers. They felt it was the right thing to do when tens of thousands of Russian Christians were executed for their beliefs. Thus the fallacy becomes rather daunting. Taking away religion means relinquishing accountability and thus objectively good morality.

Mao Zedong – 1893-1976

So, atheism has enlightened us all of our supposed medieval belief in God and has told us progress lies in the freedom of our conscience from a tyrannical dictator sitting in the clouds. Now, what I want to know is how do we teach a nation to live harmoniously when no rules of limits have been set? Atheists constantly say that atheism is ‘a lack of belief’ and not a whole new belief. This is like me taking away all reason to follow the constitution of the founding fathers on the basis of them being unworthy and dishonest, and not providing any alternative group of people nor an alternative set of rules. It is creating problems and not providing answers. Atheism married together with hedonistic motives would inevitably breed violence and tyranny. The decisions of these atheistic dictators were, no doubt, affected by their ‘lack of belief ’.

Atheism, thus, offers no morals nor an alternative set of rules for a society to truly live in a just and harmonious way. To say that the murderous totalitarianism of Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot had nothing to do with atheism is to grossly misjudge their foundational beliefs and how that affected their decisions.

Pol Pot – 1925-1998

The Essence of Morality

The accountability that atheism is suggesting we abandon is the catalyst for a just and peaceful society. Why do people do wrong? In essence, it is because they are not fully cognisant of the consequences. One would most definitely steal from a shop if he knows full well he will not be caught and nobody can see him in the act. In the same way, people of religion commit sins due to a shortcoming in their certainty of God’s existence. As a result, the fear they have of any consequence is non-existent. In chapter 4, verse 18 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah states:

إِنَّمَا التَّوْبَةُ عَلَى اللَّهِ لِلَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السُّوءَ بِجَهَالَةٍ ثُمَّ يَتُوبُونَ مِنْ قَرِيبٍ فَأُولَئِكَ يَتُوبُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

Verily, Allah undertakes to accept the repentance of only those who do evil ignorantly and then repent soon after. These are they to whom Allah turns with mercy; and Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.

The Holy Qur’an (4:18)

From this verse, it becomes clear that sin is committed out of the ignorance one has of the existence of God and thus the consequences that come with it.

It is here where I want to briefly touch upon the construct of good morals. Mankind has been created with natural instincts. We all have the instinct to forgive, to love, to be kind, to be courageous and to show anger etc. To merely forgive all of the time is no good virtue, likewise, to be kind and soft all of the time is of no benefit to ourselves nor to those around us. With this in mind, one of the main purposes of religion is to effect good morals in its followers. And God does this by sending a teaching to His prophets that guides man how to develop and conform those instinctive natural instincts into virtues that will instigate goodness in society. To forgive a murderer who will only go on to murder again is against all logic. This is why the Qur’an has stated that forgiveness should only be exercised in circumstances where it can effect a reformation in the accused. Otherwise, a harsher route can be adopted if that is the only path for improvement. This brings me onto the morality that atheism forces us to contend with. Subjective morality. It means that as a whole, the goodness of an action is subjective to each different person, but, ‘things like murder are pretty much unanimously deemed morally wrong.’ I want to wave a magnifying glass over the small print of this definition. ‘Things like murder are unanimously deemed as morally wrong according to the view of the general public and the culture/time that we live in.’ I think my point about the actions of those atheistic tyrants sheds light clearly enough on the efficacy of subjective morality. If this is the direction neo-atheists wish our society to head in, I am truly scared for the morality of humanity decades down the line.

But when we get the Utilitarians who say that their decisions are based on usefulness, more specifically, the benefits it affords to a hedonist or the benefits it affords to society at large. The baffling moral construct of Humanists is best answered by Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV rhabbreviation for "May Allah have mercy on him/her/them":

‘The vacuum created by the non-existence of God is suddenly filled by man’s ego. It is a very naive and extremely ignorant philosophy that man can live without God. What atheism ultimately achieves is not just the death of one God but it suddenly brings to life a myriad of gods. Every conscious being that exists, suddenly acquires the role of a god unto himself or itself. Ego, selfishness and the total commitment to serve one’s own ends grow stronger and all-powerful.’

Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues, page 268

So, hedonism inherently breeds selfishness and with selfishness, there can be no peace in society, where everyone effectively becomes their own god and makes their decisions solely based on their own benefit. Similarly, the collective benefit is also a flawed moral construct because what is there that persuades or compels one to care for those around him? A basic reason why Communism was doomed to failure is that the collective benefit of society is not enough to motivate one to make sacrifices for their own interests and benefits. In contrast, when people are bound by their belief in a God and have a sense of ultimate accountability, enjoining goodness in society at large becomes a large construct of one’s faith.

It was the objective morality that religions provided that saved nations from moral destruction and ruin. God sees a nation that is drowned in mortal sin and he sends a mercy from Himself to teach them the correct way for moral, societal and spiritual progress. It was the Torah that taught the Israelites not to steal. It was Jesus (as) who taught the Romans who had strayed away from the teachings of Moses and had once again fallen into moral destitution to take heed of the Torah. And finally, it was the Qur’an that taught the animalistic Arabs that women are equal to men and deserve the same rights. That drinking, gambling and fornication are all works of the devil. All of these problems are becoming more and more prevalent today. They cause families to be torn apart and societies to fall into poverty and famine. This is why we need religion. To objectively teach the rights to all of the wrongs, atheism is fundamentally spreading through their ‘lack of belief ’ and accountability.

When Martin Luther King looked to the racist churches, he did not tell them to forget God and become secular. Instead, he told them to become more Christian. When the twin towers came down, the Muslim scholars did not preach to abandon the teachings of the Qur’an.

Instead, they condemned and taught them to take heed of the true teachings of Islam. This is because the teachings of religion are constructive and are there to uplift society and to solve the issues that are plaguing society as we speak.

It is Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) who constantly warns world leaders to abandon their selfish and egoistic ways of governing and fear God. As that is how true accountability and justice can be administered to all people of the world.

Allah the Exalted clearly mentions this in chapter 2, verses 206 and 207 of the Holy Qur’an,

وَإِذَا تَوَلَّى سَعَى فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيُفْسِدَ فِيهَا وَيُهْلِكَ الْحَرْثَ وَالنَّسْلَ وَاللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَسَادَ

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُ اتَّقِ اللَّهَ أَخَذَتْهُ الْعِزَّةُ بِالْإِثْمِ فَحَسْبُهُ جَهَنَّمُ وَلَبِئْسَ الْمِهَادُ

“That when they are told to fear God, they dismiss the warnings and carry on in their works, unaccountable to anyone. This increasing impunity that we see rife in society seems to be the means of its very degradation.”

The Holy Qur’an (2:206-207)

It is very clear that atheism is more destructive to society than the ‘religious doctrines’ that are threatening the very peace upon which we stand. This 21st century is drowning in vices that were inconceivable in the days of yore. With the increase in godlessness in the west we are seeing a mass increase in drug abuse, murder, rape, depression, anxiety and suicides. Impunity is spreading far and wide because mankind is moving away from recognising its Creator. Accountability is being relinquished because our society is falling prey to atheistic argumentation that, God forbid, there is no place for God in the 21st century.

That very atheistic construct that wishes to demerit the intent of religions to effect moral reformation in society, is baseless and unfounded.

Now it is easy for me to say that religion perpetuates good morals in society, but how so?

First of all, God’s wish, which in turn, manifests itself in the guidance and teachings He endows upon His creation, is to implement development of Divine attributes within man. Accordingly, God states in chapter 51, verse 57 of the Holy Qur’an,

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.”

The Holy Qur’an (51:57)

When we look into the word ‘ya’budun’ we see that one who truly worships listens to and obeys every command his God issues. And as a result of this unquestionable obedience, the worshipper starts to adopt and assimilate His God’s Holy and Divine attributes. The paths upon which God wants His worshippers to tread is ultimately for their own good and spiritual success.

We can see plentiful examples of this in the Holy Qur’an, where God has distinguished between evil morals that lead to destruction and disorder, and has subsequently expressed His displeasure. Thus displaying the good morals which should be adopted in its stead.

And the Qur’an very clearly establishes the distinction between good and bad morals with a stark teaching our world’s superpowers could benefit from. In chapter 41, verse 35 of the Holy Qur’an Allah states:

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ

“And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend.”

The Holy Qur’an ( 41:35)

That in the face of evil, oppression and injustice, one should exercise forgiveness only in the circumstance that the enmity subsides between the two parties. Tolerance and understanding is a key factor for peace and progress in our ever competitive world, where the ongoing war between superpowers constantly threatens world peace.

But with reference to another stark principle on the exercising of forgiveness, God states in chapter 42, verse 41 of the Holy Qur’an:

وَلَمَنِ انْتَصَرَ بَعْدَ ظُلْمِهِ فَأُولَئِكَ مَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ سَبِيلٍ

“But there is no blame on those who defend themselves after they have been wronged.”

The Holy Qur’an (42:42)

This further elaborates on the point that forgiveness is a natural faculty that all humans, from childhood, exercise without thinking too much about the consequences. Forgiveness could potentially lead to more strife and disorder, which is why God has said that it should only be exercised if it can bring about reformation. Otherwise, revenge only to the same extent as the wrong that was done to you can be adopted if this is the only possible course for the reformation of the perpetrator.

When atheists say that the Qur’an is but a storybook with no real relevance to our ever-advancing 21st century, they dismiss the key teachings that this very 21st century needs, lest it ceases to exist.

Another immoral fuel of the unrest we see brewing in our society is envy, about which the Holy Prophet (sa) very clearly stated as recorded in Sunan Abi Dawud, Hadith 4903:

‘Avoid envy, for envy eats up the sources of comfort, as fire eats up fuel’

From the international political climate to the petty arguments between friends, this is a teaching that can settle down disorder and effect a comfort for all people in society.

Likewise, our human sexual instincts are now becoming the cause of widespread sexual crime in society. This is only because people forget the correct moral conditioning of this instinct, subsequently, our society is becoming desensitised to nudity. The conse – quence of this is the increase in paedophilia and rape.

Which is why God says in chapter 17, verse 33 of the Holy Qur’an:

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَا إِنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وَسَاءَ سَبِيلًا

“And come not near unto adultery; surely, it is a foul thing and an evil way.”

The Holy Qur’an (17:33)

This teaching can be the rope that saves the moral degradation we see spreading in our society. It says that one should not put oneself in a situation through which sexual instinct would result in him committing an immoral deed.

Islam not only distinguishes between good and bad morals, of which are many more examples, but it also established the means through which we can excel and improve our morals.

Unless you are a scientific prodigy, it is almost impossible to build a fully functioning rocket from reading physics books. In the same way, it becomes a mammoth task to simply relinquish your base animal desires and build them into good morals without physically seeing a role model or a demonstration.

This is why God has sent prophets to every age and every nation, who brought a teaching from their Lord and preached this word of God through their conduct and actions. In Islam, Muslims revere the personage of the Holy Prophet saabbreviation for "Peace be upon him". He brought the Holy Qur’an and his every word, step and action reflected each and every letter of the Qur’an. So much so, his wife Hazrat Aisha raabbreviation for "May Allah be pleased with him/her/them" said, as recorded in Musnad Ahmad Bin Hanbal, Hadith 11171:

كان خلقه القرآن

“That all of his characteristics and good attributes are a physical manifestation of the Holy Qur’an.”

These prophets act as a perfect human model of moral perfection, and when we see the benefits and the spiritual excellences brought about by their perfection, our hearts yearn to achieve the same thing. Thus, once we develop a love for that prophet, we try to imitate their actions so we can achieve the same spiritual heights. And in turn, our moral condition would be improving and would tend nearer to moral perfection.

The ropes that are holding our world together

Thus, I come back to the crux of the problem with atheism. On the one hand, we have a religion that offers objective principles through which the reformation and improvement of society can be affected at both an individual and societal level. From the conditioning of natural instincts into good morals to clear-cut rulings on murder, inheritance, foods we cannot consume etc. Very clearly, it is a code of conduct for all ages. And on the other hand, we have a band of people, on the basis of there being no God, who argue that religion is destructive to society. That religion offers nothing but free reign to totalitarians who want rule and superiority over a nation or a people. That the teachings offer nothing but medieval battle tactics. I would argue that it becomes borderline perversion to become complacent with the progress of this 21st century. Take it from the statisticians.

‘Rape offences have increased dramatically in the United Kingdom since 2012/13 when there were around 18.4 thousand incidents. After this year, rape offences increased to 23 thousand, then 32 thousand in 2014/15, before increasing to over 38 thousand in 2015/16, and over 44 thousand in 2016/17. During the provided time period, rape offences were at their highest in 2018/19 when they reached 63.3 thousand, before slightly decreasing in 2019/20 to 62.2.’

No doubt the slight dip can be attributed to the coronavirus restrictions of early 2020. The point is that this world and the society we live in are no doubt thriving in scientific and academic advancement. However, morally, it is in utter degradation. The statistics speak for themselves. And to perpetuate a need to rid this world of religion is only going to drive our society further into indignity and conflict. The example I like to use is kicking a walking stick away from an old man who is already struggling with walking. He is only going to fall over. This is the same case with the atheistic standpoint with their ‘lack of belief ’ in God, and thus the relinquishing of accountability with its consequent moral degradation, of which we are all witnesses today. The incentive to do good and enact a peaceful societal reform lies in love or fear of God. Without objective direction, it is impossible to expect an animalistic species to live peacefully and harmoniously. If left to subjective reasoning, we are only going to give birth to more Stalins, Pol Pots and Mao Zedongs.

I would like to end with a quote from the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as):

‘‘If there is faith but no righteous action the faith is vain; and if there are actions but not faith, the actions are mere show or display.’’

(The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. Page 123)

It is with this I pray that the world realises its purpose and thus its Creator, to turn the inevitable doom this world now heads into a lesson for our progeny. Āmeen.

Disclaimer

This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Picture of Hazeem Arif

Hazeem Arif

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