Imagine one night you get a call from David, one of the old school friends you used to sit next to in science lessons. You haven’t talked to him in years, however, what goes through your mind are the strange questions he used to ask. Although you found it pleasant, you were not a fan of his ideas. The classic, you reluctantly answer. After a brief exchange of greetings, he invites you to lunch with him. You enthusiastically accept your invitation.
During lunch, he asks, “Can I tell you something?” You respond positively, and he begins to express to you something you’ve never heard before, “You know, the past – like what you did yesterday, last year, and all the way back to your birth – it really didn’t happen. It’s just an illusion in your head. So, my question to you is, do you believe that the past exists? ”
As a rational person, you disagree with your statement and you reply, “What evidence do you have to prove that the past does not exist?”
Now rewind the conversation and imagine that you spent the entire meal trying to prove that the past is something that really happened.
Which scenario do you prefer?
The reason you prefer the first scenario is because you – like the rest of the reasonable people out there – regard the reality of the past as a self-evident truth. As with all self-evident truths, if someone challenges them, the burden of proof is on whoever questioned them.
Now, we apply this to a theoretical-atheist dialogue.
A theist invites his atheist friend to dinner, and during the meal the atheist says: “You know, God doesn’t exist. There is no evidence of its existence. ” The theist responds with a barrage of different arguments for the existence of God. However, did the theist adopt the right strategy?
Before presenting a positive case for the existence of God, should we not investigate why questioning the existence of God is the standard question assumed? It shouldn’t be: “Does God exist?” Instead, it must be “what reasons should we reject his existence?”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that we have many good arguments that support belief in God, but the point I am making here is that, if there are no arguments against the existence of God, then the standard rational position is belief in the Divine. Otherwise, it would be equivalent to questioning the reality of the past without any reason to do so. In this perspective, atheism is not natural.
We believe that many beliefs are self-evidently true. This means that the belief can be described as natural or true by default. Some of them include:
- The uniformity of nature
- The law of causality
- The reality of the past
- The validity of our reasoning
- The existence of other minds
- The existence of an external world
When someone questions these truths, we do not blindly accept their conclusions, and we usually respond, “What evidence do you have to reject them?”
These truths are evident because they are characterized by being:
Universal: it is not a product of a specific culture; they are intercultural.
Illiterate: Not based on information transfer. They are not acquired through information external to your introspection and senses. In other words, they are not learned through the acquisition of knowledge.
Natural: Formed due to the natural functioning of the human psyche.
Intuitive: the easiest and simplest interpretation in the world.
God: An Evident Truth
Like the belief that the past was once the present, the existence of God is also a self-evident truth. What “God” means here is the basic concept of a creator, a personal cause or a non-human designer. It does not refer to a particular religious conception of a deity or God. The following discussion explains why belief in this basic idea of God is universal, immovable, natural and intuitive.
The basic underlying idea of a creator, or a supernatural cause for the universe, is cross-cultural. It does not depend on culture, but transcends it, such as the belief in causality and the existence of other minds. For example, the idea of other people who have minds exists in all cultures, a belief of more rational people. The existence of God or a supernatural cause is a universal belief and not the product of a specific culture. Different conceptions of God are realized in various cultures, but this does not negate the basic idea of a personal creative or non-human cause.
Despite the number of atheists in the world, belief in God is universal. A universal belief does not mean that every person on the planet must believe in him. A cross-cultural consensus is sufficient evidence to support the claim that people universally believe in the existence of God. Of course, there are far more theists than atheists in the world, and this has been the case since the beginning of recorded history.
Self-evident truths do not need to be taught or learned. For example, to know what spaghetti is, I need information about Western cuisine and Italian culture. I don’t know what the spaghetti is merely reflecting on. In contrast, you do not require any information, whether by culture or education, to meet a creator of things. This may be the reason why sociologists and anthropologists argue that even if atheistic children are stranded on a desert island, they would believe that something created the island. Our understanding of God may be different, but the underlying belief in a cause or creator is based on our own reflections.
Some atheists exclaim: “God is no different than believing in the monster of spaghetti”. This objection is obviously false. Self-evident truths do not require outside information. The idea that there are monsters, or even that spaghetti, requires transfer of information. Nobody acquires knowledge of monsters or spaghetti by their own intuitions or introspection. Therefore, the spaghetti monster is not a self-evident truth; thus, the comparison with God cannot be made.
Belief in some kind of supernatural designer or cause is based on the natural functioning of the human psyche. The concept of God’s self-evident existence has been a topic of academic discussion in the Islamic intellectual tradition. The classical scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah, explained that “the affirmation of a Creator is firmly rooted in the hearts of all men … it is the binding needs of his creation …” In addition to the Islamic position, a wide variety of research in various fields supports the conclusion that we must see the world as created and designed.
The academic, Olivera Petrovich, conducted research on the origins of natural things, such as plants and animals, and found that children in preschool were about seven times more likely to say that God created them instead of adults. In his popular interviews, Petrovich concludes that the belief in a non-anthropomorphic god appears to be natural and that atheism is an acquired cognitive position.
Sociological and Anthropological Evidence
Professor Justin Barret’s research in his book, Born Believers: Children’s Science of Religious Belief looked at children’s behavior and claims. He concluded that children believed in what he called “natural religion”. This is the idea that there is a personal being who created the entire universe. That Being cannot be human – it must be divine, supernatural:
“Scientific research on children’s developing minds and supernatural beliefs suggests that children, normally and quickly, acquire minds that facilitate belief in supernatural agents. Particularly in the first year after birth, children distinguish between agents and non-agents, understanding agents capable of moving in purposeful ways to pursue goals. They are interested in finding an agency around them, even with little evidence. Shortly after their first birthday, babies seem to understand that agents, but not natural forces or ordinary objects, can create order out of disorder … This tendency to see function and purpose, in addition to understanding that purpose and order come from spiritual beings, it makes children likely to see natural phenomena as created intentionally. Who is the Creator? Children know that people are not good candidates. It must have been a god… children are born believers in what I call natural religion… ”
The existence of a creator is the most intuitive interpretation in the world. It is easy to understand without explicit instruction. Human beings have an affinity for attributing causes to things all the time, and the whole cosmos is one of those things. Not all intuitions are true, but evidence is needed for someone to depart from their initial intuitions about things. For example, when someone perceives design and order in the universe, the intuitive conclusion is that there is a designer. For that person to change his mind, valid evidence is needed to justify the counterintuitive view.
The belief in a god, creator, designer or supernatural cause is a self-evident truth. It is universal, immovable, natural and intuitive. In this light, the right question to ask is not: Does God exist? The right question must be: Why do you reject the existence of God? The burden of proof is on someone who defies a self-evident truth. When someone claims that the past is an illusion or that other people have no minds, he or she would have to bear the burden of proof. Atheists are no different. They have to justify their rejection of a cause or creator for the universe.
The Innate Disposition: Fitrah
God as a self-evident truth refers to the Islamic theological concept about it, which is referred to in Arabic as, the fitrah. Theologically, the fitrah is the natural state or innate disposition of the human being that was created by God with an innate knowledge of Him and with the affinity to worship the Divine.
This is based on Prophet Muhammad’s authentic statement of peace (May peace and blessings be upon him), he says:
“EACH CHILD IS BORN IN A STATE OF FITRAH (NATURAL DISPOSITION). SO, HIS PARENTS MAKE HIM A JEW, A CHRISTIAN OR A SORCERER… ”
This prophetic tradition teaches that every human being has this innate disposition, but external influences, such as parenting – and, by extension, society – change the human being to something that is not based on the innate knowledge of God.
Although the fitrah is a natural state, it can be “veiled” or “spoiled” by external influences. These influences, as indicated by the prophetic tradition above, can include education, society and pressure from parents. These influences can obscure the fit and prevent him from recognizing the truth. When the natural state is clouded with other influences, the person may demand further evidence for the existence of God.
From the point of view of Islamic epistemology, it is important to know that the belief in the existence of God is not derived exclusively from some type of inductive, deductive, philosophical or scientific evidence. Instead, this evidence awakens and collapses the adjustment to recognize God’s innate knowledge. The truth of God’s existence and the fact that He is worthy of our worship is already known by the method. However, fitrah can be obscured by socialization and other outside influences. Therefore, the role of rational arguments is to “remember” the truth that we already know.
To illustrate this point, imagine that I was cleaning my mother’s lapartamento. As I move old bags around and throw unwanted objects, I find my favorite toy that I used to play with when I was 5. What happens to me right now is that I remember something that I already knew. In my opinion, I think: “Ah, yes. I remember that toy. It was my favorite. ” The truth of believing in God and the fact that He is worthy of our worship is no different. Rational arguments serve as spiritual and intellectual arousers to perceive the knowledge that is contained in our adjustment.
Other ways that fitrah can be deflated include introspection, spiritual experiences, reflection and pondering. The Holy Quran promotes questioning and deep thinking about things:
“… Thus, we clarify the signs to a people that reflects.” [Holy Quran 10:24]
“… Certainly, there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” [Holy Quran 45:13]
Islamic epistemology sees rational arguments as a means and not an end. That is why it is very important to note that guidance comes only from God, and no amount of rational evidence can convince someone’s heart to realize the truth of Islam. God makes this very clear:
Surely it is not you who guide whomever you want; however, God guides those who please Him, because He knows them better than anyone. “ [Holy Quran 28:56]
Guidance is a spiritual issue that is based on God’s mercy, knowledge and wisdom. If God wants someone to be guided by rational arguments, then nothing will stop that person from accepting the truth. However, if God decides that someone does not deserve guidance – based on divine wisdom – regardless of how many convincing arguments are made, that person will never accept the truth.
To conclude, the belief in the existence of God is an evident truth. As with all self-evident truths, when someone challenges them, the burden of proof is on them. The only way in which belief in God can be undermined if there is any positive evidence for the existence of the Divine. However, the few arguments that atheists have against the existence of God are weak and philosophically superficial. God’s evident truth was addressed in the Holy Quran more than 1,400 years ago:
“… Is there any doubt about Allah, the Creator of heaven and earth?…” [Holy Quran 14:10]
Reasons To Believe
Imagine that you woke up one morning and walked to the kitchen to prepare your breakfast. When you approached the kitchen table, you found two pieces of toast with your favorite chocolate spread over them. However, the spread was organized in the words “I love you”. You are surprised, but why? Do you think that the pieces of bread somehow managed to toast themselves, and the spread of chocolate managed to organize itself in such a way, all by chance? Or do you assume that your loved one has decided to wake up a little earlier and prepare the toast in advance? Every rational human being on this planet will deny that it happened without any intention or cause; The blind chance is not enough as an explanation.
The universe is no different. It has an orderly and precise cosmic architecture that points to a purposeful design. The universe has the right set of laws to allow life to exist, and it is ordered in a particular way to allow human beings to flourish. If the laws were different or the universe did not contain an arrangement sensitive to the life of stars, planets and other physical things of varying sizes, you would not be here reading this book. In fact, there would be no human life.
It also has adequate amounts of water and chemical compounds to facilitate the production of food and live vegetation. Surprised by what you hear, you ask them how they managed to create an ecological system that works fully and sustains life. One of the ambassadors replies: “It happened by chance”.
Immediately, your mind begins to understand the implications of such an absurd statement. The only possible explanation for the structure is that it was designed by an intelligent being, not by some random physical process. As these thoughts run through your mind, another ambassador interrupts and says, “He’s just kidding.” Everyone laughs. If a small ecological structure on a rocky planet evokes the conclusion that it must have been designed, imagine what we must conclude about the entire universe.
The universe and everything within it obey physical laws. If these laws were different, there would be no complex conscious life. The universe contains billions of stars and galaxies. Among countless galaxies, countless planets occur. One of these planets is our home, the Earth. Our planet contains trillions of conscious creatures. Creatures like us who can think, plan and reflect.
The inevitable conclusion to all of this is simple, but profound: there must be a creator behind all this design. Everything around us points to God. Reflecting on all this creation, an immense sense of admiration and gratitude to God must be created.