A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE
To talk about atheism gives the impression that one is talking about the most difficult and complex philosophical and intellectual topic, a topic that requires a formal education, research, sophisticated language, and deep knowledge of philosophy and its terminology. Saying the last thing first, in my view, the missing element of the debate which simplifies the understanding of this topic is the word ‘politics’. Hence, atheism is much simpler to understand than it looks like. Indeed, it does not deserve much intellectualism. However, the seemingly complex debate on atheism is a result of a lack of understanding of some concepts which are prerequisite for the subject, among which is politics itself. While the political perspective on atheism deserves a book, not atheism itself, I would like to give a quick view on this political topic.
Interestingly enough, the traditional religions, more importantly Islam, do not seem to address atheism per se at all. Is this an indication that atheism is a new and complex intellectual awareness which these traditional religions did not predict, or even worse, did not have an answer for it? While it is absolutely true that Islam, for example, does not deal specifically with atheism, the truth of the matter is that the subject of atheism, as we know in modern times, is a political movement. On the other hand, Islam, Christianity and Judaism categorize its intellectual side of this phenomenon as disbelief – this broad term which is treated deeply by such religions, especially Islam as a pure monotheistic one.
First, to understand the fallacy of atheism one has to understand God, which is the essence of a monotheistic religion. Because such a religion claims to have been established on received revelation from Heaven, has as a central mission to call people to God and teach people about God, then it is crucially important to look at how a monotheistic religion itself defines God, and then, of course, the misconception of atheism as an intellectual movement will become clear.
A monotheistic religion views God – the Creator, regardless of specific and variable names – as the ultimate truth. The creation – everything we sense or beyond our senses, is simply an indication to this truth, according to it. Moreover, in the religious perspective, God is a fact, whether we accept it or not, whether we articulate it or not, whether we worship Him or not. For the sake of argument, let us just say that this is simply a claim, but again, it is very important to see how the religions themselves view God, not from an intellectual or philosophical perspective, because this topic is first and foremost the domain of a monotheistic religion.
Considering God as a clear fact, not as a belief, a monotheistic religion emphasizes the ultimate goal, which is, to know God. Yes, to know God. Hence, knowing God is a process, not a sudden awareness, not an intellectual recognition, not simply the recognition of the existence of God. It is a process and a goal or objective in itself. God, according to Islam – as a monotheistic religion, is the ultimate truth, the most clear and extraordinary fact that cannot be perceived as other facts. In this regard, the process of knowing God – the Creator – is referred to as ‘worship’ in the religious terminology. The key concept here is ‘knowing though a process’, not simply ‘acceptance’.
Therefore, the whole focus of a monotheistic religion is how to KNOW God, not to merely ACCEPT God. God is not like any other fact of the nature. By merely accepting the existence of God, according to a monotheistic religion, has practically no value because the existence of God is recognized by everyone, consciously or subconsciously. So, proclaiming theoretically that there is a God – the Creator and Eternal – does not mean at that one knows God if that claim is followed by no process, which is the process of worship, such as giving charity in the name of God, praying to God, contemplating about God, obeying God, practicing God’s commandments and so on and so forth. The beautiful aspect of worshipping God is that it serves two purposes: first, it is the only way to know the ultimate and the most important truth – God Himself, and second, it is the best set of rules which produce a happy life, and frankly speaking, the only way of the continuation of life on Earth.
Nevertheless, the process of knowing God, which is a life time and a paramount process, can be undermined by something called ‘polytheism’. According to Islam, as a purely monotheistic religion, polytheism is the recognition of a false god beside God – the Creator. By recognizing and dedicating part of the ‘process’ to a false god beside God, this undermines totally the process of knowing God – the Ultimate Truth. By simply recognizing another god and dedicating some worship to it, this in and of itself is evidence that one does not ‘know’ God and cannot know God as long as they do not recognize God as the only one. The process of knowing God and the recognition are inseparable.
For this reason, Islam does not address atheism as a special phenomenon. Atheism falls under polytheism, regardless of the morphological meaning of the word ‘atheism’. According to the monotheistic religions, by virtue of not knowing God – by not recognizing or by undermining the process, one automatically recognizes another god because in reality there is no vacuum. According to Islam, whether one does not recognize the existence of a creator, or recognizes but does not submit to that creator, or recognizes a creator but recognizes other gods beside God, they all have one thing in common: they do not know God, which is the ultimate goal. An atheist, according to Islam, is no worse overall than someone who recognizes God as a creator but worships a statue or a person. They both do not know God and both are categorized as polytheists or disbelievers, according to a monotheistic religion. Of course, this is not to say that a type of polytheists could not have a better chance to wake up and ‘know’ God than another type of polytheists, such as atheists. Definitely, polytheism consists of subcategories, but the bottom line is that all polytheists do not know God, including the subcategory of polytheism called “atheism’.
Again, understanding the concept of ‘knowing’ God is the key concept of belief in God, which is promoted by a monotheistic religion, such as Islam. God is the most important truth, not like other facts, and as such, God cannot be perceived like other facts, such as mathematical or natural ones. Knowing God requires another dimension, different from the way we deal with mathematical or natural facts. Knowing God is a process, an attitude, a choice, a personal decision really. If one starts the process of knowing, if one chooses to know God, if one looks for God, definitely one will know God, even if he or she is an illiterate individual in the most remote areas and cut off from civilizations. Conversely, if one chooses not to know God, he or she will not then know God and cannot know God as long as there is no choice and no process undertaken to know God, even if he or she is the most renowned scientist in the world. A scientist could be good at dealing with the data and facts of the nature, but this ability does not help him or her too much, not to say at all, to know God. Knowing God, according to Islam, for instance, is a matter of choice, not a matter of scientific ability because God is a fact of a different aspect than the facts of the nature.
Moreover, according to Islam, genetically or naturally every human being, regardless of origin, social stratum, race, parental status, color, physical construct, intellectual ability, has an awareness or innate disposition of the existence of a creator, no matter how vague it might look and no matter how the environment suppresses that awareness or disposition. Actually, according to a monotheistic religion, the main goal of life is the challenge or the struggle to know God by overcoming all the hindrances of the social environment which tend to suppress the awareness of God, hence the concept of test. As a result, there is no real atheist, in the sense that someone quite honestly does not know if there is a creator or not. Even anthropologically speaking, every society, regardless of time and place, has demonstrated that God, or a type of god, has been part of their spiritual and social life. This is indicative of this innate disposition of humans to look for God.
To sum up, Islam, as a monotheistic religion, or even Judaism and Christianity, do not really address atheism separately from polytheism because atheism is not an intellectual or serious movement. Atheism simply falls under polytheism, which is considered as disbelief as well. What matters is to know God, not to accept the existence of a creator. Atheists, as all other subcategories of polytheists, choose not to know God – the Creator and the Ultimate Truth, despite the fact that they are absolutely aware of the existence of a creator, according to Islam, for instance. The reasons why atheists choose not to know God could vary from political, pragmatic, social to the most stupid ones, but not intellectual at all.
So, the claim that Islam, as a monotheistic religion, has failed to predict the appearance of atheism is hollow. Islam views God as a fact, but which is different from any other fact of the nature. As such, it cannot be known by merely accepting the existence of that fact. The awareness of the existence of God and the capability of knowing God is genetic in every human being. However, knowing God is a matter of choice and it is a process. The process of knowing God can be undermined by virtue of recognizing another god and this is called polytheism. Atheism, according to the religion of Islam, is a subcategory of polytheism. Atheists are not god-less people. Their god could be money; their superficial pseudo-intelligence could lead them to worship their stupidity; however, the most important factor which has promoted atheism in modern times is politics, in my view, not an intellectual pursuit.
Atheism is not a genuine intellectual movement of people who genuinely don’t believe in the existence of God. Atheists want to be perceived as intellectuals and neutral, as people who genuinely are looking for hard-core facts of nature and who accept only evidence which can be perceived by the five senses, who are open-minded and ready to accept the truth, who are more sophisticated than others, yet in reality they demonstrate a religious commitment and a political fanaticism, not a ‘scientific’ approach as they claim.
If we examine carefully the activity of atheists, we’ll see that much of their focus is on attacking God and the traditional religions, especially Islam. At the same time, the fact that academia, media, universities, schools, and the world of art are overpopulated by atheists, this is because atheism is supported as a religion by politics around the world.
There is nothing new and complicated about atheism. It is a different face of the classical polytheism. It is as dark and irrational and old as polytheism itself. The religion of Islam, as a monotheistic religion, does not even refer specifically to this movement because it is a political movement, not an intellectual one.
Written in 2020