Most people don’t know who they are, why they are here or where to go. These existential questions have plagued and enlightened humankind for millennia if not eons.
Some people might claim that they have the answers, others might actually even detain them; but for those in search… longing for these answers must be a tedious endeavour. But regardless of where you find yourself on this trek, you are nonetheless on a perpetual journey; because each one of these existential questions are like a hilltop, and each answer is like the summit which overlooks other hilltops.
Now, the answer to any given question defines your belief; and the sum of your beliefs define your faith. And even if faith is so diverse as a concept, you can still make sense of it in a chronological manner through a dichotomous questioning process… I got it, in English… A reasoning that kind of looks like this…
This is not an exhaustive pathway, but it sums up the basic logic in following a certain reasoning on existential matters. Now, once you get to the end of the chart, regardless of which side of the spectrum you find yourself in, you’re basically confronted with two outcomes; follow a religion with set rules or follow your own philosophy
Depending on where you find yourself on this roadmap, following your own personal philosophy is not necessarily the best option; why… because you get to make the rules as you go along, which is the equivalent of playing monopoly with a 5-year-old… You think you’re about to win, when suddenly a new rule pops up and you end up in jail and don’t collect 200$
As it goes for religions or ideologies, there are practically as many as there are languages. But the one and only criterion that should be applied to decipher which one is right should be the truth. But there is just one teeny tiny problem; every single religion claims to be the one true faith. Could they all be right? I mean, as long as there is spirituality in one’s life… right! Isn’t that the goal? Personally, I don’t think so. But it doesn’t matter what I think; what matters is what each one thinks for themselves.
So once again, we’re back on the subject; do you give more importance to the truth or to any other criterion, whether it be wealth, social status, love, perception, ambition… you can check any box that you want, but can anything compare with the truth?
As it goes for the truth, you can resume its importance in the words of the Muslim scholar poet Al-Kindy:
“It is fitting for us not to be ashamed of acknowledging truth and to assimilate it from whatever source it comes to us. There is nothing of higher value than truth itself. It never cheapens or abases he who seeks.”
Now, if you agree that the truth is the sine qua non basis and condition for any quest, then one should not shun away from it. As it goes for discerning the truth, most religions advance compelling arguments for adhering to them. So unless you are a satanic demon worshiper, they all have a moral foundation and righteous conduct present in each and all of them. So… Which one to chose. Since there can only be one truth, and all the rest is falsehood, only one way of life can withstand this lie detector test. Still, we have yet to define the way to find the truth.
Logic is one way to make sense of the truth, but humans invent ways to circumvent the truth with this very same logic. To demonstrate this on another level, I love using the example of Mahatma Gandhi. This great individual is credited with practically singlehandedly reversing the stranglehold of power by British forces in India through peaceful means. Without minimizing his impact and effect on social change; being significant in a positive way and being right are two distinct matters. For instance, the following quote from Gandhi:
“Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Here is an unbroken record of service which does not end with her death. Our mother, when she dies, means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body, her flesh, her bones, her intestines, her horns and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth, but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshipping the cow.”
Depending on one’s set of beliefs, this can be seen as spot-on or completely appalling. The facts mentioned are true, yet the logic used to interpret these facts might be a little iffy: I don’t expect to suckle my mom’s titty past infancy, and I don’t count on using dead people’s body parts to make cheap soap. As for servitude, it is by sheer debt, gratitude, and humanity that I would tend to my mother while she is ill or in need.
These arguments are aimed to justify the adoration of the cow, but does that necessarily make the cow a living divinity? Once again: Rationally, if you believe something is true, you could rationalize anything. But then again, human logic is not void of bias.
Alright, forget about logic, what about knowledge? Knowledge is good… right?
Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi (Albucasis in the West) said:
“…whatever skill I have, I have derived for myself by my long reading of the books of the Ancients and my thirst to understand them until I extracted the knowledge of it from them. Then through the whole of my life I have adhered to experience and practice…I have made it accessible for you and rescued it from the abyss of prolixity”
Knowledge is imperative to get an idea about a subject. It allows one to form an opinion or convince someone who is willing to hear. Often, we equate knowledge with science; which is not entirely false. However, the interpretation of the facts is sometimes in question.
And as the 11th century scientist Ibn Al-Haytham (know also as Alhazen) said:
“The duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and,.. attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.”
“Truth is sought for its own sake. And those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things. Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough… God, however, has not preserved the scientist from error and has not safeguarded science from shortcomings and faults. If this had been the case, scientists would not have disagreed upon any point of science”
Imagine, this insight was present 1000 years ago. Nowadays, people follow science like the latest fad. For instance, in the 30’s, smoking was good for you; now it is bad. The 90’s, don’t eat cholesterol, now two eggs a day is healthy. Breastfeeding, climate change, And the list goes on…
Plus, science is more often than not based on models, and a model does not indicate an absolute truth; but a certain structure to work with within a field. And even that structure is susceptible to change. Like they say, a model is only good until another one can replace it.
Now, don’t think I am knocking on science, I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and I love to read about the latest discovery or breakthroughs in any given field. On the other hand, what I loathe is the interpretations containing implied biases that seep into science and get backed by “the scientific community” to further certain agendas; whether, political, economical or ideological.
Anyways, in my opinion, the best way to find the truth is through its opposite, it is to find what is false. How? By finding a contradiction. Anytime you want to disprove something, all you need is a contradiction, and the whole thing is discredited.
Now, if no contradiction is found, this does not automatically define the truth, it just presents the best available option. Kind of like models in science.
As it goes for contradictions, they are omnipresent in any and all religions and ideologies. So, without going into detail here is a quick list of main religions in the world and their main contradictions.:
When something is founded on a person, that means that all that came before was falsehood; i.e. guidance started only with that specific person, which doesn’t make any sense.
The presence of casts implies superiority by lineage, which equals injustice. Plus, the adoration of multiple deities brings on the polytheistic clash, where each god wants to take over the other gods domain and the universe becomes a giant game of risk; which, by the way is not the case. The opposite argument is to say that each deity has his own domain, which is even less compelling since that means they are limited, therefore unworthy of being adored.
Trinity!!! Do I even need to explain, if A=B, and B=C, than A should equal C and A, B and C are the same… Not when it comes to trinity. Plus, this doctrine only appeared in Christianity almost 400 years AD.
When you believe in a prophet, you normally follow his beliefs and convictions. Unfortunately, Jews overlooked this rule in disbelieving in Jesus as a messenger, while Zacharias and his son John, the Baptist I might add, believed in Jesus. Plus, there is reference of a prophet that is not from among the sons of Israel to come after Moses.
DNA is the most complex and minute way to store, transfer and use information. To reduce the notion of DNA to a simple series of flukes over millions of years is an insult to science as a whole and a complete misunderstanding of what information is to start with.
It is a cocktail of faiths. And if you combine faiths, you multiply the contradictions, or you just end up following your own philosophy which comes down to founding your own faith.
It’s a mix of spirituality which implies the same problem as the Bahai faith.
After going through this list, some might say that there are missing religions: where is Sikhism, Taoism, Shintoism, American Indian faith or Kemetic ancient Egyptian religion… and on and on… The long and the short of it is that there are just too many to list, but they all render the same inconsistencies as listed above. But there is one major religion that has not been mentioned: Islam. It is the exception; why, because it doesn’t have any contradiction.
Next week, In Sha Allah, we shall visit how this religion is the best available option on all fronts.