What makes a good question? It is said that a good lawyer will never ask a question in a courtroom to which he does not already know the answer. To them, a good question is the one that can have only one answer, the one they want to hear.
For some, the good questions are the gotcha questions. The ones that stomp the opponent. The ones they cannot immediately answer. The ones that make them winners by default.
For some, it is the loaded question, the one that is so heavy with assumptions that the opponent cannot answer it in any way without making himself look bad or stupid.
To me, a good question is the least obvious one. The one with the lowest level of assumptions. The one that forces the other side to think about his assumptions, his premises. A good question is a question on the margin. The one your opponent has not thought of before.
All too often debates happen around core ideas colliding head on, both parties reinforcing their own beliefs, walking away in the end more convinced that the other side is wrong.
What is fascinating about faith to me are not the big questions but the small ones. Some religions encourage discovery, the discussion of big questions within the framework of the religion with the notion that this inquiry will strengthen your faith. Creation, the nature of god, what should you believe, what should drive your behavior. Most religions welcome the questioning of their tenets as an opportunity to expose you to their ideas.
Muslims are not like that. They just want you to submit.
What I submit to the whole Muslim world is that there is NOT ONE MUSLIM on this planet who is able to provide satisfactory answers to seven simple questions about their faith.
Some of the questions could just as easily be asked from followers of other faiths, but most are specific to Islam.
The premise of every question is the same. Muslims follow commands that they believe to come directly from God. The commands do not make senses to me. Not as direct commands from God Almighty, the creator of the Universe.
They make perfect sense as long as I assume that they came from the mind of an ambitious but illiterate nomad with an active imagination living somewhere in the desert in the 7th century.
The Quran is exactly what I would expect to come out of the mind of such a mortal human. Someone who is the product of evolution displaying the behaviour and attitude of a particular society, someone who is the product of the time and the place when and where he gave form to his ideas.
Again, if I assume that the Quran was written by a power hungry human, it makes perfect sense. If I take the words of the Muslims who believe that it was dictated by God, then it makes no sense whatsoever.
I MAY BE WRONG, it could be that there is no God but God and Mohamed is his messenger, but somebody would have to convince me that it is so. I do not believe that this is possible, or to be more precise, I do not believe that there is a Muslim in this world who can do it.
So here are the questions:
#1 Why Islam?
Why “submission”? Why would the creator of the universe want you to submit to his will? Come to think of it: what is ‘will’? How much sense the notion of will makes to an omnipotent being?
Submission is an evolutionary behaviour. Submission is signaling to your opponent that you are no longer going to challenge him. Submission can only make sense if the entity you submit to can be challenged. An omnipotent being cannot be challenged and therefore submission to it makes no sense either. Picture yourself standing over an anthill. Now imagine what goes on in the mind of the ants. Picture yourself how much concern you would have over which of their six legs they can touch their thorax with or what direction should they face in relation to your shoes when they defecate ….. then realize that this is not a very good example as it is still in the realm of the imaginable. You can still perceive the scale. Now replace the ant-leg with the flagella of a phytoplankton and describe the exquisite joy you feel when they submit to your will.
Will you appreciate the fact that the ants consider you most gracious and most merciful while dismembering some other ants who did not submit to their believes about your commands? Would that make sense to you?
#2 Why do you pray?
God isn’t only omnipotent, it is also omniscient. Supposedly he knows every single one of your thoughts and intentions even before you do yourself. What is the point then in professing it?
I could also ask what you pray for. It is instructive to watch Muslims pray. It never seems to be more than the constant profession of faith, or as this video shows it, giving up on the translation after a while simply displaying :The imam supplicates the almighty. Why does the Almighty need supplication? Does he have doubts about his own might? Does he really need to be reassured by a billion people five times a day? Could it be that you have doubts and you only pray to reassure yourself?
#3 Where is the forgiveness and the mercy?
“In the name of Allah most gracious, most merciful” (Bismillah Ar-Raḥmān, Ar-Raḥīm)
If he is merciful why does he ask you to terrorize others? To kill the Jews. To cut off the heads of the infidels. I can offer a long list from the Quran to show that your God is without merci and compassion.
Your God is asking for more merciless violence then all other gods put together. Where is the merci and the compassion? How can you call him merciful if he is unwilling to forgive the unbelievers?
What is grace? How does it show? How can an invisible entity be gracious?
#4 Why the Jews?
What is your problem with the Jews? What is God’s? Didn’t God say that they are his chosen people? Why didn’t he let them know that he changed his mind?
God could end the strife in the Middle-East in a second by saying a few simple words. Why doesn’t he? Does he like the strife? What is his problem with unbelievers? Why can’t he send us an e-mail to sort out our differences? Okay, that may be too difficult, but maybe an SMS or a tweet? You know, from those little magical devices the kuffar invented for the benefit of the believers?
#5 Why your God?
Let’s suppose that I have amnesia. I woke up from a coma without knowing anything about any of the world’s religions but I have a deep spiritual desire in me for faith, I want to know who to thank for keeping me alive. I find representatives of the following Faiths: you, the Muslim Imam, a Catholic priest, a Jewish Rabbi, a Hindu Brahmin, a Buddhist monk, a Sikh disciple, a Jain monk and a Bahá’í preacher. What would make me pick your faith and your God?
#6 Why the rules?
Islam is full of rules. I understand that your God withheld some very important information from your prophet. He did not, for example, inform him about the miracle of toilet paper and the magic of soap. In the meantime, since your God last talked to you, the kuffar discovered all these wonderful things including also the wonder of using a knife and a fork instead of your hands to eat. I could mock the little green book of Khomeini endlessly, but my question really is this:
Why can’t you adapt to the 21st century and either drop the silly rules or ask the almighty for a set of updates? Version 2.0. Maybe a new messenger.
#7 Why the world? Why the Jihad?
Most religions focus on the after-life and also realize that faith can only come from inside. If faith benefits you, why do you need to coerce it? Why can’t you just sit back and wait for the world to come to you? If yours is the true faith, eventually everybody will find it.
Why does god demand Jihad? Does he not believe in his own cause? Why does he not just make it happen? Why don’t you just let all the unbelievers rot in hell?
Why do you have to kill the apostate? Isn’t God’s punishment severe enough? Why do you need to do your God’s business? Aren’t you concerned that he may punish you for your arrogance in the afterlife?
I could have picked 10 questions or a douzen, I could have also added a number of puzzling little questions such as why do you have to say any time you mention the name of your prophet “Peace be upon him”?
Do you have doubts about his peace? Isn’t that assured? Isn’t he supposed to be sitting in Paradise next to God happily deflowering the virgins allotted to him by the almighty? What could possibly threaten his peace? Are you worried that God is not happy with him? That maybe he is NOT Ar-Raḥmān, Ar-Raḥīm and wouldn’t give peace even to your beloved prophet?
The point of all these questions is that even faith requires certain coherence. It has to make some sense to the believers. What I would like to understand is how can Islam make sense to anybody?
While I am not a follower of any of the faiths I mention in question #5, any of them makes more sense to me than Islam.
The ultimate question however is this: how could Muslims expect anybody to take them and their Quran seriously if they cannot answer the questions above?
I have to repeat that I am asking these questions with all due respect. Actually, with far more respect than what is due.
This is the last of my postings on this subject. For a while, anyway.