A Question for Atheists
Atheists’ Increase in Number
Nowadays, atheists are increasing in number worldwide. I do not intend to discuss the reasons for the rise, as this may take several articles to cover, but this is rather an attempt to make you ready to start a debate when someone dear to you, a relative, a friend or even your own son, comes and tells you that he has stopped believing in God because he is civilized enough to believe only in scientific theories.
As a matter of fact, in the Middle East, it is not well accepted to be an atheist, for they are religious by nature; families whether Muslims or Christians, consider having one of their members as an atheist a catastrophe. And if this occurs, all the family starts an endless debate with the one, who in their eyes, has deviated from the right path. This is done in an attempt to persuade him/her to revert to religion. For me, I see this debate as a mandatory step, however, the approach makes all the difference.
Generally, when we are involved in any type of dispute, we tend to focus on our differences; and no one listens but to their own voice. However, I believe that starting the conversation with what unites us is a very good approach but challenging.
Therefore, my first piece of advice is to be quiet and calm while discussing this sensitive matter, and don’t ever start the discussion by reciting verses from the Holy Quran or the Bible. Don’t waste your time and effort by talking about the Hereafter, messengers, salvations, and so forth as your friend has stopped believing in all topics related to the unseen.
The Common Ground Between Believers and Atheists:
You have to find some common ground to start off your discussion. Something that both of you can really see, hear, touch and smell. Start talking about man. Ask him: define man. Who is he? What is he made of?
He may well describe man as he sees him. He might tell you that he is made of flesh and blood, formed of a heart, lungs, intestines, esophagus, brain, legs, hands etc.
The Human-Car Analogy
In this case, he sees man as a mere machine that is capable of speaking! Accordingly, we should expect from all human beings to be a replica and should function in the same way. In other words, we should see them all doing the same job. Exactly like cars, they have different bodies but they are formed of the same components including wheels, motors, body, seats, gearshift knobs, steering wheel, and all cars are designed to transport people from one place to another.
Are People Mere Machines?
It is easy to see that people are not like cars. Although all people are formed of the same elements, they act very differently. Why do people differ in talents and capabilities? Every day we see them doing totally different jobs. We see the carpenter, the physician, the musician, the porter, the servant, and the manager, etc. working. What makes people vary in their professions? They differ even in their character. What gives someone a sense of humor while others may seem dull? We see someone who’s charismatic and someone who lies in the shadow, someone who does bad things and someone who’s peaceful, someone who’s selfish and someone who’s giving! Why do we see a hand that plays the piano and a hand that commits crimes? If hands and brains share the same anatomy, then what makes people differ if they are only bodies?
The Beatable Defense of Atheists
Maybe he would tell you that environment and the surroundings affect us tremendously, People who come from rich places are completely different from the poor and people coming from different geographical places react differently. In this sense, you have to ask him what makes the environment affect us if we are just bodies (mere machines); have you ever thought of a car that would change its function or behavior because it is running in Egypt’s roads rather than the US?
Secondly, the environment does not have that big of an influence on us. Hence, people who live in the same building do not have the same jobs and do not behave in the same way.
At this point, he might tell you: “it’s because of genes. Everyone inherits different genes that carry different characteristics”, and to prove Darwin’s theory he might add: “variations exhibited by individuals can accumulate and cause some species to evolve”.
In a way, this is a misleading answer as it is not proved that genes are responsible for forming principles, conscience, awareness, morals, decisions to undertake sacrifices, yearnings for freedom and beauty etc. But the good news is that this answer shows that your friend or relative realizes that genes carry heredity information. And this is great.
Then you may ask: “do you believe that any piece of information can be produced out of substance or mud?”
If he agrees that mud is capable of producing information, then he has proved at least to himself that he is definitely not following science, as he claims, and he is not even using logic, but if he disagrees then you won the first round. And you may start your second round by asking him:
“Who wrote the code?"