From: Mohammad Farooq <email@example.com>
To: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, May 17, 1999 9:16 PM
Subject: [ALOCHONA] Confession of a "Naive Mind" [Crazy idea: ..]
Salaam and greetings!
Mr. Masud offered a not-so-long response to one of my recent postings under the thread "Crazy Idea: Setting up a World Religion". In the context of ongoing debates on this issue around the world, including Bangladesh, this is quite an important topic. I appreciate Mr. Masud's response. However, I respectfully differ with most of what he has stated. Allow me to elaborate on a few.
"Freudian slip ..."
Mr. Masud wrote:
> (As is revealed by the Freudian slip of the use of the word "universally" above).
Whatever I have written so far to Alochona, I have assumed that it is general forum attracting people of diverse background. Thus, if I have written on an economic or financial issue, even though I am an economist, I have refrained using jargons or clichés that might be more appropriate for academic discourses. For example, I don't think it would be fair to the Alochona forum, if as an economist, I start discussing issues using expressions such as, Walrasian equilibrium, Pareto criteria, etc. Is Mr. Masud assuming that the expression "Freudian slip" would be generally understood by those who might read this? Whenever posting to Alochona or a similar forum, I remind myself so that my communication is understandable by the general subscribers. I am not saying that I always succeed, but I try and I hope we all will try in the same way.
2. My personal bias
Mr. Masud wrote:
>The underlined (^) parts in the remarks above i.e. "belongs to" and "do not (and
cannot)" are highly debatable and at best a personal biased view.
A redundant statement. Obviously, these remarks are "highly debatable". Stating my position with conviction does not make it any less debatable. It can be characterized as a "personal biased view", but that does not make the view necessarily incorrect.
3. Religion and conscience
Mr. Masud wrote:
>Right and wrong has not been DEFINED by religions. Religions REAFFIRM what we >already intuitively know to be wrong or right through conscience. CONSCIENCE>(Superego in Freudian jargon) is as much a part of born human instincts like any >other (love, hatred, anger, reason/emotion etc).
Mr. Masud's statement would be right, if we agree that there is no ABSOLUTE right and wrong. In such case, it would be correct to say that right and wrong have not been defined by religions. For example, Nazi leaders instructed their followers to do the "right" thing, as they deemed right: cause all those whom they don't like to become extinct. Or, let us say a gang leader rebukes a gang member saying that it was "wrong" for him to abandon his fellow gang members when they were attacked. However, if right and wrong are taken in absolute sense, then I am afraid those have been DEFINED by religions. I am willing to learn and stand corrected, but virtually all religions universally consider adultery to be a sin. Does that mean all non-religious philosophy/ideology consider adultery to be okay? NO. Does that mean those who claim to belong to certain religion do not commit adultery? NO. What it means is that if anyone follows religion, the right and wrong are clear and defined. Why adultery is wrong and who says it is wrong? The answer of religions is that it is wrong because God defined it as wrong. Anyone belonging to any philosophy/ideology may decide that they consider adultery wrong too. But, there is no absolutist (dictionary meaning: not to be doubted; something considered to be the ultimate basis) conclusion one can draw; depending on people's interpretations they may reach different conclusion, and in the realm of philosophy/ideology, not moral absolutes, but moral relatives prevail.
As far as conscience is concerned, I have used conscience in the following sense: "The faculty of recognizing the difference between right and wrong with regard to one's conduct coupled with a sense that should act accordingly." In this sense, "right and wrong" are not synonymous to or substitutes of conscience. Conscience is like our tongue, which we use for taste. Tongue is not synonymous to taste, such as sweet, sour, spicy, salty, etc. Tongue is part of our sensory organs that allows us to recognize different tastes. In a similar way, conscience is an essential part of our moral existence that helps us recognize that adultery is wrong and have moral conviction to act accordingly. Similar to other religions, there are right and wrong in Islam. But who can benefit from it? The people with Taqwa (God-consciousness that facilitates proper use of conscience). That is identified right at the beginning of the very first Surah after Surah al-Fatiha.
"This is a Book; in it is guidance, sure without doubt, to those who have Taqwa" [The Qur'an: 2/al-Baqara/2]
Thus, religions, such as Islam, do not say that you don't need conscience to live according the specified moral standard. Indeed, conscience by itself cannot lead to moral absolutes. One can simply refer to the homosexual movement. This movement has already reconciled conscience with homosexuality. Now using moral relativity, it wants not the religions to determine what is right and wrong, but let our conscience and constitution decide whether it is right or not.
Mr. Masud can take a challenge. Do you think lying, stealing, and adultery are wrong? Leaving aside religions, enlighten us with your articulation as to why are they are wrong?
4. Civil Laws substituting religion?
>The same is achieved now a days by the civil laws. . A person with no
>strong conscience does not commit a rape in public NOT because it is forbidden in
>religion BUT because he will be arrested immediately or thrown to jail or sent to
Laws that do not have moral foundation of absolutes cannot achieve the same thing. Mr. Masud erroneously argues using the example of rape. Why a person should be going to jail or sent to death row, if it is not wrong? Why is it wrong to begin with? If we use moral relativity as the underlying foundation of law, then the attitude of one society may differ from another. Some might not even consider rape as wrong. But, within the religious domain, it is virtually universally agreed that rape is wrong. Thus, there are some moral absolutes that in the religious domain are universally recognized.
A very unfortunate remark?
>The above remarks can be interpreted to mean that an atheist/agnostic has no >sense of right or wrong. Or that followers of Philosophies (Buddhism, Confucius, >Shamanism, Shintoism, Bahai etc) do not have sense of right or wrong or that they >are engaging in wrongs all the time and not doing right at all. (After all if they didn't >believe in wrongs or rights why wouldn't they be committing wrongs and not doing >rights? That sure would be beneficial for them:). But in reality these people do >indeed show sense of right and wrong. So that was a very unfortunate remark.
Once again, I respectfully differ with Mr. Masud here.
Buddhism is not merely philosophy, it IS a religion. If Mr. Masud has studied Buddhist scriptures, he should know better. They are worth reading, anyway. For example, read in The Dhammapada the verses related to sin (Chapter 1, Chapter 9); the world of Yama (in Bengali we call Jom, the messenger of death) (Chapter 2); the world of the gods where the uncharitable does not go (Chapter 12); going to hell (Chapter 22). Readers can then conclude for themselves, whether Buddhism is merely a philosophy.
The same thing goes for Bahaism. Bahaism IS a religion, at least that is what the adherents of Bahaism think. What about Confucius? Read, for example, in The Aphorisms of Confucius. It is reported that Confucius said: "Heaven has endowed me with a moral destiny." Does that sound like a mere philosophy? Readers can conclude for themselves.
Therefore, his criticism is patently incorrect that one could draw conclusion from my statement that Buddhism, Confucius, Bahaism do not have sense of right or wrong. It, therefore, was NOT a "very unfortunate remark."
What about the ones that are merely philosophies/ideologies? I did not suggest that they do not have any sense of right or wrong. Some of them might have even better sense than many who claim to follow a religion. The problem is that philosophies/ideologies do not have any moral absolutes.
6. What about Universal Human Rights declaration?
Mr. Masud wrote:
> In fact Universal Human Rights declaration (Which in effect defines many wrongs) >would not have been necessary if wrong and right were the sole domain of religion >and people followed them.
As a Muslim, I will give example from Islam (and it does not mean that similar arguments cannot be derived from other religions). Islam, as a comprehensive way of life, teaches a set of core values, a set of right and wrong, most of which broadly coincide with other religions as well. Yet, just because it had all those rights and wrongs specified did not mean that it did not need a treaty involving all the residents of Medina, which is considered to many to be the first constitution in the world. Muslims, both during the time of the Prophet (s) and after, have entered treaties to establish common norms by which they committed themselves to abide with. Have Muslims in their history always followed them? No, but their violation was not due to sanction by religion.
The same is the case with Universal Human Rights declaration. It brings the people of different background together and bind them to common norms. Does that mean that this declaration is followed or will be followed by every signatory nation? If not, how does your argument hold? The declaration does not makes religions irrelevant.
Religion for the naive minds?
Mr. Masud wrote:
>Since our inner desires and instincts (Id) often tend to
>conflict with these intuitive notions of wrong and right religion provide an
>effective deterrent by the threat of punishment in hell and reward of heaven to
There are those who believe that religions have become redundant and obsolete. We have become smarter and more intelligent now to be still dealing with religions. However, I can't hide my sense of bewilderment at such views bordering on arrogance. Just on this particular point I could write at length. But for the discerning mind it would not be necessary, and for un-discerning mind, length would not matter.
Let us just take a few scattered examples.
(a) Sir Isaac Newton: He was a devoted Unitarian Christian. I would like to ask Mr. Masud, if he has read Newton's Principia. I have read the parts that I could understand. In the last section of Principia, General Scholium, one can read how his investigation of nature has been motivated and inspired by his interest in God. So, because he was religious, we will categorize him as "naive mind"? [See Note #1 for sample quotation from Isaac Newton's Principia]
(b) Dr. Abdus Salam, a noble prize winning physicist, is, by his own claim, devoutly religious. [Read note #2] Because he believes in religion and practices it, he is one of those "naive mind"?
(c) Blaise Pascal was very religious. Does he need any introduction? He said: "Men despise religion; they hate it, and they fear it is true." [Pensees. 1670] Another "naive mind"?
(d) Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam they all had some form of affiliation or another with religions that they believed to be true. They were naive?
(e) Al-Biruni, Al-Jabr (remember Algebra?), Ibn Khaldun (the father of sociology): They were naive?
8. Confession and concluding comments:
When I was lot younger, going to college in Bangladesh, like many other youth of the same period, I was fascinated by Red books (coming from Soviet Union and China). I felt lot smarter and sophisticated because I was in tune with those challenging religion, existence of God, moral absolutes, etc.. After having prolonged argument with one of the persons I later learned to respect deeply told me one time: anyone has the right to make a fool out of himself. I mocked at him at that time thinking he lost the argument to me. Later, I knew better. We, everyone of us, still have the same inalienable right to make a fool out of ourselves.
Let me make my confession now. If people like Isaac Newton, Abdus Salam, Blaise Pascal, Gandhi, Tagore, Nazrul Islam, due to the fact that they believed in religions (orthodoxly or unorthodoxly), would be representing the "naive" genre, without any qualm I confess, I rather be a naive, and I am.
Some other relevant naiveté:
Francis Bacon: "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."
Benjamin Franklin: "If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it!"
Albert Einstein (very unorthodox about religion, but did not hesitate to suggest): "I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. ... science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Best regards to all.
Mohammad Omar Farooq
#1 "This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God ??????????? , or Universal Ruler; for God is a relative word, and has a respect to servants; and Deity is the dominion of God not over his own body, as those imagine who fancy God to be the soul of the world, but over servants. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect; but a being, however perfect, without dominion, cannot be said to be Lord God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel, the God of Gods, and Lord of Lords; but we do not say, my Eternal, your Eternal, the Eternal of Israel, the Eternal of Gods; we do not say, my Infinite, or my Perfect:" [From The Principia (online): http://members.tripod.com/~gravitee/
#2 Dr. Abdus Salam was invited to deliver an address to a meeting in the UNESCO House, Paris on April 27, 1984. The speech principally elucidates Dr. Salam's thoughts on the contribution of Muslim scientists in the field of science and concordance between faith and science. He remarked at that meeting: "Let me say at the outset that I am both a believer as well as a practising Muslim. I am Muslim because I believe in the spiritual message of the Holy Qur'an. As a scientist, the Qur'an speaks to me in that it emphasises reflection on Laws of Nature, with examples drawn from cosmology, physics, biology and medicine, as signs for all men." [I am aware about the questions regarding the Muslim identity of Dr. Abdus Salam. That is not a relevant issue in the context of what I am discussing.]
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