Seeking God

Published: July 3, 2016
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The writer is vice-chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. He holds a PhD in Economics from Stanford University

The writer is vice-chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. He holds a PhD in Economics from Stanford University

For thousands of years, the question of the existence of God has occupied a central place in philosophy and theology, because how we structure our lives depends so heavily on the answer. The existence of God provides meaning to life, and assurance that despite the rough and tumble we see in the world around us, perfect justice and mercy will prevail in the end. God watches over us, and we are responsible for our actions. On the other hand, the stark consequences of the non-existence of God have been vividly portrayed by arch-atheist Bertrand Russell: “(Man’s) origin, his hopes and fears… are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system… only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

Despite the central importance of this question, it became marginalised in the 20th century due to a major philosophical blunder. The philosophy of logical positivism, which became widely accepted, denied any meaning to sentences containing unobservables. Hence, discussions on the existence of God fell out of fashion. Logical positivism underwent a spectacular crash when it was realised that electrons, gravity, magnetic forces and so on, were all unobservable but nonetheless meaningfully discussed by physicists. So in recent times, the question of God’s existence has once again become a topic of interest. Here we briefly review a few of the main arguments.

New life has been breathed into the ancient cosmological argument which asks ‘Who created the universe?’ Atheists used to answer by saying that the universe has always been there, and so it was not created. The creation of the universe requires a Creator. At the same time, since God is eternal and uncreated, he does not require a cause. The current atheist response to this is that they do not know who created the universe; they think God is not a plausible answer, and they are confident that they will find a better answer in due time.

Another major argument for God says that if we find a perfectly-designed watch with beautifully inter-meshing gears, which work together in perfect harmony, we can infer the existence of a watchmaker. Similarly, our beautifully designed universe proves the existence of a designer. Even atheists like Stephen Hawking have acknowledged that “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” The simplest life form, the cell, is so fantastically complicated that there is universal agreement that it could not have emerged through chance, as an accidental collocation of atoms. Currently, scientists do not have a clue as to how the cell could have originated without having been created by a designer. Similarly, confirmed atheist Francis Crick, who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, was led to remark that “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Crick’s fierce commitment to atheism, combined with his realisation that life was too complex to have originated spontaneously, led him to the bizarre theory of ‘panspermia’. Apparently, advanced extra-terrestrial alien life forms with a desire to propagate life sent out rocket ships with microbes to provide seeds for the origins of life on our planet! If the heart does not want to believe, no amount of evidence for creation can convince us.

Let us, therefore, turn to the ‘reasons of the heart’ which provide evidence for God. Throughout the ages, the primary reason for people coming to believe in God has been the trustworthy character of the messengers. As the Holy Quran states, the holy prophet (peace be upon him) was sent as a mercy for all mankind, and it was his kindness which attracted people towards him. Today, as always, people will be attracted to religion if they see the effects of these beliefs in the form of an extraordinary character. To the extent that religion fosters character and creates spiritual growth, hearts will be attracted towards it. It is a sad truth that one can find extremes of corruption among people who are supposed to be religious leaders in most faith traditions. To counter this, one can easily find equally corrupt people among secular leaders, who have bombed and killed millions of innocent civilians for the sake of profits, politics and power. However, this is hardly an argument to favour religion. More convincing for modern secular mindsets are the arguments of Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy. Huxley shows that transformational experiences of unity and harmony with all of the Creation and God are the common goals and outcomes of all spiritual traditions.

Awareness of thousands of cases of medical malpractice does not prevent us from seeking medical help. In a similar fashion, malpractice of religion should not prevent us from pursuing our own quest for answers. Perhaps, the best way to find convincing evidence for God is to ask Him directly for guidance, as Hazrat Ibrahim A.S did. It is a promise of God to those who seek Him with sincerity and humility, that He will surely respond to their prayer in a way which will eliminate all doubt.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Free Soul
    Jul 3, 2016 - 10:01PM

    Very good article !!!Recommend

  • pk
    Jul 3, 2016 - 11:39PM

    Believing God creates more questions then answers. Who created a creator? To build something you require a raw material. Where from this raw material came? Why so many planets are empty without use?Believing God may temporarily satisfy ones search but definitely it will not bring him close to reality. To me those who believe in God and those who don’t believe in God are in same boat, reality may be completely different. So I choose to keep seeking rather then believing. Doesn’t matter I didn’t find the answer in lifetime. It’s human nature to keep seeking.Recommend

  • Kajamohideen
    Jul 4, 2016 - 2:39AM

    The author *wants God to exist because it gives meaning to life. This human want is what brings God into existence ie God is a creature of the human mind.Recommend

  • Seek
    Jul 4, 2016 - 7:59AM

    If you truly seek Allah, you will certainly find him. You might even see Him in your dream and then no amount of evidence for denying Him shall deflect you from your belief in the Creator. Recommend

  • Pnpuri
    Jul 4, 2016 - 11:37AM

    If we(humans) are created by God, then why are we discriminating fellow human being in name of ethencity, race, caste, regional identity.Recommend

  • Valerie Kaul
    Jul 4, 2016 - 12:24PM

    I see none of you have read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins…all your questions will be answered – read it!Recommend

  • Lancelot
    Jul 4, 2016 - 12:36PM

    I had always some reservations with the religion, in my heart but this article clears it all. I can say the strength it provides surpasses thousands sermons of religious preachers. It is the logic which now holds strength and I am very glad that you shared it. Please keep on with the good work, we are anxiously waiting for further perusal of the question. Does God exists?Recommend

  • Amin Jan Naim
    Jul 4, 2016 - 3:02PM

    False comparisons, wrong imputations and misleading deductions. Recommend

  • Zubair Khan
    Jul 4, 2016 - 7:23PM

    You said it beautifully.”Perhaps, the best way to find convincing evidence for God is to ask Him directly for guidance, as Hazrat Ibrahim A.S did. It is a promise of God to those who seek Him with sincerity and humility, that He will surely respond to their prayer in a way which will eliminate all doubt”
    Another man of God forwarded same concept in these words, “Search for God is a difficult matter. Observation of the heavens and the earth and reflection of the perfect orderliness of the universe only leads to the conclusion that the universe should have a creator, yet it is not a proof that such a Creator exists. There is a difference between ought to be and is. The first duty of a person, therefore, is to acquire certainty with regard to the existence of God. How can this certainty be acquired? It cannot be acquired through mere stories. It cannot be acquired through mere arguments. The only way to acquiring certainty is to experience God by having conversation with Him or by witnessing His extraordinary signs”
    So through prayers there is way to find God. Those who strive with sincerity and hard work ultimately find Him.Recommend

  • RAL
    Jul 4, 2016 - 10:21PM

    @Amin Jan Naim

    You seem to have an agenda against Dr. Asad Zaman. You have something snide to say about every article he writes here without a shred of evidence or counter-argument. This seems to be a case of some personal grudge against him rather than honest appraisal. Please try to behave in a more mature manner. Recommend

  • mind control
    Jul 4, 2016 - 10:46PM

    Was it ‘Mercy’ that visited the Jews of Banu Qurayza??Recommend

  • Asad Kapadia
    Jul 4, 2016 - 11:26PM

    Beautiful writing. What a great fortune that we have Dr Asad Zaman who is not only a great economist but also a great evolutionary biologist who can explain everything to average Pakistanis. Without such highly informed scholars as Dr Zaman, Pakistanis would be misled into Western errors. East or West – Islam is the best.Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Jul 5, 2016 - 3:09AM

    People have only just started to understand how many things developed after being restrained from doing so for many years by religion, but we are just at the beginning. Hopefully, people will continue to learn the intricacies of many items, if not all, which we do not currently understand.Recommend

  • harkol
    Jul 5, 2016 - 8:50AM

    If the heart does not want to believe, no amount of evidence for creation can convince us.

    A priest had an argument with an atheist.

    Atheist: “I have not found any proof of existence of god, and I have read a lot, spoke with a lot of people, and not one has been able to show such proof or evidence”

    Priest: “You are like a blindfolded man, put in a dark room, on a new moon’s night, searching for a dark cat, that isn’t even there in the room”!

    Atheist: After a thoughtful pause, “”We are similar in many ways. You too are like a blindfolded man, put in a dark room, on a new moon’s night, searching for a dark cat, that isn’t even there in the room.”

    “The differrence is that YOU claim to have found it.”!!Recommend

  • Polwala
    Jul 5, 2016 - 10:32AM

    @Pk, @Sexton Blake,
    Very well said.Recommend

  • Amin Jan Naim
    Jul 5, 2016 - 10:59AM

    @RAL: I do not know Dr. Asad Zaman, nor have I ever met him. So the question of a personal grudge does not arise at all. However, I profoundly disagree with some of his views and I give reasons for that in my comments on his articles. Critical discussions are necessary if we have to avoid dogmatism. Recommend

  • Zubair Khan
    Jul 5, 2016 - 12:55PM

    @Amin Jan Naim:
    .”Perhaps, the best way to find convincing evidence for God is to ask Him directly for guidance, as Hazrat Ibrahim A.S did. It is a promise of God to those who seek Him with sincerity and humility, that He will surely respond to their prayer in a way which will eliminate all doubt”.
    An extremely logical and convincing argument. If you do not agree then instead blindly objecting bring some counter argument to this logic.Recommend

  • Menon
    Jul 5, 2016 - 2:57PM

    When scientists are able to completely describe the “BIG BANG”, it will also explain cell formation.

    Dumbest article ever published.Recommend

  • wajid
    Jul 27, 2016 - 10:00AM

    ‘Awareness of thousands of cases of medical malpractice does not prevent us from seeking medical help.’ Excellent analysis!Recommend

  • Yasin
    Sep 18, 2016 - 1:33AM

    @harkol

    You said it all!!!Recommend

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