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Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

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Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD

Prologue:

This is a two hour debate, between three well known atheists and three theists.

First something about the big picture, Christian apologists want to make a case for Christianity based on laws of nature and science, by showing that there ought to be a Transcendent Creator of our universe.  They make this case, in one breath, and in the very next, deny all of science, by insisting on Eucharist, man-God of Jesus, who is not Transcendent, resurrection and miracles that violate laws of nature.

Atheists are right in exposing the irrationality of the Christian dogma. However, the Christians are right in as far as their claim that there needs to be a Creator of this universe, Who employed natural means to do His work. However, both parties in their self-conceit are not listening to how Islam resolves their conflict; Islam as understood by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

In a trilateral discussion between atheists, Christians and Muslims, I believe we can appreciate reality better and come up with better theology, especially if the discussion not only involves the Creator and purpose of the universe, but, also His complete Transcendence, Original Sin and evolution of life on our planet, Trinity, Mother Mary and Eucharist.

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The Holy Quran says about the purpose of the universe:

And We (Allah) have not created the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without purpose. That is the view of those who disbelieve.  (Al Quran 38:28)

Three well known atheists, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and Matt Ridley debated two Christian and a Jewish apologist, including William Lane Craig, recently in Mexico, regarding the purpose of our universe and the human life, mainly in English:

The purpose of life was well summarized by William Lane Craig in a line, which resonates with the Quranic description, “The purpose of life is to be found in personal relationship with a Holy and Loving God! to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Allah says in the Holy Quran, “I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.” (Al Quran 51:57)
Now let me link a collection of excerpts from the writings of the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community about the purpose of human life.
Going back to the debate, it seemed, at least to me that the theists carried the day, the atheists were superficial, contradictory and adamant. They seemed to agree that the universe and life do not have an objective purpose, there is no overall purpose for human life, but in the mean while each individual can assign his or her own purpose for his or her own life, on the basis of his or her desires. The theists built their case on the hypothesis that there is a Creator, Who has made the Universe, made it biophyllic by fine tuning several physical constants and parameters, He has a purpose in His mind, He has made the Natural Law that has done His work since the Big Bang, including the creation of life, suggesting theistic evolution.
What was not said, however, as there was no Muslim theist there, that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God, after having created such harmonious Natural Laws had no need to then quickly violate them with phenomena like resurrection or Christian style miracles, which are alleged to be supernatural and suspend the laws of nature. If an Omniscient God has created the universe, then one can be certain that in keeping with His infinite entity, He would have left innumerable ways to influence the universe, so that His divinity is not suspended in any way at any time. Science is possible only because the Law Giver honors the Law, otherwise there will be total chaos and anarchy.
If Muslim speakers from Ahmadiyya Muslim Community had been included, then the atheists would have at least gotten rid of theology with resurrection of dead and miracles that are in violation of the natural order and harmony and would have been left with a much more sublime theology!
I have explained at length the issues of resurrection and Christian style miracles and other important issues about theology in my following articles:

February 2011 Alislam-eGazette: Metaphysics, Religion and Science

Did Jesus rise in a physical body or a spiritual one?

William Lane Craig makes false claims about swoon hypothesis!

Alislam-eGazette Publishes Another Landmark Volume: The Indispensable God Hypothesis

CS Lewis a famous Christian theologian, once observed:

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

In conclusion, let me say that the Holy Quran links the purpose of the universe with the purpose of human life in the following verses:
In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding; those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain; nay, Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire.’  (Al Quran 3:191-192)
And:
Allah created the heavens and the earth in accordance with the requirements of wisdom and for a purpose. In that surely is a Sign for the believers. (Al Quran 29:45)
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Posted by on February 24, 2012. Filed under Agnosticism,Atheism,ATHEISM,Christianity,Highlight,ISLAM,Religion & Science,Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

30 Responses to Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?

  1. Amtul Q Farhat

    May 24, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Very Nice! It appears from the Holy Qur’an that the universe is the masterpiece God takes pride in and the little scientific magnificence of the universe we know of only complements why it is so.

  2. Zia H. Shah

    June 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Prof. William Lane Craig’s lecture: the absurdity of life without God:
    He makes a very forceful case for the topic but in the end suggests Biblical Christianity as the solution. But, if you trust Bart Ehrman’s scholarship then half of the New Testament is forgery. Taking the advice from William Lane Craig one needs to have a consistent and logical approach to life. So, it may be that all of us need to search for the best and most reliable scripture to lead us to God. First listen to Prof. Craigs’ lecture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJqkpI1W75c&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dGAyDmxqpE&feature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwYR2j9PgJQ&NR=1

    To learn more about the Bible and the Quran, to compare and contrast, see some of my other Google knols:

    http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/the-bible-history-strength-and-weakness/1qhnnhcumbuyp/367#
    http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/the-holy-prophet-muhammad-and-the-holy/1qhnnhcumbuyp/283#

  3. Zia H. Shah

    June 6, 2011 at 10:49 am

    According to the Holy Quran:

    Is he, then, who founded his building on fear of Allah and His pleasure better or he who founded his building on the brink of a tottering water-worn bank which tumbled down with him into the fire of Hell? And Allah guides not the wrongdoing people. (Al Quran 9:109)

  4. Zia H. Shah

    September 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Trinitarian Christians alternate between Transcendent and a physical God, like a Hindu idol:

    If we look at the hard sciences of physics and chemistry, the main reason humanity has made great progress in the last few centuries is because we have found that laws of nature are constant and unchanging, which has made our science possible.

    The Christian theists, when arguing with atheists build their case on the hypothesis that there is a Creator, Who has made the Universe, made it biophyllic by fine tuning several physical constants and parameters, He has a purpose in His mind, He has made the Natural Law that has done His work since the Big Bang, including the creation of life, suggesting theistic evolution. In the next breath they start talking about exceptions or violations of the laws of nature, in the form of miracles and resurrection etc. From a Transcendent Law Giver God they quickly go to a physical palpable God of Jesus Christ. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

    The most interesting observation is that the frequency of miracles is directly proportional to the scientific ignorance of the age. In times of Jesus we also had demons infesting human bodies which have gone extinct as we have developed our physics and biology.

    As a Muslim theist, I believe that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God, after having created such harmonious Natural Laws had no need to then quickly violate them with phenomena like resurrection or Christian style miracles, which are alleged to be supernatural and suspend the laws of nature. If an Omniscient God has created the universe, then one can be certain that in keeping with His infinite entity, He would have left innumerable ways to influence the universe, so that His divinity is not suspended in any way at any time. Science is possible only because the Law Giver honors the Law, otherwise there will be total chaos and anarchy.

    Let us believe in truly a Transcendent God, which is beyond time, space and matter and not in part time transcendence of Trinitarian Christianity. If you see my point then by the power vested in me and all of us by the Transcendent God, I now pronounce you to be a Muslim!

  5. Zia H. Shah

    October 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Atheism and purpose of life!

    Bertrand Russell, a famous British atheist, wrote in a Free Man’s Worship:

    “That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, 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 labors 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, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

    The modern atheists are not so candid about relationship between atheism and purpose of life and universe.

  6. Zia H. Shah

    October 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Atheists belief in absence of God is deeply rooted in their strong desire to deny accountability. The Holy Quran states about such disbelievers:

    “But you made them (the believers) a laughingstock until they became the cause of your forgetting My remembrance while you continued laughing at them.
    “I have rewarded them this day for their steadfastness so that they alone have triumphed.”
    God will say, ‘What number of years did you tarry in the earth?’
    They will say, ‘We tarried for a day or part of a day, but ask those who keep count.’
    ‘Did you then think that We had created you without purpose, and that you would not be brought back to Us?’
    And he who calls on another God along with Allah, for which he has no proof, shall have to render an account to his Lord. Certainly the disbelievers will not prosper. (Al Quran 23:111-118)

    On account of their ideology the atheists keep weaving stories, in an attempt to take away from the mystery and awe of the creation of God Almighty. The fact of the matter is that is that everything that is in the universe glorifies its Creator. The Holy Quran says:

    He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al Quran 59:25)

    Here are two of my knols demonstrating need of a Creator:

    http://knol.google.com/k/the-anesthesia-of-familiarity-there-should-be-a-creator-for-this-universe?collectionId=1qhnnhcumbuyp.218

    http://knol.google.com/k/zia-shah/photosynthesis-deserving-of-our-awe-or/1qhnnhcumbuyp/317?collectionId=1qhnnhcumbuyp.218

  7. Munawar Ahmad Bajwa

    November 18, 2011 at 9:16 am

    It is nice Issue for mankind knowledge.
    Question: Has God created the universe?
    Answer: Yes. God has created the universe. According to the Holy Quran:
    The Gracious God has created the heavens and the earth and all that is in between
    in six periods. (Al Quran 25:60)
    In this Universe God has placed Moon and Sun. (Al Quran 25:62)
    In this Universe God has made the night and the day, each following the other, for him who desire to remember, or desire to be grateful. (Al Quran 25:63)
    In this Universe God has created servants who walk on the earth in a dignified manner , and when the ignorant address them , they say , ‘Peace!’ (Al Quran 25:64)
    The Gracious Alive God guides mankind;
    Verily, We sent Our Messengers with manifest Signs and Holy Book Commandmnts Scriptures that mankind may act with Law of Justice (for peace). (Al Quran 27:26)

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  9. Zia H. Shah

    December 8, 2011 at 1:04 am

    Role of science and religion and then there is metaphysics
    Jerome Groopman is the Recanati Professor of Medicine at Harvard and author of How Doctors Think, writes:

    Science does not instruct how to treat one’s neighbor as oneself, how to clothe the naked and feed the hungry, why it is wrong to murder, steal, bear false witness, honor one’s father and mother, and perhaps most difficult of all, subsume envy and covetousness. There are no Ten Commandments in thermodynamics or molecular biology, no path to righteousness and charity and love in Euclidean geometry or atomic physics. The truths of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics are different from the truths we seek in human behavior and human choices.

    http://www.templeton.org/belief/

    Metaphysics is co-relation of science and religion, if you will! Please, see my articles about metaphysics and February 2011, Alislam-eGazette to learn more about metaphysics and its relationship to science and religion.

  10. African Mail Oder BridesR

    December 17, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I’ve learn several excellent stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot effort you place to make this kind of wonderful informative site.

  11. Zia H. Shah

    January 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Ahmadiyya Muslim Community launches a new state of the art website, to engage Christian, agnostic and atheist readers.

    Especially check out the Homepage and page about ‘Revelation,’ which is important as the secular world is in denial of it altogether.

    Find the link in the Muslim Times or try: http://islamforwest.org/

    Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

  12. Zia H. Shah

    January 26, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Sir David Attenborough’s view on Science & Religion
    Here is a short clip of an interview of Attenborough:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfa88SeNohY

    He makes some good observations about the nature and then raises a question. The issue raised in this clip is the question of suffering in our world. This question is very well answered in a chapter of ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth.’ The chapter is titled,’the question of suffering.’

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/revelation/index.html

  13. Zia H. Shah

    January 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Sir David Attenborough on God
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8DL-o-POcU&feature=related
    Sir Attenborough certainly stands in awe of the majesty of nature but raises the question of suffering to deny God. Let me quote here the concluding paragraph, in the later editions of the legendary book of Sir Charles Darwin, on the Origin of Species that can make one quickly conceptualize the role of suffering in the grand scheme of things:

    From the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been breathed, by the Creator, into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

    Once the question about suffering is understood as a tool for evolution, as Charles Darwin suggested, then one is ready to fully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation as suggested by many of the verses of the Holy Quran.

  14. Munawar Ahmad Bajwa

    February 6, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Nobody can deny God!
    Know in FAQ follows;
    Questtion1: Who is itself.
    Answer1: Nothing is itsef except spiritual Powerful God.
    Questtion2: Is God Alive.
    Answer2: Yes, God Alive.
    Questtion3: What is the name of God in Isalm.
    Answer3: In Islam, the name of God is Allah.
    Questtion4: What is the purpose of mankind life.
    Answer4: The purpose of mankind life is to recognise No:1 Big Lord Allah and obey His commandments.

  15. MNA KHAN

    April 9, 2012 at 8:07 am

    As a student of Nature and as a student of Religion I like to appreciate Zia H.Shah efforts to collect and display the precious stuff on the important and basic subject,Does the Universe have a purpose? So as
    a student of Nature and as a student of Religion, my answer is YES, Our Universe is Purposeful.Now many question arises.One main Question is this purposeful universe came into being itself or having a creator, Study of Nature i,e Science told me there should be a creator of this Universe and Religion told me YES it has a Creator.THE ONE AND ONLY AL-MIGHTY GOD.When God created this Universe THE GOD created the laws for this Universe also.The laws called the Laws of Nature.The study of these laws of Nature is called Science.My Religion also told me to respect the laws of Nature and study these laws and understand that is nothing but science.More over my Religion preaches the The Laws of Sharia.In this way when I obey the Laws of Nature as Well as the Laws of Sharia I found my life very purposeful and fruitful.The interesting fact is that my Religion Islam ( Jammat-E-Ahmeddiya )have all answers to my question.I feel no contradictions in the Laws of Nature and my religion.If you want to find any answer to your question please do not hesitate to put on this website or visit http://www.alislam.org

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  18. umair

    September 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Salaams, the youtube video on your “Did Jesus rise in a physical body or a spiritual body” a debate with ahmed deedat is no longer on youtube.

  19. Zia H. Shah

    October 7, 2012 at 7:44 am

    November 13, 2010, Doug participated in a three-on-three debate on the question “Does the Universe Have a Purpose?”

    Location: Puebla, Mexico

    Venue: BUAP Benemerita Universidad Autónoma De Puebla

    Address: Vía Atlixcáyotl No. 2499, San Andrés Cholula. C.P. 72810. Puebla

    This debate was part of the third annual Festival Internacional de Mentes Brillantes (English: International Festival of Great Minds). The general theme of the conference was: “The Origins of the Future—A Life Experience: Rebirth.”

    Debate participants: Matt Ridley, Michael Shermer, and Richard Dawkins vs. Rabbi David Wolpe, William Lane Craig, and R. Douglas Geivett, with comments by Michio Kaku.

    Date: Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

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  21. Zafar Suraleigh

    December 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Is it possible to add a link here to transfer articles to FaceBook?

  22. Salma J. Khan

    December 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Assalamalaikum Wr. Wbr. Mr Suraleigh,

    Yes, it is possible.
    Up there, right below the article you see a section titled: Share this now!

    If you want to share this article (or any other as well) on facebook, all you have to do is click on ‘f|Share’ button which brings up a box for logging into facebook: Enter that and you’ll be able to send you favorite articles right onto your facebook profile or page and even on your friends page and registered groups.

    Same is the procedure if you want to share it on Twitter / Google+ / Linkedin / etc.

    Let me know if you need any more help, thanks, Salma

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  24. Hanif Koya

    January 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Allah reminds us in the Quran that The entire cosmos has been to serve mankind which to me seems to be the true purpose of the creation. Man being His highest creation all things were created to serve his needs which speaks a volume of His Love and Mercy for mankind.

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  30. haneef

    October 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    I like jamat ahmadia