Posted by Zia Shah
In this debate or interview, the parties did not invite a Muslim, despite the fact that God of Islam was frequently hijacked by Alister McGrath and often point of criticism by Prof. Richard Dawkins. So, here I have taken the liberty to create a trilateral dialogue, between me and them. They are welcome to participate and I promise that if any of them comments in this post, his comments will not be censored in any way. However, it is unlikely, at least for Dawkins that he will comment here, as I have exposed him before in the Muslim Times and have not heard from him. In his refusal to debate Prof. William Lane Craig, he is on record saying that such a debate will look good on Craig’s CV but not on his. Dawkins is apparently more concerned about his CV than the search for the truth. He fails to realize that if salvation is at stake, CV does not matter. (Al Quran 3:92) If they will not respond, it is likely that over time my dialogue will improve through different editions, but their will be frozen in time of the actual interview. It is not to rule out contributions from other apologists for atheism or Christianity.
In Youtube the debate is loaded in 15 parts and each part of the video will be followed by my commentary. Prof. Ricard Dawkins will be spokesperson for atheism, Prof. Allister McGrath for Christianity and this humble one for Islam. As a word of caution, let me say for the apologists of atheism and Christianity that I have saved the videos for the posterity, so it is no use taking them offline from Youtube.
First, something about the big picture, 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.
Now, let me present the CV of the three debators. If you look at the CVs, mine may seem miniscule compared to the two Goliaths. But, I always have the luxury of praying to the Living God of Islam, to make this a David versus Goliath story! Amen!
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941), known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford‘s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.
Dawkins is an atheist, a vice president of the British Humanist Association, and a supporter of the Brights movement. He is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, he argued against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms. Instead, he described evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker. He has since written several popular science books, and makes regular television and radio appearances, predominantly discussing these topics. In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion—”a fixed false belief.” As of January 2010 the English-language version has sold more than two million copies and had been translated into 31 languages.
Alister Edgar McGrath (born 23 January 1953) is an Irish Anglican priest, theologian, and Christian apologist, currently Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at Kings College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture. He was previously Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford, and was principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford until 2005.
McGrath is noted for his work in historical, systematic, and scientific theology, as well as his writings on apologetics and his opposition to antireligionism. He holds both a DPhil (in molecular biophysics) and an earned Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Oxford.
Zia H Shah MD is a practicing physician in New York state and is the Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and the Alislam-eGazette, a monthly electronic journal with a subscription of more than 40,000. He wants to show the West that there is a third theological option, other than Christianity and atheism, namely Islam as understood by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Shah also aspires to establish separation of Church and State in all countries of the world and believes wars between ‘Science’ and ‘Religion’ can be avoided by defining a domain called ‘Metaphysics.’ He believes that Science and Metaphysics are a litmus test for the greater accuracy of the Holy Quran compared to the Bible. In these pursuits he has authored almost 400 articles, many have been published in peer reviewed journals and most are linked in the Muslim Times and Islam for the West.
I will now return to addressing myself in the first person. I have carefully read Dawkins’: The God Delusion and McGrath’s: The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine. I believe a careful reading of these books and our collection of materials in Islam for the West, should incline open minded and rational people towards Islam. So, now without further ado here is the part one of fifteen of the interview or the debate:
In the first part among other things Dawkins brings up the issue of evolution and according to a recent Gallup poll survey, still half of the Christians in USA are creationists. McGrath responds that Christianity is a very rational faith. But, is it so? The field of biology has struck a fatal blow to the concept of Trinity and other dogmas in Christianity on several counts. Firstly, there is the fundamental principle in biology “Like begets like,” which clearly refutes the concept of son ship of God. In the Holy Quran it is expressed in the words, “How can Allah have a son when He has no consort?” (Al Quran 6:102) Man’s genetic code is made of 46 chromosomes and God is transcendent and beyond time, space and matter. If we try to examine the nature of God the Father, Mother Mary and Jesus, alleged to be perfect man and fully divine at the same time, the idea of only begotten son is immediately pushed from the arena of rationality to the court of myth and dogma. Secondly, the concept of Original Sin is completely incompatible with the fundamental laws of bio logy including the principles of gene inheritance and the facts supporting the theory of evolution. Read further in Alislam-eGazette.
See our collection: Darwinian Evolution: Islam or Christianity?
In this part Dawkins and McGrath also discuss their understanding of faith and McGrath tries to root faith in reason. But, is it so for Christianity since the European renaissance and Enlightenment? St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas may have been rationalists, but, this is no longer true for more recent apologists of Christianity. Dawkins mentions that in his discussions with Christians the trump card of ‘faith’ is produced every so often and that has certainly been my experience also that Christians, whenever faced with a difficult argument take refuge in ‘faith.’ The very idea of using the term ‘mystery’ for Trinity, Eucharist, vicarious atonement, two natures of Jesus etc., as Christians often do, implies that in every difficult moment they will take refuge in ‘faith,’ and shy away from rational and open discussion in one disguise or another. For this particular issue let me link two posts in here:
Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.” But, first watch the part two of fifteen of the interview or the debate between Dawkins and McGrath:
In this or the second part, discussion shifts to the issue of, ‘Is there a God?’ I agree with both of them that as none of us have directly seen or met God, it becomes a matter of probabilities. Looking at the universe, do we find that there is a Creator or not? Here McGrath hijacks the Islamic concept of God for his Christian misunderstanding. He makes a good argument that the most improbable presence of humans on our planet begs a Creator, but, in the same breath, by a Creator, he implies the most improbable understanding of a Triune God. The Christian apologists make a case for God the Creator of Islam and Judaism and then imply the Triune God of their faith, which is most improbable. A God of infinite wisdom, who could not think of a better way for human salvation than to offer His only son for a grudging suicide? The absurdity of suicidal mission of Jesus should be obvious to everyone in this age, when we all understand the futility and irrationality of suicidal bombers and the horror of their terrorism. This is where rationality of McGrath goes into the blind alley of Christian faith and claims Trinity: three persons and one substance, as the Creator of mankind. Not to speak of elaborate rationality and philosophy, even the basic counting of persons in Trinity is simplistic. If we consider the two natures of Jesus, fully man and perfect God, as is the Christian dogma, the count of persons changes:
1. God the Father.
2. Holy Ghost.
3. Jesus the man.
4. Jesus the God.
Shall we say it is a Tetrad God and not Triune? It is true that it is most improbable that this universe could come into being from nothingness, but, at the same time Triune God, with a Father and a son, who are both eternal is simply an oxymoron and I hope, McGrath’s wisdom is better than this! Let me now link evidence for a Creator and exposure of Trinity:
In this part discussion starts with complexity of physics and moves to purpose of life and our basis of morality and then towards the end moves into dogma of Christianity, like Original Sin. As regards the purpose of human life, we have a separate post in the Muslim Times, which includes a two hour debate between three well known atheists, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and Matt Ridley and two Christian and a Jewish apologist, including William Lane Craig, recently in Mexico: Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose? In my commentary I have shown that Islam fulfills purpose of life better than Christianity, especially, in as much as, it does not carry the baggage of dogma and mysteries of Christianity and in this part 5/15, Dawkins softly makes a similar point in favor of Islam and Judaism.
Like the Muslims see God in the remarkable success and influence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, during his life time and beyond, the Christians see God in the historic influence of Jesus and rightly so. But, Jesus does not have to be literal son of God for this to be true. God has sent and helped His Prophets, not only Prophet Muhammad and Jesus, may peace be on both, but, before them all the Jewish Prophets of the Old Testament and many others. Having said this, part six of the interview, for me, is about Original Sin and here Dawkins tries to put some pressure on McGrath and I can very easily augment it.
A belief in Jesus’ dying for our sins has no positive effect on our psyche, except what we could even otherwise conceive as our responsibility towards God and fellow humans, which is present in most religions, without any reference to vicarious atonement. Like an alcoholic has to go through the twelve steps of Alcohol Anonymous to redeem himself from the limitations of being an alcoholic, the same applies to any other limitation or sin and the magical wand of vicarious atonement is no part of the process. The Islamic concept of atoning sins is natural and pragmatic, like twelve steps of Alcohol Anonymous and in keeping with human nature, the Christian presentation in this domain is magical and supernatural. How can a belief of John that Mark is a good guy or died for the country, bring any fundamental change in John’s psyche or ability to sin? Here let me link two posts for further study of Original Sin and atonement:
Here is my bombshell for the Christian apologists and please, out of desperation, do not accuse me of terrorism, for it is only a metaphorical bombshell: Jesus did not die on the cross! In this part Prof. McGrath also claims that Christianity explains other religions for us. To me, I am sorry to say, this only highlights McGrath’s obsession with his childhood indoctrination that he never got rid of, during his years of alleged atheism, as no other religion offers any metaphors for Triune God or of vicarious atonement or one person taking the sins of others and we have discussed it in different posts:
This clip covers the question of suffering, in our world. Again the Islamic position about suffering is far more logical than the Christian. The Muslims of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, see evolution of all life forms, in our planet, through this tool of suffering. This is how the human race came about and now suffering serves to give us our free will and as abtrial for us and for our spiritual uplift. Christians are denied this logical stance as almost half do not believe in evolution as it uproots their basic dogma of Original Sin. Now I link a post from Islam for the West, which covers the question of suffering in detail: A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist.