It is difficult to describe the current intellectual milieu, especially in academic settings, as anything but totalitarian. The illusion of debates and disagreements can quickly be dissipated once it is realized that these apparent differences are not really all that significant since they all rely on a shared agreement between the interlocutors. To put it plainly, everyone must accept that the notion of a transcendent source determining the moral value of actions and their implications is to be rejected out of hand. Terms like morality, ethics, good, or evil are vestiges of a bygone era of belief in God and Revelation. Today, they are used while assuming their metaphysical significance within a paradigm that negates it. Yet, despite the indefatigable attempts to get rid of God and religion, materialists have failed, and quite miserably if I might add, to get rid of these concepts. The reason for that lies in these categories being part of the Fitra. They are part of what it means to be human as opposed to a member of Homo sapiens. “The nature made by God in which He has made humans; there is no altering of God’s creation; that is the right religion, but most people do not know.” [Quran 30:30]
Still, the connection with the Divine has been severed, and humanity has ever since been wandering into an abyss of self-destruction and doing so in mad celebratory jubilation. Friedrich Nietzche’s commentary on the implication of our “post-God” state in his The Gay Science is one of the most troubling passages ever written:
Haven’t you heard of that madman who in the bright morning lit a lantern and ran to the marketplace crying incessantly, ‘I’m looking for God! I’m looking for God!’ – Since many of those who did not believe in God were standing together just then, he caused great laughter. Has he been lost, then? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone to sea? Emigrated? – Thus they shouted and laughed, one interrupting the other. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. ‘Where is God?’ he cried; ‘I’ll tell you! We have killed him – you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? Hasn’t it got colder? Isn’t night and more night coming again and again? Don’t lanterns have to be lit in the morning? Do we still hear nothing of the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we still smell nothing of the divine decomposition? – Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderers of all murderers! The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it? There was never a greater deed – and whoever is born after us will on account of this deed belong to a higher history than all history up to now!’ [Emphasis mine]
Well, God is not dead, as He did not begin to exist for Him to end. What we did kill was our own selves, and that stench of decomposition is coming from us. The historical events underlying the philosophical and scientific developments during the 17th and 18th century in Europe gave us a false sense of independence as we forgot the simple fact that our existence, indeed all of material existence, is by definition contingent. We told ourselves the biggest lie ever concocted and unprecedented by any past human civilization – that God is a hypothesis we have no need for. To describe the inheritance of this legacy and the way it manifests itself in academia as totalitarian is befitting. By removing a transcendent source to determine Truth from Falsehood we have no rational basis for arbitration. What we have is a power game, and those who can wield the most of it are the ones who determine what is acceptable. “Rational” is just code for “acceptable by the establishment”. It is an ephemeral category, lasting only as long as those who decided it are in power.
Without God there is no rational basis for any conclusion about anything related to how humans should or should not act. All discussions of morality and ethics in such a paradigm depend on Utilitarianism, the philosophical pursuit of determining which action will bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. It is about maximizing pleasure and reducing harm as subjectively determined by the people involved. Utilitarianism is academic jargon for the practice of worshipping whims and desires, which are then post hoc rationalized with arguments to convince oneself of the pseudo-moral validity of the actions one partakes in. This is why the Quran does not mention atheism among the beliefs it argues against. Human beings are wired to obey something. The question is not whether God exists. Asking this question requires a preceding rejection of reason, which in turn ends the conversation as there will be no agreed upon principles for a rational discussion. The real question to ask is whether our worship will be directed towards God or towards idols of our own making. In the case of the materialist, the idol is one’s own whims and desires – “Have you seen the one who takes their own whim for their god?” [Quran 25:43]
Any choice made within the currently dominant naturalist paradigm cannot at bottom be rationally justified. Without God there is no intrinsic value to anything. There is no such thing as good or evil. What we call good or evil refers to a hedonistic pursuit of pleasures. Good is what materially feels good and makes material life more facilitated, and evil is what materially feels bad and makes material life more difficult. There is no such thing as “life” as we mean the term in a metaphysical sense. What we call life are simply different aggregates of physiologically animated cells that combine in different ways to make organisms. We call cessation of that animation “death”, but that too has no moral significance. It just is, which makes most debates about a contentious subject like abortion nonsensical. One cannot be a materialist who rejects God and simultaneously believe in a metaphysical force called “life” either before or after conception or during gestation, or even after birth. (The subject of abortion requires its own treatment, but the point made here stands.)
The Age of Enlightenment was a massive project in constructing the idol of the self as humans decided to become gods. It was an exchange of reason for a circumambulation around the whim. If adopting a philosophically naturalist position means we cannot ultimately offer a rational justification for anything, what should we call events promoted as debates and intellectual discussions in academia? Better yet, what should we call education in higher learning institutes? To put it bluntly, it is the professional practice of going around in intellectual circles without the prospect of ever arriving at any conclusion that one can have much confidence in. Education is the indoctrination of blind faith in this irrational practice as the straight path to human emancipation from the tests that God has made as part of our existence here, which we problematized as pain and suffering when we killed ourselves and severed our connection with Him. Indeed, the Problem of Evil is a narcissistic god complex that disguises itself as a philosophical conundrum. It says more about the state we have gotten ourselves to intellectually and spiritually than it does about God or religion. What ends up being called reasonable are proclamations that get popular appeal, which could and do change because this appeal is not based on reason or some fantasy about human progress. It is based on whims that can be manipulated by nothing more than oratory skills and a tantalizing presentation. It is interesting that when the Beloved ﷺ asked who it was when he heard a knock on his door and the man replied, “It’s me!” he retorted, “Me! Me!” indicating that he hated it.
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