A sincere person, after reading our article “Judaism, Christianity and Islam — A Clash of Civilizations?” asked the following question:
“If God cannot even be described, then how can one even claim to believe in something one can't define?”
This question is frequently asked by people whose view of the world is rooted in religions where God is believed to be a human‐shaped being. Most modern Atheists and Agnostics also belong to that group of people, because their view of the world, which is prevalent today, is based on the rejection of the Christian view of God either as an old man (the Father of Jesus), or Jesus himself, or the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost (the Holy Trinity).
Here is the answer to that question:
Human knowledge is very limited, but at every stage of their knowledge people think, that they know and understand everything. Ask children. They will say that they know and understand everything.
There are also things that people experience through their effects, without being able to see or describe the thing itself. So, having repeatedly experienced some effect, they invent a name for the cause of that effect, and invent some theory about the thing that caused that effect. This can be seen in any “science”, like physics, chemistry, etc. For example, people cannot see radio waves directly, but they can see and even use their effects, and even observe them with instruments, but not directly by their senses.
While things like radio waves cannot be perceived by human senses, but can be detected with electronic instruments, there also exist things the existence of which cannot be detected by any sensual means, but can only be deduced by logical reasoning. For example, numbers which we use to count money have a property, such that to every number it is possible to add 1 and get a number greater then itself by 1. So 4 + 1 = 5. This sounds very simple, but a logical consequence of this property is that, if we keep doing it until we get the “greatest number in the world”, we shall never succeed in that effort, and will be counting forever. This leads us to the concept of “infinity” (endlessness). We can never see infinity, but it exists and is a useful mathematical concept.
And this is what God of Moses and Muhammad is. It is a concept logically deduced from the fact of the existence of the Universe. It is whatever brought the Universe into existence and makes it what it is. And if even such simple thing as numbers can be “infinite”, so that it is impossible to know all the possible numbers, so the Universe itself is infinite, and we shall never be able to know all of it, although our knowledge of it can continue to increase without limit. And, if the Universe is infinite, then whatever brought it into existence is also infinite, and while we all experience the existence of the Universe and are a part of it, we shall never be able either to know it all or to see and know its Creator. The most we can do is to live our lives in harmony with the Universe to the best of our very limited, but infinitely expandable, powers and abilities.
On the other hand at the time of Moses, and a few millennia after that, of Muhammad, just like today, people indulged in wishful thinking and believed in all kinds of magic. They invented various “convenient” to them myths about the Universe and the powers which control their destiny. They tried to control their own destiny by asking human‐shaped pieces of clay or blocks of wood, or some other objects, which they called gods, to do something for them.
Muhammad's approach is different. He cannot control that Thing that makes the World what it is, and which he calls “Allah”. He cannot describe it either, but he sees proofs of its existence in every aspect of life and nature around him. And of especial importance to him is human behavior. He seeks to understand, by observation and experience, what patterns of human behavior are in accordance with the “Will of Allah” and which are not. But Muhammad is not a “scientist” — a person driven by scientific curiosity, or desire to make a discovery which will make him rich and famous. The Truth is revealed to him naturally — it is independent of his own will — it comes from Allah. So, instead of ascribing his knowledge and understanding of Human Nature to his own “cleverness”, he thanks Allah for the gift of prophesy given to him, and he sees it his duty to deliver this message to his people. This is the meaning of a “messenger” and of a “prophet”.
So he tells people of his time, in a language understandable to them: “If you have to worship, then only Allah is worth worshiping”. And he tells the people of his time how they should behave, what is good and what is bad for them. Seen in the context of the time and place, the laws and advice he was giving to the people are hard not to agree with, and, while his laws and advice were given to the people of his time, the principles of these laws and advice are universal and valid for all times.
Some might say that some of the punishments prescribed by him were too harsh. But this was 1400 year ago. And hanging, drawing and quartering was abolished in England only some 200 years ago. And no modern government has come up yet with truly effective methods of prevention of crime. His methods worked.
There are some good people in the world today. They do not kill, they do not steal, they do not commit adultery, etc. And they do so, not because of fear of punishment, but because such actions are not part of their character.
But the reason such actions are not part of their character, could be due to the harshness of the punishments prescribed by Moses and Muhammad, and even to the “hangings‐drawings‐and‐quarterings” which existed in Britain as late as some 200–300 years ago.
But what happens to those who are not good, but are inherently evil. They want to steal, they want to kill, etc. And they hope to be able to escape the punishment of this world either by avoiding being caught, or by being above the law, due to their position?
For such people the Bible and the Qur'an prescribe the punishments of the Hereafter — Eternal Damnation and Eternal Fire. Some people might laugh at these concepts, just as many people laughed at them at the times of Muhammad. But, would evil criminals, or despotic tyrants, have committed their crimes, if they had believed in Paradise and Hell? And how many people throughout human history had been prevented from committing crimes because they feared God, and believed in the Eternal Fire?
This is why the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus, and Muhammad were so insistently promoting the concepts of Hell and Paradise. And it could well be that whatever secular moral values that exist today have their origins in those concepts. And we see with our own eyes how dishonesty, vice and corruption are becoming more and more ‘socially acceptable’, once traditional morality has been replaced with ‘political convenience’.
Civilization, in the name of which today's politicians commit crimes against Humanity, is the result of a constant struggle against human nature. And Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad are people who played decisive and definitive roles in that struggle. And it is still a very long way before Mankind becomes truly civilized. In fact we are moving backwards towards the days of immorality of the days of Sodom and Gomorrah and to social acceptability of genocidal brutalities similar to those of Ancient Egypt and Babylon.
As long as people live their lives Morally and Honestly, it does not matter why they do so. But throughout the whole history of Mankind there have been people driven by pride, arrogance and thirst for power over other people. Such people seek to assert their power over others by violence and dishonesty. Examples of such people are common law criminals. But the greatest of all criminals have been those rulers of nations who use the powers of government to commit crimes against their own subjects and other people. More people and property have been destroyed in the course of the 20th century alone by established governments than by all the common law criminals throughout the whole history of mankind. By contrast Moses and Muhammad called upon people to be just and honest under all circumstances and that people would not use violence unjustly.
By reading the Bible and the Qur'an one can develop a better understanding of life and human nature. It gives people a historical perspective of Human development which transcends one's own personal experience. Looking back at the distant past one can not only understand the present, but can also predict the future.
And as somebody said: “I have never seen the Devil in my life, but every day I see the results of his actions!”
There have been many attempts by secular thinkers to explain human behavior — Pavlov tried to explain it by knee‐jerk reflexes, Freud by the sexual urge and the Unconscious, Karl Marx by class struggle and economics, and there has never been shortage of theories why some groups of people are superior to others and are entitled to rule over the rest. And all these theories have been used by politicians to justify their powers.
But in spite of all these “scientific” theories, the present state of human knowledge is not sufficient to explain human behavior in full. And people needed morality long before they could understand the workings of human nature, and they still need morality today. The Mosaic concepts of God and Devil are useful concepts, although like everything else they have been widely abused. But by using them in the way intended by the prophets, and applying the principles of their revelations in practice, people can solve the problems, which self‐seeking politicians driven by vanity, pride, arrogance and thirst for power create, but cannot solve.