Channel: Hamza Tzortzis
In this beautiful Lecture, speaker explores the idea that ‘If Good and Evil Exist, Then God Must Exist’.
Bismillahirrahmanirrahim in Alhamdulillah wa Salatu was salam, ala rasulillah to proceed. brothers, and sisters, and friends, and everybody else, I greet you with the warmest Islamic greetings of peace. Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.
Which basically means May the peace and blessings of God be upon you all. Brothers and sisters and friends, thank you very much for attending today's lecture, which I think is a very important lecture for us to start thinking about our ethical lives and the foundation concerning our moral outlook.
But before I get into that, I want to try and melt the ice.
Many of us when we have conversations with one another, we like to pre frame each other.
I see some faces in this room, they may not be Muslim, they may be Muslim, they may be agnostic, atheist, to be honest, these categories. And labels are unnecessary, especially when it comes to discourse. And let me explain why.
Because I think the problem in when we try to engage with each other's ideas is the problem of categorization. And it is the problem of pre framing each other.
And this is why I think we should follow what I would like to call a Quranic ethic when engaging with one another. Interestingly, in the Quran, in the second chapter, God, he announces that he's going to send down a man on earth as a vice journey to take care of the planet. And the angels, they say, essentially, hold on a second, you're going to bring someone down, that's going to create bloodshed, and misery, and war. And God says, I know that which you don't know. Now, when we ponder upon these verses, and we don't just become desert romantics, and sit back on the deck to touch the sand, look at the stars and write poetry to our beloved. But rather, if we scratch the surface, we
see that essentially,
we should not use our previous experiences,
our baggage, our limited perceptions, and pre frame that onto new realities. Because for example, I could do this test in this room and say to the Muslims, when you think of the word atheist, what comes to mind? Now I've done this many times, and what many Muslims say, which is unfortunate, arrogant,
They think they know the truth, lost, diluted. And I've also done this with atheists. And what have the atheist said, unfortunately,
A new inst blind faith. So you see, both camps are pre framing each other. And this is the biggest problem. We've pre framed each other.
And that's why we can't connect with one another.
So the cliches concerning the atheists are obviously wrong. And the cliches concerning the Muslims is also wrong. But we don't get it. You know why? Because we're carrying this baggage. We're carrying this limited.
experience these limited perceptions, and we're imposing it on these new realities. Even when you look at me.
I'm not saying I'm popular, but maybe you've seen my debate with Professor Lawrence Krauss
famous atheist, Hamza door, this has a debate with him. I come across in a certain way, I agree. At times I come across arrogant, at times, humble and other times, little bit confused. There's a whole myriad of emotional dispositions coming out. So I don't blame you, if that's the only thing you saw. And you came to this room and said, right, I'm going to get this guy.
And that's why I really want to focus on this psychological element in the beginning because it allows us now to listen to the words and the meaning that they represent, and not the personality or the emotions, or our previous narrative.
Imagine all human beings did this. We will all fall in love. Right?
So I think it's very important for us to connect that way in sha Allah, which means God willing.
So today's topic brothers and sisters is, if Good and Evil exist, then God must exist.
And this is the summary of today's argument
what we mean by good, and what we mean by evil.
If we mean those things in Objective sense, then God must exist.
Let me give you an example of what we mean by objective.
Imagine I had my six year old son, he is a carrier.
And all of a sudden, I pulled out my AK 47. And I shot him in the head. And I went,
I think everybody, intuitively and within ourselves, even if we sideline our emotions, we would say, that is not only immoral and evil, but it is objectively immoral and evil. Regardless if the whole room had a consensus and said no, actually, according to his beliefs, according to his upbringing and his culture, it could be morally okay.
I don't think anyone in this room
is prepared to say such a thing.
So we have this sense of ot within us in built that we know some things are great. Other things, there is no compromise.
This is objectively morally wrong. Regardless if the whole of Cardiff, the whole of the UK, the whole of the world, or the whole of the universe came together and said, No, it is actually a good thing to do, you would still stand and say, no, it is an objectively, morally wrong thing to do. This is objective evil.
My argument today is if that's true, if we start with this axiom, which means a self evident truth, and we build upon that premise, then God indeed exists. And I'm going to explain this. But I want to really be nuanced here and tell you what we are not saying. Number one, we are not saying the following. You can't be an atheist and display moral or good behavior. That's ridiculous. Some of the nicest people I've met atheists, like Professor Richard Norman, had a discussion with him a few years ago, great guy.
You could have a pint of milk with him any day,
just to make it Islamic because we don't drink.
The second thing we are not saying you have to believe in God to have more traits such as defending the innocent and feeding the poor. Of course, not. Many atheists work for volunteer organizations, many activists, especially for liberal movements that want equality, and rights and human rights for many countries.
So they have this sense of what they think is right.
Number three, we are not saying just by being a believer, you will have good behavior.
You know, this Muslims, right? It's in our families in our homes, we have issues with human beings, nobody's perfect. So we're not saying these things in this argument. This is what we are saying. Number one, if God doesn't exist, then you could never say objectively, that killing my innocent six year old is morally wrong.
Because moral values such as murdering innocent people for entertainment is wrong. And defending the innocent is good, will be just met social conventions. Like is it okay to pick your nose at the dinner table? Or to burp loudly?
why people are thinking now but why is that the case? Why is it the case? In order for me to assert that killing is innocent six year old is objectively morally wrong?
Why is it the case for me to assert this then God must exist? Why?
Because brothers and sisters and friends without God there is no foundation for objective moral values. Why? Because think about the concept of God of the Divine reality. The concept is that you can't really attribute subjectivity to this concept because God transcends
Human subjectivity by definition, he is the only kind of conceptual anchor point that transcends human,
relative and subjective
perspectives. Now, you may think, but there are other possible foundations for morality and in moral philosophy, this is called moral ontology. You don't have to know that term. But just to spice up the language a bit, it's moral ontology, the foundations, the grounding for moral outlook, you may think there are other possible sources for morality.
Number one, biology. Number two, social pressure, number three, social realism and we're going to discuss what these mean sorry, moral realism. And we're going to discuss what these mean.
what's an interesting atheist position before we get into the other alternatives, is that some academic atheists have said, You know what, is true. If you remove the divine out of the picture, we can never assert according to our framework, our model, our worldview, our atheistic philosophy, if if one exists, you can never assert that there are objective moral values or that's objectively evil, or that's objectively good. You could never assert this. Some academic atheists have asserted such viewpoint, they said it's just all relative. For example, the late Professor jL Mackey, in his book ethics inventing right and wrong, he says the following on page 15. And it was published by
Penguin, he says, there are no objective values. The claim that values are not objective, or not part of the fabric of the world is meant to include not only moral goodness, which might be most naturally equated moral value, but also other things that could be more loosely called moral values, or dis values, rightness, and wrongness duty, obligation and actions being rotten and contemptible, and so on. So essentially, john Mackey saying, we can't really establish an ontological basis a foundation to ground our morals, so we could assert that they are objective. And that's what he felt concerning the atheistic position.
And it is no wonder Professor Ian Markham explains in his book against atheism, God explains the mysterious ought pressing down our lives. And God explains the universal universal nature of the moral claim, as good as outside of the world. God, the Creator can be both external and make universal commands. So let's get into the alternative options. What about biology? Can biology or evolution or natural selection form an ontological grounding the rational foundations to really peg our moral values? what we think is absolutely right, or absolutely wrong? Can biology become that foundation to ensure we can say that killing Zakaria is morally wrong objectively with God is if the
whole world came together and said it was right?
Well, let's see. And let me start with a interesting example that Charles Darwin actually called an extreme example in his book, The descent of man and selection in relation to sex.
He says, If men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive bees, they can hardly be adult. But our unmarried females would like the worker bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers. And mothers would strive to kill the fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering.
Because if we were just a reaction to social biological conditioning, then if we were read like the hive bees, and we could be doing these things that we now consider immoral. Take for instance, if we were to be read, just like the nurse shock, the nurse shark actually wrestles with meat, which is tantamount to rape. So who are reared according to the same conditions as the nurse shark, then we wouldn't be saying rape is morally wrong.
This was Charles Darwin's view, in terms of giving an extreme example, to say, Well, if we were just a reaction to social biological conditioning, then there is a particular issue. It doesn't ground it objectively because it's relative to biological changes.
It is no wonder Mike rules. The philosophy of science is an atheist also in his evolutionary theory and Christian ethics in the Darwinian paradigm. He says morality is a biological adaptation no less than a hand
And feet and teeth. I appreciate that once, when somebody says a live line neighbor as thyself, they think they're referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such references truly without Foundation, morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction. Any deeper meaning is illusionary This is his views, and he is an atheist.
Now, Professor Dan Dennett, who wrote the book conscious and explained, I believe in 1991,
he tried to argue that we don't really have what I would call the subjective experience, he argues, is an illusion, because he's like a type a materialist, which basically means that there is no what it is to be like, for example, Hamza, he has a strawberry. And there is a particular subjective, phenomenal experience, which is like the experience that is only unique to myself. What it is like for Hamza tea, a strawberry, he almost denies that it says is this neuro chemical patterns in the brain, you don't have this inner experience?
And he writes somewhere else that basically
the idea of
rights, human rights, from a Darwinian perspective, I believe he caught someone else he says, is nonsense upon stilts, we've just elevated our sense of human rights that objectively good, you know, these liberal, Neo liberal human rights, the UN Charter on human rights, these are objectively good, the whole world must come and agree to them, unfortunately, even sometimes, at the barrel of a gun.
But yet, even from a philosophical perspective, it's nonsense on stilts, because Where's your ontological foundation? Where's your rational grounding to ensure that these are objective? Because if you try to look for an objective basis, you're going to be looking at God no at biology.
Now, some may argue, okay, fine, evolution may not give you the answers, right natural selection, which is particular to evolution. Now, they may say, Well, natural selection can provide us with that kind of rational foundation. But this is not true either. Because all that natural selection can do is provide us with the capacity to formulate ethical rules. It doesn't give us the foundation for objective moral truths are the foundation to see and acknowledge and assert that this is objectively evil. This is why the moral philosopher, Philip kitcher, he writes, all that natural selection may have done for us is to equip us with the capacity for various social arrangements and
the capacity to formulate ethical rules. And this is cited from the moral argument by Mark de lynnville, in the black Blackwell companion to natural theology.
So biology is not an explanation for our sense that in a kind of assertion that something's objectively right, and something's objectively wrong.
Someone may argue, like many humanists argue especially humanist from the British Humanist Association, I had a discussion with Andrew Thompson, who I believe heads the group in the University of Birmingham. And he asserts that the way we get our morals objectively is through coming together as human beings.
Fair enough, that equates to social pressure. But if social pressure becomes the kind of foundation for objective morals, we had a few issues. The first issue is, and yes, I know, some people think this is the minute you cite Nazi Germany, is the minute you lose an argument. No, that's not actually true. I want you to understand that example.
There was a form of social pressure, that killing Jews was okay. in Nazi Germany. Yes, there are people who disagreed with this. Yes, there were activists who were fighting against this, we know that. But there was a consensus that it was morally okay. If we accept that as a basis for our moral values to make them objective, then we're in trouble. How can we objectively say that killing 6 million Jews is objectively morally wrong is objective evil. As a theist, I can say that as a non theist,
using social pressure as an argument for the basis of my moral outlook, that will be very problematic. How can you say such a thing? How can you say for example, back in history, According to Hindu culture, if the husband were to die first, his wife would have to throw herself into the fire where he's being cremated.
How can we see this objectively morally wrong if we cite social pressure, we cite this coming togetherness to agree on particular
morals and values. And if we understand, for example,
society properly and we study social psychology, or social constructionism, we see that societies on the static thing changes. For example, if you read the book, social constructionism, published by Rutledge
by Vivian bear, she argues that there are certain constructs in society. Like, for example, take beauty as an example. I know, this is not everybody, it's a bit of a cliche, but I think you get the example. We have this, L'Oreal because I'm worth it, culture. And we have this reductionist view of beauty. And you may see sometimes in the magazines, I love my husband, because he has great cheekbones. And what about the rest of him?
Right? So we have this reductionist view of beauty because, unfortunately, via capitalism, and avid materialism, and neoliberalism, I would argue, combined all of these things together in a cocktail, they create dispositions that actually view beauty in that way. But it's very hard sometimes, especially in a popular culture sense to understand beauty in a holistic way, the inner beauty, plus the outer beauty, plus the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
that happens because of the social construct. And Vivian bear argues, the people have the power to shape the discourse, like the capitalists, those who have money and power, the politicians, the media, they shape our understanding of words, which therefore shapes our disposition, which therefore shapes entire society, take the word love, for example, many of you may define love.
Not like Rumi. Because Rumi said the famous poet
when the pen writes of love it breaks into.
But we will define love as maybe an internal emotion. That's why you have some crazy guys who beat up the wives or girlfriends. They'll say to the police, but I love her really,
because it's become an internal emotion. But if you look at a few 100 years back, especially in Greek culture, my grandmother would say to me, Li Evo, nesara, Busan, Iraqi, which means come here, let me love you for a bit. It was a behavior. Obviously, there are grades. But what I'm trying to show you is even understanding of words Cheapside disposition, and those words and the meaning behind them are actually constructed by powers in our society. This is social constructionism people were enslaved to it. Frankly.
Take for example, the way we look at morals generally speaking, in a liberal society in England, homosexuality is fine. By the way, I'm not passing any judgments before anyone wants to report me. Yeah. Could you get so much rubbish on the web? I just have to put these caveats all the time. Yeah. I'm using it as a friendly, warm, compassionate example. Is that fine?
So this take homosexuals example 50 years ago, or even? Not even 50 years ago was seen as a disorder.
I'm not passing a judgement. Yeah. But now it seems something that's okay. Right? Why is that the case because society changes based upon power struggles, different ethical viewpoints, different ideologies that are being adopted, and that's life, that's society. And society, shifts humanity certain perspective, or
it takes them backwards, depending on what your position is. So the point is, social pressure can never be a basis for our moral outlook, to establish an assert that killing innocent six year old is objectively evil or wrong.
So is there an alternative I mentioned moral realism, and some atheist philosophers, because I would argue they had this sense of art, as Professor Ian Markham says the sense of art within us that we know some things are right and wrong.
Some atheists say, Well, you know what? morals, and our sense of evil is not grounded in anything, but the just objective. This is called moral realism.
Which translates in the following way. morals are objective. Evil is objective, because it just is they just are.
Frankly, that's not an argument. I can say Islam is the truth because it just is. Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam upon him. bpce was the final prophet because he just was. That's not an argument. That's in my humble view,
trying to have your philosophy, philosophical cake and eat it. But also with more realism. How does that give you a sense of obligation
from just asserting their objective, how does that now translate into an obligation for me to
Be merciful, or for me to be just it doesn't translate. If there was a divine command, therefore you have an obligation by an absence of the divine command and you're just asserting the morally objective, then how does it make sense of now moral duty, moral realism doesn't make sense of moral duty.
So I would argue the best Foundation, if we do believe in this, and this is an assertion, this is a this is a self evident truth, an axiom, that there are some things that are objectively good, and some things are objectively evil, if that's true, in this society is God's existence because God is the only ontological Foundation, the only rational Foundation, the only foundation to ground morals to establish that they will become objective.
Now, some people argue like Richard Dawkins and Professor Lawrence Krauss and others, they are what you would call consequentialist. And this doesn't really deal with moral ontology. It's more more epistemology how we get to know what is good and bad, which is not my argument. Mine is about the foundations. But I want to bring this in. Because some people actually argue, well, you know, we can we don't need religion to know what's good or bad. That's not my argument. Don't conflate moral ontology with more epistemology. I'm not saying how you get to know what morals are. I'm saying? What are the foundations of morals? The two different things and sometimes when you have discussions
with Richard Dawkins, Professor Lawrence Krauss, they think you're talking about how to get to no morals? No. I want to talk about consequentialism. because, frankly, I just want to bash you for a bit. Yeah.
consequentialism, I argue, from an epistemological perspective, how to get to know more, which is actually quite absurd. Because it basically asserts that
an action or something is moral, because of its effect, something is evil because of its consequences. My argument is,
what criteria Do you have to assess the effects of the particular action? And not only that, it leads to moral absurdities? It does. Because, for example, what if my great grandmother, she came up to me and said,
I want to basically consummate with you, I want to make love with you. As long as we use contraception, there are no negative consequences consequences, according to the scientific paradigm.
What makes that wrong?
From consequentialism is not wrong at all.
She's given me permission. I've given her permission. We have contraception, so it doesn't affect anything.
There you go.
consequentialism says that's not really wrong. Last time, when I had a discussion, Professor Lawrence Krauss asked him the question is why is instance wrong?
I didn't actually want to pass a judgement asked him, I wanted to find out his foundations. But then he said, although he said, and to be fair to him, he found it a bit a porn and he wouldn't advocate it. But he said he could not say it's absolutely morally wrong. If a brother and sister came together, they fell in love. And they use contraception, it was only once I could not see was absolutely morally wrong. Because he's a consequentialist. And I think we're moving more down this consequentialist route, especially in the Western world, I think is a very dangerous position. It's a very dangerous path to take because it leads to these type of moral absurdities. And you could
think of greater worse ones. Actually, I have worse ones as examples, but because of the some young engineers in this room, I don't want to offend anybody. But you can logically follow what I'm trying to get here. So I think we have a good argument. But some people claim, what about the famous dilemma Plato's dilemma, also known as you three fros dilemma. And this is the dilemma. It says, Well, you argue that God is the only basis for objective good and evil. Well, is it good because God commanded it? Or is it good because of the commands of God are good?
There's a problem. Because if you say, it is good, because God commanded it, and therefore morality, in a way is arbitrary. God could say, kill all 55 year olds and above. Right? He could say that. And by that definition, it could be good. But then that doesn't really agree with our sense of all that some things we do agree, are objectively morally good and objectively morally bad. Now, if you say, Oh, is it good, because the commands of God are good, and you already know what good is and you're judging God's commands? So you already know what good is. So there's a dilemma.
Where do we go?
I believe this is a false dilemma. We could chop it in half and have a third alternative. And it's summarize best by Professor philosophy should be an actor in his book, The Quran and the
Second mind published by Rutledge on page 99. He says, there is a third alternative, a morally stable god of the kind found in Scripture, a supreme being who will not arbitrarily change his mind about the goodness of compassion, and the evil of sexual misconduct. Such a God always commands good, because his character and nature are good.
So his commands are good, because they are derivatives of the Divine Will, and the Divine Will is that he is good. Now, you may argue, well, why is God the definition of good because you're assuming God, by definition is the definition of good?
Well, I think is easy to understand. Because if God is the only being worthy of worship, then the only being worthy of worship is the morally perfect being. So therefore, more truths are derivatives of His Divine Will.
This is no wonder Richard Taylor, in ethics, faith and reason. He says, contemporary writers in ethics, who blindly discourse upon more or right or more wrong, and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air, which amounts to saying that they are the discourse without meaning.
Now, let me give you the Islamic basis for this argument. Now, Islam, especially when you read the Quran,
many verses imply that good and evil have an objective nature. Okay. For example, the Quran says in chapter four, verse 78, if any good reaches then they say this is from God, but if any evil before them, they say, this happened, because of you say all things are from God, what is wrong with these people that they do not understand any word? So the verses of assumes that that good is actually good, and that he was actually evil? So he's not basically saying that good, that maybe relative
is saying is good because it's it transcends human subjectivity from this perspective, because the divine verses we believe, are universal.
And he's no wonder he being Tamia, the 14th century theologian, he said, God commanded and prohibited according to his knowledge of the benefits and detriments to servants in the command the prohibition the thing commanded and the thing forbidden.
essentially saying that his commands are derivative was of his will. And his role isn't doesn't go against his own nature, which is the wise the knowing, I look, kudos the holy the good.
And this is why he referred to chapter 59, verses 22 to 24, you see that God refers to himself as the perfect as the holy. So therefore, by definition, he is the definition of what is good and perfect and holy. And his commands. In other words was right and wrong, or the duties that we have? They are actually objective, because the derivatives of his own nature, which Quddus the holy and the perfect
and that's why I would argue is no wonder john Mark Reynolds, he says, in a blog, morally, the new secularists, cheater every turn, they believe in doing right, by never grounded in anything. So from this perspective, brothers and sisters, we see that we have a decent argument for God's existence is based upon what we believe to be right and wrong. Now, you may think, well, there's so much difference of opinion on capital punishment, and differences of opinion on how to lead a good life. Yeah, that's fine. We're not disagreeing with that. We're talking about some moral fundamentals, that are cross cultural. They transcend religious discourse. They transcend language, those things
have maintained and have been maintained in society.
And if we believe as an axiom, as a self evident truth, that that is objectively morally wrong.
Then how so? How do we ground it? biology is not an explanation. Natural selection is not an explanation.
social pressure is not a foundation to ground these morals, objectively.
The only thing available is actually
by definition, transcends human subjectivity. Now, you may think, well, there are other options Hamza, you haven't mentioned all the other options. Fair enough. Give me the other option. let's address it. Let's talk about the other option. Let's talk about it seriously. Let's not say you're wrong because there are other options. This is called the fallacy of the Phantom option. There's a ghost option available. We haven't seen it, but we believe in it and you're wrong.
Right. Don't bring up the kind of Phantom option. Okay. And you may also argue, what about Sam Harris? One of the four horsemen, the Neo atheists, Sam Harris wrote the book, the moral landscape, how science determine moral and ethical values, I believe it's good.
If you read his book, I don't think he has a good case for science actually being a basis for objective morals. Now, just to summarize his argument, he talks about the peaks and the troughs of well being so the peaks on his moral landscape are what you would call,
well being the troughs is what you call suffering. So he says, everything that equates to well being is morally good. Everything that equates to suffering is morally evil.
But there are some issues here and he actually admits this towards the end of his book. What about for instance,
thieves. If I stole 1000 pounds from a multi billionaire hasn't harmed him at all.
It's increased my wellbeing
is a morally good act now because he's increased my well being. What about non penetrative, pedophilia? We're free and there's no psychological effect, right? From a consequentialist perspective. He's 1112.
And it's not penetrative. But they do everything else. And he's happy he has a sense of well being so has the man.
According to Sam Harrison, is on the peaks.
And that's why sometimes from my intuition, we can see that his moral landscape actually becomes
Rubbish tip, frankly. But anyway, that's my view, I could be wrong. By the way, everything I've said today, I entertain the fact that I could be totally wrong. I'm not saying this in some kind of arrogant way and claim to be a an amazing academic. I'm not, I gave you some of the references of the books that I refer to. These are easy concepts to understand. They may be dealt with broken down. If so, I want to have this conversation with you honestly. Yeah. Because I like to not take pride pride is a bad thing. islamically from a spiritual perspective, but you know why I mean, that I'm willing to change my mind on argumentation, how we approach these issues. So I hope you enjoyed
I hope we have a very good q&a. And in light of the Islamic ethic, the prophet appointed VPS sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, the cure to ignorance is to ask and learn, and is the perfect time for both of us said I want to configure very much