Hacks to Overcome an Atheists Defensiveness – ICNA-MAS Convention 2022

Mohammad Elshinawy

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Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa salatu salam ala Rasulillah

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in the name of Allah All Praise and Glory be to Allah and these finest peace and blessings be upon His messenger Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and his family in his companions and all those who tried his path may Allah azza wa jal grant us and you alike upon his path, see, I mean, and a death while adhering to his guidance and a reunion around him, and a drink from his blessed hand on the Day of Judgment, the day of thirst Allahumma, Amin, and an opportunity to see the face of his lower than ours Allahumma Amin.

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So I was asked to speak about discussions with an atheist. And while the majority of this session is preparatory knowledge, for the exercises, outside for the data that you will be partaking in, in sha Allah and Inner Harbor, Baltimore, I wish to actually step back there will still in sha Allah be some value here towards that.

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But actually speak a little bit about speaking one on one with someone that may be having atheistic inclinations, the spectrum entirely in your personal lives for the past 20 years. And I'm not an anomaly. But I've sort of been quite involved with people that come to me wondering how to speak this to this relative or this colleague that has become an atheist or is considering atheism or otherwise. And, of course, that Allah is a duty, and there's no reason why we should pick and choose between Darrow to Muslims or non Muslims. But if there ever was,

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you know, a lack of resources time or otherwise, I'll have to I don't know Jude mapa de la palabra food, that, you know, protecting

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those that are within the fold, take priority over seeking and delivering the message to those outside the fold. Again, we create false dichotomies all the time and do either or, and I don't see any justification for that.

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But just for the sake of catering to this need, what happens when someone that is Muslim comes to you and they're sort of flirting with atheism? Well, first and foremost, let me say upfront, that can be any one of us. And so we need to sort of preempt these things. Prevention is better than a cure always has. I've dealt with countless cases. And I would like to think of myself as somewhat more trained than the average layman on this subject. But still, what does 20 years do? Ask anyone in my space, our retention levels, the people, you're actually able to walk away from that very dark cliff, right are actually very few because once they're actually at that point, it's very hard, at

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least at that moment to walk them back.

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For reasons we will cover, but in general, prevention is better than a cure. that prevention is through solidifying faith. Faith is solidify through association, you want to make sure they want to associate with you and with your community and with your deen, you know, the socio emotional element is huge. It's a huge part and the most common reason why people subscribe to fates, whatever they may be Association. The other one is persuasion. Muslims need to immunize themselves and their fellow Muslims, by never thinking it's a given that we have already very good reasons to be persuaded of the truth of Islam, that it's not blind faith. When the you know, the prevailing

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paradigms, the widespread sentiment is all religions are manmade, all religions are blind faith. We don't live in some insulated, ghettoized community, we're a part of this world, it's in the ether. And so we need the intellectual component, and the spiritual component, if you're a naturalist, and not just an evidential list, but persuasion.

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And then third is experience. That's the third channel of faith and solidifying faith. And we cannot do that for people. But we have to set up the mechanisms for people to experience faith on their own, to try to encourage them along, you know, talk to them by day and pray for them by night. Prevention is better than than a cure. That was point number one, point number two.

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Hey, Jeff, forgive me. We'll talk about in the parking lot. All right. Don't debate with them.

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Now hear me out. Of course, there's a utility to debate to debate. But so many times, we have these huge fumbles that didn't have to go south as far as they did, or as fast as they did. Because we're making certain assumptions. And we dive into the debate with these presuppositions about how things are gonna get better. So for instance, as I told you association is the number one reason for people to leave to get solidified and fee is also the number one reason for people to have fallouts right. Many people may not even realize

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bit about themselves, it's actually unconscious. But the emotionality is playing a far greater role than the rationality, even if they don't notice. So just take it easy and don't take the deep dive, don't jump into the rabbit hole, don't just talk to them. And because that may not be the issue to begin with, there could just be a sugar, just some confusion needs clarification, or there could be underlying emotional issues. And there's so many of them that cause them, you know, to want to leave. And that takes a completely different remedy. Right? But in essence, always keep that in mind. Is this person, you know, struggling with, you know, wanting to be right, they really want

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like an intellectually stimulating and satisfying answer for Islam, are they are they struggling for wanting to be liked, right? They feel like a misfit in society or in the community or an inferiority complex of sorts or otherwise, that's actually the most common reason the data does suggest this. So keep that in mind. Don't just jump in, don't just, you know, interlock with them, check for the root cause. That's very important. And then, if it is an intellectual discussion, we're going to have a dialogue here, that dialogue needs to be heard by the right people. So once again, don't just debate with them. Because unless you're trained, unless you're a specialist, these people can walk out of

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the conversation nodding their head or lifting their nose in the skies, AC told you, there's no answer, right? So you can actually be a bad lawyer for a very good case and wind up confirming their biases for them against God and Islam. And so don't underestimate this. Be very careful about just jumping in. Also, because you know, as debates continue, people get more and more defensive, it is just natural, like the ego lurks. And I the word is operative lurks hides in all of these discussions. You know, like, really think about it. When was the last time you know that the stakes on the debate went high, online or in person? And then from that point, people say, You know what,

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you're right. I'm wrong. I stepped down from my position, and I adopt your position, you have superior intelligence. Have you ever seen that in like, social media comments section before? Because I haven't, right. It doesn't work like this.

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Because they feel cornered now that they've asserted a position and you've asserted the opposite. And everyone's watching and so that's why I just love this. I love this I, Allah azza wa jal says, Who the Oh Elizabeth, Rebecca, Bill Heckman, right. You know, this very famous verse.

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Invite, you're not just declaring and chuckling that shouting down the truth down their throat. No one's gonna accept that humans are like seat belts. They don't come with snatching right, call, invite, make it appealing, Invite to the way of your LORD with Hickman with wisdom in calculated ways, right? Then he says Pay attention. While more effort in Hashanah and with beautiful preaching or good preaching. What deal whom? See there's room for debate and debate with them. Ben, let's see here. ACEN in a way that's most beautiful or best, right? Think about those three layers of a conversation. You see, when Allah said invite them, he said wisdom he didn't say beautiful wisdom.

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Because wisdom by definition is beautiful, right? You're calculated you're figuring out the most strategic way to work around their defensive mechanisms to not trigger their ego right. And so it would be in eloquent of the Quran to say beautiful wisdom when wisdom by definition is beautiful, right? crafting your narrative is an act of rebellion beautifying your proposal, so Heckman, but then he says, well, more Eva till Hashanah, and beautiful preaching or good preaching, because you know the word motiva to appreciate this verse and the layers here. Miller, it was not like Taleem it's not like Naseeha now see, it has like when you tell someone by the way, you have to cover your

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entire foot with water in order for the will to be valid, right? That's not a just a reminder, it's just stating a point of information. Malware Eva is a heartfelt reminder, like when the Prophet alayhi salatu salam said, Whoa, to the ankles from the fire, meaning Hey, stop thinking this is a small thing Stop under estimating it. So when he mentions the downside of overlooking getting the water there, that's nor ever. Why is that important? When you start getting emotional, right? It could have an equal and opposite reaction, you get it. And so Allah then qualifies beautiful preaching because once emotions get involved in preaching, you're going to have reciprocated

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emotion. So you got to make sure you're preaching in a beautiful way. But then he says what Jay did home and debate with them meaning if you're going to debate with them, then debate with them. Not in a way that's beautiful, the debate with them, but let's see here SN right, the superlative they call it in the most beautiful way because when the conversation gets heartfelt and then it escalates to a debate

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Then the stakes are higher, the defense mechanism is even higher. The lack of receptiveness is even more present. So you need to be even more crafty and even more beautiful and even more gentle to work around it. Does this make sense? And so it's called Read the room. It's called Emotional Intelligence, we have all these terms for it. The Quran says, know where you stand at the different phases of a conversation. So that all this so that you can work around it.

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And you don't push them away instead of inviting them because the idea begins by saying invite. You know, when the Prophet alayhi salatu salam said, Let's Hakuna Ananda shaytani Allah eco, don't be an assistant to shape on against your brother, you know how you can help shape on against your brother, one of two ways, one of them is watering down the truth. Right? So you're not making it clear what you're calling me to write the beauty of Islam is recognizable. But the other way is that you stuffed the truth down his throat. No, you need it in front of his eyes, you need to like wave it at his heart. You don't want to just stuff it down their throat. That's the other way you can help

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shape on against your brother, may Allah protect us from that say I mean.

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And so the idea is, hey, come up, hey, come as about how do I heal this particular person? How do I win them over? How do I make a point in the most productive way. And many times that is by don't debate them, refer them to experts who can have this conversation with them. One of the things I love to do is to refer them to written resources, because you can't really talk back to an article can't talk back to a book. So it's a strategic way to keep it a one way conversation. And there's less stakes, he's not saying as much so he won't have to swallow as much of his ego if he wants to concede to some of my points or the points that I'm proposing. Right. We're inviting to Allah here.

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Always remember that you're not inviting to yourself. Be very humble. Allah could turn the light on in their heart, turn the light off in your heart, right? Stay close to Allah, stay humble. Ask him to open this person's heart make you an instrument of guidance, keep you guided all of that. So

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and just focus on moistening their hearts you know, I'll tell you

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some of even like the the staunch opposition to the Prophet Alayhi Salatu was Salam. They were very stuck in like being forced to listen to him. You guys know the famous hadith of Rootsweb Novia alternatively, I never became Muslim by the way or lots of no via I was one of his staunchest enemies. I'm a slob was salam. He was the one that came to him and said, Mohammed, Listen, man, and like, let me adapt the translation. His words if you read between the lines, he's basically telling the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam Cut the nonsense Cut the crap, right? Like he's telling me I'm calling you to God, not me. I'm not asking you for wealth and so on. Imagine all

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these ayat. Then the Prophet alayhi salatu salam is approached by Oprah and I was like, Listen, what do you want money? You don't want money? We're just not offering enough money? Is that what it is? You want money? We'll gather money for you want women give you all the women? Are you sick? We'll spend all that we'll go broke. We'll get you a doctor. If you're bananas, if you're not your we'll help you just so he's totally you know, insulting the Prophet Alayhi Salatu was Salam and this could have been front of like a huge crowds. And what is the Prophet alayhi salaatu wa salaam do?

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He just listens.

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He listens. He indulges him.

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And then after he finishes, he says to him and hate everybody. Are you done yet? Oh, absolutely. You know, everybody the father of unworried.

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When the Arabs want to respect someone, they call them father zone. So, right. He said he waits, and then he asks him Are you finished? And he calls him by an honorific father of a loony?

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And so the guy is forced to say, I guess I'm done. You know, like, essentially, obviously, this is a 2022 translation, right? But he says, Yeah, call a customer even. Now hear me out. And he totally disregards all of the personal stuff. And he begins to recite to him sort of facilite and about a page and a half into sort of full Scylla Abilene still hasn't cut them off. Right? And not just now is the world here in Quran and not just now has he won the moral battle sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, and won the negotiation if you will, the intellectual negotiation Rootsweb neural BI has no choice but to get up and grab the profits mouth and say please stop. Fearing he felt it himself this like

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this is an admission of defeat when you're reciting verses of the punishment of the previous nations for their revenge rebellion. And your guy who's saying you're You're talking nonsense has to tell you please stop and he literally hold the prophets mouth stop.

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This is an art right? May Allah azza wa jal make us artists of Dallas me

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and so

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moistening their hearts through your manners. Instead, there is a big part of this, also moistening their hearts trying to revive their spirituality like some person may think if a person is not Muslim, or doesn't believe in God, there's no point in me trying to like

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tenderize their heart in a spiritual way, because they don't believe the spirit exists. But that doesn't matter, you know that a spirit exists. And Allah revealed to you a little secret called a fitrah. There's a fitrah they have a fitrah you invoke their fitrah

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you know, when the man came to the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam. And he said to him, I find hardness in my heart, what do I do? He said, Zuriel Maqbara Wormser Hala rasiya team visit the graveyard and caress the head of the orphan. Go see the dead, go see the vulnerable. Go see how unpredictable life is. You think this will not revive questions and make inquisitive and less defensive, it will not sober up so many people that just don't want to think about God right now.

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This awakens their spirit. See that the real issue nowadays, by the way, like what why? Why is atheism out and about why is it about? It's because of science? Right? I actually would say yes. Just to meet the my interlocutor, if I'm debating earlier, I'd say yeah, I agree. Science does, you know, cause atheism the advancement in science in our age, because the advancement of atheism is pretty clear. Science causes atheism. But it's not like science has this proven God? That's just ridiculous, right? Like, what how does physics tells me about the metaphysical the unseen world when we're observing what we can see, it just you need to remove that discussion from the physics

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department altogether? No, that's not the issue. The scientific instruments of our age have created so much luxury, that people naturally are going to become heedless of God, they're going to develop the god complex, that's natural. The Quran told us that in an internal alcohol and Rahu still gonna, the human being always crosses his limits when he feels like he has no more needs anymore. So that the independence and the comfort and the luxury and the apparatuses of pleasure created by scientific and technological advancement, that's what created atheism in such large hordes now.

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And so that much we can agree with.

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We are a people that are spoiled more than any other generation. And so we're more rebellious, more godless than any other generation. You know, the famous scientist, Anthony flew, who wrote why the world's most notorious atheist now believes in God or something like this. That was the title of his book. He said, It took me 50 years to realize that when I was 18, and I just believed in God, I had no grounds for it whatsoever. I'm just being silly. There's actually no philosophical grounds for saying the problem of evil, which is why he left equals no God, because God can know the evil and be merciful and be all powerful, and still let it happen because he's the most wise, right? And he's

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the most just subhanaw taala. Right. And he knows the hereafter will make him not only just, but he will even be gracious, not just so it took me 50 years to just snap out of my childish approach to God. It was just heedlessness, it was just the arrogance that came with our intellectuality and so you need to know that even if someone doesn't recognize that they need gentle humbling process.

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You know, one of our

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researchers, okay, and Dr. Hasson alwine. It's great Morro Bay as well. He says, and I gave this example actually in this room yesterday, I said if I were to slap this podium, assuming it's wood, right and pull an apple out of it, you'd be blown away, you'd say this is miraculous as the supernatural. So why don't we feel like every apple that is produced out of a wooden branch on every single tree is miraculous and supernatural.

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It's not like there's absence of signs. There's just presence of arrogance, you understand the issue here.

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We with you know, like with telescopes and microscopes, can see more signs of God than previous generations. But because there's more arrogance there, more darkness to the heart, the heedlessness doesn't prevent us doesn't allow us to make use of any of it.

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You know, it's like sort of the gaffer by the way. It's only take a little longer than 20 minutes to Imam Sahib. He actually caught COVID. So may Allah give him a QR say, I mean, and maybe make an elevation for his ranks. So I'll split the extra time with

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my brother Mohammed hijab. I'm winding down here for sure. But

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and sort of like, if the second story is like the trial of affluence, the man who had it made he had a garden that nobody had, he was set up. What did he do when he walked into his garden? He doubted God, right. He had it made and said, you know, my oven went up the heavy evidence I don't think this will ever perish. This is this is here for good. Right? When that album was set at the party, man, there's probably no hereafter anyway.

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Well, Andrew did too.

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A lot of big data Hi, Ron minha Mukalla. And if I happen to get like pulled back to God, I'm gonna find some better stuff there. Anyway, he gave me that if he exists, and he gave me that means he loves me, the delusion that comes with material gains. And it's so sad because the owner of that garden had produce right the apple example. Likewise, we have science instead of driving us to God, it blinds us from God. What's the whole problem here it is humility. So that that is your issue, moisten someone's heart to humility, humility.

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Finally, there's a story that I always circle back to in my Dara, I was in a university in New York City. And they asked me to speak on the subject of God loves you. And so I just strung together what we know from Allah introducing himself to us in the Quran, you know about his love and his mercy and his compassion and his care act in a hadith is in a hadith, nothing more. I know, that's enough. And I know that that's a few days later, I get an email from a sister. She says to me, I'm really sorry, I had to walk out of your lecture. I couldn't be there. I was getting too emotional. I'm having a crisis of Fi I need to speak to someone. So me and my wife make an appointment with her a few days

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later, we drive over, we meet her in the cafeteria of the university. I buy fries like for myself and her the path to the heart is the stomach. Remember that one? Okay. Um, that says it works.

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Like, because, you know, when I say don't debate, they're gonna keep wanting to drag you into the debate. Right?

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And so let's get some food. Your my brother and sister outside of this conversation, right? Keep it is not cowardice. It is strategy. Right. So anyway,

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we sat down fries are there and she says, I don't even know where I stand. I said, Where prophethood oneness of God, existence of God. She's like, rewind all the way back. I don't even know if there's a God.

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I said, Okay.

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So I'm already like, wondering, like, if there's no God, if God is just imaginary, then why would you get emotional? If I'm talking about how awesome God is in my lecture, right? If it's a fairy tale, it shouldn't move you. I didn't tell her this. Then I'm thinking, Well, how should I approach this? So I just started talking about like, cause and effect and contingency arguments and this stuff, but I wanted to, like, you know, dilute it for mass consumption. So there was an African in front of me on the table with the fries. So I said to her, like, if this napkin if I told you it got here on the table all by itself, would you believe this? Would you think I'm crazy? Like, no, come

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on? That can't be true. Is it? Okay, let's take it a step up. What if I told you the napkin manufactured itself by on its own?

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She said, Yeah, that would be harder to believe. And I sort of dragged it out, I kept escalating from the napkin to the cell phone from the cell phone to the universe, and so on and so forth. Right? Deliberately. I just kept talking. And then like, I don't know how long it was maybe 510 minutes. I'm just like, sister. Can I stop yet? She's like, I told them like, I'm ashamed. They give me microphone, give me 45 minutes, and they just go they press start. Like, you got to tell me what the stop is this working? You know, she said to me, when you feel like such an idiot, she said you had me at the napkin?

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And the reason I cite this, why did she walk out if it's fantasy? Why was the simplest proof you know enough for her is that people ultimately, they want to believe in God and not just want to. People want to connect with him as well.

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You see, when I say atheism, you need to understand the, the domain in which you're playing, there is a worldwide decline in what is called hard or true atheism. Like atheism is just like a placeholder for people. Like I'm not down with organized religion, or I'm not sure if there's proof for God or something like this. Right, the agnostic and the many of these people don't know the nuances between these terms, right? But atheism isn't like asserting that there is no God. And this is this is a stillbirth. This was born that it was never meant to keep its momentum. It's against the grain. There's a worldwide, you know, decline in this sort of, because you know why? fitrah

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Right. Like, psychologically, emotionally, people are unwilling to accept that there's no explanation for where I came from, why I'm here, where I'm going, that just creates too much anxiety, the human being is not willing to accept this. Right? And so like, No, I'm not going to believe that I'm just going to wake up on a bus and just enjoy the ride without asking how I got here who's driving where we go, and no, I'm not going to accept this.

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And considering that is the case, don't now assume that oh, the world's coming back to religion know the world. Most of the world if you actually probe a little bit that leave, you know, religion, they've maybe dabbled with atheism, they wind up in negative

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If theology or what are called the nuns or the non religious or whatnot or the agnostic or whatever it is.

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And I find this so profound because the Quran

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the Quran never really addresses atheism head on. It doesn't

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like it when it speaks about arguments that could be told to an atheist. It says them in a rhetorical like Fe lahaie. Check like, is there any meaning there absolutely isn't any doubt regarding God? Am holy formula lady che in where they created out of nothing? That's a rhetorical that's not a real question. You know, as if the person doesn't that's supposed to humble you and say, No, of course not. We were not created out of nothing. It dismisses the heart atheist because there is no hard atheists. There is no true atheist. There could be someone trying to continually bury that notion of theirs. But then you when you realize, Wait, the Quran doesn't really like take

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on atheism head on and Allah knew that atheism would sort of rise in certain periods. Very rarely, but it would why. But then you see, the Quran goes to great lengths. If everyone believes in God, then why does the Quran go to great lengths in describing him? Because there's a world of difference between having a placeholder saying supreme being God, and Allah out there, right? Even pagans would use the word AND between knowing Allah enough, right, learning about developing your god image if I can borrow the psychic term from yesterday, in a way that would make him relevant for you, and I'm willing to submit to Him and accept Him subhanho wa taala.

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And that is why by the way, the describing God to people as framed by the Quran, is the true route to curing atheism, for those that are receptive. Like, Hey, Jeff is gonna kill me again, I can't believe I'm not throwing shade. I swear to God, I'm not throwing shade. He did his PhD in the Kalam Cosmological Argument. And we need more of this. But

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I personally without getting sectarian here. I don't believe that there is much value at all, in getting into discussions that intellectually prove God's existence.

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And I need to be done in four minutes. Why?

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Because I believe if you get to a point where you're doubting God's existence, that's not the real issue. The issue could be your mechanism with which you're processing it's blurred by heedlessness blurred by arrogance blurred by radical skepticism cynicism

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you know, read the story of Alexandria Rahim Allah, for example, who when he went down the philosophical path and you punctured through it became a master of it. Many Westerners think he's consider him I don't mean that in a derogatory way. Consider him the greatest critique of you know, Greek philosophy, for example, some Westerners consider him this. What what did he arrive at this all this stuff is just a sham, right? He at the end had a Fallout, even with rational theology, right? And then let's leave us ally for a second. Rene Descartes. You guys know the concept of like Cartesian doubt, they card basically said, I can't trust anything. The only thing I know is that I

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think I think therefore I am. That's what they tell you in philosophy one on one, right? I think therefore I am. You don't know that Descartes had a crisis fe? And he said, Wait a minute, how do I know I think, How do I know? Basically, I'm not in the matrix? How do I know that I'm not a brain in a jar with wires plugged into it? Like being manipulated my thoughts? How do I know? I think

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it's skepticism. Doubting is not a path to knowledge, it is a path to further doubt. It's a black hole. How do I know I'm not part of an aliens video game?

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Nobody say Good point, please. Right? And so you know, you know, Descartes said, in the end, he needed an anchor for his I think, and that anchor was God. He said, You know what, there has to be something that is a given. There must be a God. He said, And God must not be a deceiver, or else there's no point in even trying to think things through. And so removing God, from skepticism, removing God from the intellectual discussion is the way to do things. When you do your data or with someone, I'm going to say it again, invoke their fitrah that you know, is there invoke the act of Allah, the verses I gave you an example of and the universe, right we spoke about, and then also you

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want to rattle their confidence in their intellectuality with a little bit of logic, a little bit of reasoning, whether it's like inductive reasoning, the empirical the science or deductive reasoning, sure, fine, but let it start with the fitrah. Let it start with the Ayat of Allah the observed in the recited and let it be this also. And the bridge for all of those proofs to get into their heart after Allah's permission is what your manners keep the relationship salient. Your manners are the bridge over which your proofs march into people's hearts and over the walls of their defensive mechanisms. Exactly.

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