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Without God

Being from the Gulf and going through its education system meant two things: 1) The words Darwinism and Evolution were merely mentioned in our biology syllabus but were never taught as it opposed creationism that we Muslims believed in. 2) Philosophy was something we heard of but never studied. Whenever I wondered the reason behind never having philosophy taught in school, the answer I always got from my family was simple: it led to atheism (names were amply provided of people we know who majored in it at university and returned as self-proclaimed atheists). Going abroad to continue my higher studies meant venturing into unfamiliar grounds.

There, I was first exposed to evolution theory when doing my foundation level at university. I laughed the first time I saw the diagram of a fish turning into a reptile and then into a human. I rolled my eyes when an argument broke between my atheist physics teacher and my religious Saudi friend about creationism. I gasped in horror when my Tunisian friend told me that Philosophy was a subject taught in their schools and exclaimed: “And none of you became atheist?”

It was also my first time to answer the door for a Jehovah Witness and given a colourful pamphlet that had a lamb and a lion sitting together in a green meadow, before wondering loudly what was this children’s story about?

However, I was lucky to be raised by a father who was open-minded and encouraged us to forge long-lasting friendships with people from different cultures without questioning their creeds. This meant having European friends who were atheists yet-out of respect- beliefs were never discussed between us although I had a few burning questions in mind: with the lack of religion, where does their moral system stems from?

If they’re non-believers, why use the words God and Jesus when expressing astonishment? Some of the answers I found in philosophy, others in sociology and human behaviour books.

Lately, I came across a book called: Without God written by an American pastor called Zachary Broom in 2019. The book is a crash course for anyone who’s interested in learning about Western ideologies. Historically speaking, Atheism started in ancient Greece and was revived centuries later by philosophers who criticised Christianity such as Hobbes, Hume, and Voltaire.

The book covers many philosophical arguments that atheists had made such as the problem of evil and the source of morality as well as scientific ones from Darwinism to Big Bang theory. These arguments established by classical and modern-day atheists such as Richard Dawkins are disputed by Christian apologists such as Ravi Zacharias and C.S Lewis (Yep! The same of author of The Chronicles of Narnia).

What I enjoyed most while reading this book is the balance that Broom succeeds in finding so that the book doesn’t feel overwhelmingly religious, which makes it accessible to people from different creeds although it has quotes and stories from the Bible. The smooth narrative and chapters arrangement helps in moving from one concept to another without much confusion.

Another positive aspect of the book is that the author shares his own experiences, especially when it comes to doubt that sometimes creep to the most faithful of us. The book doesn’t offer any straightforward answers but confirms scepticism in all areas of life including religion and science. Its message is clear: there is no proof of anything in life, yet our choice of believing in any superpower is what brings us comfort, add meaning to our lives and guides our moral choices and behaviour. Without God is interesting, insightful, and subtly argued.

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com

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