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RSS LeRoyJames

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3 most recent arguments.
1 point

I'm an atheist, so I can't really say I agree with the first one, but the rest all have their merits. I don't necessarily agree with them, but I see their practical benefits to Muhammad and the early Muslims.

Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;

I'm an atheist, so I can't claim any belief in the oneness of God, or any other somethingness of God. I also definitely don't believe in the finality of Muhammad. I think he was a prophet, like many before him and many after. I think Gandhi was also a prophet of about the same caliber, and his message was equally important to us.

Establishment of the daily prayers;

I can see some benefit in this. I certainly don't believe in prayers per se, but I do believe in spending some time contemplating the path that your life is taking, what's right and what's wrong, etc. Some people might call this meditation.

I also believe that in Muhammad's time, this was very important because it reminded Muslims who they were and helped them identify themselves as a community. Without this, it's doubtful whether that would have banded together as they did, and they would probably not have survived the attempts of other groups to wipe them out.

Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;

I'm not an expert on this subject, but I do remember reading that Muhammad saw several things about his society that he thought were wrong, and he tried to correct them, so it seems to me that this is a pretty good candidate for being one of those things.

I think that there are a lot of problems that giving to the needy creates, but I also do believe that people in power have a natural tendency to try to horde all of the wealth, and that it isn't good for a society to concentrate too much wealth with just a few people. I think it's important to try to spread the wealth and reduce the divide between the various classes. However, I think a better way to do that is through the minimum wage and having Unions to band workers together so that they can negotiate for higher pay.

Giving some money to beggars is okay, but it shouldn't be so much that it becomes a viable profession.

Self-purification through fasting;

Clearly Muhammad saw some benefit to this, and other cultures have as well, so there very well could be some merit to this. However, for me, I would have to say that this is still an open question. I neither believe nor disbelieve this one.

The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able

Just like the English used to make their sailors swab the decks even when they didn't need it, I think it's important to keep people busy, and tasks that remind them that they're Muslims will help them keep their community together. Just doing prayers every day would probably just become automatic after a while if you didn't have some larger task to focus on as well.

In summary, I would say that Muhammad's genius lie, not just in seeing what changes needed to be made in the world, but in understanding what motivates people, and how to get them to work as a group to achieve their goals.

1 point

Science is only the pursuit of the truth without regard to preconceived notions of the truth. If science can't answer the question "why are we here?", perhaps it's because there is no purpose to our being here, and science won't find a reason when there isn't one.

1 point

I don't think there's such a thing as an 'absolute' right or wrong, but clearly we've evolved a conscience, and a sense of right and wrong, and in understanding the reason behind that, I think we can try to understand what constitute a 'right' action, and what constitutes a 'wrong' action.

I think the most probable cause for us developing a sense of right and wrong is because it allowed multiple people to live together without having to worry about that other people in our group would act to harm us. So, the first order of morality would be to:

1: Don't harm others in your group.

We also need to know that others in the group aren't taking advantage of us, and that everyone is contributing as much as they can, so the second order of morality would be:

2: Pull your own weight.

A third problem with living in a group is trying to figure out how to coordinate everyone's activities so that stuff gets done most efficiently. For example, who's going to hunt vs. who's going to gather. If everyone just took off and started hunting, then you'd all get back to camp and there wouldn't be any salad to go with your steak, so the third order of morality would be to:

3: Play your role in society

Of course, some people would consider that very boring, and that sense of boredom is something that we've evolved, so there must be a reason for that. I think there are several reasons for that. First, if everyone just blindly plays their role without thinking about it, your society won't see opportunities when they present themselves, and another society that does see these opportunities will out-compete your society. Second, things change, the environment you live in can get drier over time, or wetter, or become more populated, etc., so you need to be able to adapt. Therefore, the fourth order of morality would be:

4: Don't be a goody goody

All of this, of course, needs to be balanced against the older 'morality' that was evolved before we started living in groups, and that is to take care of oneself and insure one's own survival. Everyone strikes a different balance between looking out for themselves and being a good citizen. I think evolution plays a role here as well.

There may be some genetic influence here, but I think environment plays a bigger factor. First of all, your not going to play the good citizen if you live in a society in which everyone else looks after themselves. You need to know that the good deeds you do for others will be reciprocated. Second, when there's a lot of resources to go around, I think people worry less about being a good citizen, and just try to improve their own lot relative to everyone else. When resources are scarce, I think that's when you see people pull together to help each other.

Unfortunately, this is also the time when people tend to break up into different groups to compete for those resources. There aren't enough resources for everyone, so you try to join the biggest group you can that the resources will be enough for, and you pit yourself against other groups to deny them access to the resources.

This is all just scratching the surface of this topic. I think whole books could be written on this topic. Actually, whole books have been written on this topic for millennia, although I think fewer of them have taken an evolutionary perspective on solving the problem. I'm not an expert here, but I think Machiavelli was the first to take the approach that whatever works is right, and that's close to this, because whatever works is what will help our society stay strong and survive.

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About Me

"Software Engineer, and venerable old man."

Biographical Information
Gender: Male
Marital Status: Married
Political Party: Democrat
Country: United States
Religion: Atheist
Education: College Grad

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