By Qasim Rashid
Richard Dawkins controversially asserts that, “it can be plausibly argued that a deeply held belief [in hell] might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.” Dawkins then backtracks by adding, “…violent, painful, repeated sexual abuse…probably has a more damaging effect on a child’s mental well-being than sincerely believing in hell.”
Dawkins’ comparison is nothing short of ridiculous. Those convinced and suffering from the belief in hell can always choose not to believe — as many do when older. Those who suffer sexual abuse can never “undo” the experience no matter how much time passes. It is much simpler to forget a fabricated hell than a real-life hell. Dawkins — himself the victim of sexual abuse and not the victim of mental abuse regarding hell — unfortunately ignores this fact.
Meanwhile, to remedy this alleged mental abuse of hell, Dawkins proposes that children not be taught about any particular faith, and instead enjoy full liberty upon adulthood as to whether they wish to believe in God, or not.
Dawkins’ bizarre aforementioned comparison aside, as one who believes in God, I agree that every human being should have a carte blanche right to choose first, whether they even believe in God, and second, if so — to which faith they choose to reach that God.
Dawkins, likely inadvertently, has endorsed (without crediting) a principle Prophet Muhammad championed 1400 years prior. The Qur’an categorically condemned any form of religious compulsion by declaring in no uncertain terms, “There shall be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). This remarkable verse extends beyond just religion as the word translated into “religion” is deen. Deen encompasses any form of thinking, ideology, or intellectual perspective–not just religion. Islam forbids compulsion regarding any of them.
Likewise, the Qur’an, in 22:39-41, commands Muslims to protect all houses of worship — temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques — so that freedom of conscience remains free. That is, the Qur’an provides muscle to ban compulsion of conscience. It is the only ancient scripture — religious or secular — to both specifically champion, and also provide muscle, to protect universal freedom of conscience.
Moreover, Dawkins should be pleased to know that the Qur’an condemns employing mental trauma to coerce belief. In 10:100 the Qur’an says, “And if thy Lord had enforced His will, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers?” That is, if God does not Himself compel mankind — whothe hell is any individual to do so? The Islam that Prophet Muhammad taught — in vast contrast to some extremist regimes we see and condemn today–was an Islam that championed universal freedom of conscience, and forbade everyone from compelling anyone.
Categories: Europe and Australia