Program 1 Dinar Emas, 1 Bulan

25 février 2013

God, as Opposed to Religion

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Agnostic (noun)
1. A person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause and that the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
2. A person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
3. A person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic.


One or two readers posted comments today saying that my articles are boring or have become quite stale of late. That may be true. Education can sometimes be boring when you do not want to get educated or you feel you already know enough and do not need further education.

I do not think that I already know everything. I admit that there is still much I need to learn. And that was the reason why I signed up at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education in 2011 plus I attended a few lectures in Oxford last year. I am currently on my third module and will be submitting my essay at the end of March.

Anyway, let me bore you, yet again, with another stale article. This article is not about God or about religion but I have titled it ‘God, as opposed to religion’ and I am going to make many references to God and religion.

Most simple-minded people -- and that would probably be more than half the readers of Malaysia Today -- think that the world is divided into those who believe in God (theists) and those who do not believe in God (atheists). They do not realise that there is a third group -- neither theist nor atheist -- who sit in between those two. And this group is called agnostics.

You can read the definition of agnostic at the top.

Before I go into the main thrust of my article, allow me, as usual, to digress -- in my normal cheong hei manner -- and address some of the comments posted in Malaysia Today over the last few weeks. This is merely a digression to make a short story long and is still not what I really want to talk about today.
One reader raised the issue of Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha and said that this was what is reported in the Hadith.

Now, let’s say I make certain references to the life of Jesus. And, let’s also say, Christians disagree with my view and argue that my statement contradicts Christian beliefs. Then, say, I ‘prove’ to you that I am correct while you are wrong with quotes from the Gospel. You then ask me from which Gospel I am making this reference and I quote the Gospel of Barnabas.

You then argue that the Gospel of Barnabas may contain some remnants of earlier apocryphal works but it has never been canonised although it is about the same length as the four canonical gospels put together. I then counter by saying that the ‘Gospel according to Barnabas’ is mentioned in two early Christian lists of apocryphal works: the 6th-century Latin Decretum Gelasianumas well as the 7th-century Greek List of the Sixty Books. Hence it is authentic.

Okay, so what is my point here? Simple, my point is that I am telling you what a Christian should believe. You are a Christian while I am not. Yet I am telling you what is the correct Christianity and what is wrong Christianity. Should not you, a Christian, know better what you want to believe and do not want to believe? Who am I, a non-Christian, to teach you what is correct Christianity?

I would never presume to know Christianity better than you, a practicing Christian. And I would never attempt to teach you what is correct Christianity and what is wrong Christianity. Non-Muslims, however, presume they know Islam better than Muslims themselves and then will preach what is right Islam and what is wrong Islam.

Okay, back to the issue of Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha when she was said to be just 6 years old or 9 years old or whatever. Of the many stories in Islam this appears to be the single most-favourite story that non-Muslims will raise to mock the Prophet and call him a paedophile, child rapist, pervert, criminal who would be sent to jail if he did that today, and so on. 

Allow me to digress, yet again. Back in those days, and even up to ‘modern’ times, ‘political marriages’ were very common, even in the more ‘civilised’ Europe. Most political marriages would be between leaders or rulers to unite the different political factions or powers. Leaders or rulers did not marry for love. They married to strengthen their position and to gain political allies or to prevent other powers from turning enemy (once you are related by marriage you become friends).

Even in England and France the sons and daughters of Kings were married off to each other when they were still children. However, they would not be allowed to live as husband and wife until they reach the age of puberty, which could be 10 or 11. Hence they would have to live apart for a few years until then. And ‘adulthood’ would be when you reach puberty. In fact, at 13 you went to war and died for your country and at 19, if you were still single, you would be considered too old to get married. At 30 you would be an old man or woman.

Anyway, that was a mere digression. I am not trying to play the role of Muslim apologist here. I am bringing to your attention that the value system and traditions/customs in those days were different from today. Christians killed Jews in those days. Catholics killed Protestants and Protestants killed Catholics in those days. 

Hell, the English Parliament even banned Christmas and ordered shops to stay open on 25th December, less than 400 years ago, because Christmas was considered a pagan festival and not the day to mark the birth of Christ. And, 1,000 years before that banning of Christmas, Prophet Muhammad was said to have entered into a political alliance with the most powerful warlord of Mekah by marrying his underage daughter.
But that is not really what I want to argue today. What I do want to argue is: where did this story come from? Is it in the Qur’an? No! It is from the Hadith. So, you argue, since it is from the Hadith, then it must be true and hence Prophet Muhammad was a paedophile.

Okay, let us rewind a bit. You are quoting from the Hadith and you are telling me that this is what my Hadith says and since I am a Muslim I must believe in this Hadith.

Now hold on a minute. Are all Christians Catholics? Aren’t there many denominations of Christianity? Hence why do you assume that all Muslims believe in the same thing? You do not even bother to ask me what denomination Muslim I am and you shove down my throat your interpretation of Islam as if there is only one denomination of Islam. Can I insist that you believe in the Gospel of Barnabas and then pass judgment on you because you have ‘deviated’ from the teachings of Barnabas?

Not all Muslims believe in the Hadith. These people are normally unfairly called the anti-Hadith group. Actually they are not anti-Hadith as much as they hold to the Qur’an as God’s true word and believe that all other ‘holy books’ other than the Qur’an are superfluous.

Then there are those who believe in some of the Hadith but not all of them. Further to that, there are those who believe in a different set of Hadith. Hence, on the issue of Hadith alone, there are so many different denominations of Muslims. So, when you quote the Hadith to a Muslim without knowing his of her position on Hadith, it is like quoting Barnabas to a Christian and assume that since he or she is a Christian then she or she must believe in Barnabas.

So far we are talking about Muslims and Christians. For sure Muslims and Christians are theists. And they believe not only in God but also in the religion of God (which means they are religionists as well). But what happens if you believe in God (or at least in some higher power that created us) but not in the religion of God? Then you would be an agnostic. You are neither Muslim nor Christian.

The arguments are normally between Muslims and Christians (even here in Malaysia Today). But you fail to see that there is a third group, a Third Force if you wish and if that can help you better understand the issue. And this third group thinks that both the Muslims and Christians are equally wrong. 

Yes, there is a God. But there is no religion. God is the destination you wish to arrive at. Religion is merely one of those vehicles you use to arrive at that destination called God.

Okay, enough with all that religion bullshit. After three pages of talking cock let me get to the punch line. And the punch line is: there are two 'religions' called Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat quarrelling over whose ‘God’ is the true God, whose ‘Prophet’ is the genuine Prophet, and whose ‘Holy Book’ is the authentic Holy Book. 

I then declare that I am not a religionist but an agnostic. And while I acknowledge the existence of God, I do not accept that religions came from God. I think that religions are manmade.

And then both sides of the religious divide call me a kafir, infidel, nonbeliever, unbeliever, disbeliever, doubter, heretic, apostate, heathen, pagan, and whatnot. They tell me that the only way to reach God is through their religion. And both sides claim that their religion is true while the other is false.

Nevertheless, while I still want God, I do not want corrupt religions where their followers do the opposite of what they say. Hence if you think that I am a kafir, infidel, nonbeliever, unbeliever, disbeliever, doubter, heretic, apostate, heathen, pagan, and whatnot; so be it.  

Lakum dinakum waliyadin (to you be your religion and to me my religion): Qur’an, Surah Al-Kafirun, 109:6

(Now, I bet most of you will be debating religion instead of the last five paragraphs of this article, which is the point I am really driving at).