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by Amir Arsalan

Omar Khayyam
Hakim Omar Khayyam Neyshabouri
Great Persian free thinker, poet, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, scientist and father of Algebra

Some say Omar Khayyam was an agnostic. Of that I cannot be completely sure, but I know he wrote the following:

None answered this; but after silence spake
A vessel of a more ungainly make:
"They sneer at me for leaning all awry;
What? Did the hand of the potter shake?"

Edward Fitzgerald's English translation

I am an atheist. I was born a Moslem, but began examining those beliefs during adolescence. At the time this was a very anxiety-producing struggle for me, as holes were appearing in the "God theory." What I was always taught as the fundamental truth was looking more like a fairy tail with each passing day.

Omar Khayyam Statue

What shook my beliefs was the irreconcilability of the existence of God with the facts of this world. If logic and common sense are used objectively, God's existence becomes highly questionable. A few interesting
questions, which past philosophers have also struggled with include:

1) Why does evil and calamity exist in our world?
2) Where is God to help us against these evils and calamities?
3) If God wants to help but cannot, is he truly omnipotent?
4) If everything that happens is God's will, we are bound by fatalism, so can anyone be faulted for their actions, and subsequently punished by God?
5) Why has God chosen to always conveniently conceal himself? At least he should appear once a millennium, to let us know he is still there, instead of "indirectly" reminding us by sending floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes
6) Is God bipolar? Tenderly loving us one minute, and utterly destroying us the next
7) Why were the people who lived before the times of Mohammad, Jesus, and Moses denied the knowledge of the "true God," and therefore condemned to a pagan life on earth and to Hell afterwards?
8) "Thou shall not kill" is his commandment. Yet it is fine to kill, if it propagates his message?
9) During "Holy Wars," if God is on "our" side, then who is on "theirs?"
10) Why did he promise the same land (Israel) to at least two different people?
11) Are you ready for this one……..WHO CREATED HIM?

This list is of course, inexhaustible. And these are thoughts that arise without even considering science. I consider myself a scientist. Anyone who is a true scientist accepts only that which is reproducible, and fits the available data and observations. This is the scientific method. Models and theories need to be made to fit the observations, not the other way around. If a theory is or later becomes inconsistent with the data, that theory needs to be abandoned, or at least modified. This is how humanity has struggled to reach the truth. When Einstein's theory of relativity showed that the long held Newtonian Mechanics were incomplete, and broke down at very high speeds, science was ready to accept the new observations and the improved theory. No one issued a fatwa or a crusade to suppress this heresy.

The bubonic plague of the middle ages, which affected the whole world, but mostly Europe, was actually the great catalyst of science. Since ancient times, people had mostly just accepted everything they were told by their clergy, and faith in God was at a peak. But when they saw everyone dying around them, and the clergy either could offer no help or simply abandoned them in order to save themselves, many people began questioning God. They realized that if they were to avoid such catastrophes, they would have to act on their own, and take charge of their environment and their destiny. The roots of the renaissance and subsequent modern science took hold partly because of this plague.

Of course, science cannot explain everything, and there are some things, which it probably will never answer. We understand and accept these limitations. But it is science that gave us our computers, improved farming, put us in space, gave us medicines and surgical techniques, doubled our life expectancy, and allowed us to better understand the world around us. So if you want to pay homage and thank someone, thank science and the scientists, not the imaginary man in the sky.

Now I know that if you keep backtracking a question far enough you will reach the eventual response of "I don't know." No one can answer why the laws of nature are what they are. We can only observe their existence, and because of their reproducibility, predict to some certainty how they will result in a future event. From a practical standpoint, that is all we need. The difference between a scientist and a person of faith is that the latter has chosen to distill all these unknowns to one answer: because of God. But the faithful person will eventually get stomped also, if we ask: And where did your God come from? Did another God create him? Or does he simply exist, and always existed, without creation? If you are prepared to accept that answer, why can't you accept the answer that the Universe has always existed, without anyone's creation? Both answers are stale, and weak. But I am prepared to say that I do not know the true answers behind the mysteries of the Universe, and probably never will. People of faith have no claim to such answers than anyone else.

As far as proving the nonexistence of God, well that is close to impossible. I would challenge anyone to prove the nonexistence of Santa Claus or a dragon living at the center of the earth. Proving a negative is impractical, but that doesn't mean we should conclude that it must therefore exist. Based on logic and science, although we can concede that nothing can be stated with 100% certainty, the chances of the existence of God, Santa Claus, and dragons are infinitely close to 0%.

Some people think that because I am an atheist I have no religion. This is not true. I define religion as a belief system. We all believe in something that we hold dear. For some, it is out of sight, and in the sky. For me, it is more tangible. My religion is my love for my family, love for Iran, love for science, and love of my history.

If I am wrong, I am prepared to go to Hell when I die, just as I am prepared for and accept that my friend the dragon never visits me, and that I never receive gifts from Santa Claus on Christmas. Hmmmmm……., believing in imaginary things could have its fringe benefits…….. perhaps I should rethink this……

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."
-Dalai Lama

Atheist Flag
Symbol of breaking the chain of the religious ignorance on Earth

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