Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
King of Saudi Arabia
This morning I’ve been reading news reports of your call (made this Monday at the Saudi seminar “Culture and the Respect of Religions”) for a dialogue among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. From a variety of sources (including the official Saudi Press Agency), you’ve been quoted as saying:
The idea is to ask representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions, as we all believe in the same God… I have noticed that the family system has weakened and that atheism has increased. That is an unacceptable behavior to all religions, to the Quran, the Torah and the Bible… We ask God to save humanity. There is a lack of ethics, loyalty, and sincerity for our religions and humanity…The Associated Press reports that you’d like to meet “with our brothers in all religions… so we can agree on something that guarantees the preservation of humanity against those who tamper with ethics, family systems, and honesty.” The Kuwait News Agency states that “[King Abdullah] asserted the importance that the three faiths confront [the phenomena] of family breakups and atheism in the world as well as working to maintain moral values.” Times Online reports:
“I want to call for conferences between the religions to protect humanity from folly,” [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] told a forum in Riyadh… “If God wills it, we will then meet with our brothers from other religions, including those of the Torah and the Gospel to come up with ways to safeguard humanity,” he added. The king, who is the guardian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, said the major faiths shared a desire to combat “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world.”In this open letter to you, I want to address the four issues that you’ve raised: 1) ethics and morality, including honesty, 2) atheism, 3) faith, belief, and sincerity, and 4) weakening family systems and other concerns about the “preservation” (or maybe better, the “future”) of humanity, in hopes to “save” humanity from “folly”. I’ll start with the concepts of ‘morality’ and ‘honesty’, without pedantically discussing differences between ‘morality’ and ‘ethics’ (since I take ‘ethics’ to mean, as given in my dictionary, “a set of moral principles”).
To begin, I’d ask you to consider identifying the fundamental moral principle promoted in all three of the “holy books” of the religions that you identify, namely, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. If you’re honest with yourself, I expect that you’ll agree that the fundamental moral principle is “Obey” [the god as described in respective “holy books”]. If you disagree, please let me know. Some Christians might disagree with me, claiming that the fundamental moral principle promoted by Jesus is “love” (both God and one another), but if so, they’d be ignoring the fact that both his first and second commandment are, in fact, commandments – to be obeyed.
Subsequently in each of the identified “holy books”, sets of moral principles are defined, leading to prescribed personal and interpersonal ethical behaviors. In general, most atheists don’t have too many objections to some of the resulting moral codes promoted in the identified “holy books” – although we certainly make exceptions for the cases of truly horrible policies promoted in these books, e.g., dealing with slavery, misogyny, and brutality such as torture (e.g., in Hell). In general, we reject any philosophy that promotes fear and hate.
By being aware of our identifications of inadequacies in the “holy books”, you can see that “atheists" (and “agnostics”, “free thinkers”, “scientific humanists”, et al.) thereby reject the clerics’ fundamental moral principle of “obey”; instead, we replace it with the fundamental moral principle: “evaluate”. This fundamental moral principle then leads us (each in his or her own way) to other personal and interpersonal moral principles, such as “everyone has an equal right to claim one’s own existence”, “be kind but with keenness”, “love within limits”, and so on – as I detail in my on-line book and which have been recognized by humanists since the time of the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, and many others.
Please be aware that when it comes to applying our fundamental moral principle (viz., “evaluate”), we are very sincere. Thus, we always do our best to hold our beliefs only as strongly as relevant evidence warrants. Consistently, we have faith in the “practical method” or the “scientific method” (guess, test, and reassess), with which humans tamed fire, developed better hunting tools, domesticated animals, built irrigation systems, and which subsequently has provided humanity with progressively more improved ways to be productive, to tame and control nature, to help humanity survive (with developments from the wheel and sailing boats to genetically improved crops and the internet). In all cases, we try to be as honest as possible with ourselves, with other people, and with nature.
In contrast, theists (such as those whom you would assemble for dialogue) claim that there is a god controlling the universe, whom all must obey; we respond: “Show us the data.” Theists claim that their god can work miracles; we respond: “Show us even just a single example of your god’s miracles.” Theists claim that all creation contains millions of their god’s miracles, including the universe and life itself. But since the total of all electrical charge, momentum, and energy in the universe almost certainly still sum to exactly zero, evidence suggests that the universe created itself via a quantum-like, symmetry-breaking fluctuation in a total void, leading to the Big Bang; further, a huge body of evidence suggests that life on earth ‘simply’ evolved once an autocatalytic molecule first replicated itself.
In spite of such evidence, theists maintain that their god certainly exists; in contrast, as best we can we evaluate the probability that total nothingness could pop a god into existence and find it to be astoundingly smaller than the probability that total nothingness could have popped this universe into existence. Theists insist that their god dictated moral principles for humanity; meanwhile, we evaluate the evidence and conclude that the foundations for morality were established during evolution of cooperative species (such as dolphins, elephants, monkeys, and humans), foundations that are now programmed in our genes for their survival benefit, and that human extensions to those innate moral principles have been constructed by humans to provide frameworks for smooth operations of societies.
Thus, we evaluate the theists’ claim that their god exists – and conclude that it’s supported by zero data, it’s devoid of any theoretical support (or even common sense), and in short, it’s simply a silly speculation concocted by savages and promoted by scientifically clueless but politically conniving clerics, saving them the need to work for a living. As Voltaire said: “A cleric is one who feels himself called upon to live without working at the expense of the rascals who work to live.”
In view of such differences, what then of humanity’s future, including the future of families? I appreciate your concern about the future of all families and I hope that you’ll dig deeply into relevant data to evaluate the root cause of the current deterioration of especially Muslim families. If you do, when you get past the totally unnecessary and truly terrible, sexual frustrations of Muslim youths, the hope-shattering unemployment rates (with even the ~30 percent unemployment in your country enviable compared with the more than ~70 percent rate among Moroccan youths), and the many other dysfunctional features of the patriarchal nature of most Muslim families and societies, I trust that you’ll determine that the root cause is the stupidity of Islamic clerics, with their self-serving fundamental moral principle that people are to obey (rather than evaluate). According to Islamic clerics, what people are to obey (under threat of eternal torture in an imagined hell) are rules that may have been appropriate in 7th Century Arabia but that are now terribly inappropriate for the 21st Century; it’s like trying to drive forward in an automobile, through heavy traffic, while looking only in the rear-view mirror.
One consequence of such clerical stupidity (both Muslim and Christian) is the unsupportable rate of population growth in most Muslim, African, and South American countries. Please realize that, in centuries past, the prime purpose of matrimony was to provide community approval and support for conceiving and rearing children, but now, there’s roughly an order of magnitude more people in this poor old world than it can sustainably support at levels that people obviously desire. Consequently, fewer children would be highly desirable. On the other hand, though, all mature humans have very strong sexual desires, as all clerics obviously realize – and then try to control, to gain power over the people. I therefore would be glad if, in your own position of power, you’d do what you can to weaken your clerics’ control on the sexual activities of people in your country. In sum, what’s obviously desirable is more loving and sexually fulfilling relations between consenting adults – and fewer unwanted, unloved children.
Another consequence of such clerical stupidity is the deplorable unemployment rates in Muslim countries, resulting not only in frustration and emigration but also terrorism. One way for Muslim societies to dig themselves out of the pit of unemployment despair is, as you know, to build knowledge-based societies. In recent decades, China and India have made major progress in that regard, and I applaud your attempt to improve education in Saudi Arabia. But I’m sorry to feel the need to alert you to the likelihood that you’ll be unable to achieve your goal – so long as education is controlled by the clerics. For you to achieve your goal, children must learn critical- (or evaluative-) thinking skills, but that will be impossible until you make major progress constraining the clerics’ promotion of their stupid dogma. As Lemuel Washburn said: “A dogma is the hand of the dead on the throat of the living.”
I’m therefore very concerned about the future, even if humanity is able to achieve a population level at which sustainable and fulfilling development of all people becomes possible. What threatens us most is the “folly” in forming “beliefs” unsupported by evidence, which is the hallmark of all organized religions. To counteract such folly, to pry the clerics’ “hand of the dead [off] the throat of the living”, somehow we must stop the damnable clerics of the world from promoting their stupidity; somehow we must help humanity exit the clerics’ horrible vicious circle, in which they capitalize on children's necessary trust in their parents to indoctrinate children into believing religious balderdash; somehow we must get the children of the world to learn and to apply critical-thinking skills in their daily lives; somehow we must get people to learn that the clueless clerics of the world are running the world’s longest running and most evil con-game ever conceived – and doing so primarily for their own benefits, so power-mongers and parasites that they are, they can continue to control and to leach off the bounties generated by the producers of the world.
Consequently, I’d be very pleased if in your position of power, you could drain the power of Saudi clerics. As a single and simple example, I hope that you’ll immediately oversee the release of Fouad Alfarhan from prison and dismiss those administrators responsible for his incarceration. I don’t know him except from some of his blogs, but even though he does appear to be a theist, this young man (commonly called “the king of Saudi bloggers”) seems to have developed some critical-thinking skills and obviously he’s trying to help Saudi society, as best he sees how. In addition, obviously he’s a devoted husband and father. If you would see to his immediate release (indeed, you might profit from meeting with him and learning from him), I’m sure that his family will be very pleased – and I will take some pleasure in entertaining the possibility that, through your actions, humanity’s future will brighten.
Longer term, I hope that you, too, will make the “leap of faith” to trust your own mind to reach sound decisions based on evidence rather than on childhood indoctrination, folklore, emotions, etc. To help yourself in that regard, I encourage you to look at the list of “4,862 gods, goddesses, deities, avatars, incarnations, angels, demons, and various spirits…” over which so much human blood has been senselessly spilled and whose clerics have polluted the minds of innocent, helpless, trusting children. From that list, you’ll see that already you reject the vast majority of gods that silly humans have concocted and that their clerics have promoted (for their own profit) – with the exception of the “one true god” (Allah, Jesus, or Yahweh) that unfortunately you have not yet been able to see is just another clerical hoax. Meanwhile, we billion-or-so atheists, free thinkers, secular and scientific humanists, etc. make no exception for the one remaining god: we’ve consigned all 4,862 of them to the dustbin of human mistakes. We hope that someday, soon, you’ll do similar.
In conclusion, Sir, let me put it this way. Both of us being old, we’ll soon die, and all evidence points to the obvious: when we die, while our elements recycle in this earthly environment, nothing of us will remain but our modified DNA molecules (living for the past billion-or-so years and now hosted by our children) plus memories of us that are carried by the living. For humanity’s sake, I hope that memories of you will be of a great reformer who saw through the hideousness of all clerical con-games and who strove to help all children of the world develop and maintain faith in themselves and in the scientific method, thereby helping intelligent life to continue. After all, when all is said and done, that’s the most worthwhile purpose for each and every one of us to pursue.
“Another Seed of the Stars”
A. Zoroaster, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.