HAMID AND THE GIANT PURPLE LIZARD |
February 04, 2008
HAMID AND THE GIANT PURPLE LIZARD
Name: CAPT Doug Traversa
Posting date: 2/4/08
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Afghanistan Without A Clue
Here’s another episode of Hamid and Doug Ponder the Universe. My little story has no real bearing on either the origins of the Qur’an or the resurrection of Jesus. It has a great deal to do with the nature of faith and evidence. I hesitate to share this because some Christian will assume I am trying to prove there was no resurrection (I am not), or some Muslim will become irate because I misrepresent Islam (I do not; I merely relate, verbatim, what Hamid told me, accurate or not). With that little caveat, let us proceed.
One thing that strikes me (with a great deal of force) about the Afghans I’ve met is their absolute certainty that Islam is true and the Qur’an has the answer to all of life’s problems. The notion that Islam isn’t true, or might not be true, never crosses their minds. Of course, this only applies to the ones I’ve discussed religion with, but I think it represents the majority of people over here. You are either a believer or you have deliberately chosen to reject God. The concept of being undecided or an agnostic is hard for them to grasp. This conversation will help illustrate what I mean.
Hamid and I were discussing holy books. He finds the notion of multiple religions fascinating, and always asks if the religion we are discussing has a holy book.
“Sir,” he commented, “you know that the Qur’an wrote itself. This is what the Prophet said.”
“Hamid, as I mentioned before, you weren’t there, and neither was anyone else alive today. If you want to believe that the Qur’an wrote itself, you have to take it on faith.”
“Fate?” he asked.
"No, faith, F-A-I-T-H,” I said, spelling it out. Hamid often asks me to spell new words for him. He is a diligent student of English.
"What is this?” he asked.
“You’ve never heard of faith?” I responded in surprise.
“No, what is it?”
“Faith is when you believe something without any evidence. Most religions require you to believe things on faith. When you believe the Qur’an wrote itself, you believe that by faith.”
“But sir, the Prophet said it happened,” Hamid protested.
“Yes, but how do you know he said this? Like I’ve said to you before, you weren’t there, so you don’t know exactly what he may have written or said. You don’t have the original Qur’an, just like we don’t have the original scriptures that make up the Bible. People believe these are God’s word based on faith.”
“You make another good point. I don’t know if we have the original Qur’an or not.”
This conversation occurred shortly after Easter, so Hamid asked about the holiday.
“The Major was telling me about your Prophet, Yeesus (this is how he pronounces it).”
“You mean Jesus?” I corrected.
“Yes. He told me that 500 people saw him after he was resurrected,” said Hamid.
“Yes, that’s was written by the apostle Paul, one of the main leaders of Christianity. However, even that still requires faith. Let me tell you a story, to show you what I mean. Suppose I told you that last night, right here at Camp Phoenix, I caught a giant purple lizard that ate rocks.” I held my hands about three feet apart to show how big my purple lizard was. “Not only that, it could fly! Would you believe me?”
Hamid got that bemused look on his face that he gets when I start making him think too hard. He laughed. “No, I would need to see it myself. Would you believe me if I told you this?”
I smiled. “Very good. I would need to see it too. But what if I said that 500 people here at Camp Phoenix also saw the lizard? Would you believe me then?”
He paused, looked closely at me, and replied, “No. I would need to see it.”
I feigned indignation. “But 500 people saw it! Don’t you believe me?”
“No, I would want to see it.”
“That’s good, but can’t you find another flaw in my story? Can’t you think of another question to ask?”
He shook his head. “No, I’m not sure what you are asking.”
“I told you 500 people had seen this lizard. You think it’s a pretty crazy story. Wouldn’t you want to talk to these 500 people?”
“Yes, that would be good,” he conceded.
“But what if I couldn’t tell you the names of any of them, and you couldn’t speak to any of them? What would you think?”
At this point Hamid was lost, so I stopped.
Hamid, here’s my point. Paul wrote that 500 people saw Jesus after he rose from the dead. This may be true, but he did not give the names of any of these people. So 500 people with no names, and no way to talk to them, proves nothing. I always hated it in church when this was used as a proof of the resurrection, because logically it isn’t. But it’s not the sort of question you would ask in church. The same is true with your view of the Qur’an. You believe the Qur’an wrote itself. This may be true. But you have no evidence of this. You must believe it based on faith. Do you understand what I’m saying? Just because I say 500 people saw a giant purple, rock-eating, flying lizard doesn’t make it true, does it?”
“Oh, sir, you have such tough questions. I have never heard things like this.”
At this point I had mercy on Hamid and we moved on to other topics. But despite his protestations, he always came back for more. Maybe one day we can meet again here, and he and I can sit on my back porch discussing the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.