Rethink God, a review and author interview by Sara

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rethink God
Nadiez Bahi

310 pages
Published April 27th 2021

 

“Have science and philosophy proved the inexistence of God?In Rethink God, Nadiez Bahi presents a fascinating, fresh look at one of humanity’s most enduring questions. He tackles the question, “Does God Exist” through a dialogue between Christian and his new friend, Sherif. Together they seek answers to eternal questions through a conversation covering the most prominent philosophical and scientific topics related to the God question.Accessible and engaging, Bahi examines the significant fallacies of both agenda-driven atheism and religious enthusiasm. Inviting readers to draw their own conclusions, Rethink God provides an original, unbiased approach for readers to answer the big question about divinity.”

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, usually when I read a book about religion there is a lot of bias for the authors beliefs. This is not the case with Rethink God. Told as a story instead of a dull research paper I found myself asking many questions about my own beliefs and my upbringing. I also enjoyed the amount of research and development Nadiez Bahi put into this book to where I can honestly say I give it a five out of five stars and would recommend to anyone looking for a different approach to god.

 

An Interview with Nadiez Bahi:

Your book addresses the question: “Does God exist?” –– what inspired you to ask and seek answers for this question? Was there a moment in your life that made you want to investigate this more?

I was born and raised in a modern Muslim family. My parents taught us the basics of religion but were always against extremism and blindfolded submission to religious leaders. I was very curious about God for as long as I can remember. In my first week in school, I made friends with a Christian. I started asking him about what that meant to be one, and I just wouldn’t stop. By the weekend, he had given me books to read about Christianity. My parents weren’t very thrilled about it. I remember many times in my childhood asking my dad questions about God until he would state that some matters are simply unexplainable. However, these deeper thoughts faded away in the years that followed.

In 2006, “The Da Vinci Code” had exploded in certain social circles in my country. It wasn’t uncommon to find two people with that very same book in a tiny café. For people who had no interest in any existential questions at the time, its impact was gigantic. The possibility that some cornerstones of the most widely spread religion on earth have been completely altered throughout history left us in shock, regardless of whether this was true or not. Having the gift of the internet at hand, we rushed to search for fallacies, conspiracy theories, holes in religions and eventually in the idea of the existence of God. That was the first time in my life I started questioning many notions that I took for granted before.

After a couple months of reading, I decided to abandon the topic altogether. I realized the research needed much more attention than I could dedicate at the time. I had more critical missions at hand, building a career and deciding which direction I wanted to take in life in. Years passed. In 2013, a personal incident happened to me that made answering this question my first priority in life. I felt like I couldn’t move another inch without finding my answer. I call this condition “intolerable questioning.” I started reading everything on the topic of God that I could get my hands on. The more I read the further I got from reaching an answer, and the more clearly I saw that there were the two camps fighting a war against each other on pages of books I read; the camp of atheism and the camp of religion. Not only did that experience leave me not wanting to join one side, it made me despise the wickedness both camps adopt to win the war, corrupting many facts, blurring many truths that could lead someone like me to reach an answer. That was the time I decided I want to investigate the topic much deeper, from a whole new point of view, that is so far from the toxic war fought between the two camps.

What do you want to change by writing this book?

I wanted to change many of the core misconceptions about the topic of God, which I came across while reading the most prominent books on the topic at the beginning of my journey. After spending five years writing this book, my goal was to offer a person who wants to find his or her own answer a chance to do so without being manipulated by flawed logics that serve their owner’s agenda of promoting a certain point of view on the topic.

One popular trap that most researchers on this topic fall into is mixing up God and religion as one and the same. The work of most celebrated writers of the genre comes from an innermost glorification or resentment of religion, and accordingly the God persona painted by this religion. This directly causes the research to be led astray into building a case that has no grounds to start with. One common example of this is using some religious text or beliefs to prove or disprove God’s existence as if this one religion is the earthly representation of God. Whereby, the religious camp fights to prove the correctness of their text and the atheism camp fights to prove the same scripture wrong because that equally takes the God idea down with it. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many basic arguments like the problem of evil or creation vs. evolution are based on views that are not even shared by all three Abrahamic religions, not to mention the 4,200 religions that world has today. Still, one finds writers from both camps quoting a religion as the earthly reference to God in the process of proving or disproving his existence.

Another problem is overvaluing human’s knowledge at any point of time. A common symptom of our collective vanity is proving to be more and more ridiculous especially at the pace of scientific discovery we have reached. Still, believers mistakenly involve God in whatever today’s science can’t explain. And, equally mistaken, disbelievers stretch the boundaries of today’s science to explain many phenomena where it completely fails to do so, just out of fear of introducing or suggesting the need for a creator, presumed by many to be God.

So many other misconceptions around the topic of God get revealed throughout the book. And that is why I gave a lot of attention to laying the right foundations for inquiry and highlighting the flawed logics that need to be avoided at the beginning of different research sections of the book, something that most other books on the topic completely overlook.

Has writing this book changed your perspective on and relationship to God/religion?

Of course it did. Unlike most writers who take interest in this topic, I didn’t start the book with a solid answer that I seek to prove. I had a very clear idea about what is wrong with most of the material available on the topic today. If I am to put it in one word, it would be “rigidness.” Imagine how open or objective one is while writing a book when he or she chooses a title stating that “God exists” or “God doesn’t exist” before writing the first page.

So, when I started writing the book, I tried as much as I could to suppress my personal views on the topic at the time and focus on laying the foundation for answering the question, without knowing where this journey was going to take me. This actually made the book-writing journey extremely interesting. I think it’ll be quite effortless for the readers to sense the evolution of my ideas as they flip through the pages of the book. With regards to my personal take on spirituality, I can say that I definitely landed at a very different place than when I started the book. Strangely enough, I’ve become more accepting to other views, as it became clear to me that the approach to answer the God question is quite individual and personal. This is exactly why I prefer to stay silent on my relation to God/religion now, because what I am sure of is that it’s my own, not meant to be everyone’s, and more importantly it’s subject to change until the beating muscle pushing blood through my arteries seizes to do so.

Do you believe that science and philosophy prove or disprove God?

The key point here is to know which God is in question. Is he God of the Abrahamic religions or other religions, or a God who sent no religions but is open to communicate with us if we reach out to him, or merely the creator of the universe and life? To answer this question, we have to completely distinguish between the creator God and the spiritual God.

The creator God is one that can be responsible for the creation of our physical reality and everything in it. For example, in the simulation hypothesis, the creator God can be a software programmer who wrote this Matrix movielike simulation we are living in. The spiritual God is one that many people believe in and claim to connect with in a way or another. Yet this God and this connection do not exist in the physical realm.

Science can provide deep insights when attempting to answer the question of whether there is a need for the creator God. Could the Big Bang, the creation of stars, galaxies and planets, the birth of life and its evolution occur through a sequence of natural events that require no creator or not? Most of the book is dedicated to answering this question. However, this answer offers no information at all about the spiritual God, simply because the spiritual God lies out of the physical world that science deals with.

Philosophy, on the other hand, deals with the spiritual God more than the creator God, mostly based on his description from religions’ scriptures, which are of little value once one separates God from religion. So, in terms of answering the overall question about God in both capacities (creator and spiritual), science and philosophy can provide some insights, yet lay very far from providing a concrete answer.

While writing this book and traveling, you took the time to speak with a variety of people about spirituality. Why were these conversations so important to you and your research for the book? What was your most memorable experience from those conversations? Did particular discussions stay with you more than others?

Conversations have a certain privilege that no book, article or a documentary can offer, that is going with the flow. In an interview, the questions are pre-set to get certain information out of the interviewee. In a random conversation between two people, there is room to dance from one angle to another, dig deep into one aspect and avoid going into another, and so on. On a topic as sensitive and deep as the existence of God, it’s a brilliant experience to have a person express his views to a stranger without expectations, ego or judgement.

The most memorable conversation I had on that journey was on top of a mountain in Nepal. I was heading to a Buddhist monastery on a mountain in Katmandu. It’s not really a touristic spot. I asked the locals about the way to get there and started the hike following the trail up. After a few hours, I came to a point where the trail split. With no map at hand or any person to ask, I followed my intuition and chose one of the two paths ahead. Little did I know, it was the wrong one. I realized that after a few more hours of hiking as I was supposed to have reached my destination. I started getting very tired, hungry, and cold from the altitude, and I wasn’t prepared to spend the night. The sense in me told me I had to head down to catch the night in the city. When I reached the point where the trail split, I just couldn’t go home. I took the other trail, and kept following it until it finally led me to the monastery I was hoping to reach many hours before. There, I met a monk who was originally from Switzerland. The shocking part is it felt as if I was talking to myself visiting from the future. When we started talking, it turned out that a few years before he was doing exactly the same job I was doing at the time, felt the same pressure I felt, and had the same questioning I had. He told me about his experience in exploring spirituality, and how life was for him at that moment. That conversation, as we both gazed into the horizon from the mountain, had no aim but human companionship at the time. Yet, years later, it led me in the direction of some of the key aspects of my book.

Who will “Rethink God” resonate with?

I think my book will resonate very well with an intellect who’s in the phase of “intolerable questioning.” As in my story, this is the phase when one feels it’s a life necessity to reach an answer about this topic. This will provide the openness and dedication needed to read 310 pages of heavy weight philosophical and scientific theory!

When I started talking to people who researched the topic, then asked them about the books they read, something became quite clear. People are not quite objective when it comes to their beliefs about this topic, and most people will choose a book that confirms the direction of their beliefs rather than one that challenges them. So, as “Rethink God” questions many aspects of both atheism and religion, it’s not meant to please the masses. Yet, for someone who’s starting his or her quest, or for someone who’s truly open to change their position, the book could be life-changing.

How would you approach sharing your book with a non-religious person? What will they get out of it?

It depends on two things; where they are in the realm of spirituality and what the person is seeking to get out of the book. A non-religious person could be agnostic or a deist. Also, one person could be reading the book looking for answers to questions that are making him or her uncomfortable about where they are now. Yet, another can attempt to read it with absolutely no intent to change his direction by a nano-degree. For a non-religious person who is open to change, the book will open doors to an idea of spirituality that is not related to or confined by religion. For the ones who are not, it will offer them a lot of insights and knowledge about the position they’ve taken, since the conversations offer both sides of each argument.

Tell us about the two protagonists in your book, Christian and Sherif.

Sherif is a well-travelled modern day successful professional. Like many with such profile, he started questioning his religion and ended up being atheist. He tries to enjoy life to the fullest, but sometimes he feels a little lonely about not sharing this life with someone. He finds a new type of friend in Christian, whose intellect, analytical and conversational abilities amuse Sherif who misses having such deep discussions with the lifestyle he leads.

Christian is a very rich, powerful and mysterious person. He starts to realize at an old age that he might’ve parked emotions for too long to chase after building his success. Bit by bit, he opens up to Sherif and confides in him as a son. Christian is an agnostic since a young age and never cared much to investigate the topic of God. However, we meet him in the book on the first night of his life when he decides he needs to seek an answer for the God question.

Just like it sometimes happens in real life, they happened to cross each other’s paths at a moment when each of them needed the other more than they realized at the time. As events unfold throughout the book, they both end up playing key roles in each other’s lives.

One of the unique things about this book is the format. Why did you lay the book out in a series of text messages between Christian and Sherif?

I started writing in a typical non-fiction book format suitable for this genre. A few months into it, it started feeling wrong. I wasn’t able to deliver the messages as I wanted to. Until one night, after a long “debate” with an old friend on the same topic, it hit me; I need two voices. As I started writing more, the issues with my initial attempts became quite clear. One of the common themes of the books on the topic is the one-way flow of information coming from the angle of proving and confirming the point of view that the writer wants every reader to adopt. Most writers of the genre typically refer to opposing opinion only to highlight its fallouts, then hammer on them until they bleed.

However, “Rethink God” doesn’t opt for one side of debate on the existence of God as other books do. So, having two intellectual individuals debate each argument offers a much deeper understanding of the arguments and a much broader spectrum of possibilities. It allows for nested levels of objections around each discussion that a single voice can’t offer.  Why text messages? It couldn’t be a narrated conversation as they had to exchange a lot of information and take time to look for more when needed. Also, choosing online messaging as the platform of communication for two frequent travelers who originally lived in different countries offers a level of flexibility you can’t achieve with face to face or even phone conversations.

In exploring different theories about God and religion, were you surprised by any of the stories that you found?

So many times! From the Big Bang to the creation of life, to evolution, to many aspects of our everyday life today. I think the biggest surprises involved the misconceptions around the workings of evolution, and around the mysteries of consciousness.

The outcomes of some known scientific facts were surprisingly interesting when looked at in a different way. For example, you and I are made of stardust and we possess superpowers. All elements heavier than hydrogen in our bodies were formed in stars by fusion or supernova. So we are literally made of stardust. The word “supernatural” means something that is beyond the natural world, which is the physical world we know. For example, Superman has supernatural powers because he flies against Earth’s gravity without an engine that overcomes this force. It was quite surprising to realize that, based on the binding problem, every human being alive is a Superman or Superwoman. Our conscious experience happens at a speed that our physical laws on the speed and working of neurons can explain no better than Superman’s flying routine.

One of the most surprising moments through writing the whole book didn’t come from a scientific theory. It happened when I found out that the conclusion I reached after years of research about how a person can find his or her answer for the question of God was already known since ancient times. It was even written on ancient Egyptian and Greek temples with absolute clarity thousands of years ago.

Your book investigates a wide variety of issues within religious beliefs, and what roles religion should and shouldn’t play. Can you elaborate on this?

Across the ages, religion has played different roles in the social, political and economic arenas in the lives of different peoples. Like all forms of power, it was abused, from extending the godly authority to kings and priests in ancient times to warfare and even wealth collection. Today in many parts of the world, religion still plays similar roles to use and manipulate the less fortunate. Even today religion is being used to divide people and rage violence between them. All this dies with one simple idea; religion’s main role of providing the person with his or her private channel for communication with the being they believe in.

How can a person reach their own answer about the question of God?

Each person can reach their own answer, yet not each person will. The purpose of “Rethink God” is not to promote agnosticism, or tell people that the question can’t be answered. The answer is not universal as other authors suggest. There will never be one right answer till the end of time. Neither believers nor atheists will seize to exist till the end of time. My book’s purpose is to show the limitations of the common means of answering the question through hundreds of pages of research, then propose the alternative way of reaching the answer. The beauty of that path is that the person who reaches his or her answer, whatever it is, will understand it’s their own right answer, not everyone’s right answer. They will understand it’s personal, not universal.

 

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