Sabahat Ali, Mexico
It’s one thing to make a largely inconsequential historical mistake.
It’s quite another, to opaquely brush over swathes of human history and haphazardly stuff it down the throats of the masses. In their agonizing generalization of human history, many new atheists have committed this nearly deliberate folly.
Their version of man’s historical concept of the Divine goes something like this: primitive man could not understand the workings of nature, and attributed them to some ambiguous agencies – some paranormal powers – which they speculate, were only a reflection of his own human attributes, and that is how the concept of God was born.
The problem, is that the tale is told in such a handsomely gilded way, ignoring the major religious scriptures, that if one does not subject it to a rational lens, he will find himself unwittingly ingesting the proverbial candy-house in the forest, before realizing the witchcraft that lurks beyond.
Be it the thunderclaps in the nimbuses above, the venomous vipers which slither through the soils, or the fearsome forces of nature – prehistoric humans were utterly aghast by it all.
It was from these perplexing experiences that the primitive man, using his imaginative faculties, began to venerate the various vexing vagabonds of the jungle – from the wild beasts to the celestial bodies, (at times labelling them good gods of clemency and compassion, and on occasions of affliction, labelling them deleterious deities of destruction). So perfectly petrified was man, they argue, that he began to worship them out of a tribal, preliterate fear.
However, this asymmetric mural that some seek to paint, drips so unabashedly with atheistic presupposition, that any unbiased student of history would convulse in horror at the sight of it.
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), the Fourth Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, discusses the far-fetched flaws in this incredibly incoherent theory. He writes:
‘Do we really worship what we fear? And does greed invariably make us inclined to fall prostrate to objects in an act of worship? Neither of these two factors can build even the most rudimentary religion. Fear simply makes one run away from the object of terror. One can imagine of course, such helpless miserable targets of torture who can not run away beseech their tormentors, begging them for mercy but not worshipping them. The same when released would abuse their erstwhile tormentors in the foulest terms and vilest language…
…The concept of worship would not even remotely cross his mind. We have yet to read a spy tale in which an MI5 agent is motivated by terror to begin to worship his KGB tormentor. The fear of God which we find mentioned in Divinely revealed religions has nothing to do with the idea of terror related to beasts and other fearsome objects. The threat of Divine punishment is merely used as a deterrent against crime, preventing people from transgression against themselves.
In the primitive society of man, no promise of such punishment could be born merely out of their fear of the beasts of the jungle or the thunderstorms. No such fear or threat of punishment from the beasts of jungle or tempestuous forces of nature is ever known to have stayed the hand of ancient societies from committing aggression. Police officers, traffic wardens and magistrates are feared and hated, but never worshipped!
In the most ancient times too, the fear of a vicious lion would make a savage run for his life rather than to fall prostrate before him, begging him for mercy and extolling him for his grandeur and majesty.’ 
From Multitudes to Monotheism
But the story goes on, atheists say.
The winds of time delivered to unlettered man the gift of rationality, and he began to combine many gods into one. Thus, they contend, emerged monotheism from time-to-time. In falsely asserting that monotheism was the exception, they seek to build a fractured model of the history of God, alleging that throughout time, man simply envisaged imaginary beings as gods, and on rare occasion took refuge in monotheism.
Atheists are well aware of the dangers that accepting the monotheistic dominance over mankind’s religious history presents for their case. After all, if all nations of the world, unconnected and without communication, across all eras and civilizations, consistently held the belief in One Single power, they haven’t an inkling of evidence that could contest the unity of God as a universally emergent ethic within man.
But the radiance of rationality, atheists argue, exposed the fallacious fissures in this proposition as well. How could one God be capable of both good and evil? Among the foremost advocates of this so-called sociological analysis of history, is Reza Aslan, author of God: A Human History. As he brazenly writes (entirely from whim) ‘one god conflicts with our universal compulsion to humanize the divine.’
Aslan begins by predicating his entire paradigm on a personal philosophy. He claims throughout his book, that attributing human qualities to God (to anthropomorphize Him), is something that humans have been doing since the first time they thought about God.
This deserves a pause – and less to smell the roses than to avoid the thorns in this incredibly unsubstantiated theory.
Aslan observes that the anthropomorphization of God (attributing human characteristics to Him), which reached a pinnacle of sorts in the Christian concept of Christ, was contested most effectively by Islam’s concept of an indivisible God which outright denied the Christian sonship. On points like these, he is at his best. His observation is grounded in fact. Few theological battlegrounds are more polarized than the arena that hosts Trinitarian Godhood on one side and the Islamic Oneness of God on the other.
However, even this, he goes on to profess, is contradicted by the undeniably human qualities attached to God in various passages of the Holy Qur’an, as though this cripples the Islamic claim to unity. He tries to give the false impression of having adequately acknowledged the monotheistic forces throughout history, and then brushes them under the rug as though superfluous. This is where he digs one of the many graves of his argument.
It is most perturbing, that while Aslan claims to have closely studied the major religions of the world, he’s totally missed the very reason for man’s existence given by the three greatest religions. Both the Holy Qur’an and the Bible make clear that God Almighty created man in his image, and wove into the fabric of the human conscience the desire to adopt those Divine attributes. It is this distinction which elevates man up and out of the subsoil of beasts and into the heavenly realm of being godly.
Instead, Aslan makes a preconcieved error in his atheistic agenda:
‘The act of writing about the gods, of being forced to describe in words what the gods are like, not only transformed how we envision the gods; it made conscious and explicit our unconscious and implicit desire to make the gods in our own image.‘
Here again, Aslan’s fantastical theory is based upon the presupposition that men made God in their own image. The tragic irony is striking – Aslan projects his own opinion onto the subconscious of all human beings in history, while alleging that men projected their own attributes to God!
Aslan has unfortunately seen the case upside down. Firstly, it is not the creation which projects itself upon the Creator. His claim that man decided to enrobe his self-created god in the mantle of his imagination, and so made his creator like himself, could not be more contrary to the fact.
This is an old error of Aslan’s which he once again projects onto the minds of the ancients. He begins his book by explaining that he grew up imagining God to be a bearded man in the sky. Hence, he seeks to impose this error onto most of human history. What’s more – his theory of man humanizing his conception of God is met with diametric opposition when put under the microscope of fact.
What of the attributes of God being infinite? What of His being omnipresent? Omniscient? The Originator of existence? The Taker of Souls? The Being that creates entire realms and universes and perfects them? The Intangible Being? The Perfect Jurist? The list of attributes that all major religions of the world propound about God, and which man does not – and cannot – possess, goes on unceasingly.
If God exists, and He has created man to have a living relationship with Him, then His creation will naturally thirst for the qualities that God possesses. But Aslan and the like, seek to delete the actual existence of God from the equation and then begin their research. Otherwise, if one analyses the proposed idea of God painted by the divinely revealed major religions, it is overwhelmingly evident that there must have been intrinsic similarities in the universal ethic of man and his Creator. Yet, the attributes of God and man are also infinitely different.
Hence, Aslan’s flawed theory not only runs contrary to the fact, but is confuted by thousands of years of religious history. After all, Aslan claims to have conducted a historical analysis of man’s understanding of God.
Whenever God Almighty is discussed, it must be with the attributes that are contained in the unaltered divine scriptures, otherwise the personal conceptions of each person are in no way an authority on who God is. As William Muir, an orientalist (who was certainly no friend of Islam) puts it: ‘There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess a text the same as that which Mahomet himself gave forth and used.’ 
The Holy Qur’an explains that man has been created upon the nature of God,  meaning that humankind has been so endowed with particular faculties, that if it follows the path exhorted by Islam, it will begin to reflect divine attributes. Hence, according to Islam, man is created on a nature that reflects one God. The idea of a conscience – a universal ethic which our primitive biology was engineered to possess – is a grand evidence in support of this.
The compelling inner voice imbued into humans which invites them to be good, and reprimands them when they do evil, is a compelling case-in-point. Regardless of where and when, human beings share the distinguishing light which guides them toward inherently wanting to be kind, compassionate, truthful, upright, forgiving, patient, loving, and happy. Conversely, humans from all over the world intrinsically despise evil traits.
The Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) offers a thought provoking thread upon these lines. In Ten Proofs for the Existence of God, he writes:
‘…Human nature is in itself evidence of the existence of God Almighty, for there are certain evils which human nature inherently abhors. For example, entering incestuous relationships with one’s mother, sister or daughter; coming into contact with urine, bodily excrements or other similar types of filth; falsehood and indeed all such other things which even atheists recoil from. Why would this be true if there was no god? If God does not exist, why do men differentiate between their mothers, sisters and other women; why do they perceive lying to be wrong; by what criterion do they assess the above-mentioned things to be abhorrent to them? If their hearts are not in awe of a higher power, why do they shun such things?
For them truth and falsehood, justice and injustice should all hold the same value and they ought to act freely in accordance with their inner desires. What is this divine law that governs the emotions and prevails over the hearts of people in a way that even if an atheist denies it with his words, he cannot release himself from his inherent nature and his eschewal of sinful acts or at least his avoidance in disclosing them, is a form of personal evidence that in his heart he too fears having to answer to a king even if he denies his sovereignty?’ 
Islam explains that this distinguishing light – the human conscience – is a faculty like all other faculties. When employed and acted upon, it intensifies and advances, leading one to become increasingly moral and disciplined. However, like any other faculty, when ignored and abandoned, it dissipates and slips away, emboldening the person to commit greater evils with ascending ease.
Thus, the nature of mankind, the Holy Qur’an argues, is initially built upon the nature of God.  However, because man is the one creature who wears the medallion of freedom beyond all other life, he can choose his own way. If Reza Aslan had but simply brought to mind the Biblical concept, that God created man in his own image, he would have thought twice about his theory that man superimposed his own qualities upon an imaginary God.
Major religions of the world were all monotheistic at their origin (another point which neutralizes his argument, and which he conveniently fails to mention). An honest perusal of the original texts that sanctify the major faiths of the world, reveals that mankind was always called upon by Prophets of God to one single being.
Sadly, there is excruciatingly little honesty in the style of analysis propounded by Aslan and the atheists who have sought to argue that man simply made up God to appear as a humanoid. As the New York Times writes in review of his book on the Human history of God:
‘While Aslan claims to walk alongside the seeker, his orientation is actually the opposite, forgoing humility and spiritual hunger in favour of simplicity and self-righteousness. Readers searching for God in Aslan’s history will most likely be disappointed. But in this, there’s a hidden blessing. Unlike Aslan’s search, theirs will continue once the book is done.’ 
To be continued…What does an honest perusal of the great religions of the world reveal about the evolution of man’s understanding of God? What fundamental errors have atheists made in their analysis? Is there a biologically emerging universal ethic that demonstrates the existence of God? Find out in Part III.
About the Author: Sabahat Ali is a graduate from the Canadian Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology. He currently serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Mexico, and is a regular contributor for The Review of Religions.
 Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Revelation Rationality, Knowledge & Truth, London, 1998
 Sir William Muir, Life of Mohamet, p. 561, Reprint of the 1894 Ed., Published by Voice of India New
 The Holy Qur’an, 30:31
 Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, Ten Proofs for the Existence of God, pgs. 17-18, Fazle Umar Foundation, 2018.
 Emma Green, Reza Aslan’s ‘God: A Human History’, The New York Times, Book Review, Published December 19, 2017, retrieved November 21, 2020, Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/books/review/reza-aslans-god-a-human-history.html