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Fatalism is religious belief gone astray

Religious belief should lead you to live your life well. It is no excuse for mistreating your body or neglecting your safety.

Posted 6 August 2017

Until 4 September, you can hear Mike Shaft's BBC Radio Manchester Sunday Breakfast programme on the BBC iPlayer at this link. Use the slider time control to start listening at 2:37:05. I am on for about 10 minutes, as follows:

  1. My visit last Saturday to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's Jalsa Salana (International Convention), discovering that one of my professional contacts was the son of a Nobel Prize winner, and the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan.
  2. Short interruption for the BBC Radio Manchester travel update and a programme trail.
  3. My oral delivery of the Thought for the Week whose text is lower down on this page.
  4. Me discussing four stories from today's newspapers with Mike Shaft, all of which I have linked to the original source:

As someone who believes in God, I believe that He wants me to take care of myself and make the best of the body and life that He has given me. This is the message of the Parable of the Talents which is in the Bible at Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27.

However I have known people who use the true religious statement "You won't die until your time comes" to justify abusing their body and also to justify neglecting basic safety precautions. I used this as the theme for my 36th "Thought for the Week" on BBC Radio Manchester this morning.

You can read it below.

Thought for the Week

Most Jews, Christians and Muslims believe, as I do, that our lives are in the hands of God. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew: “Are not sparrows sold two for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

Knowing this can be very liberating. As my father taught me from the time I was very young, if you believe that God decides when you are born, and God decides when you die, you don’t need to fear any man.

However, there is a downside. Religious belief, wrongly understood, can make you fatalistic. I have known people who say: “You will not die before your time comes.” They are, of course, quite right.

However, they go on to use that religious belief to justify not taking care of themselves. Their belief in God becomes an excuse for smoking, drinking, overeating, never having medical check-ups, not wearing a seatbelt, and so on.

If you meet someone who thinks like that, remind them of the following story of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It comes from a Hadith collection which was assembled by Imam Tirmidhi.

One day the Prophet noticed another Arab leaving his camel without tying it.

The Prophet asked the man, "Why don't you tie down your camel?"

The man replied, "I put my trust in God."

The Prophet said to him, "Tie your camel first, and then put your trust in God.

The moral is that religious belief is categorically not an excuse for failing to take sensible precautions in every part of your life.


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