On Facebook, Twitter, and Atheism

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

The title of this post may take many by surprise. Outside of facebook pages and tweets promoting atheism and belittling religions, what could possibly be the relation between social media and atheistic beliefs? What could simple tweets and posting of pictures have to do with rejecting the existence of God?

A negative reply to such questions would seem justified, until we consider how the individual (or the ideal of the individual) is treated in the modern world, how social media tends to exaggerate such treatment, and how this conduct naturally leads to the adoption of atheistic tendencies.

As I had mentioned before, the modern world order, and in particular the liberal secular democracies, are based on a deep suspicion towards religions, and in particular the Islamic faith. The fundamental basis of such societies is tied to the assumption that God is unnecessary for explaining things or for carrying out our day-to-day activities – at most a type of “deism” where “God” is relegated to the single act of initial creation, but where afterwards “He” does not have any direct relationship with the Universe (and critically) has no “right” in demanding that people comport themselves in a particular manner. If this is not a “formal” atheism, it is at least a type of “practical atheism”.

Of course, when we talk about Islam, its salient features are the submission of the person to Allah, and the realization that only Allah is the Ultimate (or Necessary) Existent, and that every creation owes its existence to Allah’s bringing him into temporal being. We see though, that the world today is based on the very antithesis of such ideas. If we decide not to formally call it atheism, at the very least it is still a kind of “practical atheism”. This is why we see the adoption of a relatively unrestricted freedom for one to do whatever one wishes to do with their personal lives (the opposite of submission of one’s will to that of the Creator). What we also see in this paradigm is the promotion of “humanity for humanity’s sake” and of the supposed “greatness” of the individual human (or at the least the ideal of the perfect individual human), without taking into account that one is always under the will of Allah, who may decide to annihilate the person in the very next instant.

What we see then, is the emergence of the feeling for promoting one’s self solely for the sake of attaining fame and recognition. This is where the modern social media exacerbate the situation, by providing a platform through which one may promote one’s self freely, without any feeling of guilt. Surely, there are those who feel shyer about sharing their lives with others, as well as those who have serious concerns over fraud and breaches of security. We also have Alhamdullilah, many sincere Muslims using these tools of social media in order to spread the teachings of Islam. However, the general technological and psychological trend is towards what I call “the arrogance of promotion”, even if the content of what is being promoted decreases significantly in informative content.

This is why we saw facebook appearing first on the horizon, followed by twitter (where the plenitude of messages is countered by the limit of information possible in each message). The way this relates to atheism (at least its “practical” variety) is very clear from the above. When someone posts a picture of the lunch they are eating on facebook or twitter, there does not seem to be much of anything we can locate as a “need” in this posting, even if this picture is shared only to a circle of friends. They will probably not be able to partake of the food, and if they already shared in the food, having a picture of it seems redundant, so in almost all cases it will serve only the purposes of “idle information”.

However, what it does achieve is to make the poster feel artificially important, that here he is posting a picture of food connected to him through his act of eating, and that he wants this moment in time to be recorded for all posterity for everyone to potentially access. It is obvious that such a mindset can only lead to arrogance, to dismiss one’s insignificance vis-à-vis the truth of Allah’s Existence and His total Control over every existent, and to also dismiss our insignificance in the total scheme of things.

I may write more on this topic, but this is one important starting point from which we can start to visualize the relationship that atheism plays with the different modes of social media.