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Christianity in the News, Current Events

Kamal Saleem: A Muslim Cries Out to Jesus

Check out this awesome video of a former Muslim’s religious experience of Christ our Lord:

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/AL32v1_WS

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

21 thoughts on “Kamal Saleem: A Muslim Cries Out to Jesus

  1. So what will happen if this guy gets in a car wreck in India? Vishnu, my Lord!

    Religious belief is a sieve that only catches confirming data.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 10:30 AM
  2. No, it isn’t, because I’m not commenting on the veracity of Christian beliefs. I’m noting that conversion stories don’t lend credence to beliefs, no matter what they are. Perhaps you’re not claiming that, either.

    If you are celebrating that one more person agrees with you, you could be mistaken. You have no way to know what this guy believes. Words like “Jesus” and “Yahweh” are shibboleths for entering your club, but you have no way to know that they point to the same referent.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 10:51 AM
  3. At minimum, I’d like to see you be more skeptical of conversions like this one. I know you take your faith very seriously. He could be faking or mistaken. There should be some standards people have to meet to be considered Christians. The Catholics have procedures for establishing authenticity of miracles. Something like that is better than just taking a guy’s word for it.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 11:07 AM
    • I wasn’t arguing that the story argued credence to belief. Sometimes I actually just link something because I think it is interesting. But suppose I was arguing that it did lend credence to Christianity. Your counter-argument would seem to be “So what will happen if this guy gets in a car wreck in India? Vishnu, my Lord!”

      This is, indeed, a genetic fallacy. Your counter of saying “No, it isn’t”, while to be admired for its audacity, does little to justify your argument. If your argument is successful, it is too successful. The cultural context of an experience does not undermine the veracity of an experience. Perhaps I have a “Eureka” moment in which I believe I have figured out how the constants in the Big Bang interacted to bring about our world. Yet this experience is in the context of my PhD studies in cosmology, and I am studying under a professor who has been emphasizing this very idea and has theorized about it many times. On your reading of the evidence, if I go and tell this story to others, they should be radically skeptical of it because, after all, had I been in chemistry instead, my “Eureka” may have been about something else. It would be foolish to trust me.

      If you are celebrating that one more person agrees with you, you could be mistaken. You have no way to know what this guy believes. Words like “Jesus” and “Yahweh” are shibboleths for entering your club, but you have no way to know that they point to the same referent.

      I’m not sure what to make of your radically skeptical argument. This argument, like whatever your implied argument before it was supposed to mean, would prove too much if it proved anything. I could similarly argue that you may be deceiving me about what you believe, or that I may be deceiving you about what I believe. Similarly, why should I believe the scientist who throws out words like “genetic mutations” or “cosmological constant” because those are the “shibboleths” for entering the scientific community (there are many more)? Clearly, she is just saying things he doesn’t know or believe! The result of your thoughts is totally radical skepticism in which we don’t think we know or can know what anyone else claims. I think that something like a principle of credulity is much more likely to be the case as opposed to simply disbelieving everything.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 20, 2011, 11:11 AM
  4. >Your counter of saying “No, it isn’t …does little to justify your argument. The cultural context of an experience does not undermine the veracity of an experience.

    Here’s my whole sentence:

    “No, it isn’t, because I’m not commenting on the veracity of Christian beliefs.”

    I said I wasn’t commenting on the veracity of Christian beliefs, yet you then argued as if I was. You often ignore my posts, then argue against things I didn’t say.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 11:24 AM
    • Then what exactly is your argument? I argued against the cultural argument I thought was the phrase “So what will happen if this guy gets in a car wreck in India? Vishnu, my Lord!” Please clarify what you are arguing.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 20, 2011, 12:04 PM
  5. That isn’t quite the same. For me to say “Ahh Jesus (for which I have no evidence other than cultural factors) has saved me!” is a lot different than a scientist making a claim based on empirical evidence and rigorous testing.

    Also I think Don’s point really boils down to the fact that people’s religious conversions to a specific faith is based more on cultural experience than any reality or evidence. Thus the Vishnu comment.

    Posted by Jason Kelley | January 20, 2011, 11:51 AM
  6. Except those based on empircal evidence.

    Posted by Jason Kelley | January 20, 2011, 12:04 PM
  7. No not necesserily because you can still have empiricism without culture. Also its apples to oranges to compare a religious ideology which is by definition an extention of culture to the ideas of astronomy or physics.

    Posted by Jason Kelley | January 20, 2011, 12:27 PM
    • Our acceptance of empiricism is indeed a cultural norm. That there are scores of cultures throughout history up to today (some forms of Buddhism, for example) which do not hold to empiricism underscores this belief. However, I do not take this as discrediting empiricism. The only reason you would do so is because you wish to maintain the genetic fallacy against religious belief. I choose to discredit the fallacious reasoning and leave things like empiricism intact. You can choose differently, but that is up to you.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 20, 2011, 12:34 PM
  8. I think the way I want to get my point across is that without specific aspects of culture, there are no specific aspects of religion. Empiricism as far as what we can see/hear/etc exists without culture. How we interpret that is definitely different, that isn’t the dispute.

    Posted by Jason Kelley | January 20, 2011, 12:52 PM
    • I think you’re confusing empiricism with empirical data. Empiricism is cultural, empirical data (maybe) is not. Empiricism is what is necessary for your view, so I understand trying to divorce it from a cultural context, but that is, unfortunately, impossible.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 20, 2011, 1:09 PM
  9. JW has a point. There is a scientific culture, but he is wrong to suggest that scientific facts are merely cultural. The probability that the immense, interlocking findings of science are due to something other than a more-or-less accurate correspondence with nature is infinitesimal. Good reasons are scientific reasons in nearly every field of human endeavor except religion.

    We naturalists like to think that physics and chemistry transcend culture. Our experiments work the same no matter what your background. We try to listen directly to nature. We don’t prohibit faith and revelation a priori, but we are conservative in what we will say based on them. We are interested in the subjective, but are wary of claims made on the basis of private experiences. JW is, too, in areas outside religion. If his accountant told him he filled out his tax forms with numbers derived from faith or intuition, he would fire him.

    My view is that Saleem is unjustified in his conclusion that Yahweh/Jesus spoke to him. There are clues of charlatanism or self-delusion in the video. “He said ‘I am that I am'”. Oh, how amazing that the voice in your supposed vision quoted Christian scripture. (Now, if Saleem could show that he had never heard that passage, we would have to explain that.) Saleem’s conversion experience happened when he was alone. Would a jury accept his testimony? The fact is Saleem has no good reason to conclude that his experience is authentic. Neither do we. The likelihood that he is lying, deluded, hysterical or mistaken are infinitely greater than his explanation: that there exist supernatural realms inaccessible to science (yet accessible to the human heart), which are populated by superbeings that correspond to those described in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and that the supernatural beings of all other scriptures are false.

    My main point is that JW (and believers in general) is skeptical of claims that contradict Christianity but is notably promiscuous regarding claims that support it. I’d like to see a more even-handed approach. The seriousness of his faith deserves it.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 2:01 PM
  10. Let me replace my last paragraph:

    My main point is that JW is normally evenly skeptical of claims that contradict or support Christianity. He likes to limit himself to the best arguments. Now, he’s not committing the genetic fallacy himself here: he’s not saying that Christianity is true because of this guy’s conversion experience. But he does seem too ready to accept it at face value.

    I’d like to see a more skeptical approach in this case. The seriousness of his faith deserves it.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 2:18 PM
    • Please point out where I argued that scientific facts were merely cultural. I do the opposite: “I think you’re confusing empiricism with empirical data. Empiricism is cultural, empirical data (maybe) is not.”

      My view is that Saleem is unjustified in his conclusion that Yahweh/Jesus spoke to him. There are clues of charlatanism or self-delusion in the video. “He said ‘I am that I am’”. Oh, how amazing that the voice in your supposed vision quoted Christian scripture.

      I’m not sure how this undermines the veracity of his vision. Your response seems pretty question begging here. For if Christian theism is true, and Scripture is a reflection of that view, then Jesus did say “I am that I am.” That Jesus would then repeat this phrase when appearing to someone would be totally unsurprising. There has to be some reason to imply that Saleem’s belief was pathological. But you merely assume that he makes it up.

      My main point is that JW is normally evenly skeptical of claims that contradict or support Christianity. He likes to limit himself to the best arguments. Now, he’s not committing the genetic fallacy himself here: he’s not saying that Christianity is true because of this guy’s conversion experience. But he does seem too ready to accept it at face value.

      First, thank you for a more even-handed presentation of my view. I appreciate the honesty. My main point is that I accept the principle of credulity: if it appears to someone that x, then x, unless we have some reason to think otherwise.

      Your responses seem to be more along the lines of “if it appears to someone that x, then x only if we have some overriding reasons to accept it.” I don’t see why I should be so radically skeptical about what people claim to experience. In the case of other religion’s religious experiences, I similarly see no reason to generally doubt their reports. Arguing from religious experience is a difficult one, but the universal experience provides good evidence. I generally limit the argument to saying “there is something transcendent” as opposed to specifically arguing for theism. But all that is beside the point. I see no reason to doubt what others report as experiences, unless there is some evidence to the contrary. Others, like Don, may wish to inconsistently apply skepticism in the case–and, it seems, only in the case–of religious belief. I leave it to others to decide whether it is 1) Don (and others like him) who wish to automatically assume anything they disagree with is pathological or 2) myself (and others like me) who argue that experiences of others are generally reliably reported, even if they go against specific beliefs we hold.

      I, of course, think that those in category 1) are those more likely of pathology. If it’s not something they agree with, “The likelihood [is] that he is lying, deluded, hysterical or mistaken.” Perhaps I think too highly of my fellow human beings, but I tend to not go around assuming they are lying, delusional, hysterical idiots.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 20, 2011, 2:28 PM
  11. >like Don, may wish to inconsistently apply skepticism in the case

    I aspire to be consistently skeptical, including of scientific claims. In my view, even solid scientific knowledge is provisional. I am not a ‘realist’ regarding science. I am an instrumentalist.

    >Don (and others like him) who wish to automatically assume anything they disagree with is pathological

    The standard isn’t whether I agree with claims; or even whether science agrees. It is whether nature agrees. In this conversation, you can replace me with almost any scientific thinker.

    >who argue that experiences of others are generally reliably reported, even if they go against specific beliefs we hold.

    To be charitable, I suppose we could say that we should assume that Saleem is reliably reporting what he thinks has happened. But we know that human testimony is notoriously unreliable. That’s not an insult; it’s common knowledge among psychologists, lawyers, jurists and judges.

    >Perhaps I think too highly of my fellow human beings, but I tend to not go around assuming they are lying, delusional, hysterical idiots.

    It depends on the claim. If someone told you they had a green shirt, it would be reasonable to trust them. But if they claimed they were abducted by aliens, well, then you would have to consider the possibility that they are lying, delusional or hysterical. You wouldn’t do it out of malice, but simply out of knowledge of human nature and the likelihood of extravagant claims being true. From your vantage point inside Christianity, you have a different assessment of the extravagance of Saleem’s claim.

    Posted by Donald Severs | January 20, 2011, 2:44 PM
    • Indeed, you have come upon a very relevant point–our analysis of the experience will rely upon a certain level of background knowledge. I think theism is true, so I don’t find any reason to doubt Saleem. You think it is false, so you believe he is lying, delusional, or hysterical. But the main point I’m arguing is that there must be some reason to think Saleem is lying, delusional, or hysterical in order to declare him such. As far as I can tell, your only reason is because what he claims cannot (on your view) be true.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 20, 2011, 2:56 PM
  12. No its because there are alternative explanations to Saleem’s experience, explanations that involve cultural input. Don isn’t saying he’s “lying” he’s saying he is incorrect in his description of what happened, especially because his description relies on cultural norms to arrive at said description. I think Don is saying that is Saleem was in a Mayan prison (and culture) and had a vision he’d be sure that the Sun God was talking to him, same as if he was in a Christian culture that Jesus talked to him. Without culture there is no Jesus for Saleem. We can point to culture and say “either Jesus actually talked to Saleem, which there is no evidence for, or his understanding of an experience is shaped by his assumptions about faith and the culture around him”. We can’t accept the first one out of hand without evidence, and the latter has a rational scientific explanation behind it. If both sides were equally supported we’d still have to show how Saleem, no matter how earnest he is, is accurate in his description of Jesus..and we do that….how? Maybe it was Vishnu? Or Thor? You accept Jesus, and Saleem does, because of cultural expectations.

    Also I get your point on empiricism. I think we were talking past each other a bit. I think Don did sum it up best, things like chemistry and physics transcend culture. Whether we are Far East or Far west, speed is still distance/time, etc. That isn’t cultural. How we measure it is, in Miles or Meters, but certain things do not require culture to be seen to exist. This is what I mean by empiricism.

    Posted by jastiger | January 20, 2011, 6:09 PM

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