Can false beliefs be immoral or deserve punishment?

Some people object to the idea that beliefs can be immoral and deserve punishment. Due to this, they claim the notion in Islam that disbelievers are punished for being disbelievers does not make sense.

They ask: How can a good person be punished in such a severe punishment as Hell eternally simply because he did not believe in your religion? How does he deserve this if he spent his life giving charity and helping the poor?

It is important, because of this, to understand how a person can be immoral and deserve punishment due to his beliefs even if he did good actions.

Beliefs lead to actions

First of all, beliefs are heavily linked to actions. So, the assumption that a person can simply disbelieve while his actions remain unaffected is false.

Let us consider a thought experiment: A man is a staunch white supremacist, but he claims that he does not hurt anyone or commit any acts of violence. However, he believes black people are inferior to white people. Is this man moral?

Most people would point out that even if he doesn’t commit acts of violence, this man’s beliefs may cause him to do a lot of evil actions. If he is a hiring manager, he might discriminate against black applicants. If he is a policeman, he might arrest black people more often. If he is a judge, he might convict black people more often. Even if he is neither of those, he might put down black people through his words and actions.

It is hardly possible to unlink his belief from his actions. It is not possible for him to claim he causes no harm to black people.

This is the same in religion. Even if we grant that the Muslim and atheist do the same amount of charity or help the same amount of people, the belief in Islam causes a Muslim to do several actions which an atheist does not do. Namely, it causes him to worship God in different forms like the ritual prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. Disbelieving in Islam causes the disbeliever to forget Allah or not fulfill the obligations Allah has placed on them. This religious belief has real consequences on a person’s actions.

Some good actions does not make a person good overall

Someone might insist: Even if the atheist does not do these religious actions, he still is a good person because he gives charity and helps people!

Let us return to the thought experiment: Would the white supremacist be a good person if he gave a lot in charity and helped people?

Most people would not call this man a good person. We know intuitively that a person doing good things does not necessarily make him a good person if he fails to fulfill other requirements of being good.

Bad beliefs without any bad actions

Let us move beyond the linking of belief and actions. What if we pretended someone could do all the good actions while his only defect is that he does not believe? Can someone really unlink actions and belief? This would be like a Muslim hypocrite: someone who pretends to be Muslim and follows all the Muslim laws but doesn’t actually believe in his heart.

Let us return to the white supremacist. Perhaps he is able to prevent his actions from being racist because he fears the social consequences. If he ever got the chance and white supremacists came to power, he would support them, but they never come into power in his lifetime. Is he moral now?

This person is just an opportunist. The only thing preventing him from trying to implement the holocaust all over again is the circumstances. Even if the circumstances never let him do so, he is still immoral for having the beliefs.

The same applies to Muslim hypocrites. Their inner lack of belief is itself blameworthy. It is made worse by the fact that the only thing that compels them to follow Islam outwardly is the circumstances. They would have left Islam or even attacked it if they thought that wouldn’t have destroyed them socially.

Why disbelief in God or not worshiping is bad

God is our creator, caretaker, and provider. Everything we receive comes from God. If anything is owed by us, it is to God.

That is why if you think people need to donate or need to respect other humans, all of this applies a hundredfold to God. If you owe respect to other humans, you owe it a hundred times more to God. How can someone pretend it is enough to respect the creation while forgetting about the creator?

People inherently owe God worship. If they do not fulfill this debt, they are worse than a person who does not fulfill the rights of other humans.

Some people may ask: Can I not worship God in my own way?

Answer: Obviously not. You cannot decide yourself how your debt is fulfilled. The only proper way to respect someone is how they ask you to respect them. Otherwise, you’re not respecting them; you’re just doing what you want.

Other people may ask: How can not worshiping God be bad when we’re not sure how God wants us to worship him?

Answer: You are not sure only because you did not look into the topic enough with sincerity. We do not grant that religion is unsure. Religion is heavily proven. See also: Do we believe Islam based on proofs or based on faith?

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