Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Objectivism & Religion, Part 1

Militant atheism. Does disbelief in God entail hostility toward religion? Militant atheists answer: Yes, it does, because God poisons everything. Objectivism is a species of militant atheism. Rand not only disbelieved in God, she regarded religion as irrational and malevolent. “A specter is haunting America—the specter of religion,” declared Rand’s intellectual heir, Leonard Peikoff. Rand held that religion, even when it exercises “a good influence” or inculcates “proper principles,” rests on a “dangerous or malevolent base.” Religion is based on faith, which is “extremely detrimental to human life.”

Not all unbelievers are militant atheists. George Santayana was naturalist, materialist, and atheist, yet he thought well of religion. In an essay entitled “Whether Naturalism is Irreligious,” he defended his views of the matter as follows:

Materialism is not itself a theology, as are some forms of idealism. Its inspiration and temper are purely scientific and intellectual. But why should so pleasant a thing as science and so vital a thing as intelligence be angry with the world they explore? And they spoil their own work if, with a vehemence which is not naturalistic but political and moral, they inveigh against religion, in the manner of Lucretius or of modern anticlericals. The materialist in his ethics and politics should be a humanist, an anthropologist, and a philanthropist; and is it love of man that prompts the hatred of religion? No: it is insensibility to the plight of man and to all that which man most deeply loves. Modern materialists, I must confess, have usually had vulgar and jejune minds; but not so the ancients who were materialists by nature, and not foolishly hostile to popular religion or without religion in their hearts. And they were the only normal materialists, harbouring towards politics, morals, and religion the sentiments proper to a naturalist. They were not deceived by these human passions and inspirations, but understood them and knew the place and the need of images in the world; and when they were poets they sang the praises of the gods with a tender emotion.

So much benevolence may be shown to religion by the intelligent materialist; it is the same benevolence that he feels towards the senses, in both cases delighting in the image without mistaking it for a substance. The substance of both, in his view, will be ultimately the same: namely the Power that brings these images and feelings before the spirit in this order and with this irresistible force. So much he may consistently feel and say without transcending the natural sphere, but still taking the imagination only for a system of signs, to be interpreted as effects produced in the animal psyche by the revolutions of matter within and without that animal….

Now what materialists have always abhorred in religion is its pretense to be a practical art, its magic, its false miracles, its appeals to animal thrift, prudence, and fear. With the spiritual side of religion they have had little acquaintance. On the spiritual side religion is not a false science but an ideal affection. It does not misrepresent the facts but transcends them. Often where this question touches politics the materialist, being a realist, may feel a natural aversion from the waste, as he thinks it, of faith, sacrifice, and money in keeping up official religions. The natural limitations of human taste and faculty will probably hold him back from developing a religious life in himself. But there would be nothing inconsistent with his materialism if he became a poet, a musician, or a hermit; and his judgments upon existence and the direction of his affection and invention in the ideal sphere might be those of an ancient prophet, as they might be those of a pure artist, without any departure from materialism in his natural philosophy. He might live in moral harmony with the power, the order, and the spirit in the whole universe, and cherish nothing but friendliness towards the traditional religion prevailing in his time and country.


Any philosophy whose temper is purely scientific and unbiased will harbor sentiments similar to those of Santayana’s toward religion. To regard religion with hatred or contempt is to regard it without any depth or wisdom. The militant atheist is animated, not by a disinterested love for truth and wisdom, but by the fanaticism of party spirit. He attacks religion because he sees it as a rival to be destroyed, rather than as a phenomenon to be appreciated and understood. Objectivism, as will be made clear in the ensuing series of posts, has no real insight into religion. It has no idea what religion means in practical terms, nor does it have a clue about the role that religion plays in the lives of individuals or society at large. Objectivism does not view religion as a scientist or naturalist would view it; rather, it regards religion as one brand of fundamentalism regards all other fundamentalisms: with suspicion and hostility.

129 comments:

Damien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damien said...

People can't blame religion for all the hatred, bigotry and intolerance in the world.
It is true, that religion has been used to justify bigotry, but I have heard a few instances here and there of militant atheists actually saying that people should be put in prison for their religious beliefs alone. In fact the Soviet Union punished people for believing in God. The originator of Communist ideology, Karl Marx, called religion, "The opium of the masses. Communism in its purist form wants to replace God with a totalitarian state. So much for the idea that secularism will automaticaly lead to love, peace and tolerance.

Jay said...

Greg,

The real problem with religious belief is that the more seriously someone takes it, the more passive they become. You begin to attribute totally explicable things to higher forces as a way of coping with life. Psychologist Michael Hurd cautions against this in his article "The Dangers of Having Faith."

Exactly who or what are you having faith in? There's no reason to believe that things will necessarily turn out well or turn out poorly, and assuming that someone or something else is taking care of all of this for us can be dangerous to the values of personal responsibility and self-determination. And be careful about something else. There's always a possibility that you have more control over a situation than you realize, and you have to remain open to seeing that possibility."

SRC: http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4437

Then there's the True Believers. My best friend (a psychology student) speculates that very religious people might suffer from psychotic distortion.

Believing that you are not where you wish you could be because a supreme being has a different, yet unspecified plan for you, is a delusional misinterpretation of reality. The laws of reality prove that you can pretty much become whatever you would like (within reason) with the right amount of dedication and determination. The idea that someone may not have worked hard enough to enjoy a certain lifestyle is upsetting and distressing, as it invokes feelings of inadequacy. It is easier then, to point the finger at a mythical being and claim that it is all their fault.

SRC: http://invincibilityfable.blogspot.com/

Jay said...

So much for the idea that secularism will automaticaly lead to love, peace and tolerance.

That is not an Objectivist position, just to be clear. Atheism as such is just a negation. It offers nothing in the way of philosophical guidance.

Damien said...

Jay,

I never really said it was Objectivism's view. I kind of knew that Objectivists don't really see secularism as the be all end all.
Maybe I should have said that in my post. The bigotry of some anti-theists was just what came to my mind when I read Greg's post. I just wanted to point something related to what he was saying. That said, Objectivists seem to believe that reason will always triumph over religious fanaticism given enough time. That I think is somewhat naive. Fanatical violent belief systems, like radical Islam, must have at least some very appealing aspects. If their belief system was completely unappealing, what could be motivating them to fanatically kill for it, die for it, or even maintain it. The Muslim terrorist who blow themselves up, do so impart because they believe it will guarantee them entrance into an eternal paradise far better than anything that ever existed on earth. So if there is a conflict between reason and their violent religious beliefs, why should we assume reason will always win out? Also keep in mind that reason often tells us things we don't want to hear. Things, that we desperately don't want to be true.

Damien said...

Also keep in mind that people can delude themselves into thinking that their beliefs are based on reason, when they are really based on desire.
One thing that Greg pointed out In Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature was Rand's rejection of reason in the guise of reason.

Neil Parille said...

For those who are interested, I've written some articles on Rand and religion that might give some background.

http://tinyurl.com/3grard

In addition, I recently posted something on this blog:

http://tinyurl.com/53ee5n

john said...

Well this topic is interesting. I am a lurker here, although having posted against a former egregious statement. I notice that the posting of my condemnation statement has been supplanted by admittedly more powerful ones, salute to those writers. Kudos to this blog for at least posting them on its home page.

Nothing has been worth touching here for a long time. But this religion theme...hmmm...perhaps the true agenda of this blog will soon reveal itself. I look forward to the justification that might be forthcoming for religion. Hopefully it will be more than a weak attempt to deconstruct Ayn Rand’s principled stand against it.

Damien said...

“...Objectivists seem to believe that reason will always triumph over religious fanaticism given enough time....”

…well, in Anthem Rand paints a picture of the revival of reason after its absence has caused the failure of civilization. In Atlas she illustrates how pulling reason from a largely irrational world causes the relics of a once-rational civilization to perish. In actual history, we have one and only one case of reason reasserting itself after a millennium of religion and barbarism.

I don’t know about ‘less than always’, however. Rand and most Objectivist have eyes wide open at the surge of irrationality both in religion and neo-Platonic philosophy/politics world-wide and the continuing dimming of the Enlightenment. Ayn Rand herself was pretty pessimistic about the next sequence; she soberly voiced concerns that we may be entering a new Dark Age. Many of the predictions she made 40 years ago have materialized, and not for the good.

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

Ellen Stuttle said...

Does disbelief in God entail hostility toward religion? Militant atheists answer: Yes, it does, because God poisons everything. Objectivism is a species of militant atheism. Rand not only disbelieved in God, she regarded religion as irrational and malevolent.

Greg,

I question your description and your categorization of Objectivism -- at least Rand's Objectivism -- as "militant atheism." Generally, I think "militant atheism" means "crusading atheism," which Rand's Objectivism was not. Rand was adamantly opposed methodologically to faith, and she wrote blistering condemnations of what she called "mysticism," a term she used with a particular Randian meaning. But she didn't crusade against belief in God. The quote you cite comes from Leonard Peikoff, in current times, a quarter century after her death. Taking his words today as having her imprimatur is a mistake.

Recall that she was good friends with Isabel Paterson for years despite Paterson's Catholicism. (Troubles did develop between the two of them on the score of Paterson's Catholicism, but the difficulties resulting in discontinuance of the friendship were more complex than any simple straightforward issue of Paterson's believing in God.) She told Joan Kennedy Taylor, with whose father, composer Deems Taylor, Rand became friends, not to bother her father about his religion; he was an old man; it gave him comfort. (Source: JKT's interview in Full Context.)

She was favorably inclined toward Thomist philosophy. Aquinas was a philosopher to whom she gave good marks. Henry Veatch's books were recommended in either the Newsletter or The Objectivist.

She held that one could make common political cause with religious persons provided one was clear about not defending capitalism on grounds of faith.

In her less polemical moods she called religion "primitive philosophy."

She used terms for emotions from religion -- worship, reverence, exaltation, etc. -- and strongly defended those emotions shorn of their supernatural context. Roark is described by Stoddard as "a religious man." Joan of Arc was a heroine of Rand's (notwithstanding Joan of Arc's having been what I think of as a real "mystic"; the contradiction between AR's broadside in Galt's Speech against "the soul of the mystic" and her admiration for the Maid of Orleans doesn't seem to have occured to AR).

In sum, I think that "militant" atheist is a misdescription of AR, though it's an accurate description of Leonard Peikoff today.

Ellen

Anonymous said...

To add to Ellen Stuttle's exposure of Greg Nyquist's gross misrepresentation of Ayn Rand (a habit), here are her own words on the topic:
"In accordance with the principles of America and of capitalism, I recognize your right to hold any beliefs you choose—and, on the same grounds, you have to recognize my right to hold any convictions I choose. I am an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one. This means that I am not fighting against religion—I am fighting for reason. When faith and reason clash, it is up to the religious people to decide how they choose to reconcile the conflict. As far as I am concerned, I have no terms of communication and no means to deal with people, except through reason." -- Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 606.

Damien said...

I don't think Greg was saying Rand believed that people had no right to their religious beliefs. Disapproving of an idea is not the same as saying one should be forced to abandon it. I don't know who the person was who made the previous comment, but if he interpreted Greg's post as saying Rand thought people should be forced to surrender their beliefs, he's wrong. That wasn't what Greg was saying.

Ellen Stuttle said...

An Anon wrote:

To add to Ellen Stuttle's exposure of Greg Nyquist's gross misrepresentation of Ayn Rand (a habit),

Whoa! I wasn't exposing Greg's "gross misrepresentation of Ayn Rand." I think he's incorrect in describing her as a "militant atheist"; I think it's understandable why someone might describe her thus. (I think he misinterprets her on some other issues, too, but I don't think he's engaged in any "gross misrepresentation," either on this point or on any any other I've thus far noticed.)

Thanks, though Anon, for quoting a place where she described herself as:

an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one.

I recalled reading that self-description -- I think she used it more than once in writing; I also heard her use it verbally -- but I couldn't recall off-hand a specific place where I could find it in print.

Ellen

john said...

Jay: >>Atheism as such is just a negation. It offers nothing in the way of philosophical guidance.<<

I would take this one step further. It is not even a negation. It is a description of one's convictions; "My philosophical convictions are without reference to God; they are atheistic."

The reason this distinction is important: theists are looking for any chance to pin the responsibility of 'proving God does not exist' on anyone with atheistic convictions and would read any form of ‘negation’ as a claim. They follow this gambit because they know they cannot prove the existence of God, and they wish to deflect that impossibility onto atheists with a variant of the common "well you can't prove God does not exist either."

This also illuminates why Ayn Rand is not a "militant atheist." Her position is perfect detachment of the first position: anyone making claims on God bears the entire -- entire -- burden of proof.

To Rand, the existence of God was too trivial to get militant about.

John Donohue

JayCross said...


To Rand, the existence of God was too trivial to get militant about


Precisely.

Neil Parille said...

I guess it depends what you mean by "militant atheist." The idea that God is immoral because it places limits on human achievment was important to Rand. Even the idea that IQ might be or more or less genetically determined appears to have been a problem for her. You don't have to be a Christian or a Freudian to believe that it isn't all sweetness and light when it comes to human nature.

Militant irreligion does seem to describe many of Rand's followers today. They are constantly complaining about "faith based" welfare programs when these are just a drop in the bucket compared to most other government expenditures (such as the secular public schools).

Ellen,

Was Paterson a Catholic? I don't think Cox's bio describes her as that.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

The idea that God is immoral because it places limits on human achievment was important to Rand. - Neil Parille
____________________________







Do you mean "God" here in Christian sense or in more general supernatural context?

Cavewight said...

Greg,

Ayn Rand was not a militant atheist. Disbelief in God does not entail hostility toward religion. Rand was an atheist who believed that religion was self-defeating, thus no action needed to be taken against it. The Peikoff quote doesn't matter, since we're talking about Rand and not him.

Cavewight said...

Thanks to whomever gave the Rand quote about not being a militant atheist.

Rand called her self an intransigent atheist and denied that she was a militant one in a couple of her letters. For example:

"In accordance with the principles of America and of capitalism, I recognize your right to hold any beliefs you choose—and, on the same grounds, you have to recognize my right to hold any convictions I choose. I am an intransigent atheist, though not a militant one. This means that I am not fighting against religion—I am fighting for reason. When faith and reason clash, it is up to the religious people to decide how they choose to reconcile the conflict. As far as I am concerned, I have no terms of communication and no means to deal with people, except through reason."

robert574 said...

There is no proof that God exists. That is atheism's position, nothing more, nothing less. Anything else is just philosophical musings on other issues. Atheists can have positions on any number of topics and many of them have contradictory positions among themselves. Some are secularists who advocate freedom; some are secularists who advocate fascism and/or totalitarianism. Some hold their positions with as much faith as do religious people who believe in God. But the fundamental issue is that there is no proof that God exists.

Religion is the practice of ritual in order to emulate the lives and actions of God or the Gods. As such it is anti-reason because it is based on faith in the existence of those gods. There is no reason to take religion seriously because it is ineffectual as is any ritual-based philosophy. Reason is the practice of thinking correctly and on that basis it is anti-religion/anti-ritual.

Once again, this original post is an effort to smear Rand by means of assuming something about her rather than dealing with the fundamental issues.

Damien said...

robert574,

How do you know that Greg won't get to the fundamental issue eventually? This is only part one of his "Objectivism and Religion" critique.

You said,

"Religion is the practice of ritual in order to emulate the lives and actions of God or the Gods. As such it is anti-reason because it is based on faith in the existence of those gods. There is no reason to take religion seriously because it is ineffectual as is any ritual-based philosophy."

No, Religion is a little bit more than that. Religion wouldn't have much appeal if all it was a system of rituals. There is at least some evidence that early religions came about as a way of explaining at the time what was unexplainable. Pretty much every religion that has ever existed promises its followers wonderful things if they obey the rules. It gives people hope, even if it is false hope. It also makes people feel good. Religious beliefs may not be very rational. But even if they are not, religious people don't think the way the do because they hate reason. They think the way they do because of how they were raised, because they find their particular religion appealing, or because they think reason supports their beliefs. The creationist website "Answers in Genesis" has on occasion posted articles claiming they are not anti-science. If you called its founder Ken Ham anti-reason to his face, he would probably insist that he wasn't. I'm well aware that Creationism is a pseudo science. Also given the fact that some people become suicide bombers in the name of their religion means, in a way, you should take religion very seriously.

Anonymous said...

Damien: “…religious people don't think the way the do because they hate reason.”

While some specific religious beliefs can appear absurd, belonging to a religion may confer quite rational advantages.

For example, as a group, Mormons are considered to be more wealthy than the average US citizen. Mormons see wealth as a sign of God’s blessing, and Mormon businessmen are inclined to do business with other Mormon businessmen than businessmen of other or no faiths.

Since business involves an element of trust, it helps to know that one is dealing with somebody ‘like us’, so there is an incentive for the Mormon businessman to remain a Mormon.

I don’t think it’s possible to make blanket statements that religion or any other belief is wholly irrational or wholly rational. I think that even the strangest and most intractable phenomena – up to and including the likes of Islamic suicide bombing, unfortunately -- have some rational basis, combined of course with a lot of nonsense.

Brendan

Damien said...

Brendan,

I didn't say all religions were entirely irrational. I didn't say any religion was entirely irrational. You miss understood what I said. I agree with Greg Nyquist, no belief system is completely false. They are have some elements of truth in them. I even said that religious people don't think the way the do because they hate reason. You even quoted me. I was saying that in general religious belief has nothing to do with hatred of reason. So clearly I was disagreeing with Robert574.
If religion had no benefit at all, its hard to imagine how it would still be around. One of Rand's qualms with Christianity was its disapproval of pride. Well in at least some instances pride can be detrimental. I discussed that in more detail in one of my comments on a previous post.

Anonymous said...

Damien: “I didn't say all religions were entirely irrational.”

What I was trying to say was that while specific religious beliefs or articles of faith may be irrational, the actual practice of religion can offer benefits.

Which I guess is what you are saying all along.

I should probably have responded to the post above yours. Apologies for any misunderstanding.

Brendan

john said...

Damien >>How do you know that Greg won't get to the fundamental issue eventually? This is only part one of his "Objectivism and Religion" critique.<<

So, how does this work? The author characterizes Ayn Rand by stating "Objectivism is a species of militant atheism" at the top and at the bottom Objectivism as a fanatical fundamentalism, then goes away for (so far) two or three days and the refutations pour in. The author is silent, but the open accusation with no substantiation just sits there.

What is the point of publishing this way? Is the author still writing the subsequent portions? Is the blog on an upload diet and can't afford an entire essay at once? Is he setting the stage to answer critics with "you should not have jumped to that conclusion before I finished speaking?"

Isn't it a risky gambit, however? What if you get refuted before you finish speaking?

Rand is a-theist; her philosophy is fully conceived, articulated and extrapolated with no mention of God whatsoever. There is no way that can be denied, or a case made that this per se forms “militancy.”

Meanwhile, and secondarily, she is only anti-religion for the amount of time needed to swat down historical aggression – physical and philosophical -- by every variant of religion/mystical persuasion. Thus, in Galt’s speech, the identification and condemnation of the shaman. In the narrative portion of her novels, Ayn Rand did not even bother to create one of her famous bad guys as 'of the cloth.' Except for the Stoddard Temple incident, and for one famous and hugely ironic joke at the end of Atlas Shrugged, she ignores religion as not worthy of mention. As for her non-fiction writings, you can be sure that if religious people did not keep thrusting in her face their (unproven) premise and attempting everything from outright condemnation on the basis of godlessness to begging for rapprochement (which amount to ‘Love me or hate me Miss Rand but I will not be ignored’), she would not mention religion at all.

John Donohue

Damien said...

Actually john,

Only the unsophisticated religious person blames everything on the Godless. The smarter ones tend to accept that religion, even their own, has been used to justify evil. If they didn't Catholics would have a hard time explaining the Spanish inquisition.

Ellen Stuttle said...

Neil,

You asked me:

Was Paterson a Catholic? I don't think Cox's bio describes her as that.

Eeek; somehow I thought that Paterson was specifically Catholic, maybe because of her connection with National Review people; but on looking at the material about her in PAR, I see no indication that her "mysticism," the description Barbara uses, was specifically Catholic. There's a mention of Pat's having believed in reincarnation, and of course that wouldn't square with Catholicism (which isn't to say that there aren't Catholics who inconsistently with their own religion do believe in reincarnation; I've met some of those).

In any event, it wasn't Pat's belief in God which was the reason for the break between her and Ayn, though it was a source of trouble between them. The troubles between them were "muti-faceted," short-form description. ;-)

Ellen

gregnyquist said...

John: "perhaps the true agenda of this blog will soon reveal itself"

I find it interesting that a sympathizer with Rand imagines that there must be some kind of surreptious agenda to this blog. But whatever agenda I may or may not have, it has nothing to do with converting people to a particular point of view. I'm only interesting in getting a little closer to the truth, to gain a little more insight in this strange world of ours, and to examine the real effects of ideology on human conduct (as opposed to the presumed effects).

gregnyquist said...

Jay: "The real problem with religious belief is that the more seriously someone takes it, the more passive they become."

That may be true with some religious people; it is certainly not true with all. Indeed, I doubt religion, in general, has any affect on whether a person is passive or not. A person who is congenitally passive will be drawn to those elements in religion that support passivity. A person who is not congenitally passive will not be drawn to such elements. Oliver Cromwell was the very opposite of a passive person, and yet he took religion very seriously. And, not surprisingly, Cromwell had a sharp eye for those passages in the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) that favor activity.

gregnyquist said...

Ellen: "I question your description and your categorization of Objectivism -- at least Rand's Objectivism -- as 'militant atheism.' Generally, I think 'militant atheism' means 'crusading atheism,' which Rand's Objectivism was not."

Ellen,

I think the difference here is more semantic than anything else. By "militant atheism," I don't mean she wanted to put down theistic religion by force. I am simply describing what I find to be an unjustifiable hostility toward theistic religion—a hostility which prevents her and her orthodox followers from regarding religion with either understanding or charity, as broader minded naturalists like Santayana regard it. When Rand describes religion as resting on a "dangerous or malevolent base" or, even worse, claims that religion is based on something (i.e., faith) that is "extremely detrimental to human life," these are rather hostile views. And there is no doubt whether a crusader or not, that she left the impression to her followers that religion was bad and irrational, possible even evil. Why else would she have to warn Ms. Taylor not to meddle with her father's religious views? I'm glad Rand show that kindness to Deems Taylor (who is a fine composer, by the way), but merely because she isn't consistent in her usual "intransigence" (which to me seems militant) doesn't mean it wasn't there. In any case, her hostility toward religion strikes me as over the top and unsupported by the evidence. If religion was really as bad as Rand suggests it would be deselected by natural processes long ago.

JayCross said...

A person who is congenitally passive will be drawn to those elements in religion that support passivity.

That's a very sound argument, however I believe that it actually strengthens my point. Most would agree that passivity is a bad thing. If religion, then, encourages passivity as it so often does, isn't that just fanning the flames of an already bad habit?

And isn't that made worse by the fact that all these calls to be passive are being made in the name of a being for which there is absolutely no empirical evidence?

JayCross said...

f religion was really as bad as Rand suggests it would be deselected by natural processes long ago.

That's not how natural selection works. If it were, then surely the millions of deaths religion has caused in the Middle East would have sprung it into action.

What Rand was ignorant of is that there is a continuum of religious belief. There is a huge difference between say, an Islamic fundamentalist and an American father and factory worker who goes to Church twice a month. Therefore, I doubt that her doomsday proclamations hold true for all religious believers.

Still, it is not good or healthy to alter your choices on the basis of things with no empirical validity.

Ellen Stuttle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen Stuttle said...

Greg,

I don't know that I'd agree that "the difference here is more semantic than anything else." From your opening segment, I'm having a feeling which I've had on other occasions of just not recognizing AR from your description. It's as if you select details which produce a portrait which to me seems oddly skewed, though in ways very hard to put my finger on. Also, I do warn against using Leonard Peikoff's current near-hysteria about the supposed coming "theocracy" as being Rand.

Also, when you make statements like:

Any philosophy whose temper is purely scientific and unbiased will harbor sentiments similar to those of Santayana’s toward religion.

1) Aren't you simply saying that you believe that any scientific and unbiased philosophy will harbor sentiments such as those with which you agree? (This isn't to say that I think that Rand's philosophy is "scientific and unbiased." I don't think that. But your statement has an "argument from intimidation" form.)

2) Aren't you overlooking some scientific-minded leading lights today who are harboring pretty negative sentiments toward relgion?

Also, re this from your reply to me:

If religion was really as bad as Rand suggests it would be deselected by natural processes long ago.

Ain't necessarily so. For one thing, exactly how would "natural processes" deselect religion in any case? A more general point about evolution is that something's being harmful doesn't necessarily mean it will be deselected, not if it's part of a package with more pluses than minuses.

Further, again, I think you might be conflating Peikoff's views on how "bad" religion is with hers. I hope you'll use direct quotes from her to support your discussion of her opinions, not current quotes from Peikoff and other ortho-O'ists.

Ellen

Damien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Red Grant said...

____________________________

If it were, then surely the millions of deaths religion has caused in the Middle East would have sprung it into action. - jay
____________________________






Which religion has caused the millions of deaths in the Middle East?

Damien said...

Here's the url to a website that is kind of related to subject we are talking about her.

http://www.acton.org/

It is for a website called the "Acton Institute For The Study Of Religion and Liberty." They have some interesting videos as well as some scholarly and opinion articles.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Still, it's not good or healthy to alter your choices on the basis of things with no empirical validity. - jay
____________________________






Did Einstein develop his theory of General Relativity before its empirical validity

or

after its empirical validity?


If before its empirical validity, then

would it have been neither good nor healthy for him to alter his choice of which postulates to promote as the General Theory of Relativity?

JayCross said...

Which religion has caused the millions of deaths in the Middle East?

Islam. And to the extent that the Iraq war was motivated by Bush's religious beliefs, Christianity.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Which religion has caused the millions of deaths in the Middle East? - Red Grant

Islam. And to the extent that the Iraq war was motivated by Bush's religious beliefs, Christianity. - Jay
____________________________






Did Jesus in the Bible preach war?


If not, then should the people preaching and implementing war be considered as

Christians

or

should they be considered as fraudulent imposters pretending or deluding themselves to be Christians?



Also, had the Biblical Jews of ancient times gained "the Promised Land" using more or less peaceful means

or


utilizing war?

JayCross said...

should they be considered as fraudulent imposters pretending or deluding themselves to be Christians?

I am actually inclined to agree with this. Islam, however, does not get off so easily. The Qur’an specifically exhorts Muslims to kill non-believers. The Bible is also bloodthirsty in a great number of ways, such as demands to kill rebellious teenagers, those who work on Sunday, etc.

Damien said...

Neil Parille,

I saw your article about an idea for a Christian Objectivist dialog.

http://tinyurl.com/3grard

Though I don't agree with all of it, it made some good points. Also it was well written.
What I think might be really interesting would be if you would get into a debate with someone from "The Acton Institute For The Study Of Religion and Liberty." I mentioned them earlier.

http://www.acton.org/

They are a religious pro capitalism organization. I am sorry I didn't come up with this idea sooner. The heated debate you could get into would be interesting to say the least. If you don't won't to debate, It might also be interesting if someone from the Acton Institute and someone from the Rand Institute got into a debate over the nature of religion and liberty.

Neil Parille said...

Damien,

I have heard of the organization. I will check the site.

Jay,

I've heard it said that the OT's order to execute rebellious teenagers really means the death penalty for incorrigible criminals.

In any event, the Bible doesn't command executing people for working on Sunday. The OT sabbath was Saturday. Christians stopped observing the Saturday sabbath and started celebrating the Lord's Day on Sunday. Certain groups -- such as the Seventh Day Adventists -- believe that Christians should celebrate the Saturday sabbath.

john said...

>>Acton Institute and someone from the Rand Institute got into a debate...<<<

What argument would you profer to any Objectivist to persuade them to enter into such a debate?* Put another way: what possible gain/value would you highlight that might accrue to an Objectivist in such a debate?

John Donohue


*[REF: James Taggart's attempt to trap Dagny into a debate with her enemies]

john said...

Neil Parille: >>I've heard it said that the OT's order to execute rebellious teenagers really means the death penalty for incorrigible criminals.<<

...just as the Koran's call for jihad really means an internal struggle for purity?

These religious books having been written millenia ago yet seem to have captured the post-modernist ethos so well: "The reader contrucsts meaning [whatever meaning suits him at the moment] as he reads along." -- Ken Goodman, parenthical by me.

John Donohue

Neil Parille said...

I don't think there are many (if any) Objectivists who have sufficient familiarity with religion to actually debate informed theists.

Neil Parille said...

BTW, I saw this in Peikoff's lecture --

"Metaphysically, as a result, Greece was a secular culture. Men generally dismissed or downplayed the supernatural; their energies were devoted to the joys and challenges of life."

Where does Peikoff come up with most of his ruminations on intellectual history? Maybe he should read some books by Robert Parker or Nilsson on Greek religion. Religion pervaded almost every aspect of ancient Greek life.

This reminds me of Peikoff's DIM lectures. If Peikoff likes someone (such as Descartes), he becomes a secular thinker.

JayCross said...

I don't think there are many (if any) Objectivists who have sufficient familiarity with religion to actually debate informed theists.


What characteristics would you attribute to an informed theist?

Daniel Barnes said...

Ellen:
>Further, again, I think you might be conflating Peikoff's views on how "bad" religion is with hers.

Are you suggesting that Leonard holds some intellectual views which were not in fact Rand's; despite his sincerest avowals to the contrary?...;-)

Daniel Barnes said...

Neil quoted Peikoff:
"Metaphysically, as a result, Greece was a secular culture. Men generally dismissed or downplayed the supernatural; their energies were devoted to the joys and challenges of life."

Oh FFS! It's not that Peikoff is an ignoramus; it's that he seems to live in a complete fantasy world.

john said...

Neil Parille said...
BTW, I saw this in Peikoff's lecture --

"Metaphysically, as a result, Greece was a secular culture. Men generally dismissed or downplayed the supernatural; their energies were devoted to the joys and challenges of life."

"Where does Peikoff come up with most of his ruminations on intellectual history? Maybe he should read some books by Robert Parker or Nilsson on Greek religion."

quoted without supplying context, which is dishonest and a poor trick. obviously there IS context, as Peikoff has concluded some prior exposition for which 'metaphysically' in the current sentence summarizes.

Not supplying context exposes your flat generalization "Religion pervaded almost every aspect of ancient Greek life." to the same carping and totalizing.

Please supply the context.

John Donohue

JayCross said...

John,

If you accuse Neil of context-dropping, you need to supply the missing context that redeem's Peikoff's words.

From John T. Reed's article "Intellectually Honest and Intellectually Dishonest Debate Tactics":

Accusation of taking a quote out of context: debater accuses opponent of taking a quote that makes the debater look bad out of context. All quotes are taken out of context—for two reasons: quoting the entire context would take too long and federal copyright law allows quotes but not reproduction of the entire text. Taking a quote out of context is only wrong when the lack of the context misrepresents the author’s position. The classic example would be the movie review that says, “This movie is the best best example of a waste of film I have ever seen,” then gets quoted as “This movie is the best...I’ve ever seen.” Any debater who claims a quote misrepresents the author’s position must cite the one or more additional quotes from the same work that supply the missing context and thereby reveal the true meaning of the author, a meaning which is very different from the meaning conveyed by the original quote that they complained about. Merely pointing out that the quote is not the entire text proves nothing. Indeed, if a search of the rest of the work reveals no additional quotes that show the original quote was misleading, the accusation itself is dishonest.

SRC: http://johntreed.com/debate

gregnyquist said...

Ellen: "Aren't you simply saying that you believe that any scientific and unbiased philosophy will harbor sentiments such as those with which you agree."

No, that is not the standard I am using, nor what I was trying to suggest. The goal of a scientific and unbiased philosophy is to see things as they really are, not as we may wish them to be; but I am convinced that one of the chief obstacles to this sort of understanding is our prejudices and biases (and we all have prejudices and biases). I have always thought that one of the ways to overcome these biases is to try to avoid being moralistic or hostile as one searches the facts. Too many people judge questions, particularly religious questions, like sports fans judge questions about their favorite teams; and I tend to see anyone who is so much in the tank for either theism or atheism as being militant or bigoted in their allegience. And I find it particularly misplaced in atheists who claim to be scientific or naturalist or skeptical in their sympathies, because science, naturalism, skepticism shouldn't be militant or bigoted—they undermine their raison d'etre when they are. One expects a religious fundamentalists to be militant and bigoted: it sort of goes with the territory. Moreover, the militancy of the fundamentalist may serve a useful purpose, if, for example, it motivates the individual to stand up and fight for his homeland against other religious fundamentalists of a worst type. Whereas I see little positive benefit to come out of atheistical militancy. Their militancy doesn't make them any more courageous in battle; it only makes them noiser on the public stage.

Ellen: "Aren't you overlooking some scientific-minded leading lights today who are harboring pretty negative sentiments toward relgion?"

Do you mean people like Dawkins et al? But on the religious questions, they have not attained the ideal of a free and unbiased understanding on these issues. They lean toward militancy and bigotry. This is seen quite clearly when you compare them with thinkers who really are much less bigoted against religion. E.O. Wilson and Stephen Pinker are both atheists, yet neither are militant or bigoted about it. While their views don't exactly coincide with mine, as they seem to believe that science could come up with a substitute for religion, they at least are intelligent in defending their position.

john said...

>> If you accuse Neil of context-dropping, you need to supply the missing context that redeem's Peikoff's words.<<

No, I am not going to do that, since you did not susbstantiate why that particular protocal ought prevail, let alone give a link to the source!

And I am not here to debate, anyway; nor to defend Peikoff proactively; I am not making the case on this blog. I still await the author to make his case, instead of simply making an acusation and then dropping the ball. What chapter of John T. Reed's opus deal with that sort of intellectual dishonesty?

John Donohue

JayCross said...

John,

I did give a link to the source. Check my comment once more.

john said...

I was unclear; you did not post a link to the original coment by Peikoff that begins "Metaphysically..."

JayCross said...

Greg,

I think you might be failing to appreciate where some of the "militancy" comes from. Speaking personally, I dislike how religiously-motivated laws and attitudes impact me, even as an atheist. I'm 21 now, but one day, I'll be 61, or older. What if I can't get access to the latest and greatest comforts that science has to offer because "The Religious Right" deems that to be sinful? I can't say "Well, I'm an atheist and I know there's no God, so you need to step out of my way now." On the other hand, they can say "Well, the majority of us believe in a God so we're going to pigeonhole you into our delusional beliefs and restrictions." That's not right. Ditto for how my future children will, undoubtedly, be coerced into "volunteerism" at the local public school. Think that's not religiously motivated?

IMO, this is why a lot of "militant atheists" are the way they are. There is also the burning fact that there is no evidence for this God whom we are all supposed to fear and respect.

Neil Parille said...

John,

I don't get your point. Are you saying that I'm wrong to argue that ancient Greek culture was religious, or are you saying that I'm taking Peikoff out of context?

john said...

You did not supply the context for the "Metaphysically...." modifier in that quote. I do not recall that lecture or whatever, but I know how Peikoff writes, and it is very highly likely he had a specific context or qualified 'take' on the religious content of Greece.

All Objectivists know that a strong segment of the Athenian Greeks were Platonists; that is, they "bought into" or "took seriously" religion. We call that primacy of consciousness. For instance, Aristotle was persecuted immediately after the death of Alexander and brought up on charges for saying that prayer did not work.

So, there is no denial that religion was (unfortunately) an opiate of that people as well.

However, this culture also birthed the first incarnation of objectivity; that objective reality exists regardless of the contents of any human's consciousness. For that segment of the culture, reality came first and 'the gods' were personifications of human concepts, metaphoric symbols or were to be taken ironically.

My contention is that Peikoff's comment, if the context were supplied, would be revealed to have no denial of religion whatsoever, but would make the case of the first occurrence of the opposite of religion: reality. It would be quite interesting to make an attempt to count the population of the two factions, at various times.

Thus, his statement would be shown to be tempered while your statement "Religion pervaded almost every aspect of ancient Greek life" would be shown to be the unwarranted generalization.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

The Bible is also bloodthirsty in a great number of ways, such as demands to kill rebellious teenagers, those who work on Sunday, etc. - Jay
____________________________





Are Christians to supposed to follow the teachings of Jesus

or

are they supposed to follow Moses's laws?


Did Jesus preach war or preach killing rebellious teenagers, or those who work on Sunday?





Also, had the Biblical Jews of ancient times gained "the Promised Land" using more or less peaceful means

or

utilizing war as sanctioned by God?





____________________________

The Qur'an specifically exhorts Muslims to kill non-believers.

The real problem with religious belief is that the more seriously someone takes it the more passive they become.

Most would agree that passivity is a bad thing.

If religion, then, encourages passivity, as it so often does, isn't that just fanning the flames of an already bad habit?

And isn't that made sense by the fact that all these calls to be passive are being made the name of a being for which there is absolutly no emprical evidence? - jay
____________________________





Does this mean then you believe religion has caused the millions of deaths in the Middle East partly because more seriously a Muslim takes his/her takes his/her belief, the more passive he/she becomes?




____________________________

There is a huge difference between say, an Islamic fundamentalist and an American father and a factory worker who goes to Church twice a month. - Jay
____________________________





The racist lynch mobs in the "good old days" after "the war to end all wars", "the war to make world safe for democracies", etc,

did they include many American fathers who worked in factories and went to Church twice a month?

gregnyquist said...

Jay,

While it's not impossible that religiously motivated people could prevent you from getting a cure you need when you're 61, I don't think it's very likely. But let us assume the worst possible case. Something like that does happen. Well, life is about trade-offs. Religion does have negative side-effects. No rational person would deny that. The question is: what is the alternative? Let's say we finally got rid of Christianity. Would we be better off? From what I have learned from history, from sociology, from the study of human nature, I would say: No, we wouldn't be. When I was younger I use to be more concerned with the negative effects of religion than I am now. Observing what secularization has done to Europe is very sobering. The demoralization of what was once Christendom means that now Europe may very well be doomed: it could very well be inundated by Muslims from the Third World. The cradle of western civilization is going to fall to a religion that is far worse than Christianity—something that I find very tragical and depressing. So if I need Christianity to defend the West from Islam (and I believe that's the case), then I'm willing to make the tradeoff between keeping the West free from Islam and having to endure the remote possibility of being denied some special type of medical care.

JayCross said...

Greg,

I see what you're saying. However, impediments on medical research is just one negative aspect of widespread religious belief. What if abortion is someday outlawed? That will not affect you and I, but it might affect women we are friends with. Senators are crusading to ban the sale of birth control. Hell, I live in Connecticut, and if I want to drive down to the local supermarket and buy a 6 pack after 9, I can't do it. Why can't I do it. Religiously motivated "Blue Laws" from Colonial times. Ridiculous. I am not a big drinker, but if I chose to, I would have to do so within time frames circumscribed by religious beliefs that I despise and do not hold.

Also, if Christianity is our only defense against radical Islam, it is looking like a weak defense indeed. By all accounts, the war in Iraq is pretty much a failure. Even if it weren't a failure, how long would it be until radical Christianity became the dominant force in the U.S.? If the Dark Ages and the Crusades are any indication, that is not a whole lot better than life under radical Islam would be.

Wouldn't it be better if the world's people, voluntarily, swept aside all this religious nonsense? I'm not saying it's going to happen, but in theory, would that not be the best situation?

Or, failing that, let religious people form voluntary associations of people who will limit their conduct to only what is allowed by their religious teachings. I don't want to force other people to live like I want to. I just do not want religious people preventing me from living like I want to. I suspect many militant atheists share that view.

JayCross said...

Observing what secularization has done to Europe is very sobering.

Certainly true. Atheism alone will not create a prosperous nation, just as it will not create a happy or successful person. For that, self-reliance and industriousness must be a part of the culture. Wouldn't you agree that it is lack of those attitudes, not lack of religion, hampering Europe?

Neil Parille said...

John,

The lecture by Peikoff is linked by Greg. I grant you that Peikoff starts with a comparison of what Christianity (allegedly) teaches and then contrasts it with the "Ancient Greeks" (not just the Athenians). But his conclusion that Greece had a secular culture isn't true. Even the Athenians consulted the oracle at Delphi before starting out for war, offered sacrifices to the gods, had religious festivals, etc.

And by what right does Peikoff declare that Plato and Aristotle were the two representative figures? I could just as well pick out Herodotus and Aeschylus, both of whom were quite religious.

john said...

"And by what right does Peikoff declare that Plato and Aristotle were the two representative figures?"

Well, it's not "by right" but let's not quibble over that. The real answer is:

Because Peikoff is arguing from essentials. Perhaps you've heard the point in philosophy (established well before Rand) that 'all of Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato?' The argument is that thinkers in the West are either Platonist or Aristotelean. Very few are Aristotelean; yet as Rand has helped clarify, the emergence of Aristotle's 'primacy of existence' is the foundation for reason, science, individual rights and much more to the good, which centuries of Platonism was not able to discover.

You are welcome to demurr from that distinction; I have never had a problem seeing the fundamental power in this schemea.

http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/Archives/Plato%20And%20The%20Theory%20Of%20Forms.htm

John Donohue

john said...

>> But his conclusion that Greece had a secular culture isn't true. <<

Yes, you are attempting to sustain that totalized belief. You are wrong; it is not total. Greece was the birthplace of reason (facts of reality + logic); it discovered objectivity. And yes, that discovery, and the burst of freedom from superstition it engendered coexisted with a still-superstitious populace.

Are you ready to argue which was more prevelent? More important?

John Donohue

Red Grant said...

____________________________

The demoralization of what was once Christendom means that now Europe may very well be doomed:... - Greg
____________________________






Did Jesus ever preach war, mass murder, persecution of Jews, conversion on the point of sword?

When had Europe (peoples and Government overall) ever practiced Christianity as Jesus preached before the so-called "secularization"?




____________________________

So if I need Christiantiy to defend the West from Islam (and I believe that's the case)... - Greg
____________________________




I beg your pardon!?

My dear, Greg, do you even know what Jesus preached?

Do you even know what Jesus meant by,"My kingdom is not of this world."?

Wasn't Jesus ultimately concerned about the eternal salvation of soul in afterlife, not what kind of political system or who rules in this world?

How could Christianity defend the West from Islam or whatever?

Why even should Christians even bother if Islam takes over in this world?

You are not confusing those false Christians (those claiming to be Christians but actually either only pretending or deluding themselves to be Christians so that they could gain some political influence or money, or satisfy some personal psychological vanity) as the real Christians (those who ultimately worry about the eternal salvation of their souls, not what kind of political system they inhabit in this world before afterlife)?

Red Grant said...

____________________________

...how long would it be until radical Christianity became the dominant force in the U.S.? - Jay
----------------------------




By "radical Christianity", you really mean false Christians willing to use chicanery to dominate the political system for their desires not consistent with the teachings of Jesus under the false pretense of Christianity?

Red Grant said...

____________________________

the emergence of Aristotle's 'primacy of existence'is the foundation for reason, science, individual rights,... - John
____________________________





Didn't Aristotle believe in slavery as well?

Didn't Aristotle believe that some people are only fit enought to be slaves from the birth?





____________________________

Greece was the birthplace of reason(facts of reality + logic); it discovered objectivity. And yes, that discovery, and the burst of freedom from superstition... - John
____________________________





Is that why Greece practiced slavery and Aristotle endorsed it?

dragonfly said...

Greg: "So if I need Christianity to defend the West from Islam (and I believe that's the case)..."

I live in the Netherlands, which in previous decades had become one of the most secular and free countries in the world. Alas, due to the unbridled immigration of muslims the situation is now deteriorating quickly. But the last ones to defend our freedom are christian politicians (a very small minority of orthodox christians excepted). A typical example is prime minister Balkenende, who is constantly ignoring the increasing problems with muslim immigrants, but who is always vehemently attacking whistleblower Wilders.

What you observe is that those christians in fact seem to welcome the aggressive behavior of the muslim community: the argument seems to be that this makes religion (which had largely become a vague inspiration in politics and largely a private matter) again respectable and an important force in politics. You see for example new attempts by christian politicians to limit shopping on Sundays, to remove a billboard with a woman in bikini, to propagate the breeding of children, to reverse liberal legislation about abortion and euthanasia, etc. Two years ago former (christian) Minister of Justice Donner even stated that it should be possible to introduce the sharia!

Some 10-20 years ago I was an atheist who didn't bother with religion, as religion didn't bother with me. Now I have become a militant atheist and in this respect an admirer of Dawkins, as I see how religion is destroying our civilization.

gregnyquist said...

Dragonfly: "What you observe is that those christians in fact seem to welcome the aggressive behavior of the muslim community: the argument seems to be that this makes religion (which had largely become a vague inspiration in politics and largely a private matter) again respectable and an important force in politics."

I see this more as an outcome of the dominance of secularism than the essential badness of Christianity. Christians in the Netherlands, finding themselves so overwhelmed by the dominant secularism, find that they have more in common with Muslims and therefore sympathize with that group. This would probably not be the case if the Christians in that nation constituted a majority. In that case, they were be more secure in their position and would regard Islam as a threat. That is, in any case, the situtation in the United States. Christians over here tend to be more motivated in the war against terror than secularists and over-secularized liberal "Christians."

Society needs both secularism and religion. If one or the other dominate, it's going to lead to dangerous situation. Secularization is needed for the science and intelligence that the better sort of secularization brings. Religion is needed for the strength and courage and morale that the better sort of religion provides. In the Islamic world, you have too much religion. In Europe, you have too much secularization. Only in the United States do you have something approaching a workable balance. So the hope of the West lies mostly in America—which is not an optimal situation, because America's resources are far too stretched and the strain is making it difficult for us to maintain our balance between religion and secularization.

JayCross said...

By "radical Christianity", you really mean false Christians willing to use chicanery to dominate the political system for their desires not consistent with the teachings of Jesus under the false pretense of Christianity?

Who decides what is a false Christian?

I will concede that many "Christian politicians" are engaged in empty pandering to their religious voting blocs. But the problem goes deeper; it is just not that Christian politicians are not consistently or purely Christian. Even if there were a saintly, altruistic, by-the-book politician, he still does not have the right to impose those teachings on the masses.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Who decides what is a false Christian? - Jay
____________________________





Easy, read the teachings of Jesus in NT.

Anyone who lives not according to the teachings of Jesus in NT is a false Christian.



____________________________

Even if there were a saintly, alturistic, by-the-book politician, he still does not have the right to impose those teachings on the masses. - Jay
____________________________





Did Jesus ever impose his teachings on the masses as a politician or advocate his followers do?



Why do you think Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."?


Isn't a christian one who lives according to the teachings of Jesus in NT?

Red Grant said...

edit:

Anyone who lives not according to the teachings of Jesus in NT is a false christian. - Red Grant

Should have said:

Anyone who lives not according to the teachings of Jesus in NT, but claims to be a christian is a false christian.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

In that case, they[the Christians in the Netherlands] were be more secure in their position and would regard Islam as a threat. - Greg
____________________________





How could Islam or whatever pose threat to christians?



You obviously misunderstand what it means to be a christian.


Being a christian means one who accepts Jesus as a savior for the eternal salvation of his soul in His kingdom.

It has nothing to do with worldly/political realm.

John:18-36

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews, but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."



____________________________

Christians over here tend to be more motivated in the war against terror... - Greg
____________________________





John 18:36 My kingdom is not of this world.


Commentary from People's New Testament


It would be hard for Pilate form any conception of a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom of which the subjects did not fight with carnal weapons to defend its king, or to extend its borders. He was a soldier and the representative of a monarch whose power rested on the sword. But such a kingdom was Christ's. It was not of this world, did not spring from it, was heavenly in its origin, and hence his servants would not fight that He should not be delivered to the Jews.

(1)Christ's kingdom is supernatural, not of human origin. It is in the world, but not worldly.

(2) It is maintained, not by carnal weapons, but by spiritual and moral powers.(by the standard set by Jesus in NT) (my emphasis).

Red Grant said...

Edit:

...,but by spiritual and moral powers.

Should have said:

.....,but by spiritual and moral means.


http://bible.cc/john/18-36.htm

Ellen Stuttle said...

Daniel asked me:

Ellen:
[quoting me] Further, again, I think you might be conflating Peikoff's views on how "bad" religion is with hers. [end quote of me]

Are you suggesting that Leonard holds some intellectual views which were not in fact Rand's; despite his sincerest avowals to the contrary?...;-)


Oh, of course. I think she'd have his head on a platter (metaphorically) could she see what he's made of "her" philsosphy -- and even of her.

Ellen

Ellen Stuttle said...

Greg,

Your reply:

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2008/04/objectivism-religion-part-1.html?showComment=1208136060000#c497127095066844855

doesn't reassure me that you aren't classifying any theorist with whom you disagree as being "scientific and unbiased," especially when you write:

The goal of a scientific and unbiased philosophy is to see things as they really are, not as we may wish them to be

and then proceed to indicate that Dawkins et al are biased precisely because of their being heated in their views -- i.e., that they can't be seeing things "as they really are" if they have a strong opinion, whereas if you have a strong opinion opposed to their having a strong opinion (including that they aren't "intelligent" in their views)....

e.g.:

I tend to see anyone who is so much in the tank for either theism or atheism as being militant or bigoted in their allegience.

And then you describe "Dawkins et al" thus:

[...] on the religious questions, they have not attained the ideal of a free and unbiased understanding on these issues. They lean toward militancy and bigotry. This is seen quite clearly when you compare them with thinkers who really are much less bigoted against religion. E.O. Wilson and Stephen Pinker are both atheists, yet neither are militant or bigoted about it. While their views don't exactly coincide with mine, as they seem to believe that science could come up with a substitute for religion, they at least are intelligent in defending their position.

Sorry, I do think you're "loading the dice," just as you load those (the dice) with your breakdown of "naturalist" versus "utopian" such that the former means theories you might find plausible;

and your stripping the context and leaving out part of Toffler's question to AR in the Playboy interview.

I haven't yet read more than the introductory part of your book; nor have I by a long way read all the threads on this blog. But I am starting to think that you do a certain amount of "adjusting" the views of AR and of others in a way which I can't describe as "unbiased."

Ellen

Ellen Stuttle said...

dragonfly said...

Greg: "So if I need Christianity to defend the West from Islam (and I believe that's the case)..."

I live in the Netherlands, which in previous decades had become one of the most secular and free countries in the world. Alas, due to the unbridled immigration of muslims the situation is now deteriorating quickly. But the last ones to defend our freedom are christian politicians (a very small minority of orthodox christians excepted).

[....]

What you observe is that those christians in fact seem to welcome the aggressive behavior of the muslim community: the argument seems to be that this makes religion (which had largely become a vague inspiration in politics and largely a private matter) again respectable and an important force in politics.

[....]


DF,

As best as I can tell from this side of "The Pond," the same development is happening in other European countries (most of which weren't as relatively secular and free as The Netherlands) -- and England (oh, help!!! strong expressions of dismay, the sort in which I'd use the word "God" just as a manner of expression, except for the irony of the usage in this context)...has basically had it.

What I see going on is a reversion to the Holy Wars of the turn of the last millenium. I sure don't see Christianity as being of any help in the circumstances.

Ellen

Ellen Stuttle said...

Greg:

Christians over here tend to be more motivated in the war against terror than secularists and over-secularized liberal "Christians."

Are you using the expression"'the war against terror" indicating that you applaud said "war"? (I'd describe said "war" as a way to erode every freedom the U.S. every enjoyed. Not wanting to change the subject to politics, but it seems that that's where the subject has gone. I am curious if you actually applaud what "the war against terror" is producing.)

Ellen

Cavewight said...

I think, to be fair, that Rand did not want to portray herself as a militant atheist - even though she was one.

If you look at her journal entries one of her goals was to move against religion.

"Religion: show what it means when thought out consistently; what it does to man; who needs it; who defends it with all the ferocious despotism of a small, ambitious nature. The great poison of mankind."

"Morals (as connected with religion)' the real reason for all hypocrisy. The wrecking of man by teaching him ideals that are contrary to his nature; ideals he has to accept as his highest ambition, even though they are organically hateful and repulsive to him. And when he can't doubt them, he doubts himself. He becomes low, sinful, imperfect in his own eyes; he does not aspire to anything high, when he knows that the high is inaccessible and alien to him. Humanity's morals and ideals, its ideology, are the greatest of its crimes."

And then there is this:

"I want to fight religion as the root of all human lying and the only excuse for suffering.
I believe — and I want to gather all the facts to illustrate this — that the worst curse on mankind is the ability to consider ideals as something quite abstract and detached from one's everyday life. The ability to live and think quite differently, thus eliminating thinking from your actual life. This applied not to deliberate and conscious hypocrites, but to those more dangerous and hopeless ones who, alone with themselves and to themselves, tolerate a complete break between their convictions and their lives, and still believe that they have convictions. To them, either their ideals or their lives are worthless — and usually both.
I hold religion mainly responsible for this. I want to prove that religion breaks a character before it's formed, in childhood, by teaching a child lies before he knows what a lie is, by breaking him of the habit of thinking before he has begun to think, by making him a hypocrite before he knows any other possible attitude toward life. If a child is taught ideals that he knows are contrary to his own deepest instincts, [ideals] such as unselfishness, meekness, and self-sacrifice, if he is told he is a miserable sinner for not living up to ideals he can never reach and doesn't want to reach, then his natural reaction is to consider all ideals as out of his reach forever, as something theoretical and quite apart from his own actual life. Thus the beginning of self-hypocrisy, the killing of all desire for a living ideal.
Religion is also the first enemy of the ability to think. That ability is not used by men to one tenth of its possibility, yet before they learn to think they are discouraged by being ordered to take things on faith. Faith is the worst curse of mankind; it is the exact antithesis and enemy of thought. I want to learn why men do not use logical reasoning to govern their lives and [solve] their problems. Is it impossible to them or has it been taught to them as impossible?
I believe this last. And the teacher is the church. Thought and reason are the only weapons of mankind, the only possible bond of understanding among men. Anyone who demands that anything be taken on faith — or relies on any super-mental, super-logical instinct — denies all reason."
April 9, 1934

john said...

Cavewright, although you note that this is from Ayn Rand's journal, many do not know that book; it would be correct for you to cite properly, give the book title, etc. for such a long excerpt.

More importantly, finally we have something from Rand herself on point, something the author did not bother to do.

My reaction: if this be 'militant' make the best of it!

However, this is not militant atheism; it is militant Objectivism. She is promulating her own philosophy like a general plotting war, and religion is in the way.

John Donohue

Cavewight said...

John,

The name of the book is "Journals of Ayn Rand." It is also available on the Objectivism Research CD-ROM which is what I use. And Amazon has activated the 'search inside' feature for this book, which means you can go there and look up any quotes at will once you know the name of the book.

As for "militant Objectivism," this kind of re-naming convention was mentioned in Daniel Barnes' blog entry entitled "Objectivist Myths 2: Rand Solved The Mind/Body Problem" --

'...we find ourselves again, as we do so often with Randian theorising, in the realm of mere word play. (incidentally, Binswanger's comment stands as yet another excellent if unwitting example of a verbalist philosophy in action; he admits he is a dualist, but apparently what is most urgently required is to change the terminology from "dualism" to "Objectivism"!)'

The jig is up.

john said...

No jig is up. This blog and its writers have not the talent to play a jig.

I have renamed no concept. I was making a point, not attempting to ‘steal’ the meaning of “militant atheist.” I know what a militant atheist is, namely someone who has no philosophical root and system of their own, but hate religion per se. Some of them are bitter and overwrought, but some do serve a good purpose regardless of the fact they are ‘only’ atheists: they are watchdogs against the incursion of religion into areas it should not go.

It is you who are attempting to rename.

First, the cheap and transparent “Randian”, a term only used by smear artists. That is Barnes snotty substitution for argument, the use of which reveals a dull mind out of ideas.

Second, Greg Nyquist is determined to brand her a militant atheist. No one knows his motive for this. He does not say. I mean, why pick this obscure project? Who cares? What’s the point?

He has not shown anything in the first two sections, only made the empty accusation. Good luck with his verbalist attempts to presto-chango magically transform her from an Objectivist/Aristotelian philosopher to someone who runs a show on cable and rants about the crèche in the town square for an hour. What is the tactic? Prove the entire life’s work of Rand was all a ruse to disguise her true motive: destroying the goodly church? Sorry, you are aiming at the ground.

Now, you Cavewight found one quote by Rand, in her journal. I could show you more in her articles from the 60s. I am surprised you did not cite her essay on Populorum Progressio. But stand the entire body of her explicit anti-religion writing next to her monumental novels and the exposition of her philosophy… you will get perspective Anti-religion, 4%, Pro-Objectivism 96%. [That ratio is tongue-in-cheek; it is all Objectivism]

Ayn Rand has no mention in her philosophy whatsoever of God or religion.
She didn’t bother to make a religious bad guy in her novels.
To Rand, the existence of God was too trivial to get militant about.
She is an Objectivist.
In order to promulgate her philosophy, her a-Theist philosophy, she must take a few minutes to nullify mistaken ideas in the way. Religion is in her way. She identifies its evil and brushes it aside. Then she can speak to open young minds without static and no need to mention religion or God again.

John Donohue

gregnyquist said...

Ellen,

You're not quite grasping my point. I'm not saying that Dawkins et al are biased precisely because they are "heated," but that there being "heated" (I would use a stronger term) has affected their judgment, so that they really don't understand religion. Hitchen's view, for example, as I have heard it in several hours worth of debates, is that any bad that a religious person does is due to their religion whereas any good that he does has nothing to do with his religion at all. Dawkins has compared relgion to a virus. Am I biased in thinking that these are not the views of biased thinkers?

What I'm looking for in a thinker is not whether they agree with me, but evidence that their views aren't warped by some special agenda. That's why I'm impressed with agnostics and atheists like T.H. Huxley, Pareto, Weber, Sorel, Burnham, Santayana who, despite their beliefs, nevertheless can find social utility in religion. One can have greater trust in their judgment precisely because it goes against the grain of their private beliefs. There was a time when I tended to believe that non-logical beliefs cannot have social utility. But these thinkers have convinced me otherwise.

Now when you write "I'd describe said 'war' as a way to erode every freedom the U.S. ever enjoyed" I begin to see that we see things very differently, and view the world through different interpretive paradigms. From your point of view, I will of course seem biased. And from my point of view, you will seem biased. But who's right on this issue (assuming at least one of us is right or close to right) ultimately depends on whose interpretive pardigms are closer to reality, mine or yours.

dragonfly said...

Greg: " In Europe, you have too much secularization. Only in the United States do you have something approaching a workable balance."

I strongly disagree. You can't have too much secularization and in the Netherlands the general opinion of the US is in fact that of a frightening example of a state that is dominated by religion. Can you for example become President of the US without being religious (or at least pretending to be religious)?

The secularization here has been something like the Prague Spring. We've seen that like communism religion is not something unavoidable. I think it is mainly the powerlusting christian politicians who are in league with the muslims, not the general christian population, which is much more liberal with regard to issues like abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. (thanks to our Prague Spring).

There is a small group of orthodox christians who are against such liberal ideas (and who are no friends of the islam), but in contrast to their American counterparts they are not aggressive, but form a rather closed community. There is today a dangerous gap between the political parties (policitally correct, multicultural) and the general population, which probably never in history had such a low confidence in the government and in politicians in general.

Cavewight said...

John,

I never said anything about you renaming or stealing any concepts, only you playing word games. And I am not attempting to rename any concepts, only going with the evidence Rand herself has provided for us. If the shoe fits, wear it.

The term "Randian" is not cheap or snotty, any more than "Machiavellian" is cheap or snotty. "Randroid" is the actual smear term.

Greg is not attempting to brand anybody, as far as I know. His motive? Apparently hatred of Objectivism, as indicated on the front page of his blog.

It may have been an "empty accusation" given the lack of evidence to support his position.
I have now provided the evidence by quoting journal entries.

Was the goal of Rand's life to destroy the Godly church? It certainly seems that way from her journal. By promulgating the use of reason it may just be possible to do this while, at the same time, building the form of utopia she always dreamed of. It would be rather difficult for Rand to build up her Objectivist religion with the Godly church sucking away potential members. But as I recall, Objectivism lost many members, after the great rift, to BUddhism which is also an atheist religion.

Point of fact: You say I have found one quote in her journals, but in fact I found and quoted two. The first appeared as two quotes. These two, which are from an undated journal entry, had to do with her plans for a project called "The Little Street." But if you need the source, it came from page 25 of "Journals of Ayn Rand."

The fact that she wrote less on anti-religion does not render her less militant in her less public beliefs. And in fact, you know how Rand felt and thought about religion in her virulent opposition to it. And she did a great job of rhetorically addressing religion without actually naming it in explicit terms, mainly by using terms such as "mysticism" and "altruism," thus reducing religious belief to philosophical anti-concepts.

You wrote: "Ayn Rand has no mention in her philosophy whatsoever of God or religion."

Even the title of her book "The Virtue of Selfishness" was intended for its irreligious shock value. "The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: "Why do you use the word 'selfishness' to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?" To those who ask it, my answer is: "For the reason that makes you afraid of it".'
Virtue of Selfishness

I can dredge up many anti-religion quotes that don't come from Requiem for Man, such as this: "For ages, it was religion that had done the job of keeping man small — by comparing him to the immensity of alleged supernatural powers." (Epitaph for a Culture.)

"There is only one ideology that would condemn it—the ideology that opposes man's enjoyment of his life on earth and holds sex as such to be evil—the same ideology that is the source and cause of anti-obscenity censorship: religion." (Thought Control - Part II.)

"The theoreticians of religion know that it is impossible to prohibit thought. They do not expect the ban on sexual thoughts to be obeyed. Their purpose is not to abolish such thoughts, but to induce guilt—and thus to undercut man's self-esteem. The following small incident captures the essence of the religious censors' mentality. In the 1930s, the "self-censorship" office of the movie industry (known as the Hays Office or, later, the Johnson Office) went on one of its periodic crusades against sex in the movies. That office was run predominantly by a religious organization, the Purity League." (Thought Control - Part III.)

In "From the Horse's Mouth" Rand equated religion with "mystic fantasies," and then wrote
"I thought (no, hoped) that in the nineteenth century a man upholding the cognitive pretensions of religion to an equal footing with science, would have been laughed off any serious lectern."

Ayn Rand considered including a priest among the strikers in Atlas Shrugged, "but it did not take me very long to realize that it would be an impossible confusion. Since all the other strikers in the story can be taken literally, [since] they are all representatives of rational, valuable professions, to include a priest among them would be to sanction religion." Aug. 26, 1946

"My most important job is the formulation of a rational morality of and for man, of and for his life, of and for this earth. (No wonder the advocates of religion are so insistent that "there can be no morality without religion. They seem to know their danger point. There's my main job.)" "Notes While Writing," 1946

'Religion is "canned philosophy": you don't have to know what's in it or how it's cooked, no effort is required of you, just swallow it—and if it poisons you, it was your own fault, the cooks will tell you, you didn't have enough "faith".' 1960


"I want to be known as the greatest champion of reason and the greatest enemy of religion." Ayn Rand - May 9, 1934

gregnyquist said...

Dragonfly: "in the Netherlands the general opinion of the US is in fact that of a frightening example of a state that is dominated by religion"

I must say that this seems to me rather delusional. The U.S., in terms of politics, has become more and more secular in the last half century. The power of the religious right is somewhat exaggerated. They are an important but minor player in the Republican party. All that they get out of their support is the promise to nominate conservative non-activist judges and Bush's compromise position on stem cell research, which has ruffled the fur of many secularists. I can understand concerns about stem cells (although I don't know enough about the issue to have a position). But I'm entirely for non-activist judges who don't legislate from the bench, as was pro-life Guiliani (my favorite of the Republican candidates). So where is this "religious dominance"? I don't see it. I'm not dominated in my life. If Roe vs. Wade was overturned tomorrow, abortion would only become illegal in a handful of states. The handful of women in Utah who want abortions will have to drive to Nevada. I just can't see that as a big deal. I find that secularists who find such minor nuissances as constituting frightening dominance of religion have lost their sense of perspective. Go to Iran if you want to see frightening dominance of religion. And then tell me, when push comes to shove, who is going to fight the really scary relgious fanatics? The secularists, European or American, most of whom are left-liberal and who are scared to fight? Or American Christians?

gregnyquist said...

"Was the goal of Rand's life to destroy the Godly church?"

I wouldn't put it that way, because it suggests that it was her only goal. What Rand wanted to "destroy" was the influence of religion. And she was "millitant" about this goal if one means that she was uncompromising about it, even to the point of lapsing into irrationality. Because keep in mind: she thought she could destroy (or severely limit) the influence of religion through "reason,"—in other words, by arguing people into being rational, which itself is a quixotic scheme that is as efficacious as tilting at windmills. Most people are not capable of the rationality required to stop believing in extra-empirical entitites. If you manage to convince them to stop believing in th worst absurdities of, say, Christianity, most of them will only end up believing in something worse. What is preferable? More conservative Christians? Or more global warming, scare-mongering environmentalists?

Cavewight said...

gregnyquist wrote:
'I wouldn't put it that way, because it suggests that it was her only goal. What Rand wanted to "destroy" was the influence of religion. And she was "millitant" about this goal if one means that she was uncompromising about it, even to the point of lapsing into irrationality.'

It should go without saying, as this is no more than Objectivism 101, that Rand was going after the root of all evils, religious or collectivist, which she called, in at least two of my sources, the "mystic-altruist-collectivist axis."

Perhaps some lurkers on this forum may have misconstrued my point as to say that Rand was only out to get religion, but that is not how I intended to portray her goals.

Cavewight said...

I don't know what it means for a country like the US to be dominated by religion, when in fact there are so many here. And no sharp divisions as with Ireland.

Here are the demographics on religion in the US:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Demographics_of_the_United_States
#Religious_affiliation

This chart shows that in 10 years the number of people reporting as non-religious almost doubled.

And my question for Dragonfly is: what religion did Bill Clinton pretend to have?

What religion comes out of Hollywood? Which of the major blockbusters are religious in the last 10 years?

What religion comes from the mainstream press?

What religion is there on primetime television in the US?

Where is this domination by religion in the US alleged by some unspecified Dutch people?

It is always amusing for me to see foreigners trying to generalize to a country as vast and diverse as the US. This country of mine is completely beyond their means of comprehension. In order to understand it, you have to live in it.

Cavewight said...

Dragonfly wrote:
"But stand the entire body of her explicit anti-religion writing next to her monumental novels and the exposition of her philosophy… you will get perspective Anti-religion, 4%, Pro-Objectivism 96%. [That ratio is tongue-in-cheek; it is all Objectivism]"

Certainly, it is all Objectivism - parts of which can easily be characterized with the label 'militant atheism.'

It was never my contention that Rand was nothing more than a militant atheist. It is Greg Nyquist who wrote that "Objectivism is a species of militant atheism." Now that is to characterize an entire philosophy in terms of a single label. But it is obviously not primarily a species of militant atheism, which is the point that Objectivists continue to harp about. Then there is the idea that Objectivism can be a species of another idea, and this must be very annoying to them.

Ellen Stuttle said...

This is a near duplicate of a post on the "Objectivism & Religion, Part 3" thread; the only changes are adjustments in cross-references:

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2008/04/objectivism-religion-part-3.html?showComment=1208641500000#c3472458604189080328


I hadn't ever read Leonard Peikoff's "Religion Versus America" Ford Hall Forum talk prior to last night. It was published in The Objectivist Forum, to which I was subscribed, but I often didn't read that publication.

The talk was delivered 22 years ago tomorrow (on April 20, 1986). It comes from a time when IMO Leonard Peikoff was still worth hearing; it was prior even to the break with David Kelley. Ironically, the Ford Hall Forum at which the talk was delivered must have been (from the year) the same Ford Hall Forum appearance when Peikoff was asked in the Q&A about Barbara Branden's The Passion of Ayn Rand -- which had either just been published or was pending publication -- and he gave a reply which has lived in infamy.

The speech itself, though, I think is very good, quite well organized and presented. Further, I agree with the main thesis: that Christian morality is not the source, or the proper, or at all the necessary foundation for the American idea of individual rights (despite the unfortunate "endowed by their Creator" in the Declaration of Independence), that Christian morality, taken seriously, is indeed "versus" America.

Picking up on something Neil Parille posted [above] -- sorry, I don't know how to do a tiny url, or how to embed a link on this blog:

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2008/04/objectivism-religion-part-1.html?showComment=1208102100000#c5840614487293051536

Neil wrote:

"Metaphysically, as a result, Greece was a secular culture. Men generally dismissed or downplayed the supernatural; their energies were devoted to the joys and challenges of life."

Where does Peikoff come up with most of his ruminations on intellectual history? Maybe he should read some books by Robert Parker or Nilsson on Greek religion. Religion pervaded almost every aspect of ancient Greek life.

This reminds me of Peikoff's DIM lectures. If Peikoff likes someone (such as Descartes), he becomes a secular thinker.


Neil, I think your point and query, just taking that statement from Peikoff out of the context of the total thesis of his talk, is pertinent: Yes, religion, the Greek variant thereof, "pervaded almost every aspect of ancient Greek life," and, yes, Peikoff did even then, with his talking in terms of what he saw as the "essentials," leave out a whole lot of detail which would complexify contrasts. (He's apparently gotten worse and worse about this over the years; I haven't listened to any of the DIM lectures, but judging from excerpts and reports I've read, they sound like simplistic caricatures.)

Still, I think the broad outline of the contrast he's making in the talk between the Greek ethos and the Greek pantheon, on the one hand, and that of the Christian ethos and God of at least Augustinian Christianity on the other is a valid contrast. (Another way in which he leaves out complexifying detail is to speak as if the "middle ages" were a uniform period of bleak other-worldliness; nonetheless, at least the Augustinian brand of Christianity presents a strong contrast with Greek attitudes.) The Greek gods were human archetypes writ large and amongst them had all the foibles and failings of humans. So many of the Greek myths are tales involving sexual jealousies and vengeances. The Greek gods are like humans only more so. The Greeks weren't focused on a supernatural realm by comparison to which the world in which we live was a realm of evil to be scourged and despised. In that respect I think his description of Greece as "a secular culture" "metaphysically" is talking about a real attitudinal characteristic.


Correcting a misstatement I made in a post [above].

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2008/04/objectivism-religion-part-1.html?showComment=1207845060000#c4750458720291670870

I wrote, to Greg:

The quote you cite comes from Leonard Peikoff, in current times, a quarter century after her death. Taking his words today as having her imprimatur is a mistake.

I was mistaken in my assumption as to the time frame from which the Peikoff quote comes. It was from only about 4 years after her death. (She died March 6, 1982; the talk was delivered April 20, 1986.) I don't see anything in the talk to which I think she might have objected.

Nonetheless, the opening sentence, which Greg quoted as if it were expressive of Rand (“A specter is haunting America—the specter of religion"), isn't Randian style. Instead, as Peikoff explicitly goes on to say in the next sentence, it's "borrowing Karl Marx's literary style."

Ellen

john said...

Resonding to several recent posts....

misattribution. I am the writer of that '4%/96%' quote.

avoidance. all these responses have nothing to do with my points.

incomphrehensible. what does this mean? "Then there is the idea that Objectivism can be a species of another idea"

misinformed: Rand had no desire whatsover to reason people out of religion. her goal was to inspire those already inclinded towards rationality with a vision of what could be. let the irrationals die out. a zero cannot hold a mortgage on a well-armed Objectivist.

stupendous non-sequitur: its does not follow that Ayn Rand does harm by causing some people to "...stop believing in th [sic] worst absurdities of, say, Christianity..." because "...most of them will only end up believing in something worse."

praising oneself with faint praise: if the best case for Christianity is that is a lesser form of irrationality than others [and Rand therefore should have tempered laided off it] then it is near death anyway. let it go

John Donohue

Neil Parille said...

Hi Ellen,

Thanks for your comment.

I'd be willing to cut Peikoff some slack if he didn't do this so often. For example, in The Ominous Parallels, he attacks Kant's ethics as anti-individualist, statist, etc. but never gets around to telling his reader what the second version of the imperative is ("Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.") Was this an innocent mistake on Peikoff's part?

Or take Peikoff's claim that "Augustine fought against secular philosophy, science, art; he regarded all of it as an abomination to be swept aside; he cursed science in particular as 'the lust of the eyes.'" Isn't this an odd way to describe someone who believed that the opening chapters of Genesis had to be interpreted in light of science?

As another point, his discussion of Tertullian (an old Objectivist chestnut) is probably unfair as well --

http://tinyurl.com/54qn42

I'm all in favor of "thinking in essentials," but at some point it becomes an excuse for overlooking details that don't fit your theory.

Dragonfly said...

cavewight: "what religion did Bill Clinton pretend to have?"
Christian of course, and more specific Baptist. Just a quote: "I don't think I could do my job as President," Clinton said, "much less continue to try to grow as a person in the absence of my faith in God and my attempt to learn more about what it should be and grow. It provides a solace and support in the face of all these problems that I am not smart enough to solve."
(ABC Interview by Peggy Wehmeyer, "American Agenda", March 22, 1994.)

Or this one (http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070109/24871.htm): "Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are part of an initiative to create a new Baptist voice and improve the negative image of Baptists in North America."


cavewight: "This chart shows that in 10 years the number of people reporting as non-religious almost doubled."

That sounds impressive, until you read the numbers: from 8.4% to 15%. That means that a whopping 85% of the Americans are still religious. I rest my case.

Ellen Stuttle said...

Neil,

I quite grant that:

at some point ["thinking in essentials"] becomes an excuse for overlooking details that don't fit your theory.

and that Leonard Peikoff passed that point many times, even back in 1986.

Btw, I forgot to mention his reference to The Ominous Parallels in the talk. I do not give that book high marks. ;-) (Don't really want to go into the details, but...)

Nonetheless, I do grant him slack on that particular talk -- by which I was much more favorably impressed than I'd have anticipated being.

Re Augustine, no, I don't think Peikoff's description is an odd way to describe him. Augustine went through several phases and his views weren't models of consistency. But I sure wouldn't describe the mature Augustine as any friend of science.

I think this is a fair synopsis of his approach:

With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.

– The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 2:9, Chapt. 19 [AD 408]


(I picked up the quote from the Wikepedia article on Augustine of Hippo.)

Ellen

Red Grant said...

____________________________

And then tell me, when push comes to shove, who is going to fight the really scary religious fanatics? ....or American Christians? - Greg
____________________________




Do Christians believe in war for the sake worldly realm?

Did Jesus preach war for the sake of worldly realm?

Hypothetically, if these "radical Muslims" won, and killed all the Christians, then


wouldn't all the Christians gain eternal life in the kingdom of Jesus?

and wouldn't that what the Christians want?


If so, then

wouldn't so-called those "Christians" who would fight "radical Muslims" for the sake of the worldly realm amount to nothing more than fraudulent imposters posing or deluding themselves to be Christians?

If so, then

perhaps shouldn't you call those "Christians" willing to fight "radical Muslims" as frauds posing themselves as Christians?

I'm a bit perplexed that you insist on attacking certain tenets of Objectivism as frauds(and I agree with mostly), but refuse to call these false Christians as frauds.

john said...

>>That means that a whopping 85% of the Americans are still religious. I rest my case. <<

First of all, when you poll Americans, about 40% of them claim to go to church regularly. If that were accurate, your fabled 85% would consist of 45% unchurched. But the 45% is a joke. (The only thing you can tell about church attendance from a poll of people who say they attend is that 40% either attend or pretend they attend.) The reality, driven by actually counting people/cars/attendance sheets, is between 19% and 28%.

Church-attendees are a modest minority in this country.

In the city I live in contains about 150,000 people. Assuming, say, three to a car and 85% attendance, that's 42,500 cars thronging the streets of this small city on Sunday morning. The reality is quite different. We often go out to breakfast or to the park on Sunday mornings. The town is very quiet and not thronged with traffic in any way.

I can guarantee you that if I stood in front of every church and counted for the whole morning, then tallied up all the churches, you would NOT get 127,000. Even doing it this way, take 127,000 divided by 300 people in a typical service. That's 423 services to be held each Sunday.

Note: Some religions have a different Sabbath, such as Friday or Saturday. There can also be Sunday evening services for Christians. I feel confident this would not skew the results significantly.

So, lets say a church holds three services each Sunday. To service 127,000 people, you would need 141 churches conducting three services, each with an attendance of 300 people. There are not 141 packed churches in my city. Churches here advertise on cable to attract members.

My city is Pasadena, CA. Guess what? We are surrounded by the megalopolis of the LA Basin, population 25,000,000 people. Can you imagine what would happen if 85% of 25 million people attended church on every Sunday? Total insanity.

The island of Manhattan (not even the whole of NY City) contains 1,611,581 people living on 23 square miles. That's packed. I submit that you will not find 1.35 million people attending church on Sunday morning in Manhattan. It boggles the mind.

Ok, so this claim of 85% religious? If only about 1/3 of those people attend church, what is the nature of the "religion" of the others who don't? That’s what I would like to know.

Case reopened.

These links are not from militant atheist websites:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_rate.htm
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0SOR/is_2_60/ai_55208518/pg_1

So, a “whopping 85% of Americans are still religious” only if you include under "religious" believing vaguely about the existence of "a higher power," or "something greater than myself." My gut number, just from the people I know, is that a small minority, perhaps 10% of people, constantly hold God in their thoughts as they move through their day, act as if surrendered to God and pray often every day. Yes, that’s right; I am claiming that even if 25% of Americans attend worship services every week, a lot of them are not religious.

John Donohue

Red Grant said...

____________________________

Most people are not capable of the rationality required to stop believing in extra-empirical entities. - Greg
____________________________




Are you one of those capable of?



____________________________

If you manage to convince them to stop believing in the worst absurdities of, say, Christianity, most of them will end up believing in something worse. - Greg
____________________________




Can you provide the standard you use to decide what is "worse" in your above statement?




____________________________

What is preferable? More conservative Christians? or more global warming, scare- mongering environmentalist? - Greg
____________________________





Do conservative Christians believe in war for the sake of worldly realm?


Did Jesus preach war for religious or political reasons?

Cavewight said...

Dragonfly wrote: "That sounds impressive, until you read the numbers: from 8.4% to 15%. That means that a whopping 85% of the Americans are still religious. I rest my case."

You are conflating "being religious" with "self-described religious identification." Non-practicing Jews are rampant, they probably constitute the majority of Objectivists. Ayn Rand would have been one of those 85% "religious" people you mentioned.

There is nothing in popular culture to indicate that the US is a religious nation. Churches abound, but they don't rule, and the number of regular attendees is dropping.
This is because, even if the percentage of those saying they attend church regularly has stayed around 40% for four decades, the population has increased but the actual numbers of attendees (not the percentages) have not increased, and in fact has remained static. The difference between the two is accounted for by social pressures to answer yes when reality says no. In other words, a large number of people are lying to the pollsters about their church attendance.

As for Bill Clinton, the page you cited does indeed match your quote. Imagine that, one of the most divisive presidents in US history, who actually drove some democrats over to the republican side of the aisle early in his first term, is trying to paint a kinder face on the Baptist church. I'm not so sure about religion, but religious hypocrisy is alive and well in the US in the form of Bill Clinton, constantly biting his lower lip as he spews his lies to Baptist congregations all over.

dragonfly said...

John: "So, a “whopping 85% of Americans are still religious” only if you include under "religious" believing vaguely about the existence of "a higher power," or "something greater than myself."

From http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-126387814.html :

A new analysis of how strongly Americans believe in God finds no upward trends in atheism, agnosticism and doubt. However, surveys also show that various levels of belief and skepticism are masked by a common claim that 95 percent of U.S. adults believe in God.

The better figure would be 80 percent who believe in a traditional, personal God --a number combining 64 percent who have no doubts about God's existence and 16 percent who believe despite some doubts--according to a series of nationwide surveys that offered six possible responses.

About 8 percent of Americans said the best description for them was, "I don't believe in a personal god, but I do believe in a higher power of some kind."



Caveweight: "The difference between the two is accounted for by social pressures to answer yes when reality says no. In other words, a large number of people are lying to the pollsters about their church attendance."

The irony is that this proves my point: why are people lying about their church attendance? The fact that it is the socially desirable thing to pretend to be more religious that you are is revealing about the influence of religion on society.

Cavewight said...

"Caveweight: "The difference between the two is accounted for by social pressures to answer yes when reality says no. In other words, a large number of people are lying to the pollsters about their church attendance."

Dragonfly wrote: "The irony is that this proves my point: why are people lying about their church attendance?"

Because it is common for people to impute motives to pollsters, believing them, in this case, to be part of some religious organization quizzing people on their church attendance record.

john said...

Caveweight: "The difference between the two is accounted for by social pressures to answer yes when reality says no. In other words, a large number of people are lying to the pollsters about their church attendance."

Dragonfly: The irony is that this proves my point: why are people lying about their church attendance? The fact that it is the socially desirable thing to pretend to be more religious that you are is revealing about the influence of religion on society.

This may be a new form of fallacy. I am dumbfounded. I guess it is a non-sequitur, but really this deserves its own label.

We have someone attempting to prove "....that a whopping 85% of the Americans are still religious". It is clear only a small minority attend church. Yet 40% claim to attend. This is then declared to prove the claim of "still religious" because the liars, while not attending and lying, can be counted as part of the 85% religious simply because the pressure of social desirability somehow trumps their sins of lying and not attending.

I have to admire this in a perverse way. It is beyond reverse Catch-22. It is beyond Non Sequitur. I will call it the Gödel-Escher fallacy.

John Donohue

Neil Parille said...

A few years ago, researchers went to a rural county in Ohio and actually tried to count the number of people who went to church on Sunday. They found a percentage much lower than reported to pollsters.

A lot depends on how you define God and religion. Many believe in a touchy feely god who "affirms their okayness" to use a clever phrase I once heard.

Cavewright,

I left a question on your blog (March 18 post) concerning the identity of the names of the "professors" in the ITOE appendix.

john said...

Apparently, 25% of Americans declare themselves to be of the Catholic faith.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_the_United_States
Not speaking for other faiths, just for Catholics, did you know that failure to attend Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, that if one dies with that sin on one’s soul the fate is eternal damnation in the fires of hell and permanent separation from God with no redemption possible?

It is interesting to note that the number of Catholics is close to the number of church attendees each week. What does this mean? That all the Catholics are attending to avoid mortal sin and no other Christians attend at all? Doubtful. Evangelicals and other Protestant sects are very ardent in their attending. The only conclusion available is that a large – perhaps very large -- percentage of those declaring themselves Catholic are not in church on Sunday, and therefore are risking their immortal souls.

Dragonfly, would all those Catholics not attending still be considered among the “85% still religious” according to you?

John Donohue

Neil Parille said...

John,

You are correct that not attending Mass w/o a good reason is a mortal sin, but it doesn't follow from this that the Catholic church teaches that all people who skipped mass are going to hell.

john said...

Neil: "You are correct that not attending Mass w/o a good reason is a mortal sin, but it doesn't follow from this that the Catholic church teaches that all people who skipped mass are going to hell."

Well my claim is that CATHOLICS who skip mass with no good reason have committed mortal sin (which you say is correct) and if they die in mortal sin they are going to hell.

Has that actually changed? Are you saying that Catholics who die in mortal sin don't go to hell?


On the other hand if you think (by your phrase 'all people') I claimed that non catholics who didn't attend mass go to hell, you erred: I made no such claim. I expressly and specifically said "Not speaking for other faiths, just for Catholics"

John Donohue

Neil Parille said...

John,

It is my understanding that the catholic church teaches that people who die in a "state of mortal sin" go to Hell. I do not think that skipping mass means you are in a state of mortal sin. For example, a catholic may realize that what did was wrong and need confession, but doesn't have time to confess. So he wouldn't go to hell for this. Or, he may not accurately understand his obligations with regard to church attendance, thus not having the requisite intent.

In fact, catholic teaching does seem to be in something of a flux on this issue. John Paul II appointed a Swiss theologian (Hans Urs von Balthasar) a cardinal who taught that there might not be anyone in hell. John Paul himself on a couple of occasions hinted that he believed this teaching as well.

Cavewight said...

Neil,

I found your question and responded that I simply copied the list from another site. But I also wanted to make clear to those who have wondered about this that the "Prof." abbreviation found in the appendix discussion to ITOE does indeed stand for "professor." (I should razz FW, that fanatical old curmudgeon (aka "Prof. G"), for being labeled a professor when he was nothing more than a student at the time. A<>A?)

If people are actually going to read my little blog perhaps I'll have to post some more there.

john said...

If part of the argument by Cavewight that Americans are “85% still religious”, but in that group are Catholics who don’t attend Mass, the majority of Christians who don’t attend services, a sizeable unchurched portion who say they don’t believe in a personal God, just some vague higher power….then I guess the case IS closed. Closed by completely liquid silly putty definition.

John Donohue

Dragonfly said...

John: "Dragonfly, would all those Catholics not attending still be considered among the “85% still religious” according to you?"

Certainly. Who said that religious people should be consistent in their belief? A large part of the christians no longer believe that people can go to hell. Does that mean that they are no longer religious? I don't think so! In fact the Bible itself is full of contradictions, and christians have always been rather selective in their choice of Bible texts that should be followed or be taken literally.

In my view being religious doesn't imply that you follow exactly the teachings of one particular church (which may evolve themselves in the course of time), but the belief in a personal God. Custom, social desirability, family ties or inertia may be the cause that many christians still officially belong to some specific denomination while they no longer are active members of that denomination or follow its rules. But that doesn't make them irreligious. Some dictionary definitions of religion: "Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity." (The Online Dictionary), "relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity" (Merriam-Webster). So the 80 percent of the Americans who believe in a personal God are indeed religious by any common definition.

Cavewight said...

John wrote: 'If part of the argument by Cavewight that Americans are “85% still religious”...'

I never made that argument, that was part of your counterargument, to which I replied that you are conflating "being religious" with the census question regarding identifying with a religion. Being religious is not equivalent with identifying with a religion.

The comments about church attendance, by whomever made them, are irrelevant to my point, which was that the percentage of those who identify with no religion has almost doubled in ten years.

Ellen Stuttle said...

Regarding the "Prof." abbreviation used to identify speakers (except AR) in the Excerpts from the Epistemology Workshop --

I don't find how that subject came up here, whether in a post I didn't see on this thread or on another thread, but making an attempt to straighten the issue out...

Cavewright writes:

Neil,

I found your question and responded that I simply copied the list from another site. But I also wanted to make clear to those who have wondered about this that the "Prof." abbreviation found in the appendix discussion to ITOE does indeed stand for "professor." (I should razz FW, that fanatical old curmudgeon (aka "Prof. G"), for being labeled a professor when he was nothing more than a student at the time. A<>A?)


Cavewright, I surmise that you're the person who sent me an RoR PM telling me that the "Prof." stands for "Professor" and giving as evidence a couple cases where one of the workshop participants is directly referred to by the title "Professor."

The "Prof." abbreviation is a fudge. It of course looks as if it's an abbreviation for "Professor," but were the editor pressed on the question, he could reply that it stands for "professional," the term used by Leonard Peikoff in describing the partipants in his Foreward, viz.:

"The workshops were opportunities for a dozen professionals in philosophy, plus a few in physics and mathematics, to ask Miss Rand questions about her theory of concepts [...]." (my emphasis) pg. 125, Meridian paperback, Expanded Second Edition, 1990.

The persons in the quotes you gave in your PM to me were George Walsh (F) and Allan Gotthelf (B). George Walsh was unquestionably entitled to the title. Gotthelf might have been listed as "Assistant Professor" at Trenton State University, where he was teaching; on his c.v. he gives the following date breakdown:

1969-84 Assistant Professor, Trenton State College

1984-90 Associate Professor, Trenton State College

1990-2002 Professor, The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College)

However, he hadn't yet finished his Masters in philosophy at the time of the workshops. (He got a masters in mathematics in 1964, his masters in philosophy in 1972 and his doctorate in philosophy in 1975.) See his c.v.:

http://www.pitt.edu/~hpsdept/people/fac_pages/gotthelf.html

Ellen

Cavewight said...

Ellen,

You have guessed correctly, I am the person who messaged you on RoR.
Thanks for getting back to me on this.

The Peikoff quote concerning the professionals claims there were a dozen professionals in philosophy and a few in physics and mathematics, but only 13 "profs" (from A - M) were included in the appendix discussion. So either the numbers don't add up (a dozen philosophers plus a few in the "other" category adds up to more than 13), or some unknown number of "professionals" had their comments and questions omitted. Besides, not all of the "profs" could even be considered professionals of any sort, unless one was to include "professional student."

Would you happen to know if Binswanger air-brushed some of the questioners completely out of the final copy? (I'm not counting attendees such as Frank, I'm sure he attended all of the discussions as somebody had to be there to light Rand's cigarettes for her.)

I have researched but haven't found evidence that Walsh had made professor status at the time. Perhaps he was, but I haven't found any good bios on him.

Ellen Stuttle said...

Cavewright:

Would you happen to know if Binswanger air-brushed some of the questioners completely out of the final copy?

Little as it would grieve me to make nasty remarks about Harry Binswanger, I wouldn't call his leaving out some of the questioners "airbrushing" without knowing exactly what questions he left out and what the answers were.

He states in his Preface that the transcript is not verbatim, but is reorganized and shortened -- and that he did some line-editing.

A full transcript of the workshops would run to triple the length of this appendix," he says regarding the length.

Here's the list I have of participants. This is put together from 3 sources: my husband's (Larry Gould's) list compared in a phone conversation with George Walsh's list, and then added to by a friend of ours who saw the complete list and complete transcript at the archives.

Quoted participants:

A - Harry Binswanger

B - Allan Gotthelf

C - Nick Bykovitz

D - Ralph Nelson

E - Leonard Peikoff

F - George Walsh

G - Fred Weiss

H - Mike Berliner

I - Gary Lockman

J - John Allen

K - Al Jakira

L - Tony Plasil

M - Larry Gould

Also listed as auditors who aren't recorded
as having said anything in the edited volume:

Erich Vehyl

Robert Hartford

And as guests:

Allan Blumenthal

Joan Blumenthal

Erika Holzer

Henry Holzer

Frank O'Connor

===

Ellen

Ellen Stuttle said...

A PS re the Workshop side-subject.

Cavewright:

You have guessed correctly, I am the person who messaged you on RoR.
Thanks for getting back to me on this.


I tried twice to get back to you via RoR PM, but if either of the send attempts went through, they were probably blank messages -- appears that there's upgrading, or something, going on with the PM facility on RoR and that meanwhile it isn't working. ;-)

Ellen

Cavewight said...

Ellen,

Then, for what it's worth, Peikoff's numbers are off. There could not have been a dozen philosophy professors who attended if a few of the 13 were listable in the "other" category.

I went to RoR today and didn't find any messages for me.

Ellen Stuttle said...

Cavewight:

First, apologies. I only this evening caught up to my having been misreading (and miswriting) your screen name. Sorry 'bout that.

I don't think the "dozen" issue is worth much, if anything. A "dozen," give or take; I don't think Leonard was meaning "dozen" with mathematical precision.

I just posted the below comment pertaining to George Walsh on your blog. Apparently you doubt his bona fides.

<<<<

Cavewight:

Professor F, who was George Walsh, was no professor at the time of these discussions, circa 1970.

Possibly you're mixing up the George Walsh in question with some other George Walsh.

Here's a memorial piece about the George Walsh in question. He indeed was a professor, a delightful one the thought of whom still brings warm smiles and laughter. He is missed.


http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--398-In_Memoriam_George_Walsh.aspx

In Memoriam: George Walsh

by David Kelley

The staff and trustees of The Objectivist Center note with sadness the death of George Walsh, at his home in Salisbury, Maryland, on Thursday, November 8, 2001, after a long illness. He is survived by his wife, Cathy, and three children. George was a professor of philosophy, an intellectual leader of the Objectivist movement who served on our board of trustees from the beginning, and a dear friend whose loss is keenly felt by everyone whose life he touched.

Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to an Irish Catholic family, George studied philosophy at Williams College and Brown University, and went on to earn his Ph.D. from Princeton University. During his long and distinguished career, he taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (1948-68), Eisenhower College (1968-79), and Salisbury State University, where he remained professor emeritus of philosophy after his retirement in 1989.


>>>>

Ellen

Cavewight said...

Ellen,

Thanks to you, it looks as if I finally got some of my burning questions answered after all these years.

Of course I'm going to doubt Walsh's bona fides - but only in order to energize some knowledgable person into casting my doubts aside.

I only knew of Walsh through his online article on Rand and Kant, which is to say, I knew very little about him.

Brendan said...

Cavewight: “It would be rather difficult for Rand to build up her Objectivist religion with the Godly church sucking away potential members.”

I think there is compelling evidence that Rand wished to supplant traditional religion with Objectivism. The evidence I have in mind is of a literary kind. I’m not the first person to have noticed the similarities between Jesus and John Galt. For example:

- Jesus has a mission; Galt has a mission.
- Jesus is morally perfect; Galt is morally perfect.
- Jesus goes into the wilderness; Galt goes into the wilderness.
- Jesus invites like-minded people to follow him; Galt invites like-minded people to follow him.
- Jesus sends his disciples out into the world; John takes his disciples out from the world.
- Jesus performs miracles; Galt invents miracle machines.
- Jesus teaches his followers a universal prayer; Galt teaches his followers a universal prayer.
- Jesus is tempted by money, fame and power; Galt is tempted by money, fame and power.
- Jesus is betrayed; Galt is betrayed.
- Jesus is tortured for our sins; Galt is tortured for our sins.
- Jesus gains eternal life; Galt gains man’s life.
- Jesus’ achievement is symbolised by the sign of the cross; Galt’s achievement is symbolised by the dollar.

The most striking similarity between Objectivism and, specifically, Catholic Christianity is the link between right belief, right action, and personal salvation. Christians and Objectivists believe that non-believers can do good as ‘natural’ Christians and Objectivists, but require the belief system in order to become ‘perfected’/saved.

This is not to argue that Rand necessarily intended to create a new religion. She no doubt believed that her belief system was the antithesis of religious faith. Nevertheless, her attitude towards her beliefs, and her use of and subversion of religious symbolism has had the effect of ‘sacrilising’ Objectivist beliefs. Hence, the demand that non-believers treat Rand with the deference and respect, even reverence, due to a great moral visionary.

Brendan

Cavewight said...

Brendan,

You say you're not the first to note the similarity between Jesus and John Galt. Who else did you have in mind?

Brendan said...

Cavewight: “You say you're not the first to note the similarity between Jesus and John Galt. Who else did you have in mind?”

I was relying on memory when I wrote that, but a Google search jogged my synapses, and I remember reading this article a while back: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3724/is_/ai_n9100845

There’s also an interesting parallel between the story of Noah and Galt’s Gulch, which both serve to save the elect and their means of sustenance from the calamity brought about by the sinfulness of the world.

Staying with the Jesus similarities, Atlas Shrugged is presumably aimed at subverting traditional – especially Christian -- notions of morality based on self-sacrifice. But this is its downfall in literary terms. The Christian drama of fall and redemption can be seen as a tragic-comedy. Adam and Eve get expelled from paradise for their disobedience and pass the curse onto their children until Jesus, as both man and god, releases humankind from sin and death by sacrificing his life.

As a result, Christians get to experience the tragic aspect of human life -- their hero gets hammered with extreme prejudice – but also get to enjoy a happy ending by sharing in the eternal life brought about by their hero’s death.

However, in rejecting self-sacrifice, Rand fatally weakens the dramatic aspect of Atlas Shrugged. While Galt is ready to die for his beliefs, at the last moment he is rescued, and need not take his beliefs to their logical conclusion.

As a result, the dramatic tension flags and all the preceding high-minded passion about life and the universe dissolves into the bathos of a Hollywood shoot-out.

Brendan

Cavewight said...

Brendan:

So John Galt is the anti-Christ.

Brendan said...

Cavewight: “So John Galt is the anti-Christ.”

More like the ‘new’ Christ, I’d say. I can’t think of any character in AS that symbolises the anti-Christ. Kant probably symbolises Satan, while Reality seems to be the equivalent of God.

I’m speaking metaphorically of course, and from a secular perspective. I think that religion can tell us some deep truths about the human condition, but clothed in metaphorical language.

Cavewight said...

Brendan,

Here is why I say Galt is the anti-Christ, based on the article you paraphrased previously:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/
mi_qa3724/is_/ai_n9100845
http://snurl.com/25v06 [findarticles.com]

1. Jesus in the Gospels used divine power to heal the sick. Galt withholds scientific knowledge knowing that the sick will die.

2. Jesus sent his disciples into the world to heal and preach and save. Galt calls his disciples in from the world in order to bring it down in ruin.

Brendan said...

Cavewight: “Here is why I say Galt is the anti-Christ, based on the article you paraphrased previously…”

I see what you mean. I was looking at the subject from Rand’s point of view, or at least what I assume is her point of view, ie of Galt as the ideal man. But from the mainstream point of view, Galt would be an anti-Christ, someone who inverts traditional values.

When I first dipped into AS I was struck by this inversion, but familiarity with Rand can breed complacency and one tends to overlook this insidious aspect of her thought.

Galt’s love of life seems to be proportionate to his contempt for the ordinary run of humanity. Perhaps this contempt is a precondition for the ecstasy some people report on first reading Rand. The book seems to induce an intoxication about the heroic possibilities for human life, and a corresponding disdain for the commonplace.

It’s a frame of mind that disposes one towards totalist solutions: if one’s vision of a better world is thwarted, better to destroy it than compromise, hence Roark’s dynamite, Galt’s imploded world, and Rand’s destruction of her own real-life following.

Brendan

Jay said...

Perhaps this contempt is a precondition for the ecstasy some people report on first reading Rand.

I think there's definitely some truth to this. In high school, my best friend and I were disgusted with how all anyone cared about was "who's talkin' shit" in the hallways, showing no personal ambition or care about anything outside the artificial bubble of high school. Contempt for mediocrity was (and still is) a big factor during that time.

Coincidentally or not, this is when we first got into Rand.

Brendan said...

Jay: “In high school, my best friend and I were disgusted with how all anyone cared about was "who's talkin' shit" in the hallways…”

The Holden Caulfied experience. I can identify with that. But I never went the Rand way. I’m inclined to think that one’s response to Rand is very much a matter of, for want of a better word, temperament. Aesthetics probably also plays a part.

I think Rand tends to aestheticise and intellectualise her disgust for human nature. Perhaps we all do to some degree, but Rand more than most.

JayCross said...

Definitely a Holden Caulfield experience. In fact, of all the books my senior English teacher assigned that is the only one I read, and I finished it the first day it was assigned.

(Of course, Rand would probably dismiss Catcher in the Rye because Holden had a malevolent sense of life or something.)