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Objectivists' War on Christianity

Unlike some who label themselves "Objectivists," in the belief they understand that philosophy and are today's representatives of it, you will probably never see a talk or sermon given by a Christian called, "Christianity vs. Objectivism," but that is the title of a talk to be given by one of these self-styled Objectivists.

It is unfortunate that these days almost no one, and no organization, that has assumed the name Objectivist or Objectivism for themselves, either understands or properly represents that philosophy, which was named "Objectivism" by its author, Ayn Rand, whom they also largely misunderstand and misrepresent.

In a recent article, Ayn Rand and Christianity, I expressed my pleasant surprise with a Christian teacher's excellent representation of Rand's philosophy of ethics, which he understood and delineated better then many so-called Objectivists. Even from his very uncompromising Christian position, he largely agreed with Rand's ethics. I would summarize that Christian's view of ethics as the view that Rand's ethics was complete and correct with regard to all earthly life and human relationships, but for a Christian there was more than the mere physical world which had also to be accounted for, which, of course, his religion, for him, does.

Most Christians are not in the business of "fighting" Objectivism, as though it were some kind of enemy, but those who call themselves "Objectivists" today, are definitely fighting Christianity, and they do consider it an enemy. That alone shows how completely they misunderstand Rand and her philosophy. She never did "fight against religion."

Unfortunately, most people believe that these self-style Objectivists today are what Rand and Objectivism are truly about. Even the Christian who wrote that good article was taken in, and wrote:

"Ayn Rand was an atheist and outspokenly anti-Christian."

To that I responded:

"Ayn Rand was no more anti-Christian or anti-religion than protestants are anti-Catholic or Catholics are anti-protestant. Just as they disagree with each other, she disagreed with them both. She wrote a little in opposition to those specific teachings of religion she found rationally untenable, but as far as I know, she never wrote a work or made a speech strictly against religion. It just was not important enough to her to oppose everything she did not agree with, of which religion was only one.

"Instead of listening to popular opinion, or the spoutings of those who call themselves "Objectivists" today, many of whom, unlike Rand, really are disgusting Christian haters, listen to Rand herself.

"'I am not suggesting that you should take a stand against religion. I am saying that Capitalism and religion are two separate issues, which should not be united into one "package deal" or one common cause. This does not mean the religious persons cannot crusade for Capitalism; but it does mean the nonreligious persons, like myself, cannot crusade for religion.' [The Letters of Ayn Rand, 'The Later Years (1960-1981), to Senator Goldwater, June 4, 1960.']"

"'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.' [The Letters of Ayn Rand, 'The Later Years (1960-1981), to Bruce Alger, US congressman from Texas, February 4, 1963.']"

Living On Earth

According to the advertising, the Objectivist's talk, "argues that only Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, provides a code of morality suitable for living successfully and happily on earth. Objectivism holds that reality is real, that reason is man's only means of knowing it and that one should act in one's own rational self-interest, with rationality being the highest virtue. Life is the objective standard of morality. In contrast, Christianity asserts that reality is governed by supernatural forces, that knowledge is based on faith and that the highest moral virtue is self-sacrifice. It will be shown that Christianity cannot be practiced consistently, destroys the integrity of man's mind, and is incompatible with living successfully and happily in the real world."

If it is important to argue against the teachings of Christianity, it would be much more effective if the arguer knew something about Christianity, and did not misrepresent it. If he intends to present something "better" than that he is arguing against, it might help if he understood that as well. In one short paragraph, all these are wrong:

  • [That in Objectivism, ethically] rationality [is] the highest virtue.
  • [That in Objectivism] life is the objective standard of morality.
  • [That in Christianity] knowledge is based on faith.
  • [That in Christianity] the highest moral virtue is self-sacrifice.

I know this is only a summary of what the talk is to be about, and perhaps these gross falsehoods, we hope are only mistakes, will be corrected in the course of the actual talk.

I will correct each of these "mistakes", but first I want to address something these ersatz Objectivist absurdly repeat and emphasize which is obviously and patently untrue: that, "only Objectivism, ... provides a code of morality suitable for living successfully and happily on earth" and that, "Christianity ... is incompatible with living successfully and happily in the real world."

Show Me the Success

I've known a great many serious consistent Christians in my 70 years, and most were among the happiest and most successful people I've known. Many were not. They are just people, but the happiest and most successful were also the most sincere and consistent in their beliefs and their lives.

I haven't known a great many people who call themselves Objectivists, mostly because there are so few of them, but of the few I have met, not many of them were very successful at anything, and most have given me the impression they spend a good deal of their lives sucking on persimmons—and they are permanently miffed with the world for not seeing they have the answer to everything. It may not have been their version of Objectivism (it is different from Rand's) that is the reason for that impression, but the fact that most of them are academics, divorced from the real world and its requirements for true success and happiness.

Most of them are like the one giving the Christian hate speech (which is what it really is). He is "Dean's Professor (Emeritus) of Leadership and Motivation at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his BA from Harvard in 1960 and his Ph.D. in Industrial Psychology from Cornell University in 1964. He has published over 285 chapters, notes and articles in professional journals, on such subjects as work motivation, job satisfaction, incentives, and the philosophy of science."

"Industrial Psychology?" That explains a lot! Who would even admit something like that, much less make a point of it? I'm always reminded by these kinds of "academic credentials" of Shaw's brilliant observation, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

These academics have never produced a thing of value in their lives. Which one of them has ever started or run a successful business; which one has discovered a new principle in medicine, science, or even philosophy; which one has ever created a new product or new service of real value; have any of them ever actually held a job that produced a real product or performed a real service. Besides books, what have they ever produced? Besides talking, what have they ever done. I'll tell you—Nothing! (There may be exceptions, but they will be just that, exceptions.)

There are Christians every day who put these fakers to shame. In another article I briefly outlined the lives of three of America's most successful business men in the history of the retail industry, (John Wanamaker, James Cash Penney, and Sam Walton), all multi-millionaires, truly successful, and apparently among the happiest of people.

Academic Unreality

What about that so-called, "code of morality suitable for living successfully and happily," which only Objectivism can supposedly provide.

In the community (actually a very large city) where I grew up, there was virtually no theft, no rapes, no murders, and almost no crime. It was a cosmopolitan city, with many first generation immigrants, but people worked hard and most were prosperous, successful, and happy.

The population of that city was mostly Christian and Jewish. The values came from their religions and their traditions. They believed in studying hard to learn, in working hard to support themselves and their families, they held the virtues of honesty, integrity, and individual responsibility to be necessary to a happy successful human life.

The Objectivists would replace those virtues with what they call "rational self-interest." Properly understood, that principle would lead to all the virtues held by all decent civilized men, such as those that populated the city I grew up in. Unfortunately, today's "Objectivists" have reduced "rational self-interest" to a kind of subjective hedonism.

What determines that which is in an individual's "rational self-interest?" According to Rand it is two things, the nature of the world we live in, and our own nature. The rest of her philosophy was a delineation of those natures and their relationship. This is where the problem is. Objectivism is a philosophy, and philosophy is a hard subject.

And here is the problem. Even if Rand's ethical principles will produce in those who understand and apply them, the very virtues required to a successful human life, most people find those principles difficult to understand, and their application to real life even more difficult.

Most people do not read Rand. They are simply not interested in anything that philosophical. Rand's most complete philosophical work of fiction is Atlas Shrugged, and the most complete explicitly philosophical part of that novel is "Galt's Speech." Most people who read Atlas skip "Galt's Speech," because, to them, it is boring and tedious. That speech only deals with part of Objectivism, primarily it's ethics and social relationships (political theory), and most people cannot even wade through that.

In Ayn Rand's terribly neglected book, For the New Intellectual, she explained the role of intellectuals as the bridge between those who made progress in the fields of philosophy and science and technology, as the observers of the world whose job it was to explain to society the significance, of these things and how they should be understood and used in moral and practical terms. The problem is, there are no such intellectuals, and those who claim to be the intellectuals, do not explain anything, but are part of a leftist collectivist movement bent on destroying all values and principles.

Without that intellectual resource, how do these self-styled Objectivists expect the average decent American to understand and apply their vaunted philosophy. In reality they do not know how to understand it or apply it themselves.

Man's Whole Nature

In her attempt to explain man's neglect of their intellect (or human consciousness), Ayn Rand wrote:

"Man's consciousness is his least known and most abused vital organ. Most people believe that consciousness as such is some sort of indeterminate faculty which has no nature, no specific identity and, therefore, no requirements, no needs, no rules for being properly or improperly used. ...

"The loss of control over one's consciousness is the most terrifying of human experiences: a consciousness that doubts its own efficacy is in a monstrously intolerable state. Yet men abuse, subvert and starve their consciousness in a manner they would not dream of applying to their hair, toenails or stomachs. They know that these things have a specific identity and specific requirements, and, if one wishes to preserve them, one must comb one's hair, trim one's toenails and refrain from swallowing rat poison. But one's mind? Aw, it needs nothing and can swallow anything. Or so most people believe. And they go on believing it while they toss in agony on a psychologist's couch, screaming that their mind keeps them in a state of chronic terror for no reason whatever." [Ayn Rand, "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation," The Objectivist, April 1966.]

Rand, here, is emphasizing the fact that the human mind has a specific nature that determines it's proper use and function. As illustration she points to the fact the human body also has a specific nature that determines how it must be used. It is a human being's entire nature that must be taken into account when determining what is appropriate to an individual's "self-interest."

But this is one of the aspects of Rand's philosophy these Christian-hating so-called Objectivists do not understand. It is not a major point, but illustrative, that these so called Objectivists either accept the view that homosexuality is perfectly normal, or admit, they can't figure it out. In their minds, apparently, what a person chooses to do with their body has nothing to do with its nature, and must be decided on the basis of some "feeling" or "desire" or "orientation" (whatever that is).

I wonder if they have the same problem figuring out if pica, or self-harm, or wannabeeism (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) are normal or not. These are the experts who want to replace Christianity with their version of Objectivism, but all they would produce, if they could do it, is people without any values and a society of hedonists and nihilists. [If you want to know why this is true, please see my article, "Three Books: An Atheist's Defence of Christianity."]

Four Big Mistakes

These phony Objectivists are like evangelists attempting to convert the world. Perhaps, they need a song:

We're going to teach the world to sing,
And think Objectively;
We're here to save the the world and bring,
It Rands' philosophy.

Better, perhaps, that they first learn that philosophy they think they are promoting, and something about that which they criticize.

About Objectivism they are wrong if they believe: (1. and 2.)

1. [That in Objectivism, ethically] rationality [is] the highest virtue.

Rationality only means the ability to reason, and even if what one means by rationality is to use the ability correctly, it is no guarantee the results with be truth or virtue. The highest virtue in Objectivism is not some vague term like "rationality," it is precise and the nature of it specific—it is individual independence. "Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; .... There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence." [For the New Intellectual,?The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

In 1941 she wrote a 1,500-word version of an earlier unpublished work ("The Individualist Manifesto") entitled "The Individualist Credo," which was published in the January, 1944 issue of Reader's Digest as "The Only Path to Tomorrow," in which she wrote:

"From the beginning of history, two antagonists have stood face to face, two opposite types of men: the Active and the Passive. The Active Man is the producer, the creator, the originator, the individualist. His basic need is independence—in order to think and work. He neither needs nor seeks power over other men—nor can he be made to work under any form of compulsion. Every type of good work—from laying bricks to writing a symphony—is done by the Active Man. Degrees of human ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same; the degree of a man's independence and initiative determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man.

"While men are still pondering upon the causes of the rise and fall of civilizations, every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action." [Emphasis mine.]

[There as an oddity about many of those who call themselves Objectivists today, a kind of collectivism that will only admit to the "inner circle" those who have certain credentials, usually academic, and then only if they embrace the accepted brand of Objectivism, support their programs, and praise everything they do—they are anything but individualists, and despise those who truly are.

Another oddity, to me, is their almost hysterical hatred of Christians. I'm sure they would stamp out Christianity with the same ruthlessness the Nazis attempted to stamp out Judaism if they could get away with it and not have their "racism" exposed. The only explanation is that, for these pseudo-Objectivist, Objectivism is a kind of religion, a religion which they think, being true worshipers, ought to make them prosperous and successful—but it hasn't. I think they hate Christians, not for any of the "evils" they accuse it of, but because many Christians are extremely successful. It is both a kind of envy and resentment for not being recognized as the benefactors and saviors of the world they are certain they are meant to be.]

2. [That in Objectivism] life is the objective standard of morality.

It always surprises me how many people, even those who are serious student's of Rand repeat this nonsense—Rand would never have made the perpetuation of protoplasm a standard of anything.

The phrase, "objective standard of morality," is probably itself a mistake, but even if there were such a thing, it would not be some concrete, like "life," but a principle, like "truth."

What Rand specifically wrote is this:

"The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man's life, or; that which is required for man's survival qua man." [The Virtue of Selfishness, "The Objectivist Ethics."]

The "standard" is of "value," not "morality." The distinction is important. "Morality" is only, "observed ethics," but it is ethics which defines the principles by which a moral life is guided and realized. (Rand sometimes mixes these terms, however.)

A value presupposes a purpose, (an objective or goal), relative to which things or actions are evaluated as good (benefiting the purpose), bad (harming the purpose), or neutral (unrelated to the purpose).

Notice, it is not just life which Rand designates as the standard of ethical values (the purpose or end against which actions are evaluated), but a, "man's survival, qua man [as a man]."

I'm going to hold my nose and quote Rand's (sigh) designated intellectual heir, Leonard Peikoff:

"The ethics of rational self-interest upholds the exercise of one's mind in the service of one's life, and all of the specific value-choices and character attributes which such exercise entails. It upholds the virtues of rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride. It does not advocate 'survival at any price.'"

I quote this because it was approved by Rand, and is exactly right. It is man's total nature, and the requirements of it, and whatever is necessary to fulfill those requirements to live a fully human, successful and happy life that are the basis of the values that comprise a correct ethical system.

These "critical" Objectivists are also wrong about Christianity if they believe: (3. and 4.)

3. [That in Christianity] knowledge is based on faith.

Some things that Christians believe are based on what they call faith, but knowledge, to a Christian, is exactly what it is to anyone else. Most people do not have a thorough going epistemology (philosophy of the nature of knowledge), but most reasonable people know perfectly well their knowledge comes from study and reason and discovery. The founders of the United States were mostly brilliant students of science, history, philosophy, and law. They were very knowledgeable in all those fields, and they were Christians to a man.

Statements about a differing view such as, "in that view, knowledge is based on faith," is simply slander—unworthy of any honest man, disgusting from someone claiming to be an "Objectivist."

4. [That in Christianity] the highest moral virtue is self-sacrifice.

The highest moral virtue in Christianity is "Godliness." It is not a virtue to me, and not one I'll explain for those who do not already know what Christians mean by that. While it means a great deal more to them, it includes the following as Christian virtues: honesty, fidelity, patience, strength of character, courage, eagerness to learn, faithfulness in labor, justice, reasonableness, and rejoicing in the truly good things of life. Godliness is hardly self-sacrifice; it is in fact the way to the best in both this life, and, in their view, the next. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." [1 Tim. 4:8]

I've said all that needs to be said about some Objectivists' absurd assertion that Christianity is all about altruistic self-sacrifice in Ayn Rand and Christianity. Altruism is not a Christian idea at all. The world "altruism" was coined by a philosopher, Auguste Comte, who was another anti-Christian atheist just like these absurd pseudo-Objectivists.

[Note: If you are student of Ayn Rand, and have largely adopted that philosophy into your own thinking, because you understand it and think it is correct and therefore regard yourself as an Objectivist, this article is not about you. It is about those who claim to be Objectivists and the authorities on that philosophy but who, in fact, have their own agenda that has nothing to do with Ayn Rand's Objectivism.]

—Reginald Firehammer (02/07/10)