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A Reason for Faith: 6 Fatal Misconceptions

As a dialogue begins between advocates of Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy and professing Christians, it's vitally important to clarify terms.

Walter Hudson


February 21, 2013 - 8:40 am
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Previous articles in this series: 

  1. 5 Common Accusations Leveled at Christianity
  2. A Reason for Faith: Christianity on Trial

The title of the talk, “Capitalism: The Only Moral Social System,” was irresistible to a newborn activist bred from the Tea Party. As a lifelong conservative, I had always felt as though capitalism was morally superior to any alternative, but had not encountered a claim as bold as this. The speaker was Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard. His thesis was not that capitalism was the best social system, or the most efficient, or the most tolerable among acceptable choices. His claim was that capitalism is the one true good, the only way to go, and that any other system proves profoundly bad.

Biddle’s argument was compelling, built upon observation of reality and application of reason. He took us through the mind’s eye to a far-flung island where we were marooned alone without a single piece of technology. He asked us how such a castaway would survive. What would have to be done? Through what means would it be done? What could prevent it?

In order to survive and thrive, human beings must act rationally to obtain and keep values. A castaway requires food, shelter, sanitation, recreation, and a means to escape or attract rescue. To obtain these things, the castaway cannot rely upon instinct like an animal. Rather, he must apply his mind to the task at hand. He must discern what can be safely eaten, how to fashion tools, how to construct shelter, how to trap and kill animals, how to effectively use the raw materials around him to affect his survival. Ultimately, the only thing which could prevent the castaway from doing these things, aside from his willingness and ability, is brute force from another human being.

Therein lies the objectivist ethic. What human beings need in order to survive and thrive is not provision, but the liberty to act upon their own judgment. Put another way, liberty is life. To deprive a man of his liberty is to deprive him of his life, to drain or contain him. Therefore, the recognition and protection of individual rights are essential.

Hearing this for the first time, I felt as though I had found the Holy Grail of conservative apology. While natural law evoked a Creator which secular leftists could simply deny, this objectivist argument stood firmly upon reason and the uncontestable facts of reality. How is it that this was not being echoed across conservative media, I asked myself. Then I got my answer.

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All Comments   (40)
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I feel compelled to state:
1) Defining acting in love as self-interest is debatable at best. What about Duty? Say a soldier hates the people he's with but throws himself on the grenade out of a sense of duty. Or honor. Or self-image. Etc. Do ALL of those motivations comprise "self-interest"?
2) You make a distinction of "rational" self-interest. Who decides what is "rational"? If a grenade is thrown into a squad of soldiers, and one faints, one runs, one ducks behind another as a shield, one falls to the ground, one freezes, and one throws himself on the grenade, they all acted in "rational self-interest". A rationalization that explains all behaviors explains none, and is essentially worthless. Ayn Rand's elevation of "rational self-interest" only makes sense if you more narrowly define it to materialistic "objective" pursuits, and if you define it as she did, it is in conflict with Christian philosophy.
3) Christianity is supposed to be altruistic, and another definition for altruistic is "from love". So if altruistic = out of love, and selfishness = out of love, then altruistic = selfishness. This seems illogical to me.
3a) Support for #3: The Good Samaritan. The (altruistic) Good Samaritan had no self-interest in caring for the injured Jew. Jesus held him up as the ultimate example of "love thy neighbor as thyself". Love = altruism = Christian philosophy = fulfillment of the Law and scripture <> self-interest.

Just some random thoughts...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"evidence of divine revelation."
That's when you lost me. That's an oxymoron. By definition faith is belief apart or against evidence. If we had evidence of the divine, it wouldn't be claimed as supernatural.

The second part is : Christianity is altruistic. For example there's the sermon of the mount, there's "love your enemy" (love is selfish. Loving those who don't deserve it is altruistic), Jesus sacrificing himself (you said it was for his self-interest but if Jesus was truly selfish and perfect, he would refuse to sacrifice himself, his virtues, his life for the flawed, the sinful, the wicked).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would suggest fulfillment of prophecy as evidence of divine revelation (c.f. prophecies of Daniel). Creation itself might be considered evidence of the divine (c.f. Romans 1:20).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
no one I know has been blessed as I have in USA with 13 heavens coming down to the earth and it makes me feel sorry for the inferior millions person with his half a heaven and his worries and a maybe worse for the billionaire who may feel haunted by the poor beneath him or that feeling of being hunted by the angel of death and then the day comes
Luke 16
"Luke 16:19-31

[19] "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. [20] At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores [21] and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

[22] "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. [23] In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side"

I do worry about the God's word the Bible about tribulation time how "heaven is rolled up like scroll "and that is why I translate the 13 heavens in the mountains where it rains alot and protected if the great city get nuked .
But the best of plans fail if God does not approve
Who know how bad tribulation can get or when that day come?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The children of the common ancestor of monkeys etc. diverged. Some females experimented in controlling sex. One group made no changes and became Chimpanzees. One group changed sex into something done with anyone for the comfort of everyone and became Bonobos. One group changed sex into secret ovulation plus ability to do sex at the time of choice and ability to ration it to the males. We are the latter. The Bonobos are Communists and humans are Capitalists of sex. This natural, sexual capitalism led to tool making, use of fire, and 747s, all on the rocket fuel of sex and nagging.

The natural home of Deductive reasoning is the spiritual life, where Inductive reasoning functions poorly. Inductive reasoning belongs in daily life and in the World of Work. One must sometimes pay attention to which system is at work in almost every sentence.

In following atheism by tracking reasoning systems present, it appears to break down into individuals who lack the mental machinery for religious feelings, much like being tone deaf; and, individuals who are following a Deductive reasoning structure condemning Judeo-Christianity. The latter group appears to avidly follow the Third Commandment of thou being devoid of other gods. If it is a Deductive reasoning structure with a Third Commandment outlook, it functions like a religion.

The religious person has an internal separation of church and state, so to speak, in that they have Deductive reasoning in their spiritual matters, and shifting unconsciously to Inductive reasoning in daily life and the World of Work. The holistic person and the “non-believer” sometimes have Deductive reasoning spread all over the place, replicating the outlook of a person from the 12th Century.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This concern with the basic condition of freedom — the absence of physical constraint — is unquestionably necessary, but is not all that is necessary. It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison and yet not free — to be under no physical constraint and yet to be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national State, or of some private interest within the nation, want him to think, feel and act.”

Aldous Huxley
Chapter twelve
Brave New World Revisited 1958

This is true of both sides of this debate.

Freedom and liberty. Start there.

'He' came to set you free, remember? Your job is not to enslave others, or to somehow coerce them (through the force of government) into believing what you believe. Your jov is not to argue endlessly about who is right, or who is going to hell, or even about who is responsible for what. Your job, as was his, is to set people free.

It's was his message.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One more point, perhaps off-topic. I've been reading Jeremiah and I can't tell if the words are from Scripture or the headlines.

I've been struggling to understand how the current government can lead us down the path of backruptcy, denial of the Constitution, incipient dictatorship, and subversion by muslims -- whom even Egyptians recognize are in power within our government. My mind shouts out: How can they do this?!

My wife took 5/16ths of a second to say: For the money.

And I look in Jeremiah, and it says (along with many other currently-applicable anecdotes) Jeremiah 8:10-11 says for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely… saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace (KJV).

And the politicians dole billions from public coffers to friends who then return a portion to their campaigns, while the muslim world rallies against us. And yet we are told: Don’t worry, the United States is too big to fail.

Jeremiah 18:18 reads Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words. (KJV)

These 2,600-year-old words could be written today. And in common parlance the rulers are saying all will go on as it has. The rule of law shall not perish from our politicians, nor wisdom from our pundits and policy wonks, nor words of good news and encouragement from our media. Come and let us smear and slander the very character of every conservative in the eyes of the people before he can gain any credibility in the eyes of the people.

Jeremiah 28:10-11 reads, Then Hananiah the [false] prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it. And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years(KJV).

And President Obama says that Al Qaeda is broken and almost gone. And Brennan says that the muslim Brotherhood is now a moderate organization. And everyone, including the media, says that we can live with a nuclear Iran.

I hold out the same hope for the US now that Jeremiah had for Israel and Judah: destruction and subjugation. Except this time there will be no return after 70 years.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Flicker,
See the big picture
The Jews survived Babylon and Rome and the Christian and Islam and Hitler.
The modern intellectual is hoping the religion that made it possible from release from past captivity is destroyed by the pleasures of modern world. This includes the destruction of the other two Abraham faiths the christian and the Islam.
With the introduction of China to capitalism ,capitalism , the goose that lays the golden eggs experiences a down fall bringing on a world turned upside down showing the world how the three Abraham faiths will survive yet people who reject the three Abraham faiths will also try hard to survive the world turned upside down and please do not be on their side brother flicker
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
translate the book of Jeremiah The Prophet to the 21st century
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And as far us the Christian unlike the Jew, we learn from Hitler how millions of Christians did not mind the idea of killing millions of USA Christians so all these recent converts to Christian in China during pleasure times when the world is turned upside down who do you think they stand in line to kill?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In agreement with your article, Christianity is the most reasonable, the most logically internally-consistent world view; it also happens to be the Truth, and this is the source of its internal consistency.

God says: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isa 1:18)

And man says: I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: (Eccl 7:25)

And beyond that, I would add that salvation itself, that is, repentance and the acceptance of dominion under God, is a self-serving, selfish act: we surrender that which we cannot keep for something greater, and which we cannot lose.

Mark 8:36-37 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

And even in a financial context, Jesus says that it is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven, to which the disciples understood the implication that this same self-centeredness that prevents rich men from entering heaven also prevents the poorest; and they ask who then can be saved? Jesus answers that for God the impossible is possible. To which, the disciples make note that they have given up everything for the Kingdom of Heaven. And to this Jesus informs them that even what they have given up is less than what they will ultimately receive, in this life and in the next.

Even salvation, is ultimately a matter of the greatest self-interest. Matt 19:27-29 says, Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Revelation 11:17-18

New International Version (NIV)

17 saying:

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.
18 The nations were angry,
and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

This day will come. What does this mean DESTROYING THOSE DESTROYING THE EARTH?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I only read the first page of this very long article, but there is something I don't understand. If the author really likes the Objectivist speaker's argument for free markets, why not use it and not bother about the speaker's views on religion or anything else? Unless, of course, you were trying to start a cult where everyone must agree on everything.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
First, Christianity is not a religion, but a rather a personal relationship with God. Religions are man-made distortions of that God/man grace relationship, generally in pursuit of power or wealth. This is as true of so-called Christian churches as with the institutions of any other "ism".

Further, nothing that can be done by an unbeliever is a fundamental aspect of a genuine Christian way of life. Good works, like creativity or charity, may evidence themselves among Christians or unbelievers, but those altruistic actions are good fruits of spirituality, not the spirituality itself. Can a Bernie Madoff steal money and give it to charitable causes? Obviously yes, so charity itself is not Christian, though it may be an outgrowth of it.

Relationship Christianity is both rational and objective based on first principles that can never be objectively demonstrated. The physical universe came about some way that we will never be able to objectively demonstrate. But some circumstances and activities were required by some entity for that universe to have come into being. Whether you call that entity God, or an "unmoved mover", or even "The Big Bang", something is the causal factor in time immemorial. I cal that entity God; you can call it what you want, but is an obvious necessity for logical consistency..

The only logical failure of the Objectivist philosophy is the denial of that obviously necessary prerequisite. Once the necessary prerequisite(s)[?] are admitted, the logical need for atheism evaporates, and relationship Christianity becomes allowable within Objectivism without contradiction.

Within grace relationship Christianity, pursuing self-interest while avoiding actions contrary to Natural Law wholly supports the capitalist thrust. Natural Law itself must thereby be itself divinely inspired, as is universe.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He said:

"Relationship Christianity is both rational and objective based on first principles that can never be objectively demonstrated."

And I was like:

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Tho' disdaining "isms"..."In the grasp of all the isms, OhMyGod, it feels like prison...", I consider Objectivism as articulated by Ayn Rand an extraordinarily high form of morality.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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