SteveGrossman

US Religious Origin

41 posts in this topic

I have come to recognize the importance of Peikoff's insight that Aristotle's failure to provide a rationally absolute morality has made it difficult or impossible for a rational philosophy to be

culturally influential in the long run. Objectivists, of course, have Rand's answer to the problem but few others have read or even know of "The Objectivist Ethics." Rand said that a merely negative critique of bad philosophy was insufficient, that the positive advocacy of a rational philosophy was needed. I believe that Objectivists should focus upon the advocacy of Rand's ethics and stress their absolutist nature. This will attract those who are rationally afraid of nihilism and may even attract those who reject nihilism for religion. My comments in a local online forum attract much argument but no one has replied to my occasional listing of the Objectivist moral values and virtues. I believe that readers are startled at an absolutist alternative to religious ethics.

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I have come to recognize the importance of Peikoff's insight that Aristotle's failure to provide a rationally absolute morality has made it difficult or impossible for a rational philosophy to be culturally influential in the long run.
We may be going a bit off topic here, but can you explain how Aristotle's morality is not rationally absolute? And also, where did Dr. Peikoff say it wasn't so?

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I have come to recognize the importance of Peikoff's insight that Aristotle's failure to provide a rationally absolute morality has made it difficult or impossible for a rational philosophy to  be

culturally influential in the long run. Objectivists, of course, have Rand's answer to the problem but few others have read or even know of  "The Objectivist Ethics." Rand said that a merely negative critique of bad philosophy was insufficient, that the positive advocacy of a rational philosophy was needed. I believe that Objectivists should focus upon the advocacy of Rand's ethics and stress their absolutist nature. This will attract those who are rationally afraid of nihilism and may even attract those who reject nihilism for religion. My comments in a local online forum attract much argument but no one has replied to my occasional listing of the Objectivist moral values and virtues. I believe that readers are startled at an absolutist alternative to religious ethics.

They are startled by an absolutist morality that doesn't have some mystic commandment at its base, it is true.

I am glad that Steve reopened this thread. I had planned to come here today.

After Terri Schiavo, and now John Paul II, I have rethought my attempts to argue with mystics on any basis other than Objectivism. I'm old enough, and experienced enough that I ought to have known better than to attempt it, no matter how effective it may have been with certain individuals. I was wrong. Never again.

Janet Busch

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I have come to recognize the importance of Peikoff's insight that Aristotle's failure to provide a rationally absolute morality has made it difficult or impossible for a rational philosophy to be culturally influential in the long run.
We may be going a bit off topic here, but can you explain how Aristotle's morality is not rationally absolute? And also, where did Dr. Peikoff say it wasn't so?

Oops! :) Rand first noted it in The Obj Ethics and then, in DIM(?), Peikoff said that it caused people to reject Aristotle. Rand [Obj Ethics, pb, 14] said that Aristotle advised following the noble and wise but he didnt say why. I believe she meant his concern with moderation.

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I agree completely with this approach, and I have used it myself.  I emphasized "any honest thinker", however, because it is the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian that I've been thinking about, and they are not honest thinkers, but wallowers in faith.

I see. In that case, why argue? If someone is completely dishonest there's no point discussing anything--only ending the discussion at once. But I would not give up so easily. In my experience, many Christians can be completely immune from the facts and from logic when questioning whether or not there's a god, but they will still approach lesser but related issues honestly. I like to think of them as heroine users whose bodies can't give up the toxic substance all at once, but must be weaned off the drug bit by bit. (Forgive me if this analogy is biologically incorrect.)

Either way, I leave it up to who the people are and whether or not I care enough to invest time in a discussion with them, before I even attempt any discussion. I do want to add, though, that even with a bible-smacking Southern Baptist the (entirely proper) argument that "religion and government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed" has a lot of value. It is easy to show and easy for them to accept. In discussions about government and religion, as well as the proper relation between the two, it can serve as both a good starting point and a good ending point.

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On Aristotle's morality:

There's an excellent discussion in Dr. Peikoff's History of Philosophy series on why he thinks Aristotle's philosophy didn't catch on--he argues that it was partly due to his lack of offering mankind an objective morality along with some other factors. Anyway, this is but one small value out of many that listeners of these lectures will be provided with. Outside of the books, I value these lectures of Peikoff's above everything else that he's produced to date.

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http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6177

Given that the founding fathers had such negative things to say about religion and its effects, and also that they felt so strongly that individuals need to use reason, why were so many of the deists? Why weren't they more comfortable abandoning religion altogether and calling themselves atheists?

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even with a bible-smacking Southern Baptist the (entirely proper) argument that "religion and government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed" has a lot of value.

But this encourages religion. Pure religion, not Enlightenment religion, requires religious govt and the denial of rights against religion.

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Given that the founding fathers had such negative things to say about religion and its effects, and also that they felt so strongly that individuals need to use reason, why were so many of the deists?  Why weren't they more comfortable abandoning religion altogether and calling themselves atheists?

Let's say you were an atheist living in colonial America c. 1700, and all your neighbors were Christians believing in the literal truth of the Bible and believing in the existence and efficacy of witches and demons, as well as God. What do you think your life expectancy would be if you announced your atheism?

That is the personal reason I would tentatively suggest as an explanation worth exploring, if you do research on this topic.

Another possibility is that perhaps even the best of the Enlightenment intellectuals had a hard time even imagining how one could use reason to establish all the principles of ethics. God had to be a source, at some point.

A third possibility deserving attention is to make sure you are not reading back your own views into the past. Some Enlightenment intellectuals denounced the paraphenalia of religion -- the institutions, the rituals, and so forth -- without ever rejecting belief in the existence of God and another world. Belief in the existence of God and acceptance of the trappings of religion at its worst do not necessarily go together as a package in the minds of everyone.

If you are willing to invest the time it deserves, I recommend Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, two volumes. Gay discusses many Enlightenment intellectuals in Western Europe -- their self-imposed restrictions, their advances, and their failures (especially to develop a rational ethics).

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Given that the founding fathers had such negative things to say about religion and its effects, and also that they felt so strongly that individuals need to use reason, why were so many of the deists? Why weren't they more comfortable abandoning religion altogether and calling themselves atheists?
I would say that the people who called themselves atheists were either nihilists or materialists in disguise. Karl Marx makes for a prototypical atheist. It is only with the coming Ayn Rand that I think proper atheists started appearing, because even now the majority of atheists is nihilistic or materialistic. Take your liberals in the academia for example: they all without exception support stem cell research and abortion but then go out to buy Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.

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http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6177

Given that the founding fathers had such negative things to say about religion and its effects, and also that they felt so strongly that individuals need to use reason, why were so many of the deists?  Why weren't they more comfortable abandoning religion altogether and calling themselves atheists?

As a guess:

the defense of atheism then was superficial, empiricist or rationalist, not on good, metaphysical, Aristotelian grounds (and even Aristotle had his unmoved mover). To some extent the Enlightenment was a change from faith to reason, ie, it was not complete nor consistent. The FF were part of a cultural movement that was in the process of applying reason to various issues. They hadnt gotten around to metaphysics yet. Peikoff says they took bits and pieces and a sense of life from the deeper Enlightenment thinkers. But the FF were not profound, systematic thinkers. They had a rational political and social philosophy and moved in the direction of rational morality (Franklin's Autobiography). Howver, they still accepted sacrifice as moral and, probably like modern conservatives, were afraid that atheism would invalidate sacrifice. If the Enlightenment had lasted longer, I believe they would have consistently applied reason to God. Besides some FF were or were reputed to be atheists. Franklin, I believe.

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http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6177

Given that the founding fathers had such negative things to say about religion and its effects, and also that they felt so strongly that individuals need to use reason, why were so many of the deists?  Why weren't they more comfortable abandoning religion altogether and calling themselves atheists?

In Jefferson Letters to John Adams concerning Calvin and Cosmology he wrote: "...I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it's parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it's composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, the structure of our earth itself, and with it's distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere, animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles, insects mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organized as man or mammoth, the mineral substances, their generation and uses, it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their preserver and regulator while permitted t o exist in their present forms, and their regenerater into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power to maintain the Universe in it's course and order. [he goes on, but you get the idea]"

It's the 'first cause' and 'complexity of the Universe' arguments.

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Although I have not studied the subject at all in depth I have enough familiarity to say the foundations of the United States government were at least implicitly and often explicity based on reason and natural rights rather than any religious principles.

I know John Adams said something near (I put in quotations but it is probably not an exact quote) "The government of the United States is in no way based upon the Christian faith." Keep in mind that Adams was devoutly Christian and once accused Jefferson of being the only man he had ever known "of sound sense and real genius that was an enemy to Christianity" (quote from a letter from his friend Benjamin Rush recounting the confration)

Even the religious Founding Fathers recognized that the sanction of government was not some divine edict but a necessity of nature to safegaurd freedom and property (protecting rights) making happiness, progress, prospertiy etc. achievable for an individual and therefore society.

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I know John Adams said something near (I put in quotations but it is probably not an exact quote) "The government of the United States is in no way based upon the Christian faith."

I think you may have in mind some words from Article 11 of the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, which words were actually penned by John Barlow but signed by John Adams.

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ..."

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That's it Stephen, thanks :o.

I hope his signature equates well enough to him saying that because I would not to put words in John Adams mouth.

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That's it Stephen, thanks :o.

I hope his signature equates well enough to him saying that because I would not to put words in John Adams mouth.

Based on what I have read, Adams was certainly enthusiastic about the words of the treaty.

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