Stephen Speicher

Ayn Rand on religion and America

85 posts in this topic

Rick, I don't think the public turned against the war because of a premature statement that combat was over. I think the public turned against the war because the left, assisted by the MSM both here and around the world, mounted a relentless, coordinated campaign to convince the American people of two things:

I brought up the comment about the 'combat over' statement as another example to show that comparing the situation in Iraq to Vietnam is a mistake. An idea that has been championed by the Left by the way. Speaking for myself, not the American public, I did not vote for the Republicans because they mucked things up so badly. I have seen arguments that as long as we 'stay the course', President Bush will muddle through. Well he muddled it up so bad that the Republicans took a 'Thumpin(President Bush's own assessment)'.

The whole idea that the reason behind the Republican's loss was because of a dishonest campaign put forth by the Democrats is just insane. Case in point, the race for the Virginia senate. I have stated many times that this election was about the 'Honesty' of the Republican Party because they were in power. The dishonesty of the Democrats was not an issue as far as I am concerned. I find the results of the election tragic and sad. President Bush has led the country to such a state and should be held accountable. The American people voted and they have shown that they value our soldiers lives over bringing 'democracy' to Iraq.

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I am still thinking about this issue. I value greatly the opinions of the members of this forum so I would like to hear your input.

To me, the essence of Dr. Peikoff's argument is contained in his statement below:

The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy.

Putting aside Dr. Peikoff's controversial voting recomendation, as that has been discussed here and elsewhere enough, I would like to focus on the above statement alone.

I think that if you agree with this statement, like I do, then it would follow from that that you would identify religion as a threat facing America and the world today.

If you disagree with Dr. Peikoff's statement above, I would like to know your reasons.

Religion is not a new threat. It has been arround for thousand of years. It is a self-sustaining, consistent ideology, a default position when all else fails. When in search for ideological principles, turned off, for example, by moral relativism, skepticism, people retract to religion. They seem to do so, even if religion has not been a significant factor ideologically in their culture for decades, as has been observed recently, in post-communist countries. The fact that religion is fundamentally at odds with reality has not been a deterent. A great increase, especially in the past hundred years, in our knowledge about reality has not been a deterent ether.

People simply aren't familiar with other consistant ideological alternatives (sometimes also not accepting). Objectivism is still far from being considered as the alternative on a scale that would be meaningful. I know this is changing and I am being hopeful. I am an optimist at heart.

It has been noted that the key is to influence the young and I agree. But I also see that religous indocrination of children starts almost at birth. Some may say, you yourself came from a religious background and yet you were able to embrace reason and Objectivism, when exposed to it. There is some truth to that (some because I have been resistant to religious ideology even as a child). Even so, such 'switches' are rare. Most adults are not able, or are unwilling to make that leap. It is probably for an array of reasons.

Socialism, as bad as it is, embraces reason. You are not even on the same ground when agruing against religion.

Anyway, I think that if you agree that what determines the survival of a country is not political concretes but fundamental philosophy then you have to see religion as a threat. Not a new one but an existing one and a persistent one.

Looking forward to your responses.

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[...]

Socialism, as bad as it is, embraces reason.

[...]

What do you mean exactly? How does socialism embrace reason?

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To me, the essence of Dr. Peikoff's argument is contained in his statement below:
The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy.

I agree 100% with that statement.

I think that if you agree with this statement, like I do, then it would follow from that that you would identify religion as a threat facing America and the world today.

I don't think that follows at all because religion -- especially American religion -- doesn't even come close to being a fundamental philosophy.

Americans vary tremendously in terms of their religious doctrines and and individual Americans vary so much in their degrees of religious observance and belief.

The philosophy of the typical American isn't anything fundamental either. It's a mixed bag, with the mixture varying from person to person, that may include Aristotelian commonsense, Enlightenment respect for individual rights, pride, materialsm, warm, fuzzy family values and childhood memories that they associate with Christmas, Easter, and religious holidays, benevolence, pragmatism, current intellectual fashions, random nutty ideas about astrology, reincarnation, ghosts, etc., and serious cognitive self-doubts picked up from a Kantian comprachico education.

So, what is a fundamental philosophy? I would say Platonism, Kantianism, and Objectivism (with Aristotelianism almost making the cut).

That is why the survival of this country will not be determined by what happens to religion but by what happens to Objectivism.

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What do you mean exactly? How does socialism embrace reason?

It is a system based on a wrong conclusions about reality and human nature. But it does not deny reason as the faculty that should be used in decision making.

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It is a system based on a wrong conclusions about reality and human nature. But it does not deny reason as the faculty that should be used in decision making.

Oh that's just bourgeois logic!

[Marxian polylogism is not reason.]

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The whole idea that the reason behind the Republican's loss was because of a dishonest campaign put forth by the Democrats is just insane. Case in point, the race for the Virginia senate. I have stated many times that this election was about the 'Honesty' of the Republican Party because they were in power. The dishonesty of the Democrats was not an issue as far as I am concerned. I find the results of the election tragic and sad. President Bush has led the country to such a state and should be held accountable. The American people voted and they have shown that they value our soldiers lives over bringing 'democracy' to Iraq.

I didn't say the campaign was dishonest. But since so little information comes from Iraq except that which the MSM wants us to see, and since I certainly don't trust the MSM to be honest, I would be reluctant to accept the left's claims at face value.

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I don't think that follows at all because religion -- especially American religion -- doesn't even come close to being a fundamental philosophy.

What criteria should one use in classifying particular ideology as ether a fundamental phylosophy or not?

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What criteria should one use in classifying particular ideology as ether a fundamental phylosophy or not?

Why religion does not fit that criteria?

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What criteria should one use in classifying particular ideology as ether a fundamental philosophy or not?

It should be a consistent system with basic answers in metaphysics (Is there an independent reality external to man? What is its nature and its relationship to consciousness?), epistemology (Can man know reality? How?), and ethics (How should man live and why?).

Plato and Kant had that, but their answers were dead wrong. Aristotle only had two out of three right with a very weak ethics that was merely descriptive rather than prescriptive. How different the history of the world would have been if Aristotle had discovered that "It is only the concept of life that makes the concept of value possible."

Fortunately for us here and now, Ayn Rand got all the basics right (with politics and esthetics thrown in at no extra charge).

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What do you mean exactly? How does socialism embrace reason?

It is a system based on a wrong conclusions about reality and human nature. But it does not deny reason as the faculty that should be used in decision making.

As Peikoff points out in The Ominous Parallels (p. 42), Marx popularized Hegel's rejection of Aristotelian logic. Marx is a bit difficult to read, but for a good understanding of the nature of socialism, try von Mises book Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. Also his book Human Action: A Treatise on Economics is of interest. Here is a brief excerpt:

Only one way could lead the socialists out of this impasse. They could attack logic and reason and substitute mystical intuition for ratiocination. It was the historical role of Karl Marx to propose this solution.

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What criteria should one use in classifying particular ideology as ether a fundamental phylosophy or not?

Why religion does not fit that criteria?

For the criteria, see my answer above.

By that criteria, there are so many different religions, that "religion" isn't consistently anything. Also, within a particular religion, there is rarely a consistent position taken. For instance, Catholicism has one standard (often Aristotelian) when dealing with most things and resorts to faith only when they must to put over something unreasonable. The most consistent religion, Islam, doesn't even have much of a metaphysics and epistemology. It is just an ethical laundry list of rules, of required and forbidden actions, unrelated to anything more fundamental.

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It should be a consistent system with basic answers in metaphysics (Is there an independent reality external to man? What is its nature and its relationship to consciousness?), epistemology (Can man know reality? How?), and ethics (How should man live and why?).

But I see religion as addressing all of those questions, notwithstanding providing wrong answers.

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But I see religion as addressing all of those questions, notwithstanding providing wrong answers.

WHICH religion. Can you think of a single religion that has very consistent or systematic answers to the basic questions? If so, it usually traces back, in whole or in part, to Plato or Aristotle.

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WHICH religion. Can you think of a single religion that has very consistent or systematic answers to the basic questions? If so, it usually traces back, in whole or in part, to Plato or Aristotle.

I think the Christian religion has benefitted the most from Plato and I also think this is why Christianity is so much more dangerous than other religions which are less consistent and systematic. I think Christianity is terribly consistent, if one can overlook the premise of Original Sin (and millions do). If one accepts the premises of Christianity I think it is a religion which has been tinkered with by religious racketeers for over 2000 years - starting with Paul in Rome suffering a seizure and "talking to God".

Christianity is the religion of religious "intellectuals" who are encouraged to READ the Bible (this has not always been the case in this religion but is the case today) and then apply it to their lives. Many other religions, such as Islam, Hindi, etc. are much more focused on rituals and the spoken words of their gurus and don't expect their followers to really think about religious doctrine independently - they provide all the applications in proverbs and traditions. Christianity is also a religion that appeals to pragmatists because it is so malleable. They can modify it so that it is whatever "works" for them, for the moment. Just look at British clergy throughout history for an example of that (and I thinking of Henry VIII here...)

I have a tangetial question - what is it that essentially differentiates a religion from a philosophy?

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That wasn't KMorrill, that was me. In my excitement I forgot to log him out.

Also, that was a "tangential" question I wanted to ask... not "tangetial". Thanks.

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But I see religion as addressing all of those questions, notwithstanding providing wrong answers.

Philosophy is not merely some vague outlook on life, nor is it a hodgepodge of prescriptions and rules to follow. Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man's nature and his relationship to existence. Religion is, in essence, a self-professed default on the means by which philosophy as such proceeds to answer these questions on a fundamental level. Note that Peikoff refers to religion as a precursor to philosophy [1], and Miss Rand speaks of religion as a primitive form of philosophy [2], as a primitive precursor to philosophy. [3] The best elements of religion nip at the heels of philosophy, but religion, which replaces reason with faith, removes itself for consideration of philosophy as such.

[1] Leonard Peikoff, "Religion in America," reprinted in The Voice of Reason, p. 66.

[2] Ayn Rand, "Check Your Premises," The Objectivist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 4, April 1965.

[3] Ayn Rand, "The Age of Envy (II), The Objectivist, August 1971.

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I think the Christian religion has benefitted the most from Plato and I also think this is why Christianity is so much more dangerous than other religions which are less consistent and systematic.

There isn't just one "Christianity." Early Christianity was very Platonic. By the 12th century, Aristotle's influence grew in Christianity leading to the Renaissance and the neutering of Christianity forever. (See Peikoff's History of Philosophy courses and Aristotle's Children by Richard E. Rubenstein).

Religion, as a cultural force, was waning up until the Enlightenment and would have disappeared completely if it were not for Immanuel Kant and the lack of opposition to his vicious ideas. Since then Plato and Aristotle have been fighting it out in religion, while it has been the Enlightenment vs. Kant in the secular realm.

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This may be more appropriate on a education thread, but I do see some relevance with respect to this discussion.

In no way do I mean the following as an apologia for Catholicism; however, despite it's myriad (not to mention horrific) faults, it has had a vigorous intellectual tradition which transcends mere reading of the Bible.

Case in point:

Aquinas Curriculum

I have been bowled over by the things I've heard and read with respect to Thomas Aquinas College in California, its conceptualization of eduction generally, and in particular its curriculum list which, if I were in a position to do it (if not 30 years younger!), I would be thrilled to "jump on" at the first opportunity. This is what I call a sterling education. Yes, it is an explicitly Catholic institution and Theology is an integral part of the curriculum; however, the school is right up front about this.

I wonder if it is possible that a young person graduating from this kind of program could be unable to think, to use his mind . . . to reason? The curriculum certainly provides an inestimable treasure trove of tools (knowledge) to do so. I wonder, further, whether at least one mind in a graduating class would be capable of regarding the faculty of reason as something other than the "handmaiden of faith"?

I wonder, further, why secular institutions (or at least more of them) do not provide this kind of education. Or might that be considered a rhetorical question today?

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Case in point:

Aquinas Curriculum

I have been bowled over by the things I've heard and read with respect to Thomas Aquinas College in California, its conceptualization of eduction generally, and in particular its curriculum list which, if I were in a position to do it (if not 30 years younger!), I would be thrilled to "jump on" at the first opportunity. This is what I call a sterling education. Yes, it is an explicitly Catholic institution and Theology is an integral part of the curriculum; however, the school is right up front about this.

There are a number of other universities with that sort of Great Books programs; Saint John's College comes to mind, and, to a lesser extent, Guttenberg College. If students are taught how to think then the religiosity they are exposed to pales in signifcance as compared to what they learn through these programs. Besides, as long as they can think and analyze they can always shrug off the religion.

I wonder, further, why secular institutions (or at least more of them) do not provide this kind of education. Or might that be considered a rhetorical question today?

The culprit is not secularism, but institutionalized liberalism that permeates our universities. However, there are certainly signs of change, not the least being a continually growing Objectivist influence in academia.

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I have been bowled over by the things I've heard and read with respect to Thomas Aquinas College...

I wonder if it is possible that a young person graduating from this kind of program could be unable to think, to use his mind . . . to reason? The curriculum certainly provides an inestimable treasure trove of tools (knowledge) to do so. I wonder, further, whether at least one mind in a graduating class would be capable of regarding the faculty of reason as something other than the "handmaiden of faith"?

I grew up in a Catholic family & went to Catholic schools for a few years off and on (including half of high school) with public schools in between. I can "testify" B) that Catholic schools typically do have higher academic standards than public schools. Also, they expect more out of the smarter kids.

We were taught about Augustine & Aquinas & exposed to the fundamental issues of philosophy concerning Socrates, Plato & Aristotle. Ironically, many classmates of mine (typically the smartest ones) turned away from religion. Catholic education (at least in my experience - and others I have spoken with) has this odd built in function: they teach about and expect actual thought on important issues. As a consequence, it creates many agnostics & atheists: some go Nihilist Left, some go Pragmatist Right. More irony: in some cases, the less intelligent leave the Church and go Fundamentalist!

A small additional thought: I don't think religion per se is the enemy. I understand it can be dangerous and should be properly countered. But nihilism is also a dangerous enemy, as is environmentalism. The abyssmal state of "comprachicos" governmental-monopoly public education is probably one of the worst long-term "enemies" to have ever damaged America.

But I still see all of these things as consequences of the fundamental problem: irrationality. And irrationality can take many forms, religion being one possible manifestation.

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I grew up in a Catholic family & went to Catholic schools for a few years off and on (including half of high school) with public schools in between. I can "testify" B) that Catholic schools typically do have higher academic standards than public schools. Also, they expect more out of the smarter kids.

Although one wouldn't know it from all the typos in my Aquinas College Post, I too attended Catholic Grade and High Schools (our work was always graded for spelling . . . including even our science notes!). Also like you, I had the kind of educational experience I would never have had in the state . . . er . . . public schools in my hometown which were, even then (late '60s early '70s) in a downward spiral. Indeed, much was expected of us in terms of using our minds with the result that many (me, my friends and acquaintances) did, in fact, turn away from and, in my case at least, reject altogether religion.

But, given the options that were available to my parents at the time (within the scope of their knowledge), I'm grateful they insisted upon that education for me..

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The culprit is not secularism, but institutionalized liberalism that permeates our universities. However, there are certainly signs of change, not the least being a continually growing Objectivist influence in academia.

I absolutely agree that secularism isn't the problem and that "institutionalized liberalism" has been the death of liberal education. I was simply pondering the dearth of such programs at schools unaffiliated with any particular religion or church, etc. In my view, first-hand or primary source exposure to the actual work of the great minds of Western Civilization -- that wealth of knowledge (some right, some wrong), that opportunity to see how a great mind works -- ought to be the primary focus of education in this country and I find it somewhat ironic that, more often than not, it's the explicitly religious schools that provide the experience.

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I grew up in a Catholic family & went to Catholic schools for a few years off and on (including half of high school) with public schools in between. I can "testify" B) that Catholic schools typically do have higher academic standards than public schools. Also, they expect more out of the smarter kids.

We were taught about Augustine & Aquinas & exposed to the fundamental issues of philosophy concerning Socrates, Plato & Aristotle. Ironically, many classmates of mine (typically the smartest ones) turned away from religion. Catholic education (at least in my experience - and others I have spoken with) has this odd built in function: they teach about and expect actual thought on important issues. As a consequence, it creates many agnostics & atheists: some go Nihilist Left, some go Pragmatist Right. More irony: in some cases, the less intelligent leave the Church and go Fundamentalist!

A small additional thought: I don't think religion per se is the enemy. I understand it can be dangerous and should be properly countered. But nihilism is also a dangerous enemy, as is environmentalism. The abyssmal state of "comprachicos" governmental-monopoly public education is probably one of the worst long-term "enemies" to have ever damaged America.

But I still see all of these things as consequences of the fundamental problem: irrationality. And irrationality can take many forms, religion being one possible manifestation.

Nicely put, Christopher. Thanks.

I'm reminded of a letter Ayn Rand wrote to a Catholic priest in 1965 (The Letters of Ayn Rand, p.634):

Perhaps I should add that I am an intransigent atheist, but not a militant one. This means that I am an uncompromising advocate of reason and that I am fighting for reason, not against religion. I must also mention that I do respect religion in its philosophical aspects, in the sense that it represents an early form of philosophy.

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A small additional thought: I don't think religion per se is the enemy. I understand it can be dangerous and should be properly countered. But nihilism is also a dangerous enemy, as is environmentalism. The abyssmal state of "comprachicos" governmental-monopoly public education is probably one of the worst long-term "enemies" to have ever damaged America.

So, if religion per se is not the problem, how do we classify - and explain - the motivation of the Jihadists?

Are they simply nihilists (like Nazis, Communists, etc.) unleashed by Kant? In other words, are they just one more hydra among many which the philosophical Medusa from Germany loosed upon the world?

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