Betsy Speicher

Conservatives and Liberals on Ayn Rand

95 posts in this topic

Convicted Watergate burglar Chuck Colson, who found God in prison and subsequently went into the evangelism business, wrote a column on Atlas Shrugged. Its appearance at TownHall.com was followed by at least 150 comments (here) that give a broad cross-section of views of Ayn Rand among Conservatives.

Compare that to the comments of the Left about Ayn Rand when Dr. Peikoff recommended a vote for the Democrats in the last national election (here).

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I think this one has to take first prize, as my favorite comment:

Too many Christian conservatives...

...throw out all of Ayn Rand's great work based solely on the fact that she was an atheist.

I agree that its a shame that Ms. Rand is likely burning right now, but that doesn't mean there is no value in what she wrote.

[...]

! :P

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Having read through a bit of both threads...

The conservatives as a rule come across as thoughtful and intelligent, while the liberals come across as nihilistic, anti-intellectual and snarling creatures from a dark hole somewhere. What a stark contrast. The only think I'd say is that this falls in line with Peikoff's concern. Conservatives today would be more dangerous, because they have value to offer.

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I think this one has to take first prize, as my favorite comment:
Too many Christian conservatives...

...throw out all of Ayn Rand's great work based solely on the fact that she was an atheist.

I agree that its a shame that Ms. Rand is likely burning right now, but that doesn't mean there is no value in what she wrote.

[...]

! :P

I found the comments of the self-identified Liberal poster, Phylo Se Fiser, to form one of the most transparant and astonishing illustrations of jumbled, contradictory and false premises I've read in one place. His/her thoroughly Kantian notions glitter like cubic zirconia! Blind men and elephants' trunks indeed.

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Having read through a bit of both threads...

The conservatives as a rule come across as thoughtful and intelligent, while the liberals come across as nihilistic, anti-intellectual and snarling creatures from a dark hole somewhere. What a stark contrast. The only think I'd say is that this falls in line with Peikoff's concern. Conservatives today would be more dangerous, because they have value to offer.

Or that they will be better because they will be the most likely people in the US to sympathize with a pro-Western, pro-Freedom, Pro-Reason, pro-Value philosophy! What matters is that one side strongly believes in objective morality and values, while the other side openly smirks in delight at proclaiming there are no values and morality is purely a subjective social construct.

Really, why does this whole philosophical deduction of "Liberals are an intellectual vacuum that will be filled by Republican Christian Philosophy" have to be taken almost as axiomatic fact without some kind of substantial proof based on evidence in reality?

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Really, why does this whole philosophical deduction of "Liberals are an intellectual vacuum that will be filled by Republican Christian Philosophy" have to be taken almost as axiomatic fact without some kind of substantial proof based on evidence in reality?

Isn't that just what happened when Rome fell and eventually converted to Christianity?

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Really, why does this whole philosophical deduction of "Liberals are an intellectual vacuum that will be filled by Republican Christian Philosophy" have to be taken almost as axiomatic fact without some kind of substantial proof based on evidence in reality?

Isn't that just what happened when Rome fell and eventually converted to Christianity?

Objectivism wasn't an option then.

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Really, why does this whole philosophical deduction of "Liberals are an intellectual vacuum that will be filled by Republican Christian Philosophy" have to be taken almost as axiomatic fact without some kind of substantial proof based on evidence in reality?

Isn't that just what happened when Rome fell and eventually converted to Christianity?

Well . . . no, actually. Although he was not officially baptised until he was on his deathbed, the Roman emperor, Constantine, declared himself the emperor of a Christian empire, effectively adopting the religion after supposedly seeing a Christain symbol in a dream prior his defeat of Maxentius and the Milvian Bridge in 312. For some years, Constantine toyed with the religion while continuing to respect the ancient pagan traditions. The Council of Nicea changed all that, and Christianity became "officially" Roman prior to the fall of Rome.

Throughout his reign and even before he began to become familiar with Christianity (Pre-Nicea Christianity at that), Constantine was a notably stern and brutal ruler who imposed some of the most draconian prohibitions and laws upon the empire. Some might even call them "Puritanical". I think it would not be a stretch to see Constantine's Council of Nicea in 324, though relatively peaceful (the outcome was not, however, for some of the Christian sects on the losing side of the debates), as an attempt to impose his control over the disparate Christian sects. The degree of sterness and the brutal demands for strict conformity that followed the Council could, therefore, be viewed as "business-as-usual" for Constantine . . . even had there been no Christian religion to inspire them.

One question that could be raised fairly with respect to Constantine and what would become the Christianity we know today: who influenced whom more?

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Really, why does this whole philosophical deduction of "Liberals are an intellectual vacuum that will be filled by Republican Christian Philosophy" have to be taken almost as axiomatic fact without some kind of substantial proof based on evidence in reality?

Isn't that just what happened when Rome fell and eventually converted to Christianity?

Objectivism wasn't an option then.

Indeed!

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If the future success of Objectivism counts on an alliance with either the current Left or the Right, the future is doomed. I don't see it as either-or; one side has the dying remnants of the classical American sense of life in their corner (usually Republicans) completely undercut by religion, the other side are environmentalist nihilists who really want to destroy those last remnants of America. In the near term (i.e. my lifetime), I consider the latter to be the biggest problem by far; the former are mostly a problem for the reason that the "Whites" in Russia were a problem: they are utterly ineffective in stopping the Leftist nihilists.

"Conversion" to Objectivism is something so rare that only several thousand Objectivists exist in the world today. The future will be won by future Objectivists who won't be either conservatives or liberals, exposed at an early enough age, not people whose brains have been philosophically turned to mush by the time they're 20. This is something that can be hard to take because it inherently means that much of the world's current population - even if tens of millions of have read Rand - are hopelessly lost philosophically and will never be a significant ally of Objectivism. But it happens to be the clear truth. Recognizing it should condition the priorities of anyone who wants a better future and the means to attain it.

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If the future success of Objectivism counts on an alliance with either the current Left or the Right, the future is doomed.

It doesn't. It depends on an alliance with thinking and valuing individuals .

When I started out with Objectivism, most of the thinker/valuers came from the (Old) Left including me. Nowadays, with the nihilistic New Left having given up on thinking and valuing, they tend to come from the (New) Right. Regardless of where they come from, if they accept reason and seek values then I can deal with them to our mutual benefit.

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If the future success of Objectivism counts on an alliance with either the current Left or the Right, the future is doomed.

It doesn't. It depends on an alliance with thinking and valuing individuals . [...] Regardless of where they come from, if they accept reason and seek values then I can deal with them to our mutual benefit.

I agree, and also, of necessity, the great majority of those who I (and virtually all other Objectivists) deal with are not Objectivists, though I try to ensure they are otherwise good people - but in terms of embracing and spreading the right philosophy, I don't think it will be many of those alive today over age 20, and even otherwise good people won't typically support important cultural changes that are at odds with their implicit philosophy. I am heartened by the growing number of Objectivists and interest in Objectivism, but I think that the growth of that interest is largely occurring in the younger segment of the population, which supports my view.

It is interesting to ponder what the "cultural critical mass" would be in terms of percentage of Objectivists, for a culture to be really qualitatively different than before. I don't think it has to be anything like 100%, but it surely must be larger than what exists today. If you try to imagine 10% of the American population being Objectivists, it would clearly be quite a different society overall.

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...one side has the dying remnants of the classical American sense of life in their corner (usually Republicans) completely undercut by religion...

I don't know what Republicans you know, but considering I was raised in the Republican Bible Belt I think I have a pretty solid experience with these people, and what you describe isn't what I've seen: Religion is not what is undercutting the Republicans--I mean heck, if you really get down to it, most Christian Republicans are by no means at all what a Christian should be if he followed the Bible literally. To most Christian Republicans Church is just that annoying activity that gets in the way of hunting, fishing and a good NFL season game on a relaxing Sunday. They still subscribe to religion because they want to be good, honorable men, and they believe to some extent that that is what good and honorable men do--they go to Church (but they make sure never to take too much of it seriously, nor to press it on others too much). But when it comes down to deciding serious life matters, they rarely turn to "The Good Book"; instead all their decisions will be based on a generous mixture of practical self-interest, common-sense, and general benevolence towards their fellow man. Their Ethics could probably be summed up as the Protestant Work-Ethic, which once again has just as much to do with the real essence of Christianity as Easter Bunnies do.

What I see undercutting these people is Pragmatism and bad ideas in the realm of politics as it is thrust on them by Leftists: they know for some reason that taxes and welfare are bad, but then they'll vote for someone because he'll provide subsidies to farmers. They think Global Warming is a bunch of nonsense, but then again they still think that some endangered animals ought to be protected, and some public land should be reserved for parks and wildlife habitats. In short, what is hurting them isn't some intrinsic platonic morality, but rather a fragmented secular pragmatist morality that prevents them from seeing the common principles behind different concrete political issues. Therefore they often take contradictory political stances that give them only a weak defense and little counter-attack against the Leftists politically.

I know that this dead horse has been beaten to sub-atomic particles by now, but Objectivist culture really needs to realize that this whole idea of Christianity conquering the Republican Party is blatantly unfounded in reality. Yes, there are many extremely religious, politically active Republicans that truly have been poisoned by Christianity, but please believe me when I say that they do not represent the majority of Christian Republicans, but instead only represent a very politically active minority.

If I could think of one defining political view of a Christian Republican, it would be that he doesn't want anybody (preachers, politicians, etc.) sticking their big nose into his life--he wants to be left the heck alone.

This song by "The Charlie Daniels Band" is pretty representative of what I'm talking about:

People say I'm no good

I'm crazy as a loon

'cause I get stoned in the morning,

I get drunk in the afternoon.

Kinda like my old blue tick hound

I like to lay around in the shade.

And I ain't got no money

but I **** sure got it made.

'Cause I ain't askin' nobody for nothin'

if I can't get it on my own.

If you don't like the way I'm livin'

You just leave this long haired country boy alone.

Preacher man talking on TV,

puttin' down the rock and roll.

Wants me to send a donation

'cause he's worried about my soul.

He said, "Jesus walked on the water."

And I know that it's true.

But sometimes I think that preacher man

would like to do a little walking too.

But I ain't asking nobody for nothin'

if I can't get it on my own.

If you don't like the way I'm livin'

you just leave this long haired country boy alone.

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Here is something Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that's very pertinent to the subject. Stephen Colbert tries to "nail" her with the idea that Christians are as bad as Muslims, and oh how she defends them.

http://tinyurl.com/3e3gol

Regarding this and other topics (nature of Islam), does this lady's eloquence and insight know bounds?

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This song by "The Charlie Daniels Band" is pretty representative of what I'm talking about:
People say I'm no good

I'm crazy as a loon

'cause I get stoned in the morning,

I get drunk in the afternoon.

Kinda like my old blue tick hound

I like to lay around in the shade.

And I ain't got no money

[...]

Well, when I said Republican or Democrat, I guess I should add that I meant somebody that had at least risen to the level of a functioning human being. A lazy hillbilly doing his best to destroy what's left of his mind is not personally my image of America.

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I agree, and also, of necessity, the great majority of those who I (and virtually all other Objectivists) deal with are not Objectivists, though I try to ensure they are otherwise good people - but in terms of embracing and spreading the right philosophy, I don't think it will be many of those alive today over age 20, and even otherwise good people won't typically support important cultural changes that are at odds with their implicit philosophy. I am heartened by the growing number of Objectivists and interest in Objectivism, but I think that the growth of that interest is largely occurring in the younger segment of the population, which supports my view.

It is interesting to ponder what the "cultural critical mass" would be in terms of percentage of Objectivists, for a culture to be really qualitatively different than before. I don't think it has to be anything like 100%, but it surely must be larger than what exists today. If you try to imagine 10% of the American population being Objectivists, it would clearly be quite a different society overall.

I would be interested to know what proportion of the population currently 20 years and under retain the interest in Objectivism over a lifetime as opposed to the being part of the wandering youth who latch on to one aspect of Objectivism as just another cause or manifesto without understanding its fundamentals, only to toss it out in favor of the Chicken Soup book series or the like. The critical mass, whatever that may be, will have to be a number that accounts for those good people who know that "something" is wrong with the country's youth, but can't pinpoint what and think things will eventually get better. This sort of optimism isn't going to be enough to turn this train around - that critical mass cannot simply exist, it has to sound the intellectual alarm for the majority of people who do not self-identify as Objectivists to check their premises.

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I would be interested to know what proportion of the population currently 20 years and under retain the interest in Objectivism over a lifetime as opposed to the being part of the wandering youth who latch on to one aspect of Objectivism as just another cause or manifesto without understanding its fundamentals, only to toss it out in favor of the Chicken Soup book series or the like.

I would, too. I included the current set of under-20-year-olds as at least potentials, but given the current state of their teachers and the culture at large, I'm not terribly optimistic that a large percentage of them will be highly rational and remain that way; but I think more of them will be than their parents, due to the existence of Objectivism and very important efforts such as ARI's essay and books programs, and future generations should have increasingly larger percentages. I think the real question is whether civilization will last that long.

The critical mass, whatever that may be, will have to be a number that accounts for those good people who know that "something" is wrong with the country's youth, but can't pinpoint what and think things will eventually get better. This sort of optimism isn't going to be enough to turn this train around - that critical mass cannot simply exist, it has to sound the intellectual alarm for the majority of people who do not self-identify as Objectivists to check their premises.

I have not observed many individuals in my life who changed their life philosophy. Even being productive and rational in a certain niche doesn't assure that somebody will be willing to check their premises to the root. I don't think that disaster is enough to jolt people into such action - New York City is the prime example. One of the greatest cities on earth, with a large number of intelligent and productive individuals - and the ones most affected by 9/11. Yet, if the citizens of NYC are outraged at the pathetic response to 9/11, I have yet to hear about it. I don't believe that it exists, not if they tolerate green lights celebrating Islam on the iconic skyscraper of their city.

Objectivists tend to be high achievers in different areas and a disproportionate number of people who are tops in their field are Objectivists (CEOs, superstar sports figures, etc.) That's why I think that the critical mass of Objectivists is far lower than 100% of the society, because their influence is greatly magnified by the power of reason. But I don't think that's metaphysically possible in our current lifetimes (unless Drs. de Grey and RJM succeed, an effort I'm willing to help.)

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It's interesting how many people read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and summarize the theme as "excellence vs. mediocrity". I can't remember that thought ever occurring to me when I read them.

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Do any of you think it is necessary to "convert" Christians to every aspect of Objectivism in order to turn this country around? I understand the danger that altruism plays, but there was a time in this country when the danger from Christian altruists didn't come from socialist type government programs, but from the idea that Christians has the moral authority to tell everybody else how to live. Prohibition is a good example of this; what the tee-totalers accomplished however, was an America that drank illegally on principle. What has changed is the mixing of Christianity and their explicitly hated socialist ideals. No matter how much the Christian supposedly hated all forms of socialism, they did so only because Marxism denies the existence of God. Christian altruism left them vulnerable to ideas of "social justice," especially as the ideas of Individualism waned in the late 19th century.

Personally, I find the idea that plunging this country into the unadulterated nihilism of the left in order to stun the population into reason to be hopelessly naive. The decline of a civilization is usually a long, drawn out affair, just as we can easily see by reading our own history. Ayn Rand gave us the curative, but it takes time. I would rather take the side of those with whom I have some basis for agreement. If I have to argue for a principle over every intrusion into my freedom, and why it is wrong, then at least I'm talking with someone who is open to that particular argument and I win something even if they are unable to apply the principle across the board. How does one manage even that much with someone who not only denies principles, but sees them as dangerous "ideologies" to be eschewed at all costs?

Also, I would draw one's attention to the fact that the left is now riding the religion train, and there are plenty of the faithful who agree with them. We are not going to save ourselves from the ravages of religious thought by choosing one political party over another (as such), and we certainly aren't going to do so by siding with the absolute worst among them. As far as I can tell, that is accepting their premises in spades and in reality. Just because one actually disagrees 100% doesn't change the effect on our civilization of hastening the collapse.

Unless, of course, your purpose is to bring this country to its knees ala Atlas Shrugged. How we are to bring Objectivism to a world deliberately thrown into a dark age, I don't pretend to know. I do know that people don't suddenly "see the light" because things get bad, especially when those people believe that the world is rotten anyway and suffering is God's way of teaching us all a lesson, or when they see human beings as a cancer destroying Mother Earth. Miss Rand gave us an accelerated version of the fall, and brilliantly explicated the causes. Unfortunately, it won't happen like that. There is no John Galt talking the most productive into hiding. A better example of what happens to the most productive in actuality is what happened in Russia, where they were deprived, enslaved, starved and murdered--on an unbelievable scale. (Unfortunately, that is just one example.)

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This song by "The Charlie Daniels Band" is pretty representative of what I'm talking about:
People say I'm no good

I'm crazy as a loon

'cause I get stoned in the morning,

I get drunk in the afternoon.

Kinda like my old blue tick hound

I like to lay around in the shade.

And I ain't got no money

[...]

Well, when I said Republican or Democrat, I guess I should add that I meant somebody that had at least risen to the level of a functioning human being. A lazy hillbilly doing his best to destroy what's left of his mind is not personally my image of America.

I'm sorry but you're not getting off the hook with just this reply! Consider not the person of the song, but the demographic to whom this song resonated with (the people they sold all their albums too)--Southern Christian Republicans. The vast majority of these people aren't the lazy dopehead that is depicted in the song, but they do share the sentiment of the song; the viewpoint of "yes I realize I'm not a perfect Christian, I don't pray and read the Bible every day, but I'm not bothering anyone so get your nose out of my business!".

What were your thoughts on the rest of my post? (everything that proceeded the song).

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Personally, I find the idea that plunging this country into the unadulterated nihilism of the left in order to stun the population into reason to be hopelessly naive.

I hope it's clear from what I've posted on the subject over time that I don't agree that the environmentalist Left is any fix for the supposed threat of a theocracy; for one thing, I don't think there's any such credible threat. I also think it's sad that some prominent Objectivists think that the Objectivist vote has any meaning currently, whether for or against the Republicans. Any small town in America can outvote the sum total of all American Objectivists, even if they all voted the same way (and *that* ain't gonna happen!) Their time would be far better spent in promoting the spread and understanding of Objectivism.

The decline of a civilization is usually a long, drawn out affair, just as we can easily see by reading our own history. Ayn Rand gave us the curative, but it takes time. I would rather take the side of those with whom I have some basis for agreement.

I think the most effective way that an Objectivist could make a political difference today is by being an intellectual advisor to powerful political men. He would not be there to agree with them - he would be there to get them to agree with him. The job sounds like total hell to me but perhaps somebody would be up to it.

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Thank-you, Oldsalt, for that. In answer to one of your questions.

Do any of you think it is necessary to "convert" Christians to every aspect of Objectivism in order to turn this country around?

No. Such a thing is beyond reality so long as there are individual minds involved. Even if this were possible, Christians are not the only people who would require such "conversion" . . . not by a very long shot.

Personally, I find the idea that plunging this country into the unadulterated nihilism of the left in order to stun the population into reason to be hopelessly naive.

. . . .

Unless, of course, your purpose is to bring this country to its knees ala Atlas Shrugged.

This hits the proverbial nail on its head for me.

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Really, why does this whole philosophical deduction of "Liberals are an intellectual vacuum that will be filled by Republican Christian Philosophy" have to be taken almost as axiomatic fact without some kind of substantial proof based on evidence in reality?

I think it's because of the religious right's influence in the Republican Party. It's a creeping phenomenon that should be of concern. This is why I'm heartened by the presence of Giuliani. He could help break that trend.

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Having read through a bit of both threads...

The conservatives as a rule come across as thoughtful and intelligent, while the liberals come across as nihilistic, anti-intellectual and snarling creatures from a dark hole somewhere. What a stark contrast. The only think I'd say is that this falls in line with Peikoff's concern. Conservatives today would be more dangerous, because they have value to offer.

Or that they will be better because they will be the most likely people in the US to sympathize with a pro-Western, pro-Freedom, Pro-Reason, pro-Value philosophy! What matters is that one side strongly believes in objective morality and values, while the other side openly smirks in delight at proclaiming there are no values and morality is purely a subjective social construct.

...one side has the dying remnants of the classical American sense of life in their corner (usually Republicans) completely undercut by religion...

I don't know what Republicans you know, but considering I was raised in the Republican Bible Belt I think I have a pretty solid experience with these people, and what you describe isn't what I've seen: Religion is not what is undercutting the Republicans--I mean heck, if you really get down to it, most Christian Republicans are by no means at all what a Christian should be if he followed the Bible literally. To most Christian Republicans Church is just that annoying activity that gets in the way of hunting, fishing and a good NFL season game on a relaxing Sunday. They still subscribe to religion because they want to be good, honorable men, and they believe to some extent that that is what good and honorable men do--they go to Church (but they make sure never to take too much of it seriously, nor to press it on others too much). But when it comes down to deciding serious life matters, they rarely turn to "The Good Book"; instead all their decisions will be based on a generous mixture of practical self-interest, common-sense, and general benevolence towards their fellow man. Their Ethics could probably be summed up as the Protestant Work-Ethic, which once again has just as much to do with the real essence of Christianity as Easter Bunnies do.

What I see undercutting these people is Pragmatism and bad ideas in the realm of politics as it is thrust on them by Leftists: they know for some reason that taxes and welfare are bad, but then they'll vote for someone because he'll provide subsidies to farmers. They think Global Warming is a bunch of nonsense, but then again they still think that some endangered animals ought to be protected, and some public land should be reserved for parks and wildlife habitats. In short, what is hurting them isn't some intrinsic platonic morality, but rather a fragmented secular pragmatist morality that prevents them from seeing the common principles behind different concrete political issues. Therefore they often take contradictory political stances that give them only a weak defense and little counter-attack against the Leftists politically.

I know that this dead horse has been beaten to sub-atomic particles by now, but Objectivist culture really needs to realize that this whole idea of Christianity conquering the Republican Party is blatantly unfounded in reality. Yes, there are many extremely religious, politically active Republicans that truly have been poisoned by Christianity, but please believe me when I say that they do not represent the majority of Christian Republicans, but instead only represent a very politically active minority.

If I could think of one defining political view of a Christian Republican, it would be that he doesn't want anybody (preachers, politicians, etc.) sticking their big nose into his life--he wants to be left the heck alone.

I'm sorry but you're not getting off the hook with just this reply!

"I'm sorry but you are not getting off the hook" that easily. Your comments on this post seem to be some what contradictory to your post and thoughts of just a year ago. Please explain where you stand and how you have changed your mind to come to where you are today. Or were you statments from the linked post hap-hazzard?

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=4378

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"I'm sorry but you are not getting off the hook" that easily. Your comments on this post seem to be some what contradictory to your post and thoughts of just a year ago. Please explain where you stand and how you have changed your mind to come to where you are today. Or were you statments from the linked post hap-hazzard?

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=4378

Well, in short I've changed a lot for the better! I used to be extremely rationalistic about the whole Christianity and America issue, and because of my honesty and focus on reality the overwhelming weight of evidence I saw every day completely crushed and obliterated my old views (which were really bad and disconnected from reality). I would write something insane like "Christianity is more of a threat than Islam" and then I would go socialize with a bunch of Christian friends, and my empirical evidence would blatantly contradict everything I uttered in my rationalism-drenched arguments.

If you ever watched "The X-Files" agent Mulder always had a poster with a UFO on it that said "I want to believe"; I can't stress enough the subtle but very negative importance of that mindset when it comes to issues like this, and how it's a window into rationalism.

I'm pretty sure I issued a post somewhere in a thread where I explained that I had drastically changed my views on this whole issue of Christianity and America.

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