Tag Archives: Christianity

No, Ayn Rand is not Compatible With Christianity

In a recent article over at TownHall.com, columnist Katie Kieffer argues that Ayn Rand’s economic philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism is compatible with Christianity.  In building her argument, Ms. Kieffer makes a number of missteps worth discussing.

First and foremost, I take issue with Kieffer’s primary claim. Pure capitalism (which Ayn Rand advocated) and Christianity are not compatible. To understand why, we must first understand the moral foundations for each system. Let me begin with Christianity. Christianity is based on altruism – the moral philosophy that posits man’s self-sacrifice to others is moral and good. St. Aquinas himself, which Kieffer even quotes in her article, claimed that we should love our neighbor more than ourselves in his Summa Theologica. Christianity’s affinity for altruism goes as far back as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain. In large part, Rand’s rejection of religion in general and Christianity in particular was altruism, something Rand regarded as evil and self-destructive if practiced consistently.

Capitalism, however, rests on a different moral philosophy. In a true capitalistic society, individuals are free to trade with each other, value for value, on mutual grounds. Neither buyer nor seller act as master or slave, but instead as moral equals. This presupposes that men have individual rights sanctioning their life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness which can only be obtained by affirming one’s life as one’s highest value. Rand showed that in order to live, in order to obtain any value, reasoned action is required to gain and keep it. Man then plays the role of his own beneficiary, and that “any breach between actor and beneficiary necessitates an injustice: the sacrifice of some men to others, of the actors to the nonactors, of the moral to the immoral.”

Christianity accepts the morality of self-sacrifice, capitalism rejects it. Christianity necessitates selflessness, capitalism necessitates selfishness. Christianity places the welfare of others above one’s own, capitalism affirms man’s right to his own life. Kieffer makes the fatal error of attempting to marry Rand’s philosophical defense of capitalism with biblical altruism, when the two simply aren’t compatible.

Kieffer makes another error that is irresistible to ignore. In attempting to sooth fellow Christians of their contempt for Rand and her atheism, Kieffer says “If it is rational for Rand to believe (without proof) that God does not exist, it is also rational for a Christian to believe that God exists. Since both atheists and Christians are rational, atheism is unessential to being a capitalist.” This is a total misrepresentation of Rand’s atheism. Rand did not submit that her disbelief in God was an act of faith. In actuality, Rand strongly believed, based on metaphysical grounds, that a supernatural god does not exist. A full refutation of God’s existence is inappropriate here, but a brief argument in its favor is necessary.

Christian’s are quick to agree that God is not a natural creature floating somewhere in space and time. Being so would confine Him to natural laws of physics. God is necessarily supernatural, they claim. He exists beyond existence, beyond entities, beyond identity. However, Rand and her heirs were quick to point out that the very concept of the “supernatural” represents an attack on man’s knowledge – an assault on everything man knows about reality. “It is a contradiction of every essential of a rational metaphysics. It represents a rejection of the basic axioms of philosophy.” Keiffer champions reason, but ignores a major assault on reason – faith. Faith necessarily negates reason, to the follower’s detriment.

One last mistake by Keiffer is worth mentioning. “Rand,” she says, “may have been an atheist, but she embraced reason and natural law.” Rand’s conception of rights is far from naturalistic. We have rights, not because we are born with them or that they are innate within us. We have rights because they are necessary to survive in a social context. If we are to live our lives, enjoy liberty, and pursue our own happiness, we need the freedom to do so uninterrupted by others. Rights are then observations of reality and are dependent on context, not naturalistic abstractions that exist irrespective if you’re Saddam Hussein or Ayn Rand.

Ms. Keiffer is well-intentioned but severely misguided and lacking in understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of Rand’s philosophy. I would recommend a further study of Objectivism on her part, one that consists of both Rand’s fiction and nonfiction. Objectivism is no small pill to swallow; it is an entire philosophic system beginning with intense concepts such as metaphysics and epistemology which form the basis for others concepts like politics and economics. A rush to the later without an understanding of the former will make a fool out of anyone.

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Christianity’s Unreasonableness

I would like to respond to Jack Kerwick’s Sunday article “The Reasonableness of Christianity over at The American Thinking. In his article, Mr. Kerwick committed a great injustice by marrying the concepts of reason and mysticism in an aberrant matrimony conceived in a grasping effort to legitimize God. In doing so, Mr. Kerwick demonstrated an egregious misunderstanding of the concept of reason.

Mr. Kerwick defines reason as man’s ability to convince, observe, and act upon that which cannot be seen – God. Reason is not some supernatural human ability that allows us to understand that which we cannot observe. Reason is an earthly, uniquely human characteristic that aid’s man in his pursuit of life, not his pursuit of leprechauns, unicorns, and magic.

Reason is man’s only means of knowledge acquisition. He must use and depend upon his senses to collect evidence of his environment, to process that knowledge with his mind, to formulate concepts, ideas, and goals based on that evidence, and act accordingly. A student seeking to attend a good college must first gather data on a variety of universities, collate them with respect to his academic interests and goals, and take note of tuition costs and how it measures against his budget. In choosing what to have for dinner, a parent must keep in mind the nutritional needs of the family, the available ingredients in the home, and how much time is left until dinner is expected. A young couple similarly must take precautions before starting a family, keeping in mind their budget, the size of their house and car, and their family’s support.

In every respect of our lives – small or large – we take action based on a series of observations whether they are instantaneous or long research projects. In acting without reason, the student goes to a university ill-suited for his pursuits; the parent cooks a poor meal; the young couple raises a child in poverty.

Faith, the concept that Mr. Kerwick claims can never be substituted for reason, is by its very definition the antonym of reason – believing in something without evidence. This violates the nature of man.

If it isn’t already clear, I am an atheist. I know that God cannot exist. I know this for the following reasons.

There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God. Evidence unequivocally proving the existence of a supernatural being is nowhere to be found. Since the burden of proof is upon those who claim a thing to be true, my argument remains uncontested so long as proof is absent.

I also reject the fallacy that existence requires a causal explanation. The universe is all that which exists, thus, something outside the universe cannot exist. Inquiring about a cause of existence is a contradiction. By asking “what caused existence?” one is inquiring about something outside of existence. Something cannot come out of nothing. Causality presupposes existence and existence is an irreducible primary.

Mr. Kerwick ends his piece by crediting Christians with a “rich intellectual tradition” worth exploration. I agree that such a “tradition” should be explored, but I doubt the evidence found on that journey is congruent with Kerwick’s assumption. The Christian faith has a long and enduring history of standing in opposition to human scientific progression. Christianity’s imperial roots necessitated the sequestration of new ideas that contradicted the church, including those of Galileo and astrology, Newton and physics, De Maillet and evolution. It would behoove Mr. Kerwick to not forget the multiple inquisitions, crusades, and backwards practices of justice by the church throughout history sending millions to their deaths for no objective reason.

The crimsoned hands of Christianity should not be confused with intellectualism. Mysticism should not be confused with reality. Faith should not be confused with reason. Mr. Kerwick holds before us a model of ignorance counterproductive to the human spirit, and an active destroyer of it both in the past and the present.

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