Libertarians and Life
Can Atheism Be Pro-Life?
Playboy Interview with Ayn Rand
Many libertarians are atheists and are not pro-life. Some have even said that Christianity is anti-life.
I received an email with the following (email on left, my response on right):
|Yes, it seems that most major religions are anti-human, death-oriented. Ayn Rand makes sense of the subject||I agree with many things Ayn Rand has written. We both defend capitalism. I agree that most major religions are anti-human, death-oriented.|
|PLAYBOY: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?|
|RAND: Qua religion, no—in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
— “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.
|Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the nonideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used.
“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.
|The word "sacrificed" can be found in a sentence like, "I sacrificed a high-paying job to stay home with the children." In that context, it means to forego, or give up. Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Christ The Ideal Man is still alive. He wasn't "sacrificed" in the sense that we lost or no longer have access to Him or the benefits He provides. Here again, "faith" is confidence in long-term investments. If I "sacrifice" maximum profit for myself in the short-run, and invest in the future of my children, then the combined productivity of my children will be greater than the productivity I sacrificed, and that means more for the rest of the world.
|What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call [man’s] Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge—he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil—he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor—he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire—he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy—all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was—that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love —he was not man.||It is ludicrous to state that the Bible portrays man as acquiring a mind and becoming (for the first time) a rational being by disobeying God's command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All these things -- the things Rand defends -- reason, morality, creativeness, joy -- are man's by virtue of his being created in the Image of God.
The temptation was "to be as god," not "to be rational."
Lester J. Kuyper states that, “this means that man was induced to take divine prerogatives in his own hand and set up his own moral order…Man had taken to himself a right which is God’s.” Also, as Bruckner states, “In choosing to eat from the tree, they knew they could be like God, simply because they could trust their own judgment in place of God’s judgment. They could take God’s place and reject what God gave for them to accept for their good.” The “knowledge of good and bad” is essentially the ability to determine what is good and what is bad for themselves.
|Man’s fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he’s man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.||I don't know who "they" are, but it's not the Bible.|
|They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man.|
|No, they say, they do not preach that man is evil, the evil is only that alien object: his body. No, they say, they do not wish to kill him, they only wish to make him lose his body. They seek to help him, they say, against his pain—and they point at the torture rack to which they’ve tied him, the rack with two wheels that pull him in opposite directions, the rack of the doctrine that splits his soul and body.
Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 137.
|The material-spiritual distinction here is Greco-Roman, not Biblical: "neo-platonism." The material world was created "very good" according to the Bible.
Torture is clearly unBiblical.
|The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive—a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence . . . Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God . . . Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man’s power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith . . . The purpose of man’s life
. . . is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.
Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 139.
|Obviously the Bible defines God as more than that which is "beyond man's power to conceive." There is a positive as well as a negative definition:
According to the Bible, human beings were created to exercise dominion over the earth. From Genesis to Revelation, this means turning wilderness into the Garden-City of the New Jerusalem. This means the creation of wealth by the transformation of "natural resources." This means science, economics, and social organization. "Abject zombie" is the language of emotional propaganda, not of rational scholarship trying to understand the teaching of the Bible.
|The kind of sense of life that produced the [papal] encyclical “Populorum Progressio” . . . was not produced by the sense of life of any one person, but by the sense of life of an institution.||I don't defend Roman Catholicism or any other human institution, but given Rand's unscholarly summary of the Bible, I don't trust her summary of this encyclical.|
|The dominant chord of the encyclical’s sense of life is hatred for man’s mind—hence hatred for man—hence hatred for life and for this earth—hence hatred for man’s enjoyment of his life on earth—and hence, as a last and least consequence, hatred for the only social system that makes all these values possible in practice: capitalism.
“Requiem for Man,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 304.
|There are obviously many Catholic scholars who do not hate man's mind, hate life, or hate this earth. This kind of emotional slander does not advance rational analysis.
Many Catholics have defended capitalism, such as Michael Novak.
|The encyclical is the voice of the Dark Ages, rising again in today’s intellectual vacuum, like a cold wind whistling through the empty streets of an abandoned civilization.||While many decry "colonialism," the encyclical gives "a word of praise for those colonizers whose skills and technical know-how brought benefits to many untamed lands, and whose work survives to this day. The structural machinery they introduced was not fully developed or perfected, but it did help to reduce ignorance and disease, to promote communication, and to improve living conditions."|
|Unable to resolve a lethal contradiction, the conflict between individualism and altruism, the West is giving up. When men give up reason and freedom, the vacuum is filled by faith and force.||The encyclical notes that there are vast disparities in wealth in some countries, where elites with government power enslave workers in perpetually low wages. "In such troubled times some people are strongly tempted by the alluring but deceitful promises of would-be saviors. Who does not see the concomitant dangers: public upheavals, civil insurrection, the drift toward totalitarian ideologies?"
"The injustice of certain situations cries out for God's attention. Lacking the bare necessities of life, whole nations are under the thumb of others; they cannot act on their own initiative; they cannot exercise personal responsibility; they cannot work toward a higher degree of cultural refinement or a greater participation in social and public life. They are sorely tempted to redress these insults to their human nature by violent means."
|No social system can stand for long without a moral base. Project a magnificent skyscraper being built on quicksands: while men are struggling upward to add the hundredth and two-hundredth stories, the tenth and twentieth are vanishing, sucked under by the muck. That is the history of capitalism, of its swaying, tottering attempt to stand erect on the foundation of the altruist morality.||"the Church has never failed to foster the human progress of the nations to which she brings faith in Christ. Besides erecting sacred edifices, her missionaries have also promoted construction of hospitals, sanitariums, schools and universities. By teaching the native population how to take full advantage of natural resources, the missionaries often protected them from the greed of foreigners."
"many [missionaries] pioneered in promoting the country's material and cultural progress."
|It’s either-or. If capitalism’s befuddled, guilt-ridden apologists do not know it, two fully consistent representatives of altruism do know it: Catholicism and communism.||Many "capitalists" will not invest in dirt-poor countries, because there is little "ROI" (return on investment). Altruism civilizes the heathen, and prevents them from being exploited by capitalists (for labor) or socialists (for political power). Just as parents civilize self-centered babies into adults, missionaries civilize barbarians and lay the foundations for capitalism.|
|Their rapprochement, therefore, is not astonishing. Their differences pertain only to the supernatural, but here, in reality, on earth, they have three cardinal elements in common: the same morality, altruism—the same goal, global rule by force—the same enemy, man’s mind.||Christianity does not have as its goal "global rule by force." Global rule by the "Invisible Hand" of providence. The "mind" is not the enemy of Christianity. Moral shortcomings, like envy, retard economic growth. Liberty depends on morality.|
|There is a precedent for their strategy. In the German election of 1933, the communists supported the Nazis, on the premise that they could fight each other for power later, but must first destroy their common enemy, capitalism. Today, Catholicism and communism may well cooperate, on the premise that they will fight each other for power later, but must first destroy their common enemy, the individual, by forcing mankind to unite to form one neck ready for one leash.
“Requiem for Man,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 316.
|The Roman Catholic hierarchy has fallen prey to many economic fallacies. Many Christians, both within and without that institution, have criticized poor economic reasoning among clergy, and many liberal clergy have begun moving in the right direction. Good arguments based on reason and facts are more likely to persuade than the "one neck/one leash" rhetoric coming from Ayn Rand.|
|Is there any difference between the encyclical’s philosophy and communism? I am perfectly willing, on this matter, to take the word of an eminent Catholic authority. Under the headline: “Encyclical Termed Rebuff to Marxism,” The New York Times of March 31, 1967, reports: “The Rev. John Courtney Murray, the prominent Jesuit theologian, described Pope Paul’s newest encyclical yesterday as ‘the church’s definitive answer to Marxism.’ . . . ‘The Marxists have proposed one way, and in pursuing their program they rely on man alone,’ Father Murray said. `Now Pope Paul VI has issued a detailed plan to accomplish the same goal on the basis of true humanism—humanism that recognizes man’s religious nature.’”||Marxism promises a decent standard of living to those who presently live in squalor. Marxism uses violent revolution to accomplish this goal. The Catholic Church is saying we need to lift the poor out of poverty without violent revolution. To say that there is no difference between communism and Christianity is ludicrous. Atheism helped create communism, and Christianity was the major force resisting it and bringing it down.|
|So much for those American “conservatives” who claim that religion is the base of capitalism—and who believe that they can have capitalism and eat it, too, as the moral cannibalism of the altruist ethics demands.|
|And so much for those modern “liberals” who pride themselves on being the champions of reason, science, and progress—and who smear the advocates of capitalism as superstitious, reactionary representatives of a dark past. Move over, comrades, and make room for your latest fellow-travelers, who had always belonged on your side—then take a look, if you dare, at the kind of past they represent.
“Requiem for Man,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 314.
|[There is one] possibly misleading sentence . . . in Roark’s speech: “From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning mind.”|
|This could be misinterpreted to mean an endorsement of religion or religious ideas. I remember hesitating over that sentence, when I wrote it, and deciding that Roark’s and my atheism, as well as the overall spirit of the book, were so clearly established that no one would misunderstand it, particularly since I said that religious abstractions are the product of man’s mind, not of supernatural revelation.|
|But an issue of this sort should not be left to implications. What I was referring to was not religion as such, but a special category of abstractions, the most exalted one, which, for centuries, had been the near-monopoly of religion: ethics—not the particular content of religious ethics, but the abstraction “ethics,” the realm of values, man’s code of good and evil, with the emotional connotations of height, uplift, nobility, reverence, grandeur, which pertain to the realm of man’s values, but which religion has arrogated to itself . . .|
|Religion’s monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has pre-empted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man’s reach. “Exaltation” is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. “Worship” means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. “Reverence” means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one’s knees. “Sacred” means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.||The phrase "a rational view of life" means "a secular view of life."
In an atheistic worldview, man and his environment are meaningless accidents. "Worship," "reverence," and "sacred" would never evolve in a purely materialistic and evolving universe.
|But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man’s dedication to a moral ideal. Yet apart from the man-degrading aspects introduced by religion, that emotional realm is left unidentified, without concepts, words or recognition.||The Declaration of Independence speaks of certain "self-evident truths." The book of Romans says there is no such thing as an atheist. Deep down, this sense of "worship" and "exaltation" leads rationally and reasonably to the conclusion that God exists, and the Bible is His Revelation to mankind. But a certain amount of homework is necessary. Truth is not arrived at by mystical osmosis. When it comes to understanding the connection between liberty and Christianity, Rand has not done her homework. She goes about searching for monsters.|
|It is this highest level of man’s emotions that has to be redeemed from the murk of mysticism and redirected at its proper object: man.
“Introduction to The Fountainhead,” The Objectivist, March 1968, 4.
|Secular Humanist ethics have always failed. Proof.|
|Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy.
“The Chickens’ Homecoming,”
Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 46.
|"Philosophy" means "love of wisdom." The Bible is overwhelmingly positive toward "wisdom."|
|The ideology that opposes man’s enjoyment of his life on earth and holds sex as such to be evil—the same ideology that is the source and cause of anti-obscenity censorship [is]: religion.||This is the logical equivalent of saying that if you oppose child molestation, you are "anti-sex."|
|For a discussion of the profound, metaphysical reasons of religion’s antagonism to sex, I refer you to my article “Of Living Death” (The Objectivist, September–November 1968), which deals with the papal encyclical on contraception, “Of Human Life.” Today, most people who profess to be religious, particularly in this country, do not share that condemnation of sex—but it is an ancient tradition which survives,
consciously or subconsciously, even in the minds of many irreligious persons, because it is a logical consequence implicit in the basic causes and motives of any form of mysticism.
“Thought Control,” The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 1, 3.
|This is the logical equivalent of saying that if you tell an unwed teenager not to have sex because she might get pregnant and killing the baby would be murder, that you are "anti-sex."
|Since religion is a primitive form of philosophy—an attempt to offer a comprehensive view of reality—many of its myths are distorted, dramatized allegories based on some element of truth, some actual, if profoundly elusive, aspect of man’s existence.
“Philosophy and Sense of Life,” The Romantic Manifesto, 25.
|A sound-bite, not an argument.|
|In mankind’s history, art began as an adjunct (and, often, a monopoly) of religion. Religion was the primitive form of philosophy: it provided man with a comprehensive view of existence. Observe that the art of those primitive cultures was a concretization of their religion’s metaphysical and ethical abstractions.
“The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” The Romantic Manifesto, 20.
|Rand is correct in identifying religion as the foundation of art.
Today, secularist propaganda has ripped art from its Christian foundations, and the result is chaos.
|It has often been noted that a proof of God would be fatal to religion: a God susceptible of proof would have to be finite and limited; He would be one entity among others within the universe, not a mystic omnipotence transcending science and reality. What nourishes the spirit of religion is not proof, but faith, i.e., the undercutting of man’s mind.||The best proof of Christianity is the fact that on a secularist presupposition, art, capitalism, science, sex, and charity crumble to pieces, as there is no logical basis for them in an impersonal, meaningless cosmos. The resurrection of Christ can be proven in any court of law in any common law nation, according to Simon Greenleaf, Harvard Law School co-founder and leading authority on the Law of Evidence. If Christ was right about his own resurrection, it is rational to conclude that He is right about everything else He said. If Christianity is not recognized in the judicial system, then O.J. walks.|
| Leonard Peikoff, “‘Maybe You’re Wrong,’”
The Objectivist Forum, April 1981, 12.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The fear of the LORD leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.
He who follows righteousness and mercy Finds life, righteousness, and honor.
The Good Samaritan saves lives.
Christ tells His followers to be concerned for the life and material needs of others: The "Works of Mercy"John 10:10
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
s the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
1 Corinthians 6:3
for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
1 Timothy 4:8
1 Peter 3:8-11
1 John 3:16
Dominion, Wealth, and Postmillennianalism
The first commandment given to human beings was to "exercise dominion" over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). This is a command to turn raw "natural resources" into "wealth" usable by and for the benefit of mankind. Abraham, the father of the faithful, was "very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Genesis 13:2). God promises great wealth to those who faithfully obey God's Commandments (Deuteronomy 28:1-15; Leviticus 26:3-13). Even those who temporarily sacrifice for the benefit of others will be wealthier in the long run (Mark 10:29-30). The Biblical view of human history is one of continuous economic growth, with no limits.