|There is much distress among Objectivists that their philosophy can not gain greater acceptance among the general public. The issue of God may be the biggest reason. Depending upon which poll you read 70-80% of Americans believe in a diety. |
When Nietzsche wrote "God is dead", "God" represented the shared culture which had once been the defining and uniting characteristic of European civilization. Nietzsche was concerned that the acceptance of the God’s death would mean the end of accepted standards of morality and of purpose; that without accepted faith based standards, society would be threatened by nihilism. A cursory glance at today’s Europe shows us how prescient that was. Young minds are filled with the ‘wisdom’ of Jacques Derrida and Umberto Eco who tell us that firmly held convictions and clear visions of the truth are ‘worthless hallucinations of the mind’, and that ‘truth and fact are judgmental’. Eco perfects the villainy with "The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen [should be viewed] as the beginning of modern depravity."
The founders of this nation, like Nietzsche, also feared that banishing religion from the public square would result in an absence of ethics or in SOLO’s elegant vernacular ‘pomo wanking’. George Washington noted, "Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion." Leonard Peikoff commenting on America’s founding notes, "The leaders of the American Enlightenment did not reject the idea of the supernatural completely; characteristically, they were deists, who believed that God exists as nature's remote, impersonal creator, and as the original source of natural law; but, they held, having performed these functions, God thereafter retires into the role of a passive, disinterested spectator ..."
Objectivists rightly argue that Ethics do not depend upon a belief in God, but the ordinary man is not capable of separating the two or engaging in a study of the Epistemology necessary to come to an understanding of the Ethics proper for man. Rand observes this when she notes in her journal, "Men’s intellectual capacities have always been so unequal, that to the thinkers, the majority of their brothers have probably always seemed sub-human. And some men may still be, for all the evidence of their rationality, or lack of it." To the average man, religion and ethics are synonymous and freedom from God equates to freedom from morality; and evidence is abundant that they act accordingly.
Rand did not excoriate God; she attacked religion. In any interview where Rand was asked about God, she spoke respectfully while making it clear that her real objection which was the substitution of faith for reason. She chose to focus on faith v. reason and to attack specifically the concept of altruism, brilliantly recognizing that this was the root cause of collectivism and the root of all evil. She condemns religious superstition and irrationality, consciously choosing not to fuss about some retired clockmaker. In her new introduction to the Fountainhead, Rand says "the difficulty with discussions of the spiritual is the undefined prejudicial concepts involved." She tells us, "[repeating for emphasis]…I said that religious abstractions are the product of man’s mind, not of supernatural revelation". Rand's quote reminds us that it is incorrect to dismiss religious abstractions as purely mystical or as a hallucinations of the mind.
Those who are militantly godless, as opposed to those who treat God as irrelevant, throw out the baby, i.e. ethics/morality, with the bath water and suffer the unintended consequence of creating a vacuum that is invariably filled by post modernism, i.e., a society without values. Rand like the Deists of the Enlightenment simply ignores ‘god’ as irrelevant. Deism, after all, is hard to distinquish from the Objectivist belief that reality is the final arbiter, that ‘nature’ can compel, and that the universe is benevolent.
Objectivists who are in distress because Objectivism is sweeping the nation might take a clue from Jefferson who says,
"But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782.