A Benevolent God Would Not Create A Universe Of Slaves

gregster's picture
Submitted by gregster on Fri, 2011-09-09 03:46

 

 

Seen on Ebay recently. A letter written by Ayn Rand to one Reverend Dudley appears to have been bought for $4,999. In case it disappears from view, here it is.


Richard Dawkins attacks Muslim schools

Marcus's picture

Richard Dawkins attacks Muslim schools for stuffing children's minds with 'alien rubbish'

Richard Dawkins claims Muslim schools are having a "pernicious" influence on children who are having their minds "stuffed with alien rubbish" such as claims the world is only 6,000 years old.

"The author of The God Delusion, who has previously described religious education provided by faith schools as a form of child abuse, said that the effect was "utterly deplorable" especially as it lasted until their university years.

The prominent atheist said he could live with some faith schools that are vaguely religious and saved his fire for the schools that were teaching "total nonsense".

Mr Dawkins, former Oxford University professor and evolutionary biologist, made his comments as he spoke to the Times Educational Supplement about the launch of a new science book.

He said that while he opposed faith schools as a whole, it was the Muslim ones that worried him the most.

"Occasionally, my colleagues lecturing in universities lament having undergraduate students walk out of their classes when they talk about evolution – this is almost entirely Muslims," he said...

Mr Dawkins, who last year said he was thinking about setting up an atheist school, does, however, see the value of teaching religion but only as a way of putting the modern world into context.

He said it was important to learn for example about the Greek Gods to appreciate the poetry of Keats, the Norse Gods to relate to Wagner, and Judaism and Christianity to understand literature.

The fellow of New College, Oxford, said the lessons like his new book – The Magic of Reality – should teach children about the thousands of myths from around the world which were part of education to learn.

"I do think it valuable to teach comparative religion as a sort of anthropological study and that's sort of what all my comparative myths in The Magic of Reality are about," he said.

"If there's one thing I wanted to do in the book, it was that I don't want to downgrade myths, but the science is even more wonderful," he said."

The Magic of Reality is published by Bantam Press priced £20.

Doug

Richard Goode's picture

Think of the scene at the end of Star Trek 3 where Spock is brought back to life and his consciousness is placed back into his body.

Think of the Resurrection of the Dead prior to the Day of Judgment where Bandler is brought back to life and his consciousness is placed back into his body.

Re Soul

Doug Bandler's picture

The classical conception of "soul", as in Aristotle's De Anima ("On the Soul"), understood it to be the basic animating principle of living beings (implying, therefore, that anything alive had some sort of soul animating it).

Interesting. But what then distinguishes "soul" from life itself?

I have seen the use of the world soul to roughly be synonymous with character or psychology as when Rand said that "man is a being of self-made soul." This is a poetic usage which is fine. But the way Aristotle used it, it sounds as if he was getting at what today would be some bio-chemical quantifier of "life-force"; almost some version of living energy.

As an aside when I was a younger atheist I used to never use the word soul because I thought it was sanctioning religion. I was a rationalist back then. Now I think the term "soul" is a very powerful and poetic term. Think of the scene at the end of Star Trek 3 where Spock is brought back to life and his consciousness is placed back into his body. Sarek, Spock's father, tells Kirk that he lost so much in saving Spock; his career, his ship, his son. Kirk responds "If I didn't try to save Spock, I would have lost my soul." What a powerful line. No other word would have worked in that situation.

Soul = Ego + unconscious Ego

gregster's picture

Equals Soul = Ego.

Philosophy, not dogma

Ed Hudgins's picture

Gregster – I vaguely recall Rand stating a later age from which she didn’t change her basic philosophy; 2 ½ year-olds really don’t have the conceptual capacities to make such determinations.

But your point is deeper. What differentiates a philosophy from a dogma is that a philosophy is something one is always applying to the real world and refining. One might rightly keep the same basic premises as they are proven correct time and again over the decades and still always be coming to a better understanding of those premises. Objectivists do not claim to be omniscient and thus one thing we know for certain is that we will always be growing in our knowledge.

On religion, for example, Rand did not change her mind concerning the existence of God. But she did refine her understanding of the motives of religious people, where they might be open to persuasion and where they are not, etc.

By the way, I argue that this point is what defines the open approach to Objectivism and what makes Objectivism a philosophy rather than a dogma. My interest is not in criticizing Rand as an individual for not being omniscient. It is to use the philosophy to understand the world and to continue to refine it as might be needed.

On Islam, yes, the rejection of cause and effect and the notion that the operation of the world in which we live is simply an ongoing miracle by a God who could change his mind at any given time would make the rational investigation of the underlying causes operating in the world a useless pursuit.

The take-home lesson—has I state in my 9/11 anniversary op-ed, is that ideas have consequences!

Linz...

Marcus's picture

...BBC America is up to date and is showing it a few days later.

So too is the Australian channnel ABC.

There was muzak playing at the hotel lobby. Don't know if that counts as noise.

Anyway, look if the episode has the title "the God Complex" if you want to try and stomach it.

Re: "soul" and "ego"

darren's picture

"Ego" is the first-person-singular personal pronoun in Latin. It simply means "I."

So a person's subjective sense of separateness from others, and his sense of uniqueness or individuality, is his "I" or "ego."

An "ego" is self-created. We are born with the capacity for building one, but it isn't developed automatically -- certainly not to any significant degree. A bit like bodybuilding: muscles are given, but developing them has to be done by engaging (or choosing to engage) in certain kinds of actions.

One's sense of uniqueness and individuality depends on the mental state of "wide-awake consciousness", though, again, the "I" is a particular kind of subjective experience within that state of consciousness and should not be confused with actually being that state itself. Because of this, when we lose that state of consciousness -- as when we are asleep, for example -- we also lose, or temporarily suspend, the "I" or "ego."

"Soul" is completely different. We have a soul when we are wide awake; we have a soul when we are sound asleep. Unlike the "I" or "ego", "soul," does not go in and out of periods of suspension. It's a constant presence. This is not to claim that "soul" is static or unchanging. I'm also not claiming that "soul" is necessarily "timeless" or immortal. Those are different issues from the one under consideration.

The classical conception of "soul", as in Aristotle's De Anima ("On the Soul"), understood it to be the basic animating principle of living beings (implying, therefore, that anything alive had some sort of soul animating it).

"Soul" does not require wide-awake consciousness, as "ego" does." We have souls when we are awake; we have them when we daydream; we have them when we are hypnotized and in a trance; we have them when we dream; we have them when we sleep deeply without dreaming; we have them when we are anesthetized and lying on an operating table. We are ego-less in all of these situations, except the first, i.e., wide-awake consciousness.

There are probably many more differences that one could list between "soul" and "ego", but I think the above are enough to show that -- whatever else we might want to say about them -- they certainly are not identical.

Alright

gregster's picture

On to the next obvious question that I have. You stated "Wrong. "Soul" and "ego" are distinguishable concepts and refer to different things."

What does that mean?

Take a reading comprehension course.

darren's picture

I expressed neither inquiry nor doubt. I affirmed that Ayn Rand was wrong.

Then I explained that "disobedience" was the "original sin" of Adam and Eve, and that the upshot of their disobedience, transmitted to their progeny in perpetuity, was: loss of Eden, the coming into existence of death, and spiritual/moral freedom.

No inquiry; no mental reservation; no doubt.

Dr Who

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... screens here every night on UKTV, but I'm not sure how up to date it is. I don't watch because they all make far too much noise. Everyone's always screaming, everything's always crashing and banging. Can't be doing with it. Bring back William Hartnell I say.

Gregster...

Marcus's picture

...another highlight of the episode is a really mole-looking runt of an Alien at the hotel played by David Walliams. He belongs to the most cowardly alien species in the universe and the Doctor says as a consequence one of the oldest.

The line Walliams often repeats is he doesn't want to be hurt or killed because: "I just want to be conquered and oppressed."

I wonder what lefty peaceniks will make of that?

Marcus

gregster's picture

That sounds like a morality tale to watch (not available to view online here). I've long thought 'proof' of the unmitigated failure of altruism is to set man in a science fiction setting, on another planet, or in a space ship, or even on a desert island on earth. The truth of existence soon shows itself. Nature must be obeyed.

The latest episode of Dr Who...

Marcus's picture

...was quite bold I thought. I watched it last night.

At least the idea behind it was.

A monster was killing off people trapped in a hotel one by one. The Doctor discovers that it is killing people who have "faith".

The monster kills a gambler who believes in "luck", a teenager who believes in "conspiracy theories", and a black woman who is a Muslim believer.

The Doctor himself is immune from any "faith" or "superstition" as is one of his assistants.

The final faith he has to disabuse one of his assistants from, in order to save the day, is that the Doctor is a "selfless" hero.

The Doctor tells her that he did not take her with him on the Tardis as a selfless act, but so that she would "adore" him.

Anyway,"faith" is irrational is the idea (including the Muslim faith). I wonder if there will be any complaints?

The God Complex

Very well

gregster's picture

Query as in que·ry
To avoid "breakdown of communication," in the sense of definition 2;
noun
1. a question; an inquiry.
2. mental reservation; doubt.

"." is a full stop. "?" is a question mark.

darren's picture

I have been able to arrange Miss Rand to answer your query directly . . .

What query?

The soul is the ego

gregster's picture

Dazzler,

Firstly please pass on my compliments to your physician. Lately the dosage is optimal and your economics posts are rational and somewhat enlightening. I have been able to arrange Miss Rand to answer your query directly:

“The traditional concepts of an “egoist” are represented in The Fountainhead by Peter Keating and Elsworth Toohey. (Keating is the unthinking, parasitical, “range-of-the-moment secondhander – Toohey is the “Machiavellian schemer” or power-luster.) The relation of these two types to Roark is made amply clear. The theme of The Fountainhead is to demonstrate in what fundamental sense and manner Roark is an egoist, while Keating and Toohey are actually selfless – and why the traditional concepts of egoism are destroying the world. I have stated explicitly (both in The Fountainhead and in Atlas Shrugged) that a man’s self is his consciousness and that the center and motor of his consciousness is his mind. I have discussed, illustrated and proved this point from every relevant aspect known to me.
[..]
This is an example of my conflict with modern philosophy: I am incapable of switching the definitions of my concepts to fit each separate occasion and of letting them mean one thing when I use them, but another when Bertrand Russell uses them, and a third when you use them. [..] What is more, I do not believe that anybody can do it – and I know that the sole result of such an attempt is the sort of breakdown of communication in which you and I are now entangled.”

Letters P. 535, 536. March 5th 1961. Further reading; Soul-body dichotomy.

Thanks Ed

gregster's picture

Very interesting post. I agree she has "[tried] to lead with the positive" for the Reverend. The letter gives a nice insight into Rand's intellectual development.

Neil Parille and similar malcontents try to use this to attack Rand. Parille tries to argue that Rand held a contradiction ridiculously expecting her to have unchanging views since the age of two.

"Rand said she held the same philosophy since age 2 and a half and that no one (with perhaps the exception of Aristotle) influenced her." (comment 18) Not to mention his conspiracy theories and accusations against Peikoff as to how this letter was not included in Letters. Instead of taking a positive view of Rand's positive, albeit later modified outlook at the time, it is being turned against her.

"A religion might evolve in one direction or another depending on what parts and interpretations its adherents emphasize." This can be seen in Islam too.

"The catastrophic result of this view was the denial of the relationship between cause and effect in the natural world. Therefore, what may seem to be "natural laws," such as the laws of physics, gravity, etc., are really nothing more than God's customs, which He is at complete liberty to break or change at any moment. The consequences of this view were momentous. If creation exists simply as a succession of miraculous moments, it cannot be apprehended by reason. As a result, reality becomes incomprehensible. If unlimited will is the exclusive constituent of reality, there is really nothing left to reason about. In The Incoherence of the Philosophers, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111), perhaps the single most influential Muslim thinker after Mohammed, vehemently rejected Greek thought [..]"

Richard

Leonid's picture

"Apparently, you have misquoted Rabbi Hillel"

" That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

There are two different versions of Rabbi Hillel response.
http://www.ou.org/about/judais...
What you are quoting ,is the negative Golden principle of Rabbi Hillel as it appears in Talmud Bavli Tractate Shabbat 31a.

"Love your fellow as yourself "- Rabbi Akiva says this is a great principle of the Torah.( Kedoshim 19:18, Toras Kohanim, ibid. See also Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4; Bereishis Rabbah 24:7) which is a positive Golden principle. The difference is not such big.

But it is well known that Rabbi Akiva lived many years after Hillel. Hillel said: Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow creatures, and bringing them near to the Torah."

"Jesus didn't get "Love your neighbour as yourself" from Rabbi Hillel. He got it from the Old Testament. He says as much."

For Jesus Old testament included oral tradition as well. In any case. this is not a new commandment. What is really new, exclusively Jesus's ,is " Love your enemy as yourself" which has completely different moral implication.

TP on god

Marcus's picture

The "soul" is not the same thing as the "ego"

darren's picture

"The soul is the ego."

Wrong. "Soul" and "ego" are distinguishable concepts and refer to different things.

"I do not know whether the fact that Christianity was the first system to establish the conception of a human being as a free, spiritual entity, is a beneficial achievement if, at the same time, Christianity introduced the conception of original sin."

The "original sin" of Adam and Eve was disobedience ("Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast Brought Death into the World, and all our woe, With loss of Eden . . .")

The paradox in Christianity is that its conception of a human being as a free, spiritual entity depends on the prior acceptance of there having been an original act of disobedience, or rebellion. That man is now spiritually free depends on his prior "original sin."

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

I don't understand why do you make a point to deny the obvious.

Jesus taught, "Love your enemies," "Love your neighbour as yourself," "Love one another as I have loved you," and "Do as you would be done by."

You said that he taught, "Love your enemy as yourself," but this is altogether different morality.

Jesus didn't get "Love your neighbour as yourself" from Rabbi Hillel. He got it from the Old Testament. He says as much.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

Apparently, you have misquoted Rabbi Hillel. You said that when asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he responded, "'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Everything else is commentary." But Hillel's actual response was

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

which is standing on altogether different foot.

Chapter 4 of Branden

Luke Setzer's picture

Chapter 4 of Nathaniel Branden's book The Vision of Ayn Rand explores "The Concept of God." It shows the kind of thought Ayn Rand put into the notion of God. Its contents explain why she necessarily dropped the "Father" protagonist from her great novel.

Thanks for posting!

Ed Hudgins's picture

Gregster – Thanks for posting!

A reminder that Rand planned to have a priest—Father Amadeus—as a striker in Galt’s Gulch. But her thinking on religion clearly changed over the years and the padre ended up on the cutting room floor.

Also one could argue that the “conception of a human being as a free, spiritual entity” can be found in the pre-Christian Stoics, especially in Cicero’s conception of nature law. ("True law is right reason in agreement with nature.”) We also see that early versions of Christianity reflected pagan sects that emphasized individual salvation—see the Eleusinian Mysteries/Rites of Demeter.

I think this letter also shows Rand trying to lead with the positive. If your goal is to persuade, then this is a good approach. At that time she was engaged in discussions with what she probably thought of as honest religious people. (Many religious people, of course, could not be included in this class since their goal is to hold onto their own beliefs by rationalization and evasion, and to twist the minds of others so that those others will accept their religious dogma as well.)

Also consider that Rand's thoughts are instructive in the context of how religions evolve.

Religions are full of contradictions and beliefs or pronouncements open to interpretation. A religion might evolve in one direction or another depending on what parts and interpretations its adherents emphasize. For example, Aquinas emphasized the notion that reason and faith will never contradict each other, that God is not malicious and thus wouldn't give us minds that will give us only false information. This tenet allowed individuals to pursue the truth through reason. At first they might attempt to explain how such discoveries were consistent with some particular Biblical pronouncement. Eventually they would just assume that their reason-based knowledge was somehow consistent and let others worry about making the connections.

Most Protestants, of course, emphasize the importance of understanding the Bible with one's own mind. Unlike the Catholics, who practice infant baptism, many Protestants believed that individuals must make a free will choice to accept Christ.

So it's interesting that Rand focused on the notion of the individual soul and free choice. Such an emphasis could push many to ask deeper questions about what is truly in the self-interest of individuals and come to a more rational understanding of morality.

 Richard

Leonid's picture

  I don't understand why do you make a point to deny the obvious.

 

I said: "Christ's original teaching is " Love your enemy as yourself"

Your response : "No, it's not."

Christ :  "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you " (Luke 6:27-28).

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  "  

Matthew 5:43-48  

 

This is true that he also said "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another " (John 13:34), but let examine how "new " this command is?

"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD."

(Leviticus 19:18, NIV)

 

Talmud describes the story about certain non-Jew who came to Rabbi Hillel and said:"Teach me the Torah while I am standing on one foot." Rabbi Hillel responded:" Love your neighbor as yourself.' Everything else is commentary." 

Jesus was also called Rabbi and without doubt he knew OT and the Rabbi Hillel story. So by calling the well known biblical verse "a new commandment" in my opinion he wasn't utterly candid.

 

 

 

 

Leonid

Richard Goode's picture

Christ simply repeats after rabbi Hilel

No, he doesn't.

Christ's original teaching is " Love your enemy as yourself"

No, it's not.

I wonder why Ayn Rand didn't pick it up.

Perhaps she was being a little too candid.

"Christ said: Love your

Leonid's picture

"Christ said: Love your neighbor as yourself"

No, this is not original Christ's teaching. Christ simply repeats after rabbi Hilel who repeats OT (Leviticus)

Christ's original teaching is " Love your enemy as yourself" and this is altogether different morality. I wonder why Ayn Rand didn't pick it up.

So who's the crowing cock..

Marcus's picture

...in this story?

Keeping him down to a minimum of crowing twice will be quite a task Smiling

Goode

gregster's picture

Another An equally valid interpretation of Mark 14:72 is that Peter was (and likely was the case) a boastful chap prone to sqawkings, and Jesus may have been putting him in his place, rightly or wrongly.

Further

gregster's picture

It should not be taken that Rand, in this letter to the Reverend, assented to Christ’s (supposed) words.

“Christ did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself, but he never said that you should love your neighbor better than yourself”

Oct 9, 1946, to Rose Wilder Lane:

“love thy neighbor as thyself”
First, I have never agreed with that slogan. It is just as impossible and improper as the idea of loving your neighbor above yourself. (What we owe our neighbours is respect, not love.)

Letters P. 331.

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

Wasn't it "cock," how dare you censor Christ?

It's "cock" in the King James Version.

Before the cock crow twice ... thou shalt deny me thrice. And when Gregory thought thereon, he wept.

Generally, I prefer the dethoued New International Version.

Obviously not [edit]

gregster's picture

Do you think the following is a fair representation of Rand's meaning?
I know of some very good arguments of my own in favor of the existence of that which I do not grasp.

I bet you're good at algebra Reed. I'd like to know what she was talking about too. It looks as if she was being a little too candid, or allowing her religionist friend some brief window of credibility.

[edit] The Higgs boson comes to mind. There can be very good arguments for that which one cannot see. That doesn't mean that this particular elusive particle exists.

Do you think the following is

reed's picture

Do you think the following is a fair representation of Rand's meaning?

I know of some very good arguments of my own in favor of the existence of that which I do not grasp.

Wasn't it..

gregster's picture

"cock," how dare you censor Christ?

P. 185, just prior to the below quote

gregster's picture

"Actually, if I can sum up my attitude on the question of God, it's this: From all I can gather, the definition of God is "That which the human mind cannot grasp." Being a rationalist [she uses the term here to mean reasoning, rather than her later meaning, of knowledge derived not from physical reality], literal-minded and believing that it is a moral obligation to mean what you say, I take the persons who made the above definition at their word, I agree and obey them; I don't grasp it."

"Before the rooster crows twice ..."

Richard Goode's picture

Christianity was the first system to establish the conception of a human being as a free, spiritual entity

"... you will affirm me three times." And Greg broke down and wept.

I know of some very good

reed's picture

I know of some very good arguments of my own in favor of the existence of God.

I wonder what she meant by "God."

May 8, 1948

gregster's picture

"I do not know whether the fact that Christianity was the first system to establish the conception of a human being as a free, spiritual entity, is a beneficial achievement if, at the same time, Christianity introduced the conception of original sin. True, philosophically, the first is a great achievement. But, historically, if these two ideas were preached together – then, I think those who preached them were responsible for a monstrous crime."

Letters to Isabel Paterson, Letters of Ayn Rand, p.208,209.

When you're in a hole ...

Richard Goode's picture

I know of some very good arguments of my own in favor of the existence of God.

... stop digging.

August 28 , 1945

gregster's picture

“Incidentally, I know of some very good arguments of my own in favor of the existence of God. But they’re not the ones you mention and they’re not the ones I’ve ever read advanced in any religion. They’re not proofs, therefore I can’t say I accept them. They are merely possibilities, like a hypothesis that could be tenable. But it wouldn’t be an omnipotent God and it wouldn’t be a limitless God. [AR never mentioned these arguments again.]

Letters to Isabel Paterson, Letters of Ayn Rand, p.185.

I could..

gregster's picture

.. almost hear that cackle. Before you celebrate Goode, consider that she was wrong there.

Here's one opinion; "After reading it, I think it is safe to say that Ayn Rand did not have this benevolent view of Christianity post ‘AS’. She was 38 years old when she wrote this letter. She matured a lot philosophically over the 15 years that it took her to write ‘AS’. I think this is captured in the fact that she had originally intended to have a Christian character, a priest, in AS, and have him be somewhat sympathetic. She scrapped the idea because she didn’t think it was realistic or warranted. So, she didn’t see “the greatness of Christianity” by her mid 50′s."

"the greatness of Christianity"

Richard Goode's picture

Hahahahaha!

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