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Ayn Rand on Religion: Weekend Reading

Ayn Rand on Religion:

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...

There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism... the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal.... Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others... the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others. This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity.... The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war...>[Christ] died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the non-ideal people.... If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, 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. That is torture...

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 am the creator of a new code of morality, which so far has been believed impossible, a morality not based on faith, not on arbitrary whim, not on emotion, not on arbitrary edict, mystical or social, but on reason...

[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...

[Faith] is a sign of a psychological weakness.... I regard it as evil to place your emotions, your desire, above the evidence of what your mind knows...

I am challenging the base of all these institutions, I am challenging the moral code of altruism, the precept that man’s moral duty is to live for others, that man must sacrifice to others.... since I’m challenging the base, I’m necessarily challenging the institutions that are the base of that morality...

I don’t approve of religion...

What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue...

Nobody has ever given a reason why man should be his brothers’ keeper... and you see examples around you of men perishing by their attempt to be their brothers’ keeper...

[William Hickman is an] amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul.... His pride in his criminal career and in things that are considered a “disgrace”; his boasting of more and more crimes and his open joy at shocking people... his utter lack of anything that is considered a “virtue”; his strength.... A strong man can eventually trample society under his feet. He was not strong enough. But is that his crime? Is it his crime that he was too impatient, fiery and proud to go that slow way? That he was not able to serve, when he felt worthy to rule; to obey, when he wanted to command.... He was superior and he wanted to live as such--and his is the one thing society does not permit...

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