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Your journey to Objectivism

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I'm interested to hear how you made the intellectual journey to Objectivism, and where you were coming from, especially if you began as a religious person. Where did you first encounter Objectivism, how did it clash with what you believed before that, how has it changed the direction of your thinking? How has it impacted the way you live your life, your self-esteem, your productive capacity, and the quality of your relationships? Did you abandon some relationships and form new ones, or did your existing ones weather the change? I am relatively new to Objectivism, but my initial observation is that it feels liberating. I'm just beginning to explore how it can affect other aspects of my life.

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I "began" comparatively close to Objectivism. When I first started to pay attention to select topics such as taxes, crime etc. in my mid teens, I could have been considered a Classical or Neo liberal. Eventually I agreed with the more easily understood facets of Objectivism, and later on I agreed with its metaphysics and epistemology.

I've never been religious.

I've been an individualist and a loner all my life, which has helped. Look to the left for my country of birth and residence. It is only quite recently that I've started applying Objectivism consistently to my life, and the results are already showing. I don't talk about Objectivism "IRL".

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I started as a good pietist christian which culminated in enrolling in a theological seminar in order to become a professional preacher. Luckily I already was a strong individualist which is why I couldn't fit in, so I quit. My next attempt was at politics which probably comes closest to being a preacher. Being an individualist I joined the german "freedom party". It was in this party that I got hold of a book by Ludwig von Mises which they distributed. My initial reaction was: "this guy is nuts". However I couldn't deny his reasoning so I came to appreciate his insights and soon the so called "freedom" party wasn't enough pro freedom for me, so I quit. I then looked to the von Mises Institute and came across Murray Rothbard so I became an anarcho-capitalist and I found the freestate project which I joined. However one thing kept bugging me. That anarcho-capitalists would use the non-aggression principle as their moral framework. They would usually say: "no one may use force except in defense against initiation of force. Aaaaaaand of course fraud is initiation of force." I realized that this principle was useless without a definition of property and of force. And I realized that the freestate project was missing a principle, so I quit. Then I was looking for such a principle to complement the non-aggression-principle and I searched for related pro-liberty philosophies. I remembered that Murray Rothbard was once thinking of Ayn Rand as a potential allay but rejected her for some reason so I looked at Ayn Rand. And that is where I currently stand.

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I had identified with most Objectivist ideals for a while. I was not completely sure on religion but organized religion itself seemed faulted. My senior year of high school a teacher and the one student with a higher class ranking than me recommended AS so I read it. Best book I ever read, so uplifting and the ideas really made sense to me.

After that I just began introspecting and redefining who I was and how I thought through reason and after work reached where I wanted to be. Now I just work on small issues to overcome and being successful.

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The first time I came accross Objectivism, it was the summer after 6th grade. I walked into a bookstore at the local mall, disappointed that most books had lost their ability to inspire me and engage me on a truly profound level. When I picked up "Atlas Shrugged", I casually flipped open to the page where Eddie Willers stared at the tree struck by lightning. I remember feeling a resemblance between the way I had long felt about life, and the way Eddie felt when he saw that tree. Something in me had, for so so long, held the belief that life was something that could be so spectacular in every living moment, but humanity had given up on that vision.

I read "Atlas Shrugged" that summer, nonstop, in a period of two weeks. I felt like I had discovered a drug, and for the first time, my family saw me reading through meals, reading through the night, reading as I walked between classes. I acknowledge that "Atlas Shrugged" helped to set me free. For the first time in my life, I found the words to describe the convictions I held at the core of my being. I was proud to be alive again. I felt confident.

I read "The Fountainhead" in 7th grade and then bought every published book by Ayn Rand until I read her entire collection (except "Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal"). I find it amusing that the last book of hers I ever read was "Anthem", which I read shortly before I graduated from High School.

I had grown up surrounded by strong religious ideals, but Objectivism helped me to see through all of that to the things I actually valued about humanity. I think it has made me a better person because it compelled me to stand for myself, work for my own progress, and trust in my ambitions.

Nothing else has ever done that for me in life.

-J

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I have written several replies, and also considered writing one by way of introduction, but I am still sufficiently unsure of where I stand that I keep changing it. Changing one's worldview is a form of rebirth but also of death; sometimes it feels like liberation, sometimes like a funeral.

Maybe I will share this. I was recently scammed by someone I loved deeply and trusted. We will be hurting financially for some time as a result, until we figure out new ways to be productive. The blow has been almost unbearable at times, not just because of the sense of betrayal, and the financial burden, but because of self-reproach for lack of rationality. It's also raised all kinds of questions in my mind about my own beliefs and vulnerabilities, as well as about how to tell what to trust. And this is the person who introduced me to Objectivism, with a powerful dose of religion mixed in, if you can fathom that. Sorting out truth from fiction is at times overwhelming. I feel like I'm at a funeral, but I keep changing my mind whose funeral it is. Yet I have hope that I will sort it out in time.

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Can you file criminal charges against the person? If so, perhaps you can get some of your money back in the form of restitution. If any credit card fraud was involved, that's usually easy to get out of since cardholders are not made to pay for fraudulent charges, but you may have to file criminal charges first. (You probably already know all of this, but I thought I would throw it out there just in case.)

Scamming people is completely contradictory to Objectivism, and so is mysticism for that matter. I hope you will continue to study the philosophy, but from reliable sources, such as ARI and those affiliated with it, and Rand herself. I wish you the best. What you've been through sounds like it's awful. :(

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Can you file criminal charges against the person? If so, perhaps you can get some of your money back in the form of restitution. If any credit card fraud was involved, that's usually easy to get out of since cardholders are not made to pay for fraudulent charges, but you may have to file criminal charges first. (You probably already know all of this, but I thought I would throw it out there just in case.)

Scamming people is completely contradictory to Objectivism, and so is mysticism for that matter. I hope you will continue to study the philosophy, but from reliable sources, such as ARI and those affiliated with it, and Rand herself. I wish you the best. What you've been through sounds like it's awful. :(

Unfortunately, filing charges is unlikely to result in getting any money back, since he has chosen to waste his productive capacity with crack addiction. At this point, we are just happy to have him gone and leave us alone so we can explore new ways to be productive, to cover the debts he left us with.

Meanwhile, I've been advised that reading Peikoff's book about Objectivism is like reading the cliff's notes to reality, so I'm all over that one. :blink:

Thanks to everyone for your support.

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Meanwhile, I've been advised that reading Peikoff's book about Objectivism is like reading the cliff's notes to reality, so I'm all over that one. :blink:
If you're new to Objectivism, that may not be the place to start. It really depends on how you like to get your philosophy: concrete fiction, slightly less concrete non-fiction essays (of which Rand wrote plenty), or a more structured but necessarily more abstract text like Peikoff's OPAR. What have you already read?

As for things like abandoning relationships and so on, I'd say don't be in a hurry to do anything. If you are not convinced enough to abandon religion, just don't. Read Rand with an open mind and a common sense attitude and simply let your reasoning take you where you want to go. If it takes a few years to figure it out, that's no big deal.

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My change started back to just before I got confirmed (I'm originally Catholic). I began to question the church and it's means of getting to things. I kept finding things that I disagreed with the church on. I kept telling myself that confirmation would redouble my focus on the church and I would the way that i've always felt. so the day came, I got confirmed, and i felt... nothing. the god that used to be in my life was suddenly gone, and i knew it had always been that way.

then i slowly moved farther and farther away from religion at that point. I began to become a lover of man, in a manner of speaking, a leftist who never understood the entire meaning of the word. I became, basically, a dirty hippy until the beginning of this school year. it was then that I finally decided to read The Fountainhead (my friend had been pestering me for months saying that the main character of it, Roark, reminded him of me). I became an ass, taking to heart the almost isolationism of Roark and not understanding the rest. Then, I forced myself to change almost back to normal, keeping to heart the main points of Fountainhead (which i mostly understood now). then came the election and boom, i was celebrating Obama, got caught up in the frenzy (i was still a leftist at the time) then, after the election, i read AS, and the reality of what was happening hit me like a ton of bricks. I no longer consider myself a left or rightist, but an up. the top being as little social and economic controls before anarchy.

now, I call myself an objectivist, very little of my friends understand me anymore (except for the few who changed with me (well, before me, but... yeah)) and I started isolating again. I'm getting better, and have found myself more productive.

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Unfortunately, filing charges is unlikely to result in getting any money back, since he has chosen to waste his productive capacity with crack addiction. At this point, we are just happy to have him gone and leave us alone so we can explore new ways to be productive, to cover the debts he left us with.

Yikes! This guy sounds like a piece of work! As far as restitution goes, it's usually a condition of probation or parole...if they don't get a job and make the monthly payments, it's off to jail for them. (Although this may not work in your situation, it could be worth asking or pressing charges. It never hurts to ask.)

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I read "Atlas Shrugged" when I was 19, because my parents had read it in college and liked it, and I wanted to see what it was about. They are/were both religious, but open minded. I loved it. I was also studying politics at the time and found conservative politics the most logical. I was also questioning my religion, which led to me dropping religion and becoming a deist, which lead to me becoming an atheist about two months later. So at one point I realized that I'm an atheist, a libertarian, and a transhumanist. I realized I was an objectivist, and had really been one for a while. I've read all of Rand's fiction now, a few books on her philosophy, and soon I'm going to start reading her nonfiction, as well as objectivist philosophy from other scholars. I'm very happy to have found objectivism when I was just a teenager, I'm 20 now, so this was all just last year. I'm still learning a lot and thinking a lot, and I'm learning towards objectivism being an open system.

Edited by James Bond

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A year ago, I could say with a straight face that I was voting for Ron Paul. My parents are borderline socialists so the switch to Objectivism was all the more difficult. Last summer my apolitical, but extremely literate friend suggested that I read Atlas Shrugged, and it is still the best work of fiction that I have ever read. I learned the most from that book about philosophy than any before it. I went on to read CUI, rereading Anthem (I had read it in public school and had not understood it) and TF. Reading further into the collection seemed like a waste, because after a while, it got repetitive. Besides, I can win an argument with most rational people just by using the Socratic method as Rand and other objectivists did in their non-fiction works.

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I have gone from being a bitter, communist-sympathizing youth, to a standard nihilist, to finally awakening to reason.

It was because of the webcomic artist Jay Naylor and his blog that I first became aware of Ayn Rand and later learned as much as I could about her via the internet. The first book of her's that I read was For the New Intellectual on a plane flight to California and became so absorbed in the book that I hardly put it down all vacation. All my adult life I had been coming to the conclusions that Rand had outlined one at a time and here they seemed laid out. Her logic was impeccable. The reasoned measure of her writing impossible to hold a consistent argument against.

Since then, I've had a fondness for her nonfiction.

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It's like knowing where you were when Kennedy was shot, or on 9/11, isn't it? You have this historical transition from whatever you believed before to this view of reality, and it is so dramatic, you never forget what brought you here.

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If you're new to Objectivism, that may not be the place to start. It really depends on how you like to get your philosophy: concrete fiction, slightly less concrete non-fiction essays (of which Rand wrote plenty), or a more structured but necessarily more abstract text like Peikoff's OPAR. What have you already read?

As for things like abandoning relationships and so on, I'd say don't be in a hurry to do anything. If you are not convinced enough to abandon religion, just don't. Read Rand with an open mind and a common sense attitude and simply let your reasoning take you where you want to go. If it takes a few years to figure it out, that's no big deal.

I think the nonfiction is going to be the thing for me. I am reading FTNI right now, and I am savoring every word. I was marking in pen, then switched to pencil because I'm marking every other line, lol. I think OPAR is probably just right for me. I need something systematic because I need to get my ducks all lined up in my mind. AS was a great place for me to start. I didn't even skip Galt's speech.

I don't think I could handle a couple of years of feeling like I"m living a double life. I feel now a drive to study and think and get myself straightened out and then face what needs to be done. I keep thinking of Dagny when she was going to school--that was all she wanted to do.

Yikes! This guy sounds like a piece of work! As far as restitution goes, it's usually a condition of probation or parole...if they don't get a job and make the monthly payments, it's off to jail for them. (Although this may not work in your situation, it could be worth asking or pressing charges. It never hurts to ask.)
Oh, he was brilliant. A total waste of a good specimen of humanity. It never hurts to ask again, but I think a judgment is the best we could get. But I appreciate your outrage on my behalf. The greatest irony is that he was a very articulate exponent of Objectivism. All fraud hides behind a face of truth, so it had to be something. He used both religion and Objectivism as his front, astutely judging what I could tolerate. Now that I'm starting to get over it, it's actually kind of fascinating, like reading your own medical chart after the surgery is long over.

Just imagine this. He had said, "No matter how much people say against me, I know that my conscience is clean before God and I will always be on his side. If you want to know the truth, take it to God, because he is the source of all truth." When he said that two years ago, I was moved and wanted to befriend him. Umpty thousand dollars later, when I had factual, first-hand knowledge of his lies and he said it again, it was a slap in the face. And then the moment of connection: he's using the words of religion to avoid the evidence of reality...could that be what religion does too?

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I was utterly irrational during the first 23 years of my life. Had an intellectual revolution at 24, inferred a large amount of Objectivism on my own, and when I discovered Rand's stuff at 25, I immediately realized it was true.

Edited by cliveandrews

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I gave a little background in my "Introducing Myself" post but this might be a good place to go into some more detail.

I'm only 21 so my journey hasn't been very long. When I was very young (just past 10, I guess) I had been going to church with my parents for quite a few years. I was raised Lutheran and I bought in to a lot of it. I thought self-sacrifice was the right way to live and all that, although I always had reservations about it. Being young and seeing the alternative as being doing drugs and robbing people made it seem like religion wasn't so bad.

By the time I was about 14 I realized there had to be alternatives. I couldn't get into the fact that I was supposed to suffer all the time. On a microscopic level I also saw how inefficient working for the collective was: I was heading up a few rock bands and when I was the most capable musician and songwriter out of them everyone complained and wanted things to be "equal." I realized the more I put into things, the more people wanted the profit from it. So I started doing things more on my own and was a lot happier with that.

I started to go through the phase I think a lot of young Christians go through where "organized religion" seems wrong, but there's some sort of spiritual presence that is right. That didn't sit well with me either, though, and was extremely short-lived. I'm not big on compromises (as opposed to knowing something for sure and sticking to it) and I figured I should either be committed to a set of beliefs or not and I had essentially dropped the whole thing. I went to a Catholic school from 3rd grade on so it was thrown in my face all the time. It helped me figure things out, though, because I saw the hypocrisy of the whole thing too.

When I was 16 my girlfriend read The Fountainhead for a class at school and said Howard Roark reminded her of me (I don't have red hair so I'm hoping it was one of his other good qualities :lol: ). A year or two later she gave me the book as a Christmas gift. So I read it and loved it and felt like it fell in line perfectly with everything I thought. I was still young, though, and I didn't understand it as well as I should have.

Some remnants of religion stayed with me all the way up until I was 20. The only thing that really stayed with me between 16 and 20, though, was that I should do the right thing and not compromise on that despite what anyone else might tell me. I realized that was actually contradictory to religion and that I had been operating on my own moral code the whole time which also contradicted Christianity. I guess I misunderstood Objectivism and Christianity both at this point. However, I had far more in common with Objectivism than Christianity. My most obvious mistake was that I thought the two could coexist.

I read Atlas Shrugged and started to better understand my errors. It cleared things up for me in a lot of ways. I already thought in a similar way to the ideas expressed in the book but it helped organize them and help me realize that I was trying to ally myself too much with Christianity because I thought Christianity was something it wasn't. Everything else had run through my mind in one form or another.

It becomes difficult at times when I deal with the people around me because most either have extreme Socialist tendencies or are totally wrapped up in Christianity. After reading Atlas Shrugged I had more confidence in dealing with these types of things, though. My family is still pretty wrapped up in Christianity but even my parents seem to look to me as someone who knows better and they're usually willing to listen to me and often come to similar conclusions. I only mention my thoughts on politics and religion with them when they're directly asked, though, and I find that tends to make people more interested in them. My thoughts on general philosophy are pretty clear to them by how I act and how I deal with things and there aren't many questions about how I stand on individualism and the like.

Bet you never thought 11 years could run on so long, huh? I hope it gives some insight of the journey from Christianity to an interest in Objectivism, nonetheless.

My self-esteem has improved immensely since I adopted Objectivist ideals. I'm much happier and more able to deal with others now as well. I don't consider myself an Objectivist yet since I'm still learning but I've been practicing the fundamentals in some way most of my life. Once I had a better idea of what I'd known my whole life, though, it improved my life in a large number of ways.

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I'm only 15, so I was exposed early. My journey was a relatively short one, and began not too long ago.

Just a little background first:

My parents are both Christians, although rather laid back. I've gone through financial and family troubles through my admittedly short life. My parents were once rather deeply in debt, and my dad took to the bottle and had a heart attack, a stroke, and a number of other problems that made him even weaker to alcohol. We soon found it was his life or ours - so we kicked him out. My dad came back a little less than a year later, and was kicked out once more. When he finally came back again, he was clean, and has been clean for several years now. The whole crazy ordeal somehow led to my parents gaining a stronger belief in God, while I myself felt completely alienated from Him. I, of course, thought it was all my fault that I couldn't hear the voice of God, that I couldn't believe the bible in full, that it simply didn't make sense to me. I was lost.

And now the actual story:

I entered an advanced program as a freshman at Lakewood High School a little less than a year ago, and this alone was probably the greatest choice I've yet made. I was assigned an English teacher who focused not only on teacher grammar and examining books, but teaching students how to think reasonably. I entered high school believing a philosophy that basically went like this: the moral responsibility of a man is first to his species (humanity as a whole), followed by his varying levels of community (country, region, state, county, city), followed by family, and then finally followed by himself, essentially putting the self at the lowest level aside from animals and insects. On the other hand, I had always believed that reason came first above all else.

Objectivism was, obviously, a very large contradiction to my beliefs, but it wasn't too far of a jump due to that final belief: that reason comes first. All Objectivism had to do for me was show that there was an error in my reasoning, rather than having to convince me to use reason in the first place.

My English teacher at the time, as I said, focused on teaching students how to think reasonably, and he told me one day after class that I should pick up a book: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. He had exposed me in class to many of Ayn Rand's ideas, so I was already interested. I found the book, and read through it rather quickly. It wasn't that hard for me - I found that, after re-examining my own ideas and looking at Ayn Rand's, I was wrong. I still didn't wholly agree with Ayn Rand, but I was introduced (as I think The Fountainhead has done for many people). I picked up Atlas Shrugged of my own volition not long after, and it at was this point that I found myself re-examining, once again, the old ideas I still clung to, and once again replacing them with the new. There are still some things I'm unsure of, as I've not even been exposed to Ayn Rand for a year yet, and I've found myself in disagreement with one or two of her ideas, but as a whole, I find Objectivism to be brilliant. Once I picked up on the ideas, I started noticing things I had never noticed before as well; the way many people held the same ideas I once had, the way the schools I've gone to all my life have been opposed on an almost polar opposite level to Ayn Rand's ideas, and other things like that. I've found that I've introduced a more conscious process of thought to the way I live my life, and I think that's the greatest thing I've gained from the whole intellectual journey.

I think that I may have eventually come, on my own, to believe many of the ideas that I hold now because of Ayn Rand. My beliefs changed constantly before Ayn Rand, all except for the belief in reason above all else, and I think that would have eventually led me in the right direction. But I can't say with a straight face that I would have been able to reach the beliefs I hold now in full without those books, at least not this early in life.

Also:

"I was also questioning my religion, which led to me dropping religion and becoming a deist, which lead to me becoming an atheist about two months later."

This man went through very close to what I had gone through, religion-wise. I at some point considered myself a Deist (before I entered high school, but after I got over not hearing the voice of "God".) I don't think I can call myself an Atheist, as I believe there is a "first cause". It's the only logical belief to me, that there MUST have been something that came first. But the common idea of a "God" is far behind me. There is no evidence to show that a thinking being decided on a whim to create us all, and further watches over us and all the such. My own process of reason tells me though that something must have come first (Cause - Effect). I'm not sure if Atheists hold the same view or not.

Edited by Iudicious

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I don't think I can call myself an Atheist, as I believe there is a "first cause". It's the only logical belief to me, that there MUST have been something that came first.

Would the origin of a deity deserve less scrutiny than that of the universe?

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This man went through very close to what I had gone through, religion-wise. I at some point considered myself a Deist (before I entered high school, but after I got over not hearing the voice of "God".) I don't think I can call myself an Atheist, as I believe there is a "first cause". It's the only logical belief to me, that there MUST have been something that came first. But the common idea of a "God" is far behind me. There is no evidence to show that a thinking being decided on a whim to create us all, and further watches over us and all the such. My own process of reason tells me though that something must have come first (Cause - Effect). I'm not sure if Atheists hold the same view or not.

I know exactly where you are coming from. When I was a deist, I thought atheists were being silly, because the first cause argument made a lot of sense to me. But here's what I concluded, that made me an atheist: Deists are essentially atheists, except they believe in a creator god/intelligent force. Well, the invisible and the nonexistent look a lot alike. A deist's god is basically the universe..and I realized, what is the point of calling the universe 'god'? Let's just call it the universe. The word "God" implies a being, and a deist/pantheist god implies a vague 'force' or 'presence'. Again, let's call the universe the universe. Let's have our knowledge be evidence based, and there is no evidence for a god.

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