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Here Come The Christians!

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Nobody's saying that people don't have the right to be religious, Betsy. The question is about how influential Christianity is in the culture. The more powerful Christianity becomes in the culture, the more likely it is that politicians will be able to impose religion through law.

I think Christianity is LESS influential in the culture than it was in my youth and that the legal trend is away from government-imposed religion-based laws. I have already mentioned some examples -- legal abortions, no Bible reading in public schools, the disappearance of many Blue Laws. Most of these were opposed by the Left, the ACLU, and other Leftist groups and they won.

Just about all the regulations and welfare programs and environmental restrictions enforced by law were initiated by the Left and the worst thing you can say about the Right is that they didn't oppose them enough. The reason is that most religious people believe in free will and are less likely to impose morality by force than the Leftists (and Muslims) who don't.

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I think Christianity is LESS influential in the culture than it was in my youth and that the legal trend is away from government-imposed religion-based laws.  I have already mentioned some examples -- legal abortions, no Bible reading in public schools, the disappearance of many Blue Laws.  Most of these were opposed by the Left, the ACLU, and other Leftist groups and they won.

You're right about many of these particulars. But isn't it significant that there is now a national movement that wants to put prayer back in the schools, and repeal Roe vs. Wade? And doesn't it concern you that our President will have the power to pick judges that could do the latter in his second term?

And this time, the left has no real way to oppose this movement intellectually. When the president defends his "faith-based initiatives" by claiming that religion shouldn't be discriminated against, what can the left say? The conservatives can and do co-opt the worst of the left-wing positions, and the left is intellectually impotent to respond.

Just about all the regulations and welfare programs and environmental restrictions enforced by law were initiated by the Left and the worst thing you can say about the Right is that they didn't oppose them enough.  The reason is that most religious people believe in free will and are less likely to impose morality by force than the Leftists (and Muslims) who don't.

The right imposed some of the worst regulations themselves. The most famous example is antitrust. Bush 41 signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. And now Bush 43 signs campaign finance reform.

But we shouldn't battle over examples. We need to look at the fundamentals that move the left and the right. I deal with this question in the essay I posted earlier, which no one has yet addressed:

http://www.noumenalself.com/archives/000059.html

That's just part 1. There are 3 others.

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I think Christianity is LESS influential in the culture than it was in my youth and that the legal trend is away from government-imposed religion-based laws.  I have already mentioned some examples -- legal abortions, no Bible reading in public schools, the disappearance of many Blue Laws.  Most of these were opposed by the Left, the ACLU, and other Leftist groups and they won.

Yes, Betsy, we all acknowledge that for many decades there was a trend away from religion, so that the general legal atmosphere today is more secular than it was forty years ago. The question is whether that trend has reversed, and the pro-religion movement has gained more momentum now. There seems to be a lot of evidence that this is the case, regardless of your examples from your youth.

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Thanks for posting these, NS. The first three are particularly good. (I agree with the fourth in essence as well, I just thought you could have made stronger arguments.)

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Yes, Betsy, we all acknowledge that for many decades there was a trend away from religion, so that the general legal atmosphere today is more secular than it was forty years ago.  The question is whether that trend has reversed, and the pro-religion movement has gained more momentum now.  There seems to be a lot of evidence that this is the case, regardless of your examples from your youth.

What I see is a trend toward VALUES and a trend away from the amoralistic nihilism of the Kantian New Left.

You can see it in the turn to the Right politically, the increase in open expressions of patriotism, the return of the Work Ethic, the disdain for dishonesty, and the desire for ideals. People are seeking moral grounding.

It is not surprising that the first thing people turn to, when they are seeking values, are the ones they already know: the religion and traditions they were raised with.

I saw the same phenomena among the friends I grew up with. Almost all of them had abandoned religion as they concentrated on advancing their educations and careers. They succeeded and enjoyed their success and were content. Then they had children and they became aware of the need for conscious, explicit morality. I often heard, "Yeah, I joined a synagogue, but it's for the kids. I gave up on religion a long time ago, but you've got to teach them SOMETHING. Otherwise they won't know who they are and what's right."

Like the people I grew up with, those turning to religion now once rejected it because it didn't really help them in living their lives and it didn't make sense. That will not change when they return to religion. They will be disappointed again.

What people REALLY want are values that make sense and that will guide them and their children to success and happiness. Religion will not deliver -- but WE CAN. We should be seeking out the value-seekers and showing them there is ANOTHER morality -- a rational morality for living on earth that is compatible with their American sense of life.

The "return to religion" -- the desire for values and ideals -- is a GOOD thing and it is a huge opportunity for Objectivists.

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It is not surprising that the first thing people turn to, when they are seeking values, are the ones they already know: the religion and traditions they were raised with.

Right. And my point has been, that's precisely the problem! If everyone is turning back to religion, then it is religion that is potentially the more harmful ideology and we must actively address it.

What people REALLY want are values that make sense and that will guide them and their children to success and happiness.  Religion will not deliver -- but WE CAN.  We should be seeking out the value-seekers and showing them there is ANOTHER morality -- a rational morality for living on earth that is compatible with their American sense of life.

The "return to religion" -- the desire for values and ideals -- is a GOOD thing and it is a huge opportunity for Objectivists.

Now you seem to be agreeing with me that is primarily to the religious right that we need to take the battle of ideas. Are you?

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Right.  And my point has been, that's precisely the problem!  If everyone is turning back to religion, then it is religion that is potentially the more harmful ideology and we must actively address it.

Now you seem to be agreeing with me that is primarily to the religious right that we need to take the battle of ideas.  Are you?

The difference between our views -- correct me if I am wrong -- is

You see the return to religion as a problem and a sign of growing irrationality in the culture. I see it as a good sign -- as a rejection of nihilism and a search for values to live by.

You see religion as a bad ideology we need to actively address. I see the motivation behind the religiosity -- the seeking for genuine human values -- as something we can and should support.

You see religious people as enemies we must do battle with, and I see them as potential Objectivist sympathizers, allies, supporters, and converts.

====

In my experience, those returning to religion want reason AND values. The nihilistic New Lefties reject both, so the reason and value seekers return to the religion they rejected in their youth. They find values, some of which make sense and that's an improvement, but they are still disatisfied because they have a hard time taking things on faith and they really want to gain values, not sacrifice them.

Then I come along. :lol:

I show them there IS a way to defend their values and the things they love that doesn't require faith or sacrifice, that's pro-American and pro-success, that upholds honesty and justice as more than just words, and leads to happiness in practice.

I have won over dozens of religious people that way -- with a LOT of help from Ayn Rand.

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The nihilistic New Lefties reject both, so the reason and value seekers return to the religion they rejected in their youth.  They find values, some of which make sense and that's an improvement, but they are still disatisfied because they have a hard time taking things on faith and they really want to gain values, not sacrifice them.

Then I come along.  :lol:

When you're not there, some may take it upon themselves to correct these errors, refuse to make the sacrifice, and lead their religions in better directions.

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The difference between  our views -- correct me if I am wrong

Certainly.

-- is

You see the return to religion as a problem and a sign of growing irrationality in the culture. I see it as a good sign -- as a rejection of nihilism and a search for values to live by.

I see it as a turn from one kind of irrationality to another. Maybe it's a better kind in some ways, and maybe in other ways it's worse.

You see religion as a bad ideology we need to actively address.  I see the motivation behind the religiosity -- the seeking for genuine human values -- as something we can and should support.

I have made no claims one way or the other about the motivation behind it--because I do not believe such general claims are justified either way. Certainly many people who are turning to religion or even more actively promoting the religious views they've held all along are decent people--and certainly some of them are not so decent (you would have to be blind not to see that). In the cases in which the person's motivation is as you state, then certainly we can and should support that motivation--I have never claimed otherwise--but only while actively opposing their ideology.

So, putting the motivational issue aside, are you saying now that you disagree with me that it is a bad ideology that we need to actively address? You are very hard to pin down on this point.

You see religious people as enemies we must do battle with, and I see them as potential Objectivist sympathizers, allies, supporters, and converts...

I have won over dozens of religious people that way -- with a LOT of help from Ayn Rand.

Again, I don't think you can make this kind of generalization. I see some of them as people we must do battle with, and some of them as potential allies. But above all it is the ideology that I say we must fight. That is what I have been saying all along. Do you disagree? If so, how do you propose to make allies of them or convert them without fighting their bad ideas?

On the other hand, you seem to see all leftists as enemies we must do battle with, calling them "hopeless" in general. But inductively, I don't believe this to be the case. Again, I think that some of them are certainly our enemies, but it is mainly their ideas that we must fight. And there are many of them who are not are enemies, as in my experience (judging from Objectivists whose pre-Objectivism ideological backgrounds I know) there are almost as many former leftists among Objectivists as there are former(?) conservatives. In fact, out of the extremes on either side, I know of more former hard-core leftist Objectivists than former religious zealot Objectivists. Why, Fred Weiss just said recently on the forum that he used to be a Communist! So forgive me if I'm not going to just write off everyone with a certain political label as "hopeless."

And, while I haven't been involved with Objectivism as long as you, I've won over several people myself.

I think we're fighting the same battle, Betsy. I just hope this will all be cleared up quickly now, because this conversation is starting to get tiresome.

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You see the return to religion as a problem and a sign of growing irrationality in the culture. I see it as a good sign -- as a rejection of nihilism and a search for values to live by.

You see religion as a bad ideology we need to actively address.  I see the motivation behind the religiosity -- the seeking for genuine human values -- as something we can and should support.

You see religious people as enemies we must do battle with, and I see them as potential Objectivist sympathizers, allies, supporters, and converts.

====

In my experience, those returning to religion want reason AND values.  The nihilistic New Lefties reject both, so the reason and value seekers return to the religion they rejected in their youth.  They find values, some of which make sense and that's an improvement, but they are still disatisfied because they have a hard time taking things on faith and they really want to gain values, not sacrifice them.

Then I come along.  :lol:

I answered these arguments in the essays I posted some time ago. I don't know if you've read them, Betsy, but here are the relevant parts:

Of course nihilism is enormously destructive. Culturally, it is destructive of rational philosophy. In the 20th century, nihilist intellectuals have succeeded in disarming defenders of reason, freedom, and science. On a person-to-person basis, nihilist individuals are also far more odious, and I'm sure any of us would prefer having a beer with a religious fellow than with a snarling literary critic.

...

In his DIM course, Dr. Peikoff observed that there has never been a nihilistic

civilization in all of human history. This is because nihilism is a cultural dead-end. There have been nihilist thinkers, and occasional organized bands of nihilists (like the anti-globos and the libertarians). But nihilists are incapable of inspiring a wider following, because they fail to offer people the crucial need of the human intellect: a system of integrated principles for the purpose of living.

...

A nihilist is the most destructive kind of individual: he pursues unhindered destruction in the physical or intellectual realm. But for the reasons mentioned above, his destruction extends not much further than his own work. He does not typically inspire millions of followers. He has nothing to offer by which to inspire them. Destruction on a massive cultural scale requires more. It requires the positive exploitation of integrations—in Dr. Peikoff's words, of misintegrations: principles designed to guide life, but erroneously or dishonestly at odds with reality.

Indeed the greatest historical destroyers have been cultural movements based on misintegration. The 20th century saw the trail of destruction left by secular misintegrations: fascism and communism. But the world-historical champion of destructive misintegration is religion. As Dr. Peikoff observed, secular communism lasted little over 70 years. But Christianity reigned for 1,000 years, in the course of which it neatly disposed of most of the achievements of an entire civilization: classical antiquity. And now witness Islam with its bloody borders. What accounts for the difference? Dr. Peikoff surmised that secular ideologies quickly lost credibility when the earthly results they promised failed to materialize, while religion could always hold out promise of bliss in the afterlife.

It is, therefore, a mistake to infer from the destructiveness of individual nihilists to the conclusion that the left could be more destructive than the religious right. The left is nihilistic as a movement only insofar as nothing ties together its diverse strands but hatred for the right. It has the power to attract followers only insofar as they happen to share this hatred: it does not have the power to induce that hatred intellectually.

It is also, therefore, a mistake to infer from the goodness of many individual religionists to the conclusion that the right is a less destructive cultural force. Most Christians are just "Sunday Christians," who don't take religion seriously but lead productive lives. The debate over this election is not about the goodness of individual religionists, but about giving the religious movement the chance to spread its infectious influence and gain greater control of our lives on a national scale. It is, in fact, precisely because religious people are better people that religious ideological movements are more destructive: by appealing to moral ideals and hope for an afterlife, these movements are more likely to inspire better people to follow them and surrender their talents for the cause.

I wrote that last paragraph with your arguments in mind, Betsy. The point is this: you are right that religious individuals are better, and searching for values, and are therefore better candidates for conversion to Objectivism. But it doesn't follow from this that the religious movement and ideology are not more dangerous than nihilism. (In other words you are committing the fallacy of composition.) The problem is that you're not always around to reach these better people, because Objectivism is still young and uninfluential. When we're not around, these better people are channeled into movements that pervert their pursuit of values into religious fervor. And judging from history, from the millennia of terror this kind of fervor has inflicted on mankind, in comparison to the minor stretches of time in which evil secularists have been able to have their say, it seems religious fervor is a very dangerous thing indeed.

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And judging from history, from the millennia of terror this kind of fervor has inflicted on mankind, in comparison to the minor stretches of time in which evil secularists have been able to have their say, it seems religious fervor is a very dangerous thing indeed.

I'm not going to disagree with the facts about the bloody history of religious thought systems. However, I do think that using historical time periods to argue that secular philosophies are not as dangerous as their religious competitors is misleading. Secular thought systems are a relatively recent phenomenon. Religion has had a stranglehold on philosophical inquiry for most of mankind's intellectual history. I think the relevant consideration here is not the "minor stretches of time in which evil secularists have had their say" but the amount of corpses those evil secularists have been able to create in the short period of time that they have had.

My goodness, take a look at the 20th century. In just one century, what was the combined Communist and Facist body count? How many hundreds of millions? Now I know that a counter argument could be that the later in time you go the more advanced the technology and the easier for mass killing. My point is just to contest the notion that evil secularism is any less dangerous than evil religion because historically it has dominated the intellectual scene for less time. That, I feel, is because it is a recent phenomenon which renders the argument from history as inapplicable.

Let me just conclude that I have read NoumenalSelf's essays on this and I think they have a lot of good ideas in them. However, I disagree with the conclusion that relgious fundamentalism is as great a *present* danger as that presented by the secular left. Here I respectfully disagree with NoumenalSelf as well as Peikoff as to their short range projections. Long range, they are exactly right, religion is a danger that will swallow Western Civilization up whole. It has done so once before and it will do so again if it is not challenged. However, IMO, the Islamists with the aid of the secular Left will destroy the West before Christian fundamentalism ever gets a chance if something isn't done to stop or at the least hinder them.

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I'm not going to disagree with the facts about the bloody history of religious thought systems. However, I do think that using historical time periods to argue that secular philosophies are not as dangerous as their religious competitors is misleading. Secular thought systems are a relatively recent phenomenon. Religion has had a stranglehold on philosophical inquiry for most of mankind's intellectual history. I think the relevant consideration here is not the "minor stretches of time in which evil secularists have had their say" but the amount of corpses those evil secularists have been able to create in the short period of time that they have had.

My goodness, take a look at the 20th century. In just one century, what was the combined Communist and Facist body count? How many hundreds of millions? Now I know that a counter argument could be that the later in time you go the more  advanced the technology and the easier for mass killing. My point is just to contest the notion that evil secularism is any less dangerous than evil religion because historically it has dominated the intellectual scene for less time. That, I feel, is because it is a recent phenomenon which renders the argument from history as inapplicable.

There's no disputing the great numbers killed by communism and fascism. But you may have missed the point of my comparison between religion and secular ideologies. The point was that religious ideology is more powerful as a cultural force in the long term than misintegrated secular ideology, because of its promise of the afterlife. The trouble is that when talking about the present situation, we're not facing a choice between religious and secular ideologies. It's not theocracy vs. fascism and communism. A major point of my essay is that evil secular ideologies are dead. What we have on the left is not ideology, but nihilism.

It's possible that the fascists and communists have killed more than religious theocrats ever did, I don't know. But I think this is an accident of history. They came to power when the technology happened to exist that would permit them to do this. If religious theocrats were to gain control of modern technology, they would likely be able to kill just as many as the Nazis and communists were. Imagine if the Islamic fundamentalists acquired nuclear weapons, for example. And since I've argued that religious ideology has more staying power, they'd surely be able to kill more people in the long run, at least as long as they'd be able to hold onto that technology before technological civilization collapsed.

Let me just conclude that I have read NoumenalSelf's essays on this and I think they have a lot of good ideas in them. However, I disagree with the conclusion that relgious fundamentalism is as great a *present* danger as that presented by the secular left. Here I respectfully disagree with NoumenalSelf as well as Peikoff as to their short range projections. Long range, they are exactly right, religion is a danger that will swallow Western Civilization up whole. It has done so once before and it will do so again if it is not challenged. However, IMO, the Islamists with the aid of the secular Left will destroy the West before Christian fundamentalism ever gets a chance if something isn't done to stop or at the least hinder them.

Thanks for reading the essay, I'm glad you agree about the long term issue. I take it then that you disagree with what I say in my last essay about how neither the right nor the left can be expected to defend America from radical Islam any better, and so the question of the short term is moot. I wonder what you object to in my argument for that point?

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I take it then that you disagree with what I say in my last essay about how neither the right nor the left can be expected to defend America from radical Islam any better, and so the question of the short term is moot. I wonder what you object to in my argument for that point?

While sympathetic to your conscientious attempt to integrate your knowledge of Objectivism with Dr. Peikoff's DIM hypothesis, I want to point out the objection that will be raised here: Bush has, at least, gone after one major state sponsor of terrorism (Iraq) and seems poised to do more if necessary while Kerry will definitelyappease the enemy on all counts going forward. Especially if he is elected - a clear signal that Bush's foreign policy has been rejected by the American people.

No Democrat president has taken up arms in defence of America - for any reason - in about 50 years. We might not get what we want from Bush, but at least we don't get what we don't deserve, if I may be permitted to use those words.

There is another factor that needs integrating here. With which side has Objectivism been more successful? What I mean is, how many Objectivists are former liberals, as opposed to former conservatives?

If success is higher with conservatives (or their children) then one can hedge one's bets with a conservative nation. Yes, we'll be trying to move people from one Identity type to another but, remember, man has free-will and time is a crucial factor. People are not born D, M or I.

If success is lower with conservatives, then it may be prudent to take Dr. Peikoff's advice.

Whichever decision is taken, one thing is certain. It would be immensely helpful were Dr. P to actually hold some kind of open forum where we could actually present our questions to him and have him answer them. His statement is not enough for an epistemologically- thorough decision - and might even be unfair in the full context. Many people have not taken the DIM Hypothesis courses and do not have the contextual breadth available to him at this time.

Now, please bear in mind that Dr. Peikoff is my top living hero as I write this, so I do not mean any disrespect whatsoever.

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While sympathetic to your conscientious attempt to integrate your knowledge of Objectivism with Dr. Peikoff's DIM hypothesis, I want to point out the objection that will be raised here: Bush has, at least, gone after one major state sponsor of terrorism (Iraq)

Iraq was a major state sponsor of terrorism? It was a state sponsor of terrorism, but I'm not sure how major. Its most prominent role in supporting terrorism was in paying for Palestinian suicide bombers. A major crime, I'll grant, but not a direct threat to American security. Other allegations about Iraq's connection to terrorism I have dealt with here:

http://www.noumenalself.com/archives/000053.html

and seems poised to do more if necessary

I simply have not seen evidence to support this claim. I have also argued that because of his handling of Iraq, it is virtually inconceivable that Bush would move militarily against another state sponsor of terrorism. Look at how he is handling North Korea and Iran right now. Nothing but the mawkish multilateral appeasement that Kerry would advocate. And if Bush did, unfathomably, decide to invade Iran, how could we support it knowing it would be fought as the war in Iraq has been fought, with undue deference to civilian casualties, etc? How many thousands of soldiers should we have to lose?

while Kerry will definitelyappease the enemy on all counts going forward.

He will definitely do it, but so will Bush. Kerry will only be more honest about what he's doing, while Bush will pretend to be defending America while pursuing multilateral "solutions." Bush will probably stay in Iraq longer and kill more Muslims. But in this essay I argued that this may actually make things worse: killing terrorists without breaking their will may simply create more terrorists. The more you do that, the worse.

Especially if he is elected - a clear signal that Bush's foreign policy has been rejected by the American people.

I also answered this argument in one of my essays:

There is one argument that gives me greatest pause about a vote for Kerry. This is the argument that electing him will send the wrong message to the world. Even if Bush is not a strong defender of America, the world thinks he is, and a Kerry victory would send the message to the terrorists that we have surrendered, just as the Spanish did in Iraq after the Madrid bombings.

But I think this argument places too much emphasis on the idea that "perception is reality." Perhaps the world thinks that Bush is an aggressive cowboy, but surely the terrorists fighting on the ground know better. They're the ones who are winning in Fallujah and Najaf. They know we project weakness and this is what they celebrate. It's a matter of open debate who Al Qaeda actually wants to win this election: it's possible they'd rather see Bush win, because they know his combination of apparent aggressiveness with moral weakness leads to Al Qaeda recruitment.

No Democrat president has taken up arms in defence of America - for any reason - in about 50 years. We might not get what we want from Bush, but at least we don't get what we don't deserve, if I may be permitted to use those words.

True. But I think any Democrat would have fought the war in Afghanistan (albeit in the same half-assed manner as Bush). Bush's foreign policy was itself unexceptional prior to 9/11. If you get a chance, try to see this week's episode of Bill Moyers' program "Now." Moyers is an unqualified leftist, with whom I disagree on many things. But I caught this week's program, and it was a fair report on the findings of the 9/11 commission. If what they say is true, then Bush's handling of the terrorist threat prior to 9/11 was no different than Clinton's. It was only the glaring danger that 9/11 made evident that shocked Bush into action, however moderately. Now perhaps a Democrat may not have fought the war in Iraq. But that may have been a good thing.

There is another factor that needs integrating here.  With which side has Objectivism been more successful?  What I mean is, how many Objectivists are former liberals, as opposed to former conservatives?

If success is higher with conservatives (or their children) then one can hedge one's bets with a conservative nation.  Yes, we'll be trying to move people from one Identity type to another but, remember, man has free-will and time is a crucial factor.  People are not born D, M or I.

This is irrelevant. Even if we've had more success with conservatives as individuals, that has nothing to do with the question of which movement poses more danger to us in the long run. See my answers to Betsy up above.

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Certainly many people who are turning to religion or even more actively promoting the religious views they've held all along are decent people--and certainly some of them are not so decent (you would have to be blind not to see that). 

Absolutely right. It is critically important in dealing with anyone, religious or not, to carefully evaluate and judge them as individuals. I have found that the most important traits are having a good relationship with reality and being an active value-seeker, but neither of these traits correlates well with someone's degree of religiosity.

The majority of secular people in America today are nihilists, skeptics, and subjectivists whether on the New Left or the Libertarian Right. A large number of American Christians and most American Jews are primarily this-worldly, hard-working people dedicated to their careers, their families, their homes, and their material well-being. Knowing that someone is or is not religious tells you almost nothing about a given individual. What counts is WHY they are or are not religious, so assessing their motivation is essential.

So, putting the motivational issue aside, are you saying now that you disagree with me that it is a bad ideology that we need to actively address?

I am saying that religion is a bad ideology we DON'T need to address for several reasons.

Religion is so bad that it isn't worthy of being addressed.

Negating a negative achieves nothing.

For most people, who don't know what we know, religion = morality and values. If you just attack religion, you tend to attract nihilists and turn off valuers.

It is much more worthwhile and productive to promote adherence to reality and our rational morality as the means to whatever genuine values a person already has or seeks. This positive approach wins over good people, even if they are religious, by teaching them what they need to know and appealing to their rational self-interest. Once you have done that, they are equipped to deal with religion on their own and they often reject it because they don't need it any more.

I see some of them as people we must do battle with,

I see the worst religionists as people we should ignore and abandon to the consequences of their own bad ideas.

and some of them as potential allies.
... that we can win over by making the positive case for our values.

But above all it is the ideology that I say we must fight.  That is what I have been saying all along.  Do you disagree?  If so, how do you propose to make allies of them or convert them without fighting their bad ideas?

I do disagree because, for the above reasons, fighting religion is not a productive strategy. Promoting Objectivism, and all it has to offer, is the way to go.

On the other hand, you seem to see all leftists as enemies we must do battle with, calling them "hopeless" in general.  But inductively, I don't believe this to be the case.  Again, I think that some of them are certainly our enemies, but it is mainly their ideas that we must fight.

I think the New Left is worse than religion and that is why I consider them even UNWORTHIER adversaries than religionists. They are so bad that I never go out to do battle with them. When they pick a fight with me, which happens quite often, I fight back with ridicule as my weapon of choice. That's what really stupid ideas deserve.

And there are many of them who are not are enemies, as in my experience (judging from Objectivists whose pre-Objectivism ideological backgrounds I know) there are almost as many former leftists among Objectivists as there are former(?) conservatives.  In fact, out of the extremes on either side, I know of more former hard-core leftist Objectivists than former religious zealot Objectivists.  Why, Fred Weiss just said recently on the forum that he used to be a Communist!  So forgive me if I'm not going to just write off everyone with a certain political label as "hopeless."

That's true, but observe that just about all Objectivists were formerly Old Left (pre-1980) or New Right (post-1980) with very few from the Old Right or the New Left.

Ask yourself why.

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All points well-stated and taken, NS.

This is irrelevant. Even if we've had more success with conservatives as individuals, that has nothing to do with the question of which movement poses more danger to us in the long run. See my answers to Betsy up above.

Oops, I didn't see that post. I flew right by it and began typing mine. My mistake.

Well, now we're at this point, does anyone else have any reason(s) why this couple (Objectivists and the ballot-box marked "Kerry") oughtn't be joined in holy matrimony? :)

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I am saying that religion is a bad ideology we DON'T need to address for several reasons.

Religion is so bad that it isn't worthy of being addressed.

Negating a negative achieves nothing.

For most people, who don't know what we know, religion = morality and values.  If you just attack religion, you tend to attract nihilists and turn off valuers.

It is much more worthwhile and productive to promote adherence to reality and our rational morality as the means to whatever genuine values a person already has or seeks.  This positive approach wins over good people, even if they are religious, by teaching them what they need to know and appealing to their rational self-interest.  Once you have done that, they are equipped to deal with religion on their own and they often reject it because they don't need it any more.

Okay...I was taking it for granted that the way to fight religious ideas is primarily to offer Objectivism as an alternative. Apparently I should have been more explicit about that.

That being the case, I think we are much more in agreement than it initially appeared. I'm just going to leave it at that for now.

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That's true, but observe that just about all Objectivists were formerly Old Left (pre-1980) or New Right (post-1980) with very few from the Old Right or the New Left.

Ask yourself why.

This is actually a fascinating point. It matches my observation as well. Many of today's better conservatives (Sowell and Horowitz for example) were members of the far old left. But they were intellectualy active and kept questioning their ideology which eventually led them to about as good a philosophy as can be expected w/o embracing Objectivism. I could never see that happening with today's left because their hallmark has become militant anti-ideology. The old left it seems, while they were just as wrong, at least proffered some theories in defense of their positions. Today what you have is Michael Moore.

The old Right was the equivalent of the new Left in that they were stridently anti-mind as well. They were old fashioned hellfire and brimstone which was not to be questioned. Today's neo-conservatives are a less dogmatic bunch. They're far from perfect but they display more independent thinking than anyone on the Left.

I am led to the conclusion that with the exception of fundamentalists, which are hopless in any age, the conservatives are getting better and the liberals are deteriorating rapidly. I don't know if this is due to Ayn Rand's influence or not. But from my experience, I have not met one individual who was committed to the ideas of the new Left who was likeable let alone redeemable. Maybe I have just met a non-representative bunch but somehow I don't think so.

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Thanks for reading the essay, I'm glad you agree about the long term issue. I take it then that you disagree with what I say in my last essay about how neither the right nor the left can be expected to defend America from radical Islam any better, and so the question of the short term is moot. I wonder what you object to in my argument for that point?

I actually intend to go back and reread your essays. I may have misunderstood some of your points.

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That's true, but observe that just about all Objectivists were formerly Old Left (pre-1980) or New Right (post-1980) with very few from the Old Right or the New Left.

Actually, neither of these applies to me, perhaps because I'm a foreigner. I was a "weak" atheist with a subjectivist ethics and a capitalist politics when I read my first paragraphs of Miss Rand's work. My brother first sent me excerpts from "The Fountainhead" but since I preferred reading essays to novels, I went to my school library and borrowed "For the New Intellectual." OPAR was next. Then "The Fountainhead" and "Voice of Reason" simultaneously; and history was written.

My family background? Father, an agnostic with a mixed politics; mother, a liberal Christian.

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I answered these arguments in the essays I posted some time ago.[ ...]

I agree with your facts, but disagree with some of the conclusions.

Of course nihilism is enormously destructive. Culturally, it is destructive of rational philosophy. In the 20th century, nihilist intellectuals have succeeded in disarming defenders of reason, freedom, and science. On a person-to-person basis, nihilist individuals are also far more odious, and I'm sure any of us would prefer having a beer with a religious fellow than with a snarling literary critic.

...

In his DIM course, Dr. Peikoff observed that there has never been a nihilistic

civilization in all of human history.

The reason, of course, is that nihilism is opposed to everything civilization requires. While there has never been a nihilistic civilization, nihilism has destroyed Graeco-Roman civilization and is attempting to destroy Western Civilization. It isn't the religionists on college campuses who are chanting "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Western Civ has got to go!"

Because the nihilists are so utterly bankrupt, they seek destruction and power over others by force to a degree that is rare among American religionists. Ayn Rand wrote "power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind," and nihilists have the most abandoned minds of all.

The debate over this election is not about the goodness of individual religionists, but about giving the religious movement the chance to spread its infectious influence and gain greater control of our lives on a national scale.

An election is not how ideas are spread on a national scale. Candidates are not teachers or philosophers. They can only appeal to the ideas and values people already have.

Ideas are spread by philosophers, college professors in the humanities, authors of books and op-eds, talk radio hosts, and artists -- by intellectuals.

It is, in fact, precisely because religious people are better people that religious ideological movements are more destructive: by appealing to moral ideals and hope for an afterlife, these movements are more likely to inspire better people to follow them and surrender their talents for the cause.

Not if they know is a better way -- a rational way to achieve moral ideals. Teaching them that Objectivism exists and its value is the job of New Intellectuals.

I am suggesting we spend our time and efforts teaching and promoting Objectivism and not get sidetracked fighting religion.

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The reason, of course, is that nihilism is opposed to everything civilization requires.  While there has never been a nihilistic civilization, nihilism has destroyed Graeco-Roman civilization and is attempting to destroy Western Civilization.  It isn't the religionists on college campuses who are chanting "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Western Civ has got to go!"

What is your rationale for saying that nihilism destroyed classical civilization? Surely there were skeptics in ancient philosophy who chipped away at Greek ideals, but I would never say any of them were nihilists. There is quite a difference between skepticism and hatred of existence. The Greeks never got any worse than Hume, and while he was a skeptic, he was surely no nihilist. The first nihilist philosopher was Kant.

Besides, surely it was Christianity that destroyed classical civilization. Men stopped reading the classics because they started reading the Bible. It wasn't skeptical philosophers who smashed the pagan sculptures. It was the Christian iconoclasts.

No matter how much campus nihilists chant these days, there's only a limited amount they can destroy with their chanting. That is because the religious majority will simply ignore them or rebel against them. But don't suppose that necessarily means anything good. I quote again the passage from The Ominous Parallels I cited in one of my essays:

The American spirit has not yet been destroyed, but it cannot withstand this kind of undermining indefinitely.

If the United States continues to go the way of all Europe, the people's rebellion against the present intellectual leadership will be perverted, and rechanneled into an opposite course.

Nonintellectual rebels cannot challenge the fundamental ideas they have been taught. All they can do by way of rebellion is to accept a series of false alternatives urged by their teachers, and then defiantly choose what they regard as the anti-establishment side. Thus the proliferation of groups that uphold anti-intellectuality as the only alternative to today's intellectuals; mindless activism as the alternative to vacillating "moderation"; Christian faith as the alternative to nihilism; female inferiority as the alternative to Women's Lib; racism as the alternative to egalitarianism; sacrifice in behalf of a united nation, as the alternative to sacrifice in behalf of warring pressure groups; and government controls for the sake of the middle class, as the alternative to government controls for the sake of the rich or the poor.

The type of mentality produced by these choices—activist, religionist, racist, nationalist, authoritarian—would have been familiar in the Weimar Republic.

...

What one can know is only this much: the end result of the country's present course is some kind of dictatorship; and the cultural-political signs for many years now have been pointing increasingly to one kind in particular. The signs have been pointing to an American form of Nazism.

...

Religion cannot stop the trend. It helped to cause it.

To continue:

Because the nihilists are so utterly bankrupt, they seek destruction and power over others by force to a degree that is rare among American religionists. Ayn Rand wrote "power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind," and nihilists have the most abandoned minds of all.

Again--we're not talking about American religionists. We're talking about the leaders of the religious movement. What would you say about those who want to take your money for "faith-based" initiatives? Even better, what would you say about those who want to outlaw abortion? If you want to use Ayn Rand quotes, consider this one:

Not every wrong idea is an indication of a fundamental philosophical evil in a person's convictions; the anti-abortion stand is such an indication. There is no room for an error of knowledge in this issue and no venal excuse: the anti-abortion stand is horrifying because it is non-venal--because no one has anything to gain from it and, therefore, its motive is pure ill will toward mankind. ("A Last Survey, Part I," The Ayn Rand Letter, pg. 383.)

To continue:

An election is not how ideas are spread on a national scale.  Candidates are not teachers or philosophers.  They can only appeal to the ideas and values people already have.

You're right. But elections do establish policy. If Bush has touted his religion, and people re-elect him, he takes that as a mandate to pursue even more religious policy. This doesn't necessarily make more people religious. But it does give him the chance to lay the legal foundations of theocracy.

Ideas are spread by philosophers, college professors in the humanities, authors of books and op-eds, talk radio hosts, and artists -- by intellectuals.

Not if they know is a better way -- a rational way to achieve moral ideals.  Teaching them that Objectivism exists and its value is the job of New Intellectuals. 

I am suggesting we spend our time and efforts teaching and promoting Objectivism and not get sidetracked fighting religion.

I agree with everything here, except for the idea that we could get sidetracked fighting religion. No one has proposed simply attacking religion for its own sake, without offering Objectivism as an alternative. I have already written an essay on this very topic:

http://www.noumenalself.com/archives/000052.html

We do have to pick our battles. Nobody here disagrees that we need to oppose both religion and nihilism while upholding Objectivism as an alternative. The question is: when opposing our enemies, which should we consider the most dangerous, and therefore the most worthy of our attention? For the reasons I have given above, I think the answer is: religion.

Strangely, I don't think that my prescription for how to oppose religion differs much from Betsy's. The way we should oppose religion is by seeking out honest religious people and showing them that Objectivism is an alternative. But in public, we do need to announce with greater emphasis not only that we are opposed to religion, but that we are opposed to it because it is opposed to the very things religious people value: religion is opposed to morality, to honesty, to freedom, to integrity, to life. These are provocative lines that are not only philosophically essential, but attention-grabbing to boot.

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What is your rationale for saying that nihilism destroyed classical civilization? Surely there were skeptics in ancient philosophy who chipped away at Greek ideals, but I would never say any of them were nihilists. There is quite a difference between skepticism and hatred of existence. The Greeks never got any worse than Hume, and while he was a skeptic, he was surely no nihilist. The first nihilist philosopher was Kant.

Besides, surely it was Christianity that destroyed classical civilization. Men stopped reading the classics because they started reading the Bible. It wasn't skeptical philosophers who smashed the pagan sculptures. It was the Christian iconoclasts.

Whether you want to call them nihlists or skeptics or subjectivists, I think Betsy's point still stands. And nihlism, not as a conscious action, but taken as consequences, would contain skepicism and subjectivism. These did destroy classical civilization. Christianity (and the rest of the cults and religions of that time) was a groping mass for a moral compass after the disaster of sophisty and skepticism. These latter had whittled away at the certainty and moral confidence of men and thinkers.

It was skepticism and sophistry that Plato set out to fight (and in so doing set up the following religious epoch). The same thing happened after Hume with Kant (Plato was a much better philosopher). Even by Aristotle's time the decline was already evident, and just look at the shrinking range of men's vision in philosophy afterwards.

Religion points to a need of man's mind, a need of certainty, and a need of morality, a moral compass. It was the first thing men came up with when they knew nothing, and it is what they go back to when the subjectivists, skeptics, and now the nihlists destroy all the acheivements of man.

That is why the nihlists have to be fought. It is they that breed religion, not actually the religionists themselves.

PS. Rome was well on the path to destruction before Christianity became enough of a force to cause its fall. I'm not saying it didn't do its share of damage, but I don't think it was a primary cause.

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