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Can Objectivists be religious?

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bluearmy
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I'm convinced. There is no reason for me to believe that God exists. I think it was bluecherry who made the strongest case and addressed all my concerns or conflicts within my mind. This seems a bit quick for me so I'm going to think it through for a while to make sure I don't give any unearned credit or value where it doesn't belong.

1. "everyone grabs a lottery ticking assuming that they will get lucky and win"No, they don't assume it, it isn't expecting you'll win, they just hope it. My dad buys them all the time knowing that by far the more likely outcome will be that he loses, but he buys them anyway just in case one of these times he'll be the one in many that does win.

2. "Is her point that existence always existed without a cause? That would seem to create a contradiction in cause and effect if every act has a cause and an effect."It's not a contradiction if you understand the epistemology. Objects by their natures are the causes of things, not actions floating off all on their own separate from any objects. Only objects (existents) can take actions. If nothing existed, there could be nothing to be a cause, to take any actions. Every act has a cause in the objects that are acting, but "the creation of existence" is just something that is regarded as not having happened, hence we don't need to look for a cause of such an event.

3. "I place God right before existence exists—fits nicely for me."By the logic you gave for what you think necessitates a god (that everything has to have something else preceding it to cause it), then what caused god? "Self-caused" doesn't work because you can't act to do anything like causing something before you exist. If a god could supposedly exist without something causing it, why not existence (which would mean there is nothing necessitating god here, thus making a god a totally unsupported conjecture)? Also, if a god existed it would already be an existent, existence already existed.

4. "there are places in the universe which are, as of now, unreachable due to limits on the speed of light."They're not actually inaccessible, they'd just take longer to access than we live to access is all technically. Somebody else may be able to access it given enough time though, supposing we sent space ships out with people living on them for generations until their descendants get there. It's the same as if there was an actual force field up locking as out.

5. But more to the point, there is a difference between the impossible and the arbitrary. I've never met a flying purple people eater, I have no evidence for them whatsoever. I would say therefore that belief in flying purple people eaters is "arbitrary" (no evidence to support it thus making it detatched from anything to do with reality, therefore there's no reason to even speculate on them as a "possibility.") However, I also wouldn't call them outright impossible either as I don't have anything to suggest they actually would have to defy physics or something no matter where they were. In general, I just don't think about purple people eaters at all. I have no reason to, not until or unless somebody brings me some real evidence to consider on them. Gods, particularly the Christian one for example though, have not only no credible evidence for them no matter how weak, but they are said to be able to violate the law of identity by doing magic basically. For that reason they're not even just arbitrary but can be regarded as downright impossible to boot. This applies to anything "supernatural."

6. "If contradictions do not exist in reality, then how come contradictions exist abstractly in our minds?"We have volitional consciousness, meaning we have to make an effort in thinking, what to think about, what to apply our focus to, what we'll choose to pursue or not pursue. This means we don't operate automatically like trees or water or volcanoes. Those things can only respond one way to any given event/stimulus, it's compelled to happen that way according to their natures, they have no "say" in it to fight it or protest. They can't have anything in any way contradictory about them. Because we have choices though in our thoughts, options in our actions and pursuits, we're not infallible. We're not completely automated or omniscient, so we can make mistakes. We may try to avoid admitting that two particular things can't both be true because we have decided to whine at reality that we're not satisfied with it and want both to be true anyway. Or maybe we simply haven't integrated relevant information yet to realize where a conflict is, since that doesn't all happen instantaneously. Or maybe we're just a bit confused because we don't yet understand the meaning of all the data we have. That we possesses a volitional consciousness is just part of our nature and the possibility for contradictions in our thoughts comes with that. Why that is our natures is a matter of science, generally explained by evolution, genetics, et cetera. We're the result of many natural interactions.

7. "What causes the universe to be non-contradictory"You really can't ask WHY A is necessarily A and cannot at once in the same respect be Non-A because that matter is axiomatic. Any attempt to deny it would have to utilize it and any attempt to look for its "cause" could have to utilize it too. Cause and effect are matters of the law of identity being put in action where the cause is the nature of things. It's non-sensical and futile to ask about the cause of non-contradiction because non-contradiction is part of the nature of causes. You can't ask for the logic of non-contradition existing because logic is by nature a process that involves non-contradiction.

1. You’re probably right. I guess was wrong to assume that.

2. good point about existents. I agree.

3. good point again. I don’t think anything can be self-caused, like you said. If existence needs a cause, then why not God (an existent)? It may be possible that God always existed, but then existence could also have always existed (using that logic)—they are equal in the sense of existence always existed. The question remains for me: is it existence or God which was the first existent? If it’s existence then there is no need for a God, if it’s God then there ought to be more evidence than existence itself—even if the evidence is that existence can self-annihilate then that is good reason (or if it can be created, not proven yet). Anti-matter colliding with matter annihilates the matter and anti-matter, but energy is the output (another existent but of a different form).

4. I think this to be wrong, though it doesn’t affect your argument. The universe is expanding, and it is all relative depending on the observer with respect to any certain point. There are points at some 15 billion light-years away or so, which is expanding at a rate equal or greater than light and we do not see any light emitting from there since it will never reach us. Black holes are another example where light cannot reach us due to a singularity which bends space so that the acceleration is greater than the speed of light.

5. I agree. We have no reason to think arbitrarily.

6. I don’t think you actually answered this question, but I agreed of your description of volition. I have a theory that assumes that the ability for contradictions to exist in our mind and our ability to distinguish a contradiction from a non-contradiction gives us the power of volition (not the other way around). After all, we are made up of existents which cannot contradict so volition most likely is a byproduct of the ability to use reason.

7. Good point, I agree.

Is it okay to accept God existing without a cause if everything else must have a cause?

Good point. Either God has no cause or existence has no cause. I thought it was God, who had no cause, but now I’m not so sure.

"My God certainly wants me to think for myself and he’s given me the tools to live for myself on my own efforts—I don’t need him any more (or less) than I need existence to exist. I obey him in as far as I obey nature."

"And no, my belief in God will not affect my life until and unless he provides some more evidence."

1. Based on these two things you said, that belief DOES affect your life. You are suggesting here that you act selfishly for god's sake. That's a contradiction, since that would mean you are acting for the sake of something else while simultaneously acting for your sake. Which is it? Also, how would you even know that your god wants you to think for yourself? There is no basis to those claims of yours, because you already said god has given you no evidence. Aren't you claiming that you have enough evidence to alter how you act, "evidence" such as your ability to think and knowing that god wants you to think for yourself? Really, all you seem to be doing with regards to ethics is turning reality into some deity that you MUST obey. The basis for Objectivist ethics is about the nature of humans, and their requirements for existence. It also involves a choice to life; if you choose to live, then there actions you should take in order to pursue that. If you don't choose life, ethics won't matter to you and you wouldn't last very long.

"Not everything that is true has conclusive evidence"

2. What is true does have conclusive evidence. Anything else is conjecture.

1. This is moot now, but I wouldn’t have accepted your premise, which is I need to act for myself in conflict with God or God in conflict with myself; the socialists use a similar argument against private ownership in the means of production [AKA capitalism]. I always acted for myself. Also in my first or second post I stated that “to me God is in essence reality” (which everyone must obey to some extent if they wish to live).

2. I took my shoes off this morning and put them on this evening but I have no conclusive evidence to support this; no pictures, no means to get the carbon dated information, and no interest to put forth the effort to prove it to you. Is it still true? Yes.

The Law of Causality presupposes existence- it's a description of the nature of the universe. Cause and effect wouldn't exist without existence. Nothing "caused" the universe- matter cannot be created or destroyed.It's a contradiction to say that existence as a whole requires a cause and then conclude that the first cause must, by definition, be something non-existant. Does God exist or not?

Your last question and causality only affecting existents is very good in all its implications, but bluecherry made that argument earlier.

I highly suggest you pick up 3 books, with their importance in this order:1. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff2. Athiesm: The Case Against God by George H. Smith who was an Objectivist at the time of writing, and wrote the arguments as an Objectivist and as a philosopher, he is now an anarcho-capitalist I believe. There is a section in that book about the dichotomy between reason and faith as well. This is the clearest expounding of the issue of believing in a God and being an Objectivist as far as I am aware, and is a great book on the general topic of religion and atheism as well.3. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn RandThese 3 books will clear up any and all misconceptions you are having about this issue that don't get dealt with in this thread at some point.

I read and own the last; I’ll take a look at the first two. Thanks.

Oh, and how does one become anything else after becoming an Objectivist (assuming they don’t accept contradictions)?

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Just to clarify some things that may help in your thinking:

1. This is moot now, but I wouldn’t have accepted your premise, which is I need to act for myself in conflict with God or God in conflict with myself; the socialists use a similar argument against private ownership in the means of production [AKA capitalism]. I always acted for myself. Also in my first or second post I stated that “to me God is in essence reality” (which everyone must obey to some extent if they wish to live).

The point was that the idea of acting selfishly for the sake of something besides yourself is a contradiction in terms. If you always acted for yourself, that means you never acted in regards to god. By selfish, I'm referring to doing actions for your own sake. Not for the sake of god, not for the sake of my family, not even for the sake of reality. You could resolve that conflict by saying (1) selflessness is good, (2) I don't care about god then, I'll act selfish still despite what god thinks, or (3) god is a useless concept and doesn't need to be considered. 3 is what you decided on anyway pretty much. The Francis Bacon line is nice in a poetic way, but by "obey" reality it's better to think of that as needing to grasp reality in order to exist and produce the things necessary for existence.

"God is reality" is really nothing more than added complication for no good reason. No one means reality when they say god, that's why it is a different word. I can say Shiva is reality, I can say Zeus is reality. Or the most sensible thing is to say reality is reality. God refers to a kind of consciousness or volitional energy or whatever. Reality refers to things as they are, nothing more. There's a thread here on pantheism which you may want to look into discussing why equating god (or anything else) with reality really at best undermines the point of having concepts in the first place.

2. I took my shoes off this morning and put them on this evening but I have no conclusive evidence to support this; no pictures, no means to get the carbon dated information, and no interest to put forth the effort to prove it to you. Is it still true? Yes.

You do have conclusive evidence, but this being the Internet, I have no means to validate your claim. What counts is that you can validate what is true and what is false. It is conjecture on my part that you're telling the truth, since I have no conclusive evidence. Nothing about your claim contradicts reality, so I can say that it is plausible, but I don't know if it's true. There is no "Trueness" to be found out there in world; truth is something to be figured out and discovered. I'm not suggesting truth is subjective, I'm only saying that you can't claim something is true until you have conclusive evidence, evidence which I might not have. That may bring to mind how people have claimed to experience god directly, but such a claim contradicts numerous facts I've discovered to be true.

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Also, just FYI m082844, the argument for God you presented earlier (everything with an effect has a cause, the universe has a cause, thus God) is called the "cosmological argument" or "argument from first cause." You can google that and find tons of arguments for and objections to going back to antiquity, if you decide to think about it further. Remember, getting to the truth isn't about arguments per se, it's about grasping the logic of the situation first-hand.

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You would be incorrect in assuming that you can redefine Objectivism. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/atheism.html

You cannot be an Objectivist and have faith in that for which there exists no logical basis.

Religious beliefs are arbitrary - they have no cognitive value - they cannot be proven NOR disproved. That which cannot be proven or disproved cannot be true OR false. Reason cannot be applied to them. They must be discarded from any rational discourse.

And this is why Objectivists are, by definition, Atheists. Not because we BELIEVE God doesn't exist - but because there is no BASIS to believe that God exists. Not believing in God is like not believing in Unicorns and Leprechauns and that on the far side of Venus there is a city 20 miles underground that has never been nor can be detected.

It's not a matter of belief either way - it's a matter of dismissing that for which no proof can be provided - not even theoretical proof.

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I'm convinced. There is no reason for me to believe that God exists. I think it was bluecherry who made the strongest case and addressed all my concerns or conflicts within my mind. This seems a bit quick for me so I'm going to think it through for a while to make sure I don't give any unearned credit or value where it doesn't belong.

. . .

Oh, and how does one become anything else after becoming an Objectivist (assuming they don’t accept contradictions)?

B)

#1 and #4 were mostly asides anyway. As for #6, it's sort of a chicken/egg question question in a way anyway and they come together simultaneously basically.

What kind of things were you thinking of as far as "anything else" goes? If you mean something like, say, becoming a painter after adopting Objectivism, the process isn't too much different from how anybody else would get into painting. The differences would just be things like that one wouldn't be willing to do things such as paint with supplies one stole or paint advertisements for some really nasty politician just for the cash. If you mean something like how may somebody end up as, say, and anarcho-capitalist instead later even though they still don't intend to accept contradictions, see what I said earlier about contradictions. We don't automatically adhere to non-contradiction and aren't omniscient. Somebody could be confused, or lack some information, or not yet have integrated some information to realize where a contradiction would arise. Thus, they could intend to not accept contradictions, but for a while hold some incorrect ideas anyway. As long as they stay honest and inquisitive though, I expect eventually such a person would get things straightened out again. :)

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This is maybe the best discussion I've seen on this topic.

I'm coming in late here, after some excellent argumentation - with one certain poster putting the cherry on top!

m082844, I tip my hat to your rationality and perseverance.

At the end, it's a deeply personal choice to make, and you appear to be half-way there.

Seems like you're doing a great job of clear and independent thinking, and any atheist here can vouch that you will do even better on your own.

Just let Him go.

(When you are ready.)

All the best.

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I have a theory that assumes that the ability for contradictions to exist in our mind and our ability to distinguish a contradiction from a non-contradiction gives us the power of volition (not the other way around). After all, we are made up of existents which cannot contradict so volition most likely is a byproduct of the ability to use reason.

I would argue it is the other way around. Volition, although made up by "non-contradictory existents" is, by way of synergy, more than the sum of its parts (as Grames argued beautifully in another thread). Furthermore, by means of introspection, one can determine particularly the nature of volition which further identifies that because you have volition, you are able to form contradictions in your head, and is therefore not a "byproduct of the ability to use reason".

Or as Ayn Rand better put it:

To think is an act of choice.[...]Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question “to be or not to be” is the question “to think or not to think.”

The whole point of which is that because of man's nature (a being of volitional consciousness) you can (or will not) use reason and can (or will not) [as a byproduct] indulge in contradictions. All of which are possible because of volition and not the other way around.

More over, by Rand's definition of reason,

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.

it already implies the prior existence of volition, which is necessary for the very use of reason.

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Greebo: "And this is why Objectivists are, by definition, Atheists. Not because we BELIEVE God doesn't exist - but because there is no BASIS to believe that God exists. Not believing in God is like not believing in Unicorns and Leprechauns and that on the far side of Venus there is a city 20 miles underground that has never been nor can be detected."

Slight correction: because there is no basis..., we conclude and believe that there is no God.

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Greebo: "And this is why Objectivists are, by definition, Atheists. Not because we BELIEVE God doesn't exist - but because there is no BASIS to believe that God exists. Not believing in God is like not believing in Unicorns and Leprechauns and that on the far side of Venus there is a city 20 miles underground that has never been nor can be detected."

Slight correction: because there is no basis..., we conclude and believe that there is no God.

This is incorrect.

To draw a conclusion requires some basis of evidence. To conclude that there is "no camel in the room" one first must know the evidence that demonstrates that a camel is in the room - and thus the lack of said evidence is evidence that there is not a camel in the room. Camel is true or false based on the evidence or lack thereof.

There is no basis of evidence for a God, thus there is no basis of evidence for Not-God. Cognitively, the term has no value in reality - it cannot be true OR false.

You cannot found a logical premise on a statement that can be neither true nor false - and so no conclusion can be reached. The argument for God can only be dismissed - not refuted. The only proper action FOR such an argument is to dismiss it and to act as if it were never submitted. To "believe" the opposite is to draw conclusions when no premises exist.

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This is incorrect.

To draw a conclusion requires some basis of evidence. To conclude that there is "no camel in the room" one first must know the evidence that demonstrates that a camel is in the room - and thus the lack of said evidence is evidence that there is not a camel in the room. Camel is true or false based on the evidence or lack thereof.

There is no basis of evidence for a God, thus there is no basis of evidence for Not-God. Cognitively, the term has no value in reality - it cannot be true OR false.

You cannot found a logical premise on a statement that can be neither true nor false - and so no conclusion can be reached. The argument for God can only be dismissed - not refuted. The only proper action FOR such an argument is to dismiss it and to act as if it were never submitted. To "believe" the opposite is to draw conclusions when no premises exist.

I did not say there is proof of no God. The burden of proof is on the believer.

But I am correct in saying that I can conclude there is no God given the lack of evidence, just as in your camel example.

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I did not say there is proof of no God. The burden of proof is on the believer.

But I am correct in saying that I can conclude there is no God given the lack of evidence, just as in your camel example.

No, that's just what you lack. There is nothing to point to which says he is there, and thus there is nothing to tell you the evidence is missing.

You lack the evidence that shows that God isn't there just as much as you lack the evidence that shows he is.

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No, that's just what you lack. There is nothing to point to which says he is there, and thus there is nothing to tell you the evidence is missing.

You lack the evidence that shows that God isn't there just as much as you lack the evidence that shows he is.

You contradict your own camel example: the lack of evidence...says there is no camel in the room...or no God.

One has to make such a judgment and draw a conclusion given a lack of evidence of a camel...or a God.

That is not the same as proving there is no God - which one cannot and need not do.

It is absurd to say that if there is no evidence of a God, then the evidence is simply missing. This is ignoring the fact that knowledge is contextual.

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TLD, I don't think Greebo's contradicting himself. Rather, the invalid concept of 'god' makes it impossible to draw conclusions, as per the lack of "evidence". However, a camel, unlike 'god' is a concept with a reference to something real, perceivable and can be refuted based on its lack of evidence by simply pointing in the room and, with aforementioned knowledge of the concept camel, showing it's not there.

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TLD, I don't think Greebo's contradicting himself. Rather, the invalid concept of 'god' makes it impossible to draw conclusions, as per the lack of "evidence". However, a camel, unlike 'god' is a concept with a reference to something real, perceivable and can be refuted based on its lack of evidence by simply pointing in the room and, with aforementioned knowledge of the concept camel, showing it's not there.

The evidence or lack thereof is the common thread, not the nature of the entities.

One only need to ask: how can a God fit Metaphysically? How could you allow a contradiction between reason and faith by accepting that there may be a God? Etc. It is philosophically wrong to be agnostic on this subject.

That is why one has to conclude from the lack of evidence that there is no God.

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B)

#1 and #4 were mostly asides anyway. As for #6, it's sort of a chicken/egg question question in a way anyway and they come together simultaneously basically.

What kind of things were you thinking of as far as "anything else" goes? If you mean something like, say, becoming a painter after adopting Objectivism, the process isn't too much different from how anybody else would get into painting. The differences would just be things like that one wouldn't be willing to do things such as paint with supplies one stole or paint advertisements for some really nasty politician just for the cash. If you mean something like how may somebody end up as, say, and anarcho-capitalist instead later even though they still don't intend to accept contradictions, see what I said earlier about contradictions. We don't automatically adhere to non-contradiction and aren't omniscient. Somebody could be confused, or lack some information, or not yet have integrated some information to realize where a contradiction would arise. Thus, they could intend to not accept contradictions, but for a while hold some incorrect ideas anyway. As long as they stay honest and inquisitive though, I expect eventually such a person would get things straightened out again. :)

I see your point, and I have to agree. I think I make a similar error that Dagny makes (referencing Atlas Shrugged). I tend to think people will naturally be rational. I'm having a hard time with that. It's pretty frustrating sometimes especially when some of these people hold influence over my life, like being able to vote. Then they vote people into office who then think it’s ok to force me to do whatever they think is "good".

I appreciate the arguments from everyone to help clear my thinking.

Edited by m082844
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There is no basis of evidence for a God, thus there is no basis of evidence for Not-God. Cognitively, the term has no value in reality - it cannot be true OR false.

You cannot found a logical premise on a statement that can be neither true nor false - and so no conclusion can be reached. The argument for God can only be dismissed - not refuted. The only proper action FOR such an argument is to dismiss it and to act as if it were never submitted. To "believe" the opposite is to draw conclusions when no premises exist.

Does this make you an agnostic rather than an atheist?

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You contradict your own camel example: the lack of evidence...says there is no camel in the room...or no God.

One has to make such a judgment and draw a conclusion given a lack of evidence of a camel...or a God.

That is not the same as proving there is no God - which one cannot and need not do.

It is absurd to say that if there is no evidence of a God, then the evidence is simply missing. This is ignoring the fact that knowledge is contextual.

Have you read OPAR? Peikoff does a much better example of explaining it than I do.

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Does this make you an agnostic rather than an atheist?

I was one for a long time, but realized my error after reading OPAR.

Agnostics grant possibility to that which is cognitively meaningless. We require that there be some non contradictory basis of evidence - even theoretical - to grant any credibility whatsoever to a concept.

Where no basis exists, we cannot draw *conclusions*. We simply reject the claims as arbitrary.

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To discount any number of specifically posited gods, one need only look at the evidence of how such gods contradict the evidence we have of physics.

Of course - but that's the failure of the one positing the gods. When they present a contradiction, then we can point out the contradiction and prove that specific claim to be false. And what do believers do? They broaden the definition to be non-specific and claim that they just know it to be true. How do you rationally argue with that? Answer? We can't. The only rational response is to shut up and walk away.

When the irrational present arbitrary claims of experiential evidence, we cannot prove them to be liars or deceived - we do not have their context. All we can do is point out that their claims are not supported by evidence and cannot be reproduced in any conclusive manner, thus they cannot be accepted as evidence of proof.

We do not *believe* there is no god and rationally we cannot *conclude* there is no god because there is no evidence on which to base a conclusion. You cannot prove a negative without there being a positive that contradicts it.

We simply *reject* the notion of god on the basis of the lack of evidence. We are atheists because reason refuses to accept as valid any premise without basis in reality.

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Man is not rational by nature; you need not have that problem.

Most people are not rational because they are not dedicated to reason and not focused on moral virtues.

Actually, man is rational by nature. Whether or not he exercises that capacity is a matter of choice.

That man is rational by nature only identifies that he has a rational facutly.

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Have you read OPAR? Peikoff does a much better example of explaining it than I do.

"Every argument commonly offered for the notion of God leads to a contradiction of the axiomatic concepts of philosophy."

"Objectivism advocates reason as man's only means of knowledge, and, therefore, it does not accept God or any variant of the supernatural."

"Objectivism's refutation of theism...is not a case of "proving a negative.... (Rand)starts with reality, i.e., with (philosophically) known fact, then denies a claim that clashes with it."

"Objectivism rejects agnosticism.... The agnostic says 'We can't prove that the claim is true. But we can't prove that it is false, either. So the only proper conclusion is: we don't know; no one knows; perhaps no one ever can know'."

"God" is simply rejected. She conclusion that there is no, and cannot be a, God.

Now if you have read it, show me a quote that supports your claim.

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Actually, man is rational by nature. Whether or not he exercises that capacity is a matter of choice.

That man is rational by nature only identifies that he has a rational facutly.

Yes, you are correct of course. I was responding to what I understood to be a statement about man's actions, not his nature. And man's actions and his rationality are not automatic.

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