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Should Atlas Shrugged Have Had A Religious Figure?

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Ranil
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I was reading the introduction that Leonard Peikoff had written in the version of Atlas Shrugged that I own, and he mentions that Ayn Rand originally intended to have a character named Father Amadeus in the book. Apparently he was meant to be a positive figure, but she couldn't make him convincing.

But I've been thinking that perhaps the book should have had a religious figure, who was a villain. Ayn Rand covered every other sort of villian and mystic extremely well by providing the reader with concrete representations of them, but religious leaders were only talked about. Perhaps she could have had a religious figure who was positive to begin with, but when pushed to their extremes became obviously evil towards the end.

What do you think?

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I think socialism is an effect of bad philosophy, whereas religion is a cause (since it is a form of philosophy). I don't think Rand wanted to focus on religion because it would have detracted from her addressal of philosophical issues. My personal attitude towards religion is that it is a complete non-issue, and I refuse to debate it from the outset. I think Atlas Shrugged is too intelligent a book to address religion.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Rand spends nearly as much time debunking religion in her non-fiction either as she does with nearly every other subject.

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I think religion is as much an effect of bad philosophy as socialism. Like socialism, it was a human construct, so it must have stemmed from *some* underlying philosophy.

From what I gathered from the Sense of Life documentary about Ayn Rand, she had a bit of respect for religion for what it attempted to do. This would also explain why she intended this Father Amadeus character to be a positive one.

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Ayn Rand used to say that in real life you ignore the inconsequential and in fiction you just omit it. This, in my opinion, is the reason behind the absence of religion or for that matter, the distinction between who was black / white in AS (there was a post regarding this isuue too on OO.net).

She addresses the root of religion, which is unreason. I think thats sufficient.

Dinesh.

Edited by Prometheus
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The introduction to the edition I have says not that F. Amadeus was supposed to be a positive figure, but that he was meant to be a sincere one, i.e. someone who truly believed that altruism was the route to the good and tried to live up to it's positive ideals.

Considering the theme of the book, this character would not have been positive, but a horrible, sickening negative, much like the torturer who truly believes he is "helping" his victims. The result, I think, of this proposed character would have been to muddy the waters, not make the book better than it already is.

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  • 3 weeks later...
The introduction to the edition I have says not that F. Amadeus was supposed to be a positive figure, but that he was meant to be a sincere one, i.e. someone who truly believed that altruism was the route to the good and tried to live up to it's positive ideals.

Considering the theme of the book, this character would not have been positive, but a horrible, sickening negative, much like the torturer who truly believes he is "helping" his victims. The result, I think, of this proposed character would have been to muddy the waters, not make the book better than it already is.

In the 35th anniversary edition (paperback) it says :

"Some notes on the above: Rearden's sister, Stacy was a minor character later cut from the novel. "Francisco" was spelled "Francesco" in these early years, while Danneskjold's first name was Ivar, presumably after Ivan Kreuger, the Swedish "match king," who was the real-life model of Bjorn Faulkner in Night of January 16th. Father Amadeus was Taggart's priest, to whom he confessed his sins. The priest was supposed to be a positive character honestly devoted to the good but practicing consistently the morality of mercy. Miss Rand dropped him, she told me, when she found that it was impossible to make such a character convincing." (page 6)

For all intents and purposes, I agree with what you are saying. Someone cannot *truly* be acting on behalf of *objective* good if they are practicing the morality of mercy. That is why such a character could never really be convincing as a "good" character...but at best could be portrayed as "sincere" in motive. Such a character would indeed muddy the waters.

The only reason why I quoted my edition is because I'm betting that Ranil (the artist formerly known as Concerto of Atlantis...lol) has the same edition as myself. Thus, he wasn't having reading comprehension issues or memory issues ...but rather "edition" issues. I believe precision is important, and so I acted accordingly. I'm not trying to muddy the waters here.

:)

Edited by Evan
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The only reason why I quoted my edition is because I'm betting that Ranil (the artist formerly known as Concerto of Atlantis...lol) has the same edition as myself. Thus, he wasn't having reading comprehension issues or memory issues ...but rather "edition" issues. I believe precision is important, and so I acted accordingly. I'm not trying to muddy the waters here.

:D

Oh, but I AM having memory issues. I completely forgot that I had started this thread! If I hadn't forgotten, I would have quoted from the introduction of my book like you just did. :)

I wasn't necessarily talking about a character who believed in an *objective* good, but rather a person who believed that the morality of mercy was good. I have met quite a few priests and monks in my life that actually seemed quite benevolent and kind hearted on the surface, but once you break their philosphies down to their essentials and start asking questions of them, they become quite vicious. This is the sort of character that I was thinking of.

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Oh, but I AM having memory issues. I completely forgot that I had started this thread! If I hadn't forgotten, I would have quoted from the introduction of my book like you just did. :D

I wasn't necessarily talking about a character who believed in an *objective* good, but rather a person who believed that the morality of mercy was good. I have met quite a few priests and monks in my life that actually seemed quite benevolent and kind hearted on the surface, but once you break their philosphies down to their essentials and start asking questions of them, they become quite vicious. This is the sort of character that I was thinking of.

I totally agree. A lot of priests aren't what they appear to be. However, I think Ayn Rand showed enough deception, evasion, and subjectivism to hammer home what such bad things are and how to identify them. Examples: Kip Chalmers, Ivy Starnes, Cuffy Meigs, Tinky Holloway, Bauph Eubank, Dr. Ferris, Dr. Stadler, James Taggart, Orren Boyle, the numerous people on the Comet train that are killed whose philosophical errors or morality are explicitly identified, etc. Did she *really* need to throw in a religious figure as well?

I agree with the other poster that said that religion is inconsequential. It is really blatanly obvious to most academics or thinking people. I have met *countless* liberals, socialists, etc that are 100% atheist.

Communists and Socialists might be "godless" but they are no less a threat if nobody stands up to them philosophically speaking. Communism and Socialism are dangerous because the pose as legitimate partially because they avoid treading into the philosophical toilet known as religion. Thus, the priority would be addressing the pinkos, not the people in church whose minds have probably already been lost anyways due to the brain rot induced by religion. I'm not saying that you can't have a religious past or be religious and change your philosophical outlook...it is just pretty rare. I have also seen seen Communists that were willing to have an honest (a non-evasive) philosophical debate and seriously consider the flaws in their philosophy (as well as change those flaws once identified). Even in Ayn Rand's fiction, Andrei is capable of such honesty despite the fact that philosophically he supports Communism for most of the book. Being honest doesn't always go with being a Communist, make no mistake. However, religion isn't paraded about in the halls of academia where the important world changing debates, discussion, and ground breaking starts and forms. Liberalism IS. How many notable religious scholars/philosophers do you know? St. Augustine? Thomas Aquinas? Maybe C.S Lewis? How man liberal professors can you think of on college campuses? Probably tons. I think that is why a religious figure is sort of inconsequential. It is an easier intellectual target than the smoke and mirrors of modern liberalism. Liberals are TRAINED in putting out badly supported arguments and they are trained using the very tools they deny (logic and other academic method).

You are more likely to spit out a drink that tastes like it is poison through and through (assuming that the poison has a bad flavor...to make this metaphor work). However, if you taste a normal drink (like Kool-Aid) and the poison blends in, such a corrupted drink poses more of a threat to the body. Poison is poison...however...religious people willingly chug it without even bothering to give it a thought. Liberals (at least some of them) honestly believe they have a rational reason for their philosophies. Such people might be possible to reach *through* reason whereas the religionist has abandoned reason altogether.

Edited by Evan
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Yes, I am now convinced, thank you.

I made the classic mistake of thinking that reason would convince those that have given up reason.

Definitely. Keep in mind the context as well (philosophically speaking). Atlas Shrugged was first published in 1957. Rawl's A Theory of Justice wouldn't be published for nearly a decade and a half later....let alone Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia or Dworkin's Taking Right's Seriously . Philosophy descended into new-liberalism around that time (the 70's). Such liberalism is atrocious, HOWEVER...postmodernism was only in it's adolescence during the 50's(Habermas is the only exception I can think of)at the time. A lot of influential post-modern (non)thinkers were born in the 1920's but pomo didn't start become philosophically trendy until the 80's. The main academic trend (in the 50's) was a push towards new-liberalism, not pomo. In a wider context, pomo never really took hold quite like liberalism in academia. In a lot of ways it is academic cultism that makes the communication of ideas nearly impossible and at best, unimportant. So for all intents and purposes, philosophy was in the hands of the new liberals (like Rawls) and not the philosophical equivalent of nut job cultists (postmodernists). That is what the trends were pointing to and that is where they went. A lot of philosophy teachers from what I have seen discount continental philosophy as being irrelevant...though it is of limited importance to the overal history of philosophy. A lot of liberals and left wing philosophers take issue with deconstructionism and other post modern concepts which at least shows that even they have *some* boundries. Ugh. Pomo is so disgusting. Even writing about it makes me feel icky all over.

I think the philosophical vaccine (Atlas Shrugged) to the crap philosophy that was starting to brew iwas aimed at the people that might be tempted or deluded into catching the liberal disease. Atlas Shrugged also served as an antidote aimed not the postmodernists or the religious crowd, but academics who had made honest errors of knowledge....like Tony the "wet nurse" who was able to become a moral man before he died. The closest we get to an evil philosopher in Ayn Rand's writing is Elsworth Toohey. He isn't an academic philosopher, yet he is a writer...the complete opposite of Ayn Rand in every way. Such people dispense with the notion of health or poison altogether and say close your eyes and play Russian roulette with your mind and language. We also see philosophically mistaken people suffer and pay for their errors of knowledge (ignorance doesn't divorce you from consequence and causality). We see a couple of positive real philosophers (Hugh Akston, Ragnar). I think that this is because the purpose was to focus on philosophy as it COULD be. In that sense, Ayn Rand succeeded brilliantly.

lol.

-E

Edited by Evan
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eep!

I didn't mean to have the "lol" where it is. As it stands, it looks like I'm mocking Ayn Rand's enormous achievement. I edited this post earlier from my original version to the version with the "lol."

The lol was from the sentence where I said that pomo made me feel icky all over. I moved that sentence up in the post but missed copying and pasting the "lol."

My apologies for my bad editing.

-Evan

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I would have liked the inclusion of the positive religious character :(

Hmmm. What use or function do you think a positive religious figure would have served and in what way do you think such a figure could have been created and maintained textually in a convincing manner?

Religion in my eyes at least is only positive to the degree that it is human. Everything else is a complete and utter waste. I'm sure there are places where texts like the Bible actually advocate *positive* things. However, the fact that such things are positive would be due to the fact that they are based on man's natural requirments for survival (reason) and conformity to reality. NOT because they are divinely inspired.

Ayn Rand depicted the philosophically positive in her many wonderful characters that were pure in the sense that they relied on reason as their only method of cognition. Religious figures are hard to really paint in a positive light. Hell, Thomas Aquinas helped take Europe out of the dark ages with the reintroduction of Aristotelian logic. However, what MADE him a positive figure wasn't his religion...it was his reason. If religion was the important variable (in distinguishing positive religious figures from negative ones) then there would be no separation between depicting Thomas Aquinas, Mother Teresa, or Saint Augustine. The fact is though, it IS reason that separates the degree of value between those three examples.

What use would Ayn Rand have had in utilizing such a Thomas Aquinas in her book? She had Hugh Ackston.

Andrei is shown as being philosophically corrupted in We The Living. The purpose and theme of Atlas Shrugged wasn't to show every type of immorality or mistake that humans can possible make nor was it to classify and categorize every shade of gray in between the philosophically pure (the white) and the morally bankrupt (the zero...the black).

I clearly disagree with your position, but I'm interested in hearing your reasons for the way you believe and how you came to those reasons if you are willing to offer them.

-Evan

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What use would Ayn Rand have had in utilizing such a Thomas Aquinas in her book?
Well, I wouldn't call my immediate thought a use, but I don't think* Rand created a similar character: one who is "positive" despite a shortcoming and isn't permanently debilitated by the unchanged shortcoming (*hmm, Willers?*)

I agree with you that any positive character would be so based on their use of reason.

I also think what what Megan said was interesting.

F. Amadeus was supposed to be ... someone who truly believed that altruism was the route to the good and tried to live up to it's positive ideals.

Considering the theme of the book, this character would not have been positive, but a horrible, sickening negative... The result, I think, of this proposed character would have been to muddy the waters, not make the book better than it already is.

I am inclined to agree that a conception of a religionist who strives for altruistic ideal would be pretty hard to make into positive character. OTOH I don't think that a differently conceived religionist would have diluted the theme's power.

I'm not prepared (or even desiring) to say that such a character's inclusion would have made AS better or worse, but I do think the Father idea interesting even if irrelevant.

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Hunterrose:

Intially you say:

I would have liked the inclusion of the positive religious character
and then you say:

I'm not prepared (or even desiring) to say that such a character's inclusion would have made AS better or worse, but I do think the Father idea interesting even if irrelevant.

I understand why you hesitate to definitively use the word "would" because it is a word of certainty. A lot goes into the calculus that determines what exactly is good and bad for the plot.

A potentially good plot point can be screwed up by sloppy presentation for example and since we can't know exactly how such a character would have been presented by Ayn Rand, we can't know with certaintly whether or not it would have been *good* for the plot.

If we make the assumption (for the sake of argument) that the inclusion of such a a character would have made Atlas a better novel, then what is it about the religious figure that could have actually pushed the value of Atlas Shrugged higher?

As I pointed out, the purpose of such a character was to present a genuinely positive figure. Not a person that was simply sincere and believed that his way was the right way.

I believe that the only way you could present such a person is like Andrei, Gail Wynand, or Eddie Williers.

Gail Wyand was a positive figure in the fact that his integrity, soul, and sense of life were the same as Roark's. However, Wynand paid the ultimate price in the end by having to destroy his life's work because he realized that he was never in control or running things at all but was a horse with a bit in his mouth that was driven by the collective reins. His intended purpose (power) wasn't what he was really working towards as he learns in the end. The only true way to have power is to have it over yourself (like Roark). Wynand learns this the hard way. Wynand's philosophical errors are paid for in the end because all errors are negatives drawn against the balance of life. If you don't have the balance to justify such expenditures, you end up in the philosophical "red" so to speak and keep going on credit. Eventually such credit is called and the person that made the debt must pay it.

Andrei was good despite his horribly political philosophy. He wasn't a second hander and didn't live the drivel that he honestly believed in. He lived as a good man but contributed to the spread of a destructive philosophy and way of life. He pays the ultimate price as well.

Eddie Willers was an honest man who did honest work and did it well. However, he doesn't have the philosophical roots or grounding that would let him become worthy to live in Galt's Gulch. We all know what happens to him. He pays the price for his choices as well.

What use or purpose would another Eddie Willers, Gail Wynand, or Andrei have had to the novel?

Ayn Rand included one such "type" of character in We The Living, Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead. The characters obviously differ in abilities, situations, and merits, but they each meet their proper end. What would justify the addition of another such character?

The focus, purpose, and theme of Atlas Shrugged was NOT the tradgedy of Eddie Williers, Cheryl Taggart, or a hypothetical Father Amadeus. It was the role of man's mind in the world and man as presenting man as he OUGHT to be. With such a theme, the focus naturally is on the triumph of the good guys despite the presence of some really nasty and evil characters. The focus should NOT be on Eddie Williers or a potential Father Amadeus which is why I would see such an addition as overly redundant and not adding anything extra.

-E

Edited by Evan
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What use or purpose would another Eddie Willers, Gail Wynand, or Andrei have had to the novel?
Amadeus wouldn't necessarily have been a copy of one of these previous characters, though. Here's one conception that might have worked. Or might not.

Eddie wasn't a person of the (highest) mind. Start with the idea of Amadeus as a fountainhead, like Howard and Francisco.

Wynand attempted to ride the wave of others' irrationality. Imagine if this Amadeus OTOH was vehemently opposed to the idea of manipulating others as a source of long-term gain (because he knew it to be impossible.)

Andrei chose to give up his existence because of his past errors. An Amadeus who wasn't convinced he was wrong in his religious beliefs, and yet would correct his stance when/if he realized his error (and not "give up" a la Andrei) would be significantly different.

Suppose this Amadeus works to establish on-the-ground opposition to this corrupt AS governmental order, agrees with not aiding the moochers, but would rather stay in the world than go to the Gulch (would he even have been invited??) Whereas Eddie was left adrift, this Amadeus would know what he was attempting to do, and be able enough to fend for himself and his ideals in the increasingly desolate non-Gulch world. He'd probably have an effect similar to Ragnar's or Francisco's pre- Gulch lockdown. This Amadeus would likely believe that him staying would serve his purposes better than "leaving the world."

It'd probably be more accurate to compare such an Amadeus to Dagny and Hank; first-handers who have philosophical errors to correct.

The theme would still be as strong IMO: a man of the mind living in the world, but not of the world, not choosing to fight in the strikers' manner, but fighting evil (and winning) nonetheless.

...this isn't exactly the Taggert confidante it seemed Rand was considering, and I'm not saying that my 10 minutes of thought solves any problem with the FA conception, but I still think it could have worked.

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I find your take on FA to be interesting, however instead of just showing that it wouldn't take away from the theme (or would leave the theme "just as strong" as you put it) what do you think that such an inclusion would *add* other than another example of a philosophically mistaken character?

Keep in mind, Atlas already tops 1,000 pages. Do you think that adding in FA would have actually *added* to the story or just left it no better or worse than it already was?

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You're forcing me to think about this much more than I originally intended to :dough: but okay.

FA's mistake (religous notions, e.g. perhaps searching for evidence of gods) wasn't necessarily of the same type as Dagny's mistake of devotion to the family business and Hank's to family were. Their mistakes were precisely what was binding them to the world's evil. In order to be saved/save themselves, Dagny and Hank had to correct themselves.

Was philosophical perfection (in the sense of being in a unblemished philosophical state) the necessary factor for entry into the Gulch? Did everyone have to like Halley's music?

Questions occasionally pop up asking why Eddie couldn't get into the Gulch, or Wynand had to fade away, or Stadler not be converted, usually with an implication that it was the characters lack of being perfect that led to their lowly ends. When those questions are sincere, they IMO arise from confusing seeking the highest rationality with being perfect. FA might have illustrated the difference by seeking highest rationality, but not being philosophically perfect.

That's not the only possible interpretation, though.

As far as *adding,* I think it would have clarified an issue that was not of the highest importance to Rand's theme, but was relevant nonetheless.

I highly doubt Rand would have agreed with my idea to any degree :P and that would have been the final arbiter of whether it *added* I suppose.

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