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Objectivists Need A Church, Too

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The forum has been a little quiet lately, so I thought I’d insert some controversy to stir things up. Steve and I were starting to debate this on Instant Messengers, but I thought that it would be preferable to share our wisdom with the rest of the world.

My argument is that a church of some kind is needed for every society, even a rational one. Before I explain what I mean by a “church,” let me give my case.

  • All men need an abstract system of ideas of some sort to guide their life.

  • This system, which we know as a man’s philosophy does not come automatically, cannot be merely read from a book, and must be actively integrated and applied to a man’s life as long as he lives.

  • A rational philosophy must be come from or be integrated with a man’s inductive knowledge, and must go from the highly abstract (life is good, reality knowable) to the specific (lying is bad, sex is good)

  • Most men will never have the ability to come up with a wholly rational philosophy, implicitly or otherwise, but must learn it from some source.

  • Even in a (comparatively) super-wealthy, rational society based on the Objectivist philosophy, the great majority of individuals will not be intellectuals and probably won’t even go to college. My guess is that only those involved in intellectual, engineering, and scientific careers will actually continue their formal education after high school.

  • Whatever the case, I highly doubt that most people will bother to study philosophy on any highly abstract level. I would not blame them – as non-intellectuals, they will have other important priorities for their lives, and will leave the job of abstract thinking to those who have the ability and aptitude for it. Perhaps Atlas and Fountainhead will be required reading in High School, but “The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts” will not be, and there is no reason for the average non-intellectual to read it.

  • Nevertheless, everyone, philosopher or not, will need (and does need now) a regular re-affirmation of their values, a reminder of the Big Picture, and practical advice for how to apply the philosophical attitude that they will now take for granted to their life.

  • This need must be fulfilled in some way, and I think inevitably, there will be some sort of a Church, where groups of individuals will regularly congregate to reaffirm their values, and receive regular lectures on abstract issues and their application to their life.

So here’s what I mean by a “church”: “A formally organized body of individuals who share some creed and meet on a regular basis to re-affirm their values and concretize abstract principles into practical guidance for their lives.”

Obviously, I don’t mean that there will be any prayer going on, (and mass singing freaks me out as well) but regular lectures (perhaps by future traveling Andy Bernstein), Sunday school classes, social gatherings, and events like marriages, funerals, and holidays will all play the same basic role they do in today’s churches, although the advice dispensed will be radically different. It’s also likely that there will be competing churches will competing schools of thought, and perhaps competing corporations running and licensing franchises, much as they do today. In short, they will provide concretized guidance to individuals who’s primary focus in life is not intellectual activity, and thus who don’t have the ability to spend years of independent or institutional learning dedicated to philosophy. My guess is that there will even be a separation of “church and school” so that parents will be able to send their children to one place to get their basic and technical education, and another for their philosophy.

So that’s my idea. I think even Objectivists today would benefit from – and in fact need a forum whether they interact with like-minded individuals for social, spiritual, and practical reasons. You don’t have to call it a church – it could be called a temple or a lyceum, but the function of the institution is needed in any society.

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I believe that such an organization would be quite beneficial, not only to those people who do not engage in intellectual stimulation on a regular basis, but also to those of us who spend quite amount of time dealing with very abstract and complex philosophical subjects.

This argument for such an organization reminds me of the critical need of art in man's life. Art provides an amazing function for man’s consciousness, in that it allows him to guide his subconscious and everyday decisions by the perceptual concrete of a work of art. If one tried to philosophically examine every single action of one’s life, one would not be able to function properly. One would not be able to sit down and examine every subconscious action to philosophical clarity. Also, the average person does not have the time (nor the ability) to analyze their philosophy extensively. Art however, allows a human being’s consciousness to retain a perceptual concrete of what the proper course of action is, what is important in man’s existence, what is the good, what is the evil, etc. Art, therefore, serves as an amazing tool of man’s consciousness, and consequently, an excellent tool of survival.

I believe that the same applies to such an organization, referred to as a "church" or whatever. Such an organization would aso be beneficial for Objectivists to interact with others, share ideas, engage in social actions etc. I would love to have such an institution to go to every week!

But, having been raised a Roman Catholic and having attended Sunday school for 11 years, the word church still makes me ill! :P

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There's a lot in your post I disagree with. First, I'll take care of the most important issue, which is most likely something you do not intend. It is unclear from your description exactly what this church would be like. Is it like the Objectivist Conference we went to? Do the lectures give the reasoning behind the ideas? Or are they merely inspirational sermons? (I don't mean to imply that the well-reasoned lecture can't also be inspirational.) I doubt you could mean more sermons, and yet what you wrote could easily be read that way. If you don't mean mere sermons, I would oppose calling such a thing a church, on the grounds that it would lump two radically different concepts together.

Assuming you are referring to something more along the lines of the Objectivist Conference with a few additions, I still disagree with a lot. You say this is necessary even in a rational society. I'm not sure I agree. I think that in a rational society, one would not have to go out of one's way to get the values of this church. Like-minded people would be everywhere. The right ideas would be everywhere. There would be no need to seek those values "artificially". I don't understand the marriage thing either. How would a church help with that sort of thing, as opposed to just renting a place, inviting people, and getting the marriage contract?

More importantly, I disagree with the reasons you give for this church. The purpose of education is to provide man with what he needs to live, i.e., to train his conceptual faculty. The purpose is to enable him to succeed in practice; for this end, he needs theoretical training. You argue that only intellectuals should study philosophy on an abstract level. I would argue that a properly educated student would leave school with the ability to think independently and abstractly, and that that ability is necessary for a successful life. Basically, I think you give the average person too little credit. In fact, I would consider making use of "Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts" in, if not in a senior science class in high school, then in a freshman science class in college, were I to teach them.

That said, I agree with your conclusion, assuming you mean by church something like the Objectivist Conference. What I disagree with is only your reasons for it. I think the average person can and should do quite a bit of abstract study, and would leave a proper school a better intellectual than most we have today, even if that isn't his chosen field.

My reasons for having such a thing would be more along the lines of: a means of continuing abstract study after school, rather than, as you seem to claim, substituting for a lack of it in school.

My arguments aren't formulated as well as I'd like them to be, but this is the first time I gave this much thought, so this will have to do.

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I don't mean something like the Objectivist Conference -- I do in fact mean something much closer to today's churches. (Actually I've only been to a church a few times in my life, being Jewish by ancestry, but that's besides the point.)

We all agree that everyone needs an highly abstract philosophy for his life, as in "my life is valuable" vs just "killing is wrong." Everyone needs to learn this, but I disagree that everyone can or should pick this up in school. In a rational society it's unlikely that most people would go to college, and even if they did, most people would probably have a strong technical focus. Everyone would study philosophy implicitly on some level at any level of education, but formal study of philosophy as such would be limited to intellectuals. The rest of the population might read books like "Loving Life" but not "Viable Values." The're not philosophers, and the're not interested in studying philosophy other than its direct application to their life. You can't expect them to study it formally on their own or even at conferences like OCON.

The question then is -- where DO they get their philosophy? I think an institution much like today's churches would fit the bill. It would meet on a regular basis, involve people at all ages, and provide purely social as well as intellectual interaction. I see no reason why it couldn't also function as a community of peers - hence marriages and such.

Obviously, I don't mean that there will be weekly Sunday sermons, if by "sermon" you mean intrinsic religious dogma. But the emotional response to the speakers as such will be the same (if not stronger) and for the same reasons -- a regular reaffirmation of your life should be an intense emotional experience -- in the same category as those provided by great art and sex. An individual growing up in a rational society should get the right foundation for his own philosophy whether he ever attends "church" or not, but I think he could still benefit -- greatly - from regular guidance and inspiration along the right path.

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I see now that there are two crucial points of disagreement between us.

1.) The Nature of the debated institution: You advocate something like a church; I would advocate something more along the lines of OCON. I'd like to know more concretely just how such a church would work, what the lectures would consist of. But if the means of instruction is like how they are in today's churches, I think that would be disastrous. Mere inspriational speeches will not help people to think rationally. And certainly I wouldn't want Atlas Shrugged to turn into a Bible. Such a church would lead to the type of rationalism we had during the dark ages, where scholars' concocted whatever arguments would lead to the predetermined conclusions.

2.) The purpose and means of education: You seem to conveive of education as primarily vocational in nature, which would leave people with a gap in abstact knowledge after school. (You've used the word technical to describe education.) This is Pragmatism on your part. Abstract knowledge is the most practical of knowledge. Abstract knowledge is what must be communicated in one's education. (See Philosophy: Who Needs It) So-called technical education should be left for training after school or for college.

People should get their philosophy through induction, not through indoctrination in a church. School provides them with what they need to induce a proper philosophy. (And I guarantee that if children were introduced to Objectivism in such a church, they would rebel just as so many children of religious parents rebel).

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Let me first make a distinction about the nature of studying philosophy to explain my view. There are two ways to study philosophy, which I will call “philosophy qua philosophy” and “philosophy qua life”.

A student of philosophy qua philosophy has two goals: to study philosophy as it applies to his own life, and to gain an in depth understanding of philosophy that has no direct application to his own life, but nevertheless offers some potential benefit down the line.

A student of philosophy qua life on the other hand, is a non-intellectual who only seeks to study philosophy as it applies to his own life and provides him with known tangible benefits.

Note that I am not saying that philosophers study questions that do are not related to man’s life, but that they do not always study questions that have a direct and known impact on their life. The difference is like that of a farmer and a biologist – both need to know the basics, but the job of the farmer is to apply biology to make a living, while the biologist does far-reaching research that may not have any immediate benefit to his life.

Now, the main point I am making is that most of the population is never going to be a biologist, nor should they try to be one – it is better for them to learn just enough biology to be a good farmer, and focus their efforts on their primary vocation. So in answer to your second point, I see education for most people as “technical” because they are only going to learn enough biology to be good farmers, not to study biology for a living. They still have to learn the basics – “Virtue of Selfishness” but not the stuff that would require them to get a PhD in the topic – “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.”

Now regarding your first point, I am NOT saying that people should be indoctrinated with Objectivism dogma as it is done in religion. Everyone will get the primary education by reading classics written by Rand, Hugo, Bernstein, Ash, me (heh), etc. They won’t grow up to be good little rationalists. As I just realized they probably won’t go to Sunday school either, since there’s virtually nothing of abstract philosophy that can be taught at that age while respecting their hierarchy of knowledge. When they start learning philosophy, it will be later in their primary education, when they already have the proper social, historical, political, etc context to tie it into reality. However most students are not going to have more than a few years of formal study of philosophy in high school. It’s simply not possible to provide that much abstract knowledge at that early of an age. Since they won’t be getting a liberal arts education in college, they will need to continue their philosophic education elsewhere. One could do this with books of course, but there is no replacement for the social interaction with one’s peers, especially to connect abstract concepts to current events, one’s chosen field, and to test the knowledge by being challenged in debate.

I say that this interaction won’t be like OCON because 300 million people won’t have the time to go to a two week conference every year, and even if they could, it would not be nearly sufficient or frequent enough for continual study. It would have to be a regular interaction on a local level (granted, technology may stretch the meaning of “local”) and it probably include professionals in the area (perhaps that will become one of the functions of philosophers.) It would not just be a dry reading of OPAR, 50th anniversary edition. Philosophy, especially in these groups, will be emphasized as it applies to one’s life, and will thus be a spiritual as well as (rather than versus) intellectual experience not unlike the emotion I felt at OCON when I made big old inductive leaps, and connected the abstract ideas being presented to my life.

Predicting what form these “churches” will take is pure arbitrary speculation, but here is a possibility:


The New Atlantis Corporation presents:

The First International Lyceum for the study of Applied Philosophy

Featuring world-renowned philosophers Daniel Schwartz and Steve Giardina!

Featuring the latest in holographic tele-presence tech, we offer the finest courses in Applied Philosophy for everyone interested in living a more rational, life-oriented, self-serving life. 

Our accredited scholars are rated AAA for course such as:

  • The Value of Purpose

  • The Art of Rational Cooking

  • The Ethics of Teenage Discipline

  • Objective Engineering

  • The Victorian Masters and New Realism

  • History of Pre-Objectivist Philosophy

Also featuring:


  • Weekly Sunday lectures by rational orators from around the Solar System

  • A real-time online community of fellow rational individuals.

  • Monthly RealLife meetings of Study Groups

  • Worldwide RealLife Banquets for the holidays Indepedence and Creator Day

  • Specialized Field groups to discuss the philosophy of your chosen vocation.


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Danielshrugged, I understand your apprehension about such an institution, (especially if you were raised as anything along the lines of Roman Catholic like I was). When I think of "church" I think of dogmatism, faith, irrationality, indoctrination, etc. But such things would have absolutely no place in an Objectivist institution such as this. The purpose of such an institution would obviously not be to indoctrinate and maintain power or any such thing, but rather offer to people, who have a limited understanding of abstract philosophy, a means to enjoy their life and live their life well. But of course there would be many competing institutions with different messages (as they are today) and people would absolutely be free to attend such an institution or choose not to.

David, I have to disagree with your conclusions about education in the future. Assuming that we would live in a society in which the education system was completely private, I believe that the average person's education would be GREATLY increased. Also, being so passionate about the development of my mind, I am primarily going to college to increase my knowledge and cultivate my mind, NOT to train for a future occupation. Whatever occupation I choose will be the result of how well I have cultivated my mind in my years of education. I believe that such an attitude would be much more prevalent amongst the population of a more rational society. Also, I think that most people would choose to continue their education through the college level not only to cultivate their mind but also to have better qualifications for receiving a higher-paid job, more exciting job, etc.

Why shouldn't people strive to cultivate their minds to the highest ability possible? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I believe that most people would choose to do so in a rational society. As DanielShrugged said, I do not think that you are giving the "average person" enough credit.

That all being said, I believe that the kind of institution which you propose would be beneficial to BOTH your "average person" and people like us who spend much more time diving into abstract philosophy. I don't think that you would need to justify such an institution on the grounds that it would be beneficial for the "average person" but rather that it would be beneficial for ANY rational individual.

As I stated in my previous post, art provides an amazing tool for man's consciousness in that it allows him to integrate all of his actions according to the guidance of a perceptual concrete (a work of art).

Such a "church" would not do exactly the same thing, however, I believe that it would be a great institution for re-affirming the values and ideals we hold. This institution SHOULD NOT serve the purposes of teaching but rather integrating, or re-affirming.

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I do agree with both of you that such an institution can have some benefits. David has taken care of one of my major concerns, by recognizing that the institution must respect the hierarchy of knowledge. So as long as the lectures are well-reasoned and well-communicated, I'm okay with the idea. What I disagree with is your ideas about education. You distinguish between pure studies and applied studies, and argue that the average person only needs the application. Twentieth century progressive educators gave your very same arguments. A farmer, they said, should study biology only as it applies to farming. A cashier should study math only as it applies to being a cashier. There are a number of problems with this, but the major one is this:

The purpose of studying pure biology is neither to apply it to such things as farming or medicine, nor just to become a biologist. Consider what else people learn from studying biology. They learn taxonomy, which introduces them to concept-formation. They learn how to think scientifically, which is necessary in all aspects of life, not just in science. They observe the contextuality of knowledge, as they study how Darwin's followers built on Darwin. Only by studying biology in all its theoretical goodness can one gain such things. Were one instead to study it merely as it applied to farming, one would miss out on them. (I recommend an article I wrote that will appear in Toronto's New Intellectual, if you can get your hands on it. I might some day write a larger version for TIA; we'll see.)

I reject your distinction between pure and applied studies, on the grounds that what you would call applied I would say has the least application to life, and what might be called pure has the most application to life. I am also an advocate of a liberal education, even in college.

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Guest mattbateman

In a rational society, everyone--especially specialized businessmen, scientists, engineers, etc.*--will have enormous knowledge of philosophy. It will be taught at all levels of education, including technical schools.

The more specialized your knowledge is, the more familiar you must be with the fundamentals of all knowledge. Going higher up the conceptual chain in any field requires a geometrically greater degree of integration of all of your knowledge.

What could you get from a "church" that you wouldn't be getting daily, even hourly from the culture's intellectuals in the form of books, op-eds, lectures, art, etc.? This is where you get the application, integration, and inspiration that the the intellectuals constantly turn out. Just because none of today's op-eds ever refer to philosophic principles doesn't make doing so a necessary impossiblility.

I don't understand the justification for a new format for intellectuals to use. I certainly wouldn't want to use it. Even if you can offer a justification, you really need a new name. If "predicting what form these 'churches' will take is pure arbitrary speculation" than do not use the extremely specific concept of "church." ("Meeting somewhere once a week to share values" is not its essential attribute. "Non-secular, public worship" is.)

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What could you get from a "church" that you wouldn't be getting daily, even hourly from the culture's intellectuals in the form of books, op-eds, lectures, art, etc.? This is where you get the application, integration, and inspiration that the the intellectuals constantly turn out. Just because none of today's op-eds ever refer to philosophic principles doesn't make doing so a necessary impossiblility.
I believe this is a straw man. I do not believe that anyone made the claim that ONLY such a "church" (I hate the word too) would be able to provide applcation, integration, and inspiration.

The argument being made is that it would do a good job of these things (in addition to other things such as providing a social outlet, etc.), and would provide one of many avenues for intellectual cultivation.

In a rational society, everyone--especially specialized businessmen, scientists, engineers, etc.*--will have enormous knowledge of philosophy. It will be taught at all levels of education, including technical schools.

In a rational society education would be private and thus determined by the owners of the institutions. If these institutions believe that philosophy is important, then it will be taught at these institutions.

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I'm inclined to agree with Matt and Daniel at the moment. I don't see what added value one could get from organizing social gatherings in a church-like format. I realize that you don't mean it this way, but for me the word "church" has waaay too much of a dogmatic connotation.

Why can't people just gather informally, as friends, for these kinds of things? For example, there is a group of Objectivists here in Utah (about half a dozen to a dozen) who occasionally (once every month or two) get together at someone's house. Often, they'll watch a movie, then spend some time afterwards discussing it. During the most recent meeting they discussed Dr. Peikoff's induction lectures from the conference this summer. These are just friendly, informal gatherings, but I believe they serve the very purpose you are wanting from this "church" idea, but they do not run the risk of turning into dogmatic sermonizing.

Basically, I do not see what the church idea adds above what people can arrange informally among friends. Am I missing something?

I guess the real question here is, do churches serve some legitimate function beyond the ideas they preach? I'm inclined to say no, because although I was raised religious, I don't miss a thing about church and I haven't been attending for several years now. But is the only problem with today's churches the ideas they espouse, or is there something inherently wrong with the whole practice of church-going? I'm not entirely sure at the moment, I will need to give the issue some more thought. But perhaps some of you have some thoughts about those questions.

Edited by AshRyan
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AshRyan, you said that such informal social gatherings have value. I do not think that David's idea of a "church" would be anything like the dogmatic churches of today, neither in principle or method. I would be opposed as well to an institution which had a "church-like" format.

What I support is an institution which organizes those informal social gatherings that you speak of. Having an organized institution charged with that task can be very beneficial to those people who are looking for such informal social gatherings with the purpose of re-affirming their values and enjoying life but do not know where to find it.

I also shudder at the term church, and I do not believe that any such organization, if it existed, should be referred to anything resembling a "church."

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I agree than the most specialized fields have the greatest need and a should have a focus on philosophy. I also agree that philosophy should be explicitly discussed at all levels of society.

When I say that most people won't get a liberal arts education, I mean that 12 years of primary education should be sufficient for most people. Now remember that this is a rational society where you can get an education in primary school that far exceeds anything you can get in college now. I went to a public school myself, and I took several years of biology, chemistry, physics, calculus etc. I think the stuff I was learning in high school can easily be introduced in middle school so that high school can more like what a four-year university degree today. So am NOT saying that people would not or should not have a systematic study of science during their life. I do however think that non-intellectuals simply won’t have the time to study it at a depth that exceeds something like say, OPAR.

But that's not my main point. I think the more important thing is that certain aspects of organized religion today does serve some important and beneficial functions in people's lives. As I said, ideally it would "re-affirm their values and concretize abstract principles into practical guidance for their lives.” Sure, in a rational society you are going to find affirmation of your values in the culture/media/peers, but I think institutions would arise that will resemble today's churches in a number of ways.

My best understanding of what a rational society could be like comes from Alexis De Tocqueville's Democracy in America. In that time, the average American had a much deeper understanding of the issues of his days and openly debated them with his peers in public forums. Traveling intellectuals presented in-depth topics that openly challenger long-standing dogmas (often the religious kind) and invited debate and discussion. Various societies were dedicated to presenting and debating important issues of the day. I think the institution I have in mind will have that kind of atmosphere, except that it will incorporate important issues with a social framework. You could describe it as an intellectual country club, but I think it will have a greater similarity to how today's religious organizations operate, with a strong social focus in addition to intellectual development.

My point here is not to make arbitrary predictions about the future, but to point out a human need to take part in a social group that is not related to his work or family, but composed of people who share his values and engage in intellectual and social interaction that allow abstract intellectual development to continue after one's primary education is over. You could argue that one's friends or some particular interest group can serve this purpose, and to a degree they can, but I think that today's churches have evolved into an institution that would in many ways resemble what I have in mind.

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Guest mattbateman

Rational Egoist,

I believe this is a straw man. I do not believe that anyone made the claim that ONLY such a "church" (I hate the word too) would be able to provide applcation, integration, and inspiration.
You haven't made this claim (that ONLY such a church would to this), but David has. His (original) argument was not: a "church" would be beneficial for constantly relating abstract philosophy to non-intellectual men's every-day lives. It was: a "church" would be crucial for fulfilling this task. This is at least implicit in the presentation of his argument. My main objection was to this (implicit) claim. When examining the need for a man to constantly refer to philosophical principles, and suggesting social institutions to fulfill this need, you don't ignore what already exists in spades. That was the point I was trying to make, since I didn't see it addressed anywhere else in the discussion.

In a rational society education would be private and thus determined by the owners of the institutions. If these institutions believe that philosophy is important, then it will be taught at these institutions.

I'm not sure what to make of this objection. I was assuming that we would have rational educators and rational parents in this rational society. Of course there would be no law about the integration of philosophy into education.


I don't understand why a normal 8 or 12 or 16-year education will far exceed the value of today's college degrees in the physical sciences--but that it won't exceed the philosophical depth of OPAR. I think that my understanding of philosophy exceeds the depth of OPAR, and that's after going through mind-crippling public schools and colleges, being taught everything in a total non-hierarchical way--i.e., that's without the benefit of an education.

I think that's about as well as I can address the idea that the average man's philosophical dexterity will be anything less than harp-player nimble in a rational society--(to say nothing of the non-average, non-intellectual man's). This would a time commitment in his both education and his professional life, both properly and necessarily.

As for your other point. I don't think you understanding what "today's churches have evolved into." While there is certainly some--but not much--social interaction organized around churches, there is a negligible amount of intellectual interaction. There might be exceptions to this with individual churches, though I doubt it, but it is certainly inaccurate to say that churches as an institution do either of these things.

But this aside, I still think these non-churches would be superfluous. All of the values they would supposedly add to are more than adequately attended to by other, more appropriate means and forums. This includes socializing, value-affirming, "philosophy qua philosophy", and "philosophy qua life" (if one recognizes this distinction).

I think you should keep in mind two things when considering the need of a special institution to concretize principles and act as a base for an intellectual and social community.

1. One of the, if not the primary value of informal Objectivist social gatherings, OCON, etc. is in living in a world which does not currently exist. The intellectual and social atmosphere of these events is hugely beneficial. They affirm, reaffirm, and invigorate the benevolent universe premise, which is often invisible in today's culture. Such events are the conceptual equivalent of spending time in a beautiful painting--everything becomes essentialized, sharp, vibrant and clear--it becomes impossible to take evil seriously--you know for a brief period what the concept "brotherhood" really designates in reality. I think that this is the thing you are correctly identifying as an essential need for all men.

But today, after these events are over, we all go back and live our private lives amidst a swamp of the unessentialized, the dull, the gray and the vague.

Keep in mind that in a rational society, this last part would not happen. Since every day we'd live in a rational society, visiting a better world that did not then exist would be unnecessary--indeed, impossible. Ideally, the kind of atmosphere that there was at OCON should be normal.

2. In a rational society, we would be surrounded by monuments to men's rational faculty, we would have constant, explicit identification of these monuments as such by thousands of intellectuals daily, and irrational attacks on them would be rare if not non-existent.

In our current society, the only one of these things that is partially true is the first. Again, a special institution that serves the function of things like concretizing principles should be worthless--that is the function of the entire culture. You know how much mind-destroying tripe is published and broadcasted every minute of the day. Well imagine if even 50% of today's professors, columnists, artists, experts, and politicians became rational--half that tripe would become intellectual gold! We'd be drowning in concretizations of rational principles.

What the hell (pun intended) would we need a church for, if every day social interaction was like OCON and reading our newspapers was like reading ARI op-eds?

To sum up, rational (non-)churches might be of some value today--but would be blissfully unnecessary after the kind of Renaissance that would make them possible in the first place.

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Matt, I agree with what you said. My second objection merely came about because you didn't really specify how or why people in a rational society would have a good knowledge of philosophy, but it was a small and unimportant point.

I think the disagreement here revolves around what we are thinking of when we think of a "rational society." When David is referring to a rational society, he seems to mean a free society with a small amount of intellectuals who are behind the rationality, who differ from the general population. When you refer to a rational society, it seems that you are referring to a society in which the majority of people, all people, are rational.

The precondition of a "rational," i.e. free, society in my opinion is not that the majority of the public are rational but rather that a number of intellectuals are. Thus, it would be possible for a breach between the intellectuals and the general public (as there is now) and thus, the need for such an institution that David is referring to.

If we lived in a society in which the majority of people are rational, I agree with you, there would be very little or no need for such an institution. If however, we lived in a society in which there was a breach between the intellectuals and the general public, I would see the need and usefulness for such an institution.

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Matt, etc:

I'm tempted to give in, provided I'm convinced that the average person can learn a sufficient amount of philosophy during their formal education to guide their own intellectual development during their rest of their life. Perhaps because I see stupid and incompetent individuals everywhere, I assume that it has to be that way, and that it’s simply not possible to have a whole nation of truly enlightened individuals.

In any case, I’m sure that there will be many more debating societies, speaking forums, and various other institution that bring abstract ideas to the public, rather than the isolated think tanks we have today.

On a personal note, maybe I’m not so hesitant to use the word “church” because I never had the experience of growing up in a christian or religious family. I discovered that I was Jewish only when I was 11, and for various reasons having more to do with the quality of local public schools than the quality of the synagogue I went to, I actually enjoyed the experience. It was in a temple class that I first became of philosophy via Spinoza and began making my own conclusions about religion.

P.S. - Good luck with the new blog. You should consider adding it to the new blog section under links: http://ObjectivismOnline.com/Links

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can’t believe anyone on this thread has not mentioned the Stoddard Temple?

I can understand the sentiment expressed by GreedyCapitalist in getting this thread started. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems like what Greedy had in mind was some sort of regular communing with concretizations of his values. Greedy suggested a church. I would bet that he picked that because, traditionally, which churches are also associated with faith and mysticism (irrational) are also associated with communing-with-values, reverence, and actions to show that reverence, which is all perfectly rational.

Also implicit in his ideas, is the idea that there is nothing inherently wrong with ceremony, or ritual. All human societies have had ceremonies and rituals to mark major life events, and I’m sure they’ll never stop. They will, however, reflect the values of the society in which they originate. In my opinion, a large reason why religion, as philosophically unsophisticated as it is, still has such a large sway over contemporary societies is that it provides a set of rituals and ceremonies to fill the need for such things in people. Think of how many women have the image in their heads of the perfect wedding taking place in a church. I’ve met many couples, who, while normally never setting foot in a church, still chose to get married in a church.

I think there is a lot to be said for the idea of ceremony or ritual. It offers a way for human creativity to be applied to mark the significance of human events. (Think of victory ceremonies at sports events) For those involved, it offers an existential way to act out one’s values, without being an actor. I think it is definitely beneficial for children in connecting them with their families and communities and giving them a sense of their place in life. (What would be wrong with this in a rational family in a rational community) I think on of the big tasks of Objectivists is to re-cast and re-make traditional rituals along rational lines and according to a rational morality. Why not have a specific building set aside for marking dedication to rational values. Ayn Rand already had this idea.

For example, how many of you would like to get married? If you do, where? How? Who will marry you? What will the ceremony be like? Another example is this. I would like to have kids one day. I would like to have some “thing”...a ceremony, a party, an event, where I mark the transition of my child into adulthood, something to signify to the child that from this point on, for good and for bad, we will hold you to the standards of an adult. (At what age this would take place, I don’t know, I might even let the kid decide).

One of the things that fascinates me so much, that I am spending an undergraduate degree on it, is Ancient Greece. Here you have a major society that existed completely free of the influence of 2000 years of Judeo-Christian ethics. You have no inherent mind-body split. You have no idea of original sin. You have a culture with a completely different set of cultural assumptions. What is particularly fascinating is one of the greatest inventions of ancient Greece, something that stands at the intersection of philosophy, ritual, religion, and the concretization of values: theatre. It united both the intellectuals and the tradesmen. It conveyed philosophic ideas (good and bad). Seeing Greek dramas, in their original form, directed by their original playwrights, must have been an incredible experience.

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It just strikes me that any form of 'mass worship' is collectivist. This includes not only churches but also things like sports gatherings, and those teenage night club things where everyone pushes into eachother. The Objectivist equivalent of a church would have to be the polar opposite of what most churches are like in many respects. The Stoddard Temple was kind of a start -- the very building would need to be different, to make people seem larger and not humble. In Ancient Greece, they had temples for specific gods, where that god alone was worshiped. Could we not do the same thing, for very creative people -- temples where particular historical heroes are honored? We already have something like that with the Abraham Lincoln memorial, that giant statue of him sitting in a chair. Anyway, I think a better idea would be for each person to construct a temple for themselves -- a room where they have all their greatest achievements and creations, etc., a place where they could dwell on and worship themselves. If collectivist religions requires worship of one god, wouldn't it make sense that an 'individualist religion' would require worship of one god per person?

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Guest Ben www.gmuoc.org
It just strikes me that any form of 'mass worship' is collectivist. This includes not only churches but also things like sports gatherings, and those teenage night club things where everyone pushes into eachother.

That sounds like you are indicting any gathering of a large group of people for the sake of a common value. There is nothing inherently wrong with a large group of people. It is what they do and what they gather for that should be judged. A society dominated by Objectivist ideas would have just as many concerts, theatrical performances, superbowls, and night clubs as ours, and probably more. The difference would be in what took place inside those venues.

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  • 7 months later...
[*]This need must be fulfilled in some way, and I think inevitably, there will be some sort of a Church, where groups of individuals will regularly congregate to reaffirm their values, and receive regular lectures on abstract issues and their application to their life.

So here’s what I mean by a “church”: “A formally organized body of individuals who share some creed and meet on a regular basis to re-affirm their values and concretize abstract principles into practical guidance for their lives.”

........So that’s my idea.  I think even Objectivists today would benefit from – and in fact need a forum whether they interact with like-minded individuals for social, spiritual, and practical reasons.  You don’t have to call it a church – it could be called a temple or a lyceum, but the function of the institution is needed in any society.

I think such a forum can be more easily handled by "clubs" or "societies". :o

Churches and temples are too "spiritual." ;)

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Eh, I say we all put some money in a pot, buy a couple of lots and move into it. Call the town Objectiva.

On a serious note, I wouldn't mind an Objectivist center where we could all commune daily for learning and expressing ourselves. I honestly believe that the Objectivist community and it's impact on the rest of society could be stronger if such places existed.

I'm just disturbed by the thought that it could be recieved by the public as a religion or worse, it becomes this Quasi-Objectivist Dogmatic "church" in the future.

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