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Objectivists Need A Church, Too

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And there's nothing wrong with calling it a church, though of course other names can be used. After all, the Stoddard Temple was called a Stoddard Temple, and no one says anything bad about that choice of words.

There is actually a significant difference in etymology between the two. "Church" is a distinctly Christian word, which comes from the Greek ekklesia, meaning the "called out ones" – called out by Jesus out of this life – and thus hating the wordly life. So, “church” means “the place we are called out by Christ to go to in order to hate the early life.”

The world "temple" on the other hand comes from the Latin “templum,” which shares a root with “contemplation.” I believe that originally meant “a place of divination” – not necessarily a building. So a stock market could be called a “temple” – but a “church” it certainly isn’t.

On a separate but related note, I was watching Bravo channel the other day, and they had an hour-long show about wedding from start to finish. It was so sweet, especially about how it was in a church, sanctified so to speak by the building that embodied their highest values (if we disregard what those values were, for a moment). So I wish GC would reclaim his original view, because I emphatically support it.

On that note, when/if I ever get married I will look for a place that is deserving of being called a “temple” – though it will have nothing to do with organized religion. Unfortunately, the NYSE does not accept reservations :-)

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On that note, when/if I ever get married I will look for a place that is deserving of being called a “temple” – though it will have nothing to do with organized religion.  Unfortunately, the NYSE does not accept reservations :-)

CalTech has beautiful rose gardens surrounded by scientific research buildings that are often the venue for lovely outdoor weddings.

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Which is a much more pleasing concept than what many churches typically amount to- being harangued for 45 minutes by a man who spouts unanswered questions in a rhetorical manner from a pulpit.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair (a person of horribly mixed premises) once said: after every one of my lectures, we have a question and answer period. When's the last time your minister offered to answer questions, after his sermon?

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It's an interesting question. Given the connection between religion and philosophy, I think religious ceremonies, services, and locations serve both, in different ways. We definitely don't want a church per se, but regular gatherings of a certain type may be a good thing.

A few less-than-complete thoughts:

What role do ceremonies play for religion? For big events in life (birth, death, marriage, transition into adulthood) there are religious services (baptism, funeral, wedding, confirmation / bar mitzvah). Keeping those tied closely to the church serves to reinforce the idea that religion is very important to your life. Everything about the ceremony, from the architecture to the fashion, is geared toward that.

Moreover, the nature of the ceremonies are keyed to a religious approach to life. A sermon, by its very nature, is proper to a dogmatic, intrinsicist authority looking to control the masses. The congregation recites memorized dogma. They pray on their knees. They bow their heads to acknowledge their willing submission. These are not good things, but ceremonies as such need not incorporate them.

By the same token, those very same big events in life could be coupled with Objectivism. I don't think the point, though, would be indoctrination, but rather celebration of objective values (e.g., reason, pride, honesty, freedom, reality, achievement, science, etc.). While we can do that with quiet reflection in solitude, there is something gained by doing it socially.


I don't see a need for starting a tradition of repetitive, dogmatic, concrete actions (e.g., replacing the signing of the cross with the signing of the dollar sign, or replacing "May the peace of God be with you" with "May good premises be with you"). I do, however, like the idea of regular periods of time set aside to focus one's awareness on the "big picture" (philosophically speaking), of celebrating one's values socially, of a location for celebrating the big events in one's life.


If we are talking about the distant future, would there someday be a standard form of wedding ceremony? It seems like every time an Objectivist couple marries, the format varies widely. Some see a justice of the peace, some go to Vegas, some create their own vows, and so on. Is there value in having a standard one? (Not that one would be forced to use it, though.)


How about other events in life? As Objectivists, are there certain events in our lives that deserve celebration that non-Objectivists don't have? For example, graduating from a course on Objectivism, or having a "committment" day (to celebrate that time of your life when you understood enough about Objectivism to publicly declare that you actually are now a committed Objectivist) are possiblities off the top of my head. Maybe the day you start the first job in your chosen line of work. Maybe the day you first read "The Fountainhead."


In any case, given a life based on reason and reality (as opposed to faith and the supernatural) I don't think some church-like entity would or should play nearly as large a role in our lives as the church does for the pious. We simply don't share the secondhanded, parasitical need that the church pretends to satisfy, even if we appropriate and modify some things.


It's interesting that the concept "sacred", for most people, combines the religious element with the "deeply important" part. The church certainly benefits from that. While we want to cut out religion, recognizing and celebrating the "deeply important" part should be kept.

I think men have a need for regular focus on the sacred or the sublime. It energizes the soul with an overpowering and deep pleasure and sense of exaltation. We can get it from art (the best symphonies or books, for instance). It's possible to get it from sex. Are those the only possible sources, or is there another? Might some elements of lectures, music, debates, and so on be available as a regular service? I don't have anything specific in mind, but maybe someday someone else would invent something.

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This is actually from a site that attempts to discredit Dr. Peikoff, but there is a quote from his radio show that is relavent on this topic



Moderator: Here's a curious question from Bill in Moro Bay, California. He asks, "What would you think of someone starting a local church of Objectivism?" He is defining a local church as a small organization that regularly brings a few families in the community together to participate in strictly positive forums and lectures that celebrate life in alignment with objective principles. For the convenience of its members, it would allow Objectivism to be spoken of as a religion.

Peikoff: I'm sure they would find that very convenient. A church is a building of God, and of religion, and religion is by definition a belief in the Supernatural and self-sacrifice, on faith. This would be a total lie to call it a church of Objectivism, because we're atheists. We don't believe in the Supernatural, we reject faith in favor of reason, we reject every tenet of religion. This would be tantamount to saying that if you have a rational philosophy, that's a religion. That's what every person who attacks Objectivism claims. It would be the destruction of Objectivism. Are you then going to call me a priest? Are you then going to say that every time you sleep with your wife, this is really a higher celibacy? This is a lie on the scale of Clinton when he says it's not sex, it's just oral relations. The only motive for this is cowardice. It's nothing higher or more complicated than this. This creature from Moro Bay wants to say, "Don't be mad at me, I'm just like you. I've got a religion. I go to church." That is shameful! Better to join the church than to put Objectivism into that disgusting category.


Considering the source, I don't know if the quote is even accurate.

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The last thing we need is a 'church'. Churches are places of worship and are tied to the mystical. We can not untie that reality. If you mean an organized group, or a location to go to in order to meet with other Objectivists that is one thing. A church is quite another.

Chrissycrunch, you have made a key statement here--"Churches are places of worship..." The only collective way of worshipping man, or any of his virtues, that I can see would be in the singing of hymns. Religious hymns contain so many anti-concepts that the singers cannot maintain focus on reality. That is the problem with many of our national songs. How rewarding it might be to be able to sing "America", for example, if its words were these:

America----originally by Samuel F. Smith; my revision.

My country, 'tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing.

Land where my Fathers' pride,

Unbound in open stride,

From every mountainside

Made freedom ring.

My sovereign country, thee,

Land of the noble free,

Thy name I love.

I love thy cities strong,

Bright strings of lights among;

High towers rise in silent song

Through clouds above.

Now music proves the soul

Of manhood's self-control---

His reason's might.

Now all our hearts abound,

Each one partakes the sound,

Stands rightfully upon the ground

With fearless sight.

My Fathers' life, to thee,

Rational Liberty,

To thee I sing.

Long shall my land be bright

With freedom's honest light;

I guard thee day and night

In everything. :)

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Dr. Peikoff is rejecting the word "church" because he seems to be thinking of it in the strict Christian definition. I don't believe anyone in favor of an "Objectivist church", and certainly not me, have meant it in this sense.

I will concede that maybe "church" is a bad word here because of so much baggage associated with it. But I still endorse the topic of this thread, to get myself and others thinking about the sort of community organization that a church is (in a loose sense), and the sort of community and emotional function that it fulfills (in a loose sense).

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I think that this discussion has begun at the wrong end. Before you can ask should Objectivists have temples in which to worship man, you must first ask should man be worshipped/ And if so, what would be a rational form of worship? Does worshipping one's highest moral values fill an objective need of man's consciousness? Worship often involves singing. Why? In hearing a song one can emotionally experience being an end in oneself. But if one sings a song oone's own body is integrated into the experience. Have you ever been at a concert when the performer started singing a good popular song and people stood up and began singing, too? Is not the desire to do that the desire for full ownership, as if to say, "This song is not something that's merely out there, it's here, in me, and its meaning , beauty and pleasure is_ me, perceiving mind and living, active, expressing body, one hundred percent integration. Reading great poetry aloud can give one that experience, so can singing alone. However, singing in a large group provides a more intense experience---louder sound and perceiving your values shared and expressed by others. Now, this may not be a need of some sort, but if it adds to one's enjoyment of life, it is a good. If so, the first thing needed is not a temple, but at least a few fully Objectivist "hymns to man", the singing and hearing of which produces an emotional state of exaltation in a fully focused mind.

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After some further thought, I’ve changed my mind on the matter.  In a rational society, the notion of a “church” as a place to study philosophy is useless – one would be exposed to philosophy on a daily basis, and have a chance to study it from traditional sources like schools and books. 

Don't give up on your idea. It's a good one. We DON'T live in a rational society. And there is no need to be dependent on universities and the media for ethical and philosophical guidance. That's the last place to get it from. I would venture to guess that the majority of decent, moral people in America take what is in the media with a grain of salt and think the socialist anti-reality nonsense coming from the universities is nothing but a bunch of bored people engaged in intellectual masturbation. The decent, moral people get their values from family, from good morals - morals of which are typically given in some kind of hierarchal, structured way. I don't understand why a "church" is such a horrific idea, but expecting all of society to conform to Objectivism and let people get guidance from there is a good one. This IS a valuable service to people - to help them frame their life, define essentials, and yes, recharge them. The people opposed to your idea have a kneejerk reaction to the word, "church." Perhaps if you called it something else, whatever that word is, people would understand and respond better. I fundamentally believe this is a great idea that should be implemented someday, but have gotten such wrath from people that I shelved the idea for later use - until someone else also recognizes the value in it.

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just want to say I support the idea of an Objectivist Temple as well and would also love to get my wedding vows renewed there.  :D

Hahahah. 'zactly!

Except, come to think of it, Objectivists are such an extreme minority of people - let alone the ones hardcore enough to attend a 'temple.' I'd hate to see a situation where somehow someone got the bright idea that Objectivists can only marry other Objectivists. We, basically, after awhile would become our own little "race." That's scary. I say that because it dawned on me that my boyfriend would not want to get married in an Objectivist "temple."

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An interesting debate, which I am still evaluating. Emotionally (I was raised Catholic), I detest the name or idea of a "church" to go to for any purpose. The chief characteristic I associate with churches is "mindlessness". In Catholic services, there is repetitive verse-repetition that amounts to chanting. There is ceremonial kneeling and standing and sitting at pre-determined intervals. There are priests standing on a dais wearing colorful robes. The church is designed to make one look up... at Christ on the cross.

I have had occasion to go to other religious services. I cannot say anything better about a fundamentalist service (which I went to once), which was fully worthy of the adjective "mindless".

So, I for one cannot abide ever using the term "church" for something that involves Objectivism.

On the other hand, I share the admiration for Greek culture and how the Greeks worshiped gods that were in the image of man. Strip out any remnants of mysticism and you are left with worshiping man.

I also recall my wonder at seeing how Japanese worship when I visited Japan. At the temples I saw, the Japanese were solely concerned about this life, on this earth. They would tie little "prayers" to racks of sticks at the temples. These prayers were this-worldly hopes expressed for: a good marriage, money, health, etc. The Japanese also located their temples at locations representing the greatest natural beauty. Kyoto, home to so many of these temples, is a wonder to explore (my favorite one of those I saw there is the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine).

Having said all of this, I still cannot see how a "church" can be disconnected from mindlessness, even if there is a sort of this-worldly beauty to it, as in Japan.

I tend to agree with the arguments that a rational society would have many elements that would reinforce rational principles. Simply by living in such a society, one would be bombarded with rational ideas in school, on television, in movies, in books, at the workplace, etc. Should there be a place for a Temple of Man in such a society?

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An Objectivist "church" (lyceum is a much better word) is a great idea. It would be a venue for individuals to personally meet other Objectivists and help kindle camaraderie amongst like-minded individuals. An Objectivist Club fulfills this need to some extent but do these really exist outside of universities? I do not really know.

Secondly, these lyceums would be a great opportunity for individuals to further their knowledge in Objectivism. There will be many individuals like Eddie Willers who will have the right moral courage but would benefit from having an intellectual offer them advice on resolving ethical and political dilemmas.

Lastly, these would be great places where individuals can help further spread Objectivism.

These answers presuppose that there are enough Objectivists in concentrate areas to warrant such organization but that Objectivisim is still a small fraction of ideas present in society.

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Saying Objectivist grace is fun.

"I thank me for this food. I worked hard for it. That will make it taste all the better. Thanks, me." :)

The temple of Man looks neat - but the inside should be comfortable. A place where you can enjoy the simple, monkey pleasures of life. That's what I think of museums as

- Temples of Man. A sacred hall of the works of Man, be they the Smithsonian or the Louvre. You could have your vows renewed at one - most have a reception area. Just get a justice of the peace, and you're set.

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(lyceum is a much better word)

I agree. Not only does the word "church" relate to "religion", "church" itself in its original meaning can be traced back to the meaning "house of the lord". Going back further it can be traced back to "Circe" which is a goddess in greek mythology who cast spells on their enemy to cause amnesia, hallucinations and delusions (or according to earlier sources, ransformed them to pigs).

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