Furthermore, these two subsets (religious right and Randians) are farther apart on many issues than the rest of the GOP. That said, it’s crucial for the GOP’s survival and thriving that these two groups focus on the common values that bring them together: individual liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. Yet, we continue to define ourselves by our differences.
When Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup first came on the scene (it was a while ago), there were commercials that showed an innocent chocolate lover and equally mild-mannered lover of peanut butter colliding accidentally. The chocolate and peanut butter analogy is my contrived way of introducing Objectivist Christianity, or Christian Objectivism. Of course they stand on their own separately, but there are aspects of each that taste great together. I revisited an article reviewing Nathaniel Brandon’s book, The Art of Living Consciously: The Power of Awareness to Transform Everyday Life. This passage got me thinking. Please read it, and let me get your comments. I have some words to say at the end of the post.
A few months ago, a friend invited me to his church to hear him “witness” on the subject of awareness. Though I had to struggle to separate the objective wheat from the mystical chaff, I came away feeling energized and full of new resolve.
How, I wondered, could a gathering dedicated to the worship of God have such an effect on an atheist? In striving to understand my response, I came to a hypothesis that may help shed light on Christianity’s explosive success.
Perhaps the first evangelists of Christianity were brilliant psychologists. Understanding the need to conceptualize and integrate the nameless fears and desires that make up the ground of every human mind, they gave their converts prayer and confession. The self-knowledge and self-acceptance that resulted from those practices may, in turn, have produced an inner joy (such as I experienced in the church), which Christians termed “the grace of God” and offered as “evidence” of the power of their faith.
If that hypothesis is accurate, then surely Objectivism’s growth has suffered from the lay psychology that has evolved among certain of its adherents. Rejecting “negative” emotions as morally reprehensible, this psychology necessarily rejects many of the facts of life.
In Anthem, for example, heroes do not even privately acknowledge their pain. In his account of the burning of the Transgressor, whose tongue has been torn out for speaking in the first person singular, the protagonist expresses great admiration: “There was no pain in [his] eyes and no knowledge of the agony of [his] body. There was only joy in them, and pride, a pride holier than it is fit for human pride to be”.
Whatever Rand herself intended by such passages, my experience with Stoic Objectivists indicates that they are widely understood to mean that people who acknowledge unpleasant facts, are at best suffering from a bad sense of life, and are at worst malicious villains acting on the premise of death; and people who act as though unpleasant facts do not exist are well on their way to becoming heroes.
That is not how it works, says Nathaniel Branden. In ALC, he is out to show why rejection of any fact is damaging to the mind, while rejection of any part of internal reality is also rejection of the self, and thus doubly damning. In his view, any denial of any reality is an error. And to deny the reality of suffering is analogous to administering anesthesia-each is effective against pain only if the possibility of pleasure is blocked in the process. Thus, in constructing a sorrow-free self-concept, the Stoic Objectivist must also relinquish belief in the benevolence of the universe. The real acts of heroism in this context are those aimed at exposing and obliterating such errors.
The review of the book belies an incomplete assessment of both Objectivism (Ayn Rand’s philosophy) and Christianity. The Designer of the mind, and of the human mind and Reason itself is not out to damage or destroy the mind. Instead, consider the evidence for the resurrection, and consider it honestly, without bias. Conclude with many others that the historical facts point to Jesus’ true identity. Perhaps you want to reference the same historical evidence and conclude something less reasonable. That is the right of every individual. But please, thee is no room to view Jesus as a “damager of the mind.” It’s simply not a reasonable conclusion.
Do I paint an accurate picture, or do I exaggerate?