This three-part series looks at reason from two perspectives: a Christian’s and an Atheist’s. These two world views are represented by my two fathers. Part One of Three introduces the topic from The Soul of Atlas.
I grew up with two fathers: John, my stepfather and Dad, my biological father. What made that more strange was that they were best friends one at one time. Furthermore, John is an businessman, entrepreneur, and a follower of Ayn Rand; Dad is a farmer, a professor, and a Christian. It would have made sense for the two of them to play out a Conversation of world views. Yet, as Pascal’s famed couplet tells us, “The heart has its reasons, of which reason does not know.” And so, those discussions never happened; events in their lives separated them. As if taking on a will of its own, though, the Conversation found a way, and inevitably, the forum became my life. I was a liaison between Christianity and Objectivism, and between these two men. Over and over, we talked. The arguments they would have had with each other, they had with me. “Faith versus Reason” was among them.
I imagine the two philosophies as two lawyers in a courtroom, each appealing to each other for Reason. I am the jury. Dad heeds the plea for Reason through the prophet Isaiah, “Come, let us reason together.” If God is calling us to reason with him, what does it say that we will not reason together with those whose distance is far less removed? Dad agrees with Ayn Rand that if Man is to survive and live as Man, he must live by his Reason. “In other words,” he would say, “Reason is what differentiates humanity from animals. Reason, language, logic: they all define us. We’re made in the image of God.” Dad and John agreed about Reason, except of course, for the “God” part.
“Reason,” John said as if reading right out of Ayn Rand, “is our only means of grasping Reality and of acquiring knowledge.” In Rand’s own words, she characterizes Reason like this:
Man’s mind is his basic means of survival—and of self-protection. Reason is the most selfish human faculty: it has to be used in and by a man’s own mind, and its product—truth—makes him inflexible, intransigent, impervious to the power of any pack or any ruler. — Ayn Rand, Return of the Primitive, p 34
As an Objectivist, John boils everything down to what is rational. That does not mean for a moment that he is cold or humorless. On the contrary, his sense of humor improves his life and the lives of the people around him. Nevertheless, he is passionate to affirm that “Whatever negates, opposes, or destroys rationality or logic is evil.” John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, urges his hearers to think:
Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. — Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p 982.
In what ways does John’s way of seeing resonate with you?
Other posts in this series:
- Do Christians and Atheists View Reason differently? (Part 1 of 3): Do Christians and Atheists View Reason differently? (Part 1 of 3)
- Do Christians and Atheists View Reason differently? (Part 2 of 3): Do Christians and Atheists View Reason differently? (Part 2 of 3)
- Do Christians and Atheists View Reason differently? (Part 3 of 3): Do Christians and Atheists View Reason differently? (Part 3 of 3)