Ayn Rand claims that the existence of God is incompatible with her philosophy and morality – but is it? What if atheism, rather than theism is entirely incompatible with her philosophy?
Rand’s atheism was primarily, a very understandable reaction to the anti-intellectual ‘theists’ in popular culture – Christians in particular. But modern Christianity, like modern Capitalism and modern Conservatism, is very heavily influenced by the defunct philosophical assumptions of Immanuel Kant and his successors – which is why modern Christianity can often be referred to appropriately as ‘Kantianity’. This Kantianized Christianity (which has dominated the cultural scene for centuries) is, indeed, characterized by the propagation of irrationality, mysticism, and altruism – as Rand rightly points out. However, just as Rand was able to distinguish true Capitalism from its Kantianized distortions, she would have found a similar phenomenon with Christianity, had she desired to aim her focus in that direction. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, she did not. No matter. I shall.
In addition to her highly commendable aversion to irrationality in modern Christianity, Rand’s main explicit reasons for rejecting theism had to do with some unfortunate misunderstandings about the claims of theism. Rand thought that the super-naturalism of theism meant the existence of things beyond existence 1. She thought that the attributes of God were supposed to defy the laws of logic 2. She thought that God was merely a consciousness, conscious of nothing but its own consciousness 3. If theism actually demanded any of the above contradictions, she – and everyone else – would be absolutely right to reject it. The problem is: it doesn’t. No rational theist has ever taught or advocated the contradictions which Rand and her followers attribute to theism. They are all straw men.
But I’m not simply claiming that there is room for theism in Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I am arguing that Ayn Rand’s philosophy demands it. The ‘essence of Objectivism’, as Ayn Rand put it, is the supremacy of reason:
…and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows. This—the supremacy of reason—was, is and will be the primary concern of my work, and the essence of Objectivism.4
Very well. This means that, no matter what the jarring implications to preconceived notions may be, that which reason leads to must be earnestly embraced. Therefore, if reason demands (as I am about to argue) that God, in fact, exists, then no amount of inconvenient implications arising from this fact can negate its truthfulness or sufficiently excuse an atheist from taking it seriously. So, take a moment to forget about the emotional hang-ups and the difficult philosophical implications if its true, and just follow the simple reasoning presented below as objectively as you can.
The following is a very simple and concise demonstration of the rational necessity of theism, using basic facts and the simple laws of logic. It is my own re-statement of the ‘Prime Mover Argument’.
1) Things can only act according to their natures. This is the law of causality.
2) Regarding action, the nature of a thing is either purposeful or accidental – meaning that an action is either purposeful or un-purposeful, intentional or unintentional. This is the law of the excluded middle applied to the nature of action.
3) Accidental actions are necessarily the result of some sort of interaction – which means that every accidental action necessitates a prior action of some kind.
4) There cannot be an infinite regress of accidental actions. An infinite regress of a series cannot exist because a series must have a beginning in order to exist.
5) There must have been an action which triggered the beginning of accidental action (3 & 4), and this ‘trigger’ action could not, itself, have been accidental (3).
6) If the beginning to accidental action could not have been accidental, then it must have been purposeful (2).
7) A purposeful action is a volitional action and volition presupposes a mind and values.
8) An actor with mind, values, and volition is a person.
9) A personal actor began all accidental action in the universe.
That’s it. The extent to which it seems complex is merely the extent to which it needs to be worded in a specific way in order to avoid foolish misunderstandings and objections. The above could be summed up in the simple thought that “something with a sufficient nature to begin all of this must exist – and nothing but a personal, divine-like being, would be sufficient”.
I’ll admit that the above does not firmly establish that this personal actor is ‘divine’ or that it even still exists – let alone that it resembles historical conceptions of God. However, such can be easily concluded by a continuation of the simple reasoning process demonstrated above. In fact, given the proper philosophical tools, it is not difficult to see how this Mover is very similar, in character and motive, to the heroes of Ayn Rand’s writing. But, I’ll save that for future posts (and for my book!) haha.
For now it is sufficient to recognize that the classical argument for a ‘Prime Mover’ is fully and legitimately necessitated by anyone committed to reason. Those who genuinely desire to know the truth will eagerly pursue more detail about this Mover, and those who are simply playing intellectual games will employ every manner of evasion possible in order to dismiss the need to follow reason in this matter.
Which will you be?