Objectivism and Theism:
Where We Are
And Where We Go From Here
by James Kiefer
Unpublished dot-matrix printout dated June 30, 1981

For quite a number of pages now, I have been ignoring the forest for the trees. I have been going through Dr. Branden’s speech and undertaking to answer it point by point. [See “Notes for Revision and Expansion.”] Now I should like to pause to remind you of the main issue.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have minds. You are rational beings. If you are going to trust your minds, if you are going to trust them on a rational basis, you must hold a belief about the nature, the basis, and the origin of your minds that is logically consistent with such a trust. Theism is that belief. I have not attempted this evening to establish anything beyond the basic theist position. But anyone who comes to believe the God exists will not be content, if he is rational, to let the matter rest there. He will want to learn as much as he can on the point, both in terms of truth for its own sake and in terms of exploring the practical consequences for is own actions of this major aspect of reality.

A theist can be (a) a Jew, (b) a Christian, (c) a Moslem, or (d) none of the above. And within each of these categories, further divisions exist. Sorting them out, and examining the evidence for and against particular theistic positions, will necessarily involve a lot of work. But the nature of God is obviously a subject of sufficient importance that a rational man will find it worth the trouble, and no intellectually lazy person would have become a student of Objectivism in the first place.

I offer three suggestions to assist the beginning researcher. In accordance with the scope of this paper, I offer no detailed analysis of particular theistic positions (not even my own), but confine myself except for a brief historical remark, to considering what help Objectivist philosophy gives us in evaluating a religious belief.

Historical Considerations

If as I have undertaken to show, God exists and is interested in our knowing the truth about reality, then He may have taken steps to show men the truth about Himself. Accordingly, we may begin by asking how people who are theists came to believe in theism. And here it seems clear that the overwhelming majority of theists are Jews, Christians, or Moslems, or at least got their theism from contact with these religions or offshoots of these religions. This does not include all theists. Some philosophers have reasoned their way into theism, in real or pretended isolation from the beliefs of others, by arguments like those we have considered or by other arguments. The Zoroastrians of Persia and India appear to be an independent development, and likewise the Egyptian Pharaoh Ikhnaton, and the tiny minority of Hindus are theists rather than pantheists, although in all these cases Jewish, Christian, or Moslem influence is a plausible hypothesis. Then there are the numerous beliefs of primitive tribes unmistakably monotheistic, and perhaps more clearly so among the most primitive and isolated. But for the most part, theistic beliefs are traceable to Jewish, Christian, or Moslem influence. And these three religions all trace their history back to the ancient Hebrew people. Jew, Christian, and Moslem alike regard Abraham, Moses, and David as among their spiritual forebears. A reasonable place, therefore, to begin looking for traces of God at work, increasing men’s awareness of Himself, would the history of Abraham, Moses, and David, or, if you prefer, the history of the Hebrew people and the intellectual development which resulted in their conviction that there was One God and that He had laid on them the special duty of proclaiming Him to the world.


[Editor’s Note: The other two suggestions are covered in “Ayn Rand and Competition” and “Ayn Rand on Art and the Expression of the Moral Ideal.”]



 

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