Nathaniel Branden’s Case against Theism Examined:
God, Omniscience, and Non-Effort
by James Kiefer
Unpublished dot-matrix printout dated July 31, 1980 *

I promised at the beginning of this paper [“Objectivism and Theism”] that, after presenting the positive case for theism on Objectivist grounds, I would examine Dr. [Nathaniel] Branden’s arguments and state where, in my judgement, he goes astray. To this task I now turn.

Omniscience and Non-Effort

Dr. Branden says: “To gather one’s knowledge by a process of struggle and effort is abhorrent to the mystic.... The concept of omniscience is a psychological monument to the mystic’s hatred of effort.”

I am puzzled by this remark. It seems to say that it is unwholesome to dream of anyone’s knowing things without effort. But clearly this is not its meaning, since that would be an attack on Miss Rand. She has written:

Francisco could do anything he undertook, he could do it better than anyone else, and he did it without effort.... No matter what discipline was required of him by his father’s exacting for his education, no matter what subject he was ordered to study, Francisco mastered it with effortless amusement. [01]

Dagny and Eddie spent their winters trying to master some new skill, in order to astonish Francisco and beat him, for once. They never succeeded. When they showed him how to hit a ball with a bat, a game he had never played before, he watched them for a few minutes, then said, “I think I get the idea. Let me try.” He took the bat and sent the ball flying over a line of oak trees far at the end of the field. [02]

If I were as ill disposed toward Objectivism as Dr. Branden is toward theism, I would quote a series of such passages and say: “The portrayal of the character of Francisco d’Andonia is a psychological monument to the Objectivist’s hatred of effort.” But I won’t.

[Editor’s notes are in blue.]

* The title refers to Nathaniel Branden’s lecture “The Concept of God,” from his lecture series “The Basic Principles of Objectivism.” That lecture is fully transcribed in his book The Vision of Ayn Rand, chapter 4. Partial and perhaps complete audios seem to be available throughout the Internet. See also R.A. Childs, “The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism,” Note 19.

[01] Atlas Shrugged, 93vv-94d [hardback] (92rr-93c [paperback]).

[02] Atlas Shrugged, 92uu-93b (92rr-93c).

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