This post continues a debate with Sword of Apollo that began here, WHAT DID AYN RAND THINK OF ALTRUISM?. What immediately follows is ‘s latest comment (see CHRISTIANITY IS NOT ABOUT SACRIFICING ONE’S VALUES).
The Bible cannot be regarded as credible evidence, and thus cannot be the proper starting point of any argument. The Bible is a book written by ancient, vaguely known authors, and we have no first-hand experience with the sort of miracles attributed to God/Jesus. Nor do we have physical, corroborating evidence for the existence of the Jesus of the Bible, let alone his “miracles.” Reading the Bible should make it clear that it is a mixture of history, folk wisdom, tradition, hearsay, myth and “magic numbers” (3, 6, 7, 12, 40, etc.) used as statistical figures. Internal evidence shows that it has been changed and amended over time. The petty, vengeful, capricious, bloodthirsty nature of the Yahweh of the Old Testament makes perfect sense as the Israelites’ mythical explanation for the harsh and unpredictable nature of their primitive way of life. When life became more pleasant in the Roman Empire, Yahweh, by proxy, became much more “loving and forgiving.”
Thus, we have no credible evidence for the existence of any gods, whether they be Yahweh, Zeus, Shiva, or Apollo (my moniker is purely symbolic.) And no credible evidence of any afterlife. Faith is belief in the absence of credible evidence, and could just as easily be placed in Zeus or fairies. So any values Objectivists discuss are real, rational, earthly values. Any life Objectivists discuss is life on this earth, in this known reality. “Obedience to God” is not a proper reason for anything, since we regard assertions of his existence as either false or arbitrary, (depending on the exact assertion.)
What then is the reason for someone to adhere to Objectivist morality? Happiness on this earth for as long as possible. This requires living one’s life as human nature demands for long-term success. Thus, one should pursue a policy of gaining life-promoting values, both material and psychological. The only way to actually do this consistently is by adhering to rational principles. The Objectivist virtues derived from the primary virtue of rationality are: honesty, independence, productiveness, integrity, justice and pride. (Genuine pride is not boastfulness or foolhardiness, but a striving for excellence and an unwillingness to submit to self-sacrifice.)
I would argue that Christianity (and Judeo-Christian-Modern morality more generally) has distorted the meaning of “love.” Human beings are utterly incapable of actually loving everyone, especially their enemies. Love is a pattern of emotions resulting from the subconscious conviction that another person is profoundly beneficial to one’s own enjoyment of life. It involves a real desire to be with them, joy/comfort at their presence, an emotional stake in their actions and values, great sadness at their loss, etc. The intensity of this pattern of emotions is the extent of one’s love for the person. This pattern inevitably varies according to how close you are to someone, how much you have in common with them, and how much psychological value you find in their fundamental traits of character. Thus, love is naturally (and properly) self-centered and self-interested. At the bottom of the scale of love–below brother-love and friendship–is a certain low-intensity kinship with strangers. This is what Objectivists call benevolence, and even it is based on a commonality between them and you: the fact that you are both (presumably decent) living human beings. (Contrast this with your lack of feeling for inanimate rocks.) But benevolence is far too mild to be properly called “love” alongside the love of a wife, child or best friend. And even benevolence would be inappropriate toward one’s actual enemies.
So in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “love” is a euphemism for the sacrifice of your enjoyment of life for their supposed benefit. The Bible is telling you to act as though you love people far more than you do or possibly can, in order to selflessly serve them. When Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies, he’s telling them to be completely self-sacrificial and abandon their self-interested judgment, along with their earthly happiness. Many Christians throughout the centuries have heeded this and become willing martyrs.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” — Jesus, Matthew 10:37
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. … In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” — Jesus, Luke 14
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” — 1 John 2:15-17
For an Objectivist, this world is to be enjoyed to the maximum. Love for the good things in this world, including “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” is entirely moral and proper. The one caveat is that they must be pursued rationally and long-range, by means of principles.
The Bible As Credible Evidence
The Bible provided the philosophical foundation of Western Civilization. America became a great nation because we chose to rest the foundation of our moral beliefs upon Biblical teaching. Even today our Culture War is about the Bible. Will we continue to believe the Bible or will we discard it?
I am a Bible advocate. Because the best way to be persuaded by the Bible is to read it, I use the Bible as my proof. Because the document is so old, reading the Bible does involve considerable effort. To well understand the Bible, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of both the people who wrote it and the people for whom it was written. To understand the Bible well, we have to diligently study history, and most have us have not. Further, to best understand the Bible, we must read it in the language in which it was written, and only a few people do that. Therefore, we depend upon scholars to write translations and commentaries.
Even so, when we read and study the Bible as best we can, it speaks to us as no other book. That’s why so many believe the Bible is the Word of God. We can see the Bible itself is a miracle. Unaided by God, no man or group of men would have written it. Without divine inspiration, men could not organize themselves in a concerted effort that spans 1500 years.
Yet some still say the Bible is the result of a human plot, that unscrupulous people have tampered with it. At least they make that assertion, but they offer precious little evidence.
What scholars generally do when they put together a new version of the Bible is go back to earliest known autographs, and they do their best to translate those documents. That is why within the Christian community there is remarkably little disagreement about what should be included in the Bible. Christians do not argue over what the Bible says; Christians debate what the Bible means.
Is The God Of The Old Testament A Different God?
When speaks of “the petty, vengeful, capricious, bloodthirsty nature of the Yahweh of the Old Testament,” he illustrates a common problem. He does not understand the Bible. Because the authors of the New Testament believed in the same unchanging God spoken of by the Old Testament, the New Testament’s authors referenced the Old Testament hundreds of times.
The point? If we find the God of Old Testament petty, vengeful, capricious, or bloodthirsty, there is something we do not understand. What we don’t understand is probably the historical context.
Is There Historical Evidence For Jesus?
There is no good reason not to believe that Jesus lived, that he preached, or that he died on a cross. Historians don’t dispute that, and they have dug up other documents besides the Bible that prove Jesus lived.
Nonetheless, the Bible provides best historical account of Jesus’ life. Although we have compiled the Bible into one document, it actually represents multiple sources from people who saw Jesus, people who died refusing to recant their testimony of Jesus. These people wrote the New Testament. Even the Apostle John, the only apostle who did not die as a martyr, suffered exile on a small island.
The fact the people who wrote the Bible were persecuted for their belief in Jesus does not weaken their assertion that Jesus was a real human being. What such martyrdom should do is lead us to wonder why these people had such strong faith in Jesus.
Is There A God?
Because such a venture falls well outside of what our science is capable of doing, we have no way of using science to prove God exists. Therefore, we resort to philosophical discussions. In DOES GOD EXIST?, I attempted such an effort and quickly realize I was trying to reinvent the wheel. That is, other, more capable people had already done the work. I just needed to study what they had already done. See Can You Prove God Exists? presented by Peter Kreeft, for an example.
Note again that quote from The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (presented in CHRISTIANITY IS NOT ABOUT SACRIFICING ONE’S VALUES). Once we concede a Creator, a Holy God, a God who loves us, exists; then our self-love looses relevance. Look about you. In the scheme of things, where do you and I stand? Don’t we exist as tiny specks on a small planet within an infinite universe? Without the love of our Creator, we are nothing worthy of notice. Because we are just imperfect bits of clay, the Potter who made us can rightfully discard us as worthless trifles.
Because He is holy and because we owe Him our existence – our purpose for being – God deserves our complete obedience, our devoted worship, our unreserved adoration, and as much love as we are capable of giving. If a Holy God exists, would we allow any barrier between us and Him? We would not. Thus, ‘s objections to Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26-27 only make sense if there is no Holy God.
What Does Love Require?
What is basic concern? fears to love as a Christian would love. would prefer to view love as a cost/benefit calculation. Why is that? Is he being irrational? No, but he does have a different worldview.
- Without God, the longer we live, the more we learn Frightful Truth. We drift in the flow of events too powerful for us. The universe is too vast and complex for us to understand and control – or conquer. We know that sooner or latter we must suffer an end. Thus, we grow afraid. We panic. To prove to our self we live, we grasp whatever we can.
- Because the Christian believes in a loving God, he sees the universe as God-centered. In the Christian world-view, God is easily big enough to have what He created under His complete control. Because God is our Father, we have peace in the knowledge that He loves us, that He cares for us, that the end of this life is not our end.
Whereas the Christian lives looking forward to what is ahead, those who do not believe in God either live in fear, or they become fatalistically resigned to their fate.
To love requires the willingness to make a commitment. To love requires a sacrifice from one’s self. To love requires a willingness to give something of ourselves without the expectation we will be repaid. As a child of God, the Christian imitates Jesus; the Christian gives love without the expectation of reward. Knowing he gives from the abundance of grace his Creator has given him, the Christian gives of himself confident of the future. Fearing the absolute end is near, the atheist barters for affection and calls that love.
Does the Christian love blindly? No. The Bible recognizes there are people we cannot love as we love ourselves. These are takers, souls unwilling to see anyone but themselves as deserving of the gift of life. Consider this passage.
Matthew 7:1-6 Good News Translation (GNT)
7 “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, 2 for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. 3 Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? 4 How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot.
Does the Bible teach us to love our enemies? Yes, but the Bible does not prohibit us from judging others unworthy. What the Bible condemns is not applying the same standards of judgement that we want others apply to us.
Does The Bible Deny Christians The Right To Enjoy This Existence?
Consider the first chapters of Genesis. For our pleasure and our instruction, God gave us these gifts: a life and a world. In addition, He gave us each other. What God has given us in love, He wants us to enjoy.
There is joy in giving. That is the joy we see in another, that person we love. There is also joy in receiving a gift. When we love someone, we want the person we love to experience the joy of giving. So when someone gives us a gift, we can quite rightfully take pleasure in the gift. We know the giver will share our joy.
Yet the Bible warns us not to love the world (2 John 2:15-17). Why? The Bible distinguishes between the things of the spirit and the things of the flesh. The term “world” is a euphemism for the things of the flesh.
Matthew 26:41 Good News Translation (GNT)
Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Doesn’t our conscience tell us that it is wrong to seduce another human being just so we can satisfy the needs of our flesh? Nevertheless, what is there in the Objectivist philosophy that prevent us from seeing each other as playthings? Such behavior would not be rational? If this life is all that there is, how could that be true?
Is Objectivism A Rational Moral Philosophy?
Is Objectivism a rational moral philosophy? That I think is debatable. I find the objectivist singleminded preoccupation with altruism a bit disconcerting. Instead of trying to figure out what made the Capitalist system she so admired work, it is almost as if Ayn Rand was trying to figure out what she could change about Communism to make that work. Whatever is wrong with Communism, it is not altruism. What is altruistic about throwing tens of millions of one’s own countrymen into gulags and working them to death?