WHAT DID AYN RAND THINK OF ALTRUISM?

In the comment thread of Sunday Verse 2: Root of Evil by Keith DeHavellemarmoe initiated an interesting debate. The subject? What did Any Rand think about altruism?

In German “love of money” is often translated as “greed for money”, or simply “greed”. It’s one of the many places in the New Testament, where the danger of losing your true goal over the hunt for earthly rewards is pointed out.

As you brought up Ayn Rand, she thought Jesus got the individualism right and the altruism wrong. Christianity holds altruism a moral virtue, a stance Rand considered evil. (thread continues here)

Here is how  brought Ayn Rand into the discussion in his post.

Money is not, in and of itself, an evil thing. I’d mentioned recently the “Money Speech” from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and it explicitly addresses this point:

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Aconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.”

The speech is just getting started, and I recommend the audiobook version of this is on YouTube here with the second part here. The text is on-screen as well.

Essentially, Rand made a hero out of her idealized version of the American Capitalist. Consider this excerpt from Francisco d’Aconia speech.

“To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money–and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being–the self-made man–the American industrialist.

“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity–to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality. (from here)

Francisco d’Aconia speech is an excellent example of literary and intellectual genius. In the context of ‘s post, Aconia’s speech raises questions (All good posts raise questions.). When Francisco d’Aconia speaks in favor of the love of one’s money, what is he talking about? Is loving money a good thing?

When we also consider that Rand despised “altruism,” was she advocating evil?

Altruism

What is the moral code of altruism?  The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others.  These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible.  The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar.  That is not the issue.  The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime.  The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you.  The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence.  The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal.  Any man of self-esteem will answer: “No.” Altruism says: “Yes.” (from here)

Evil? No, but is this how we should define “altruism”? What does the dictionary say?

altruism

n : the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others
[syn: selflessness] [ant: egoism]

The dictionary makes altruism sound considerably more innocuous, but Rand attacks altruism ferociously. Why? When Rand spoke altruism, she defined it the way the Nazis and the Communists defined it. Check out what she says 5.00 minutes into this video.

I believe Rand either misunderstood or did not appreciate certain distinctions between Christian altruism and the Marxist version of it. Nonetheless, we can understand why  feels the way he does. The Sermon on the Mount is beyond scary. It’s impossible. When Jesus spoke of what the Christian faith requires, many who might otherwise have followed Him just gave up. They could not reconcile Jesus’ call for self-sacrifice with the love they have for themselves. However, to the extent we are capable of it, the Christian compulsion towards altruism — towards love — stems from within, not from without. Our faith requires us to love God and our neighbor. Our altruism towards our neighbor stems from the fact we do in fact love our neighbor.

Because it begins in love, such altruism is completely different from whatever “altruism” government might require of us. Although it does require self-sacrifice, altruism is not necessarily self-destructive. When a mother and father care for their children, they make an altruistic sacrifice, but few parents think whatever price they pay unrewarded.

Consider again what Francisco d’Aconia says about America in his speech. Doesn’t America, the object of his praise, exist because of altruism? Can you imagine what it was like to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War? For most of the war, the Continental Army had no advantage in numbers, weapons, or training. It struggled just to endure. Yet men, sacrificing for the sake of their countrymen, committed their service to the Continental Army for years, and eventually they won. Without the love these men had for their country and the sacrifice they made, even in fiction Francisco d’Aconia would have found little to praise.

Ayn Rand has now been dead for three decades. Would she have condemned the men who served in the Continental Army for their altruism? I doubt it, but what else could she have called the selfless sacrifice these men made?

Although we are creatures who live only briefly, many of us are full of bravado. Therefore, we can congratulate ourselves that we have begun journey that extends to infinity and beyond. Yet how can that be? We have no solution for death. We can only strive as if this life had no end. Without the love of God — without His altruism — when we die, we each eternally end our journey.

1 John 4:19 Amplified Bible (AMP)

We love Him, because He first loved us.

We are His creations. Just as a parent cares for a child, He cares for us. Just as any parent would, He calls upon us to imitate Him. And so He calls upon us to love Him and each other just as He loves each of us. In altruism, we display our love for each other. With praise, thanksgiving, and obedience to His commands, we show our love for Him.

Asylum Watch

Do you know someone who is planning to vote for Obama? Here are some arguments you can use to try to change their minds. A half-dozen conservative bloggers have united and will all have the same post on their blogs today in an effort to help defeat President Obama. Please read this post in its entirety and be sure to go visit each bloggers site via the links. I would also encourage anyone to reblog or link this post to get the word out to as many people as possible. Romney may not be the first choice for some of these contributors, but we can all agree that Obama must go so help us spread the word! Join us to help the undecided vote to stop the destruction of America!

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“Why bankruptcy is preferable to bailouts” by Spellchek

President Obama has been on a chest-thumping tour touting the success of the…

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POSTS RELATED TO THE FOOD FOR THOUGHT AWARD

Late in life, I have discovered a love for and a fascination with the Bible. In addition to reading it for myself, I also enjoy hearing what others think of God’s Word. Hence I initiated the THE FOOD FOR THOUGHT AWARD and nominated bloggers I thought might enjoy being nominated. Here is a summary of the posts thus far.

At My Blog, loopyloo305 posted the Food for Thought Award. She provided us seven verses from the King James Version (KJV). Here is her favorite verse and the reason it is her favorite.

Psalm 34:4

King James Version (KJV)

4 I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  (This is my all time favorite for one simple reason! When I was facing death, I called out to God, He heard me and took away my fear. When God intervenes in your life, you know it. He answered my prayer!)

With the Food for Thought Award & Some Favorite Verses Russ White of Thinking in Christ adopted a slight different approach.

Here is his favorite verse and his explanation.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. -Romans 12:2

This is my clear favorite, because it talks of us using our minds in the Christian life. It’s almost counter cultural in today’s world to think of religion as something we do in our minds, rather than our hearts, and something we do in private, rather than something that impacts the world around us, but isn’t that what Paul is saying here —to be counter cultural?

In response to his nomination, Keith DeHavelle has rewarded us with an ambitious seven-post project. In his first post, Sunday Verse 1,  discussed 2 Corinthians 3. In his latest, Sunday Verse 2: Root of Evil,  reviews the teachings of 1 Timothy 6.  begins with a discussion of the subtle difference in various Bible translations of 1 Timothy 6:10. Here is his preferred translation.

1 Timothy 6:10 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

for a root of all the evils is the love of money, which certain longing for did go astray from the faith, and themselves did pierce through with many sorrows;

 uses the differences in translations as springboard to discuss the utility and the politics of money. The post ends by specifically reviewing what 1 Timothy 6 has to say about slavery.

All by themselves, ‘s insights provide very interesting reading. What makes what has written even more curious is that  is not an adherent to Christianity. Therefore, he approaches the subject as a scholar. A post such as ‘s reminds us that every Christian needs to understand the Bible both as a historical document and as an object of faith. Without an intellectual understanding of the Bible, we cannot understand how we are suppose to apply the Bible. Without faith that the Bible is in fact the Word of God, we will not find the Bible worthy of application.

Ben Nelson, the author of Another Red Letter Day, was nominated loopyloo305. His post, the Food for Thought Award, begins with an understandable complaint.

This is a fun award, but presents a challenge for me in the rules. I have to select 7 of my favorite Bible Verses – hmmm – there is smoke coming out of my ears as I try to figure out which to list. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of any of my favorites that don’t make the cut. Well – we’ll see how I do.

And it looks like  did have fun. Here is his last selection from the Bible.

7)  John 14:12-14 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (NASB)

Oh now that’s some ground breaking information.

With a little luck (and if the nominees choose to have fun with it), the Food For Thought Award will take off, and I will be unable to read all the posts. Nonetheless, I would enjoy trying. Do you have a post? Did I miss it? Please feel free to comment here and provide a link.

IDEOLOGICAL WARFARE

Because it references several posts, what follows rambles a bit. Please bear with me.

Islam’s Other Handicap

In Islam’s Other Handicap, Keith DeHavelle revives a post by  Teresa Rice.

Teresa Rice at Catholibertarian wrote an interesting post about desecration of religious items. I won’t steal her pig, so to speak, but I will show an image that she found on the Internet:

The image of the Qur’an defiled by bacon would indeed be horrific to Muslims, and an incitement to violence for jihadists which make up too large a percentage of them. (continued here).

Aside: Note that  posts on two blogs, Livejournal commenting.

Thread Hijack Time

What I found curious about Islam’s Other Handicap is that the comment thread almost immediately shot off onto another topic. ford_prefect42 decided he wanted to talk about abortion (starts here). What ensued was a discussion of the appropriate time to do an abortion. The participants recognized that a moral issue is involved, but they differed over when we have an obligation to protect human life.

Consider again the subject of ‘s post. Here is the title: If This Is Considered Art Then So is Bacon in a Koran. Why do people go to the trouble of offending others with differing beliefs? Is the mere fact that someone else holds a differing belief sufficient cause to castigate them? Some people apparently think so.

What is a free society about? What makes a society free? Consider this statement.

A free people reveres the individual’s rights to life, liberty, and property. Therefore, so long as an individual does not trample upon the rights of others, a free people protects the individual’s right to do whatever he or she wishes to do.

That’s what makes abortion a knotty issue. When does a baby become a person entitled to legal protection?

Two Approaches

We seem to have two basic approaches to solving this dilemma.

  • The first is the moral issue. Based upon our religious beliefs, we each decide when a baby becomes a person. Then we debate with each other what law should say.
  • The second is whatever the law says. Some people take whatever the law says, and they equate legal practice with morality. These I believe are very confused people.

Why do some people equate legal practice with morality? I am not exactly certain, but I have observed that a lame argument that teens use with their parents seems to carry a great deal of weight. Many people actually do believe that if “everybody else” does something that something must be okay. I suppose that explains why the pro-abortion crowd is so determined to make government pay for abortions. In their minds, if everyone does it (via government funding), they must have the morally correct position.

Ideological Warfare

Thus, we end where we started. Because we instinctively fear that others will force their beliefs on us, we find the very existence of differing beliefs offensive.

With respect to abortion, THE FAMILY FOUNDATION BLOG addresses the ideological war over abortion in this post, A Lethal Assault Against The Very Idea Of Human Rights That Destroys The Moral Foundation Of Our Democracy. Here is the video that post highlights.