Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, was an atheist. Objectivists pretty much are all atheists. They regard the possibility of God’s existence as irrational, because it is based on faith. Faith, as they understand it, is anathema to Objectivists. Reason is supreme. It is the way that all knowledge is acquired.
But let’s pretend for a minute that the God depicted in the Bible does exist–in the same way that we pretend that John Galt or Howard Roark exist when we read Ayn Rand’s novels. Consider it a mental experiment. If God did exist, would it be correct to call Him an Objectivist?
One of the important principles of Objectivism is that the physical world really exists and that objects in that world have real identity and specific natures based on their attributes. Does God in the Bible view the world that way? Consider:
And God said, “Let the light exist, and the light came into being.” And God saw that the light was good and separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night.
In this short passage from Genesis we see that the God of the Bible considers the cosmos and its contents objectively real. He identifies things by their attributes and gives them names. He, as the subject, perceives them as objects. He does not treat the material world as a part of his imagination or as emanations from His own mind but as real and separate entities from Himself.
“Hold on a minute!” you might be saying. “You still have brought in the irrational notion of a supernatural being. That’s contrary to Objectivism.”
Okay. It’s true Ayn Rand and her followers have specfically said that Objectivism preclues a belief in the supernatural realm. But they do so, I think, as an unproven assumption. And does anyone “own” Objectivism? Is it unquestionable and unalterable–like a religious creed? Or is it possible to have different branches of it based on different variations?
I already pointed out that Objectivists are atheists by and large. But here’s the problem for me: I don’t regard the existence of God as irrational. You see, whenever I talk about God, I don’t think of Him as an imaginary being. I don’t put faith in God despite knowing that He is unreal. I put faith in God because I am convinced that He is real.
To me God is not a product of wishful thinking or delusion or arbitrary whim or feeling. He is objectively and demonstrably real, and to deny what I am convinced is real would be very un-Objectivist. I know that my conviction does somebody else very little good–unless they are willing to put some faith in me and in the millions of other people who believe that they have directly, objectively observed God in some way or other.
The difficulty for most Objectivists is that they disagree with a concept of God that real Bible-believing Jews and Christians do not hold. The God of the Bible is one who is both transcendant and immanent. He has made Himself known through visions, fulfilled prophecies, answered prayers, theophanies, miracles, and other evidences. What Objectivists disagree with is a God who is imperceptible, and therefore not “real.”
Unfortunately most theists don’t help their own case very much. Many of them use the term faith to describe an ephemeral feeling or an arbitray choice to believe in a God who might not be real. “I just know it” is often the reason they believe in God, and like Objectivists, I could never accept such “faith.” In fact, I’ll go further and say that such people don’t really have faith, and that their belief in God really is irrational and unwarranted. Please, fellow believers, we have reasons that we believe in God, and we should be able to express them cogently.
I am familiar with the major “proofs” of God’s existence, and I am willing to admit that there are holes in all of them. Objectivists are right for saying that you cannot absolutely prove God. However, all of us live every day by faith in things that we cannot absolutely prove. For example:
- When I board an airplane in the United States, I tend to put my faith in the pilot without needing proof that he is qualified to fly the plane. I trust that the agencies that license pilots and regulate the airlines have already seen to that.
- When I read history books I tend to look at the citations and put my faith in the author that he actually did the research, that the citations are real, and that they actually substantiate what he has written. Sometimes I’ll investigate them, but usually not. I trust that the editor and publisher have already done so.
In our everday lives we put faith in lots of things, and we have to in order to live. We do not have time to verify each and every small detail that we depend on. Is the apple that I bought at the grocery store poisoned? Will Amazon really send me the book that I ordered? Did my wife really pick up my suit from the cleaner’s? Will the TV come on when I push the button on the remote control?
My faith in God is much like that. I don’t have absolute proof, but I have observed enough evidence to convince me. It started with the evidence presented by other people and progressed to the many evidences that I observed for myself. Not only would I be un-Objectivist to deny the reality of what I have seen for myself, I’d be pretty stupid. (No offense meant. It’s not stupid to reject God if you have thoroughly investigated the evidence and found it wanting. It’s only stupid to reject God if the preponderance of the evidence is persuasive to you.)
I will submit that strict atheists are being irrational. Their rejection of God is wishful thinking. It’s difficult to believe in God–to honestly believe in Him. It puts demands on a person. I can see why people would not want to believe. For a period of my own life I didn’t want to believe either. Too bad for me that the evidence persuaded me otherwise. Well, I used to think it was too bad; now I consider it a very good thing, even though it is challenging.