Ayn Rand, Blaise Pascal and atheism

Ben Witherington of Asbury Seminary dug up a fascinating Phil Donahue interview with the late objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand.

In the interview, Rand calls religious faith “a sign of psychological weakness.” Also, like astronomer Carl Sagan, she subscribed to the so-called “steady state theory,” that the universe has always existed, obviating a need for a Creator God.

You can read my take on Rand’s philosophy in my review of her massive and meandering Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand is not alone in her atheism. According to the Pew Research Center, 12% of the population of the United States self-identifies as atheist. In college, I became acquainted with “Pascal’s Wager”(or “Gambit”)  by reading Blaise Pascal’s most famous work, Pensées. In Thought 233, Pascal affirms:

Let us weigh the gain and loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lost nothing. Wager then without hesitation that God is.

Many have lodged objections to Pascal’s Wager. Could the same argument, for example, not be made for any god, not just the Christian God?

At the end of the day, while Pascal’s Wager may re-affirm a believer in his or her faith, I don’t think a non-believer can be argued into belief in the God of Scripture. Even Pascal famously admitted: “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know” (Thought 277). Experience plays a huge role in our decision to affirm faith or renounce it. But what systematic thinking about our faith can do is to engage our intellect in the love of God. Jesus calls us to love God with heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). Our faith should be a reasoning faith, even if ultimately in this world it rests outside the realm of proof.

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Photo credit: Britannica Kids

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