Posted in reflections

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

Posted in book reviews

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged sat unread on the shelf, mocking me.  One thousand sixty-nine pages, fifty one hours and fourteen reading sessions later, that monument lies in smitherines at my feet.

Such a picture of accomplishment is appropriate for a novel like Ayn Rand’s since Rand was all about the glorious nature of human achievement. Born during the days of upheaval in early 20th century Russia, she never embraced the tenets of communism. Later emmigrating to the United States, she developed a philosophy of her own called “objectivism.” At the center of her vision is an heroic image of the individual who can accomplish anything he or she sets her mind to achieve. In that sentence, the key word is “mind.” For many pages toward the end of the novel, Ayn Rand becomes Ayn Rant as she excoriates those who have neglected the mind to favor either the body or the soul, observing: “Man has a single basic choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue” (969-70).

Continue reading “Atlas Shrugged”