Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tea Party Group Tells Objectivists Where to Go

Some Tea Party "patriots" got bitchy about an Objectivist group that wanted to join their coalition. Surprise, surprise. A group of Minnesota Objectivists tried to join the coalition that made up the local Tea Party. The Christians that control the Tea Party had fits and eventually the Objectivists withrdrew. Had this "Objectivist" group had paid any attention to Rand they would know that the Tea Party is not a group that they should join and would not have the humiliation of retreating.
Rand thought multi-issue coalitions were unstable and bad ideas and that one would get dragged into the mud on the issues where one’s allies were bad. Second, she despised conservatives, especially religious conservatives. She referred to them as the "God-Family-Tradition swamp." Third, Rand thought that attempting to justify capitalism or individual rights on the basis of religion would backfire because it implied there is no rational justification for these ideas, only mystical inventions.
Now, one Tea Party writer, Walter Hudson, tries to defend Rand to the Tea Party. What a crock! He claims that the reason these advocates of irrationalism attacked the Objectivist group is because "attacks upon religious expression by a relentless secular minority have placed many religious people on the defensive.” For people on the defensive, they spend a lot of time being offensive, in every sense of the word. I would like to see a list of these attacks on religious expression.

What the hell does this even mean? In my experience, what they mean is either that people don’t agree with them, and say so, or that people complain when parasitical religionists want to use tax-funding directly or indirectly to promote their fantasies. If you laugh at the absurdity of their faith they will claim that is an attack on their rights—it isn’t. No one has the right to escape ridicule, especially when they are being ridiculous. Free speech means that rationalists can say unpleasant things about Christians and Christians can lie about rationalists to their heart’s content.

What is normally at stake, however, is that they insist on the right to use government funding to spread their “gospel.” So they want displays on public land, maintained by the taxpayers. They want the Ten Commandments on display in government buildings. They want prayer imposed in taxpayer built schools. What these people want is the right to reach into the pockets of people who don’t agree with them, help themselves to money, and then use those funds to promote their poorly scripted fiction.

I know of no incident where anyone has managed to get the state to use government funds to shut a religious viewpoint being expressed in the private sector. Churches, in fact, get tax reliefs that other organizations don’t get. Objectivists might meet in a home regularly but they will pay taxes on that home, while faith-addicts call their meeting place a “church” and are automatically relieved of all taxes. Religious freedom is not under attack and hasn’t been.

Every example I’ve seen promoted by the Religious Right was either their demand to have tax funding used for them, or them attempting to use state power to impose their religious beliefs about sex, marriage, drugs, censorship, divorce, abortion, etc.  Trying to paint the Religious Right as victims of some crusade is just a lie.

The author then selectively quotes Rand, ignoring material that doesn’t support his thesis. He mentions a letter Rand wrote in 1943 regarding morality—not politics, which was a separate category in her thinking. For Rand politics was derived from moral principles but not from religion. What she wrote was that if a religion teaches free will then that principle corresponded with her own view of morality. “My morality is based on man’s nature, on the fundamental attribute of this nature which distinguishes him from the animals—his rational faculty.” To the degree that religion adopts free will then this jives with what Rand said about free will. This was quoted, what the author selectively left out, was the rest of what Rand said, “It will not hold with a belief in a God as a deterministic ruler” because “such a belief would make all morality impossible.”
Certainly some branches of Christianity argued for free will, but many did not. Consider the idea of “original sin” held by most Christian traditions. In this doctrine man is born guilty. Guilt is not earned; he is already guilty merely by existing. Many Christians historically argued that this guilt means man is naturally a sinner and as such is incapable of choosing the good. His tendency is to sin and reject God. Thus the grace of God is needed. God grants his grace to some and with this grace they are able to accept the salvation offered them. But this is not free will by any means. Calvinists, one of the largest braches of Protestantism rejected free will entirely.
Calvin was not alone. Martin Luther’s tract The Bondage of the Will was meant to dispel the notion that man had free will. Luther, the most prominent founder of Protestant Christianity wrote, “Man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good.” He explicitly reject free will: “Let all the ‘free will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength.” He wrote, “Man can receive nothing unless given him from above; so free will is nothing!” Jesus seemed to reject free will as well. He said: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Other Christian doctrines beg the believer to dispel with free will. For instance, if God is sovereign then nothing happens without God willing it. But if God wills it, then can anything otherwise possibly happen? Can one actually overpower the will of God and impose an outcome contrary to what God has chosen? If the answer is “no” then in what sense does anyone, if this theology is true, have free will? Allow me to quote a church web site: “Now if future events are foreknown to God, they cannot by any possibility take a turn contrary to His knowledge. If the course of future events is foreknown, history will follow that course as definitely as a locomotive follows the rails from New York to Chicago.” 

Similarly, the idea that God knows in advance what will happen implies that outcomes are set. If outcomes are set then there is no free will, just a predetermined outcome. The New Testament says: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to conformed to the image of his Son.” 

The idea that man is a depraved sinner by nature implies that only a drawing of the Spirit can make him spiritual. But whether the Spirit moves on him or not is not man’s choice at all, but God’s alone. Man, according to St. Paul is incapable of seeking God on his own: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God.” In Corinthians he said: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Paul did not say that man is unwilling to understand these things but that he “is not able to understand them.” The ability of understand entirely depends on God granting man the grace. Man cannot make that choice himself.

In other words, when one speaks of Christianity one is actually speaking of Christianities. There are multiple faiths and beliefs and what might be accurate to say about one is not accurate about others. There is damn little, if anything, that one can say about Christianity that applies to all the sects operating under than label.

Rand was not saying that Christianity was a good thing; she thought it evil. Nor did she argue it was consistent with her political beliefs—she said it was contrary to her beliefs. All she said was that IF it taught free will then it could go along with her idea of morality, which is that man must choose to do the right. And, she also made it clear that aspects of Christianity make true morality impossible. She wrote:
“If, however, we assume a cosmic destiny working toward some purpose of its own which man cannot change or influence—then man is not free; then he can only act as prescribed and, if so, cannot be held responsible for his actions, nor considered either moral or immoral.”
Rand, like many atheists, was simply untutored in Christian theology. What she knew she knew from the general culture and from her own reading. But Rand’s understanding of Christianity was not nuanced. Based on that understanding she said that Christianity “proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual” because “the first duty of the Christian is the salvation of his own soul.” This is, in fact, not precisely accurate. As stated earlier, there is nothing you can say about Christian doctrine that applies to all Christian sects. The idea that there is a duty to save one soul’s is simply not universally believed. Certainly, as already pointed out under the doctrines of man’s depravity, foreknowledge and predestination—doctrines that were widely held—the individual could not have the duty to save his own soul because he was incapable of doing so. In addition many sects, which do think free will is compatible with other Christian doctrines, often say may is totally incapable of saving his own soul except in the sense that accepting the grace of God makes it possible. But they argue that it was the death of Jesus that saves souls, not any works the individual believer does or doesn’t do.
One of the problems with large coalitions is that one is tempted to play down differences. The original alliance between classical liberals and socialists, against the alliance of church and state under conservative regimes, tempted classical liberals to surrender their principles. In the end classical liberalism was weakened significantly and the socialists even walked off with the label “liberal” in the process. The alliance with conservatives tempted many libertarians to play down their differences with their political partners. The same issue would be true for Objectivists. The only thing that saved the Objectivists, in this case, is that they withdrew their application for membership in the Tea Party group because they discovered that the true soul of the Tea Party, the Christian Right, was totally intolerant and didn’t want them.

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