Why is religion incompatible with Objectivism?

25 Jan 2012

Someone asked on Quora, “Why do Objectivists think religion can not exist in the sphere of their philosophy?” and added “I consider myself an Objectivist, but also consider myself religious…. In fact I would go so far as to say that Jesus taught Objectivism at some level.” Here is my answer:

Objectivism is broader than the ideas of individualism and selfishness. It is an entire philosophy that includes metaphysics and epistemology.

In metaphysics, Objectivism says there is only one reality, that which we all perceive. It “denies any supernatural dimension presented as a contradiction of nature, of existence. This applies not only to God, but also to every variant of the supernatural ever advocated or to be advocated. In other words, we accept reality, and that’s all.” (Ayn Rand Lexicon, “Atheism”) Also: “‘God’ as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid metaphysical principle.” (The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series)

In epistemology, it says that man can know the world, and that reason is his onlymeans of knowledge. Faith is “only a short-circuit destroying the mind.” (Galt’s speech, Atlas Shrugged)

So Objectivism is explicitly atheist, denying not only the Christian religion, but religion as such.

Moreover: Christianity, from the teachings of Jesus to the modern Church, is anti-individualism and anti-selfishness. The ideal of Christianity is subordinating the individual to God. It says you should sacrifice your worldly desires and values to God.

Christianity is anti-money (“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven”); Objectivism is pro-money. Christianity is against sexual pleasure; Objectivism is for it. Christianity regards charity to the poor as a moral duty; Objectivism regards it as at best an optional, personal choice, not morally required. Christianity is anti-abortion and anti–birth control; Objectivism supports both abortion rights and birth control.

The sharp contrast and deep conflict between Rand and Jesus has been in the news lately, as Republicans try to embrace both. A search for “rand vs jesus” turns up a lot of relevant articles; one by Andrew Sullivan is short and to the point.

See also the entries in the Ayn Rand Lexicon on “Religion” and “Mysticism”.