On Jesus, pants, and books that aren't terribly good.

I started reading Atlas Shrugged recently. I spend a lot of time talking smack about authors and literary works that I disagree with, but I realize that this isn’t entirely fair if I’ve never actually read the book. (Earlier thoughts in this series: Anne Rice’s vampires are terrible and boring, and L. Ron Hubbard’s writing is derivative and doesn’t even try to hide it’s dumb agenda)

I figured that means that now is as good a time as any to complain about her wonderful philosophy known as “Objectivism”. Some of the core ideas of Objectivism are

  • The only things we can know for sure are the things that are observable in the material world

  • The most moral way to behave is well-thought-out self-interest

i.e. Assume that there is no supernatural, and behave in whatever way brings you the most good in the longest term (usually by making huge piles of money).

What’s kind of rubbed me the wrong way about this idea is how vehemently opposed to religion Objectivists tend to be. If you live in a society that is strongly shaped by religion, going against the flow and being vocally anti-religious is probably not in your own ultimate best-interest. What is in your best interest is most-likely paying lip service to the dominant religion of the culture.

People are tribalistic and more inclined to trust people who are in “their” tribe. Visibly separating yourself from the people around you’s tribe by disavowing their religious beliefs will tend to make them trust you less, thus making them more wary of doing business with you, thus reducing your opportunities to make money from them.

Granted, elsewhere Rand said that to lying is immoral because it makes you beholden to the false version of yourself that you’re presenting rather than to your own true self. On the other hand, everyone makes concessions about their true self in order to survive in whatever culture they’re in. How many of you would wear pants every day if it weren’t an expectation of society? That’s what I thought.

So there you go, if you’re going to claim to be an Objectivist, wear pants in public and pretend to like Jesus.

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