login about faq

Why would human beings believe in Islam to the tune of 1.6 billion people, rather than believe in Objectivism, where Objectivism may have less than 50,000 adherents worldwide? Why would over a billion people rather believe in a religion that treats women terribly and as inferior, and advocates violence, and is so cult like, one can be killed for apostasy, rather than a philosophy that espouses objective reality, reason, happiness, individuality, human rights, freedom and the non-aggression principle.

What does this say about humanity, that humans would rather choose a religion that encourages people to dive bomb planes into buildings with innocent people, and is so evil, even merely criticizing it could get you hurt or killed, rather than espouse a philosophy that sees freedom and reason as one of its highest aspirations?

asked Jun 05 '14 at 22:52

KineticPhilosophy's gravatar image


It says that people believe what they are taught as children; it's not really a rational choice on their part. If they were taught objectivism since birth, there would be 1.6 billion objectivists.

(Jun 07 '14 at 19:04) bones001 bones001's gravatar image

Why would human beings believe in Islam to the tune of 1.6 billion people [worldwide], rather than believe in Objectivism...? Why would over a billion people rather believe in a religion ... rather than [in] a philosophy that espouses objective reality, reason, happiness, [individualism,] ... freedom [from coercion]...?

This formulation seems to assume that the "choice," insofar as people worldwide have a choice, is free and informed. In reality, however, the alleged "choice" is neither free nor informed (especially outside the U.S.). People in Muslim countries are not free to choose their religion, nor are they informed about the existence of Objectivism.

Early in her nonfiction writing (1960), Ayn Rand offered a whole lecture on "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World," published in PWNI, Chapter 7 (pp. 79-103 in the Signet paperback edition). In discussing the morality of altruism and its effects on Western civilization, Ayn Rand observes (PWNI pp. 84-85) :

[T]here is one word -- a single word -- which can blast the morality of altruism out of existence and which it cannot withstand -- the word "Why?" Why must man live for the sake of others? Why must he be a sacrificial animal? Why is that good? There is no earthly reason for it -- and, ladies and gentlemen, in the whole history of philosophy no earthly reason has ever been given.

It is only mysticism that can permit moralists to get away with it.... What most moralists -- and few of their victims -- realize is that reason and altruism are incompatible. And this is the basic contradiction of Western civilization: reason versus altruism. This is the conflict that had to explode sooner or later.

The real conflict, of course, is reason versus mysticism.... Western civilization was the child and product of reason -- via ancient Greece. In all other civilizations, reason has always been the menial servant -- the handmaiden -- of mysticism.... It is only Western culture that has ever been dominated -- imperfectly, incompletely, precariously and at rare intervals -- but still, dominated by reason. You may observe the results of that [referring to the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution],

In case anyone is puzzled by my switch from Islam to Western civilization, the connection is that the rise of Islam, historically and today, is but an aspect of the larger picture of Western civilization, and the same conflicting principles that are tearing Western civilization apart are paving the way for religions such as Islam. Indeed, historically, Islam is an older form of religion not greatly unlike the Medieval-Christian era in "mainstream" Western history, an echo from the distant past that never experienced a Renaissance and shares a common heritage with Medieval-Christian religion.

As for why people who haven't fully understood reason are attracted to mysticism and faith, Ayn Rand explains (see "Mysticism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon):

A mystic is a man who surrendered his mind at his first encounter with the minds of others. Somewhere in the distant reaches of his childhood, when his own understanding of reality clashed with the assertions of others, with their arbitrary orders and contradictory demands, he gave in to so craven a fear of independence that he renounced his rational faculty. At the crossroads of the choice between "I know" and "They say," he chose to submit rather than to understand, to believe rather than to think. Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others....

When a mystic declares that he feels the existence of a power superior to reason, he feels it all right, but that power is not an omniscient super-spirit of the universe, it is the consciousness of any passer-by to whom he has surrendered his own.... To control the consciousness of others becomes his only passion; power-lust is a weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind.

In another excerpt from that same Lexicon topic, Ayn Rand further points out:

I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible.... men have no recourse except to physical violence.

All of the excerpts in that topic are highly illuminating. Refer, also, to the Lexicon topic of "History" and the many cross-referenced topics which it lists. Leonard Peikoff's book, The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out, elaborates still further on reason versus mysticism and the historical consequences from the perspective of man's possible modes of cognitive integration (or non-integration). Ayn Rand's opening article in FNI also presents a broad overview of the role of psycho-epistemology (reason versus mysticism) in history.

Update: Social Primacy of Consciousness

From a comment:

[There is a] desire for people to "belong".... It is incredibly painful for anyone to feel ostracized.... People may not have "surrendered" their minds so much as have a desire to "belong" to a team, a family, a group. It's nice to be in the company of others and feel that you are wanted/loved. This is probably religion's biggest attraction.

There are several key points worth noting here.

  • A religion like Islam cannot come to dominate 1.6 billion people around the world purely by free choice. It requires physical force as well as appeal to faith (and/or the lure of "belonging" to a "group") -- force wielded in the name of religious doctrines.

  • If one compromises one's principles in any manner in order to belong to a group, one has thereby surrendered one's own mind, one's own independent rational judgment, to that degree. Thereafter, it can certainly become harder to reverse that decision and trend, but never impossible so long as one is not brain-damaged or insane.

  • Surrendering one's own mind in order to "belong" to a "group" (if that is what the group expects) is an expression of the social form of the primacy of consciousness. Refer to the topic of "Primacy of Existence vs. Primacy of Consciousness" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon for a brief overview. Refer to PWNI Chap. 3, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made," for a more extensive discussion.

  • Perhaps the kind of religious group which the commenter has in mind is not Islam nor anything like it, but some heavily "watered down" modern form of Christianity that treats religious ideas very superficially, like mere window dressing on what is really just a big social club having no concept of a moral ideal apart from some nebulous, approximate form of altruism and "service to others." That, however, would not be Islam. I took the question to be asking about Islam and, implicitly, its counterpart in medieval-Christian religion.

  • Furthermore, what is the meaning of paying mere "lip service" to religious ideas while engaging in a nearly non-religious social club, if not a substantial surrender of one's own mind, one's own independent rational judgment, in order to "blend in" with a social group? What is the meaning of wanting "to be in the company of others and feel that you are wanted/loved" without knowing, nor caring to find out, why they want or love you, what their values are (and your own, too) and whether those values are truly life-serving for man? One does need to suppress one's own judgment in order to blend with such a group; one needs to be "non-judgmental" toward the group and its members -- and probably while simultaneously projecting an outward image of smiling, enthusiastic endorsement of the group. That is not an integrated, efficacious mind, but the opposite: a disintegrated, inwardly fearful, fundamentally selfless and impotent mental state.

answered Jun 08 '14 at 12:16

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Jun 17 '14 at 23:24

This is a good answer. Thank you Ideas. I have a bit of an additional spin and that is the desire for people to "belong". All religions/groups have an "in group" & an "out group" and prospective converts are told they will be in the "in team". It is incredibly painful for anyone to feel ostracized (witness how much humans fear and hate solitary confinement). People may not have "surrendered" their minds so much as have a desire to "belong" to a team, a family, a group. It's nice to be in the company of others and feel that you are wanted/loved. This is probably religion's biggest attraction.

(Jun 16 '14 at 19:23) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: Jun 05 '14 at 22:52

Seen: 1,688 times

Last updated: Jun 17 '14 at 23:24