Is Christian Morality Objective? Part I: Introductory Treatise on Morality

Christian apologists since the Enlightenment have inflated their inventories of unusual and untenable claims about their religious ideals in order to protect them from critical scrutiny. One of the most recklessly untenable claims which finds its supporters among a broad spectrum of modern Christian apologetics, is the claim that Christian morality in particular is objective and that no moral system which denies the existence or sovereignty of Christian theism can be objective. As one who has a deep familiarity with the Christian moral code and the moral code of the philosophy of Objectivism which rejects all mysticism (including Christian theism), I wonder how today’s apologists can defend the view that Christian morality is objective when its foundations as given particularly in the New Testament run contrary to objective morality. In this series I will examine the code of Christian morality as given in the New Testament by the religion’s founders and submit its principles to the question of whether or not they can be said to be objective or not. Before doing so, it is important to clarify those working definitions which will be assumed in my assessment of Christian moral principles. In this paper, the first installment in my indictment of the Christian morality, I will clarify what I mean by objective morality from the standpoint of Rational Philosophy, which is Objectivism. This clarification is by no means offered as a complete explication on the objective moral system, but rather only an introduction to some of the chief issues concerned, as well as to the contrast between the Christian morality and the objective morality.

What is Morality, and Does Man Need It?

By ethics or morality (used interchangeably in this essay), I mean: “A code of values to guide man’s choices and actions, the choices and actions which determine the purpose and the course of his life.” [1] Thus morality is concerned with the choices which man the individual makes, and the actions he takes in regard to himself. Morality is therefore a private matter concerned with the individual’s personal affairs in distinction to the branch of philosophy known as politics, which is the application of moral principles to interpersonal relationships.
Morality deals with general questions such as: What should I value, and why? What goals should I pursue in life, and why? From these, more specific questions are generated: Should I develop my mind and productive ability, and if so, why? Should I pursue an education, and why? Should I get a job and seek gainful employment, and why? Should I save my income or squander it with abandon? Etc. It is only after many of these questions, primarily those general questions about morality, have been answered that an objective treatment of politics can be engaged. [2]

Since morality is “a code of values which guides man’s choices and actions,” an objective theory of morality must take into account general aspects of man’s identity in order to define and shape that code of values. Since man is a being of volitional rationality, Objectivism holds that man’s uncoerced volition is of central importance to an objective theory of morality. “A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.” [3] The moral is the chosen, not the coerced, just as the moral is the understood, not the obeyed. Thus, an objective code of morality naturally dispenses with the use of any species of threats, either in the form of physical coercion or psychological sanction.

What is Objectivity, and How Does It Relate to Morality?

To be objective is to “adhere [volitionally] to reality by following certain rules of method, a method based on facts and appropriate to man’s form of cognition” [4]. Reality is the realm of existence, and man’s means of discovering it is his sense-perception, and his means of identifying and integrating what he perceives is reason. Defining an objective code of morality requires that certain relevant facts (i.e., data of reality) be objectively identified and integrated. Thus, an objective moral code is a rational moral code whose reference is the facts of reality and whose purpose is to serve man (as opposed to religion, which treats morality as something which man must serve or “live up to”).

Man requires morality, not because somebody (either a priest or a deity) says he needs it, but because he faces a fundamental alternative: existence or non-existence. Since man continually faces the possibility of his own death, his life requires that he act, and this means he needs values. Why should he act? Because he will die if he does not. What guides his choices and actions? A code of values, i.e., morality. This implies necessarily that man’s highest value is his own life, because it is ultimately his own life which provides the standard of his actions and for which he must act. In light of this, we recognize that objective morality is profoundly selfish in nature, since man’s own life (i.e., his self) is the primary beneficiary of his own actions.

Three Primary Theories of the Good

The objective theory of the good, according to Ayn Rand, is:

The… theory [that] holds that the good is neither an attribute of ‘things in themselves’ nor of man’s emotional states, but an evaluation of the facts of reality by man’s consciousness according to a rational standard of value… The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man – and that it must be discovered, not invented, by man” [5].

Thus, the objective theory of the good, since it stems from “an evaluation from the facts of reality,” is rooted in the law of identity. The objective theory of the good, like knowledge, is also hierarchical in nature, since the evaluation of the facts of reality proceeds “according to a rational standard of value.” The objective theory of the good identifies that standard – man’s life – and therefore “that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man.” It is because of this standard and the relation of aspects of reality that we can identify that food is good for man because it is his source of nutrition, and poison is bad for him because it can kill him. The fact that food is good for man and poison is not good is not something which men invent, but discover about reality. Throughout all its application, the objective theory of the good is completely consistent to the fact that existence exists and that to exist is to have a specific identity (i.e., the law of identity).

The objective theory of the good is generally contrasted against two competing theories, which Objectivism holds to be invalid and therefore unsuitable for man. Those theories are the intrinsic and the subjective theories of the good.

The intrinsic theory of the good, is: “The… theory [that] holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors or subjects involved.” [6] Thus, whether or not something is good for man according to the objective theory of the good, according to the intrinsic theory of the good something is good “just because” – either because one says it is regardless of its objective relation to man, or because one thinks God says it is good, regardless of its relation to man. Food can be bad for man (such as when he is commanded to fast), and poison can actually be permissible (such as when Jesus says his followers can ingest it and suffer no harm; cf. Mark 16:18). It is obvious that such a view of the good can only be valid on the assumption, implicit or explicit, of the primacy of consciousness view of metaphysics (i.e., of reality), since it is not the facts of reality which are important to make the evaluation that something is good, but the decrees of the ruling consciousness taken as solemnly unquestionable.
The subjectivist theory of the good, is: “The… theory [that] holds that the good bears no relation to the facts of reality, that it is the product of a man’s consciousness, created by his feelings, desires, ‘intuitions,’ or whims, and that it is merely an ‘arbitrary postulate’ or an ’emotional commitment’.” [7] This view is similar to the intrinsic theory of the good in that what is said to be good ultimately has nothing to do with the facts of reality, but is dependent on the creative functions of consciousness. But where the intrinsic theory of the good might justify its idea of the good on the commandments and decrees of a cosmic form of consciousness, the subjective theory affirms that something is good based on personal whim. Thus, food can be good for man on Tuesdays, but poison can be good on Wednesdays. It differs in respect to the intrinsic theory in that the intrinsic theory at least attempts to affirm an unchanging standard, even if that standard is not complicit with the facts of reality. The subjective theory, by contrast, dispenses with any standard other than that whim is in charge and capable of rewriting its own evaluations whenever it feels like it.

The contrast between these various theories should be apparent. Only one of these theories, the objective theory, indicates the crucial role of an objective standard of value in the determination of what is good or morally proper to man. The intrinsic theory, which includes religious forms of morality [8], does not identify the crucial role of values in man’s life, and indeed cannot, for it is not the achievement of values that motivates moral behavior according to this view. Instead, one is told that certain actions or things are good “just because,” and compliance with intrinsic moral principles is to be motivated as if those principles were irreducible primaries, not rationally supported guidelines. The subjective theory of values is more or less a catchall to include those systems which neither identify the crucial role of values in man’s life, nor hold that things or actions are “good in themselves” as such, regardless of their benefit or injury to oneself or to others.

The objective theory of the good defines ‘value’ as “that which one acts to gain and keep,” and ‘virtue’ as “the action by which one gains and keeps it.” [9] Rand argues that the “concept ‘value’ is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.” [10]

The Core Principles of Objective Morality

The objective theory of the good finds its basis in the objective view of reality and the epistemology of reason. The objective view of reality is the view that existence exists independent of consciousness. Consistent with this view is the recognition that man must discover the facts of reality by looking outward, i.e., beyond himself. This means: man must rely on his senses as his first means of contact with the facts of reality. Thus, reason is “the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” [11] The cognitive method or means by which reason enables man to identify and integrate what his senses tell him about reality is logic, which is the “art of non- contradictory identification. [12]

The view that man has the capacity to identify reality naturally presupposes that man is capable of the certainty that his consciousness is valid and that it has a vital purpose: to enable him to live. These facts must be made explicitly clear in the development of an objective view of morality, as Rand pointed out:

Man has no automatic code of survival. His particular distinction from all other living species is the necessity to act in the face of alternatives by means of volitional choice. He has no automatic knowledge of what is good for him or evil, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. [13]

In other words, man must discover from his activity in reality those actions and choices which make his life possible. “A being who does not know automatically what is true or false, cannot know automatically what is right or wrong, what is good for him or evil. Yet he needs this knowledge in order to live.” [14] While the intrinsic theory of he good holds that men can acquire this knowledge through some mystical means (e.g., “divine revelation”), and the subjective theory of the good holds that men can arbitrarily make up this knowledge as he goes, the objective theory of the good recognizes that man has a specific nature and that only a specific course of actions – a course which he cannot evade or alter by his own whim or by praying that some ruling consciousness can alter – can make living his life possible.

The objective view of man recognizes that he is an integrated being: man is both matter and consciousness welded into one unit. This means that the idea that the dichotomizing of standards for man’s body against those of his mind is invalid, just as the soul-body dichotomy is invalid. Therefore, this dichotomy is rejected in the development of the objective theory of the good with the recognition that man’s existential needs are just as valid as his philosophical and psychological needs, for the same reason and for the same purpose. The soul-body dichotomy is only compatible with a view of the good which dispenses with the objective view of man.

They have taught man that he is a hopeless misfit made of two elements, both symbols of death. A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost – yet such is their image of man’s nature: the battleground of a struggle between a corpse and a ghost, a corpse endowed with some evil volition of its own and a ghost endowed with the knowledge that everything known to man is non-existent, that only the unknowable exists. [15]

Certainly, this view of man cannot be compatible with the objective view of reality and the epistemology of reason as pointed out above. Consequently, it also cannot be integrated with the objective theory of the good, for the same reasons. The objective theory of the good is for man, not against him. Any philosophical theory which poses as being for man but is revealed upon examination to be against him, is a fraud in pious dressing.

Man, as an integrated being, requires a morality which is geared specifically to his nature, to his needs as a rational being. This is precisely what the Objectivist ethics, as discovered and identified by Ayn Rand, provides for man. The facts of man’s nature – that he continually faces the alternative of life vs. death, that he requires food, shelter, warmth, a rational means of knowledge – underscore man’s unalterable need for values. As she eloquently points out,

since the work of man’s mind is not automatic, his values, like all his premises, are the product either of his thinking or of his evasions: man chooses his values by a conscious process of thought – or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone’s authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. [16]

Man’s primary value is: his own life. Without it, he cannot value anything, and should he exist while pretending that some other object can replace that distinctive value (e.g., “God” or “society”), he undermines his ability to live to the degree that he is consistent to that pretense. Such a view simply ignores the fact that it is the nature of his being as such which dictates what he must value in order to make living his life possible.

The cardinal values of the objective theory of the good are: reason, purpose and self-esteem. “Reason as his only tool of knowledge – Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve – Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living.” [17] Their corresponding virtues are: rationality, productiveness and pride.

Rationality is the recognition of the fact that existence exists, that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over the act of perceiving it, which is thinking – that the mind is one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide of action – that reason is an absolute that permits no compromise – that a concession to the irrational invalidates one’s consciousness and turns it from the task of perceiving to the task of faking reality – that the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind – that the acceptance of a mystical invention is a wish for the annihilation of existence and, properly, annihilates one’s consciousness. [18]

Morality is thus the application of man’s reason to the problem of his existence. As his only guide to action, reason as a value and rationality as its corresponding virtue enable man to use his mind in solving real problems – whether it be determining which things in a jungle are edible and safe for human consumption, or choosing a profession – as opposed to false or arbitrary problems, such as those which occupy theology students. [19] The application of rationality to legitimate problems which man faces in living his life is the subject of productive work.

Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live – that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values – that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others – that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human – that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay – that your work is the process of achieving your value, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live. [20]

The result of productive work are the values which one produces. Since values are not readily available to man in nature for man simply to consume, man has no choice about the fact that the achievement of values requires his productive effort. But this effort is not possible without at least some estimation of one’s own worthiness of it. And this brings us to the cardinal virtue of pride.

Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned – that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character – that your character, your actions, your desires, your emotions are the products of the premises held by your mind – that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so much he acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining – that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul – that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create [in himself – AT], but must create by choice – that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself, and that the proof of an achieved self-esteem is your soul’s shudder of contempt against the role of a sacrificial animal, against the vile impertinence of any creed that proposes to immolate the irreplaceable value which is your consciousness and the incomparable glory which is your existence to the blind evasions and the stagnant decay of others. [21]

Together, rationality, productiveness and pride make man’s life qua man a vital possibility. But without these, man has no means of ensuring his primary value, which is his own life. With these core values, against the backdrop of a free society (i.e., a society in which coercion and the initiation of force are banned from interpersonal relationships), one has the basic equipment to lead a moral life.

The political corollary to the objective theory of the good is the recognition of man’s right to exist for his own sake. Just as man requires the freedom to use his mind, he requires the freedom to act, to pursue his values, and to achieve his happiness. A society which is built on the premise that man has a duty to sacrifice himself to others is a society which condemns men to lifelong slavery. In order to guard against such unspeakable injustice, man requires a society of individual rights.

A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action – which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.) [22]

As defined here, a political doctrine defending man’s rights defends man’s rational self-interest in social contexts. This means that an individual’s activity with others is engaged by choice, not by psychological coercion or the use of force. It is only the recognition of the principle that man has the right to exist for his own sake which will protect men against coercion and force, and which will allow an individual to pursue those values which make his life worth living.

“Rights” are a moral concept – the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others – the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context – the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law. [23]

Mystical philosophy, by contrast, cannot develop an objective doctrine of individual rights, because according to mysticism, men are duty-bound to each other’s needs and desires. The collectivization of men into a herd (or flock) is the political result of the ethics of sacrifice applied to man’s relationship with others. Just as some men expect others to accept their irrational and untenable assertions in the realm of knowledge, those same men will expect others to forfeit their right to property in the realm of morality. The pursuit of the unearned, which is integral to any political theory stemming from the ethics of sacrifice, is the political counterpart to mysticism in epistemology. The desire for the unearned in certainty can only lead to the desire for the unearned in values. Just as knowledge and certainty cannot be the product of one’s “unaided” mind – but must be absorbed via revelations of the ruling consciousness, man’s values – more specifically, the products of the producers – must be appropriated (by coercion or force) from those who produce and redistributed (by divine commandment or popular vote) to those who claim need to them. Thus, the men of ability become enslaved, either by the State, or by the Church, to those who relinquish their minds and neglect their opportunities in life to develop productive ability.

In their establishment of the “right” to the pursuit of the unearned, mystics of every stripe will attempt to conceal the objective concept of man’s individual rights by replacing it with a cheap anti- concept as their alternative. [24] The obliteration of the essentials of man’s individual rights have been so effectively obliterated that most people these days do not recognize public policy designed specifically to rob them of those rights. This fraud begins with the destruction of the concept of individual rights, and from their destroys the reasoning supporting the defense of those rights. We see this so frequently today with the notion of “human rights” or “civil rights” that few dare to question it.

The modern mystics of muscle who offer you the fraudulent alternative of “human rights” versus “property rights,” as if one could exist without the other, are making a last, grotesque attempt to revive the doctrine of the soul versus the body. Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that “human rights” are superior to “property rights” simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of “human.” [25]

If men evade or reject the objective theory of the good, they forfeit their capacity to establish a society of freedom. Without a society of freedom, the individual has no independence from others, and thus must survive by mooching off others, or by allowing others to mooch off himself. This is a choice all men face, but which so many evade as they run to embrace the non-thought, the zero- worship and the ethical suicide of Christianity.

Christian Morality and Brief Reasons Why It is Not Objective

We have already seen good reasons to consider that Christian morality assumes the intrinsic theory of the good, as defined above. Christians themselves may object to this classification, but the facts of the matter will bear this out. As you recall, the intrinsic theory “holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors or subjects involved”

Numerous items of the Christian view of morality can readily be identified as a perfect fit with this definition. For instance, the Christian deity itself is claimed to be “inherently good,” and that His actions and commandments are “inherently good,” regardless of their relationship to man. God’s actions may make Him appear to be a murdering tyrant [26], but even though such actions work against the lives of the human beings involved, those actions are still asserted as morally right, since they are actions chosen by God, and God is inherently good.

But the marriage between Christian morality and the intrinsic view of the good does not stop there. It is held to be intrinsically good for men to be obedient to the will of God, even if this obedience leads them to despair, depression or even death (as in the case of the model Christian himself, Jesus, in the case of his willing obedience to be crucified). While crucifixion is hardly enjoyable and as such could hardly be considered “good” for man (at least for the one being crucified!), the obedience of a commandment from God which leads to crucifixion would be considered good, since complicity with God’s will is said to honor God’s inherent goodness. (And honoring God’s inherent goodness, we are told, is good, even if it includes your suffering and painful death.)

Since the Bible commands its believers to rely on faith, it is summarily opposed to reason and man’s reliance on it. The repudiation of reason is certainly consistent with a form of morality which expects men to take the commandments of a ruling consciousness as unquestionable moral prescriptions.

Biblical doctrine is explicitly opposed to man’s pride. [27] The Bible can hardly be said to engender one’s “inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think” for himself. Indeed, the Bible commands men instead to “trust in God with all [his] heart; and lean not unto [his] own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5) And indeed, reading the Bible will hardly generate a conviction that one is worthy of anything except eternal punishment. Instead, the Bible turns man’s capacity for pride into the source of his guilt, and consequently destroys his capacity for self-esteem.

Injunctions against man’s selfishness are always accompanied, either implicitly or explicitly, by slogans and maxims extolling the anti-virtue sacrifice. [28] Sacrifice is “the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.” [29] Thus, since objective morality is concerned with the individual’s achievement of his values, and not their surrender or forfeiture, sacrifice is literally immoral. One cannot surrender something he does not have or has not already achieved or acquired. Christian morality, by contrast, in its condemnation of man’s self-interest (i.e., his selfishness) and its repudiation of the objective theory of the good, is concerned with their surrender, i.e., sacrifice. Given the principles of the values-based morality, Christianity is thus immoral.

Christianity’s injunctions against man’s selfishness are well known. Selfishness is literally concern with one’s own interests. An action is selfish in nature when one is the primary beneficiary of his own action. Instead of action which benefits oneself, Judeo-Christian morality extols the morality of self- sacrifice as a basic absolute. A Christian believer is taught that he cannot please God and himself at the same time, that he cannot “serve two masters.” [30] If the believer wants to please God, he must obey the moral precepts of the Bible and, in so doing, sacrifice himself. Paul wrote to the budding Roman church, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” [31] Heading one list of vices condemned as paramount sins, Paul mentions “lovers of their own selves” and “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” [32]

Modern secondary sources do not hesitate to mince words in their condemnation of man’s selfishness. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, for instance, declares that “sin in its nature is egotism and selfishness. Self is put in the place of God.” [33] Religious moral systems attempt to vilify man’s selfishness by divorcing it from what is taught to be regarded as the good. Man’s selfishness and the good, claim the religious, are ultimately antithetical and mutually exclusive. TheCatholic Encyclopedia’s entry on egoism attempts to make this point when it states:

[The] good is to be sought for its own sake chiefly, and in its train follows happiness as, if the expression may be permitted, an automatic consequence. Hence in pursuing the moral good, I am implicitly pursuing my own happiness. This self-realization is not egoism; for egoism makes self the centre, the beginning and the end of action. On the other hand, the virtuous man sub-ordinates himself to the moral good, which in the last analysis is identified with God.

Just how is happiness supposed to follow as “an automatic consequence,” and exactly whose happiness is that which follows? Exactly what makes something a moral good, and to whom is it said to be good, and why, when one’s own self is disqualified from being the standard of good? This is the intrinsic theory of the good in explicit terms, and it is questions such as these which its defenders resist addressing in terms of essentials. Furthermore, note that one’s happiness cannot be sought for its own sake as a final goal, but must be anticipated to follow somehow (automatically?) when one is allegedly “pursuing the moral good.” This is precisely how “the good” and the objective theory of value are divorced from one another in religious moral teaching.

The attack against the virtue of selfishness always includes the obfuscation of the objective theory of the good, either by mischaracterizing it or by treating an irrationally defined species of egoism as such (e.g., hedonism or whim-based selfishness as opposed to rational selfishness) as exhaustively representative of the objective theory of the good proper. [34] This means the objective theory of the good simply does not get a just hearing. When it is desired to stifle men’s discovery of the objective theory of the good, its detractors have no choice but to destroy the objective theory of value, which of course draws on mystical premises, namely the primacy of consciousness view of reality, metaphysical subjectivism and mystical (i.e., faith-based) epistemology. Of value to whom and why? is not the kind of question intrinsicists are likely to answer in very clear terms.

This is irrescindably evident in statements such as the “good is to be sought for its own sake chiefly,” which we saw above. For in such declarations it is irrevocably implied that that which is called “good” is considered “good” regardless of its value to man, for it is “good” just because. Man’s needs for living his life are thus ultimately irrelevant to the good, particularly if this “good” is said to be “good” with or without man’s benefiting from his pursuit of it. This default is only sealed when one attempts to argue that man benefits automatically, through some means, while these means are left ambiguous and unidentified.

Moreover, if one’s own happiness – which is a value to one’s self (i.e., selfish) – is a moral good, why can it not be a primary value, and why can it not be the final goal of man’s moral actions? Because, we are told, in the hierarchy of values implicit in statements such as we find in the Catholic Encyclopedia, the good (i.e., God) overshadows all values, including man’s happiness, which he must regard as a gift of grace (i.e., unmerited and unearned), not as a product of his own making. Indeed, this repugnant and hateful slap at man is only compounded when we discover that the church’s position, however it defines its terms, is that “true happiness is to come not now, but hereafter.”[35] Such a view can only cheapen man’s life on earth, and as such can only pertain to a morality which essentially holds man’s death as his primary value.

Does this sound like a morality fit for man’s life? Indeed it is not!

The proper resolution to these unnecessary and destructive problems is to root the foundations of one’s philosophy in objectivity and to recognize that man is not guilty by virtue of his existence. If existence exists independent of consciousness, as we discover when we look at reality and see that it does not obey our whims, and if we recognize that man is not guilty simply by virtue of his existence qua man, as Christianity essentially holds, then we should see that man is indeed capable of living a happy life.

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. If a man values productive work, his happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his life. But if a man values destruction, like a sadist – or self-torture, like a masochist – or life beyond the grave, like a mystic – or mindless “kicks,” like the driver of a hotrod car – his alleged happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his own destruction. It must be added that the emotional state of all those irrationalists cannot be properly designated as happiness or even as pleasure: it is merely a moment’s relief from their chronic state of terror. [36]

Man’s pursuit of happiness, as Ayn Rand defines it here (finally, an objective definition of this crucial concept), is a profoundly selfish enterprise. To condemn man’s selfishness is to condemn his capacity for living a happy life. Man’s happiness is to be stifled and suppressed, as ultimately, since it is selfish in nature, it is man’s chief source of guilt according to the Christian worldview. Paul wants believers to be so obsessedly absorbed into the Bible’s fear program and mindful of coming peril, that he even advises that “they who rejoice, [to behave] as though they rejoiced not.” [37]

Many who would contend that selfishness is evil while implicitly or explicitly treating happiness as a value (which in such a case ‘happiness’ would now be a stolen concept), will attempt to dichotomize man’s pursuit of his own life in distinction to his pursuit of happiness. This can only result in causing unnecessary psychological discord and an inconsistent approach to values in general, which can only incubate guilt in believers. Man’s pursuit of life and his pursuit of happiness are not to be dichotomized. But man’s life and his happiness are not opposite goals, as Ayn Rand explains:

The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. To hold one’s own life as one’s ultimate value, and one’s own happiness as one’s highest purpose are two aspects of the same achievement. Existentially, the activity of pursuing rational goals is the activity of maintaining one’s life; psychologically, its result, reward and concomitant is an emotional state of happiness. It is by experiencing happiness that one lives one’s life, in any hour, year or the whole of it. And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself – the kind that makes one think: “This is worth living for” – what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself. [38]

It is this state of achievement – that is, the success of achieving one’s own values, which those who condemn man’s reason, selfishness and pride intend to destroy in men when they expect him to accept the claim that the good is beyond the grave; that the good is divorced from man’s life needs and values; that the good must be distinguished from that which is practical as opposed to that which is “spiritual”; that the good is something which cannot be earned, something which one cannot achieve through his own rationally productive effort, but something that men should instead passively wait for in the self-deceiving pretense of the hope for a supernatural form of consciousness to distribute it among men without concern for merit (cf. “divine grace”); that the good is ultimately beyond “this reality” and attainable only by the sacrifice of one’s happiness in “this life.” Instead of reasons why men have the right to pursue their own happiness, as the Declaration of Independence acknowledges, Christian morality and similar mystical constructs feed men excuses to evade the moral responsibility of living in the guise of answering to a “higher power” which they cannot comprehend or even prove exists. The cost is man’s life and happiness.

Some may choose to defend their condemnation of man’s selfishness by claiming that a selfish person necessarily, by definition, is one who feeds off others, as if parasitically sapping their life worth dry. But this view neglects the fact that the ethics of sacrifice always breeds two kinds of persons: those who sacrifice their values to others, and those who collect on those sacrifices. Can one expect that men should accept as a duty the commandment that they should sacrifice their values to others and there not be someone ready to collect those sacrifices? The affirmation of the ethics of sacrifice conjoined with the condemnation of those who subsist on the sacrifices of others ignores the fact that the collectors of sacrifice need those who are willing to sacrifice their values as much as those who sacrifice their values need someone ready to collect them. Those who sacrifice their values do so primarily for the momentary relief from the chronic guilt they have accepted as a primary condition of living. Thus, it is not merely the exchange of sacrifices which takes place in this neurotic dialogue, but the reinforcement of the psychological sanctions motivating such forfeiture of value.

Additionally, mystics may attempt the cheap trick of arguing that God is the collector of man’s sacrifices, choosing instead to refer to God in this capacity as the recipient of man’s tribute or object of his worship. But this is clearly an idle and empty route, for what value can one give to a perfect, immortal and indestructible being? Does one sacrifice to a rock? Of course not; a rock could have no use for man’s values; a rock can neither value nor endure loss. For the same essential reason, the idea that an immortal and indestructible God could value anything is necessarily incoherent. [39] Besides, if God were omnipotent, and has virtually unlimited creative ability (able to zap into existence entire universes and the such), then God could easily provide his own values for his own needs, as if ‘need’ and ‘value’ could apply to such a being.

The answer of course is for us to discover the objective theory of the good and for the individual to declare his independence from others and for him to produce his own values – not at the expense of others, but at his own expense, and not to allow others to mooch off him in their hopes that he, as a producer, will sacrifice his product (i.e., his values) to them at his own expense. Those who allow others to mooch off themselves naturally will expect to mooch off others as well. This breeds unnecessary dependence on others, which can only work against man’s life because it deceives men into thinking they can exist by evading the responsibility of living. The objective theory of the good not only stresses the value of the individual’s independence from others, it is the only moral doctrine which makes it possible.

Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it – that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life – that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and existence. [40]

And here we come full circle, from cause to effect, and from effect tracing back to its cause. The commandment for men to sacrifice their values is the commandment that men should sacrifice their minds. The commandment that men should believe as the priests dictate them to believe, is the commandment that men should subjugate their minds and disable their capacity to reason for themselves. The condemnation of selfishness is the ruse of cheating man from his own vital happiness. To hold sacrifice as a virtue is to negate man’s ability to lead his life independent of others, just so that those who seek the unearned may profit at his expense. This is the morality of the moocher, the ethics of the parasite, the code of the evader and the doctrine of the mystic, all in one shabby tomb crowned with the symbol of the cross, a symbol not of death as such, but a symbol of slow suffering and agony. As such, there could be no more appropriate symbol for Christianity than an instrument of torture and execution.

Concluding Remarks

These are the concepts and their respective definitions which will be assumed in my assessment of the claim that Christian morality is objective in nature. Already it should be clear from the definitions I have given that this claim cannot true, but rather that Christian morality is intrinsic in nature. But I am willing to be patient with my readers, and to show systematically, going through the verses of the Bible themselves, why Christian morality as defined particularly in the New Testament cannot be considered objective, but is indeed a product of a false view of reality, the primacy of consciousness metaphysics, and therefore wholly unfit for man.

Notes
[1] Ayn Rand, Glossary of Objectivist Definitions, ed. Allison T. Kunze and Jean F. Moroney, s.v. ‘ethics’; see also Rand’s essay “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 13; and, Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 206.
[2] Footnote: The dependence of political principles on moral principles is rarely understood or acknowledged by many thinkers. Political principles – that is, principles guiding one’s interactions with others, how they treat and conduct themselves in relation to others – are often treated as primaries which cannot be questioned. Political theory, at least at the interpersonal level (as opposed to the societal level) is quite often supplanted in place of a doctrine of morality, and even mistakenly referred to as morality proper. This practice leaves political principles without an objective basis, and also leaves the individual clueless on how he should conduct his own life in relation to his own values, and why. These mistakes are avoided in Objectivism.
[3] Ayn Rand, “Galt’s Speech,” For the New Intellectual, p. 122. [4] Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p.117. [5] “What is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 22. [6] Ibid., p. 21. [7] Ibid., pp. 21-22.
[8] See for instance Erwin Lutzer’s Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems which affirms that “God’s moral revelation has intrinsic value,” which is a contradiction in terms according to rational philosophy. If the supposed value of God’s moral revelation is intrinsic, which means: the value of God’s moral revelation is a value in and of itself (which means: without reference to man), then it is not of value to man. Can this supposed revelation be a value to God? Again, not if its value is supposedly intrinsic. Besides, we already know that an immortal being such as God cannot value to begin with, as I demonstrate in my essay Why an Immortal God Cannot Value. Clearly, if we grant Lutzer’s claim legitimacy, then God’s alleged moral revelation is of no value to anyone.
[9] Rand, “Galt’s Speech,” For the New Intellectual, p. 121.
[10] Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 15.
[11] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 20.
[12] Ayn Rand, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 62.
[13] “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 121.
[14] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 22. [15] “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 170. [16] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 28. [17] Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 128. [18] Ibid.
[19] I urge theology students who may be reading this to honestly ask themselves: What legitimately necessary goal do all your efforts to develop so-called “theories” and “doctrines” pertinent to god-belief accomplish?
[20] Ibid., p. 130. [21] Ibid. [22] Ayn Rand, “Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 93. [23] Ibid.
[24] By “anti-concept” I mean “an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding. But in the realm of cognition, nothing is as bad as the approximate.” (Ayn Rand, “Credibility and Polarization,” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 1, 1.)
[25] Ayn Rand, “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 183. [26] For a small sampling of this, see Donald Morgan’s Bible Atrocities.
[27] For instance, see Proverbs 8:13; 11:12; 13:10; 14:3; 16:18; 29:23; Mark 7:22; I John 2:16.
[28] If ‘virtue’ is that action by which one achieves and/or preserves his values, then an ‘anti-virtue’ is the action by which those values are forfeited and destroyed. It is in this context that I consider both ‘selflessness’ and ‘sacrifice’ to be anti-virtues.
[29] Ayn Rand, “The Ethics of Emergencies,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 44. This definition isolates the essentials involved in the concept ‘sacrifice’ far better than others I have found. Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, for instance, defines ‘sacrifice’ as: “forfeiture of something valuable for something else.” This definition neglects to identify the relationship of that “something else” to the “something valuable” being forfeited; it does not tell us that value being forfeited is of higher value than the one which is not being sacrificed. This source also defines ‘sacrifice’ as “A loss,” which – although sacrifice results in a net loss to the one who sacrifices something – also gives only part of the story. For this does not take into account that the sacrifice of values is a loss chosen by the one who sacrifices something.
[30] Cf. Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13.
[31] Romans 12:1.
[32] II Timothy 3:2, 4.
[33] S.v. ‘sin’.
[34] Cf. the fallacy of frozen abstraction.
[35] Quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry for ‘happiness’.
[36] Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 28.
[37] I Cor. 7:30. Compare this urgency to suppress one’s emotions with passages commanding men to rejoice: Romans 12:15; I Cor. 13:6; Phil. 3:1, 4:4; I Peter 4:13; etc. Attempting to integrate these instructions – both to rejoice and to conduct oneself “as though [he] rejoiced not” – can only stifle man’s capacity for rationally-achieved happiness, not liberate it. Such slantradictions as I call them are designed especially to cause confusion in the minds of believers, and ultimately guilt, when all one needs to do is declare his own independence and pursue the non-contradictory joy, which Rand extolled. (Cf. “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 132.)
[38] Ibid., p. 29. [39] See particularly my essay Why an Immortal God Cannot Value. [40] “This is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual, p. 128.

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One thought on “Is Christian Morality Objective? Part I: Introductory Treatise on Morality

  1. Wow!

    I haven’t visited your blog in a very long time, but you seem to have become quite an active writer/blogger/thinker/etc!

    Good going! πŸ™‚

    But I don’t have the time to actually read all your posts now… Too busy, unfortunately, and as always, I am sure I will be able to appreciate your posts only if I put some time into reading them. πŸ™‚

    But one thing that struck me: you seem to spend a lot of time thinking about imaginary entities. Many of your posts are about “god(s)”, particularly the Christian set of god(s). And you seem to have a lot of interesting debates with people (like NN?) about “god(s)”.

    Why spend so much time on the subject? Is this subject worth spending so much of your time? Sure, people like NN will devote a lot of time into it – but then, he is a “believer”, “god(s)” is supposed to be an interesting enough subject for him to invest so much of time and effort. But why should you do the same?

    There was a time when I was on this Atheist vs. Theist community on Orkut, where I used to engage in a lot of these discussions with a lot of people. (But I think nothing as detailed as your posts!) It was interesting and useful to some extent, because there a lot of people from different belief systems participated – from Christians to Muslims to Buddhists; and so I got to know a lot of things that I didn’t know about, particularly about non-Christian beliefs and their own peculiarities. But then, after a certain point, I realized that it was a complete waste of time to spend any time in such discussions, that I had better things to do. (But even now, I occasionally do get drawn into such discussions sometimes.)

    Frankly, I don’t think this subject requires so much of your attention. 90% of the world’s population do believe in some kind of “god(s)”, and each person’s belief has some peculiarity. But then, is it worth spending so much time on such a stupid subject?

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