First, a belated Merry Christmas to my few readers!
Today, this first day after Christmas, we are going to be visiting two articles by two Popular Objectivists (one is a semi-successful Randian author (and reads like it) the other is the Grand Pooh-Bah of the orthodox Objectivist movement (the orthodox Objectivist movement is the group of Objectivists that dare not contradict the Grand Pooh-Bah)).
The Randian author is Edward Cline and his article is The Ten Commandments Rationally Examined. The Grand Pooh-Bah is Leonard Peikoff and his article “Christmas Should be More Commercial.” I hated this article when I was one of his drones. And that this thing hits the internet every year, one has to wonder a single thing about the article’s title, “how?”
“How could it possibly get more commercial?”
Dr. Peikoff has some ideas about that littered throughout his article.
… real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously.
Dr. Peikoff grew up in Canada in the 30’s and 40’s, but I can tell you in my largely non-observant family growing up in the 70’s and 80’s we had Nativity scenes and tales, altruist injunctions of loving the neighbor (the later of which usually consisted of easily affordable donations).
…that no one takes seriously.
If this seems to be confusing let me elaborate his last phrase. It is based on the argument from incredulity, and is an Objectivist staple. Seemingly although Objectivists champion the need of ever increasing doses of selfishness, they consider opposite ideas as not really functioning in society. No one takes such ideas seriously, what we really take seriously is our own gain. Those are the sorts of ideas people take seriously.
Except they are not ideas. Little Tommy’s violent tantrums because he didn’t get his favorite toy is not an idea, it is pure appetite. That this is how the Tommys of the world react, that a mean little avarice, is our starting point, and how we answer that – those are serious ideas.
What is a serious idea according to the Objectivist? Let’s look at Edward Cline’s example of serious ideas in his examination of commandment number 7 against adultery. Adultery is not a sin nor even an evil in Objectivism as long as you follow the Rand policy of sticking it coldly and honestly to all parties concerned (especially your poor spouse or girlfriend) and the person you are fornicating with is a value equal to or greater than your spouse. What those valuations are based on you will have to look up yourself.
7 – You shall not commit adultery.
Again, why not? If your spouse has turned into a prune-faced anchorite utterly hostile to divorce and about as romantically exciting as Norman Bates’ mummified mother or Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera, where else is there to turn?
Now this is an idea we can take seriously, no? Helping those less fortunate than us, donating to starving people, or children with leukemia, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen, those ideas no one takes seriously. The Nativity of Christ is, according to these fine folks’ wisdom, of no serious import and addressing nothing that anyone takes seriously.
Except for all of those centuries that most people did including a not insignificant number of people still today.
But please, let’s have those babies shut their mouths and examine Cline’s comments soberly. We’ll dismiss the complete childishness of his writing and concentrate on what he is actually saying.
Now, if we remain married long enough, and assuming neither of us die early, we will all end up with someone as romantically exciting as Norman Bates’ mummified mother. So once your spouse can’t do it for you, you are free to step out. Although note, it is only the person’s religious nuttery in the example that necessitates the adultery. The actual thing to do, the thing that is advocated here, is once you can’t get sexually aroused by your spouse, you are free to dispose of this person by divorce (which is what Objectivists do).
And if they won’t honor you with that, screw em’ anyway and sow your oats.
From these premises we could redefine marriage as simply short-term, financial/co-habitation contracts with provisions for the unlikely event that a sperms makes it past the Objectivist gauntlet of birth-control, condom, spermicide, sponge, pulling-out; and then if it makes it that far, the fertilized egg, makes it past the morning after pill and the doctor’s vacuum hose, or, if late-term, the forceps and scalpel. None of these provisions may interfere with the absolute right of sexual gratification. The life of the child is not to interfere with daddy demoting himself to stranger/check-sender if mommy has not rebounded from the pregnancy sufficiently to incite daddy’s further lust.
Neither of these two misses out on the use of worst spokesmen for the opposition tactic. Cline in his article, instead of simply posting generically from millions of potential web offerings, cherry picks from ultra-conservative site “Politichicks” and even supplies a link. I assume some whacka-doodle stuff is on that site.
Peikoff, for his article, chooses the voice of Cotton Mather to stand in for the forces of darkness. That would be Cotton Mather of Salem witch trails fame.
Peikoff then goes on to say the following:
Santa Claus is a thoroughly American invention.
Always have to watch out for these sorts of statements. In fact Santa Claus is not a thoroughly American invention. Peikoff speaks often of such phenomena as if they come out of a vacuum. In this instance he does this by having the Puritans represent all of religion. While the Puritans were very influential in early America they do not equal the American religious experience.
But what gives cause to such claims? In the Objectivist take on history, the world was a great place of pagan achievement and we were just on the threshold of Greek and Roman science exploding out into the industrial revolution. Then a bunch of meanies following this other meanie named Jesus took over the world and held it and all thinking and knowledge suppressed until the forces of light rediscovered themselves and fought against the forces of darkness.
This culminates in such claims as the killing of Hypatia was a Christian suppression of math and science and ended both.
Let’s not leave Mr. Cline out of this discussion. On the 2nd commandment Mr. Cline has the following to say about his belly. Yes, his belly.
When I was a young, ignorant kid, I thought that a sin manifested itself as a black spot on one’s belly. I was continually looking for one, or what resembled an ink stain, because I was constantly sinning. One never appeared. I have a mole there, but it’s brown. It’s just a collection of chemicals.
I can be kind of obtuse, but I cannot relate that paragraph to anything. I think he may be taking that as a general example of religious superstition that he was able to grow out of. Or it has nothing to do with that at all. It is really bizarre.
An not that he really should be taken seriously, but one last quote.
3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Well, why not? It’s just about the only time an atheist or even a steadfast Christian will remember God, by taking his name in vain, or in anger, or in frustration, and curse like a sailor.
This is the same sort of claim made by Dr. Peikoff about altruist Christmas injunctions no one takes seriously. No one takes these things seriously.
I think I understand that penultimate quote from Cline. His proof that nobody takes things like that seriously is his belly-mole analogy.
Oy vey. Happy New Year everyone. Maybe I’ll be back with an article that proves the celebration of a new year is a pagan- American invention.