Sunday, August 24, 2008

"We've been blessed" -- I've been bullshitted

I was talking with an acquaintance at the birthday party for a good friend's daughter yesterday. We talked about the bad economy. He said he got the equity out of his house just before the economy collapsed almost a year ago, so he and his family had enough money to ride out the storm. "Good job," I said. "Yeah, we've been blessed," he said with serious doe eyes that started to tear up.

"Sounds like you did some good planning," I said, trying to be subtle.
"Yeah, we were fortunate," he said, blowing smoke from his cigarette.

I finished my cigarette he'd offered me, stamped it out and said, "Well, I'll go back inside and see what my daughter is doing on the trampoline."

Occasionally, in such conversations, I'll push the envelope and ask, "What do you mean by 'blessed'"? But such questions usually elicit a response of befuddlement -- or anger, if they know I'm an objective atheist and know where I'm going with the conversation.

Whenever I hear "blessed" or "gifted" or "fortunate" or "grace," I shudder to think of what era we still find ourselves in modern life. If we survive as a human race, our ancestors will look back on our era and lump it in with the early mystics of 3,000 years ago and all those in between. Our era will be known as the Age of Mysticism, sprinkled with a dose of humanism but still horribly ancient and primitive.

The man above had made himself completely unaware of the smirking implications of his statement: That there is somehow a god, that that god is somehow looking out for him but not others (who are not "blessed" in our trying times), that he and his family somehow warrant that extra measure of fondness and care from his fictional god. The intellectual and moral hubris is astounding.

How on Earth (literally) can the rest of us expect such a mercilessly mystical nightmare of a being to EVER understand what it means to be responsible for one's own life and thoughts, meticulously examining every aspect of the nature of humans and the universe, the nature of rationality, the nature of ethics, and the nature of politics to arrive at a definition of reason and virtue and liberty -- and then demand to live by those definitions to achieve happiness and to leave others alone to pursue their own happiness?

The answer, of course, is it's virtually impossible once such men and women have surrendered their own rational hegemony for a wish, for a mystical construct. Few, a very few, will actually re-evaluate all of the above and be honest.

The one bright light in this modern mess we find ourselves in is Ayn Rand's philosophy of egoism and rationality -- and the thousands of us who have determined to be honest, as well as the Ayn Rand Institute and other such organizations whose lifeblood is our donations to help reach those whose minds truly yearn to understand and live freely under the guiding hand of rationality. One of ARI's primary projects is to catch young minds before they have an almost inextricable inertia toward subjectivism -- the philosophy of believing what one wishes, according to feelings and preconceived notions and irrational ideologies, rather than the facts of reality.

To see thousands more each year agreeing with Rand and becoming part of a formidable force of intellect and integrity is heartening -- quite heartening. Eventually, if we have enough time, we'll defeat our "blessed" foes and inaugurate an era that our distant ancestors will proudly call The Age of Reason.

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