Individual Power

The Central Role of Faith – IP Lesson 1

Libertarians tend to approach things from a rational, logical and fact-based place. But, paradoxically, the greatest determinant of your success in a new endeavor is how much faith you have in yourself.

Libertarians tend to approach things from a rational, logical and fact-based place. But, paradoxically, the greatest determinant of your success in a new endeavor is how much faith you have in yourself.

If you missed the manifesto, it’s here.

By George Donnelly

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8 replies on “The Central Role of Faith – IP Lesson 1”

As an Objectivist, faith has an extremely negative connotation for me. But even as a young child, before I discovered “The Virtue of Selfishness” at 23, I found all superstitious beliefs inscrutable and therefore repugnant. After reading Ayn Rand I learned I had based my prejudice on a primary value called “reason”. If a belief was not rational, it “offended” my commitment to truth. I was willing to suffer any pain to obtain the truth. Toward that end, I enrolled in self improvement therapy. I discovered my pessimism and depression was due to a lack of self esteem, not a lack of confidence, or a lack of faith.

Consider this: Could you have confused “self esteem” with “faith in oneself”?

I discovered Ayn Rand at the same stage in my life and spent several years wrapped up in deep thought about her ideas.

Self-esteem and faith are definitely two very different things in my mind.

I like Wikipedia’s definition of self-esteem:

“In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward
the self.”

I also like one of Wikipedia’s definitions of faith: “belief not based on proof”

Faith as self-esteem would be a dumbing-down of the term, since what about those of us who have no self-esteem or whose self-esteem falters due to circumstance? Faith is what enables us to get past our current attitude towards ourselves and our conditions in order to get to something better.

My faith is a belief in myself and in something greater, the universe if you will. But when I’m about to take on some new challenge, it can hardly be proven. If someone asks me now, can you prove you are capable of bringing about a stateless/voluntary world, hell no. I can’t prove it.

But I have faith it can be done, and that is not just some bloated self-esteem talking. It is something much deeper and greater.

I’ve always felt that one of Rand’s flaws was her ruthless elimination of the spiritual.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Don.

Rand did reject religion, but not the spiritual. She unfairly dismissed all Eastern thinkers, probably because she either didn’t read them or didn’t take the time to think about how philosophically relevant the Eastern religious thought was. Her claim that philosophy began with the Greeks is debatable.

A belief that you can accomplish any goal you set, an optimistic attitude, is not in the same category as epistemology. It is metaphysical (existential?) statement, what Ayn called “a sense of life”. It is a deep seated psychological condition. If asked to prove why you deserve to live, you can’t give a list of reasons. Life is its own validation, and if a person doesn’t feel “worthy to live”, I don’t think you can argue him out out it, prove him wrong.

Ayn was not a humorless workaholic. Her deadly serious defense of Objectivism was due to her being under siege by the world culture, a moral code that opposed her sense of life, and life itself. She said: “My life is my warrant.”

When we resist the culture, we affirm ourselves, our right to life. The resistance itself is our victory. We can only lose if we surrender. We can’t be defeated by jail or death. Or as Richard Lovelace wrote: “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage”.

I’ve read at least twice everything she’s written and I feel she did essentially reject the spiritual. Just glorifying the individual is not spirituality alone.

I like her “sense of life” concept but I find it to be abysmally shallow and not at all what I’m talking about, not at all the same thing as faith. It’s more like just having a positive and proactive mindset, if that.

Your last paragraph sounds very epic but, to be blunt, I find it to be worthless bluster.

Affirmations are an early step on a path to success, not the culmination of the path. This is not about vainly reassuring ourselves.

Resistance is a means to an end, not the end itself. You’re confusing one means with the end and lowering your sights. Without eyes fixed firmly on goals, resistance doesn’t even happen, because the motivation is insufficient.

People lose all the time without surrendering. They’re killed, caged, raped, robbed, injured, etc.

Prison and death do indeed erode both the individual and the group’s progress toward libertarian goals.

Your quote reminds me of a Heinlein quote:

“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them
tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I
am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for
everything I do.”

These kinds of words may offer comfort to people in cages but to those of us on the outside, they represent a lowering of expectations, a humble acceptance of a fate imposed on us by aggressors and pure fantasy, really.

Because stone walls and iron bars are real limits and you’re not free if oppressive rules surround you.

It’s time to move beyond this long-suffering early Christian kind of attitude and towards strategies and actions that concretely move people towards more liberty now.

You claim “Just glorifying the individual is not spiritually alone” but you don’t say what is.

“People lose all the time without surrendering.” I was talking about lose of sovereignty. That has to be surrendered, it cannot be taken. It was well-known that some African tribes could not be enslaved, so they were left alone by the slavers. Alexander the Great paid tribute to pass thru some areas, even though he could have killed them all. He did so because they could not be conquered, only killed, and each family was ready to fight to the last child without giving up. They made war too expensive. That sounds like a spiritual culture to me, i.e., a culture that understood what it means to be human.

Spirituality is a big topic but I’d say it has to include a connection to something bigger than just you and I, for starters. Personally, I enjoy the Psalms, Taoism, Stoicism and Zen Buddhism for starters, especially the work of Alan Watts and the book, The Power of Now. Even the approach of someone like Napoleon Hill has a lot to offer to the hard numbers of attaining wealth.

For Rand, the biggest thing for me is me, and for you you. That’s why the low ceilings and the appreciation for sculptures of ideal men and women. It’s important to remember that in the political and ethical spheres but falls a bit short in the spiritual sphere IMHO.

Ayn Rand is awesome. I still treasure her work and my copies of almost all of her works, fiction and non, are falling apart. But her work has its limits IMHO.

I don’t understand how you can say that the category of people who have not lost includes both those who deterred conquest and slavery and those in prison. That seems contradictory.

How do you define spirituality?

To resist being ruled because you value your sovereignty is a victory, regardless of the outcome. To believe in being ruled, to accept outside control, is to forfeit sovereignty, and is self enslavement. That is why I say those who may surrender to fight another day, but do not believe they deserve to be controlled are still winners, just as those who remained free. They are “free” in their mind.
Is this “spirituality”? Maybe. But it is a profound sense of life. untouchable by outside circumstances.

Victory and defeat are about outcomes. To pretend the outcome doesn’t matter is to kid oneself, IMHO. The outcome matters and we should each be shooting high. If you ultimately fail, you fail. But if you aim low from the start, you’ve guaranteed an ultimate failure. It’s like binding your feet, Chinese style, before a marathon.

I don’t think the sovereignty-slavery thing is quite so binary. It’s more of a continuum. For example, I’m willing to give up certain powers in order to live in a gated community. I’m willing to be respectful of my neighbors, turn down my stereo, keep my lawn trimmed, not compost, etc. And even in the extreme situation of living under a modern nation-state, I can still not reasonably be called a slave.

Being free in your own mind is a real thing in a spiritual and mindset sense but it’s a fairy tale in a political sense. I refer you back to what I said somewhere else about the Heinlein quote of being free no matter what rules surround me. In a political context, that’s utter nonsense. Especially when used as a pain pill to avoid taking action in defense of your rights and in the service of building a political reality where human rights are fully respected.

If people want to pretend there aren’t guns aimed at their heads, fine. But don’t add insult to injury by telling me those guns aren’t really aimed at my head, either. That’s cult-level self-deception.

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