Ayn Rand on Faith and Reason


Interviewer: You do not accept the existence of a god, a divine prime mover?

Ayn Rand: No.

Interviewer: Now the reason you don’t is because you can’t prove that such an entity or being or energy exists.

Ayn Rand: I can’t nor can anyone else. There is no proof.

Interviewer: There is no proof so therefore you’ve concluded that there isn’t one?

Ayn Rand: That’s right.

Interviewer: You can’t prove there isn’t.

Ayn Rand: You are never called upon to prove a negative. That’s a law of logic.

Interviewer: You have to be impressed with the universe. When you see order in the universe, this wasn’t an accident, Ms. Rand.

Ayn Rand: Oh now you’ve got to give me a few minutes. [laughter] What do you think would happen in a disorderly universe? What is the concept of order? What does it have to do with the things which exist? Do they clash with each other? If there were contradictions they wouldn’t exist. There is no such thing as a disorderly universe. Our whole concept of order comes from observing reality and reality has to be orderly because it’s the standard of what exists.

Interviewer: Right.

Ayn Rand: So contradictions cannot exist.

Interviewer: OK.

Ayn Rand: The real issue as far as man is concerned, is that when you accept such an important issue as the creation of the universe on faith you are destroying your confidence and the validity of your own mind. It has to be either reason or faith. I am against god for the reason that I don’t want to destroy reason. I don’t…

Interviewer: Give us a chance, alright? We appreciate your zeal but if you continue that it’s going to make it difficult for the other people absorb all this, what’s going on here, OK?

Ayn Rand: How can I be against god? I’m against those who conceived that idea.

Interviewer: Tell us why. Tell us why.

Ayn Rand: Because then it gives man permission to function irrationally, to accept something above and outside the power of their reason and superior to reason. You said it, I think unintentionally. You said “so I can’t wait to die and find out.” That, I’m serious, is one of the results of acting on faith. You can’t wait to get out of this life.

Interviewer: And what’s wrong with that?

Ayn Rand: Because this life is wonderful, as you said. Because if you look at the the universe, it’s wonderful and you have to use your life to the best of your understanding. If you go by emotions, not reason, it means you’re going against reality. Something exists, something is right and you say no, I don’t like it because I want to believe something else.

Interviewer: I see.

Ayn Rand: You, in effect, go by emotions, by your whims, not by reason.

Interviewer: I just want to get this in before the break. You’re an atheist?

Ayn Rand: Yes. [noise] [laughter] I could do the same to you, you know. [laughter] [applause] So you’re the host I won’t say it, but, in other circumstances I would say I don’t agree with religion. I approve of your right to it, but…

Interviewer: You don’t approve of religion because?

Ayn Rand: Because it’s mystical. Because it’s based on faith, not on reason and facts.

Interviewer: So? So for you but not for others, OK. What do you care? Somebody wants to worship a Christmas tree or a telephone pole, that’s their business.

Ayn Rand:
I respect that legally. I said that everyone has the right to believe anything they want but I don’t have to approve. If they are serious, I would say… [noise] [laughter] You know? But I would never pass any laws to stop them.

Interviewer: You’ve got to allow that you’re not smart enough to know whether or not there’s a god.

Ayn Rand: Yes. I am and everybody here is.

Interviewer: Is what?

Ayn Rand: Smart enough. It doesn’t take much intelligence. Do you know why?

Interviewer: Why?

Ayn Rand: Because you are not called upon, I cannot be called upon to know a negative or to prove a negative. If there is a god and you prove it, that’s fine. But you don’t tell me you can’t know that there isn’t. I would say yes I know there isn’t because I have been given no evidence.

Interviewer: I think atheists are as arrogant as many of the so-called Christians or relgionists that you defy. I’m saying…

Ayn Rand: Arrogant in what way?

Interviewer: In that you are here with your certainty saying there is no god and anybody who believes there is is… It’s almost a suggestion that you believe that you are foolish if you believe there is and I think that’s a little arrogant and condescending.

Ayn Rand: No. The arrogance and foolishness… I would have to tell the truth. I think it’s a bad sign psychologically. It is a sign of a psychological weakness, a man who is afraid to stand on his own mind and has no responsibility. Because it is the absence of proof that brings on false thinkers. Every argument for the existence of god is incomplete, improper and has been refuted and people go on and on because they want to believe. Well, I regard it as evil to place your emotions, your desire above the evidence of what your mind knows.

Interviewer: OK.

Ayn Rand: But that’s what you’re doing with the idea of god, speaking philosophically.

Interviewer: True.

Ayn Rand: You say you need someone to explain the order but now you have to explain that. You have to take what exists as a fact and start with what exists and see how much you can learn about it.

But it is not right. It is not proper to man to take anything on faith. Religion is a matter of faith. You accept a religion emotionally or because you were born to it. You have not chosen it rationally.

Interviewer: I tend to think of this whole thing as ongoing, that there is an eternity and that we are going to be part of that eternity, that we aren’t just corpses in graves when we die.

Ayn Rand: But we aren’t corpses in graves, we are not dead. Don’t you understand that when this life is finished, you’re not there to say oh how terrible that I’m a corpse? No.

Interviewer: Well this is true.

Ayn Rand: It’s finished. And what I’ve always thought was a sentence from some Greek philosopher, I don’t unfortunately remember who it was, but I read it at 16 and it has affected me all my life. I will not die. It’s the world that will end. [silence]

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One thought on “Ayn Rand on Faith and Reason

  1. Anonymous

    Definitely good stuff. I posted this also today; check mine if you want to see the youtube video. Watching Phil Donahue debate with Ayn Rand is priceless.

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