Ayn Rand Quotes on Religion and Reason

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand. New York Times Co./Archive Photos/Getty

Ayn Rand, best known for her defenses of Objectivism and Capitalism, was an unapologetic opponent of everything she considered to be mystical or supernatural - including all types of religion and all forms of theism. According to Rand, reason and science were the only paths to genuine knowledge, not faith. Ironically, her philosophy of Objectivism has acquired adherents who display such extreme devotion that it itself has at times been described as a non-theistic religion.

 

 

God

The good, say the mystics of spirit, is , a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence...Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God... Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith.... The purpose of man's life...is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.
[Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual]

 

Religion & Faith

For centuries, the mystics of spirit had existed by running a protection racket - by making life on earth unbearable, then charging you for consolation and relief, by forbidding all the virtues that make existence possible, then riding on the shoulders of your guilt, by declaring production and joy to be sins, then collecting blackmail from the sinners.


[Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual]

[The Doctrine of Original Sin] declares that he [man] ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge - he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil - he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor - he became a productive being.

He was sentenced to experience desire - he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness joy - all the cardinal values of his existence.
[Ayn Rand, "Galt's Speech," in For the New Intellectual, p. 136]

 

Playboy: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?

Ayn Rand: Qua religion, no - in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very - how should I say it? - dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
[Playboy interview with Ayn Rand]

There has never been a philosophy, a theory or a doctrine, that attacked (or 'limited') reason, which did not preach submission to the power of some authority.


[Ayn Rand, "The Comprachicos," in The New Left.]

The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short circuit destroying the mind.
[Ayn Rand, "The Objectivist Ethics," in The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 25]

I want to fight religion as the root of all human lying and the only excuse for suffering. ... I want to prove that religion breaks a character before it's formed, in childhood, by teaching a child lies before he knows what a lie is, by breaking him of the habit of thinking before he has begun to think, by making him a hypocrite before he knows any other possible attitude toward life. ... Religion is also the first enemy of the ability to think. That ability is not used by men to one-tenth of its possibility, yet before they learn to think they are discouraged by being ordered to take things on faith.

Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.
[Ayn Rand, The Journals of Ayn Rand, ed. by Leonard Peikoff.]

To rest one's case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one's enemies- that one has no rational arguments to offer.
[Ayn Rand, "Conservatism: An Obituary," in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. p. 196]

If you get caught at some crucial point and somebody tells you that your doctrine doesn't make sense - you're ready for him. You tell him there's something above sense. That here he must not try to think, he must feel. He must believe. Suspend reason and you can play it deuces wild.
[Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead]

Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves--or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

[T]he only real moral crime that one man can commit against another is the attempt to create, by his words or actions, an impression of the contradictory, the impossible, the irrational, and thus shake the concept of rationality in his victim.
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

 

Reason & Rationality

If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.
[Ayn Rand, "Galt's Speech," in For the New Intellectual, p. 128]

Are you in a universe which is ruled by natural laws and, therefore, is stable, firm, absolute - and knowable? Or are you in an incomprehensible chaos, a realm of inexplicable miracles, an unpredictable, unknowable flux, which your mind is impotent to grasp? The nature of your actions - and of your ambition - will be different, according to which set of answers you come to accept.
[Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It.]

Thinking men cannot be ruled.
[Ayn Rand, "Tax-Credits for Education," in The Ayn Rand Letter.]

In that world, you'll be able to rise in the morning with the spirit you had known in your childhood: that spirit of eagerness, adventure and certainty which comes from dealing with a rational universe.
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

...if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.... the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

Definitions are the guardians of rationality, the first line of defense against the chaos of mental disintegration.
[Ayn Rand, "Art and Cognition," in The Romantic Manifesto, p. 77]

To fear to face an issue is to believe the worst is true.
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

...if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.... the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.
[Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]