Peter Schwartz in Washington Post on Xmas Selfishness


dsaum

Recommended Posts

Cultish? Perhaps from an outside perspective. And to a lesser extent from an inside perspective. I suppose it depends upon whether YOU think Ayn Rand's ideas are important on a religious holiday. Peter was echoing my thoughts too, Neil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some old Christmas letters. They may lose some punctuation and spacing, boys and girls. But Merry Christmas to you!

Santa

From: "Reidy, Peter"

To: "'Monart Pon'" , OWL Posting , Atlantis

Subject: ATL: RE: Christmas: Re: 'Tis the Season

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 08:32:06 -0800

I'm all for an irreligious Christmas, too, but according to what I've read "Xmas" is not as secular as people think. It X comes from the Greek letter chi, which looks like our x but is the hard "ch" as in "Christ" or "psycho". It's been a standard abbreviation for Christ since ancient times.

Calling Christmas a celebration of the nativity is also historically questionable. Most of our seasonal customs come either from pre-Christian Jewish, Roman or northern-European winter solstice observations (the Jews, like the Christians, have some other explanation), or from the secular, commercial culture of the last century or two. Peikoff has pointed out the latter at length.

Peter

From: Andre Zantonavitch

Reply-To: Starship_Forum@yahoogroups.com

To: Starship_Forum@yahoogroups.com

Subject: [starship_Forum] Merry Christmas!

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 14:04:41 -0800 (PST)

Everyone knows, or everyone ~should~ know, that Christmas is all about worshipping Santa Claus --

not Jesus (who's he?). Christmas is focused on life, joy, and personal pleasure, not some black religious afterlife and self-sacrifice.

This holiday ~does~ feature "sharing" but as a kind of natural, normal, "cup runneth over" generosity and magnanimity which gives gifts and happiness to loved-ones mostly in order to enhance ~personal~ pleasure. Christmas does ~not~ feature a corrupt and bizarre "sharing" along the lines of religious charity and mercy to the downtrodden and defeated.

Christmas is a proud, confident Saturnalia-type holiday which occurs on the Winter solstice -- when the dark days of Winter finally start to retreat and there is the promise of renewed plant life, as well as every other kind. And all the historical evidence indicates that the birthdate of Jesus was nowhere ~near~ December 25th. Those evil deviants and religious barbarians shamelessly ~stole~ the date from the civilized Romans around 400 AD.

Christmas also rather nobly worships ~justice~ with that song about "he knows if you've been bad or good, so you better be good for goodness' sake!"

Thus Christmas is --ideally, and even currently -- a 100% rational, healthy, happy, non-religious, holiday and festival in celebration of a rich, hopeful, verdant life and future. So it's flat wrong for any atheist or Objectivist to be nervous or uncertain about having a, or saying, "Merry Christmas!"

Zan'

From me.

Andre Zantonavitch wrote about Christmas:

Everyone knows, or everyone ~should~ know, that Christmas is all about worshipping Santa Claus -- not Jesus (who's he?). Christmas is focused on life, joy, and personal pleasure, not some black religious afterlife and self-sacrifice.

End quote

And consider the psychological impact of the mythical Santa on a child along with the corollary of Christian Religious training. Adults and older children claim Santa exists, and adults and Religious teachers claim Christ exists. What happens to a childs *acceptance of belief with little proof* when they find out, as they are supposed to do, that Santa Claus does not exist? Though the sense of betrayal cannot be good, does it not follow that instilling skepticism and then disbelief in a child will create a healthier psycho-epistemology?

In the back of their minds wont children put 2 and 2 together and question the validity of other supernatural deities? Is a healthy human consciousness going to accept the notion that Santa was for kids but this fellow Jesus is the real deal and adults should believe in the existence of Jesus?

And will they *believe* that the proof is in the New Testament, if you will just open your heart and mind? No, they will think, "Ho hum, what a bore. I was fooled once . . . . "

Or that the proof pours out of some child molesting priests lying mouth? Not bloody likely. The discredited notion of *Santa* in children nullifies the notion of *Jesus* in adults.

There are stories and pictures about Santa and Jesus throughout our Christian culture. Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is a graphic and wonderful depiction of the essence of a persons life: It is the only life you will ever have so dont screw it up!

And the beautiful music. I think the Christmas music and songs of German, English, and American composers (including the happy, irreverent songs of rock and roll) are unsurpassed in beauty. No music the other religions create is quite so beautiful! Just consider the implicit benevolence in neighborhood, strolling carolers.

Zan wrote:

Christmas also rather nobly worships ~justice~ with that song about "he knows if you've been bad or good, so you better be good for goodness' sake!"

And of course the Christian corollary in morality is the Ten Commandments, threats of hell, admonitions about a rich man being unable to pass through the eye of a needle and a thousand other sayings and parables. And though Christian Conservatives try to reconcile Christianity and Capitalism they fail miserably. As Nikita Khrushchev observed, a true Christian must be a communist.

There are physical manifestations of Santas existence. He eats the cookies you leave out on Christmas Eve and He leaves you presents. And Christians claim they can feel the presence of Jesus, but are they just fooling themselves? They ask, What would Jesus do in this situation? and recently there appeared an advertisement asking, Would Jesus drive an SUV? Thinking humans masquerading as True Believers would not allow themselves to be depicted as being so silly if they had not been inoculated with a healthy dose of the Santa Virus.

I agree with Zan when he wrote:

Christmas is a proud, confident Saturnalia-type holiday which occurs on the Winter solstice -- when the dark days of Winter finally start to retreat and there is the promise of renewed plant life . . . .

Christmas is a good thing for everyone in our glorious Western culture. It has really caught on throughout our whole culture, though we all may have begun as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, or even Puritans :o)

As two wonderful Jewish composers wrote: Im dreaming of a white Christmas with Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . .

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Merry Christmas!

And

Live long and prosper,

Peter Taylor

From: Steve Reed

To: Atlantis

Subject: ATL: Not the slightest bit about determinism

Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 16:45:01 -0800

Yes, drastic times call for drastic measures, and since I am, per the determinists, a piece of ethereal flotsam compelled to such things, I pretend that I am pushed over the edge into holiday madness by ... yet another printing of the (in)famous Letter to the "New York Sun." This time in running across it being regurgitated in "Dear Abby" next to the comics page, wherein I'm much more interested in Michael Patterson's new baby.

You want some of the strongest roots of irrationalism in popular culture? Here they are. And since 18-frigging-97, to boot. In the spirit of the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge, who provided employment to -lumpen- like Bob Cratchit, I send along a bracketed Objectivist commentary on this ho-ho-hokum. I doubt you've actually READ this whole thing in decades ... right?

=====

"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus"

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of "The Sun":

"I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.' Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?" -- Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

[Discarding science in its entirety, for pronouncing something to be "not comprehensible" is a claim of omniscience.]

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

[Ever see any evidence of this supposed celestial omniscience? In any event, this is said in order to abase and devalue the human intellect as such -- presumably, with the exception of blitherers on newspaper staffs.]

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

[How much "love" is genuinely shown by telling children lies?]

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

[so much for the practice of science. It was certainly more "dreary" in 1897, without even such innovations -- in most of the world, outside a few blocks in cities like New York -- as water spigots. Physical existence is far more "tolerable" and comfortable now, and has been for decades -- at least since the "New York Sun" expired in 1949.

Romance and poetry can be created by clear minds, not made woozy with the drug of faith, pretending that what does not exist nonetheless exists.]

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

[Any light that comes from the young properly comes from the -confidence,- rationally based, of understanding and mastering what is around them. Not from being force-fed imaginary creatures.]

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You

might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

[That her father wasted money on absurdities, that's what.]

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

[A principle does exist of -the burden of proof,- but that hasn't entered this writer's consciousness.]

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

[Again, burden of proof. That last sentence may be poetic, but nonetheless is irrational as a principle and flawed as a description of reality. Should Virginia have built her life on the "unseeable"?]

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.

[An electron microscope might manage some of it ... but we don't need science, do we?]

Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.

[imagination creates reality, apparently.]

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

[The smallpox vaccination you got last year, Virginia, is an illusion. You don't need it. You'll never die.]

No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

[As long as children are taught to not question authority -- which 10 times 10 years from then, is pretty fairly entrenched in this, once the most anti-authoritarian culture on Earth.]

=====

Here endeth the lesson. No, I'm not a cynic, and I can still enjoy a classic (please, the B&W original ONLY) such as "Miracle on 34th Street." This calls for -- okay, muted outrage, not cynicism.

Something like this fabled "explanation," working its way into the public consciousness, does more harm to generations of children being able to think clearly than 100 million published volumes of Marx's collected works. Or, for that matter, 47 years of Virginia O'Hanlon going on to teach in the New York City government schools.

Try to counteract it. Buy some kids telescopes, microscopes, or chemistry sets. Don't get mad when they blow up the kitchen. And do have a merry Christmas.

--

* SteveReed@earthling.net *

"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong."

Thomas Jefferson ("Notes on Virginia," 1782)

From: atlantis-admin@bomis.com [mailto:atlantis-admin@bomis.com] On

Behalf Of Santos

Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2002 5:31 AM

To: atlantis@wetheliving.com

Subject: ATL: The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas when all through this site,

Members of Atlantis settled down for the night.

George is nestled all snug in his bed,

Weary but certain God is still dead.

Debbie sleepily disagrees with that thought,

"I may be a deist, an atheist I'm not."

Bill in his slumber dreams of his mission,

To boldly dismiss all posts on volition.

Ellen-M calls upon the ghost of Ayn Rand,

"Help me, dear lady, make Merlin understand."

While Merlin attempts to engage in a truce,

Falls asleep muttering, "Oh, what's the use!"

Jeff-O dreams fitfully of satires that bite,

Concocting his stories during a long, restless night.

Jeff-R has visions of posts written with care,

For Roland's adventures await those who err.

Jason imagines he's guiding Santa's sleigh,

Shouting, "Onward and upward, onward, I say!"

Ellen-S wrestles with "should bes" and "oughts",

Wishing for more time to post all her thoughts.

Dennis lies awake bemused and distressed,

The thoughts in his head cannot be expressed.

Roger can't sleep though the night's still and quiet,

It must be the carbs and coke-with-wine diet.

Mike Hardy sleeps soundly, his deeds are completed,

He's checked all the posts, made corrections as needed.

Peace and joy to all ye posters during this holiday season,

Libertarians and Objectivists and all who love reason.

Hail to Atlantis, the philosophical site,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Patricia Santos

From: Ellen Lewit

To: objectivism@wetheliving.com, atlantis@wetheliving.com, BBfromM@aol.com

Subject: OWL: A little something for December 25, Light Bulb Day.

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 10:39:38 -0500

Hello Guys,

I haven't been writing or sad to say (guilty look) reading the lists for some time. I just had other things on my mind and have collected the posts for later.

But, at this time of year, I thought you might enjoy this short piece I presented to a local group early in December. Perhaps you will remember the discussion here a couple of years ago, that gave me the idea.

To each of you also, A Happy Light Bulb Day!

Today is the second day of the holiday of Hanukah. No, I'm not going to talk about freedom fighters or terrorists. I mention it because it is a festival of lights with roots older than the Macabees.

This is the season of the winter solstice. All over the Northern Hemisphere especially in the non-tropical areas, people have for as long as history has existed, celebrated festivals of lights.

Humans have noticed the shortening of the days and that around the latter part of what we now call December they begin to get longer. Winter has just begun and our world will continue to get colder until nearly spring

but the days will be getting longer. Druid, Roman, Greek and other pagan customs were incorporated into Christmas. Hanukah incorporated older traditions along with historical facts to form a festival of lights.

So, I find it an appropriate time to celebrate as heroes, two of the men who shed a warming light on the rest of mankind. Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642.

Alexander Pope, poet and art and social critic, said of him,

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night.

God said let Newton be and all was light.

I'm not going to talk of his life, which was paradoxical, both happy and sad, highly rational yet mystical. I only want to mention two of his most important contributions and how they continue to influence us.

The first were his experiments with prisms that split light into various color components of the rainbow. He developed theories about the nature of light that still provide the basis of today's commonly accepted ones. His discoveries added to an interest in color that found its way into the painting, poetry and prose of that time that continues today.

His second great discovery began with an important question. One that allowed him to take the current ideas of his time and incorporate many of the discoveries of others into a coherent theory. He asked what would

happen if he threw an object hard enough to escape the earth's pull. This led to the theories of gravity and motion that we use still constantly. To do so he invented a new mathematics he called fluxions, we call it calculus after Liebnitz' version. Newton's laws and the calculus make modern engineering possible.

The second man is more recent and better known. He was a tireless inventor and innovator. His record for 1093 patents is still unbroken and likely to remain so. He worked on so many inventions either as the primary inventor or more often on improvements that it seems impossible to escape his influence. The phonograph, motion pictures, numerous improvements on the telephone and telegraph, the power company and of course many versions of the light bulb we owe to the laboratories and team that Thomas Alva Edison put together in Menlo Park.

As I mentioned he invented and built the first practical power company and perfected a useful light bulb.

Therefore, on December 25, the birthday of Isaac Newton, who said he stood on the shoulders of giants to see farther and who gave us the theoretical basis of the industrial age, I wish you all a celebration of his accomplishments and those of Mr. Edison - a Very Happy Light Bulb Day.

Ellen Lewit

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Delighted to learn of Mr. Schwartz’ forthcoming book Defense of Selfishness. (Cf.) Delighted overall by his piece for WP, except for the element I notice below. Neil (#3), no, not signs of cult-mind here in this piece. Part of his point is to promote works and thought of Rand; quotes and links are in order to that end. These are parts of Rand’s philosophy with which he agrees, and to agree closely with Rand on something does not require having a cult mentality.

The sound parts of the piece coincide with Rand’s views. The weak part of the piece likewise coincides with Rand’s view, her pure instrumentalism (to only good, selfish purposes) in the valuation of others in her egoistic ethical theory. Speaking of getting a gift for his wife, Schwartz writes: “But my gift is not an act of charity. It is a form of spiritual payment in acknowledgment of the value her life has to me.”

Christians who have had the slightest education in what their religion is actually about know that the premier definition of charity is love. That is not something Schwartz would mean to disown or attack, though he gives an appearance to that effect by having in mind a notion of charity he rejects, yet simply using the unqualified term charity. Unlike Schwartz and Rand, I don’t make gifts as “a form of spiritual payment in acknowledgement of the value her [or his] life has to me.” Drop payment. “Recognition of her marvelous person and our treasured union” would ring direct, and uncontrived for egoistic ethical theory.

The holiday cards I send to friends are similarly selfish—and properly so. Consciously or not, we choose our friends because they embody things we value, whether that’s an interest in sports or a particular outlook on life. We exchange cards not out of pity but out of a recognition that we share something worthwhile.

People operating by not purely egoistic ethical principles are able to give a card recognizing shared worthwhile things; they need not be acting out of pity (of all things) as the only alternative to not acting from, because not subscribing to, all of Rand's ethical principles. I should mention too that an ethical egoism that now has to invoke unconscious egoism (“Consciously or not”) to make its case, may be feeling some pinch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Schwartz's article would have been better if he had removed the pole from his ass before writing it. Must every conceivable human action be subject to moral judgment?

For those who haven't seen it, here is the Santa video that I made with Marilyn Moore two years ago.

Ghs

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She had this "Libertarians for Life" thing going for awhile, but she went private years ago. 10, 15 or 20 years ago.

--Brant

it's hard to type with a cat on my belly--it's not just love--that's gravy--he wants my seat and If I'm sitting on it he sits on me

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Post #5 is an amazing blast from the past. My thanks to Peter Taylor! :cool: It's a ton of fun to see the long-past views of old Objectivists, and especially to see my old posts -- what I still think, and what I've changed my mind about. I only wish much more of the archives of that website (WeTheLiving.com) were available. My understanding is all was lost, save for a bit from archive.org.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Neil deGrasse Tyson ✔ @neiltyson Follow

On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642 10:38 AM - 25 Dec 2014

About Ghss post, Kyrel wrote, "Hard as hell to argue with that!"

Police bulletin. Famous Author George H. Smith welcomed some carolers dressed as elves into his home and when they left all the bookmarks from his cherished librarys books had been removed.

"After their first carol they said my Santa suit did not look authentic," George is reported as saying. "But they looked so real. Not one of them was over three feet tall! No. I wont be pressing charges but that was cruel. I suppose the Walmart gift card they gave me is bogus too."

Sorry, to hear about Doris Gordon.

Happy New Year to all!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 years later...

From: Chris Matthew Sciabarra To: Atlantis* Subject: ATL: Rand and Christ Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2002 15:01:07 -0500. I happen to look at the current threads on Christianity and just wanted to offer these interesting quotes from Ayn Rand herself.

In two superb articles for THE INTELLECTUAL ACTIVIST, "Artist at Work:  Ayn Rand's Drafts for THE FOUNTAINHEAD" (August, September 2001), Shoshana Milgram explains that in Rand's early drafts, she "originally had Roark provide a list of creators and an inventory of their suffering."  (The drafts are currently held in the Madison Building of The Library of Congress.)

Rand writes: "Socrates, poisoned by order of the democracy of Athens.  Jesus Christ against the majority of [indecipherable] crucified.  Joan D'Arc, who was burned at the stake.  Galileo, made to renounce his soul.  Spinoza, excommunicated.  Luther, hounded.  Victor Hugo, exiled for twenty years.  Richard Wagner, writing musical comedies for a living, denounced by the musicians of his time, hissed, opposed, pronounced unmusical.  Tchaikovsky, struggling through years of loneliness without recognition.  Nietzsche, dying in an insane asylum, friendless and unheard.  Ibsen [indecipherable] his own country. Dostoevsky, facing an execution squad and pardoned to a Siberian prison.  The list is endless."

For a variety of reasons, Rand eliminated this list from Roark's speech, but the list is interesting in any event.  Rand also says, quite provocatively, in her early drafts that "Christ proclaimed the untouchable integrity of Man's spirit [stating] the first rights of the Ego.  He placed the salvation of one's own soul above all other concerns.  But men distorted it into altruism."  She expands on this in her LETTERS (July 9, 1946), where she tells a fan (Sylvia Austin) that "Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism---the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means---one's ego and the integrity of one's ego."  She states, however, that "Jesus (or perhaps His [Rand capitalizes "His"] interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or ~live for~ others."

So, yes, Rand recognizes an internal contradiction here (even if she's not ready to place all the responsibility on Jesus himself)---but this does not come at the expense of an historical appreciation of the importance of early Christian thought in advancing the individualist message. Happy holidays, a healthy and happy new year to all, Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now