Faith and Force Revisited

In 1960, Ayn Rand published an essay called “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World”. At some point around 1995, I read the essay in a book called “Philosophy: Who Needs It”. It asserted that “faith and force are corollaries”:

“I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduced mankind –a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. And more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who resorts to the formula: ‘It’s so, because I say so,’ will have to reach for a gun sooner or later.” (

I suspect the essay was likely written more as a response to Communism, since Rand regarded the philosophy of “materialism” as “neo-mysticism”. However, the essay applies equally to major world religions, which is what I want to focus on here. (We can leave aside the issue of whether Rand’s description of materialism as neo-mysticism is true or false here.)

In 1995, I found this essay to be very powerful. It made a mental connection for me that I had never even considered. (This often happened when I read Rand.) This connection later gave me a perspective on the events of September 11, 2001 that I have carried forward to today.

What I would like to do now is provide additional context to the following generalization: Faith and force are corollaries, and mysticism, when adopted by enough people, will always lead to the ‘rule of brutality’. (If you don’t like “absolute” statements, then I’m satisfied if you read this and think that mysticism, with a “high degree of probability” will lead to the rule of brutality.)

Before I begin, I want to note who this is written for. It is not written for someone who believes that there actually are revelations from some other realm that is not reality. I don’t expect to persuade the believer in Christianity, Islam, or any other religion not to believe  with this essay. It’s not my purpose. (This becomes more apparent when I define “faith” below.)

This essay is aimed at people who generally already have a “secular” outlook on the world, but who tend not to believe me when I say that a very religious society, regardless of its religious content, is a society that initiates a lot of physical force -either institutionally, through government, or by the acts of individuals. It is aimed at people who haven’t grasped the logical connection between “faith” on the one hand and the “initiation of physical force” on the other. (I say “initiation” of physical force because I am referring to people who start the use of force to gain a value or to destroy a value held by another person who wants to live, as opposed to the use of force in self-defense or to stop a criminal from committing further crimes by putting them in jail.)

At root, I think Rand’s argument is that there is a connection between the “psychological phenomena” of “faith” and the initiation of physical force. By “psychological phenomena”, I mean the actual mental processes going on inside the mind of a person acting on “faith”. How do I define “faith” for purposes of this article? First, I’ll say that there is, in fact, no supernatural realm that is giving people divine flashes of insight. I’m not going to argue that point here. (Which is why this is not aimed at the “believer” –there are plenty of works arguing for atheism, and I’ll leave it to the reader to research them.)

If there is no supernatural realm giving people flashes of revelation, then where are people who claim to be acting on faith getting their “commandments from god”? “Faith” is usually defined as the belief in something without proof or sensory-evidence. What does the psychological phenomena/process of “faith” consist of, if there is, in fact, no supernatural realm? That psychological process is a reliance on one’s <b>feelings</b> as guides to knowledge, or a belief that one’s feelings are the fundamental basis of knowledge as opposed to sense experience or logic derived from sense experience. An idea simply pops into the faithful’s head, probably coming out of their subconscious, and they decide that it feels right, and that is it. Or, someone tells them, either orally or through a book, that an idea is right, and they simply accept it because they feel that they have to accept what this person has told them.

With these terms defined, how can you reach the conclusion that faith and the initiation of physical force are corollaries? In other words, how do you reach the conclusion that routine and systematic use of the psychological process of “faith” will lead, with some degree of necessity, to the act of initiating physical force against others? (Obviously, I don’t want you to take what I say on faith.) I think the only way to arrive at this conclusion is to look at enough examples and try to see if you can find a pattern. I will provide you, the reader, with a few hypotheticals, and then leave it to you to come up with more:

Example 1: Your religion says that you aren’t supposed to keep certain types of meats stored together. You cannot store meat A and meat B together. You enter into a contract with a truck driver who is not of your religion to transport meat A to you in a truck, and you pay him money in advance for that.

When the truck driver arrives with the delivery, it turns out that he has unknowingly stored meat B in the truck along with the meat A he is delivering to you. (The truck driver had another customer and he was going to deliver meat B to the other customer after stopping off at your house.) You say that you cannot accept the meat because it was stored with meat B, and you want your money back. The truck driver says you’re “off your rocker” and refuses to give you your money back or pay “damages” for this alleged “breach of contract”.

A secular court system would say there is no scientific basis for your belief about storage of meat A and meat B together. Your breach of contract lawsuit would be dismissed. You can either discard the meat you paid for, or discard your religion, but in a secular system of government, you cannot have both.

You cannot use rational persuasion to convince the truck driver to give you your money back because he thinks your religion isn’t true. The temptation would be to resort to “self-help” in order to recover your money from the truck driver. This is an initiation of physical force. Your faith has led to the initiation of physical force. If there is a court system that is based on your religion that has jurisdiction, then it will get you your money back. But, this is an initiation of physical force, since the use of physical force can only be justified in self-defense or to recompense someone whose right to life has been violated in some way. Either way, if you act on your religious principles about storing meat A and meat B together, and take it seriously, you are led to the initiation of physical force against the truck driver that doesn’t hold your religious beliefs.

Example 2: Your religion says that a particular piece of land is holy, and is not to be used for any human purpose. According to your religion, the land is just to be left as it currently is. Someone owns the land who doesn’t ascribe to your religion, and decides he’s going to build his house on it. If there is a secular legal system, you will not be able to prevent the house construction. You cannot use reason to persuade him not to build the house, because your belief isn’t based in reason. If you try to point to your holy text, he’s going to say it’s baloney, and he doesn’t believe it. There is only one way to stop him: the initiation of physical force. Once again, either you personally will have to resort to the initiation of physical force, or your theocratic government will have to resort to the initiation of physical force to stop him. Combine this with the fact that any “interpreter” of your religion (priest, imam, rabbi, or whatever), going off of his feelings, can suddenly claim that god has told him that a particular land is “holy” and belongs to members of your religion, and this is a recipe for constant conflict with the non-believers who want to use land for actually living their lives in the here and now. Then combine this with a multiplicity of religions, all claiming some tract of land as “holy” and you get the crusades, the 30-years war, or the conflict in Israel.

Example 3: Your religion has a “holy animal” that is not to be eaten or harmed. Someone who doesn’t ascribe to your religion routinely shoots and eats the “holy animal”. You cannot use reason to persuade him not to eat your holy animal, because your belief isn’t based in reason. Once again, he’s just going to say your religion is false…and he’s hungry. There is only one way to stop him: the initiation of physical force. Once again, either you personally will have to resort to the initiation of physical force, or your theocratic government will have to resort to the initiation of physical force to stop him.

The more all-embracing one’s faith is in their mind, that is, the more they rely on ideas based in nothing but their feelings, and the more they take such ideas seriously, the more they will end up in irreconcilable conflicts like the three examples above, that can only be resolved by either not taking the “holy text” seriously, or by the initiation of physical force against non-believers. There will be a multiplicity of instances like the three outlined above.

My point here isn’t concerning the content of particular directives and commandments contained within any religious doctrine. I’ve made up these particular examples for purposes of illustrating my point, and I don’t even know if they are part of any actual major world religion. My point here is that the religious doctrine is insulated from any sort of ability to resolve a dispute with followers of other religious doctrines or those who embrace a secular view-point because it will create insoluble problems with those who don’t follow the creed, or those who interpret the creed differently.

A follower of a creed based in faith, will be left with the choice of either: (1) separating himself from those who don’t believe. This is probably why you see “religious ghettos” when people of one religion move into a country with a majority that doesn’t ascribe to their faith. These minority religious groups just separate out and live in their own special areas of a city. Or, (2), the believer will use force against non-believers to the extent necessary to ensure that his doctrine based on faith is respected by the non-believers.

Additionally, note that I have made no mention of examples from actual religions concerning directives or commandments that say either: (1) kill the infidels/sinners, or (2), say something that could easily be interpreted as “kill the infidels/sinners”.

For instance, the Bible talks about killing adulterers: (“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10) The Koran talks about killing infidels: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone….”

This is because my analysis of “faith” and how it necessitates the initiation of physical force doesn’t rely on the content of any particular religious doctrine. The psychological process of faith itself necessitates the initiation of physical force against others to resolve the conflicts that will occur.

However, when you start looking at the content of actual world religions and some of the things they say regarding how the “sinful” are to be dealt with, and then combine those words -that religious content- with a method of “thought” (faith) that provides no means of dealing with non-believers because reason is jettisoned, you can see why it can be a potent psychological cocktail motivating the initiation of physical force.

Why are the countries in Europe and North America relatively peaceful and free compared to countries in the Middle East? After all, America, and, to a lesser extent, Europe is full of church-going people who believe. I think the difference is the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. If you’re atheist and you talk about religion and science with even the most religious Westerner, he will probably, eventually, say something along the following lines: “There is a place for faith and there is a place for reason.” I suspect this represents a sort of centuries-long compromise or rapprochement between religion and secularism in the Western World. It has sufficiently delimited faith in important areas of human life, especially in the realm of politics, and allowed for the creation of a (generally) secular legal system. I suspect that most Western intellectuals do not realize how “all-encompassing” faith is in the mind of the average Middle Easterner, because we haven’t been there ourselves for centuries. It is why Western politicians and intellectuals tend to describe Islam as “ideology” rather than as religion. For instance, a Dutch politician has noted:

Let no one fool you about Islam being a religion. Sure, it has a god, and a here-after, and 72 virgins. But in its essence Islam is a political ideology. It is a system that lays down detailed rules for society and the life of every person. Islam wants to dictate every aspect of life. Islam means ‘submission’. Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy, because what it strives for is Sharia. If you want to compare Islam to anything, compare it to communism or national-socialism, these are all totalitarian ideologies.” (“The Lights are Going Out All Over Europe”, by Geert Wilders, emphasis added, )

Christianity once was a system that laid down detailed rules for society and the life of every person too –we just haven’t seen it for about 500 years. As a result, people who take religion that seriously seem strange to the average Westerner –you would have to look to what would widely be regarded as a “cult” here in the West to find a similar mindset. (For instance, the “Branch Davidians” in Waco, Texas.) This is why I believe the average Westerner has a difficult time thinking of Islamic terrorism or the theocracy of a country like Iran as being based in religious faith. Faith is just not as all-encompassing in the mind of even the most religious Westerners.

After the November 2015 attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were murdered, I saw comedian Bill Maher ask, in a not so comedic mood, “Why do they hate us?” ( )

Based on what I’ve said above about the mind of someone who operates primarily on the basis of faith, this is my theory on why so many in the Middle East seem to hate us:

Part of the reason is examples like 1, 2, and 3 above. In these instances, the non-believer doesn’t even know he’s done something that violated their religious faith. I think this is going to enrage a member of the faith, not just because of what the non-believer is doing, but because the non-believer, rightly so in my opinion, doesn’t care about their religion. The non-believer wants to live. The Westerner, with a much more delimited view of religious faith, will take numerous actions to live his life, all of which are offenses against Islam. This lack of concern for religious rituals will tend to infuriate the faithful, and is a spur to violence.

People in the West will tend to think there is some secular reason for the faith-based mind’s antagonism. They will look at factors like “US bombing in the Middle East” or “poverty” or anything besides the terrorist’s proclamations of fidelity to Islam. This is because people in the West have trouble conceiving of a mind that is that “faith-based”. Westerners assume there must be some secular reason that is the “real” reason planes are getting blown up, journalists are getting their heads cut off, and innocent people on sidewalk cafes are being shot. The reality is that they hate us because we aren’t just ignorant of their religious tenants, but because, on some fundamental level, they know we don’t regard their dogma as having any basis in reality. They hate us because we want to live this life, which is the only one we’re going to get.

The Plano Ordinance Banning Discrimination Is An Attempt to Substitute Force for Reason

Even though I live in Plano, I apparently missed this ordinance banning discrimination against homosexuals by businesses when it was originally approved earlier this month. I am opposed to the ordinance for the same reason I oppose the initiation of governmental force *even* when it is for a supposedly “good cause”.

In my personal life, I don’t discriminate against gays and racial minorities because I don’t think it is in my rational self-interest to do so. If a person has a value to offer me in trade, or has a new idea that is true, then it would not be beneficial to my life to avoid that person just because of his skin color or sexual preference. (Similarly, I don’t pretend to like someone  -as many white “liberals” seem anxious to do- when that person behaves like an obnoxious moron, and happens to be a member of a racial minority group.)  Even if certain sexual preferences are irrational, that would not prevent me from buying or selling goods or services from such a person, since their private sex life would have no bearing on the purchase or sale of goods and services. I don’t pick my grocer based on what he does in his bedroom, but based on whether he sells me the best groceries at the best price. Economically, speaking, such discrimination will also fail, because any business that refuses to sell to a particular customer group would invite competition from other profit-seeking businesses. (The mere fact that there is a sufficiently large enough political majority in Plano willing to enact such an anti-discrimination ordinance tells me that there are large numbers of people and businesses willing and able to sell to homosexuals, or the ordinance never would have passed in the first place.)

My opposition to the Plano ordinance also isn’t based in the silly “religious freedom” arguments that get advanced by some conservatives. By this reasoning, people can engage in human sacrifice or cannibalism and then claim that it is part of their “religious freedom” to do so. Government must protect individual rights, and this means that it can rightfully prohibit any action that violates rights. But, fundamentally speaking, government can *only* protect rights, not make people use their minds when they choose not to. This is the proper basis of religious freedom. Even if the majority of people were atheist, the religious minority, would need to be left free to have and speak their beliefs, because there is no way to force them to use their rational faculty if they choose not to. Only reason and persuasion can change them.

The reason I oppose this ordinance is because it is based in the assumption that reason and persuasion are not the proper means of dealing with other men. This ordinances is based in the assumption that one can instead simply rule over men with a gun as your only syllogism. But, when the initiation of force, not reason, becomes your method of dealing with men, watch out! Soon your society will stop being governed by law and reason, and will instead be ruled by those who are most effective at brutality, force, and violence. (Then your society will perish.) 

New York Times Article on Kagan

“In another case, she recommended that the federal government intervene in a case to support religious freedom. The California Supreme Court ruled that a landlord violated a state law prohibiting housing discrimination by refusing to rent an apartment to an unwed couple because she considered sex outside marriage to be a sin.”

Kagan’s position here was incorrect. If the case is as the NY Times article describes it, then this was a law of general application (prohibiting housing discrimination against unmarried couples). Providing exemptions from statutes of general application on “freedom of religion” grounds would lead to the absurdity that people can abuse children or engage in human sacrifice because of their need for “religious freedom”. Warren Jeffs would claim that he has a right to sexually abuse children because of his “religious freedom”.

Judge John E. Jones III for US Supreme Court

In between stories about the latest celebrity sex scandal, the news is occasionally noting that Justice John Paul Stevens of the US Supreme Court is going to retire, allowing President Obama to make another appointment. I would like to propose that Judge John E. Jones III, of the Middle District of Pennsylvania be considered for the job. Judge Jones was appointed by President George W. Bush for his present position, and is a Republican. But, Judge Jones was the presiding judge in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Judge Jones ruled that the School Board’s policy on “Intelligent Design”, which is another word for creationism, violated the Establishment Clause. In an interview about his decision, Judge Jones responded this way: “A significant number of Americans, if you poll, believe that creationism ought to be taught, either supplanting evolution or alongside of evolution. And, again, you ask how the judiciary works. We protect against the tyranny of the majority.” Amen.

Why I Don’t Recite Any Pledge of Allegiance

I have recently started attending the meetings of a local, Dallas-area political club affiliated with one of the two major parties in the United States. At the beginning of all meetings, this group starts with a recitation of the “U.S. Pledge of Allegiance”. During this period, I stand in order to be polite to the other people there, but I markedly put my hands behind my back, and I do not state the Pledge. Since this would be seen by many as a “subversive” or “unpatriotic” action on my part, and in order to mentally “crystallize” my own thinking on the subject, I thought I would take a moment to explain why I do this.

The first reason I refuse to recite the pledge is because of the use of religious language (“under god”) in its text. Historically speaking, America is not “one nation under god”, which I take to mean a nation founded on Christianity or religion. America is a product of the Enlightenment. In order to understand this, some historical context is necessary. The Dark Ages represented a period of religious domination, and therefore social, economic, scientific, and political stagnation (and human misery). During that period, religious authorities controlled the moral and intellectual realm. The socio-political ream was controlled by the feudal aristocracy, supposedly ordained to rule by god, but in practice, sanctioned to practice tyranny over the minds and bodies of other men by the Church. The Dark Ages ended with the re-discovery of Classical Greek and Roman thought and philosophies, which had emphasized the value of human life in the here-and-now, reality over the supernatural, and the efficacy of the human mind to know reality.

The Enlightenment period of history, which started some time in the 1600’s, represents a naturalistic explanation for the origins of life, via the works of Charles Darwin, a rational explanation for the physical motions of the universe, via the works of Newton, and the beginnings of a secular basis for the political and social order, via the works of John Locke, and others. The founding Fathers of the United States took the ideas of Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers and used them as the intellectual basis for the 13 Republics formed soon after the American Revolution, and for the Federal Republic which today is known as the United States of America. Of paramount importance to the Founding Fathers was the right of individuals to “the pursuit of happiness”, as embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

In order for individuals to pursue their own happiness in society, some implicit understanding of the concept of individual rights is necessary. Individual rights is based in a morality of rational self-interest (or an implicit understanding of such a morality). Each individual must be free to pursue his own rational self-interest (his own happiness) in a social context. (It must be also be kept in mind that “society” is nothing more than a number of individuals, and that the individual lives in society because it maximizes his own self-interest.) Individual rights should be seen as moral principles defining and sanctioning a person’s freedom to pursue his own rational self-interest in a social context. Historically, America is the nation of the Enlightenment, and the nation founded on individual rights. It is not a society founded in a belief in the supernatural, which was the distinguishing feature of the Dark Ages. I therefore oppose the inclusion of the words “under God” in the Pledge because it is not an accurate description of America.

Even if the “under God” language were removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, I would still not want to recite it. I have several objections to its recitation. First, I question the usefulness of any ritualistic recitals such as the Pledge. If the average person reciting the Pledge of Allegiance were asked what some of the key concepts in the pledge, such as “justice” and “liberty” meant, I doubt that he could give you a coherent explanation. There was an episode of the original TV series “Star Trek”, in which the main characters visited an “alternate Earth”, where stone-age men would recite a string of incoherent sounds that sounded strangely familiar, but you couldn’t quite figure out why. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that it is the US Pledge of Allegiance. Not only have the concepts been forgotten, but even the original words have been lost by the primitives reciting them. Every time I hear people reciting the pledge, I think of this episode of “Star Trek”. A “ritual” to me is nothing more than a formulaic endeavor that has no meaning and is meant to discourage thought and individualism, and to engender a tribalistic mindset. I find this utterly incompatible with the meaning and historical significance of America.

Additionally, an analysis of the words of the pledge reveals that it is a useless exercise. America is supposed to be a Republic (or, if you prefer, a “representative democracy”). The express words of the pledge say that you are pledging allegiance to “the flag”, but a flag is just a piece of cloth, and is merely another ritualistic display, so I don’t see any point in engaging in a ritualistic chant (the pledge), to a ritualistic display (the flag). The pledge goes on to say that the flag stands for the Republic, but the purpose of government is to serve as the agent, or servant, of “the people”, in the protection of their rights to life, liberty, and property. Therefore, I, as a citizen, do not owe the government allegiance, the employees of government –our elected officials- owe allegiance to the people that they represent (which would include me). I suppose you could say that you are pledging allegiance to “the people”, but “the people” are nothing more than a number of individuals, each with a right to pursue his or her own happiness, and all individuals are “equal under the law”, so there is no person or group of persons that one should rightly “pledge allegiance” to.

You could say that one is “pledging allegiance” to the concepts of liberty and justice, which are concepts that I fully support. But, I know that I support those concepts, and I actually take action to support them by thinking and writing about them -and by doing whatever small things I can to support liberty and justice in my professional and personal life. So long as I know that I support these concepts, and I take whatever action I am able to take to advance them, why do I need to engage in a ritualistic chant to convince others that I support them? Stating that you support the concepts of liberty and justice, but taking no action to advance them is to elevate form over substance, which is contrary to the spirit of our Nation, as best exemplified by the American expression: “Talk is cheap”.

Texas Pledge Briefs

My client David Croft has posted some of the briefs in the Texas Pledge case, which is a challenge to the insertion of the language “under god” into the Texas State Pledge on the grounds that it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Public school children are required, absent a note from their parents, to recite the Texas State Pledge prior to beginning school. (Yes, Texas has its own pledge of allegiance.)

I wanted to mention this because I am, quite frankly, more proud of my work on the Texas Pledge and Texas Moment of Silence cases than of anything I have ever done. I may never get to see laissez faire capitalism, which I think will require broad societal support in order to elect the right politicians to the legislature, but I will always try to do what I can, as one person, to ensure that America doesn’t become more socialist, or, possibly worse, backslide into medieval theocracy.

Link to Amicus Brief in Moment of Silence Case

The following is a link to an amicus brief in the Texas Moment of Silence Appeal: I’ll probably add Americans United for Separation of Church and State to my list of single-issue organizations that I donate money to (along with Gun Owners of America and the National Taxpayer’s Union). I prefer single-issue groups because I know that all of the money is going exclusively to a cause that I agree with.