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The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies Vol. 10, No. 2

naively childhood religious beliefs have withered.

So now, whether we like it or not, a question creeps into our minds: How do we face the prospect of a world without God and religion?

In the nineteenth century, says Nietzsche, most people do not face that question well.

Nihilism’s Symptoms

Most people avoid the issue, sensing that even to raise it would be to enter dangerous territory. They sense that the game might be up for religion, but out of fear they shut off their minds and will themselves to believe that God is still out there somewhere. Life without religion is too scary to contemplate, so they retreat to a safety zone of belief and repeat nervously the formulas they have learned about faith. Now, says Nietzsche, it is one thing for a medieval peasant to have a simple-minded faith, but for us moderns such a faith has a tinge of dishonesty about it.

Slightly better to Nietzsche, but not much, are the socialists of the nineteenth century (Z, 1:11; TI, “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” 34). Socialism is on the rise, and many socialists have abandoned the religion of their youth—but only halfway. Most socialists accept that God is dead—but then they are very concerned that the State take God’s place and look after them. The mighty State will provide for us and tell us what to do and protect us against the mean people of the world.

Think of it this way: The Judeo-Christian tradition says this is a world of sin, in which the weak suffer at the hands of the strong, that we should all be selfless and serve God and others, especially the sick and helpless, and that in a future ideal world—Heaven—the lion will lie down with lamb, and the inescapable power of God will bring salvation to the meek and judgment to the wicked.

The socialist tradition says this is a world of evil exploitation, in which the strong take advantage of the weak. But we should all be selfless and sacrifice for the good of others, especially the needy— “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”— and the forces of history will necessarily bring about a future ideal world that will end all harsh competition, empowering the oppressed and eliminating the evil exploiters.

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