Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Converting to Objectivism
by Joe Trusnik

Six months ago, having left a religious forum I moderated because I could no longer give an intellectual sanction due to its general intolerance of any who might actually defend their points of view with reason, I found SOLO through a Yahoo search. An admirer of Atlas Shrugged who hoped to learn more about Objectivism (as all my previous forays inevitably hit a member of the ARI), I came with all of my lop-sided principles.

I had already been an atheist for about three years. I was a vehement defender of individual rights (or so I thought), and I was already in my own little crusades against polylogism, post-modernism, anti-objective metaphysics, and all the other stuff that I had a hard time believing people took seriously. Unconvinced by the "arguments" of these movements, I felt like I was battling the world all by myself. As far as I was concerned, this was fine: if I died without changing a thing, at least I had lived my life with dignity and integrity.

However, I had some contradictions of my own, borne out, I thought, by compassion. I was for public education. I was for steep, progressive taxation. I thought that public libraries were one of the greatest inventions of western civilization. I was even socialist for a very, very short period of time.

So, when I came to SOLO, I listened carefully at first. I studied Objectivism on my own, hardly speaking at the forum. I was, first and foremost, learning. After all, the philosophical themes in Atlas Shrugged made at least some sense. As I was studying philosophy (on my own, as I had dropped out of the philosophy program at my college for a variety of reasons), I could pick out the arguments fairly easily. I had already adopted the metaphysics and epistemology on my own. The ethics, a subject that I had been desperately grappling with for a long time, pulled me in easily enough. But the notion of unbridled capitalism raised a lot of red flags for me. My objections, of course, were what I thought I knew from history: a lack of government controls leads to unsafe working conditions, subsistence-level wages, child labor, and rampant pollution.

Naturally, I wanted answers to these, so I presented them, as clearly as I could, to the discussion group.

Outside of small a joke about flogging leftists that I didn't take well (like I said, I had previously hit upon members of the ARI), the answers were calm, thorough, and helpful. I was given refutations, both logically and by having the evidence laid out before me (interpretation of the data was left up to me). I was pointed to outside resources that could give me honest facts, and was encouraged, not to make a decision right away, but to take some time to think for myself. That was shocking. I had always done that anyway, but I had never actually been encouraged to do so.

Well, I did my research. I looked at my own arguments and picked out the flaws. Seeing the problems, I demolished all of my politics, picked out my implicit illogical values, and embraced Objectivism. The culmination occurred on a walk with my wife. Instead of my normal problems with self-esteem, I realized, as a hard worker, an intellectually honest person, and somebody who follows where the facts lead no matter what I have to re-think in the process, I finally realized what she had been telling me for years: that I deserve to be happy. And it is to my happiness that I have worked since.

One thing I really appreciated, though, was how I was refuted here. I was given not only refutations and answers, but I was treated with kindness and the respectability that I feel an honest inquirer deserves, even if the questions are riddled with absurd notions. This is how we must approach those who might join us: give them respect; give them kindness; and be honest with them. Let their own convictions guide them in their understanding. If they follow the evidence, they, like I, will find their home with us.

The most wonderful thing, I believe, about this entire piece, is this: it's already been displayed to me that this group practices it. Let's make sure to keep it that way.

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