Rift Rants

This collection of essays deals mostly with abortion and with my feminist vision, including my interpretation of modern and historic misogyny, the origins of partriarchy, and the challenges worldwide feminism faces in the future. There are also several essays on religion, including an exploration of religious hypocrisy and a “how-do” guide for atheists in dealing with the religious mentality.

A little background: I began my venture into philosophy as a child when I became disturbed by the mythology of the religion I was raised in: the Protestant brand of Christianity common to the dominant ethnic group of white Anglo-Saxons of which I was a member. My Sunday school lessons reverberated with a distinct, although rarely explicitly articulated idea: men were primary, women secondary; men were dominant, women subordinant; men were superior, women inferior; men were central and important in society; women were peripheral and unimportant.

The myth of Adam and Eve and the overwhelming dominance of male religious figures from Abraham to Jesus emphasized this point, and of course, the masculine nature of God Himself. I disliked this intensely and also came to dislike what I saw as a huge gulf between what people said they believed in and their actual behavior.

Increasingly as I got older, I began to notice the contradictions within the Bible itself and came to the disconcerting conclusion that religion consisted of layer upon layer of irrationality. In the last few years I have discovered some interesting things about hypocrisy, namely its complexity. Hypocrisy also comes in layers, and most religious people do not simply fail to practice what they preach, they don’t even believe in what they preach. Religion is, in effect, a con of a con. Religious people generally con themselves and then con others. The trick is never to own up to the con. As long as the con is never exposed, everyone lives happily ever after. This desire to live happily ever after is what I call the ultimate hedonism and I’ve written an essay on that very subject.

Let me backtrack a bit. When I entered my teen years I became, for lack of better terms, a radical feminist and left-wing ideologue. I never bought into socialism because my sense of justice would not allow for it. I’ve always accepted the commonsensical idea that if you work harder and better than the next guy you deserve to get paid more. Seemed fair to me then and it seems fair to me now. Still I was a liberal at the very least. All that changed when I read The Fountainhead and then Atlas Shrugged. Slowly, I started to adopt the ideas of Ayn Rand and the philosophy of reason and individualism she called Objectivism.

Up until around 2001, I considered myself an Objectivist. I liked Rand’s emphasis on reason, on the evidence of the senses, on the right of an individual to live for himself or herself, and on the idea that a code of morality has to be based on the requirements of existence on this earth, something practical that people can and will adhere to.

However, despite my love affair with Ayn Rand, even from the beginning I had issues with her and the philosophy she created. I disliked her hostility to feminism (especially since her hostility seemed to go well beyond left-wing, “victim” feminism to include what I would regard as mainstream feminism as well) and her appalling ignorance about sex, reproduction, and evolutionary biology. Eventually I came to understand some of the reasons why she did not seem to want to learn more about these subjects or try to better integrate them with her philosophy of Objectivism. I came to understand that laissez-faire capitalism is completely incompatible with free women reproducing at or above replacement levels and that is the primary reason why Rand and Objectivists are hostile toward feminism.

This fact is the focus of my essay “Stopping the Engine of the World.” Once I understood that laissez-faire capitalism could not provide conditions that would make reproduction attractive to women, I understood all the other reasons that laissez-faire capitalism is not necessary for a free society. On the contrary, the cause of freedom is better advanced in a so-called “mixed economy”—one that creates conditions that make it possible for the vast majority of people to meet the requirements of existence and pursue rational values.

Most of these essays were inspired by my participation in online Objectivist mailing lists, most notably in the Atlantis list, from approximately 1997 through 2002. I found it infuriating that Objectivists and Libertarians consist of people who claim to believe in freedom yet have an incredibly narrow, mostly economic idea of what that word means. I also found that Libertarians range from people who believe in anarchy (a total disavowal of government that I believe, if enacted, would lead to a virtual hell on earth) to those who believe one can on the basis of science assign rights to zygotes.

What this group of people helped me do was “think outside the box,” fully appreciate the value of inductive reasoning, seek the widest possible context when looking at any issue of life, and attempt simultaneously to approach a problem from a variety of perspectives. This change in thinking is what my essays hope to reflect. Feedback would be appreciated.

Here’s my list of essays:

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© 2005 Laura J. Rift. All rights reserved.