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Slate Star Codex Podcast


Aug 10, 2019

“I don’t practice what I preach because I’m not the kind of person I’m preaching to.”
— J. R. “Bob” Dobbs

I.

I read Atlas Shrugged probably about a decade ago, and felt turned off by its promotion of selfishness as a moral ideal. I thought that was basically just being a jerk. After all, if there’s one thing the world doesn’t need (I thought) it’s more selfishness.

Then I talked to a friend who told me Atlas Shrugged had changed his life. That he’d been raised in a really strict family that had told him that ever enjoying himself was selfish and made him a bad person, that he had to be working at every moment to make his family and other people happy or else let them shame him to pieces. And the revelation that it was sometimes okay to consider your own happiness gave him the strength to stand up to them and turn his life around, while still keeping the basic human instinct of helping others when he wanted to and he felt they deserved it (as, indeed, do Rand characters).

II.

The religious and the irreligious alike enjoy making fun of Reddit’s r/atheism, which combines an extreme strawmanning of religious positions with childish insults and distasteful triumphalism. Recently the moderators themselves have become a bit embarrassed by it and instituted some rules intended to tone things down, leading to some of the most impressive Internet drama I have ever seen. In its midst, some people started talking about what the old strawmanning triumphalist r/atheism meant to them (see for example here).