Ayn Rand’s protege and professor of philosophy, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, gives the historical arguments for “god” and rebuttals to them (this is my transcription (primarily) from his national radio show from the 90s)

DR. LEONARD PEIKOFF: (“Objectivism” course 1976)

“Every argument for God and every attribute ascribed to him rests on a false metaphysical premise. None can survive for a moment on a correct metaphysics.”

For instance, God, is supposed to be infinite. Nothing can be infinite, according to the Law of Identity (Aristotle’s). Everything is what it is, and nothing else. It is limited in its qualities and its quantity: it is this much, and no more. ‘Infinite’ as applied to quantity does not mean ‘very large’: it means ‘larger than any specific quantity.’ That means: no specific quantity, i.e., a quantity without identity. This is prohibited by the “Law of Identity.” …No argument can get you from this world to a supernatural world. No reason will lead you to leap from existence to super-existence.”


The following is my transcription of Peikoff’s radio show discussing the historically most common arguments for the existence of “god” and rebuttals (1999):


PEIKOFF: (first summarizing the argument)

“The argument from Design” goes like this: “Look at the Universe, look how orderly lawful and regular it is. Look how complex it is and yet, look at the magnificent harmony of all the various parts all fitting into a smoothly functioning whole. Look at the purposiveness of all the parts, all meshing together to achieve an over-all design. Now such obvious perfection and design in the universe implies a designer, a powerful cosmic soul or intelligence which runs the universe for some ultimate purpose, which keeps all things orderly and lawful as a part of its purpose. And therefore, there must be such a cosmic intelligence, namely, “God.””

In essence, this argument assumes that existence, left to its own devices, in the absence of a designing SUPERNATURAL mind would become wild and chaotic. In other words, the argument fails to recognize that order, law, regularity means that the law of cause & effect (causality) it’s simply a corollary of the “Law of Identity” which is inherent in existence as such. And therefore, there’s no such thing as a possibility of a disorderly existence metaphysically, and consequently there is no need for a “God” to keep existence in line…

As to the idea that everything has a purpose — which is a different concept from everything obeys law… Purpose does imply some sort of conscious agent which has purpose. It’s a very different concept than law which does not imply a conscious agent… This “Argument from Design”… appears in “The Reader’s Digest” every six months or a year, under the title: “Twelve Reasons Why A Scientist Believes in God.'”



PEIKOFF: (summarizing the argument)

“How do you explain the existence of miracles if there is no God creating them?”

PEIKOFF: (responding to the argument)

“..I reject the argument from “miracles”… The number of people who see what they want to see is enormous. None of the great supposed miracles are replicable. They happen on a one time basis and when scientific observers try to repeat it the mystics say: ‘It was God’s will and it just didn’t happen the second time.’ 

Miracles are impossible in principle — by their very definition. Now, remember that a miracle is not simply an unusual event. If you have twins that is unusual. If you have octuplets that’s extraordinarily unusual, but it’s a perfectly NATURAL event… But if you — as a human being — were to have twin elephants, that would truly be a miracle; because a human female having twin elephants is not simply unusual, it is counter to the laws of nature… counter to the nature of the entities involved. A female human being does not have the capacity or the size to give birth to elephants, and if that were to happen it would be a contradiction of the metaphysical nature of the entities involved. It would be a violation of the laws of nature itself — which is an impossibility.

Therefore, I would say, there is no use haggling over whether the report of a given miracle was or wasn’t credible. Unusual things happen all the time. Even unexplained things happen all the time, but the fact that they’re unexplained does not mean that you can point to a supernatural source and logically say: ‘Ah-Hah, there must be a supernatural being behind this unexplained thing.’

The steady growth of human knowledge is growth toward a continuous understanding, but even if we went a long time without understanding something we wouldn’t add any understanding by saying: ‘Something we don’t know about caused it.’

As to the “Faith healing” part of it, remember placebos, these are ordinary inert sugar pills that have the most fantastic, “wonder cures” that they produce. How do they do it? People believe in them. And it’s an established fact that your mind is interconnected with your body and if you have a conviction that something is going to cure you — (in many cases though not in all) — it will have a dramatic physical effect. That simply shows that we humans are one psychosomatic total. It shows nothing about a supernatural being intervening. “Faith-healing” is like placebos, it’s not a “miracle,” it’s a psychological phenomenon…”


~THE “Sixth Sense” ARGUMENT~

PEIKOFF: (summarizing the argument)

“…The argument from the “Sixth Sense” is that some people claim to have direct experience of “God” and how can you — as a person who does not have that experience or sixth sense — ever deny it? Just as a blind person can’t rationally say to you as a sighted person: “There are no colors because I don’t see them.” Similarly, how can you as a person without this supposed sixth sense say to the man with the supposed sixth sense: “There is no God because I can’t experience “god” directly?”

PEIKOFF: (responding to the argument)

The person claiming to have a “Sixth Sense” would have to prove such issues as: Where is this “Sixth Sense” located? What is its shape or form? How does it operate? What are its means of perception? To say there is a “Sixth Sense” and not be able to answer these questions… makes it an ARBITRARY claim that should be discarded without further consideration.

We, as sighted people, can tell a blind man exactly what physical organ and what physical mechanism we utilize in our vision but the “Sixth Sense” advocate can’t say a word about his supposed special organ… Sighted humans can prove to a blind man in terms that he can verify with his four senses, that we have a fifth sense, because we can say to him: “Take three steps and you’re going to hit a certain surface and it’s going to feel rough against your forehead, and then there is going to be a turn.” And the sighted can do this time and again. What the sighted predict, the blind can verify with his own four senses. And that’s why there is no organization of blind people who say that sighted people are maniacs claiming ridiculous visions. Over and over we show that the sighted can cope with reality better, and the blind can verify it in terms of his/her other senses.

This is completely not the case with the claims about the mystical “Sixth Sense.” On the contrary, not only don’t we confirm what the “Sixth Sense” advocates tell us, it directly contradicts what our five senses give us because this supposed sixth sense gives us something that is supposed to be beyond our mind’s ability, inconceivable to us, and something that tells us the opposite of everything we know from the five senses… “Sixth Sense” claims are completely mystical and arbitrary…”



PEIKOFF: (summarizing the argument)

Often the Bible or the Koran etc., make predictions which some religionists claim we now know to have come true. This could only be so if these texts were written or inspired by an omniscient being, i.e., “God”… The religious person will then ask how can these predictions by religious prophets come true — Nostradamus is the famous case — if they are not divinely inspired, because their knowledge extends beyond anything that could be human?

PEIKOFF: (responding to the argument)

…The predictions referred to are so vague that they can be interpreted as predicting anything… The predictions that hold out across time are the ones that give you nothing specific. They say: “A cataclysm will befall you in the fullness of time in the Northern climate.” This could be anything in the world, from…having a cold in the third millennia in Canada, on. There is no evidence at all of such prophetic predictions that are specific and consistent.

And of course, there’s a thousand people who say they can predict. They have a dream, and the dream tells them: “Number 7 is going to come in at Belmont race track tomorrow in the third race.” And they rush and put their money down on that horse. Then one of the thousand people who predicted such a thing wins, and 999 don’t win and they remain silent. The thousandth one goes around, he’s in the newspapers where he claims “He has the power of pre-cognition, he is the voice of deity because he had this dream.” If you keep the full picture, or context, the “Argument from Prediction” simply does not hold up to logical scrutiny…”



PEIKOFF: (summarizing the argument)

Some argue that the belief in “god” tends to lend some comfort to those who have suffered a horrible loss because it gives you the idea there is an after-life where you can reunite with your loved ones. This is commonly said. It’s the idea of a supernatural life as consolation for misery here on earth. It’s a fantasy that you’ll one day meet the people that you love in “Heaven.”

I remember Ayn Rand saying once that this is a horrible, sadistic argument because it amounts to saying: “There is a person that you love intensely that died, but that person is there in “Heaven” waiting for you, and all you have to do is kill yourself and die and you can join them.” It’s like an invitation to suicide. She went on to say that people don’t commit suicide because they don’t really believe it. She said that if she loved someone and they died, and *if* she believed in a supernatural dimension where they were waiting for her, she would go and join them by killing herself. Which is, basically, what the people in “Heaven’s Gate” did. They took it seriously and they committed suicide.



PEIKOFF: (summarizing one version)

“There is no way to be MORAL if you don’t look to God. Morality exists only because of God — that’s what morality means — being closer to God. Without God there would be no morality.”


“God is required to give life meaning.”


“If there’s no God to determine what is right and wrong, why would right and wrong even matter?”


“Why should or how can we have morality if there is no God?”

PEIKOFF: (responding to these arguments)

This argument, in all its variants, is evidence of the fact that religion, throughout history, has had a monopoly on morality. A lot of people have assumed the choice is to be moral through believing in “God;” or reject “God” and become…immoral. Of course, I reject that falso choice (false alternative) entirely! I believe that morality is a necessity of living a happy life on earth.

Strong, absolute moral principles are crucial to guide us toward the achievement of the highest moral purpose of the pursuit of happiness, but… those principles have to be arrived at logically, rationally, scientifically not by *FAITH*. I believe that we have to arrive at the principles of morality, and that we can do so, exactly as we arrive at the principles of physics or math. That is, by observation, induction, reasoning; and that we can prove what the proper standard of morality is, namely each individual’s life *AND HIS HAPPINESS* here on earth; and we can prove the virtues he should live by in order to achieve and fulfill his life including: rationality, independence, productiveness, justice, pride, honesty, benevolence, integrity, etc… Right and wrong — in other words morality — do not come from supernatural commandments any more than math or physics comes from supernatural commandments.

This argument assumes that someone has to decree what’s right and wrong… However, actions are right or wrong because of how those actions effect man according to man’s nature and his chosen ultimate end or purpose… The fact of the existence of and need for ethics, guidelines, moral maps for man does not show that there must be a supernatural being… Even at a simple level, we need a map to drive across the country because any randum turns would not get us to our chosen destination and this need for guidance in no way implies the need for a supernatural creator.



PEIKOFF: (responding to the argument)

…When you say “meaningful” or “meaningless” the question is begged “Meaningful to whom?”

Something can be entirely meaningless to one person and highly meaningful to another. Those who say they need “god” for meaning are essentially saying their life is meaningless… it’s purposeless, that they have no purpose and thus they want the fantasy of some other “transcendent” consciousness to give them a meaning, and… a life purpose. I think that shows a defect in anyone who holds this view, it’s a deficiency to be in that position. I think it’s part of a man’s responsibility, as he grows up, to find a particular passion or purpose that will give him an outlet for his mind, for his creativity, give him a means of achieving happiness, and to create his own meaning, so that he can say: “I started as a tiny little lump of tissue but I have made myself into an end-in-myself, I know why I’m living, I know what it’s for. I am the author of my own purpose. I love myself and I am happy!” 

I think it’s… sad and pathetic when people don’t find meaning or purpose in this life…



PEIKOFF: (summarizing Immaneul Kant’s main argument for “god”)

“…We have to believe there is a God because when justice is compromised in this world we would go crazy if we did not believe that in the next world justice would prevail. Justice can’t be done in this life, but in a moral world justice must be done, so it must be done in Heaven… We do not know if monsters (like Hitler or Stalin, Mao) received justice, or if heroes receive justice in this life. So God must exist so he can give us all our just deserts after death.”

PEIKOFF: (responding to this argument)

I say justice is done in this life! If a man commits evil — no matter to what extent he gets away with it in public terms — he pays the price in his soul or ego in the *QUALITY* of his life on earth. His hell or his punishment is not in some “next life” in “heaven” but in the misery that he necessarily experiences in this life. The fact is that he subverts his faculties, he subverts his ability to enjoy life, he undercuts his self-esteem, if he’s a killer like Hitler or Stalin. He has to spend his life running from and hiding from  pursuers. I wouldn’t take the state of ego or moral character of those people for a trillion dollars including a deserted island on which I could luxuriate because it would be such misery to have the moral character of an evil man. So, don’t ever fear that a perpetrator of evil is getting away with it. In essence and in the long-run, justice is always done. We don’t need another dimension in which men receive their just deserts. 



PEIKOFF: (summarizing Blaise Pascal’s Wager)

“If I believe in god and there is a god, when I die I’ll go to heaven. Or if it’s all a big hoax, at least I’m not worse off by believing in god all my life. On the other hand, if I don’t believe in god and it turns out there really is a god, when I die I’ll go to hell for not believing in him. So, on purely pragmatic grounds we should believe in god no matter what. If he’s there he’ll reward you, and if he’s not there, what have you got to lose — you’re just dead and that’s it. So, bet on god because you can’t lose.”

PEIKOFF: (responding to Pascal’s Wager)

“…If you believe in “God” and there isn’t one — which is my view — you have lost something really profound, that is, you’ve lost your happiness earth. You have given up the ability of your mind to clearly understand the world, by that I mean, your ability to logically understand the objective requirements to achieve your chosen ultimate end. In other words, you have let faith in a pack of contradictions take over and you have thus given up your self-esteem because you have placed the ideal in a fictional other dimension and the result is that you always have to feel you are flawed, low, weak, imperfect. How much more can you lose than the confidence in your mind and the esteem of your person? That’s what you give up when you place the ideal in an unknowable supernatural. So, if you’re willing to take Pascal’s Wager…you lose, you lose big time.”



PEIKOFF: (summarizing the argument)

“Einstein believed in God so there must be one.”

PEIKOFF: Using this as your own basis for ethics is a formal logical fallacy called “Appeal to Authority.” There can be times when appealing to a trustworthy authority is proper — say our trusted car mechanic — but it’s improper in the case of choosing your fundamental philosophical worldview. 



PEIKOFF: (Discussing Ayn Rand’s views on atheism)

“Let me tell you what Ayn Rand’s reason was for not believing in “God.” She, of course, considered the various arguments…and didn’t see any validity. She rejected the belief in “god” and she said: “If you believe in a supernatural being that’s supposed to be perfect, where does that leave man? Man then…is imperfect and puts his ideal beyond his reach.” She thought the concept of “god” was a slap in the face at any human being because instead of saying to him: “You’re innocent, you have the whole world before you, you can achieve the ideal, you can achieve perfection, you can be great and noble;” religion and mysticism teaches: “As a human being you have to fall to your knees, grovel, obey and place your ideal in a dimension beyond your grasp.” So it amounts to saying: “You are nothing, you are low, you are weak.” And this is formalized in Christianity in the idea — (in Catholicism especially) — of original sin… Ayn Rand thought that man was great and that each man, as an individual had that potential to be great. But to take…this wonderful potential, this great capacity to think and know and achieve and create; and tell man: “Place your ideal above yourself, in something (anything) “Higher than yourself,” in another world and accept your inherent imperfection and inadequacy;” Rand thought this was a monstrous “sin”…

She said the concept of “god” is not only an attack on the stature of man, it is an attack on his mind as such, because, she said, if you ask people what they mean by “god” they will tell you — in one form or another — this is something beyond man’s ability to understand, to grasp. Every attribute that’s ever given to “god” is something which ends up in a contradiction and therefore ungraspable, illogical.

A few examples of such contradictions:


“God” is supposed to be infinite. Well, nothing can be infinite — infinite means bigger than any quantity — but any quantity means a thing has to be that quantity and no more. The actual infinite — as Aristotle (the “Father of Logic”) showed long ago — is impossible! It designates nothing!


“God” is supposed to be omnipotent, all-powerful, that means he can make anything do anything, including make things act contrary to their nature — that’s the whole idea of “Him” being able to violate natural law. But natural law is inherent…in the things that act, it is in their very nature, it is impossible for them to act contrary to their nature.


“God” is supposed to be all good, incapable of evil. But then there’s the question of “THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.” And we’re not talking here just about human evil (which of course, you couldn’t blame anyone else for) but the so-called “Natural Evil.” What does “God” do about Earthquakes and Tidal-waves and Volcanoes and Plagues and so on, that afflict the innocent? Now, if you recognize the absolutism of the natural world…there’s no problem, you don’t expect to be protected from nature. But if there’s a supernatural, omnipotent being who wants to protect the innocent, why does he let these things go on? Religious mystics have no logical answer and that’s why it’s called “The Problem of Evil.”


“God” is a creator” and when we ask “how does he create” we are told by the faithful: “We can’t know.”


When we ask the mystic, “How did “god” create the universe?” The Religionist claims “God created it out of nothing (IN LATIN) Ex Nihilo). But how can nothing become something? The mystic answers: “We can’t know.”


Well, why did “god” do it? In other words, why did he do all these things — from supposedly creating the universe to killing innocent children in natural disasters, etc.? The faith based answer: “He has a plan but we can’t understand it.”


Three does not equal one, yet we are supposed to believe — according to the Christian holy trinity — that “god” is three different beings; yet at the same time and in the same respect, he’s just one being.


“God” is supposed to exist, but he’s nowhere to be found in this world, in reality. Every time you pursue a question of what is “God,” how does he operate, the answer, sooner or later…is that it is beyond our capacity to grasp. Which is an assault on our mind’s ability to grasp the supposed most important thing in reality which is what “God” — according to the mystics — is supposed to be.

The very conception of “god” is an assault on reason and it means whatever your argument for believing in “god” you can’t honestly say that you have reason on your side. You can only say: “I have faith.” But then don’t try to dress your faith up in the concepts of reality-oriented reason and logic. Don’t say you have proof, don’t say you have argumentation — your faith is in the same category as everybody’s faith (in anything), and that is not science; that is not knowledge; it’s just an irrational, illogical subjective belief.