Another reading on Ayn Rand

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2011

By Mark Sells
For the Salisbury Post
It seems a lot of people are talking these days about Ayn Rand and her 1,000-plus paged book ěAtlas Shrugged.î Someone went and made a movie. This always gets people excited. We have to take a book seriously once itís made into movie.
What is surprising about all of this, however, is just how many Christians seem to be excited about ěAtlas Shruggedî the movie. It turns out, theyíve heard about it on Fox News. Theyíve seen picket signs at Tea Party rallies bearing the cryptic words ěWho is John Galt?î (Galt is the messianic figure lurking around in Randís overblown novel.) Theyíve even heard such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck speak of Rand as if she were some kind of prophet. She was some kind of prophet, by the way. She was the false kind, just as Galt is a false messiah. The harm her ěpropheticî ideas have caused is prominently featured in one of the chapters of a 2004 book from Ignatius Press called ěArchitects of the Culture of Death.î (Now that would make an interesting movie.)
To help you understand my strong feelings on this subject, I should tell you that Ayn Rand and I go way back. Iíve read and own all of her novels and a lot of her nonfiction. (She intended for the novels to be the primary means of conveying her philosophy.) I was an atheist from the age of 17 to the age of 23, and for a lot of that time, I was somewhat of a disciple of Ayn Rand. As you may have guessed, I have a different view of her and her work now. Ayn Rand publicly boasted that she was the greatest philosopher since Aristotle. Needless to say, she wasnít. She pretended that her philosophy, objectivism, sprang as an original system without precedent entirely from her own mind. It didnít. It was, instead, a wholesale rehashing of, among others, Friedrich Nietzsche, the man who declared that God was dead and posited a kind of Superman in His place.
In claiming to have invented the one perfect and true philosophy in the whole history of man (objectivism) in the middle of the 20th century, Rand is a lot like L. Ron Hubbard, who claimed to have invented the one perfect and true religion in the whole history of man (Scientology), conveniently enough also in the middle of the 20th century. Both writers were essentially science fiction novelists who deliberately cultivated a religious following.
Ayn Rand viewed ěAtlas Shruggedî as her magnum opus, as the embodiment of objectivism. It was. It is also a perfect antithesis of Christianity. The Christian virtues of humility and mercy are vices to Ayn Rand. The paradox that the first shall be last and the last first is an abomination to her. Like Friedrich Nietzsche and like the satanist Anton LaVey, she proposed an inversion of all true values into vices and all vices into virtues. Her chief virtue, by her own admission, is the vice pride, which she saw as a noble impulse that had been maligned by Christianity. Pride was also LaVeyís chief virtue in his ěSatanic Bible.î (Yes, such a book exists, and though LaVey was trying full-tilt to be the antagonist of everything good and holy, he was a carnival sideshow at this compared to the disturbingly influential Rand.)
Objectivism, then, is not merely atheistic with certain aspects which may be reconciled with Christianity. It is essentially satanic. If you stood the Sermon on the Mount on its head, you would get Ayn Randís objectivism. In her Utopian eschatology, it is not the meek who inherit the earth, but the arrogant. Christ said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. For Rand, conversely, the rich were the guarantors of heroic virtue. Her major ambition in life was to join their ranks and so she finally did by selling her ridiculous books and their poisonous ideas. Christ said that in as much as we had done or failed to do to ěthe least of theseî we had done or failed to do to Him. Rand had only contempt and hatred for ěthe least of theseî and saw her obligation to her fellow creatures as absolutely zero.
In the end, Ayn Rand would not have been surprised at the number of Christians interested in ěAtlas Shrugged.î She always believed that Christianity was inhuman, self-contradictory, and ultimately unlivable. Since she believed that Christianity could not be followed with any consistency in the real world for very long, the interest her movie has aroused among believers would have been very gratifying to her. Given an opportunity like this, she would have opened her arms wide to them and welcomed them in to her bent little world. But she would have had a long, hard laugh if anyone had proposed a way of reconciling her philosophy with theirs. While the unfortunate common wisdom is that Christianity is just one religion among many, Ayn Rand knew better. Perhaps instinctively she recognized that Christianity was special. To her, it was the most wicked religion that had ever developed on the planet.
St. Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. Ayn Rand, however, openly and unapologetically idolized wealth. For this, she is celebrated in some sad circles and her banal novel is made into a film, three films actually, with part one in limited release now. Avoid it. At its heart and coursing through all its members is one damnable lie after another. Yes, certain … personalities have recommended this movie to you. I see their recommendation as a major indicator of how far astray they themselves have gone. Or, more likely, it is a clue as to where they have always made their camp.