Ayn RandThe subject of Ayn Rand is a bothersome one that, so far, I’ve avoided addressing. I admit to having been initially fascinated by Rand and her Objectivism while in college, but it didn’t take too long before I saw her — and it — as being more or less worthless. Over the past couple of years, she’s been held up as something of a prophetess by the Right, including Religious Rightists like Glenn Beck. While she definitely supported the very kind of plutocracy that the Religious Right seems to love, the glaring reality about Rand — which these people are purposely ignoring — is that she was a vehement atheist, and despised Christianity in particular. I bring this up, now, because I saw Time magazine’s Swampland blog entry pointing out this vast contradiction, which in turn was sparked by Charles Colson condemning the reverence for Ayn Rand that he sees in his fellow Rightists (WebCite cached article):

The conservative evangelical leader Chuck Colson has become so concerned about Rand’s booming popularity in the GOP that he recently recorded a video warning that Rand “peddles a starkly anti-Christian philosophy” [cached]. And the Christian group American Values Network, which presents itself as an alternative to organizations like the Family Research Council, has distributed a memo [cached] to congressional offices highlighting Rand’s criticisms of Christianity and some of her more controversial comments, including praise for a man who raped, murdered, and dismembered a 12-year-old girl. “Ayn Rand’s strong atheism, absolute rejection of Christ’s teachings, and goal of replacing religion with her belief system,” reads the memo, “stands in total opposition to all that which America’s faith community holds most dear.”

Ayn Rand is, indeed, a particularly troubling figure, in her personal life and in her career. The assumption that she “admired” William Edward Hickman … the rapist/murderer referred to in the AVN’s warning … is, perhaps, a little strong, but it’s not too far from the truth. Hickman turned out to have been the model on which she based her “ideal man.” Ayn Rand cheated on her own husband, for many years, with another married man (Nathaniel Branden). She also fell out with almost everyone with whom she’d associated professionally (this included Branden, who originally had been one of her most loyal disciples).

But these character flaws, no matter how serious they may be, hold little significance to Religious Rightists (notwithstanding the AVN memo). Let’s be honest, Religious Rightists generally don’t give a flying fuck what sort of vile pricks they follow (if they did, they would hardly be supporting the womanizing, twice-divorced Newt Gingrich or the felonious Chuck Colson, among others). What matters to Religious Rightists is that one spews Religious Rightism, not one’s ability to actually live out the values one claims to espouse.

What these Religious Rightists fail to notice is that Rand was actually an outspoken atheist who condemned faith and religious thinking of any kind. She viewed religion as the basis for collectivism, which she despised passionately. The Institute which bears her name and promotes her philosophy, currently opposes the mixture of religion and politics (see e.g. this article on their Web site, cached). Were she still alive and writing today, I have no doubt she’d be lumped in with the so-called “New Atheists.” Her philosophy is also closely tied to that of Friederich Nietzsche, who himself was no fan of Christianity, and he’s not very popular among Christians, either.

But what Rand did support was plutocracy; control of society by the wealthy and powerful, with the masses subservient to them. Arguably that’s how things are now, and likely how they will always be … but what she promoted was something even more extreme, a world in which there was no charity at all (whether governmental, religious, or otherwise) and in which the “haves” secretly conspire to destroy the “have nots,” merely because — well! — they can. As it turns out, this latter goal is the premise on which her famous novel Atlas Shrugged is based. And we all know the Religious Right loves plutocracy, even an extreme one in which the masses are left to starve and die, in vast numbers.

The popularity of the vehement atheist Ayn Rand among Religious Rightists only serves to show how hypocritical they are … cherry-picking their way through life, ignoring any inconvenient inconsistencies in an effort to retain a worldview they find emotionally satisfying. Their heroine would not even want their admiration, were she still alive, and would likely condemn them for this hypocrisy.

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey.

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3 Responses to “Religious Right Heroine Was An Atheist”
  1. Rand's beliefs, based on her experiences growing up under the gray fog of Communism, made a lot of sense to me when I was first exposed to them by reading Atlas Shrugged and her other output as a teen/young adult. I have to admit that some of her themes did influence my current Anarchist(non-violent)/Atheist stance.

    I've witnessed it firsthand. When someone is given everything they need in life, they begin to expect that treatment as something owed to them. The "welfare state" we have in this country is full of people who feel that way. I've actually felt myself slipping in that direction at times this past 3 years that I've been unemployed and benefiting from Government assistance. It's easy to get complacent and fall into that trap.

    And as Rand was trying to show in Atlas Shrugged, if you bleed the talented to provide for the needy (or lazy), the talented eventually wake up and realize that they're producing like a worker bee to support others. They lose their motivation to produce and the whole system collapses eventually. This is why true communism will never succeed in large population groups. The few always end up providing for the many.

    Our current culture here in the U.S. is a hybrid of capitalism and socialism. We've tried to find the proverbial "happy medium". I don't believe we've succeeded. We're trying, though. There will always be those who are penalized unfairly to provide for those who deserve no assistance. It's not a perfect system by far.

    I could go on, but why bother?

    Anyway… have a happy and profitable Rapture Looting Day! 😉


    • PsiCop says:

      The problem with Rand is that her views are predicated on a straw man. The wealthy in this country are not being "robbed" of anything. And the cold hard truth is that talent and wealth do not always march in lockstep (as Rand seems to have thought). There are talented people who aren't wealthy, and there are wealthy people with no talent. This has always been the case throughout history, and is always true, without regard to the nature of the political-economic system one is in. Rand assumed it's possible to force these to march in lockstep, but it can never be done. As for Atlas Shrugged, it's fiction, even if Rand fans think of it as a lesson on the world as it is.

      I agree the current system isn't working, but looking to Rand's absurd fictional universe for answers is no way to fix it. Yes, I'm aware there are people who milk the system to their own personal advantage. But that's exactly what happens under any system, whether it's socialist or fascist or communist or whatever. If you think capitalism can never be manipulated to personal advantage, guess again.

      I also get that her philosophy was her personal reaction to the Russian Revolution and excesses of communism, and I sympathize. The Bolsheviks were a vile crowd, and communism is an absurd philosophy. But that doesn't grant her views any veracity. Remember, fascism was likewise a reaction to the threat (whether perceived or real) of the growth of communism in Europe. It's possible to create a bad philosophy to counter a worse one, but that doesn't make either of them any good.

      What we need, instead of endless philosophizing based upon idealized universes and straw man positions that have no basis in reality, is a more reasonable, and dare I say rational, utilitarian, "solve one problem at a time" approach. Unfortunately, in this day and age of militant ideologies and militant ideologues forcing them on everyone, this is not possible. The twin ideological "cores" of the country (i.e. the "core" Leftists and "core" Rightists) will not tolerate that, and since all politicians now depend on their respective "cores" in order to get elected, none of them can move too far from them.

  2. Getting three people to agree on anything is ofttimes truly miraculous in this world; nevermind getting entirely opposing political groups, religious groups, and/or totally opposing cultures to agree.

    It's easy to say piss on it. In 50 or so years, I won't be around to worry about this shit. 😉