Posts Tagged “atlas shrugged”

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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