Answering Ayn Rand

Author Ayn Rand

Author Ayn Rand passed away in 1982 in her New York City apartment, but this Russian immigrant's political influence has only grown in the years since. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 2, 1905, she experienced the Russian Revolution first-hand. The experience marked her for life, for both good and ill. She became a persuasive critic of the evils of Communism. Unfortunately she went well beyond that, becoming also a misanthrope and a God-hater. Oddly enough, this militant atheist is a founding figure of modern right-wing political thought. Though she made it her life's project to combat religion: "In early 1934 she began a philosophical journal. . .by the end of her first entry she had decided, 'I want to be known as the greatest champion of reason and the greatest enemy of religion.'" (Ayn Rand, quoted in Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 29), nevertheless many of the 'Religious Right' today parrot her ideas about right and wrong. President Donald Trump is a fan: "President Trump named Rand his favorite writer and “The Fountainhead” his favorite novel." (James B. Stewart, July 13, 2017, 'As a Guru, Ayn Rand May Have Limits,' NYT).

What is Wrong with Communism
What is to be Done?
Who Created God?
Love Thy Neighbor
Get Out of My Lifeboat
On Strike
Know Thine Enemy


Ayn Rand based her ethics strictly upon self-interest.  She was intentionally hostile to Christianity, alleging that Christian ethics made life "flat, gray, empty, lacking all beauty, all fire, all enthusiasm, all meaning, all creative urge." (quoted in Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 42). She joined Nietzsche in repudiating Christian ethics as empty and outworn. Her ground-breaking novel, 'The Fountainhead,' sought to establish egoism instead as the basis for a new morality. She wrote in her notes, "The first purpose of the book is a defense of egoism in its real meaning, egoism as a new faith." (quoted in Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 41). Nietzsche had little use for Christian sentimentality; trying to make the point that Cesare Borgia's crew would have laughed at the sentimental, kind-hearted Germans of his day, he says: "Strong ages, noble cultures, consider pity, 'neighbor-love,' and the lack of self and self-assurance something contemptible." (Twilight of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, edited by Walter Kaufmann, p. 540). But Cesare Borgia was a monster:

She sought to vindicate her heroic egoist from the suspicion that he would be a monster of cruelty, trampling others to get what he wants; as popularly understood, the egoist "puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself...Fine!" (quoted in Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 42). And after all, a man who tortures others shows that he at least cares what those others are feeling; he is a man who lives for others. Her superior men are not like the average person; they do not even care enough about the feelings of others to torture. They create their own values: "an egoist is a man who lives for himself." (quoted in Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 42).

Ms. Rand assigned a positive value to selfishness. Christians who unthinkingly follow this ideology sometimes misunderstand; it s not 'liberal' critics of Ms. Rand's ethics who accuse this ideology of valuing selfishness, rather the explicitly stated goal of 'Objectivist' ethics is to celebrate selfishness. 'Liberals' of course do not like this, but neither should Christians. It might be thought that Ms. Rand is merely being provocative in labelling the highest virtue of her ethics 'selfishness,' when perhaps she only means what other ethical philosophers mean by 'enlightened self-interest.' But the reader who delves into her fiction will find that she really does mean 'selfishness' in the colloquial sense; her heroes and heroines are indifferent to the well-being of others. To her mind, most people are just "parasites" anyway, it is the few high-achievers who do anything worthwhile in this world:

The Virtue of Selfishness
"The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good and evil—is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.

"Since reason is man's basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil.

"Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work.

"If some men do not choose to think, but survive by imitating and repeating, like trained animals, the routine of sounds and motions they learned from others, never making an effort to understand their own work, it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by those who did choose to think and to discover the motions they are repeating. The survival of such mental parasites depends on blind chance; their unfocused minds are unable to know whom to imitate, whose motions it is safe to follow. They are the men who march into the abyss, trailing after any destroyer who promises them to assume the responsibility they evade: the responsibility of being conscious." (Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 25).

Though one might expect a philosophy which relegates most people to the status of "mental parasites" to be unpopular, Ms. Rand is a prophet not without honor in her own (adopted) country. Her thinking has been immensely influential in forming the politics of the 'Religious Right.' She taught Americans to expect and tolerate a pay differential between high achievers and the rank and file which has yielded an uneven distribution of wealth now exceeding even that of the Gilded Age. Since Ms. Rand's ideas have been in vogue, the bottom 90% of the American people have lost ground:

"From 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent of Americans — effectively, all but the rich — increased from 64 percent to 65 percent, according to an analysis of tax data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Because the nation's economy was growing handsomely, that means that the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent was growing, too — from $17,719 in 1950 to $30,941 in 1980 — a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

"Since 1980, it's been a very different story. The economy has continued to grow handsomely, but for the bottom 90 percent of Americans, it's been a time of stagnation and loss. Since 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent has declined from 65 percent to 52 percent. In actual dollars, the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent flat-lined — going from the $30,941 of 1980 to $31,244 in 2008.

"In short, the economic life and prospects for Americans since the Reagan Revolution have grown dim, while the lives of the rich — the super-rich in particular — have never been brighter. The share of income accruing to America's wealthiest 1 percent rose from 9 percent in 1974 to a tidy 23.5 percent in 2007." (Harold Meyerson, 'When Tea Party wants to go back, where is it to?,' The Washington Post, October 27, 2010).

Just as there is, it is said, a town in Minnesota in which all of the children are above average, so one suspects all of Ms. Rand's readers belong to her happy few who are actual human beings, not to the many who are worthy only to be trod underfoot. The blessedness of selfishness was not entirely a new idea: "And whoever proclaims the ego wholesome and holy, and selfishness blessed, verily, he will also tell what he knows, foretelling: 'Verily, it is at hand, it is near, the great noon!'" (Thus Spake Zarathustra, The Portable Nietzsche, edited by Walter Kaufmann, p. 303).

Thrice Holy Radio!

What is Wrong with Communism

Ayn Rand's father, Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum, owned a pharmacy, confiscated by the Reds. The family fled to the Crimea, where the counter-revolutionary 'Whites' were making their last stand. White politics ranged along a spectrum from nostalgia for the Tsar's autocracy to commitment to the elective democracy derailed by the Bolshevik coup. Ms. Rand, born Alisa Rosenbaum, hated the Bolsheviks who had dismantled her family's comfortable life, but likely felt little warmth or sympathy from the sometimes anti-semitic Whites, who blamed the Jews for Bolshevism. The White allegation that Bolshevism was a Jewish plot to destroy Russia rested upon the circumstance that Jews were represented in the Bolshevik leadership in numbers greater than their proportion of the Russian population as a whole: "Not many Jews were Bolsheviks, but many of the leading Bolsheviks were Jews." ('A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes, p. 676). Ayn Rand's fictional alter-ego, Kira, is a whole-hearted White:

"'Would you mind if you're compromised by being seen with a very red Communist?'
"'Not at all—if your reputation won't be tarnished by being seen with a very white lady.'" (Ayn Rand, We the Living, p. 79).

The fictional character 'Kira' is an ethnic Russian; but like other Ayn Rand heroes and heroines, she functions as a mouth-piece: "The specific events of Kira's life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values were and are." (Ayn Rand, forward to the Signet reprint of 'We the Living.'). Given White anti-semitism, Alisa Rosenbaum herself cannot have been so uncritically supportive. But what bourgeois Jews like the Rosenbaums were feeling from the Bolsheviks wasn't Jewish brotherliness.

Lenin had encouraged the perpetrators of the 'Red Terror,' the pay-back violence welling up from below, to 'loot the looters.' Unable to meet any of the workers' material needs, they instead fed them on the bitter ashes of vengeance: if we cannot give them cake, then let them eat revenge. The Communist regime did all in its power to humiliate the former bourgeoisie, and to what rational purpose?: "Thus Red Army soldiers, bureaucrats and vital workers were rewarded with the first-class ration (which was meagre but adequate); other workers received the second-class ration (which was rather less than adequate); while the burzhoois, at the bottom of the pile, had to make do with the third-class ration (which, in Zinoviev's memorable phrase, was 'just enough bread so as not to forget the smell of it')." ('A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes, p. 727). The Rosenbaums cannot have doubted the Bolsheviks hated them, people who are just as happy to see you starve to death do not love you; but their White protectors and would-be saviors suspected them of Bolshevism! Usually people who have lived through a bitter conflict demonize one side and idealize the other. Universal misanthropy is not the common response, because it is too balanced for these survivors, with their intense hatreds and loyalties. But who were the friendless Rosenbaums to idealize? This experience of abandonment and alienation, of being without a friend or champion in her own native land, likely fostered Ayn Rand's misanthropy.

Ayn Rand's ultimate diagnosis of the ills of Communism is a dual diagnosis: what is wrong with the Communist system?: What it shares with Christianity. This diagnosis takes our breath away. Christians do not see any similarity between our beliefs and Marxism-Leninism, a system promoting class hatred and strife. But Ms. Rand perceived this common thread: both systems encourage altruism, putting the interests and needs of others above one's own. Christians must confess, 'guilty as charged:' "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."  (Matthew 20:28). Preachers decode the meaning of 'JOY' as 'Jesus-others-you;' i.e., ". . .Christianity means putting others first and self last." (William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, p. 191). Again, "God wants us to be like that — to humble ourselves before others, to love when it hurts, to give when we get nothing back, to be self-sacrificial." (Eric Metaxas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God, the Jesus Edition, Kindle location 2504). As a popular pamphlet expresses it,

"Recently I was in a crowded shopping area when I saw a woman plowing her way through the crowd. What intrigued me was the message on her T-shirt, which read in bold capital letters, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME. . .For followers of Christ, however, that statement simply is not true. It is not all about us—it's all about Jesus Christ and others." (Bill Crowder, Our Daily Bread, August 7).

Self-sacrifice is the cardinal sin of Ayn Rand's ethics. And Marxism? Though Karl Marx initially directed his appeal to enlightened self-interest, promising a workers' paradise, the spectacular failure of this system to deliver even the basic necessities of life upon its institution by the Bolsheviks led to a surprising revision: the workers were cheerfully to toil and slave, not for the promised but undelivered paradise, but out of selflessness. Bolshevism developed a strange mimicry of Russian Orthodox Christianity, self-sacrificing revolutionary heroes substituting for Orthodoxy's calendars of saints and martyrs.

In truth Marxism had always been collectivist, assigning little value to individual human life. The materialism upon which it is founded will allow value to the aggregate, but not to the individual:

  • "We must put an end once and for all to the papist-Quaker babble about the sanctity of human life."
  • (Leon Trotsky, quoted p. 641, 'A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes)

The early, heroic years of the Russian Revolution saw a creative burst of planning for a future world resembling more a bee-hive than previously known human society. These projects sought to erase all human individuality:

"Alexei Gastev (1882-1941), the Bolshevik engineer and poet, took these Taylorist principles to their extreme. As the head of the Central Institute of Labor, established in 1920, he carried out experiments to train the workers so that they would end up acting like machines. Hundreds of identically dressed trainees would be marched in columns to their benches, and orders would be given out by buzzes from machines. . .Gastev envisaged a brave new world where 'people' would be replaced by 'proletarian units' so devoid of personality that there would not even be a need to give them names. . .These automatons would be like machines, 'incapable of individual thought,' and would simply obey their controllers. A 'mechanized collectivism' would 'take the place of the individual personality in the psychology of the proletariat.'" ('A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes, p. 744.)

Ms. Rand would hardly be alone in recoiling from these inhuman dystopias. But her proposed ideal society, enshrining selfish egotism as the highest virtue, is no improvement over the Communist bee-hive:

  • "'I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods.'
  • "'I loathe your ideals.'
  • "'Why?'
  • "'For one reason, mainly, chiefly and eternally, no matter how much your Party promises to accomplish, no matter what paradise it plans to bring mankind. Whatever your other claims may be, there's one you can't avoid, one that will turn your paradise into the most unspeakable hell: your claim that man must live for the state.'
  • "'What better purpose can he live for?'
  • "'Don't you know,' her voice trembled suddenly in a passionate pleas she could not hide, 'don't you know that there are things, in the best of us, which no outside hand should dare to touch? Things sacred because, and only because, one can say: "This is mine"? Don't you know that we live only for ourselves, the best of us do, those who are worthy of it? Don't you know that there is something in us which must not be touched by any state, by any collective, by any number of millions?'
  • "He answered: 'No.'
  • "'Comrade Taganov,' she whispered, 'how much you have to learn!'
  • "He looked down at her with his quiet shadow of a smile and patted her hand like a child's. 'Don't you know,' he asked, 'that we can't sacrifice millions for the sake of the few?'
  • "'Can you sacrifice the few? When those few are the best? Deny the best its right to the top — and you have no best left. What are your masses but millions of dull, shrivelled, stagnant souls that have no thoughts of their own, no dreams of their own, no will of their own, who eat and sleep and chew helplessly the words others put into their brains? And for those you would sacrifice the few who know life, who are life? I loathe your ideals because I know no worse injustice than the giving of the  undeserved. Because men are not equal in ability and one can't treat them as if they were. And because I loathe most of them.'"
  • (Ayn Rand, 'We The Living,' p. 80, Signet edition.)

The Christian religion revolves around the giving what is undeserved, namely salvation. By her own admission (the character speaking is a cut-out for Ms. Rand herself), she loathed "most" people. Christians are not to loathe but to love their neighbor "as thyself." Ms. Rand's misanthropy is no improvement over what she is condemning. She was an eye-witness to the Bolshevik Revolution; she was twelve when it happened, and endured the hard years that came after: the collapse of the economy, the Civil War, and the ever-expanding intrusiveness of the authorities, before escaping to America. She is telling of what she has seen when she traces, in 'We the Living,' the strange saga of a country where people camp out at the local train station on the off chance that a train might happen by, some time, and where finding food is the daily mission of everyone's life. This book would likely be more widely read were its heroine's character more appealing. Its literary quality is higher than her more widely-read works, because it is a book about real people, or people who might be real, in a real world which she herself had experienced, not rape fantasies about imaginary people from never-never land.

Man as he was did not fit into the Communist system, so he must be cropped to fit in his Procrustean bed: "To produce a new, 'improved version' of man — that is the future task of Communism." (Leon Trotsky, quoted p. 734, 'A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes). The disease is appalling enough, though Ms. Rand's proposed remedy shocks the reader as well. Her reaction against Bolshevism was so intense that she threw out the baby with the bath-water; she discarded not only Communism, but democracy also, believing in a "democracy of superiors only," (quoted in Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 44). Out with the bath-water went even humanity itself, except for those few exceptional, creative souls in whom she perceived value. There can be no political disease so dire the only remedy is misanthropy! The disease is the "New Soviet Man":

"The New Soviet Man, as depicted in the futuristic novels and utopian tracts which boomed around the time of the revolution, was a Prometheus of the machine age. He was a rational, disciplined and collective being who lived only for the interests of the greater good, like a cell in a living organism. He thought not in terms of the individual 'I' but in terms of the collective 'we.' In his two science fiction novels, Red Star (1908) and Engineer Menni (1913), the Bolshevik philosopher Alexander Bogdanov described a utopian society located on the planet of Mars sometime in the twenty-third century. Every vestige of individuality had been eliminated in this 'Marxian-Martian society': all work was automated and run by computers; everyone wore the same unisex clothing and lived in the same identical housing; children were brought up in special colonies; there were no separate nations and everyone spoke a sort of Esperanto. At one point in Engineer Menni the principal hero, a Martian physician, compares the mission of the bourgeoisie on earth, which had been 'to create a human individual,' with the task of the proletariat on Mars to 'gather these atoms' of society and 'fuse them into a single, intelligent human organism.'" ('A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes, p. 734).

Ms. Rand perceived a kinship between Communism and Christianity unseen by others, alleging that Christianity "is the best kindergarten of communism possible." (Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 43). Both systems do encourage what sociologists call 'altruism,' but for different reasons. One cannot deny there is a historical thread trailing between heterodox groups like the Munster Communards and modern Communism, but not because these groups had seized hold of Biblical truth. Chesterton said, "The modern world if full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone." (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Kindle location 369). The BIble truth that the early church had all things common has drifted away from the Bible truth that God commanded, 'Thou shalt not steal.' Peter stresses to Ananias and Sapphira that they were free to contribute their property to the common fund or keep it under their own control. There are elements of Christianity the Marxists admired, but when they wrested these from the matrix in which they were embedded, in process of prying them loose, they distorted and broke them.

Christians, who believe all men are made in the image of God, do not devalue human individuality. Neither do they idealize mobs: "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil..." (Exodus 23:2). Marxist materialism assigns value to human beings en masse which it withholds from them individually. Ms. Rand described the common thread as, "motivation by the value of others versus your own independence." (Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 43). Certainly in heaven Jesus enjoyed "independence"; but He nevertheless "...made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. . ." (Philippians 2:7). In the inverted scheme of 'Objectivist' ethics, this counts as immoral. Humility is a vice to Ms. Rand, not a virtue:

"Discard the protective rags of that vice which you called a virtue: humility — learn to value yourself, which means: to fight for your happiness — and when you learn that pride is the sum of all virtues, you will learn to live like a man." (John Galt's speech, Ayn Rand, p. 970, 'Atlas Shrugged').

Yet by humility we emulate even God!

In Ayn Rand's critique of Christianity, Christians come across an unfamiliar phrase: 'the greatest good for the greater number.' What is that? It's not found in the Bible. Several nineteenth century British philosophers who were themselves atheists devised a moral system in which that slogan was advanced as the criterion of right and wrong. These philosophers, though not themselves Christians, always claimed that their new discovery was compatible with Christian ethics. Ayn Rand conflates the two into one super-system; but can its two components, Christianity and utilitarianism, remain yoked together without drawing apart? At crucial points, such as the question 'does the end justify the means,' the two systems head off in opposite directions. Lately Sam Harris, dreaming again of an atheist utopia in spite of the spectacular failure of all prior atheist utopias, has revived this system:

To see that what happened to Russia never happens again, the testimony of eye-witnesses must be kept alive. Ms. Rand's personal testimony as a survivor of Communism was invaluable. Her diagnosis of the problem was not. Russia was not destroyed by an outbreak of Christian altruism.

  • "'Nonsense,' said Kira. 'It is an old and ugly fact that the masses exist and make their existence felt. This is a time when they make it felt with particular ugliness. That's all.'"
  • (Ayn Rand, We The Living, p. 49, Signet edition.)

What is to Be Done?

Ms. Rand's ethical philosophy assigns immense value to some individuals, little or no value to others: "What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?" ('We The Living,' (first edition), Ayn Rand, quoted by Ronald E. Merrill, 'The Ideas of Ayn Rand,' p. 38). Who is worthwhile and who is worthless? Apparently the capitalist free market assigns these values well enough. Ms. Rand, and her devotees, have little sympathy for those who are not rich, healthy and successful:

  • "Poverty is not a mortgage on the labor of others—misfortune is not a mortgage on achievement—failure is not a mortgage on success—suffering is not a claim check, and its relief is not the goal of existence—man is not a sacrificial animal on anyone's altar nor for anyone's cause—life is not one huge hospital."
  • (Ayn Rand, The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought, by Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, Peter Schwartz, New American Library, 1989, p. 175.)

Her scale of values is, roughly, the inverse of the Sermon on the Mount. The attentive reader of Moses' law will realize that poverty is, in God's eyes, a sort of a mortgage on the fruits of others' labors; see for instance His ordinance on gleaning:

"And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 23:22).

You can agree with God on this or you can agree with Ayn Rand. The 'religious right' has taken the fork in the road that goes her way, toward the "radiant greed" ('Atlas Shrugged,' p. 876) that Ms. Rand idealized. Ms. Rand is indignant that the "thieving poor" would venture, through progressive taxation and similar means, to take anything from the "productive rich," and so her characters make it their aim to set things right again:

"Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich — or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 532).

Are social welfare schemes, including that enshrined in the Mosaic law, the depredations of the "thieving poor" as Ms. Rand alleges? Where are God's sympathies along this social divide?:

Rich and Poor
Health and Wealth Root Cause
I Will not Hear The Other Side
Government Theft Politics
Will a Man Rob God?

While it's fair enough to help the deserving poor, the Christian virtue of charity shines in helping the undeserving: ". . .but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice. It is the undeserving who require it, and the ideal either does not exist at all, or exists wholly for them." (G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, p. 99).


"But I am a big fan of Ayn Rand. I've read all of her novels."
(Rand Paul, YouTube video, 1:21.)

During her life-time Ayn Rand attracted a small coterie of disciples. The intensity of their devotion, and antipathy, is the fodder for made-for-TV movies. Her books drew a surprisingly wide readership, given the withering criticism to which the literary establishment subjected her efforts. One very significant convert was Alan Greenspan, who was to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and in that capacity bring to the American economy many of Ms. Rand's ideas. Economics can be pursued as a rigorous, mathematical discipline, with its theories carefully verified by amassing and comparing factual data. Or it can be pursued as Ms. Rand pursued it, impressionistically and emotionally. Unfortunately the American tax-payers were left on the hook to pay the cost for some of her crack-pot ideas, such as the postulate that governmental regulation of financial markets is always an evil to be avoided. The financial melt-down of 2008 might have been avoided had prudent regulation of credit default swaps been in place, as might well have happened under different, less 'Objectivist,' leadership.

She wanted to be famous. Lack of movie-star looks restricted her Hollywood acting career to service as an extra on, of all things, the movie 'King of Kings.' After toiling without much recognition as a screen-writer, she connected with the public with her novel 'The Fountainhead,' about an architect who is enough of an egotist to excite Ayn Rand's admiration. Her magnum opus, 'Atlas Shrugged,' took the struggle of years to produce. After attracting an enthusiastic following of young people, she became almost a cult leader. Defectors like Murray Rothbard complained of the pressure toward conformity of this movement which celebrated individuality: "For the moulding processes of the cult did succeed in creating a New Randian Man – for so long as the man or woman remained in the movement. People were invariably transformed by the moulding process from diverse, often likeable men and women to grim, tense, hostile poseurs – whose personalities could best be summed up by the word 'robotic.'" (Murray N. Rothbard, The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult).

Although some readers trace development and change in her writings, she herself felt that she had been entirely consistent from her earliest childhood, and this perspective seems the most accurate. Increasingly after her death, her ideas were taken up by the political right wing, and she is in a real sense an architect of the world we now live in. What is most astonishing is that many Christians do not perceive anything 'off' about her vision, and gladly join forces with those on the right wing who champion her ideals. This woman hated God and despised everything Christians believe.

Who Created God?

Who created God? No one, God is uncreated.

  • "Writing to Jasper Crane, [Rose Wilder] Lane described the scene after hours of conversation: 'I was giving up, and murmured something about creativeness being obvious everywhere; and she struck me down by responding triumphantly, obviously feeling that she destroyed my whole position in one stroke, with the childish: "then who created God?" I saw then that I had wholly misjudged her mental capacity. We parted amiably and I haven't seen her since.' In Lane's recollection she was alienated both by Rand's statement and her manner; Rand spoke 'with the utmost arrogant triumph,' giving Lane a '"that squelches you" look' as she delivered her final question."
  • (Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' pp. 138-139.)

There is an argument in natural theology which runs, 'The things we see do not exist forever and of themselves, but come into existence and pass away. These are contingent beings, capable of existing or not existing. But not all things can depend for their existence upon another in this way; there must be at least one necessary being, or how did the chain of becoming and passing away get underway in the first place? There must be at least one entity which is self-existent, or why is there something rather than nothing?' Certainly the atheist may respond, 'But there can be no such entity. You are positing a sort of entity of which no one has any experience. Infinite regress is no more of a problem than is infinity itself.' Or, 'There are many such entities, none of them God, such as: time, space, the universe, matter, the unchanging laws of nature, etc.' Even conceding a necessarily existent being, atheists are entitled to complain at the casual ease with which Christians leap the chasm between the Deity of natural religion and the God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ: 'How do you know that this necessarily existent Entity, if there is any such, cares about you?'. Indeed at this point natural theology closes up shop and retreats in the face of revelation. However, the snappy rejoinder, 'Who created God?' is no contribution to the discussion, given that the theist identifies God as the one necessary being. If He were created, He would not be God! A reasonable abstract of the argument must include, 'God, if He exists, is not counted among the creatures.'

Ms. Rand it would seem was unaware of any such ongoing discussion. There was no room for it in her paradigm, for she defined religious faith as irrational, saying "the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind. . ." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 932). Ms. Rand was an admirer of Aristotle, yet when her Catholic friends, who shared her enthusiasm for this pagan philosopher, reproduced Aristotle's arguments, she did not recognize them.

Another author has come to the fore lately who shares Ms. Rand's philosophical skill set:

"Nevertheless, the declaration of a First Cause still leaves open the question, 'Who created the creator?' After all, what is the difference between arguing in favor of an eternally existing creator versus an eternally existing universe without one?" (Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe From Nothing, p. xii.)

What is the difference? Universe = set of contingent things. God = if He exists, exists necessary and not contingently. This rejoinder, 'Who created God?,' as childish as it seems, boasts an imposing set of subscribers, from John Stuart Mill onward: "If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. . .There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination." (Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, Kindle location 58). Russell's "everything must have a cause," can be tightened up, 'everything that can be or not be, must have a cause, external to itself, why it is.' Far from an assumption owing to "the poverty of our imagination," it is our common experience to observe things coming to be and passing away; that is the way of the world, though not of all things in it. Russell alleges that we could arbitrarily assign 'necessary existence' to anything at all, let us say 'seaweed,' and this would work out just as well. But the fact that entire epochs have inched their way along down the hallways of time without any 'seaweed' putting in an appearance, makes 'seaweed' a poor candidate for the first cause. Since there was a time when it was not, it cannot have brought the universe into being. Why is there something rather than nothing? That this is an unanswerable, indeed unimaginable, question for the atheist, but not for the theist, is a manifest advantage for theism:

How did Ms. Rand perceive religious people? Were they sincerely mistaken? Were the experiences they interpreted as God getting ahold of them to be otherwise explained? They are phonies who only want to control people, especially people like Ms. Rand who think for themselves:

They're All Phonies
"Make no mistake about the character of mystics. To undercut your consciousness has always been their only purpose throughout the ages —- and power, the power to rule you by force, has always been their only lust. [...]

"A mystic is a man who surrendered his mind at its first encounter with the minds of others. . .Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others. . .

"When a mystic declares that he feels the existence of a power superior to reason, he feels it all right, but that power is not an omniscient super-spirit of the universe, it is the consciousness of any passer-by to who he has surrendered his own. A mystic is driven by the urge to impress, to cheat, to flatter, to deceive, to force that omnipotent consciousness of others. [...]

"Every dictator is a mystic, and every mystic is a potential dictator." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, pp. 956-957).

William Jennings Bryan Home

Love Thy Neighbor

That we are to love our neighbor is neither common sense nor the universal consent of mankind. It is rather a dictate of revealed religion:

"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18).
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48).

Not everybody wants to follow Jesus on this point:

  • "Commenting one of [Rose Wilder] Lane's book reviews, Rand criticized Lane's invocation of 'love thy neighbor as thyself,' and her discussion of mutual effort. She warned Lane that both could be construed as supporting collectivism. . .In her reply Rand emphasized that although human beings might choose to help one another, they should never be obligated to do so, and certainly they should never help another person to their own detriment. . .She told Lane, 'each man's fate is essentially his own.'"
  • (Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 121.)

As already noted, Ayn Rand situated Christian ethics somewhere on the slippery slope leading down to Bolshevik collectivism. Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of the 'Little House on the Prairie' author) errs also in trying to characterize love of one's neighbor as natural human behavior:

"Lane also rejected Rand's atomistic view of the world, recalling her frontier childhood to illustrate human interdependence. She described a typhoid epidemic in  her small prairie town: 'People "helped each other out," that was all. . .It was just what people did, of course.'" (Jennifer Burns, 'Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right,' p. 122).

But it isn't 'just what people do,' of course, because people do that and they also do other things. Is it more natural for people to stand and watch the Vikings pillage their peaceful little hamlet, the strong preying upon the weak, or for them to work together to build the decent human communities of the American midwest? People are born with an inner voice urging them to the right: ". . .for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them. . ." (Romans 2:14-15). But that inner voice is not so loud nor insistent that it cannot be squelched. Are people who sit every Sunday morning hearing exhortations to love their neighbors, as did Rose Wilder Lane's neighbors, more or less likely to do these things than devotees of Ayn Rand's philosophy, who are taught that helping the needy is immoral?

Ayn Rand does not altogether forbid human beings from helping one another. If you are in love, you may give gifts to your beloved, even sacrificially; you do this after all for your own sake, because it makes you smile to see your beloved enjoying your gift: "One gains a profoundly personal, selfish joy from the mere existence of the person one loves." (Ayn Rand, 'The Virtue of Selfishness,' p. 51). What is aimed at must always be selfish:

"Do you ask it it's ever proper to help another man? No—if he claims it as his right or as a moral duty that you owe him. Yes—if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle. [...] But to help a man who has no virtues, to help him on the ground of his suffering as such, to accept his faults, his need, as a claim—is to accept the mortgage of a zero on your values. . .Be it only a penny you will not miss or a kindly smile he has not earned, a tribute to a zero is treason to life and to all those who struggle to maintain it." (Speech of John Galt, Ayn Rand, pp. 970-971, 'Atlas Shrugged').

Imagine, you are not even to smile at the unsuccessful, though a smile costs nothing! Ms. Rand is no champion of what she calls "brother-cannibal love." ('Atlas Shrugged,' p. 891).

In this bleak landscape, a ray of light shines: human sympathy is allowed with friends. What Jesus said even the tax collectors do, being good to their friends, is permitted: "The practical implementation of friendship, affection and love consists of incorporating the welfare. . .of the person involved into one's own hierarchy of values, then acting accordingly. But this is a reward which men have to earn by means of their virtues and which one cannot grant to mere acquaintances or strangers." (Ayn Rand, 'The Virtue of Selfishness,' p. 53). A mother may sacrifice for her child, but only if she does not do this because she thinks she ought to. But to give to the needy simply because they are needy is strictly forbidden; this must not be done, either by the government or by private individuals.

To love as God loves: to lovely the unworthy, the unlovely, counts as a vice in Ms. Rand's moral code:

Because He First Loved Us
"The justification of sacrifice, that your morality propounds, is more corrupt than the corruption it purports to justify. The motive of your sacrifice, it tells you, should be love — the love you ought to feel for every man. A morality that professes the belief that the values of the spirit are more precious that matter, a morality that teaches you to scorn a whore who gives her body indiscriminately to all men — this same morality demands that you surrender your soul to promiscuous love for all comers." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 946).

Inasmuch as Ms. Rand was not raised as a Christian, I don't know if she was ever chided for failing to love her neighbor, but she bitterly resents the implication anyway: "But when it comes to love, the highest of emotions, you permit them to shriek at you accusingly that you are a moral delinquent if you're incapable of feeling causeless love." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 946.) Just as she did not love her neighbor, Ms. Rand was quite certain that no one else did either, they were all just faking it: "Since childhood, you have been hiding the guilty secret that you feel no desire to be moral. . .The less you felt, the louder you proclaimed your selfless love and servitude to others, in dread of ever letting them discover your own self, the self that you betrayed, the self that you kept in concealment, like a skeleton in the closet of your own body. . .Existence among you is a giant pretense, an act you all perform for one another, each feeling that he is the only guilty freak. . ." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, pp. 963-964). It seems that Rose Wilder Lane might have corrected her misperception that caring for others is 'just what people do' by studying her friend Ayn Rand, who was sure it was all a hoax!

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Get Out of My Lifeboat

Students of ethics delight in hypothetical cases. Ayn Rand dislikes charity toward the poor, whether the charitable hand is extended from the government or from a private party. But after all, perhaps poor people are shiftless and irresponsible; perhaps no one is to blame for their plight but themselves; it's complicated. So simplify: the unfortunate person making a claim on our sympathy is a flood victim, swept away in the raging currents: do we jump in to save him, or not? Ms. Rand bristles at the question, perhaps because she knows her answer will strike most people as wrong. Her answer is no:

  • "The psychological results of altruism may be observed in the fact that a great many people approach the subject of ethics by asking such questions as: 'Should one risk one's life to help a man who is: a) drowning, b) trapped in a fire, c) stepping in front of a speeding truck, d) hanging by his fingernails over an abyss?'
  • "Consider the implications of that approach. If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, he suffers the following consequences (in proportion to the degree of his acceptance):
  • "1. Lack of self-esteem — since his first concern in the realm of values is not how to live his life, but how to sacrifice it;
  • "2. Lack of respect for others — since he regards mankind as a herd of doomed beggars crying for someone's help.
  • "3. A nightmare view of existence — since he believes that men are trapped in a 'malevolent universe' where disasters are the constant and primary concern of their lives.
  • "4. And in fact, a lethargic indifference to ethics, a hopelessly cynical amorality — since his questions involve situations which he is not likely ever to encounter, which bear no relation to the actual problems of his own life and thus leave him to live without any moral principles whatever."
  • (Ayn Rand, 'The Virtue of Selfishness,' p. 49.)

Of course hypothetical questions involve situations unlikely to occur to most people, most of us will never find ourselves seated in a life-boat. The people who asked her these questions wanted to unmask an immoral system of ethics, her own, because in her system the well-dressed, successful business-man standing on the shore is not to jump into the water to save the drowning child, because he is worth infinitely more than the ordinary child and it would be a crying shame for the more valuable person to perish and the less valuable one be preserved:

"To illustrate this on the altruists' favorite example: the issue of saving a drowning person. If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it: only a lack of self-esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger." (Ayn Rand, 'The Virtue of Selfishness,' p. 52).

Ms. Rand errs in diagnosing the motive to self-sacrifice as low self-esteem, though her acolyte, one-time boy-toy Nathaniel Branden, would make a career out of marketing this concept, which became immensely popular in educational circles:

"In the heady days of the 1960s when the self-esteem movement really began to take off, a psychologist called Nathaniel Branden rose to prominence as one of its big-name thinkers. Once linked with the objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand, and a promoter of her thinking, Branden is one of the smartest and most articulate contributors to the self-esteem story of the last half -century (and certainly not a supporter of simplistic boosterism). In 1969 he published one of the early-landmark volumes on this theme, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem."
(Harrison, Glynn (2014-01-28). Ego Trip: Rediscovering Grace in a Culture of Self-Esteem (Kindle Locations 1576-1580). Zondervan.)

Jesus did not leave His home in heaven because He suffered from low self-esteem, and we who imitate His example share His motives, not spurious ones:

He Humbled Himself

 He humbled Himself

Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many, but not because He was thinking, 'Oh, these people are worth so much, and I am worth so little.' Showing unmerited favor to others allows us, even in our own small way, to emulate God. What could be grander than the ambition to be like God?

God's evaluation is the inverse of Ayn Rand's. Jesus died, not for the valuable, but for the "ungodly:"

"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8).

The people for whom the Lord was willing to die had no merits, no virtue. His self-sacrifice counts as a vice in Ms. Rand's ethical system.


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On Strike

Like L. Ron Hubbard, Ms. Rand was a novelist before she was a cult leader; her fiction was not just honey to make the poison go down, though she did encapsulate her philosophy of life in her work. Some years ago there was a New Yorker cartoon where the boss tells his troops gathered for a Christmas party, as best I recall, 'We could never have achieved what we accomplished this year without you people, or people much like you.' We can all be replaced. When the NFL football players went on strike, the owners continued to send teams out onto the field. The players were not as skilled, but many viewers felt it was still worth watching. Because the first impulse of ownership is to replace striking workers, in Big Labor's hey-day, the government took that option off the table. Only then could the labor movement flourish. However, in Ms. Rand's literary imagination, if her heroic CEO's ever go on strike, the country is ruined.

Ms. Rand's heroic capitalism is not the capitalism of the lawyers. Not the share-holders, a crowd of pusillanimous second-handers, occupy center stage, but the solitary, visionary CEO:

Capitalism Good, Share-Holders Bad
"The boy was looking at her helplessly. 'You don't mean, to earn a profit for you, Miss Taggart? You mean, for the small stockholders, of course?' he prompted hopefully.

'Why, no. I happen to be one of the largest stockholders of Taggart Transcontinental, so my share of the profits will be one of the largest. Now, Mr. Rearden is in a much more fortunate position, because he has no stockholders to share with — or would you rather make your own statement, Mr. Rearden?'" (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 220).

"No" isn't the right answer; she is supposed to be trying to make money for these contemptible little "small stockholders," who own the enterprise. But Ms. Rand despises stock-holders, because they are many; her megalomaniac CEO's are her only point of contact with capitalism. The very people to whom the CEO might be thought answerable represent the enemy herd, whom he must resist at all costs: "'Then why is it that throughout man's history the Nat Taggarts, who make the world, have always won — and always lost it to the men of the Board?'" (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 475). The heroic CEO's enemies are the very people the lawyers think he answers to. Do  corporate lawyers not understand capitalism, or is the problem with Ms. Rand?

In this imagined parallel capitalist universe, it isn't anonymous toilers in the R & D Department who invent the corporation's new technology, but the CEO himself. Though there never was a more 'collectivist' enterprise than the modern corporation, which sets in motion armies of humanity to achieve common goals, Ms. Rand sees only one man, the CEO. Her big corporations are one-man shops, super-sized. They are run like the pharmacy the Bolsheviks stole from her father, only bigger. It is distinctly odd to stage a defense of the big corporation on the grounds of individualism.

Her heroes and heroines: Kira Argounova, Howard Roark, Hank Rearden,— leave the reader wondering: Are they heroic, or high-functioning autistic? They do not understand their fellows. They lack the instinctive sympathy that makes the rest of us cry in the darkened movie theater when the little girl loses her dog; others of their kind are a mystery to them, as if they had just parachuted in from another planet. But her stories are not stirring tales of how these outsiders finally connect; rather, the unfeeling ones are right, and everyone else is wrong. What seems a disability is a virtue, the only virtue, in Ms. Rand's ethics: these people live for themselves, not for others.

  • "He made a step back and said in a strange tone of dispassionate wonder, 'We're a couple of blackguards, aren't we?'
  • "'Why?'
  • "'We haven't any spiritual goals or qualities. All we're after is material things. That's all we care for.'. . .
  • "The accusation did not trouble her, she never thought of herself in such terms and she was completely incapable of experiencing a feeling of fundamental guilt. But she felt a vague apprehension which she could not define. . .
  • "Then, as she watched him, the apprehension vanished. He was looking at his mills beyond the window; there was no guilt in his face, no doubt, nothing but the calm of an inviolate self-confidence.
  • "'Dagny,' he said, 'whatever we are, it's we who move the world and we who'll pull it through.''"
  • (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' pp. 87-88.)

Gary Cooper in the FountainheadMs. Rand embraced Aristotle, because she was indignant at those philosophers, such as Kant, who make the perceived world a collaborative project between man's mind and whatever is out there. Aristotle promised reality. She based her ethics on man's nature, not Nature's God. Nature, for Aristotle, is what happens always or for the most part. So it is odd to discover that virtue is possible only for the super-human few, and that most men have no part nor share in. . .man's nature. How can this be? 'Human nature' cannot be what none but a scattered few Nietzchean supermen possess. The problems with this system of ethics only begin with its founding in a 'nature' which it turns out hardly any one has. It does not help that Ms. Rand fluctuates between near-total misanthropy and a popular, optimistic self-help approach: 'You, too, can be a Nietzchean superman.' Her supermen are tragic figures, because no one understands them; their glory is that they accomplish great things, but it may be that in the end they accomplish nothing, other than to dynamite their own buildings or trash their own business empires like Francisco d'Anconia.

So what exactly is their boast: that if the world were different, they could have done great things? Like Marlon Brando says in 'The Waterfront,' "I could have been a contender"? These world-changers are hot-house plants demanding special conditions in order to flourish, namely true laissez-faire capitalism, a state of affairs Ms. Rand herself lamented had never actually existed in this country. Sometimes Ms. Rand, though she despises the weak, sounds like she is whining: "There is only one kind of men who have never been on strike in human history. Every other kind and class have stopped, when they so wished, and have presented demands to the world, claiming to be indispensable—except the men who have carried the world on their shoulders, have kept it alive, have endured torture as sole payment, but have never walked out on the human race." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 677). "Torture as sole payment"? We should feel guilty that we were not worthy of them, or so it would seem.

Before ethics comes psychology, an understanding of how man's mind and character function. Ms. Rand eliminates every force or impulse but reason. Since human nature is rational by definition, motives are what a thinking subject freely chooses. Of course one could be mistaken: what seems attractive may be destructive. But it should be possible to talk people out of alcoholism or any other of the many wrong choices people make in life. The shipwreck of her love-affair with Nathaniel Branden, a.k.a. Nathan Blumenthal, which resulted in a highly public falling-out, dramatized for many observers the incompleteness of this understanding of human nature. Biblically, sin is not a mistaken opinion but bondage: "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (John 8:34). The hold it has on human beings is not loosened by talking them out of it.

What would actually happen if Ms. Rand's visionary CEO's went on strike, as is the premise of her magnum opus, 'Atlas Shrugged'? Nothing; no one would notice. The bench of human talent is much deeper than that, and expecting the CEO to do everything, as she does: invent the products, manage the enterprise, self-finance,— shows the advantage of division of labor. You can hire people to do these things, you know. One great invention of human ingenuity: leveraging other people's labor to achieve monumental works not attainable by the lone individual or small band, is an apple into which her 'capitalist' heroes can never bite. And so these ersatz capitalists end up as small-time shop-keepers in a small town in Colorado! Perhaps like Ms. Rand, they simply never grasped how much there is to be gained by harnessing a large number of people to a common task:

"The doctrine that 'human rights' are superior to 'property rights' simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' John Galt's speech, p. 973).

"The competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent:" Ms. Rand's heroic CEO's do not need their thousands of workers so they left them on the road to Galt's Gulch, thus showing them up as useless parasites. But real life capitalism continues to employ them, because corporate capitalism took the opposite road from Galt's Gulch, a small-scale subsistence economy whose largest enterprise is no bigger than the pharmacy the Bolsheviks stole from her father. Because there are large numbers of people marching along the corporation's path to success or failure,— workers, share-holders, customers,— there are competing constituencies with an interest in the outcome. These people are not parasites or interlopers but people with a legitimate stake, who have contributed something to the success of the venture, if not as much as Ms. Rand's megalomaniac CEO's.

Know Thine Enemy

The reader will recall what Ms. Rand's life ambition was: "I want to be known as the greatest champion of reason and the greatest enemy of religion." Did she understand her enemy? She perceived the central feature of Christianity to be unmerited favor:

The Gospel According to Ayn Rand
"Unsummoned, the picture of a face seen twenty-seven years ago rose suddenly in his mind. It was the face of a preacher on a street corner he had passed, in a town he could not remember any longer. Only the dark walls of the slums remained in his memory, the rain of an autumn evening, and the righteous malice of the man's mouth, a small mouth stretched to yell into the darkness: '. . . the noblest ideal — that man live for the sake of his brothers, that the strong work for the weak, that he who has ability serve him who hasn't. . .'" (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, pp. 209-210).

And indeed, the central feature of Christianity is a great, unearned gift, that Jesus Christ died for us, the strong for the weak, God for man, the righteous for sinners: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9). Grace is unmerited favor. Those who don't want it, as she did not, must consistently with their principles reject the gospel, as indeed she did.

Her ethic forbade acceptance of a gift: "We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 935). If you do not want what is undeserved, you do not want to be saved. As Martin Luther put it, "We are beggars all."

If someone invites you to a 'Tea Party,' Christian friend, flee in the other direction, as from a fire, lest your garment get singed and you come away smelling like smoke.


The Bible and Ms. Rand are on opposite tacks, not on one or two points but on point after point after point. Some samples:

Did the children of Israel despise unearned wealth?

"I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant." (Joshua 24:13).
"So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).

Our God loved us while we were yet sinners:

"We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19).

Thus the Bible. Ms. Rand:

Unearned Wealth, Uncaused Affection
"He despised causeless affection, just as he despised unearned wealth.'" (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 42).

"As there can be no causeless wealth, so there can be no causeless love or any sort of causeless emotion. An emotion is a response to a fact of reality, an estimate dictated by your standards. To love is to value. The man who tells you that it is possible to value without values, to love those whom you appraise as worthless, is the man who tells you that it is possible to grow rich by consuming without producing and that paper money is as valuable as gold." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 946).

Our God is a gift-giver:

"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." (Romans 5:15).

But some people won't accept a gift, it is a matter of principle with them:

A Free Gift, Returned Unopened
"'Good heavens, couldn't he give it to you as a courtesy?'

"He sat looking at her for a moment, studying her face, as if deliberately letting her see the amusement in his. 'Miss Taggart,' he said, 'we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. We come here because we want to rest. But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I'll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word "give."'" (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 655).

Our Lord came to give His life as a ransom. He is the lamb of God:

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29).

This grosses some people out:

Sacrificial Animal
"A doctrine that gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, is giving you death as your standard." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 928).

Christ lives within the believer; for the Christian, to live is Christ:

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20).
"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16).
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21).

But in Ms. Rand's ethics, it is forbidden to live for or through another; it's actually 'vile':

Declaration of Independence
"Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it — that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life — that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 928).

But in Christianity, a pinch-hitter did live our life, hanging for us on the cross, bearing the penalty we deserved, and we have His mind in us; and for that matter we accept His assertions as facts. Do you think she is talking about us?

God commands and His people obey:

"And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee." (Exodus 15:26).

But that's bad, too:

No Commands
"But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational and reason accepts no commandments." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 932).

The Bible diagnoses the human condition:

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5).

Some people not only do not accept the diagnosis, but are indignant to hear it offered:

Original Sin
"Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose, means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof. . .

"It does not matter who then becomes the profiteer on his renounced glory and tormented soul, a mystic God with some incomprehensible design or any passer-by whose rotting sores are held as some inexplicable claim upon him — it it does not matter, the good is not for him to understand, his duty is to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts, his only concept of a value is a zero: the good is that which is non-man.

"The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original SIn." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt's speech, p. 938).

The Bible diagnoses a problem:

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10).
The Love of Money
"Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you. . .Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. . .Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction." (Speech of Francisco d'Anconia, Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, pp. 382-385).

Ms. Rand did not misconstrue the saying; she heard it correctly. She is naming Paul as a looter. As noted before, she considers Christianity to be situated on the slippery slope leading downward to Bolshevik confiscation. The reason she identifies these two very different tendencies can hardly be satisfying to a Christian: both assign the source of values somewhere other than in the self-interest of the human ego:

From Outside
"You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you by whim, the whim of a supernatural power or the whim of society, to serve God's purpose or your neighbor's welfare, to please an authority beyond the grave or else next door — but not to serve your life or pleasure." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 925).

Both differ from Ms. Rand's elevation of selfishness, because both bring in values from outside. But outside the door might be heaven or hell. This is hardly a strong enough link between Bolshevism and Christianity to justify Ms. Rand's guilt-by-association critique. 'God' is not 'society,' nor are the two terms in any way commensurate:

"Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing." (Isaiah 40:15).

Both systems derive the source of morals from somewhere other than private selfishness. In that they both differ from Ms. Rand's system. However she is assigning a very large space to herself if it therefore follows that they are similar to each other merely because they are unlike her system. Ms. Rand does take the trouble from time to time to trace out common threads between the mystics of spirit [Christians] and mystics of muscle [Commies], as for instance,

"The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive — a definition that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. The good, say the mystics of muscle, is Society — a thing which they define as an organism that possesses no physical form, a super-being embodied in no one in particular and everyone in general except yourself. [...] The purpose of man's life, say both, is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question. His reward, say the mystics of spirit, will be given to him beyond the grave. His reward, say the mystics of muscle, will be given on earth — to his great-grandchildren." (Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 940).

However, since neither Christians nor Commies express the intent of turning people into zombies, this 'common link' is more satisfying to Ms. Rand and the proponents of her system than it is to the people she is talking about.

Like the gnostics of old, when Ms. Rand heard the Garden of Eden story, her sympathies lay with the serpent:

In the Garden
"Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge — he acquired a mind and became a rational being. it was the knowledge of good and evil — he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor — he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire — he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy — all the cardinal values of his existence. . . Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live." (Ayn Rand, 'Atlas Shrugged,' p. 939).

Ms. Rand herself identified her religion as "man-worship:" ". . .I would identify the sense of life dramatized in 'The Fountainhead' as man-worship." (quoted p. vii, Introduction, Anthem). In Anthem, 'Prometheus' says, "I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning." (Ayn Rand, Anthem, Chapter XI, p. 94.) Man is a fine creature but a paltry god, however he is the only god she knew, as she expressed in purple prose,

"There is some word, one single word, which is not in the language of men, but which had been. And this is the Unspeakable Word, which no man may speak nor hear.

[...] "And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since man came into being. . .

"This god, this one word: 'I.'" (p. 49 and p. 97, Ayn Rand, Anthem).

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