Repost: The Mystical Dogma of Human Equality

[I'm taking a break from the blog to bond with and care for my new son. Please enjoy this classic post! I'll check in periodically to answer comments.]Recently, the Catholic writer and apologist Mark Shea fielded a question from a reader who was disturbed by pro-slavery Bible verses quoted on an atheist billboard in Pennsylvania. Here's the letter, in part (HT: Friendly Atheist):One of my atheist/anti-Church friends posted a sign by American Atheists quoting Colossians 3:22 (Slaves, obey … [Read more...]

I Get Religious Mail: That’s Not What “Miracle” Means

The newest charity that's sent me an explicitly religious solicitation is American Leprosy Missions, "the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases around the world". Take a look:Imagine pulling a dollar bill out of your pocket and seeing it multiply 33 times, like Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes!That's what you can do today. Because now every $1 you give will turn … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Ideological Event Horizon

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsIn life and in death, Ayn Rand stands alone as the supreme advocate of individualism. No one was fiercer in defending the romantic idea that you should follow your conscience above all else, chase your dreams whatever the price, and ignore the taunts and scorn of the masses along the way.At least, that's the popular conception. It's certainly how Rand thought of herself. But Atlas Shrugged offers surprising evidence to the contrary.The last third of … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Great Chain of Being

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsThroughout Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand tells us that her ideal state would be a perfect meritocracy. Everyone would rise or fall as their talents merited. There'd be no corrupt bargains, no discrimination, and no hereditary ruling class.It's an appealing vision, but what the novel shows isn't the same as what it tells. Regardless of what Rand says she wants, she repeatedly undermines her meritocratic ideal by writing characters who do indeed have special … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Wealth of Nations

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsThroughout Atlas Shrugged and her other works, Ayn Rand valorized human ingenuity and drive. In her eyes, the individual ability for achievement is our supreme glory. But where do these desirable character traits come from? What makes one person a productive capitalist while another becomes a shiftless moocher?This is a question that Rand was staunchly incurious about. For all that she glorified brilliance, she never addressed what its origins or … [Read more...]

The Bad Parable of the Prodigal Son

The tale of the prodigal son is one of the Christian Bible's most famous parables. But there's something about it that's never sat right with me:"A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: The Almighty Dollar

Atlas Shrugged, Closing ThoughtsWe're almost to the end of our epic journey through Atlas Shrugged. I've reviewed the whole book and all three movies, pointing out the logical holes and untenable assumptions as they were spotlighted in each scene. In this post and a few more to follow, I want to step back and look at Rand's philosophy as a whole. We'll see some broader themes that deserve more attention.One of the cornerstones of Objectivism is that laissez-faire capitalism is the only … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Fix Fic

Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt?I sat through the indifferent acting, threadbare script and shoddy production values of Atlas Shrugged Part III for one reason above all: I was eager to see how they dealt with the Eddie problem.As you'll remember, the book ends with Ayn Rand stranding Eddie Willers in the desert to die alone of thirst and exposure, while none of his supercapitalist friends care or even remember him. It's a fate so callous that it even makes some of Rand's … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: Also Starring

Atlas Shrugged Part III: Who Is John Galt?On paper, Objectivism and other libertarian ideologies ought to appeal equally to the left and to the right. After all, libertarianism promotes economic deregulation, but also greater personal liberty, such as to take recreational drugs, have same-sex marriages, or use contraception. The parts that conservatives dislike, liberals ought to approve of, and vice versa. Yet in practice, libertarians consistently ally with conservatives and not with … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: 10 Final Lessons from Atlas Shrugged

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, "Ayn Rand's Demented Mind Is Best Understood by Her Idea of the 'Happy Ending' in Her Bestseller 'Atlas Shrugged'". This is the third and last of the "10 Lessons" posts I've been writing, one for each section of Atlas Shrugged, that sums up the moral principles taught in each major section of the book (part two, part one). Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:In Ayn Rand's eyes, this is a happy ending. The government thugs who … [Read more...]