Catholic Paul Ryan loves Atheist Ayn Rand??

Paul Ryan, the Catholic Vice Presidential pick is being blamed for being a fan of atheist, pro abortion, anti religion philosopher Ayn Rand. He has admitted that Rand’s novels inspired him to get interested in economics and politics. He was taken with her views on the morality of capitalism and individualism and with her rejection of collectivism.

What he probably didn’t understand as a young student is that his own Catholic church had already endorsed the intrinsic morality of capitalism and the rejection of collectivism that Ayn Rand was supporting. Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum was the first in a long line of important papal teachings on social justice. The core of the economic and political ideals Ayn Rand proposes can be found in Rerum Novarum. Read more.

If you want to read something far more knowledgable and well researched about the little bit that’s good (and Catholic) about Ayn Rand, check out fellow Patheos blogger Frank Weathers over here.

 

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://paxchristirochester.blogspot.com/ Lee

    From The National Review earlier this year: “I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”
    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

    • http://www.thinkyhead.com/ Scott Lahteine

      Well that’s a relief. The last quote I read (on Wikipedia) had him making his staff read Atlas Shrugged. But yeah, as a young man I too found appeal in Ayn Rand’s logic and certitude. Only later when I began to practice meditation and yoga did I realize how shortsighted Rand was as a philosopher. Of course I agree with her atheism and basic epistemology as a person of reason, and therefore reject Aquinas, Spinoza, Kant, etc. But her failure to take an interest in the development of compassion, healing the emotions, and non-rational modes of consciousness, as found in meditation and enlightenment, was annoying. Her outright rejection of the Buddhist concept of “no mind” without really understanding it was typical of Rand’s straw man style of argument. She was simply too romantic, unscientific, and non-rigorous. I would expect a real philosopher to continue to ask questions, explore, and develop over their career. Evidence suggests Rand was not really interested in nature or philosophy so much as in promoting her opinions. But attitudes and opinions alone don’t constitute a philosophy, even if you can back it up with opinions and attitudes about metaphysics, ethics, morals, epistemology, and aesthetics. Perhaps this is why Ayn Rand is not included in the large volume History of Western Philosophy.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        I agree. What I know of Rand seems shallow and sophomoric.

    • Ben

      His rejection of Rand is oddly and not surprising only started this year. (hm… I can only wonder why)
      Rand is known for giving Rand’s books for Christmas presents, making his interns reading it, and even speaking at an Ayn Rand society. He cites Ayn Rand for getting into public work and claims she is the basis for his values (a horrifying notion). His political views and actions (much of which protect the wealthy at the cost of the poor) speak to Rand’s influence

      Much like someone like Ron Paul (who has also spoken fondly of Rand), Ryan has to reject someone like Ayn Rand to remain electable while those who support him because of his support for Ayn Rand will continue to support him (as the Atlas Society is doing).

      For someone who is being touted for his authenticity, this all seems to make things questionable.

  • http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    There are theistic versions of Rand’s Objectivism.

    • Roark

      No there aren’t. Look up Religion, GOD, Atheism, Faith, at the Ayn Rand Lexicon online.

  • Darrell

    Rand Paul likes Ayn Rand for her objectivism, not her atheism. When you read an Ayn Rand book, what you hear about is objectivism.

  • CDNowak

    As Lee noted, Ryan has stated that he is closer to Aquinas than to Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand is an entry point to political conservativism because she does a good job at pointing out the errors in liberalism. Once people start looking at what she proposes, they tend to find others have done a better job at formulating a positive conservative philosophy.

    • lethargic

      Agreed. This is what so many miss … Rand can be an entry point, but is rarely the end point. I sympathize with Mr. Ryan … I, too, as a college student, found Rand to be exhiliarating and mind-expanding, but after the initial rush, began to see the shortcomings and looked further for more … just because Rand got him started in economics doesn’t make him her clone, sheesh people!

  • http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    I teach Philosophy and many of my college students like Rand’s Objectivism because it provides an alternative to shallow political correctness and to collectivist liberalism.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Her objectivism is unoriginal and not deep. Isn’t the classical ‘realism’ more substantial?

  • http://www.asimplehealthylife.com June

    Oh stop already. His other favorite books are Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.

  • Mark Plus

    Ryan’s conflicted allegiances show how much traction Ayn Rand’s alternative humanism has gotten in American culture despite such unpromising beginnings. And this happened spontaneously, without any central planning, despite the long-standing, built-in advantages both the Catholic Church and political progressives enjoy in the U.S. People keep trying to dismiss Rand as a sociopath, a kook and an ignoramus (with some justification), yet she managed to bypass both the Magisterium’s indoctrination system and the left’s propaganda channels in education, academia and government by taking her view of a proper society straight to the market, and finding enthusiastic customers. She must have gotten a few things right to have pulled that off.

  • Jon

    I’m fifty. Met and voted for Ronald Reagan when I was 18. I’ve been conservative my entire life. My intellectual introduction to conservatism was in this order; William F. Buckley, Joseph Sobran, James Madison, Edmund Burke, Whittaker Chambers, Patrick Buchanan, Hilaire Belloc.

    My only contact with Ayn Rand was Gary Cooper. When working at Oxford University Press in New York twenty plus years ago, a young friend ran into my office glowing that he’d read Atlas Shrugged, and that it changed his life. I bought a copy. When I began to read, I thought “ruthless and un-Catholic,” and put it down. Never picked it up again.

    • Irish Atheist

      So you don’t read anything that’s “un-Catholic”? Convenient, no?

      • Merkn

        Actually it says the opposite. He picked it up, read it and made a decision it wasn’t worth his tine. It is the same sort of approach any intelligent person would take. You don’t need to plow through the entire text of Atlas to get her point. sort of like Mein Kampf. You get the gist pretty early. There is not a lot of subtlety or nuance in Rand. On the other hand, the dialogue and characters are laugh out loud funny if you have the time and a sense of the absurd. He could have also pointed out her writing is inhuman as well as uncatholic. If you are taking her seriously it is pretty offensive.

  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

    Is it arrogant to feel like I’m responsible for this post?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Not at all. You weren’t. There were lots of people buzzing about this question yesterday!

      • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

        Fair enough.

  • Momma Kyle

    Any Rand was born in Russia, and as a young girl, saw the Bolskiveks take her father’s business away. Ayn and her family lived in horrific conditions, nearly starving. Her writings are a rejection of communism.
    As someone who feels that this country is becoming a nation of dependants, I love the idea of the hero who works hard and gets ahead. Now, idealy the hero should then share with others. But American could use some “Horatio Alger” type examples of hard work and saving.

    • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

      “Gets ahead” of what exactly? This is why I have difficulty reconciling Ayn Rand with anything Christian. The core values are not the same. Where in the Gospels does Christ talk about hard work and saving? (Well, I think I remember something about saving. It had to do with birds or lilies, I think). It’s not that I think hard work or saving are wrong. I don’t. I practice them in my own life. But are they the most important things about a person from a Christian perspective?

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Did you read my post and Frank Weathers’ post? We’re not saying Ayn Rand is a Christian philosopher, but that in a few point of her economic thought she echoes Catholic teaching–and it was this very part of her thought that excited the young Paul Ryan.

        • Frank Weathers

          The 10% of Rand’s philosophy that is worthwile isn’t worth the 90% that is a horror show. And it’s pretty evident that researching the question was not her forte. Which is why someone (I have no idea who) said wisely,

          “Ayn Rand is both right and original. Where she is right she is not original, and where she is original she is not right.”

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I stole that line. Ayn Rand is for sophomores.

  • Fr. Ryan Humphries

    This is absurd. I love the work of Dr. Richard Feynman who was an atheist, anti-religion pot smoker who worked on the Manhattan project… That doesn’t mean his work in physics, biology or philosophy is inherently destitute of real insight… Rand is a wackadoo to be sure, but she’s opposed to some things that we would do well to be opposed to. This feels more like link-bait than insight…

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Are you commenting on the headline or the article?

  • Irish Atheist

    Surely Jesus was the ultimate communist. He hated money and he advised his followers to forsake everything to follow him. Replace Jesus with The State and you’ve got communism.

    “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple … So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33)

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The difference being that Jesus calls for voluntary self sacrifice. The socialist/communist state will take it from you by force.

      • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

        Why do socialists and communists always get lumped in together? Communism is a rather specific ideology encompassing theories about history, society, and economic. Socialism, at its most basic level, is a bunch of loosely tied economic principles. I’m a socialist in the sense that I desire the economy be directed to towards the social welfare of people, and that this effort be undertaken at the state level, but I also believe in private property.

        And Europe’s historical experience with socialism has been not so much one of force but rather the democratic process. To the extent that Europe is socialist, it wasn’t imposed but voted for. (And Europe’s immigration policy is fairly open, so if you want to live in a society with more inequality, you can leave.)

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Good point. The distinction should be made that Communism and Nazism are state enforced socialism.

          • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

            As well as quite a few other nasty elements mixed in. The corruption and statistic rigging found in most communist countries can hardly be considered a necessary component of socialism or state enforcement. Ditto the weird racial theories of Nazism.

          • Padraig

            To define Nazism as a kind of socialism is a canard. All those things that define Nazism are in no way intrinsic to socialist policies which have been adopted by a number of nations. The government program administered by the Social Security Administration is both frankly socialist and a real good which is in no way mixed with hatefulness, militarism, or racism. That it is a foolishness to name socialism as the defining characteristic of Nazism can be seen both in the behavior of the Nazi party toward bona fide socialists of the Social Democrat party, and in the political opinions of today’s neo-nazis.

        • gina

          I understand the compassion a person may feel towards the poor and want the best for them, however socialism too puts too much control into the states hands. Perhaps socialism is worse than communism because people freely vote to take the burden of being charitable off their own hands and make it the state’s responsibility. Although socialism is chosen, it too takes away personal freedoms and rights from families and individuals. The state can in no way treat every person with charity and dignity. There is no consideration as to what is best for the individual, but what is best for the whole of society. I’m not sure that even at its most basic level that it is just loosely tied economic principles. At the very core of socialism lies evil. It’s purpose is to cause a disorder in society that contradicts Catholic teaching and Christianity. I’m sure many people that did not vote for socialism would love to leave, but for various reasons they are unable to do so. Whenever I hear a tragic story about someone needing help with hospital bills or was effected by a tornado- it wasn’t the state that came to their rescue but was individuals/families/churches/businesses and the local community.

          • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

            You’re assuming a great deal about socialism that is not true, but in the mean time I will simply say that your argument that in Europe people don’t need help with their hospital bills. The question of who will come to the rescue in that situation isn’t even relevant.

          • JoFro

            “…in Europe people don’t need help with their hospital bills.”

            I have always wondered, where is the money for this coming from in the European countries? Has it something to do with the fact that they do not spend alot on defence and so they can go ahead and spend it on healthcare? They are not even having alot of children. Heck, they are hardly having any children. So where is the money coming from?

          • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

            The real question is, where is the money coming from here? Since families don’t have to scrimp just for a check up, they catch disease earlier (and therefore cheaper) in Europe. By paying for everything, they actually pay less per capita (I think even in government dollars) than we do. It’s a lot easier to pay for someone to take medication for a heart condition than to have the condition go untreated and have the patient wind up with surgery (That the taxpayer buys anyway).

        • AnneG

          In Europe socialism functions to protect the place of the privileged and maintain the status quo by control. In every EU country it is extremely difficult to open any kind of business, especially one that introduces competition.
          It is pretty easy to live in most European countries but to immigrate is extremely difficult. Several generations of guest workers have been born in Germany and Austria but are not and will never be citizens. You have to be related or invited to be a citizen. This is way off topic, but everybody I know in Europe has private insurance if they can afford it. You don’t get the best care unless you pay for it. Everyone gets the same delayed, mediocre care. There is also a practice of saying by the NHS, Krankencasse or whoever that they are not responsible for this or that person’s care, very much ala Ayn Rand. I can give you the names and addresses of orphanages and care facilities based on charity run by, guess who, Catholic orders who take in everybody. They get no government money because the residents do not merit government care.
          Who pays for all this? Right now, loans from the Chinese and investors in government bonds. That’s why there is a monetary crisis with the Euro about to collapse.

      • Irish Atheist

        Good point, although I wish some more of Jesus’ followers were more keen on the choice part instead of on the legislating their beliefs part.

        • gina

          We simply have too much legislating going on that is bringing us towards a form of state control.For example the HSS mandate.

          • gina

            sorry, I mean HHS mandate.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          We only “legislate beliefs” for those who want to be Catholic. Morals are another matter. There are some moral rules that Catholics expect the state to legislated–like laws against murder and stealing for example.

    • Merkn

      Where does it say he hates money? You are right that Communism says the state is God. You think that is a good thing? If you think about it for more than 10 minutes you would realize following a personal God that created, knows and loves you as an individual and wants only your own well being along all of humanity in this life and the next is really the complete opposite of a materialist philosophy that treats individuals as the means of perpetuating the collective rather than a proper end of creation itself. You may not believe any of this, but equating the 2 is simply incoherent.

    • gina

      Irish atheist, The misunderstanding of God is perhaps why we have so many atheist. Money can help us to better know , love and serve God. Tithing and acknoweledging that our money comes from God are just a couple examples of how we can serve Him. Jesus taught that we cannot serve two masters God and money, however we can with pure hearts use the money that God-(not the state) blesses us with to serve others. I find it interesting that some atheists reject God but then turn around and embrace communism which plays the role of a god. God gives human dignity,communism takes it. God blesses us with money,communism takes it. God gives rights, communism takes rights. Satan surely has earned his title as the father of lies. It’s unfortunate, to think that he could convince a human to embrace slavery and reject freedom.

  • http://www.andreasmoser.wordpress.com Andreas Moser

    Religion DID play a role in picking Paul Ryan, as this secret Romney memo reveals: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/why-did-romney-pick-paul-ryan/

    • AnneG

      And we should believe that this German, lawyer, vagabond exactly why? He has some secret connection to the Romney cabal? Reading the link I doubt the writer of the “memo” is even written by a native English speaker, bad syntax.

  • mm

    Irish Atheist- then why does the left always attack the Church? It would seem if Jesus was a communist that it would be easy for the left to enter into an alliance with the Church. But in fact the left & the Church have fundamentally different conceptions of man. Lenin & Robespierre were not fools- they correctly understood that the Church would always remain their enemy, so they attacked it. Communism (and much of progressivism) view man as inherently plastic- while the Church has doctrines such as original sin & human dignity that lead it to oppose the left’s agenda. For the Church, man is not perfectable, he is inherently flawed, so the dreams of a perfect society are just that, utopian dreams. The lefts attempts at utopianism will not only fail, but lead to a nightmarish concentration of power, so the Church opposes it. In the USA Obama has started to restrict the Church b/c of similar considerations.

    • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

      Speaking as someone who could reasonably be classified as a leftist, I can tell that the Catholic Church gets “attacked” (I suppose you mean criticized?) because people on the left don’t associate the Catholic Church with Jesus. Of course, it’s absurdly anachronistic to label Christ a communist, though I think there’s an argument to be made for calling Him a socialist. He was certainly very unconcerned about private property and encouraged His followers to be unconcerned about it as well.

      And I’m not utopian and I think the War on Terror and the War on Drugs are both disastrous oversteps of reasonable government. Do you care to criticize them? Because if a SWAT team shows up on your doorstep in full body armor, it won’t be because of the contraception mandate.

      • JoFro

        I don’t believe the Catholic Church has been a big supporter of either the War on Terror or the War on Drugs to be honest…but then again, I don’t remember the Church providing any solutions to either conflict, so…I dunno, maybe I’m wrong on this..hopefully, I’ll be corrected by someone who knows what the Church’s position is on these wars

      • flyingvic

        On the contrary, Jesus was very concerned about private property, because he saw the dangers inherent in materialism. The question that Christians have to answer is how best to use the resources that have been given to them; giving them up entirely is just one of a number of options that require serious consideration.

        • AnneG

          Agreed, but private property was permitted under the OT covenants. Jesus would have done away with that but it wasn’t necessary. Good stewardship and seeking God and His Kingdom first were most important, weren’t they?

      • AnneG

        But, your hospital, university or school may be taken over or driven out of business by confiscatory fines and repressive regulations.
        As for leftists not recognizing Christ in the Catholic Church, no surprise there. They don’t believe in anything transcendent which is why socialism attempts to replace God in the lives of people. Have you ever lived in a socialist society? I have and grey is the most appropriate description.

        • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

          I am a leftist, and I believe in God, who I happen to think is pretty transcendent. Stop making broad generalizations about vague categories, please.

  • WellActually

    “Communist state” is an oxymoron, as anyone who knows anything about communism can tell you.

  • Qualis Rex

    As a contemporary of Ryan, I will step in here to his defense: the time at which he was schooled in Catholicism (i.e. the ’70s – 80-s) the church itself was in a shambles– seriously a low-point in church history. Liberation Theology, burlap banners, liturgical dancing…yes, all the culprits and innovations were in full-swing and reaching their zenith (and any clergy, religious reading this who contributed or allowed it to happen with out a fight, je vous-accuse!). No one, not even the most educated or orthodox of Catholic really knew what the church stood for (and I am talking top-down) and Ryan was raised in a particular “infamous” geography, which to this day is arguably the most loopy/modernist to this day. The result, and this is the laughible irony here, is that many loyal and faithful Catholics sought out stability in ideology, many times in politics, and ended to either the extreme left or the right.

    As Father L rightfully points out, HAD RYAN BEEN PROPERLY CATECHISED, then he would have learned many (note: not all) of the writings of Rand are incompatible with Catholic teaching. But I can say first-hand that catechisis in the 70s, 80s and 90s (even in parrochial schools) was so abysmal, that Ryan really never stood a chance.

  • gina

    Reluctant liberal
    “The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decisions disappears.” Blessed Pope JPII

    socialism at its core is more than just loosely tied economic priciples. As the Holy Fathers point out, at its core it is evil and anti christian. Marx believed salvation could occur without God and that by adjusting material conditions a Kingdom of God(utopia) could be created on earth. In order to accomplish this the state must become God. Take away or “nudge” freedom, choices and wages from families/individuals. Individual rights are given up in favor for the rights of the group.
    Ideologically communism,marxism, and socialism are the same. Perhaps Socialism appears friendlier, people freely give up their possessions,rights, freedoms in order for the state to decide what to do with them. However, Communism takes possessions, rights, freedoms in order for the state to decide what to do with them.

    • Qualis Rex

      Hello Gina,

      very good points! I would point out that Socialism too falls into the category of yourlast sentence as well, in that it also takes “rights, freedoms in order for the state to decide wha tto do with them”. We need look no further than Canada to see this in the fact that freedom of thought and speech (i.e. that marriage is between 1 man and 1 woman) is taken away; to say homosexual marriage is wrong is now a “hate crime”. In Europe it even goes much deeper as there are so many subjects you simply cannot speak about without at least censure and at most imprisonment.

    • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

      I’ll see your pope and I’ll raise you Wikipedia:
      “There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.[3] They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets versus planning, how management is to be organised within economic enterprises, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.”
      Socialism does NOT have a definitive definition, which means making pronouncements about how socialism views the relationship between individuals and society is flatly impossible. JPII might have been able to proclaim about Faith and Morals, but he isn’t an infallible dictionary. I fall under some definitions of socialism, as do many of the people I read, and JPII’s statements about socialism describe none of us. I do not subordinate the individual to society, and neither does anyone I know. Characterizing all socialism by Marx is like characterizing all Christianity by Al Smith. He was one dude who didn’t even represent most people in his group when he was alive.

      So you’re wrong. Communism, Marxism, and Socialism are not the same. They only appear that way if you don’t know history and are stuck on very particular definitions of each one that no one else actually uses.

      • gina

        Reluctant Liberal, you identify yourself as being leftist/socialist ideology, yet your best reference is wikipedia? I would first read the long line of popes encyclicals regarding socialism-they were much more informed about socialism because for one reason they studied and lived in socialist societies and felt the bitter consequences from socialism. At the very least before you identify yourself as being left leaning/socialist I suggest reading “Whats Wrong With the World” or “The Outline of Sanity” by G. K Chesterton.

  • http://patheous.com Tammy

    No christian should be comfortable with anything Rand has written, or with anyone who idealizes her. Ryan has done that. Seriously though, I dont think christianity or the catholic church should condone his budget. You cannot say Jesus would approve of shorting the old or disabled in this country while giving the very richest the highest tax breaks (Romney and Ryan included). Jesus told many parables about the “rich man,” and he also made the statement about it being easier for a camel to cross through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Ryan needs to remember what would Jesus do? Times are tough and money is in short supply, but Ryan’s ideas are flawed.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Are you responding to headlines about Ryan’s budget or have you done any research into the matter? As I read the budget he is doing his best to ensure that Medicare and Obamacare are actually on a sound financial footing so that we can afford to keep the whole thing going in order to help the poor old people.

  • mm

    Tammy- so Ryan is wrong b/c he allows the EXACT same rise in medicare expenditures as the Obama administration plans (GDP rise+0.5%- for both plans)? The only difference in the Ryan plan is WHEN AND IF the costs rise above the allowable limit he allows FUTURE seniors (those under 55 now) to purchase additional health care on their own to supplement the government allowed expenditures- on the other hand Obama will instill strict rationing by an unelected panel to control costs- so under Obama if the cost increase exceeds GDP rise+0.5% you will get care withheld to make up any shortfall. Ryan is explicit that we need a safety net-but a broke federal government cannot provide one, therefore we need to get our finances in order to protect the poor.

  • Pingback: On Women’s Rights, Paul Ryan & the Mormon Madoff’s Choice for VP | London in New York

  • mrjohnspeaks

    Why do rich powerful republicans view atheist Ayn Rand as a hero but sell God to the poor and uninformed as their hero?


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