Rand and Christianity

This is interesting. The American Values Network is a politically liberal Christian interest group. They’ve started a new campaign attacking the tendency of American conservatives to idolize Ayn Rand.

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As an atheist, I’d be happy to trade Ayn Rand to the Christian conservatives if they want her. Unfortunately, atheism is woven into her philosophy of Objectivism. Ethics aside, Objectivism’s system of epistemology rejects faith and internal convictions. There might be a way around this problem, and I’ll happily listen to anyone who cares to try, but at the moment I don’t see it.

Of course, it should also be said that most American Christians had made their peace with the inequalities of capitalism a century before Rand.

  • Hellboy

    It sounds like this video is criticizing republicans for being open-minded (my coffee just came out my nose there). There are better ways criticizing Rand, all this video does is go “She was an ATHEIST who OPENLY CRITICIZED CHRISTIAN MORALITY! BOOGEY BOOGEY BOOGEY!”

    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 demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not.

    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 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.

    A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man’s nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

    Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a “tendency” to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

    What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? 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. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was—that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love—he was not man.

    Man’s fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he’s man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.

    They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man.

    It must be a miracle that conservatives overlooked one of the few parts of Atlas Shrugged that wasn’t crap until recently.

    • anonymous

      tldr

    • Bruce Wright

      That’s an awesome rant, Hellboy. Thanks for posting it. It’s high-octane!

  • Pingback: Ayn Rand and the GOP vs. Jesus « Tiny Frog

  • Yoav

    Most of the Rand fans mentioned in the video probably haven’t actually read any of her work but were told that she’s the most brilliant author in history and that if you don’t adore Ayn Rand you’re a commie. That shouldn’t be surprising if you remember that the same people adore the buybull but often don’t know what it actually say.

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      The number of people I know, who’ve actually, truly read any of Rand’s stuff, I can count on one hand, with a couple of fingers missing. I’ve read some of her material, but concede I haven’t read a lot of it. Her writing is — to be kind — extremely tedious; the literary equivalent of a root canal. Which is why so few people have actually read her, and instead, rely on other peoples’ reports about her writings.

      It’s natural, then, that so many plutocratic Religious Rightists could hoodwink themselves into following the dictates — and “morality” (if one can call it that) — of someone who was one of the staunchest atheists of her time. They are, after all, lemmings to begin with, mindlessly following the dictates of their preachermen and their corporate masters.

  • http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/ Stuart Resnick

    > all this video does is go “She was an ATHEIST who OPENLY CRITICIZED
    > CHRISTIAN MORALITY! BOOGEY BOOGEY BOOGEY!”

    Exactly.

    I don’t see any contradiction here that needs to be resolved. Depending on which verses of The Bible you focus on, and how you apply them to each situation, the results can be helpful or harmful. Surely Rand is the same way. If we are sheep looking for an Authority to follow, then this would be a problem. Otherwise, we take each idea on its merits, without being sidetracked (like this liberal Christian video) by who is speaking the idea.

    A commitment to the teachings of Jesus, or of Buddha, or of compassion in general, does not inevitably lead to worshiping liberal politics. Jesus for instance said that when you see a poor person, you should be ready to give your time and possessions to help him. I’m no Biblical scholar, but I don’t believe it says anywhere that you should assign this responsibility to other people, or to the power of government.

    Ayn Rand never advocated burning down churches. She did advocate offering a different philosophical viewpoint that would convince people to voluntarily abandon their religious beliefs. The Christians may find this scandalous, but I’ve got no problem with it.

    The apparent contradiction comes from the fact that we applaud Rand for discouraging faith (or we could say encouraging doubt) in religious beliefs and morality. So far so good. But why not doubt everything? While Rand champions selfishness, I’m not aware of her ever seriously questioning what this “self” is.

    So it’s true that if I reject God and religion, but leave untouched your beliefs and assumptions about who “I” am, that would lead a life dedicated to an unexamined “self,” which is precisely the “selfishness” that rightfully makes most people squeamish about Rand.

    If we doubt everything, then we won’t be followers of a religious dogma, nor slaves to the “self.” Maybe it’s worth looking into what arises from such an open, questioning mind.

  • GBM

    Personally I think this is great. Not because they are demonizing her for being one of us, but because there is a chance that a serious effort on the part of folks like the AVN will drive a wedge between the theocrats and the libertarians, thereby diluting the political power the theocrats wield.

    Say what you will about the Randians, you can at least engage with them on a grown-up level.

  • Dave

    I do not personally know anyone who read Rand as an adult and found her compelling (or even liked her crappy novels). I do know a few people who read them as adolescents and found deep meaning in her permission to be a selfish self-absorbed asshole. I think I’ll ask them to re-read Rand now and see if they haven’t grown out of her pathetic nonsense.

  • http://www.theelectoralcollegestudent.blogspot.com Teleprompter

    Ever since the market’s invisible hand touched me inappropriately, I have not been able to follow the teachings of Ayn Rand.


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