Ayn Rand and ChristianityBlog — By BWC on March 14, 2009 at 7:02 am
My senior year in high school, our English teacher had us read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, a sturdy and wordy book that this particular teacher was, to say the least, a big fan of.
I loved the book, and so did most of my class. On the surface, our love for Rand was odd, since The Fountainhead is 752 pages long, not particularly action-packed, and a narrative argument for Rand’s philosophy of objectivism.
But here’s how Rand summed up her philosophy in the 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged:
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged 35th anniversary edition
Read that quote again, and it should be clear why objectivism would appeal to high school students. When a famous author of a classic book tells a 17 year-old it is his moral imperative to be as selfish and as uncompromising as possible…well, that’s going to be like telling a fat kid Coco Puffs are part of a balanced breakfast.
But then read that quote through the lens of what we believe as Christians, and it becomes almost the exact antithesis of Christ’s ministry. It espouses the belief that human beings are heroic (completely disregarding The Fall), reason is the only absolute, and one’s happiness is one’s most important pursuit. The only overlap that could be argued is the concept of “productive achievement”, or hard work.
In a segment the other day, Stephen Colbert discussed the growing popularity behind Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in light of the Obama administration’s bailouts.
Ayn Rand has always been popular with secular conservatives. Essentially, American conservatism has two opposed philosophical hearts: Christianity and Randian Objectivism. The problem is, Christian conservatives seem to either ignore this discrepancy, or, worse, merge the two.
And this is my biggest problem with present-day conservatism: that it has somehow married Biblical truth with a philosophy that not only rejects God, but also claims man can be perfect.
I am not saying Christian conservatives are wrong, and I’m certainly not saying Christian liberals are right, only that we need to understand the dangers of aligning ourselves with principles outside our faith.
For me, Ayn Rand’s ideas strike a chord because I was so impacted by The Fountainhead. It was my favorite book at the time, and I still recommend reading it…it’s superbly written. But Howard Roark is not a hero, and objectivism is a dangerous and disgusting lie.