Prothero: You Can’t Reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus

Stephen Prothero, writing for USA Today, discusses the Republican Party’s fascination with pro-choice and anti-religion philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand. 

Rand has become the “darling” of the libertarian/Paul family wing of the Republican Party.  Prothero just wants to make sure that Republicans realize that “marrying Ayn Rand to Jesus Christ is like trying to interest Lady Gaga in Donny Osmond.”  He also quotes Chuck Colson, who thinks that Rand’s “idolatry of self and selfishness” is the “antithesis of Christianity.”

Prothero writes:

As someone who has written extensively on the religious illiteracy of the American public, I am not surprised that few Republicans today seem to understand that marrying Ayn Rand to Jesus Christ is like trying to interest Lady Gaga in Donny Osmond. But there is nothing Christian about Rand’s Objectivism. In fact, it is farther from Christianity than the Marxism that Rand so abhorred. Despite the attempt of the advertising executive Bruce Barton to turn Jesus into a CEO in his novel The Man Nobody Knows (1925), Jesus was a first-class, grade-A “moocher.”
I am somewhat surprised, however, at how few GOP thinkers seem to see how hostile her philosophy is to conservatism itself. Real conservatism is first and foremost about conserving a society’s traditions, including its religious and political traditions. But Rand’s Objectivism rejects in the name of reason appeals to either revelation or tradition. The individual is her hero, and God and the dead be damned.
Real conservatism is also about sacrifice, as is authentic Christianity. President Kennedy was liberal in many ways, but, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” was classic conservatism. Rand, however, will brook no such sacrifice. Serve yourself, she tells us, and save yourself as well. There is no higher good than individual self-satisfaction.
One of the reasons we are in our current economic quagmire is that none of our leaders is willing to ask us to sacrifice. Democrats call for more spending and more taxes; Republicans call for lower taxes and less spending, and what we get is the most fiscally ruinous half of each: lower taxes and more spending.

3 thoughts on “Prothero: You Can’t Reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus

  1. it's exactly this problem that stops me from fully embracing a libertarian viewpoint. I wonder if it's possible to live a dual lifestyle. By that I mean is it possible to embrace a Rand outlook with regards to the govt. But not embrace that outlook in a private and non govt. Sector such as your church or neighborhood

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  2. I'm sure some of the Ron/ Rand Paul wing like Rand, but I agree with @Paul M. that I can't see many Christian conservatives lining up with Rand.

    Besides, the mainstream conservatives of National Review read Rand out of the movement decades ago. One of the best take-down reviews from National Review's early years was Whittaker Chambers finding totalitarianism in Rand's works, that they breathed the command, “To the gas chambers, go!”

    A final point–if any Christians want to read up on Objectivism, my recommendation would be John Robbins, Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Closer of Her System.

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  3. Prothero is right. I enjoyed reading Atlas Shrugged, but the Nietzschian superman doesn't get along well with the evangelical conception of Jesus.

    It's anecdotal, but in my experience its the essentially secular libertarians who are most likely to be attracted to Rand.

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