By Nathan Hitchen
Isaac Morehouse gave an apology for small-government advocates who love both the teachings of Ayn Rand and those of Jesus Christ. While Morehouse admits there are “many ways” in which Objectivism is irreconcilable with Christianity, “there is no hypocrisy” to being a “fan” of both Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand.
Actually, there is profound hypocrisy.
To paraphrase Joe Carter, trying to reconcile Ayn Rand with Christianity on the basis of her opposition to collectivism is like trying to reconcile Adolf Hitler with Christianity on the basis of his opposition to Stalin.
Demonstrating the radical antithesis of Rand’s philosophy to Christian and genuinely humanist thought is so easy, one wonders where to start. In her 1959 interview with Mike Wallace, Rand herself gladly admitted that her philosophy attacks our “contemporary American way of life, Judeo-Christian religion, [and] rule by majority will,” and that she “scorns churches and the concept of God.”
Her view of love is similarly stark: People only deserve love on the basis of “virtue” (her definition of virtue), rather than their inherent worth or status as fellow men and women. Those who are weak, flawed, and have not attained her status of virtue do not deserve to be loved. In fact, “very few” people in the world deserve love, according to Rand. If that was not enough, she asserts it is “immoral” to love anyone above oneself. Rand reinvents the definition of love according to her “new morality based on reason.” Logically, her morality concludes into the same harsh, meritocratic system as her philosophy of economics.
Morehouse suggests that Christians have much to gain from “powerful Randian insights” such as: “You do not owe anyone anything. No one owes you anything.” Really? We don’t owe anyone anything? What about the love we owe our neighbor? What about the honor we owe our parents? The energy, time, and money we owe our children? Or the submission we owe authorities? Or the taxes we owe Caesar? Or the societal and ultimately political implications from God’s moral law—conformity to which we owe to … everyone?
At the center of Rand’s libertarian ethic is the individual ego. Denying that egoism is the heart of original sin, Rand flippantly raises it as the standard of her new morality. Are humans fallen because we do not love God and neighbor as we ought? No, we are fallen because we do not love ourselves enough. Did anyone really need to write several thousand pages of inferior prose to proclaim the need to be more selfish? In Rand’s world, vice is not a ubiquitous germ in mankind, but rather a trait of the “parasites” that infest the world of the virtuous “creators.”
Christians have nothing to learn from Ayn Rand that is not better said and more soundly concluded from any number of Christian and non-Christian thinkers. Any serious conservative should reject Rand from his intellectual hall of fame, and any serious Christian should instantly see through her unfeeling philosophy. Between a social ethic that flows from Christian reflection and one that results from Rand’s premises, there is only accidental coincidence on a vanishingly few number of points.
Whittaker Chambers — one of the Cold War’s greatest anti-Communists — unmasked Rand in National Review after her mainstream debut. And so long as undeveloped intellectual palates swallow the cold gruel of Rand’s “philosophy,” Chambers’s 1957 critical article of Atlas Shrugged remains the go-to prescription:
Nor has the author, apparently, brooded on the degree to which, in a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left first surprisingly resemble, then, in action, tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purpose, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. The embarrassing similarities between Hitler’s National Socialism and Stalin’s brand of Communism are familiar. For the world, as seen in materialist view from the Right, scarcely differs from the same world seen in materialist view from the Left. The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?
Rand is as much a materialist as the communists she despised. Instead of a dictatorship of the proletariat, she proposed an oligarchy of the economic elite. It is only because Rand and Marx are estranged philosophic twins that her ideology is so systematically individualist on every point in response to the collectivist ideas he spawned.
Once any political theory evacuates a holistic account of the human person and society, it becomes an ideology and provokes an ideological alter-ego. The ideologies of collectivism in the twentieth century reduced the human person to an economic cog and treated society as a machine — the state became absolute. The ideology of individualism reduced the human person to an economic island and treated community as a commoditized matrix — the individual became absolute.
Rand simply replaced the hammer and sickle with the dollar sign.