Good Christians Don’t Follow Ayn Rand

| 12/28/2010 4:29:52 PM

Tags: religion, politics, literature, Ayn Rand, conservative, libertarian, altruism, morality, spirituality, Keith Goetzman,

Atlas, Rockefeller Center, New York City 

It’s fascinating to see Atlas Shrugged author Ayn Rand posthumously elevated to the level of saint by conservatives who are allegedly driven by Christian values. For Rand was an aggressive atheist who condemned altruism of all kinds, writes Tim King in Sojourners, and “Grace, by its very definition, cannot find any place within Rand’s philosophy.”

As King explains in his short commentary, “Jesus Shrugged”:

Rand was clear that her philosophy, known as objectivism, was incompatible with that of Jesus. For her, any system that that required one individual to live for others and follow anything beside his or her own self-interest was immoral. For Jesus, any system or behavior that does not take into account living for others and acting on their behalf is immoral. Christians should take Ayn Rand’s words as a warning. To follow her and her vision, one must give up Christ and his cross.

You heard it, libertarians, go-Galters, and Tea Party rabble rousers: If you cheer Rand’s self-worshipping objectivist ideals, you cheer with the devil.

Source: Sojourners (article not available online) 

Image by Francisco Diez, licensed under Creative Commons. 

Carlene Byron
1/30/2011 8:30:57 PM

Carla, really appreciate your efforts to help all understand the cultural context of Rand's thought.

1/27/2011 8:31:18 AM

"Both of our evidence is anecdotal" Very true. At the end of the day my main issue with this article again is that it paints a picture of the majority of Christians following an unholy leader. It is just misleading and another way to deepen divides, misrepresent Christians and paint them in a negative light. You made another interesting point that I think does not get talked about enough and that is the neo cons using the religious right to gain power. Now those are also generalizations and the religious right is also a bit of a broad term but in general I would say it is very sad that the line between the two groups has been blurred. I think the majority of the problem the left has with Christians is really with neo cons not christians. Well maybe half.

Jordan Green
1/26/2011 8:20:53 PM

By the way, rodeen, I appreciate you taking the time to read my post. I should've been more clear in my agreement with you that I don't think many Christians agree Rand. I wish more were aware of her. I think most would reject her stances outright.

Jordan Green
1/26/2011 7:51:33 PM

I don't think Rand is popular with Christians in a broad sense, at least not in the way authors like Rick Warren or John Eldredge or Joel Osteen are. The majority of Christians probably don't know who she is. I do know a number of conservative Christians who love Rand's writing, though, and they tend to be the sort of people who are wealthy, and therefore likely to be in positions of leadership within their respective churches. That's all to say, I do know Christians who buy into Ayn Rand. Both of our evidence is anecdotal. I do think she's been influential to Christians through the neo-conservative movement, which has used the Religious Right to gain political power. Because of that, many of Rand's philosophies have bled over into evangelicalism, right or wrong (I'd say wrong).

1/26/2011 5:06:49 PM

Jordan, I checked out your site and enjoyed your thoughts. I am what most would call a fundamental Christian. Not to give my resume but just so you know where I am coming from because none of the things I am about to list amount to a hill of beans when it comes to being a Christian. That being said I go to church, I am involved in several ministries, I give money to several ministries and my church, I lead bible studies etc. etc. I have never heard one Christian mention Rand. My church is filled with both poor and rich and I socialize regularly with both. We discuss political issues of all sort and never once have I hear somebody mention Rand. I admit I could care less about Beck but if he is the one pounding this drum let me just say A) he is not a Christian and B) he certainly does not speak for us. I just dont see it as this huge issue in the Church. Sorry.

Jordan Green
1/26/2011 3:03:40 PM

This may seem like a shameless plug, but I included "The Fountainhead" in our book "Besides the Bible - 100 Books That Have, Should or Will Create Christian Culture", mainly because I wish Christians would read it and wake up to its direct opposition to the Gospel. I wrote a follow-up on the essay here.

1/18/2011 9:02:36 AM

WOW I thought this thread had ran its course and I gave up on it a little to early. I'll do this thread a favor and change the title a little and thus what would have made it a better read and less of a veiled insult to Christians. How about "Why are Christians following Ayn Rand?" Then the writer could have sited some publicly professing Christians in the media (surely there must be some to even justify this article) then go on to point out why Rand's philosophys are in conflict with Christian principles. That would be a read I would enjoy. But it would be honest and take some work which is far more difficult then this garbage. Or as I said in my initial thread if Rand is so bad you should be able to bash her with out incorporating Christians. Then again if you cant do a little Christian bashing whats the point of getting into journalism?:)

1/8/2011 3:32:44 PM

Carlene, I am glad you bring in the viewpoint that many of these threads seem to veer from ther original intent. A trick writers use when reaching a certain point where they feel they are straying is to go back to the title. So let's do that as we read through the progression of posts. "Good Christians don't follow Ayn Rand" says there should be provocation regarding what a good Christian is. Since, Ayn Rand was used as the model for the question I believe her philosophies and ideaology should be the "control item." As I read the progression I find a progressive logic (albeit seemingly off the subject.) What I find is a common diversion is that these arguements always circle to become a debate about what Christiand ethich is vs. non Christian and belief in a specific definition of whether God exists or not and whose God (and in turn values) we believe in. It is easy to say let's all love each other. What Ayn Rand was pointing out suggests that it is much more complicated than that, no matter what faith you subscibe to.

Carlene Byron
1/8/2011 10:55:58 AM

The conversation seems to have veered a long way from the original article, as these things usually do. Here's my very simple take: Ayn Rand urges us all to act in our own interest -- not a new perspective, but because it was expressed in a story, much more influential than Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of enlightened self-interest. Jesus said that we were to love one another as he had loved us -- that is to say, to the point of giving ourselves up entirely on behalf of each other. We see a lot of people who live as Ayn Rand urges, Christian and non-Christian alike, because our culture at this point is so fundamentally narcissistic that narcissism has become the water we swim in. We generally can't even recognize how extremely self-centered we are, Christian and non-Christian alike. So how does a fish learn to fly? That seems to be the more important question for all of us.

1/6/2011 7:37:00 PM

Lame? Hmmm....I can not say this was not a "piggyback" article but it was an article non the less. Can anyone direct us to the last published article they wrote? Several questions/comments concerning CF's post. Why the use of the term "tribal rules?" Can you be kicked off the island for not conforming? Ayn Rand not a carbon copy? Why not just say polar opposite for the most part. Using terminolgy such as American enterprise, reference to kings and Judeo-Christian-Anglo-European verbiage leads me to suspect non or relatively new American roots. A simple comparison of the ten commandments to American law will demonstrate the divide between the secular and non-secular thought process involved in creating the government of a great nation incorporating the humanity needed regardless of religion. Lastly and unfortunately, this is not a tiny caricature. It is a development of a contest of wills. I grew up not knowing or caring what my neighbors belief(s) were as long as they let me be happy to be me and free to explore the possiblities of discovery without hurting myself or others. It seems now the altruistic mission of saving everyone is treading heavily and hypocritically countering the very ideaology of less intrusion by any venue. I admire everyone for taking a stand but you can't take both paths.

1/6/2011 5:38:02 PM

Article was lame.. "CF" said it well.

1/6/2011 3:42:37 PM

On who's part? Or are you having fun toying with me again?

1/6/2011 3:17:08 PM

a quick judgement from a moral realitivist?

1/6/2011 3:05:38 PM

Uh Oh....Isn't it a presumption to presume what UTNE is presuming? It is a magazine not a document of dictate. On a quick aside the Puritan minister who founded Rhode Island was a slave owner and the southern minister who wrote from jail in Birmingham was a known philanderer. I'm not sure what they had but I hope that doesn't define the ethic of treating others with respect.

1/6/2011 2:57:16 PM

CF, You bloody genius. Welcome aboard!

1/6/2011 1:12:47 PM

Oh, for Heaven's sakes, it is laughable that UTNE presumes to set the tribal rules on which ideas Christians are allowed to associate with. Just because an original, free-thinking woman is not a carbon copy of what I believe, you insist I cannot appreciate and expand from her insights? How very primitive of you. The entire American enterprise, deeply sourced in Judeo-Christian-Anglo-European roots, aims to respect all belief systems, all -- even kings -- are to be treated the same under the law, and Christians staked their lives on embodying and furthering those principles. They could do that because their relationship with their God guided them with a fearless freedom. The Puritan minister who founded Rhode Island had it. The southern minister that wrote from the Birmingham jail had it. The more peoples of every color AND BELIEF that live in that Big Respect, the greater a civilization we have ahead of us in the world. I would just note to you this: One result of the Enlightenment/PostEnlightenment-Darwinian/PostDarwinian-Modern/PostModern enculturation of mind has been to weld an iron plate across that part of our Being that senses the Great Other, the More Than This. It is like many of us have lost our sense of smell, and simply do not recognize and therefore ridicule the actions of those who can. This tinny caricature many of you seem to share of Christian believers as automatons is coarse and juvenile. Think more deeply please. Godspeed Ms. Rand.

1/6/2011 12:48:34 PM

I can tell by our debate(s) that you are also a good person. Additionally, I will say that I would bet our definition of good is alot closer than you think. I do not consider the bible a book of silly fables. However, I do believe it is a hybrid of many things. Stories, anecdotes, metaphors, parables and so on. I find a dissonance even in the religous sector as to what parts are literal or not. If one says it is literal and figureative (depending on what is being read) than that leaves the door open to squeeze out of debates using the "you can't take that part literally" excuse. Conversely, if you take it literally at its word you have to believe in things like talking snakes, Virgin births, resurrections etc. All of which were used in pagan lore and none of which can be found in current times. However, disproving these occurences is impossible due to circular logic. Than, we can debate which version of which bible is the true word and why there are so many variations even in the same cult. It's too fuzzy for me. I'm holding out for the Pixar version with Woody as Jesus, Buzz as Saul of Tarsas, Mr. Potato Head as Herod and Andy's Mom as Mary.

1/6/2011 11:28:49 AM

Have already scene. Hitchens does not impress me much. Check out his debates with Dinesh DSouza much better. Again we come to an impass in a debate because my main purpose on these forums is to be the Religous police if you will and defend the bible. WHich I consider the word of God and you consider a book of out dated silly fables used by people to acheive political ans social advancement. So your idea and mine of what is good are inherently at odds. For the record I beleive you are a good person Occum. However being good is not how we get to heaven.

1/6/2011 10:52:49 AM

Rodeen, You are correct. It is my opinion and more importantly an observation (to the best I can make) of good people. My neighbors are by self admission Baptists, as are the majority of people where I live. My point was simply to judge people on the merit of how they conduct their lives not according to "rules" made up hundreds of years ago by people protecting themselves against any number of real and/or perceived threats. What will happen when the Higgs boson is revealed (it is incredilby close) and mythology has to be re-written? Will there be aplogies issued to everyone indicted by man made decree and lack of scope to think beyond what they have been taught. Is this a case of Mom cutting the fish in half because that is the way grandma did it because she only had a small pan. Find the debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchins on You Tube (very interesting and well done.) Peace

1/6/2011 8:25:59 AM

Occum, I would like to point out that your post like many of others is your opinion or philosophy and has no biblical merit. Which I am sure you dont mind me pointing out. I think it is likely that your neighbors are both Christians however going to church every sunday is not a very good indicator. Further off topic a month back you were wanting me to answer the outrageous claims of the Mythological Jesus add. Here is a pretty good youtube clip if you like.

Carla Kelly
1/6/2011 5:54:07 AM

Any Rand believed in ENLIGHTENED self interest, which is a far cry from the demonic vision that is often presented by those who misunderstand her writing. She grew up hard in Communist Russia and saw first-hand the horrors of that repressive society--that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't progress, were forced to live in fear and squalor. She risked her life to escape to freedom in America where she wrote her books in her third language, English. I suspect that those in the Tea Party who are abusing her philosophy in the name of unfettered (irresponsible) capitalism, have not actually read her books carefully, if at all. Certainly, they do not understand that her heroes were highly moral, unremittingly honest and creative souls who benefited others by their high productivity, rather than a self-loathing commitment to others because they could find no redeeming value in themselves. Perhaps she was naive, but she was not evil or unprincipled.

Carla Kelly
1/6/2011 4:08:56 AM

Any Rand believed in ENLIGHTENED self interest, which is a far cry from the demonic vision that is often presented by those who misunderstand her writing. She grew up hard in Communist Russia and saw first-hand the horrors of that repressive society--that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't progress, were forced to live a life of fear, hunger and squalor. She risked her life to escape to freedom in America where she wrote her books in her third language, English. I suspect that those in the Tea Party who are abusing her philosophy in the name of unfettered (irresponsible) capitalism, have not actually read her books carefully, if at all. Certainly, they do not understand that her heroes were highly moral, unremittingly honest and creative souls who benefited others by their high productivity, rather than a self-loathing commitment to others because they could find no redeeming value in themselves. Perhaps she was naive, but she was not evil or unprincipled.

Carla Kelly
1/6/2011 3:41:46 AM

Although ayn Rand was an "aggressive atheist", as noted, she was not immoral, contrary to the bulk of these postings. Her Objectivist philosophy was all about ENLIGHTENED self interest. That is, she believed that altruism is really a form of despair about one's own self worth, an attempt to give value to others where one finds non in oneself. She grew up hard in Communist Russia and saw what horrors it brought to the people who were never allowed to develop their own abilities and reap the rewards of their labor, no matter how hard they worked, and, so, she risked her life to find freedom in America. She believed that people who are allowed free choice and unhampered industry could produce enough to benefit others by the abundance of their work--but not as an end in itself. Her ideas, while probably naive, simply repudiated Communist repression and have been largely misinterpreted by many, and, especially, twisted to fit the agenda of Tea Party members and others who advocate unrestrained capitalism without the high integrity and unremitting honesty she demanded of her heroes. Read her books carefully and judge for yourself and I do not believe you will find her to be the devil that she is labeled.

1/5/2011 9:24:18 PM

To Curious Addressing "what is a good Christian?" I will say my neighbor Bob and his wife Peggy. They attend church regularly. They have for many years. They are early 70's with two sons who are doing very well for themselves. They have a beautiful house and an established business and lifestyle. He is gay. His wife has known for many years, yet overlooked it because he is a good man and caring husband. They are great neighbors and mentors for my children. He is as comparable to Jesus as he is to Lou Gehrig. I read both "autobiographies" but never met the either. I have, however, met Bob. I wish all the speculation and innuendo would stop. It serves no purpose except to confuse, misdirect and divide. If we could all agree the main purpose is to be good people rather than choose what team we are on the world wouldn't be having these conversations. By the way, you can not be altruistic without serving yourself. Kind of a Catch 22.

1/5/2011 5:27:31 PM

The discussion veers from the topic, Ayn Rand's 'objectivism'. The author is right; she was atheist, and her atheism is part of her philosophy. A christian following her is clearly misled, but what else is new? Or perhaps the last christian died on the cross?

1/5/2011 1:14:03 PM

I take that back. I dont know if you can say Jesus followed himself. I 'll go back to my original position, there is no such thing as a good or bad Christian. You are one or you are not. I do believe there is a circle inside the Circle of salvation which would be where Christians in fellowship with Christ reside. If that makes any since. If not draw a big circle that everyone inside is a Christian. Draw another circle inside the big circle, Christians in fellowship.

1/5/2011 1:11:17 PM

PS...I am not addressing my question to the author, but to those that have commented.

1/5/2011 1:06:29 PM

Rodeen...Great answer!! Other opinions?

1/5/2011 1:04:59 PM


1/5/2011 12:34:53 PM

Just curious...What is a "good Christian"?

1/4/2011 5:09:33 PM

Nice try Tomas. The verse you are reffering to I believe is one that condems false prophets. If I am correct they say something to the effect of Lord Lord we prophesized and performed miracles in your name" The jist of that is false prophets and the people he is referrring to were never saved in the first place. How can you tell from that verse? You cant. I can post 100's of vs. however if you would like that state you cant loose your salvation no matter what. So the question becomes is it possible for a believer to be led astray by false doctrine. So could you please produce the list of sins no beleiver could commit? The only unforgivable sin I am aware of is unbeleif.

1/2/2011 2:12:00 PM

@rodeen I'm sorry to tell you this, but you're wrong. You are correct when you say that committing a horrible act will not separate a Christian from Christ, not will failing in the battle with our sinful natures. Specific incidences will not condemn you. However refusing to follow Christ's message and in fact opposing Christ's message will, even if you call yourself Christian. Followers of Ayn Rand and Objectivism are in active opposition to Christ's teachings. It's an entire way of life that is antithetical to the Christian way of life. And in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus Christ himself specifically tells us that no matter what you call yourself, no matter what you claim, if you fail to live your life for others then when you die he will say "I don't know you."

12/30/2010 8:43:25 AM

Ginger- Thank you for the smart and thoughtful response. Many around here think they have to put someone down before they attempt to make a point. Or the put down is the main point. I think you are wrong on two points (really they could be bundled into one wrong conclusion) and right on one point. First you have created a new catagory for the Christian the "good Christian" the term does not exist in the bible. Being a Christian is a spiritual condition at time the Christian "walks by the spirit and at times in the darkness" No Christian walk by the spirit all the time. It is an ongoing battle with our sinful nature. Even what you may call a good Christian still can struggle with sin follow unholy political figures and so on. Christians commit horrible acts everyday when they do Christ does not quit loving them or kick them out of his family. We may operate that way but Jesus does not. I think you are correct that there are alot of fake Christians. The bible warns of this early and often. Statisics claim 80% of America is Christian. I assure you if that was the case this would be a very different place to live. Still that doesnt mean there are not misguided Chrisitans following unholy ideology. If you follow Goetzmans blog you will find a reason to be skeptical he does not like capitalism, the far right,or Christians. He is a very smart guy but his predispostions effect his conclusions.

12/29/2010 10:35:56 PM

@rodeen, I wonder if you're missing the point. The point is that if a good Christian is *truly* a good Christian, then s/he obviously cannot give up Jesus and the cross. So if you tout Ayn Rand and her philosophies as some sort of path to follow, then you must not be a true Christian. See, too many conservatives are hawking their (apparently fake) Christianity in one hand, while holding up Rand in the other. The author is merely pointing out the hypocrisy of that dissonance. You simply can't be worshipers of both.

12/29/2010 2:07:30 PM

I reject the premise. I dont know who this person is or what he or she writes but I am assuming it is something in favor of capitalism. What ever the case may be it is a mistake to try and play the devils advocate with Jesus. The writer King I doubt has a clue what the bible says. I say this because he says a Christian must "give up Christ and the Cross" that sounds good, but the bible tells us this is not possible. You can't unchristian yourself if you wanted to. Anyway why not just try to sell your story as Rand is a scumbag who wants to starve babies and leave Jesus out of your political arguements until you understand his truth and teachings.