Ayn Rand and the Christian Right

Ayn Rand is having a mainstream moment but social conservatives are still averse to her philosophy.

Politico announced it last month: “Ayn Rand is having a mainstream moment.” The fountainhead of Objectivism, the philosophy that holds man as an heroic being and values life as an end in itself, died in 1982 but two recent biographies, rumors of an Atlas Shrugged (1957) film adaption and her embrace by the popular right have reinvigorated interest in Ayn Rand’s work. Reason Magazine summed it up on their December cover: “She’s back!”

As Politico notes, this revived popularity “comes at a time of renewed government intervention in the private sector. […] It’s an era of big government all too similar to the dystopia described in Atlas Shrugged.” Not surprisingly therefore Congressmen and media personalities that are skeptical of this comeback of big government are more prone than ever to come out as Objectivists.

That is not to say that the right has embraced Rand entirely. Writing for the National Review Peter Wehner, a former Bush Administration official, describes Objectivism as “deeply problematic and morally indefensible.” Rand herself, he believes, was “a nut”. Her small-government philosophies have “very little to do with authentic conservatism,” according to Wehner, “at least the kind embodied by Edmund Burke, Adam Smith […] and James Madison. […] What Rand was peddling is a brittle, arid, mean, and ultimately hollow philosophy.” Why? Because Rand was an atheist and therefore represented “the antithesis of a humane and proper worldview.”

Bill Greeley, a blogger at the New Clarion is not impressed. “Authentic conservatism was the first enemy of capitalism,” he counters. Wehner has not to fear Ayn Rand so much — “it’s capitalism, human nature and ultimately the facts of reality” that are religion’s foremost enemies.

The Christian Science Monitor is rather more pragmatic in its assessment of Rand’s newfound popularity and gives the floor to Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (2009). “Though she’s not religious,” writes Burns, “Rand brings a strong sense of good and evil to the debates over economic policy.” The Christian Right, she opines, “is being swept to the side by the rush of events.” That might be overly optimistic though considering how brain-dead the GOP has become in recent years, it wouldn’t be a bad development at all.


  1. As an ex-fundamentalist theist (and a 30 year plus Objectivist) I view the Christian Right as a non-intellectual group of so-called “patriotic Americans” that has little understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It has aligned itself with Bush/Obama warmongering that will continue waging war against any and every false-flag demon that the military/academic/media outlet can create. It’s litmus test on abortion helped, in large point, to destroy the G.O.P. This nation is in dire need of a paradigm shift away from its shallow belief in altruistic underpinnings both domestic and foreign.

    Robert Taylor/Hondo, TX/rtaylortitle@aol.com

  2. First let us properly define atheism as merely anti-theism and let us also identify that by believing in one religion you are atheist to all others. Such is the nature of religion.

    But to imply that atheists have no sense of morality or that their morality is somehow worse than religious based organizations is beyond obscure. Atheists have moral codes based on principle and reason as opposed to “because X deity told me so”. Atheists have never been a source of violence or oppression. Whereas religions of all forms have been the source of every moral outrage you could imagine.

    I also view the Christian Right as a non-intellectual group, and most of them are probably incapable of understanding Ayn Rand’s ideas or those of our Constitution. Most of them refuse to turn off their Fox News or Rush and educate themselves.

    I’ve often referred to myself as a libertarian meaning an objectivist. Classic libertarianism has evolved into objectivism but has maintained the name libertarian. It ultimately comes down to minimal government involvement and a free market economy. But these ideas come from even earlier economists like Ludwig von Mises.

  3. Quite right, though few of those classical liberal free market economists shared Rand’s epistemology and her broader moral principles.

    I agree that it’s absurd to denounce atheism as being principally immoral. As though only faith could be a source of morality! No, in fact, the morality that faith produces is a morality of death that demands that man sacrifice his own happiness, in the long run even his own life, for the sake of some unknown fellow man and some unknowable after-life.

    Atheists can still cling to such irrational morality however. Indeed, many socialists are atheists and communism was outspokenly anti-religion. Their morality too, is one of death, demanding the individual to sacrifice to some mysterious “collective” or “society” that encompasses everyone but himself.

  4. I’m a huge fan of Ayn Rand’s work, and the objectivist philosophy. Free markets, and free will lead to growth and prosperity. More government and regulation leads to less growth and prosperity.

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