The American Right, as differentiated from American conservatives, usually absolutely adores Ayn Rand.
Strangely while much of America’s Right is made up of strongly religious social conservatives, Ayn Rand openly and repeatedly was just as critical of religion as she was of anything which did not worship at the alter of profit and the right to be free and to be unregulated from anything which society might consider a norm.
Some Ayn Rand thoughts on religion, a word itself that she avoided using:
…if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking…. the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind. [Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]
For centuries, the mystics of spirit had existed by running a protection racket – by making life on earth unbearable, then charging you for consolation and relief, by forbidding all the virtues that make existence possible, then riding on the shoulders of your guilt, by declaring production and joy to be sins, then collecting blackmail from the sinners. [Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual]
Qua religion, no – in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very – how should I say it? – dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith. [Playboy interview with Ayn Rand]
If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a ‘moral commandment’ is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.
So what philosophy does Ayn Rand actually represent? Does she offer anything other than the worship of self and ethics being narrowly defined as choosing the path which you can justify to yourself?
Tea Party groups across the USA are heavily promoting Atlas Shrugged and campaigning to get it shown in as many theaters as possible. As someone that has been cautiously friendly towards Tea Partiers I would hope that Atlas Shrugged does not represent the core doctrine of Tea Partiers as a whole. If so then the message to me would be well beyond ‘government is bad and small government is best’.
Her book Atlas Shrugged is being adapted into a three part film series. The core theme being that the productive intelligentsia — those capable of leading the rest of us — abandon society to let society fall apart without them since we seem intent on placing restrictions on their abilities and capabilities.
Preview Part 1 of Atlas Shrugged:
BTW — there is much to admire about Ayn Rand, her devotion to freedom of the individual. But that freedom comes at the cost of devotion to survival of the fittest. Concern for loss of those less capable individuals is not her concern and she doesn’t believe them worthy of our concern either.
“Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. man had no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons,and to make weapons – a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and we have comes from a single attribute of man -the function of his reasoning mind.”
— Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead)