Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Unholy Alliance: Randians and the Atheist Left

In the year of Our Lord 2007 the preeminent work of Ayn Rand turns 50 years old. "Atlas Shrugged" is as relevant today as it was in 1957. Nearly every libertarian and a large portion of us fiscal conservatives have been profoundly affected by this book. "Who is John Galt?" was the question that was answered by this 1,000 page philosophical statement that masqueraded as a novel. It was Rand's masterpiece.

To this day the names Dagney Taggart and Hank Rearden still play in mind. The terms looters and prima movers have been etched permanently into my subconscious. It is a deep, richly layered look at the people pulling the wagon that is our modern world - and those hanging on for the ride while actively tearing the wagon apart. Atlas Shrugged asks the question: What if the Prima Movers go on strike?

So who is John Galt? He is every liberty loving, hard working entrepreneur and businessman, every self-made man and woman who is the part of the machine of our modern life that actually gets things done. John Galt is a doer, a mover, a shaker, inventor, architect, entertainer, carpenter, tradesman, artist, builder, engineer... You get the picture. You know who these people are, you may be one of them. As well, you know the ones who hang on, the ones who don't do much except complain.

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. She came to America and 1926 and never looked back. Years later when she was asked to describe the essence of her personal philosophy she made these four points:

1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

Metaphysics in Rand's case is a philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being. There is no room for God or religion or any supernatural nonsense in Rand's philosophy. In her youth she studied Aristotle, Victor Hugo and Nietzsche. Hugo was well known in his later life as being very hostile toward the Roman Catholic Church and one need not describe Nietzsche's view of religiosity. It is really no surprise that Rand herself became an atheist.

It was her love for individualism and capitalism that drew her to America and America to her. These very attributes are a complete anathema to leftists and socialists. However, many leftists and socialists are also atheists. Atheism has always been the great divide between objectivists/libertarians and conservatives/Republicans. Fiscal conservatives have more in common with objectivists than any socialist ever had, yet there has been an antagonism between conservatives and Randians for decades.

With the recent spate of anti-God bestsellers in the nation's bookstores the Randians detect a sea change in America. They long for the day when America becomes post-Christian just like Europe. I find this extremely short sighted and ultimately destructive to the cause of liberty, individualism and capitalism. Be careful what you wish for.

Atheism is the ONLY thing that hard-core leftists and objectivists share. Objectivists are reality based, rational thinkers. Leftists operate on pure emotion and irrationality. I personally think that the world without Christ will be a far less hospitable place for objectivists, libertarians and all freedom loving people.

Much of Rand's ideology is laudable. I too believe in the power of self-interest and individualism on the grounds that we are human beings and not bees or ants. We don't work for the good of the collective - we work for ourselves and our own families. I don't find that at all at odds with Christianity. My work-a-day life is separate from my spiritual life. One may inform the other but I don't spread it out so that it is one and the same. Jesus himself said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's. Essentially a directive to keep your earthly concerns of citizenship separate from your spiritual yearning for your Heavenly citizenship.

I don't think the objectivist movement, which needs all the friends it can get, should cozy up to leftist atheists in some odd desire to see religion disintegrate in the greatest bastion of economic liberty and individual freedom the world has every known. On the flip side conservatives should seek out this natural ally by trying to get religion out of the machinations of politics and public policy.



Al Fin said...

I remember reading "Atlas Shrugged" in medical school. A friend and classmate saw me reading it, and tried to warn me about Rand's obsession with the "ubermensch" type of hero. He had read Rand previously, but moved away from her philosophy.

Of course, I knew where he was coming from, because I had known his wife for a few years--an incredibly beautiful woman, but a radical leftist. She tried to seduce me on more than one occasion, but the leftism--combined with her marital status--was a huge deterrent to getting a response from me.

I was never an objectivist, per se, but rather a big L libertarian, moving to a small l libertarian, now an independent libertarian with some conservative sympathies.

My philosophical journey has taken me far--in a roundabout way. From a strict religious upbringing, my first political leanings were socialist/social democrat. Getting from there to here has been a wild ride.

My view of neuropsychology causes me to believe that brain maturation combined with real life experience causes most intelligent people to get a bit more conservative as they age.

StaticNoise said...

No doubt countless people have experienced the conservative gene enlarging as they age - may be raising kids, may be that pop-culture gets increasing off putting causing a sort of reverse revolt. I have never been an objectivist either but I must say what intrigued me about this book was the "enemy" - the looters, the state-ists and so on. I thought Rand was a regular prophet considering what has happened since 1957.

Although I consider myself religious in the sense that I go to Church on Sundays and am a Christian I find more kinship with libertarians than I do with the religious right. I support fiscal conservatives and do not obsess over pro-life/pro-choice. What a waste of time... I generally support any politicians who are not socialists.