Monday, March 14, 2011

At This, I Shrug: A Look at Ayn Rand

When K and I began dating, he shared with me a list of books he wanted to read but never had a chance to since he had been so busy in college and working. One of the books listed was "The Fountainhead", by Ayn Rand. I had only heard of her famous (infamous?) work "Atlas Shrugged" previously, and I was slightly intrigued. Fast forward about six months, and me and K were newlyweds enjoying our first winter together. It was at this point I began reading "The Fountainhead" which I had purchased for him at Christmas but was gathering dust (he still has yet to read it, btw).

I lugged that heavy tome around, nearly causing a few hernias, I'm sure. But I couldn't put it down... it was like reading a 1000 page literary freakshow, with the "heroes" being morally vapid, and many of the "bad guys" behaving with concern and thought for their fellow man. Ayn's world is like looking into a circus fun house mirror and seeing a photo-negative, distorted image... and vowing it is an accurate image of the world.

Ayn Rand.

In the little over two years since I read the book, I've noticed with alarm, the way many Christians have embraced Ayn Rand and her teachings, called Objectivism. They gravitate towards her positive views on capitalism and the power of the individual and self-reliance. Many promote her strong anti-socialist stance. Curiously, however, they ignore the backbone of her theories- that there is no God, one should only love those deemed worthy of receiving it and her great disdain of family and community.

I was doing my usual blog reading and came across a link on Mark Shea's site which led to a story on Rand which included an interview she did with Mike Wallace way back in 1959. Her's part of that interview:

Like the two writers linked to above, I'm at a serious loss as to why any Christians- Protestant and Catholic alike- would embrace this woman as a role model. In a 1964 interview with Playboy Magazine, Rand made these comments:

"The Objectivist [one who follows Rand's teachings of Objectivism] ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself."

Yes, that's right. A person's HIGHEST moral purpose is pursuing his OWN happiness, making sure NOT to sacrifice himself. She continued: "It is the concept of original sin that...  I, or any Objectivist, is incapable of accepting or of ever experiencing emotionally." She was asked, "Do you regard as immoral those who find greater fulfillment in the warmth of friendship and family ties?" She responded, frighteningly: "If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite; whereas, if he places his work first, there is no conflict between his work and his enjoyment of human relationships."

Regarding romantic love, she said, "Love is not self-sacrifice, but the most profound assertion of your own needs and values. It is for your own happiness that you need the person you love, and that is the greatest compliment, the greatest tribute you can pay to that person." 

Again, WHY is this woman viewed in such high regard by Christians? Now, I'm not saying Christians only need to look to other Christians for good, solid and workable solutions in economics, government or even for life. But I do reject to holding up a system of belief, Objectivism, which, at it's core,  denies the most vital parts of our faith. According to Rand, even if Jesus were real, His act of self-sacrifice was... immoral!

While Rand wrote wonderful pieces of literature, to push them from the "Fiction" section into real life practice would be a gross distortion of Christ-like love, which should ultimately be our reality. 


jed said...

While Rand wrote wonderful pieces of literature

Have to disagree. She doesn't even have that. I tried to read Atlas Shrugged when living with a Randian friend, and it was its literary worthlessness which put me off long before I'd managed to drink deep of the noxious "philosophy".

Alisha De Freitas said...

@Jed, he he he, okay, so maybe "wonderful" is a stretch. But I don't think "The Fountainhead" was bad from a literary standpoint. My major criticism with the writing in the book (emphasis on the writing, not the content) is the unnecessarily slow pacing in the beginning. It caused the story as a whole to be uneven, with some awkward starts and stops. I also felt the foreshadowing was overdone- long before we were told which characters were "bad" and which were "good", we knew by the heavy handed descriptions, which is a bit elementary to me.

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