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Ayn Rand and the Immoral Fable

October 21, 2006

And not a few of them that practised magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed. Acts 19:19-20

I can’t know how many former partisans of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, have received God’s merciful pardon and become Christians. There was a time that I appreciated Rand’s work for what I saw as a rational response to the ubiquitous relativism and mysticism I found unpalatable. Objectivism promises absolutes–but only as far as the natural eye can see.Of course Objectivism is irredeemably flawed, as any philosophy with an atheistic thesis must necessarily be. Nor is the system original, despite Rand’s pretense to innovation.Objectivism piloted my world view for a few years. I didn’t see through its smokescreen until Christ opened my eyes.

My conversion brought total aversion to Rand’s novels (and all novels) and philosophy. As Tom Lyon says, “theology disciplines all of life.” Philosophy is not harmless. Perhaps it is even less so when couched in art.

Rand called art “the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal.” This is not an easy definition to refute, and its implications are frightening for many reasons. For one thing, she raised the novel to a philosophical art form. Her novels are competent and engaging by any literary standards. They appeal to the young who are searching for meaning, truth, and a world view. Moreover, Rand’s moral ideals are antichrist, and she claims rationality as her exclusive domain. (But: I think Harry Potter is at least as malign for not laying claim on reality.)

As a Puritan probably not showered with blessings of moderation, I tend to think that anything that competes with a Scriptural world view is evil. This is not about carburetor repair manuals, but it is about art, and philosophy, which encompasses epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and politics. So, one fine day, some years after our conversions, my husband and I decided to take all of our Ayn Rand books to the used-book purveyors and sell them. We did not receive 50,000 pieces of silver, but $25.00, and were able to go to lunch at the Red Robin.

For several years, that was the end of Ayn Rand at our house.

Now, for some reason, I have decided to read Michael Yang’s book, Reconsidering Ayn Rand, which relates his experience with Objectivism and subsequent conversion to Christianity.

It seems to me that Dr. Yang really went about leaving Objectivism the hard way. He became a Christian, but for some reason, that wasn’t the end of it. His book seems to target people who really need to understand why Objectivism is defective–people who cannot simply dismiss Objectivism for its flawed epistemology and ethics. I am finding the book actually tedious.

I was interested in Yang’s book because I wanted to see how a Christian would go about deconstructing Rand. John Robbins wrote a much more concise and definitive book that cuts through Objectivism leaving no standing timbers. But I thought Dr. Yang’s account would be more “personal.” Dr. Yang is an ophthalmologist, which likely accounts for his obsessive precision and over-reliance on Venn diagrams.

Dr. Yang points out that Objectivism is actually a spawn of empiricism. Rand, despite her vehement protestations against the empiricists, shared their view that reality could be known only through the senses. She held their notion of the tabula rasa, or blank slate mind without a priori input, thus impaling objective reality for want of the means of conscious perception, while claiming that objective existence requires conscious validation. Dr. Yang explores this flaw very thoroughly, with many Venn diagrams.

Interestingly, the Ayn Rand Institute itself reveals Rand was also a gnostic. Rand called Objectivism “a philosophy for living on earth.” Secret knowledge, anyone? Referring to the principles of her philosophy, her disciples reveal:

“If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought.” (www.aynrand.org)

Thus, Rand has hoist her Objectivism on the gnostic petard. She intended Objectivism as a religion, to guide the course of your life. Her antipathy toward Christianity was total and vicious. (Perhaps her hatred was commercially motivated as well as philosophical–there is some evidence that only the Bible has influenced more readers than her novel, Atlas Shrugged. Objectivism, as John Robbins implies in his title, Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System, is leaving the scene. The Pharisee Gamaliel predicted it would, two thousand years ago:

for if…this work be of men, it will be overthrown: but if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them, lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God. Acts 5:38-39

Ayn Rand fought against God. She fought artfully but badly, and she lost the fight.

Posted by Mrs. B at 8:05 PM

3 comments:
Mike Pitzler said…
Old Ayn Rand was a mean old gal,
Washed her face in a wooden pail,
Combed her hair with a wagon wheel, and died of a tooth-ache in her heel.

6:12 PM
Michael said…
I read Ayn Rand in my late twenties, after embracing the reformed faith, having been raised Roman Catholic, becoming “born-again” at 18, and a missionary for a non-denominational “Christian” organization (Youth With a Mission) just prior to seeing the light. Based on what I have studied (and I can, and do, go into lengthy discussions to support my argument), it is my humble opinion that when faced with the question of God that if you can be TRULY objective you will convert (to Christianity). Just because one has faith doesn’t mean it must be blind. I once requested of the Ayn Rand institute that they address Christianity in this manner (presenting specific arguments as to the claims of Jesus, the Bible, archeology, etc.) and the only answer they could offer was I should attend more of their meetings. Needless to say I was disappointed, having it in my mind I could easily convince them all…but like poor Pharaoh they didn’t stand a chance and so I sadly moved on…

9:10 AM
Mrs. B said…
There’s no convincing them; only God’s Spirit can do that. It’s worth presenting a case, but I don’t think evidence brings about faith, Michael. Not ours, anyway. Blind faith likely is receptive to everything. I certainly agree that Christianity epitomizes objective reason; however, faith doesn’t come from reason. Reason comes from faith. I was just listening to a sermon by Joe Morecraft in which he said that is what distinguished Augustine (reason from faith) from Aquinas (faith from reason).

5:05 PM

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