Her philosophy of Objectivism is a lot more complex that we want to address here, so let me hit some of the highlights of her belief system. She was an enthusiastic believer in the Free Market System (hereafter "FMS") (although she used the term Capitalism), property rights, individual rights, and democracy (at least as opposed to any of the alternatives). She really hated what she called collectivism: Her father ran a small store, which was stolen by the Communists in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, which would explain a lot about her economic and political beliefs. She was really opposed to unrestricted welfare, modern Feminism, Affirmative Action, crony capitalism, and the counter-cultural movement of the 1960’s. Thus far, she and I are in wholehearted agreement.
But there are some problems for Christians (actually anyone who holds to any religion whatsoever). First and foremost, she was a hardcore atheist. I mean, she really really really hated religion in any form. She was a doctrinaire materialist, dismissing with utter contempt as “mysticism” any belief that there’s anything beyond matter and energy in the universe. In fact, she considered people of any faith to be her political opponents, lumping them with collectivists of other stripes. According to her any progress we have made, make now, or ever can make in human rights in the world must—sine qua non—entail a wholesale rejection of all types of collectivism, of which religion is just another manifestation. Just to be clear, anything other than materialism is of one piece as far as she’s concerned: The primitive tribesman who fears tree spirits is virtually the same as an Evangelical Christian or an earnest Buddhist or a practicing Jew, and their beliefs are all equally worthy of contempt.
Why are we concerned with her? Because, as I stated before, if you delve into the conservative movement at all, you won’t get far without encountering fans of hers. Senator Paul Ryan, the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate for 2012, supposedly once passed out copies of Atlas Shrugged to his subordinates—and at the very least was a huge fan of hers. There are huge streaks of small “l” libertarianism in the Republican party (which I have a lot of sympathy for), and if you meet anyone who calls himself a libertarian (either big “L” or little “l”), it’s extremely likely that he’s a fan of Ayn Rand. For lots of people, reading Atlas was their first gleaming of any type of questioning of their Liberal/Leftist upbringing or the Leftist atmosphere they were surrounded by in college. If it didn’t lead to their joining the Republican Party, at least it led to their questioning of the Leftist philosophy.
That’s probably the biggest mark in her favor. To the degree that her writings (probably Atlas, which is most peoples’ introduction to her work) lead people to question Leftist orthodoxy, she deserves some applause. We’ll get to a fuller review of Atlas soon, but for now let it be said that I found myself breaking into cheering sometimes as I read. There are some passages which encapsulate principles with unmatched eloquence: the virtues of the FMS, utter contempt for crony capitalism (businessmen in this book are just as villainous as government officials), the utter impossibility that we’re going to rise out of sustenance-level poverty without the FMS, etc. Little wonder that lots of people have been converted out of Leftism after reading it.
I think the pattern on this should be: A) What she did right, B) A critique of her belief system from a Christian perspective, C) A review of Atlas, and D) A summary of how (I believe) Christians should approach Rand and her followers.