The Legacy of Ayn Rand

CHARLES COLSON

Rationalizing Selfishness.

Ayn Rand
(1905-1982)

In his new memoir, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan reminds us that author Ayn Rand is still influencing the world. He credits her with turning him into something more than a "math junkie."

Greenspan is not alone. A 1991 Book-of-the-Month Club and Library of Congress survey asked members which book had most influenced their lives. As expected, the Bible finished first. Unexpectedly,

Rand’s most famous book, the novel Atlas Shrugged, finished second.

Fifty years after its publication and 25 years after Rand’s death, Atlas Shrugged is still read everywhere from college campuses to Wall Street. Given its popularity and its impact, Christians ought to be acquainted with Rand’s work and, especially, her worldview.

As theologian John Piper puts it, Rand’s work manifests a “complete rejection of a divine or supernatural dimension to reality.” The absence of God causes Rand to get human nature wrong as well.

In Atlas Shrugged and her other writings, Rand articulated a philosophy she called “objectivism.” Among other things, objectivism teaches that man’s “highest value” and “moral purpose” is his own happiness.

By “happiness” Rand meant “rational self-interest.” For her, “virtue” consisted of doing what “secured” your life and well-being.

Where did that leave altruism and self-sacrifice? As vices. For Rand, altruism and self-sacrifice represented a betrayal of what should be a person’s “highest values,” that is, his life and well-being. Similarly, justice would be possible only where you never sought for nor granted unearned or undeserved results, “neither in matter nor in spirit . . .”


By “happiness” Rand meant “rational self-interest.” For her, “virtue” consisted of doing what “secured” your life and well-being.


But without altruism and self-sacrifice, how do people relate to one another? Ayn Rand says through exchanges that promote mutual advantage, what she called a “trade.” In other words, as if each of the parties were businesses, not people.

Rand’s inversion of biblical norms had predictable results: Scott Ryan, who wrote a book on Rand’s philosophy, called objectivism a “psychologically totalitarian personality cult that allowed Rand . . . to exercise personal power over [her] unwitting victims.” He cites, for example, the way she manipulated “her own unemployed and dependent husband” to get him to agree for her to have “an adulterous sexual affair.”

We’re not talking here about personal flaws or merely human weaknesses. As Ryan puts it, these abuses are “demonstrably connected to Rand’s own ‘philosophical’ premises”—that is, her worldview.

Rand and her followers, you see, lived in a way consistent with her worldview. But you can hardly regard a philosophy that exalts selfishness and condemns altruism as the basis for a good society.

That’s why it is so important for us as Christians to understand our Christian worldview and to be able to contend for it, because it gets God right, and it gets human nature right, as well. You can find that worldview in the one book that out-ranked Atlas Shrugged. And you can call us here (1-877-322-5527) or visit our website for resources that will help you debunk the followers of Ayn Rand today.

For Further Reading and Information

Purchase the “Contours of a Christian Worldview” Capitol Hill lecture series CD set.

Moral Issues We Wish Would Go Away” — lecture by Dr. J. Budziszewski.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040326, “Lectures on the Hill: A Victory for Academic Freedom.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040512, “From Prisons to Politics: Where Worldview Takes Us.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 060524, “Michael’s World: A Dangerous Place to Be.”

Christa Lilly Awoke,” Blogs for Terri, 9 March 2007.

Wesley J. Smith, “Christa Lilly Has Relapsed into Seeming Unconsciousness,” Secondhand Smoke blog, 8 March 2007.

Erin Emery and Karen Auge, “Woman Awakes after 6-Year Coma, Slips Back,” Denver Post, 8 March 2007.

Kim North Shine, “Brain Injury Survivors Strengthen Each Other,” Detroit Free Press, 1 April 2007.

Learn more about the new Wide Angle worldview curriculum and how you can purchase it. Call 1-877-322-5527.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Charles Colson. "The Legacy of Ayn Rand." BreakPoint Commentary October 16, 2007.

From BreakPoint ® (10/16/2007), Copyright 2000, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, D.C. 20041-0500. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint ®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries ®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

THE AUTHOR

Charles Colson launched Prison Fellowship in 1976, following a seven-month prison sentence for Watergate-related crimes. Since then, Prison Fellowship has flourished into a U.S. ministry of 50,000 volunteers and has spread to more then 50 countries. Beyond his prison ministry, Colson is a Christian author, speaker, and commentator, who regularly confronts contemporary values from a biblically informed perspective. His "BreakPoint" radio commentaries now air daily across the U.S. and he has written 14 books, including Loving God, Answers to Your Kids' Questions, The Line Between Right & Wrong: Developing a Personal Code of Ethics, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages, and How Now Shall We Live: A Study Guide.

Copyright © 2007 Breakpoint




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