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I am admittedly a bit excited about Atlas Shrugged, Part I, the movie coming out on (ironically or intentionally) tax day (April 15 is the traditional tax day!) 2011.  I am also concerned.  For Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy is based on her virulent opposition to religion.  Whitaker Chambers said it well here for NR over fifty years ago:

Something of this implication is fixed in the book’s dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind, which finds this one natural to it, shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ” To the gas chambers— go!” The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture— that Dollar Sign, for example. At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the differences between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.

Given my knowledge of Chambers as a man of faith (who had been wicked but now not so) I would trust his judgment. Here’s a critical article on Chambers’ view of Atlas Shrugged.

Chambers advanced the claim– popular mainly with the Left–that Ayn Rand is a Nietzschean, with political views leading to Nazism. “Miss Rand acknowledges a grudging [sic] debt to one, and only one, earlier philosopher: Aristotle. I submit that she is indebted, and much more heavily, to Nietzsche. Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous leftists are Nietzsche’s ‘last men’. . . .” These supermen heroes are, according to Chambers, a “technocratic elite,” who will “head us into dictatorship, however benign, living and acting beyond good and evil, a law unto itself (as Miss Rand believes it should be). . . .” “From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged,” he charges, “a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding ‘To a gas chamber–go!'”

Chambers who once wrote (in Witness) there were only two great faiths – Man with God and Man without God (Communism), Rand’s views on God are critical.  The plot of Atlas Shrugged speaks to man rising up to control and dominate their circumstances – by in this case, dropping out of society and to stop producing for a ever more pervasive government.

But Rand believed man did not need God.  She was withering in her criticism of right-wingers who sought support in Christian or other beliefs.  Try this video with a young Phil Donahue (who appears shocked that Rand did not believe in God!) for an example.   I contend that Rand’s philosophy is in deed Nietzschean and is dangerous.  Here’s an article whose viewpoint is intriguing but states the potential for harm well:

In the late seventies, I went on an Ayn Rand craze. I read most of her works, fiction and non-fiction. I recall sitting in the student center at Bethel College as a young professor of Bible reading Atlas Shrugged. An Old Testament professor from the seminary walked by and saw what I was reading. He paused and said, “That stuff is incredibly dangerous.” He was right. For a certain mindset, she is addicting and remarkably compelling in her atheistic rationalism.

We need movies and literature that exalt liberty principles.  However, liberty comes from God (The Declaration and the Bible agree on that!) and when you try to separate liberty from God, you run the risk of merely establishing a new totalitarianism.  I probably will not see Atlas Shrugged and I recommend my Christian readers handle Rand with extreme care.  We are dependent on God for everything in our lives and we ought not do anything without dedicating it to Him and making sure it is His holy will.  For how to know the peace that God brings through Jesus Christ, go here!)

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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