My Take: Christianity and Ayn Rand's philosophy are 2 distinct religions
Ayn Rand's book "The Fountainhead" and the Bible.
August 15th, 2012
11:29 AM ET

My Take: Christianity and Ayn Rand's philosophy are 2 distinct religions

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Now that one of the Republican Party’s least ideological men (Mitt Romney) has christened one of the GOP’s most ideological men (Paul Ryan) as his running mate, Ayn Rand is back in the news.

Ryan, who used to give away Rand’s novel "Atlas Shrugged" for Christmas, once described this Russian-born preacher of heroic individualism as "the reason I got into public service.” “There is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism," he told the pro-Rand Atlas Society in 2005, "than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works."

Ryan’s religious conservatism obviously distinguishes him from Rand, an atheist who despised efforts by Ronald Reagan and others to marry church and state. And recently Ryan has tried to distance himself from her.

In an April interview with the National Review, he rooted his controversial budget plan, not in Rand’s laissez-faire philosophizing, but in Catholic values. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he said. “Give me Thomas Aquinas.”

Which makes me wonder just how these two influences on Ryan stack up against one another. Is it possible to love Aquinas and Rand at the same time? About as possible as loving God and mammon since Christianity and Randism are, in my view, two competing religions.

I know that Rand was an atheist, so it may seem like a stretch to call Randism a religion. But there are plenty of religions (Buddhism, for example) that have rejected God. And like Christianity, Randism has its founder, its scriptures and its miracles (since in the Gospel of Ayn Rand there isn't anything laissez-faire capitalism and its secular saints cannot do).

Randism also has its committed devotees, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and conservative talk-show hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, not to mention the myriad commenters (see below) who will no doubt object to my efforts to brand her atheism a religion.

Here are five big differences I see between the  theologies of Christianity and Randism:

1. Jesus preached the virtue of selflessness; Rand wrote a book called "The Virtue of Selfishness" (1964). Altruism is evil, she argued, and egoism the only true ethics.

2. The Apostle Paul called the love of money the root of all evil. Rand wore a dollar sign brooch and saw to it that a florid dollar sign stood guard by her casket at her funeral. She also put a love letter to the almighty dollar on the lips of one of her "Atlas Shrugged" heroes, copper magnate Francisco d’Anconia (a speech Ryan has said he returns to repeatedly when pondering monetary policy). There d’Anconia calls money “the root of all good."

3. “Blessed are the poor,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke. And he says in the Gospel of Matthew that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” In the Gospel according to Ayn Rand, however, it is the “traders” (“job creators” in modern parlance) who like Atlas carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, while the poor are denounced as “moochers” and “looters."

4. The hope of the Christian gospel is the kingdom of God, but Rand's objectivist philosophy opposes "collectivism" at every turn. “Man - every man - is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake,” the inventor John Galt proclaims in "Atlas Shrugged," “and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.”

5. The ultimate concern of Christianity is God. The ultimate concern of Randism is the unfettered freedom of the individual. While the Christian Trinity comprise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Rand’s Trinity is I, me, mine.

For years, Ryan and other conservative Republicans have been trying to have their Jesus Christ and their Ayn Rand,  too. But the two clash at least as much as an Obama/Ryan ticket.

Conservative icon William F. Buckley rightly recognized this fundamental incompatibility, running a blistering review of "Atlas Shrugged"in his National Review and denouncing that novel himself in a Charlie Rose interview as "a thousand pages of ideological fabulism.”

Evangelical leader Chuck Colson was equally critical, referring to Rand’s “idolatry of self and selfishness” as “the antithesis of Christianity.”

To his credit, Ryan seems to be acknowledging the gap between Randism and Christianity by attempting in recent months to distance himself from an intellectual mentor and emphasizing instead the Catholic roots of his budget plan.

But as Jesus once said, “By your fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:16), and I for one still see much more Rand than Jesus in Ryan’s Robin Hood budget.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this piece said that Jesus called the love of money the root of all evil. The statement should have been attributed to the Apostle Paul.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Christianity • Economy • Paul Ryan • Politics • United States

soundoff (1,069 Responses)
  1. roy manry

    When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
    "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
    "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
    "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
    "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
    "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46)

    August 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Michael H.

      So when I walk by a homeless guy and refuse to help him I'm going to Hell?

      Jesus is sick and twisted beyond belief. Death to Christianity.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Prayer changed my oil. Alleluia, amen.

      Before you waste your time quoting Babble verses to anyone, you have to establish it's authority, and what exactly that means, and why anyone should pay any attention to a set of assembled faith proclamations, which were intended for those who were already believers. That means they were not written for, or intended for those who were not already believers.

      Matthew also said "And behold the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs, they entered the holy city, and were seen by many". Matthew 27: 52-53.

      So please tell us why this zombie invasion was not docu'mented anywhere, or the appearances of all the other zombies were not recorded by any of the authorities, or the split rocks were never noticed, and the veil ripping, in the most important site in Judaism was never recorded.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Perhaps it was, then was lost. Maybe instead of zombies, they were actual people and looked completely normal. Maybe the Jews thought the veil being torn was a simple act of vandalism.Split a rock and it just looks like multiple rocks. Now why did basic compounds arange themselves into protiens and form the basic building blocks of life? Can you please show the scientific community how to do it?

      August 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  2. Matt

    Is the distinction between Ayn Rand's philosophy and Christianity really important. It sure seems like a distraction from the real issues. Giving this publicity is tedious. Perhaps Ryan finds value/interest in both even though they are very different. So friggen what. I'm not a Ryan supporter nor a republican, but this subject is a complete distraction. Why not spend some time picking apart his budget plan and explaining it.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • sammywatinka

      Don't you feel that a little diversity is good for a well-rounded basis of opinion?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  3. us_1776

    Ayn Rand = Atheist (her one redeeming quality)

    Ayn Rand = Russian

    Ayn Rand = objectivist, anarchist

    Ayn Rand = Social Security and Medicare recipient.

    Wow, tea bags, who ya' gonna call on this one.


    August 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Paul


      August 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      "Ayn Rand = Social Security and Medicare recipient."

      Not sure where you are going with this? She paid her **mandatory** contributions into that fund for over 35 years.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  4. Bobby

    If everyone lived by Jesus' teachings, this world would be utopia. He taught selflessness and concern for your fellow human being. If everyone lived by Ayn Rand's teachings (which, by the way, most people do, whether they know it or not), this world would be, well, what it is.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • us_1776

      The GOP would imprison the real Christ.


      August 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  5. the voice of reason

    Does this idiot get paid by the article?

    August 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • observer1776

      You call yourself "The Voice Of Reason" and post a idiotic comment?
      Do true facts confuse you and get in the way of your ego?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Which God?

      @ the voice. You are being kind to the idiot. Stop it.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  6. DFZ

    Is Ryan distancing himself from Ayn Rand because it is politically expedient for him to do so or because his bishop threatened him with excommunication if he didn't?

    August 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      I'm guessing...both.


      August 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  7. Kevin

    Good article. Ryan is certainly Catholic regarding gay rights and abortion. However, his budget is pure Rand. If he can control the budget, the poor and middle classes will be forgotten.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Mbane18

      I'm Catholic and I don't remember Jesus ever talking about abortion. The same principals of "thou shall not kill" applies to wars and the sale of weapons as well since their only intent is to kill Yet republicans are all for it. Care to explain the contradiction?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Topher


      Did Jesus not teach that the OT was true?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jim Brody

      mbane18: "The same principals of "thou shall not kill" applies to wars and the sale of weapons as well since their only intent is to kill " And the same goes for capital punishment.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  8. The Lord of Excess

    "Ryan’s Robin Hood budget." You mean reverse Robin Hood budget ... great article but that is a glaring inaccuracy. Ryan wants to rob from the poor to pay the rich ... period.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Craig

      I must have missed the articles CNN has had on Black Christian Theology vs Christianity.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Craig

      And Obama/Reid/Pelosi want to "rob the rich" to pay for their special interests, get themselves and their families richer, and keep the poor in place by robbing them of opportunity. Amazing so many buy into this.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Good post Craig.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  9. Dev

    And stephen choses words that divide. I really don't get how these hate-mongers are allowed to contribute here.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • john

      So just where do you see hate mongering? I think the essay is pretty tame and factual. If you disagree with a specific point please let us know what it is.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Corey

      The truth hurts doesn't it. I get it. Nobody likes to be wrong. But it takes a strong man to realize when he is wrong and man up to it. This is what baffles me with the GOP. Because your party is basically two different ideologies with similarities trying to exist. You have the religious right and the fiscal right. Exactly what this article is talking about. The greedy people in this country use fear and misinformation on the religious right. Simply put one ideology believes in greed and the other doesn't (It's even a deadly sin). Quite frankly I hope the religious right is guilty by association for allowing the greed in their party.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Dan M

      John – The author didn't even name the philosophy correctly. It's not "Randism", it's "Objectivism". It's hard to take the author serious when he can't even name it. Another misleading fact: Greenspan was influenced by Ayn Rand but she was a believer in the gold standard so to think he somehow ran the Fed as an Objectivist is absurd and misleading. The author also cites "stories" from her fiction novel and not from her philosophy work... this would be like citing The Ten Commandments movie to pick apart religion.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Reality

    And more yackety-yack from Stevie P who still does not know what to believe about the gods and religion even though he is a professor of religion.

    So Stevie P what sayest about the following with respect to your illumination of the magic man Jesus?

    The Apostles' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years) (prayer = a reiterated peti-tion such as the Our Father)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    August 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Dev

      If you really want to prove God's existance. Look in the mirror.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      Will you please stop just cutting and pasting!
      Do you not have an original new thing to say?

      August 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Ozzy

      @Dev Are you saying Reality is God? I had no idea...

      August 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Reality

      I did and this is what I found in said mirror:

      “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

      The Situation Today
      Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

      It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Reality

      As a good student, you have read the reiterations of the "fems" (flaws, errors, muck and stench) of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return all because of you!!!!

      August 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Romans 1:1-32

      1   Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

      2   (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

      3   Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

      4   And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

      5   By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

      6   Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

      7   To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

      8   First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

      9   For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

      10   Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

      11   For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

      12   That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

      13   Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

      14   I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

      15   So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

      16   For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

      17   For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

      18   For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

      19   Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed [it] unto them.
      20   For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

      21   Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

      22   Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

      23   And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

      24   Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

      25   Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

      26   For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

      27   And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

      28   And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

      29   Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

      30   Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

      31   Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

      32   Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.


      August 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      LOL. The cliff notes version of parts of rubbish doesn't make the rubbish anything more useful.

      And HeavenSent – regarding your copy and paste: Of course Romans part of the bible is more rubbish attributed to that self-proclaimed "apostle" – the politician Paul who earmarked that NT bill so bad, our present-day congressmen and lobbyists look like little angels by comparison.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • observer1776

      Would you like to exchange references?
      Yours are disprovable.
      Jesus is real.
      What He was, what He said, and what He did are reality, which much evidence to support that reality.
      Feel free to reply to fgoeepfert@yahoo.com

      August 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      I think HeavenSent has a cut and paste disorder.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  11. Honey Badger Dont Care

    He forgot number 6 – Jesus condones slavery.

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

    August 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • J.W

      That verse probably was not spoken by Jesus.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Topher

      There is no condoning here ... and please give the whole thing so it is used in context ....

      "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eyeservice, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him."

      August 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Of course. Since the mythical figure of Jesus never existed in the first place he never literally said it. But the character Jesus in the work of fiction called the bible said it.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Topher

      Well, technically Jesus didn't say it, but because it is in the Bible, He did say it. Christ, being God, wrote the whole thing, so not just the red letters.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • J.W

      Jesus only speaks in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Not Ephesians.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Topher, you are completely wrong.

      Just as he could have done in the 10 commandments, he could have said that slavery was an abomination and that all slaves should be set free. By not doing this he is in fact condoning slavery. You can put all the frosting that you want on a turd bu it is still a turd.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      "Jesus only speaks in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Not Ephesians."

      So, you reject that Paul of Tarsus was "inspired by Jesus (or the Holy Spirit, or whichever supernatural being he claims "spoke" to him)? Ah, now we are starting to get somewhere...

      August 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Topher

      What is your definition of slavery, by the way?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • J.W

      Paul may have been inspired, but that does not mean he could not have been wrong.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Topher

      So God can be wrong?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Timmy

      Having to worship you, or go to hell.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      A Frayed Knot wrote:
      "So, you reject that Paul of Tarsus was "inspired by Jesus (or the Holy Spirit, or whichever supernatural being he claims "spoke" to him)? Ah, now we are starting to get somewhere..."

      Absolutely I would reject Paul. Even if someone were to believe that Jesus was not just a man, but the son of a super-being, it should still be logical that they question Paul, much in the same way that it is so easy to question Joseph Smith. It's big point because I don't think Catholicism would be what it is today (and certainly not as weird) without accepting Paul and others from the NT that supposedly completed our understanding of Jesus' intentions (and, imho, wound up selling us a dangerous bill of goods).

      To me the bible is a jumble of key stories and exaggeration that would make people feel good and eventually some lawyers and politicians realized if they just organized these stories just a little bit, they could quickly start making some quick money and occasionally helping out their contingencies.

      But in light of those who question the acceptance of Paul – they obviously would never even come close to being able to reach any kind of understanding with the notion that Topher had with ". . . because it is in the Bible, He did say it. . ." It should be pretty obvious to anyone – believer or not, that there are too many religious people who just accept what they are told without even considering what created their religion.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Slaves in the Bible were not like the slaves in U.S. history. Often times the slave in biblical times would choose to stay with their masters when they were given the choice or paid their debt, that is why there is a provision and a ritual for the occurance in either Lev or Duet. The slaves in the Bible were more like servants. By the way, through the use of money we are all slaves to this day, even rich people.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • J.W

      I would not say God could be wrong, but Paul was not God.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Common apologetic that isn't even supported within your own bible.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Topher

      PerceivedReality is right. It was nothing like the racial slavery in this country. The ones in the Bible were more often people who owed a debt and thus entered into a contract to work off the debt and others were so well taken care of (often the "slave" was given housing and food and other things) that they chose to keep working under the contract after the debt was paid. Debts were to be forgiven every 7 years anyway. Now there were some "war" slaves, but that is more like our use of Gitmo than it was our racial slavery.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Topher


      "I would not say God could be wrong, but Paul was not God."

      True. But when it comes to the Scriptures, it was all from God.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      1) The 7 year thing was only applicable to other Israelites, and that had a loophole as well.
      2) They could be beaten.
      3) The only war slaves were those who gave up their cities immediately, or the young virgins of cities that didn't immediately give up.
      4) All slaves were considered property and could be treated as such.

      Learn your own bible instead of making excuses for immorality in it.

      August 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  12. ME II

    Not sure why Prothero invented an -ism, when Rand herself created Objectivism. Guess it made it easier to compare with a religion.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • john

      "Randism" is the author's term for Ayn Rand's whole philosophy and interpretation of social life, not just her coined usage of Objecivism.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  13. William Demuth

    All philosophy must in some sense dictate the distribution of wealth.

    It is the only real question, and how one answers it is influenced by culture, religion, and the ethics of one’s situation.

    It is the source of all divisiveness in our society, because we can't or won't speak honestly of it. Does societal membership guarantee a birth right? Do all members have inherent right to a certain share of a societies prosperity? If not, do the disenfranchised have some moral obligation to still accept the context of that society?

    History teaches us societies fall both from external forces (via war and other aggressions) and internal forces (like rebellion, sedition, and active and passive resistance)

    The key is all about perception. Does the underclass feel the society is just? If so they generally create stability. When they lose this faith, things destabilize. We have seen this instability sweep over several significant size societies in the past 25 years (with one HUGE "almost" in China), and we subconsciously fear that instability spreading here.

    Rand’s philosophies require that stability, and thus may be irrelevant in the coming decades. It is no longer about prospering either individually or collectively in the existing paradigm, but rather about adapting to a shifting one

    I believe either the philosophies of either Mao, or Genghis Kahn better portend our future because they represent the desire to control the paradigm rather than merely achieving the desired results within the existing one.

    After all, revolution is an affair of many, and Rand’s beliefs are about the one

    August 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  14. Stuart

    Harvey Cox’s essay, The Market as God, serves as an excellent complement to this article.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  15. MennoKnight

    There is a common mistake that the author (Stephen) of this article made about what the Bible teaches about money.
    He said that Jesus said "that the love of money is the root of all evil"
    Jesus did not say this. It was Paul who said something very similar.
    "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10
    That said I fully agree with Stephen on all points.
    In Canada it was Baptist, Mennonite, Anglican, United, and Catholic leaders that started universal health care 50 years ago as a natural extension of their faith in action.
    Randism is the idolatry of America and one of the reasons why I cannot stand to listen to conservative talk-show hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
    I am pretty sure that Rush is only a believer in his fat self.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  16. Roark

    Religion is a philosophy based on "Faith" as opposed to "Reason". Ayn Rand rejected faith, and her philosophy is consistent in this regard, thus it cannot be called a religion.

    To read from Ayn Rand directly visit the Ayn Rand Lexicon website. There you can look up faith, religion, and government.

    Greenspan is not a devotee of Ayn Rand's. He may claim to be, but that does not make it so. Specifically, Ayn Rand rejected any form of government coercion outside of protecting Individual Rights. Greenspan was chairman of a coercive government branch, the Federal Reserve.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • jimmer

      Greenspan did just enough to fvck us all, without doing anything to prevent it.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • john

      The author was being polite. "Randism" is more akin to a cult than to a religion. Its members are relatively few, extreme in their beliefs, select in their approval / condemnation of others, and unwilling to admit the possibility of error. Hence Greenspan, for example, still will not acknowledge having played any role in the real estate crash.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  17. Jim

    and yet you completely disregard the foundation of separation between the Church and the State.. each should be sovereign, with little influence from the other..

    August 15, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jim, George Washington disagrees with you.


      August 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      HS: George Washington is dead. He agrees with no one at this point

      August 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • History...

      History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.
      - President Thomas Jefferson

      August 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • nostrildamus

      Washington advocated for faith, but did not advocate conflating church and state. He still thought it to be a personal choice, just that it was needed for morality.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  18. jefe

    A person can be shaped by the works of an author without adopting all of their views; in fact, sometimes authors we disagree with help us to sharpen our viewpoints best. Being in favor of individualism over collectivism does not require one to be an Objectivist, nor to eschew altruism or reject Christianity. This whole Ryan-as-Randian controversy is silly.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Al

      Nice spin. Maybe Bill O will use it in the zone.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • jefe

      Maybe so!

      August 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • ME

      Agreed. I quote lots of authors but hardly do I embrace the whole person's beliefs, ethics, and values. In fact, just like politics – I like some things from one guy and other things from the other guy. So why then set up a debate that isn't realistic? Why try to draw a distinct line of this or that when only one or two issues are applicable? Trust me, the just and the unjust have read Ayn Rand. My question of interest is how many posters today have read her works before commenting? They aren't that easy to get through and comprehend.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  19. Colin

    Steve's juxtaposing the selfishness of Rand's capitalism against the "selflessness" of Christianity has a flaw. "The ultimate concern of Christianity is God. The ultimate concern of Randism is the unfettered freedom of the individual" he says.

    Well, wait. The only reason Christians spend so much time and effort fawning to their sky-fairy is the promise of an eternal life in heaven. Is this not ultimately self interest, in the same way that trembling courtesans would present the king with $ex and gifts to gain his favor?

    August 15, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Bob

      Great point, Colin. I think about that often -seems so many Christians "believe" due to fear of punishment from their "loving" deity and/or self-interest re personal gain, although one often has to press them to reveal that.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Our 1st president of the United States disagrees with you.


      August 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Topher

      If a Christian believes because of a fear of punishment they come at it with the wrong heart/motives. Jesus Christ is not ccsmic fire insurance. Christians should come to Christ because, yes, they acknowledge they are destined for Hell, but Christ took our punishment. We should come to the cross out of love. We love Him, because He first loved us.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • ME II

      "We should come to the cross out of love. We love Him, because He first loved us."
      To Colin's point, how is that not self-interest? i.e. going to the one you love (let alone loving Him because He loved you first)

      August 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • MennoKnight

      I am sorry but you don't understand Christianity. As a Mennonite Christian we preach very much on the now focus and that the teachings of Jesus greatly affect the here and now.
      Following Jesus enables us to live full lives, lives where we are at peace with our neighbor, not controlled by the lure of every whim and passion but living with humility, compassion, and love.
      Living the way of Jesus' gives us a taste of heaven on earth. In the churches that I am familiar with preaching is very much about the here and now. And this is not a "Mennonite Thing"

      August 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      'destined for Hell'

      Why are newborns destined for hell? Answer: God is evil.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • J.W

      That may be the hope as far as worshiping God, but it is not why you would want to live a good life.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Topher

      Why do you think newborns are destined for Hell?

      August 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      'Why do you think newborns are destined for Hell?

      You are born with sin and destined to hell because some woman ate an apple 4,000 years ago. Yes, it is the fault of women. Now we all have to pay. That's why Jesus had to die. Now we eat Jesus and live forever. Why is this so complicated? Are you new here?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      HeavenSent wrote: " . .1st president of the United States disagrees with you. ."

      He is still dead, HeavenSent. . . please try to catch up.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Topher

      Jesus freaker

      'Why do you think newborns are destined for Hell?

      "You are born with sin and destined to hel..."

      True, but there's an age of accountability, so Christians believe that if a newborn dies they go to Heaven.

      "because some woman ate an apple 4,000 years ago. Yes, it is the fault of women."

      Actually, it is because of Adam. He is our federal head.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • ME II

      "True, but there's an age of accountability, so Christians believe that if a newborn dies they go to Heaven."
      Interesting. What's your basis for this statement?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Topher

      ME II

      "Interesting. What's your basis for this statement?"

      The Bible verse typically used for this is 2 Samuel 12:23. King David's baby has just died, and he said, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." He is indicating that he would see his child again one day in Heaven.

      But here's a very good article on the subject ... http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A264

      August 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  20. Bob

    Ayn Rand was too smart for religion, and people who are religious are too stupid to understand Ayn Rand's writings.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • HeavenSent

      What's difficult to comprehend about big egos of a person that doesn't or refuses to get a handle on it?

      August 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • OTOH


      Here's EGO for you:

      "The most magnificent, powerful, intelligent super-being imaginable loves ME, talks to ME, walks with ME, and desperately wants to spend eternal bliss with ME, because **I** am so SPECIAL! **I** am not satisfied with this lifetime and **I** want MORE for ME."

      August 15, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Tina

      HeavenSentUnhealthy, does your Jesus wear a thong?

      August 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      HeavenSent is truly an idiot.

      ("Proved by" question above, which is the most nonsensical thing anyone has posted in these blogs since, well, HeavenSent's previous posts.)

      August 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • nostrildamus

      Stalin was too smart for religion too. Must be a Russian thing.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.