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. AverageJoe76

    And for those that constantly tell the poor, "pull yourself up by your bootstrap"..... or some other 'it's-that-easy-phrase' to get out of your financial situation..... go totally broke, give away everything (no safety net), go to a low-income neighborhood, and start from scratch. Oh, and guess what, you'll probably become rich yet again because you have prior knowledge of business and finances. But here's what you have they didn't: the know how and the hope.

    I am all for individuals doing for themselves and not taking hand-outs. But you try crossing the desert, and run out of water, see if you wouldn't accept a hand-out from a stranger with water. It's easy to condemn people because they seem less educated, or more unrefined than yourself. But as soon as you believe that, you've failed in seeing the bigger picture.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  2. skb8721

    Excellent article on Rand and Objectivists by Michael Shermer of the magazines "Skeptic" and "Scientific American":


    My major problem with Rand is her insistence that I follow _her_: I am too much of an individualist (with no help from her) to follow Rand or anyone else.

    In short, Rand can take a flying leap. I don't need her and her philosophy, even as I quite on my own embrace the primacy of logic, yet combine it with a compassion for others about which Rand knew nothing.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. AverageJoe76

    The 'bitterness' that has been made legend by the faithful, is not bitterness towards life, but impatience with dellusional people. And I urge atheists and agnostics to be more patient. Simply because nobody knows everything. What makes sense to us, may not compute well with others. Although it's a drag, it's life. As indiviuals, our brains have different areas of concentration. Some people don't like to ask the big questions, they're content with the groundwork already laid (religion) and would rather move on with their own personal agendas. That's fine. Only if people would poke their heads out the fog of religion once in awhile and ask a freeking question every now and again........ (sigh). But y'know how it is. Questioning = The devil.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • chipndale

      Very well put.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Very good, Joe.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  4. AverageJoe76

    What do the rich-faithful think about Jesus' aversion to wealth? Why ride with Jesus if you fundementally are against his teachings?

    August 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • WachetAuf

      The human mind is capable of rationalizing anything. The rationalization is driven by the primitive impulses which blind the reasoning mind, blocking out everything which does not fit what we "believe" about ourselves or others. There are so many ways to manipulate the human mind, especially those minds who seek their protection and comfort of herds, that we have come to accept the rationalizations as "truth". For you lovers of Jesus who envision a second coming, and who are cioncerned about the existence and appeal of an anti-Christ, I would advise that you stay away from the herds and learn to think for yourself. The herd is the greatest of all evils.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • rh

      Also he took care of the ill, still had his mom in his life as an adult, and preached "do unto others as they would do unto you". Do you think all these rich folks would want to be fired and their jobs moved overseas?

      But rich folks who live off of shenanigans like moving money around are leeches, which Rand was against too.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • jacobsart

      There's only so many rich people. By aligning yourself with religion you appeal to a broader audience.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  5. WachetAuf

    Some of you have made some very powerful and insightful comments. Those which emphasize the shared values in Christianity and Rand's philosophy are especially valuable. And, I thank you. I would only add a couple of things. First, there is a lot of good in both philosophies. We must not discard one or the other because it contains some error or another. Second, I like to emphasize Jesus' invitation that we be born again. My view is that Jesus' invitation that we be born again is a recognition that at least two "spirits" reside in men. The one is the primitive instinctive and impulsive nature to which we were originally born, the same protective, herding, Darwinian survival instincts which are the heart and soul of every other unreasoning animal. There is also the higher reasoning powers which reside in most of us. Jesus, in my mind and when you examine the entire message, was asking us to cast aside the primitive instincts and use our minds. Look at what he asked us to do: turn the other cheek, not cat the first stone, examine the plank in our own eye before we criticize the spec in someone else's. Is it John 1:1 which describes God's nature? In the beginning was the word, the word was with God, and God was the word. The Greek term was "logos", as I understand it. "Logos" seems to have the same meaning as "logic" reason, doesn't it? I see the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, as an invitation to use our reasoning minds to accomplish a new relationship among men in the governance of their lives. It is one which is based solely on using higher powers of reason to accomplish just what Ayn Rand invited us to do. What Ayn Rand saw, and what I see, in this world, is that we are so very habituated and dependent on the use of our more primitive passions, our fears, and moved by our hormones toward hate, anger and other passions. Our church leaders and political leaders use our primitive natures, the herding instincts, to frighten us into action, to move us to react impulsively without stopping to reason. The ideologues and demagogues take control of us because it is so very easy to manipulate our primitive instincts, so very frighteningly easy. We are prisoners of their manipulation. We do give sheep and lemmings a bad name. We allow our leaders to murder hundreds of thousands, millions, of people in the name of what? We excuse the death of truth because powerful forces tell us it is okay. We find protection and comfort in the center of the herd, not realizing that the herd is moving toward an abyss. Yes, Ayn Rand and Jesus were both correct but church leaders and politicians do to want us to know it.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Rita

      Thank you for a very insightful post.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • rh

      Very good post, thank you.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • sonny chapman

      But Jesus, it's so hard to live as you say the Father has told you to tell us ! "Be perfect, as the Father is perfect" 5 Mathew,48. P.S.- this is right after Jesus told his disciples that the Father said for us to "love Our Enemies". Matthew 5,43.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      What's unfortunate about the nature of our imaginations is how we allow them to overrule us with little to no stmuli in a physical setting. As powerful as our brains are (I fell ashamed at such an arrogant statement, but I digress) they can also be our worst enemies. The ripple effect of the first human to introduce the notion of a Higher Power........ staggerring. Once heard abot, our brains cannot shut it off. The imagination soars. And don't get informed about some outer-dimensional punishment / reward that awaits you. then you drive yourself batty wondering if you're passing 'God's Test'.

      Jesus would not have been heard if he didn't proclaim he was the son of the Father. Though he may have wanted man to use logic, it was unfortunately a mere pixel in a 72" LCD screen of the ill-logical. But different times = different thinking. What was proclaimed made sense with what we had to work with. But again, the ripple effect of certain elemental ideals, have driven man crazy for centuries.

      August 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      To Joe,

      You are correct. I wish to add that Jesus and all authors of that era use only the language, the concepts and imagery which was popular or current in their time. Although they were highly evolved, they did not have the sociological, psychological and scientific reference points which we have in our modern era. I am sure that they were so highly evolved that they would engage us, and would have the capacity to do so. The issues are unchanged. Only the intensity of the manipulation has changed. The manipulation and deception has become so deeply accepted into our cultures that it is much more difficult to find the truth. As an example, we now accept Santa and all the other pagan traditions as essential elements of "Christianity". Easter eggs and rabbits? These things have removed us much too far from the reality of the Biblical message. The herd in which we feel so very protected and comforted will take us over the edge very quickly. The pace is escalating.

      August 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  6. tim young

    I feel sorry for all of you who make unkind statements against GOD. I am saying with this with love and kindness to the believer and the non believer.
    Matthew 12:36
    But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • God is a man made delusion

      it's impossible to offend a delusion.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      If a person really believes that God will make them answer for every word they ever uttered against him (and we are human/ imperfect beings), I believe this person will be driven to the edge of madness. That's mental torture.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • chad

      It's time to grow up and stop believing in fairy tales.

      Mother Goose 12:26

      Baa, baa, black sheep,
      Have you any wool?
      Yes, sir, yes, sir,
      Three bags full;
      One for the master,
      And one for the dame,
      And one for the little boy
      Who lives down the lane.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Woody

      "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." – tim young

      The Day of Judgment!!! I was always curious about that. Will that be a single day? Being that it's been estimated that more than 107 BILLION people have lived on this planet, that's going to be a VERY busy day, what with everyone having to give an accounting of their lives. Wow, I'd hate to be the heavenly stenographer.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Hajj

      Would you have the same words for a slave who spoke I'll of his master. If the god of the bible did exist, it would be as a lecherous abomination on man s greater powers of reason. That god would demand no more respect than the most lowly of humans to have lived.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • rh

      You feel sorry for us? Didn't your God tell you "Judge not lest you be judged"?

      Didn't he also tell you to worship humbly, and not to brag about your worship of him?

      August 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Wes Scott

      Personally, I do not believe there will ever be a "Day of Attonement". That is a faith-based belief of those who accept the Wholly Babble as the "divinely-inspired word of god" when it is actually a collection of books written by mortal men selected by the early Holy Roman Church from among hundreds of books and then assembled into what they called the "divinely-inspired word of god." Saying it is does not make it so except for those who choose to believe it to be so. The rest of us are not persuaded or governed by the fear of a "Day of Attonement".

      August 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • chipndale

      You would be wise to read WachetAufs posting. Not only does it make sense, but it is reasonable. It is not always necessary to have a belief in God to reason and use logic. He did give us a brain.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  7. Charles

    "While the poor are denounced as 'moochers' and 'looters'."

    Nice mischaracterization. The rich are subject to the same charges in her novels as well.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • rh

      The worst characters in her novels are the ones who are rich off the backs of others (can you say "subprime mortgage crisis"?) and have no redeeming societal qualities.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Dd

      You are quite right charles, in fact, the people she most detests in atlas shrugged and labels "moochers" are actually the rich people actively engaging in an efficient collapse of the steel industry while in government, getting huge bonuses off the backs of the poor because of their "moral sensibility and rationality"

      In fact, these are the very people that go after John galt in atlas shrugged. Go figure.

      August 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  8. John

    While I am voting for Obama this election, I do feel the need to say something here in defense of Paul Ryan. I say – good for him that he is open-minded and capable of appreciating two distinctly different views of the world. I think it's only a strength that he has enjoyed a philosopher who is very much at odds with his religion. This gives him two different lenses or conceptual frameworks for viewing the world and makes him a more sophisticated person. Shame on the left for criticizing people for being open-minded and interested in different views of the world. As Emerson said: "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

    August 16, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Helena Troy

      ...but there is a cognitive dissonance involved in holding two such disparate beliefs. You can't espouse altruism and selfishness at the same time. Ryan is not to be admired for cherry-picking Ayn Rand to promote his conservative agenda-a self-serving agenda-and somehow manipulating her beliefs to comport with his Catholicism. That doesn't make him an intellectual...it merely identifies him as a manipulator.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Rita

      Well said. I would only add, as I did in my post yesterday, that as Ayn Rand famously said, there is no such thing as a contradiction, you just have to recheck your premises.
      Ayn Rands philosophy is not in contradiction to Christianity. She detested the "clergy" and the "gun".

      August 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • sonny chapman

      "No one can serve two masters" Matthew 6,24. Ryan finally made ,his choice, in words, in March 20012; after the Catholic Bishops publicly called him out.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Wes Scott

      Reading something that opposes ones basic belief system does not make that person open-minded. Paul Ryan obviously claims to be a Catholic and to believe in Jesus, so we can assume that he reads the Wholly Babble, yet his own policies and advocacy are in stark opposition to what Jesus taught us regarding taking care of the less fortunate among us.

      Like most people, Ryan can read many things and take SOME of what he reads as being valid in his own belief system, yet reject most of it for the sake of expediency. Based upon his own words and deeds I think it is safe to say that Paul Ryan neither espouses a complete belief in the teachings of Jesus nor does he espouse a complete belief in the teachings of Ayn Rand. He merely cherrypicks those parts that serve his own purpose.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Which God?

      @ John. Me thinks you are a liar and an apologist. You really will vote for Pomney, won't you?

      August 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • John

      Of course you can espouse selfishness and altruism at the same time: Humans are a solid mix of both emotions and values. For every altruistic action someone performs, they perform several selfish ones. We are simply not wholly one way or the other and it's impossible to be one way or the other. Cognitive dissonance comes from trying to deny ourselves one or the other (altruism or selfishness), because they are both natural emotions. At any rate, this article just seems like an exercise in trying to "take down" Ryan (& Romney) by calling him out as not Christian enough – which seems like a shameful ploy by the Left. Is it worth winning the election if you have to act like the Religious Right to do it?

      August 16, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  9. Rob

    So many Rand Apologists, attempting to invent ones own version of God and Christianity to fit the Objectivist view, thereby rationalizing self, selfishness, self importance, self actualization, self omnipotence, self-made intelligence breaks the Second Commandment which is Idolatry. Lucifer had that same problem.

    Repent now and be saved, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • God is a man made delusion

      Take your meds, Reality is here.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • WASP

      @rob: for the past 2000 years "the is at hand" so i'm guessing just like the christian freak that predicted may 13 2011 as the end of the world that had people die and sacrifice their whole life savings to that con-man, you are unexplictly wrong.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • sam stone

      The end time is not here, Rob. It will never be here. The only purpose of it is to scare people.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      If you really believe that, I don't see why you don't just sit back, and pop some popcorn.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • rh

      Oh yeah? I thought "no one knows the time of the end of all things"?

      Are you saying that you are a prophet?

      August 16, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  10. Mark Gibson

    What I don't understand in this whole Rand controversy is this, she was a boring writer. Beyond ponderous! That Paul Ryan wasted his time reading her should be the topic of discussion. I would give him a much bigger pass if he professed a liking for vintage MAD magazine.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • footnotegirl

      Ah, but when a writer is telling you what you want to hear, they always sound wonderful. And there's a lot of people who REALLY want to hear that it's okay to be a greedy self-centered jerkwad.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Which God?

      @Mark. Ahh, vintage Mad Magazine. Classic reading of a high philosophical order. Mock and make fun of everything in government and religion. Works for me. Life is to lived, live it up, be a good person, and screw all religions.

      August 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Wes Scott

      "Religion is the opiate of the masses" – Karl Marx

      Say whatever you will about Marx, but on this one point he was spot on correct!

      August 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  11. Arvoasitis

    The main problem with a discussion based on dichotomies such as between Ayn Randism (or Objectivism, if you prefer) and Christianity is that it promotes a debate which ends with a winner and a loser, or a tie, and does not necessarily include all perspectives. What is needed is a negotiation, with all perspectives included, allowing the best part of each position being incorporated into a mutually acceptable (and therefore balanced) solution.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Cq

      Seeking "Balanced" solutions is what results in "Cafeteria Christians" who want to enjoy living in the secular world so they only pick what they like from the Christian menu, right?

      August 16, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • mitch

      The Munk debate on religion. Resolved that religion is a force for good in the world.
      Randism or Objectivism would be applicable in all regions of the world and not restricted to the 2 billion or so christians in the world and would not provide, as you indicate, all prespectives to be sure. Trying to get a negotiation between all belief systems in a fair and open forum is probably a bridge to far. I think the best humankind will ever come up with is FAITH, not the reality, of a world with peace and goodwill to all. John Lennons Imagine comes to mind.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  12. Ezra

    Help me... What is forced or collective altruism? Is an example the illusion that income taxes redistribute wealth? Altruism is a state of mind and just so, like happiness or sadness, cannot be forced upon the individual or collective. Utter malarky to think so...

    August 16, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Cq

      Christians, for example, would likely not see volunteering at the local abortion clinic as anything "selfless". Religions tend to have a defined "collective" idea of what acts fall within the selfless range and they include giving and volunteering at their particular religious charities. Everything else tends to be labeled as "selfish". It's within the believer's self-interest to stay within the boundaries of what their religion allows otherwise they risk the consequences of not being a faithful adherent. Thus religions have a "collective" altruism that navigates believers away from acting as their heart would lead them. A Christian may feel compassion for a gay couple wanting to get married, but may be hampered by what her religion defines as "selfless", so the collective altruism fails, according to Rand's view.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Bob

      @jim d. again: I meant Christians didn't burn anyone, not atheists (who didn't burn anyone either).

      August 16, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 16, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • jim d.

      really? atheists never burned witches at the stake near salem ,mass.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Nigel

      News flash. Prayer achieves nothing. Oh, and plagiarizing that old sixties anti war meme to promote your own religion? Disgusting.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • oops

      NASA has just announced the discovery of the Phoenix cluster of galaxies. The mass of the cluster is 2,500 trillion times that of our first god! the sun. The cluster contains hundards of thousands of galaxies the size of the Milky Way. So with all that extra work load do not be surprised that you are put on hold when you try to get your prayers answered, not that they ever were except in your delusional mind, such as it is. Trolling is not healthy period.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Bob

      @jim d.: No, they didn't. They hanged a few, and pressed one to death with stones, but they didn't burn anyone!

      August 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Fred

      Nice that they made the Phoenix discovery.
      Sorry to tell you this, but we're still the only life in the universe.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • tallulah13

      And you know this how, Fred?

      August 16, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • oops

      So sure of yourself Fred, faith can do that. Can you imagine the odds that some god happened along to are miniscual little rock in the universe and created man? Not only that there are different stories of several gods showing up to create the world, all sorts of myths out there. If I were to buy into any of them, I think the best/goodest are the native American Aboriginals stories. What are you going to do when science finds the beginings of life on another celestial body?

      August 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • $

      Payers change things.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • $$

      "Payers change things"

      Prayer squawks. Money talks.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example; Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      August 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  14. SixDegrees

    "Randism"? Perhaps the author hasn't heard – likely, even, given his apparently shallow understanding of Rand's works – that Rand's philosophy is considered detailed and important enough to already have a name: Objectivism.

    Mr. Prothero might want to consider looking it up and familiarizing himself with it before opining on it.

    August 16, 2012 at 5:13 am |
  15. Terry Brookman

    Buddhism has not rejected god, some say all life created everything and some say they do not know. Most do not claim to know because they are imperfect so it would be imposable to even start to try and understand the meaning of god. They settle on a force they call all life and their creation myth has all life creating a void within itself and leaving a small piece of its self n the void but that piece did not know what it was and no knowledge of all life. The Satin model was a being created by this piece of all life in order to deal with common matter and to make life like us. Lucifer refused saying that if I did that it would defile everything, have pain and suffering and death but god cast him down and compelled him to make life. That was the beginning of revolt because Satan then said I suffer with them and I made them so they are mine and I will destroy them if I want. The war goes on and Rand, who I have read basically said OK there are powers that I cannot control so I will just go for the money, that is my thought on her philosophy: short form.

    August 16, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  16. Brian

    The problem with articles like this, is that they don't even attack the most imporatant parts about Objectivism. The entire philosophy of Objectivism is based on Ayn Rand's metaphysics & epistemology. When was the last time anyone ever criticizing Rand's philosophy by mentioning her metaphysics or epistemology? I wonder if they even know what those words mean. Rand's theory of concepts and her theory of induction are the most vital parts of her philosophy, it's what she defends her ethical and political positions with. But you wouldn't expect today's journalists to get into such obscure and abstract things as epistemology, would you?

    August 16, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Laymans response

      Many definitions of Epistemology.
      Just a very simple one...the theory of knowledge, the critical study of its validity, methods and scope.

      In regards to Belief...
      The kind of belief dealt with in epistemology is that to believe something means any cognitive content held as true in spite of the absence of proof or even evidence.
      Most atheists want the religious to provide, if not proof, at least some cogent evidence of their particular form of god, this has been sorely lacking. Why one set of religious belief and dogma is more TRUE than all the others is only in the mind of the believers. It is knowledge that is the enemy of the religious, not the individual non-believer and the religious know it.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  17. Rufus T. Firefly

    Wait, is this article saying that Republican ideals and the teachings of Jesus are largely incompatible? And you're really just now beginning to notice?

    August 16, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Wes Scott

      10-4, Eleanor! Since the Nixon Administration the GOP philosophy has been diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus. The GOP learned from Joseph Goebbels that it does not matter what one claims to believe in as long as one does it loudly and often so as to make it seem to be the truth when it is not. Many Republicans claim to be Christians, but one would not know that from the way they act and talk. Surely, Jesus would not support the basic principles of the GOP agenda today because they are anathema to the very things he taught.

      Sadly, all people (and that most assuredly includes cocnservatives) delude themselves into believing that they can say and do things that are contrary to that in which they claim to believe while not really being in a state of conflict between what they claim to believe in and what they say or do. Either you truly believe in what Jesus taught and you live your life according to those teachings, or else you are not truly a follower of Jesus, and if you ARE a follower of Jesus, then you are a Jew because Jesus was a jew who taught adherence to a strict Judaic code and Christianity was a man-made religion by the Holy Roman Church which usurped Jesus away from the Jews and then re-made Jesus in its own image.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  18. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

    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?

    Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

    The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Commojoe

      People with any interest in what you're speaking of in terms of the resurrection should read the book A Skeleton In God's Closet, as it clearly spells out how central and important the BODILY resurrection of Jesus was and is to Christianity.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Fred

      Nice try, but no.
      Luke wrote of it, but many witnessed Jesus in the flesh after he rose.
      Better luck next time, dude.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • MJ

      is that what it says in your book of fairy tales fred?

      August 16, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • TR6

      @Fred :” Luke wrote of it, but many witnessed Jesus in the flesh after he rose.”

      You notice that no one actually saw him return from the dead all they claim is seeing him before and after. Sounds like a cheap magician’s trick

      August 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • TR6

      @Fred :” Luke wrote of it, but many witnessed Jesus in the flesh after he rose.”

      You notice that no one actually saw him return from the dead all they claim is seeing him before and after. Sounds like a cheap magician’s trick.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  19. Apatheist

    Many here seem to misunderstand Rand's 'anti-altruism' stance (Webster's definition of altruism: unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others). She was only opposed to compulsory/obligatory altruism that Christianity (or whomever/whatever) requires. On my long train ride down the East Coast today, I read many comments referring to the "baby in the gutter question" where many imply that an 'anti-altruistic' individual would leave it there to die. That is a ridiculous statement that reminds me of the "no morals without god argument". Both Rand and I would obviously save the baby. However, this would certainly not be a compulsory nor obligatory decision. I would do it because I would want to. In other words, I would save the baby because I want to save the baby. I am making a selfish decision.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      And a proper response.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Reggie

      Exactly. People get so caught up in words, that it only demonstrates the urgency of overcoming the trap of relativism and subjectivity that nearly all are caught in.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Reggie


      August 16, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  20. Reggie

    The vast majority of Ayn Rand's philosophy is completely compatible with, and even supportive of, Christianity.

    The conflict is only an apparent one, and the product of superficial understandings of words – "altruism" for example.

    To those who are neither Christians nor "Randians" (as you put it), it appears that Christianity is supportive of altruism while Objectivism is against it – which would be a significant conflict. But what we are seeing is two different ways of viewing what is actually a single thing.

    This irony is primarily an artifact of Rand's atheism, and for this she is to be fogiven. She apparently hadn't experienced the mystical aspects of life, which would have put everything she wrote into an entirely different perspective while actually contradicting very little of it.

    Rand's Objectivism states that there exists an objective truth which can be uncovered through the act of philosophizing, but that we tend otherwise not to know much about this truth and are trapped in subjectivity. Christianity states the same thing, in different language 2000 years old and translated from Aramaic into Greek into Latin into English, but nonetheless lined with gold for any who would seek to find it: "TheTruth will set you free."

    This is both an Objectivist truth and a Christian truth. It is simply the truth – to which there are in today's world many, many approaches.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • @U

      I see. you went through great lengths to explains Rand, but just one sentence from the bible,' the truth will set you free."....

      sooo , selling all you have and giveni it to the poor is alll the same thing as Rand's ideas ? yeah, sure right! 🙂 I believe you.. 🙂 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Wes Scott

      Dear @U,

      Please try reading Ayn Rand for comprehension!

      Rand never said not to sell all you have and give it to the poor. What she opposed was being FORCED to sell all you have and give it to the poor. There is a huge difference. If you are going to comment on Rand's philosophy, then please at least make an attempt to actually understand the philosophy before making your comments. Her philosophy stated that mankind should do whatever it chooses to do based entirely upon free will and a personal, "selfish" choice to do so. That was the lesson of Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead."

      While Rand opposed the collective mandate to help those less fortunate she never said you should not do so, only that you should not be COMPELLED to do so. She objected to those who take from others as a result of the collective mandate, and she objected to those who created the collective mandate. Is that really so very hard to understand?

      August 16, 2012 at 12:37 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.