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. kleeneth

    The Dems should play up Ryan's fixation with Ayn Rand for all it is worth! Her philosophy and (pseudo-)religion strike fear in the many who know government had better be there for them once their luck runs out. It is as threatening for the many as Karl Marx's beliefs are for the fortunate few.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  2. WDinDallas

    This guy is not very good. They need a real theologian writing these blogs....an independent also. Not a liberal wacko.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Patrick

      So your idea of a real theologian is someone who agrees with you. Got it. Love to hear from the intellectually challenged.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Horus

      By theologian you mean people whose thoughts are limited by the parameters of their ideology.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • JoJo

      His bio says he is a religion scholar. Don't know, it sounds like he knows what he's talking about.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Tom

      @ Horus: No, I'd say a person whose thoughts are enhance by his theology.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  3. Jim in PA

    "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

    Jonathan Chait, The New Republic

    August 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  4. buzz

    Give me a break. Tap dancer..

    August 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  5. Jake-413451

    Difference #6
    Those who think the philosphy (not religion) of objectivism (not Randism) is correct are backing a philosophy from a person who they can be fairly certin both existed and authored that philosophy.

    An honest evaluation of Christianity results in a determination it can't make anything close to that claim.

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

      The "mythology" of Christianity may be in doubt, but there is no doubt that Jesus was a historical figure.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • rh

      Thanks for that.

      I considered myself at least partially an objectivist, based on reading Ayn Rand's works and other sources. The Virtue of Selfishness is a book that guides individuals to the rule for oxygen masks: you put on your oxygen mask first, then you put on the masks of your kids etc. You always must serve yourself first, and by doing that, you can serve others if you see fit.

      How come no one is upset when a guest comes on Oprah and ranks her kids as #1 and #2, and husband as #3, then mom as #4, and she is #5, at best, then we all applaud Oprah saying that the lady should be #1, then everyone else! Rand's philosophy is by no means absolute – like everyone in the media, she is defined by a few sound bytes which appear absolute.

      My #1 concern is me, that's it. In order to serve myself, my husband and then my kids are given a certain amount of value in my life. I serve myself by giving to certain charities who help people that I want to help. I serve myself by raising my kids to be honorable and honest. I serve myself by doing my job well.

      The main issue Rand has with altruism is its definition, as helping others with no concern for one's self. The loud altruist, who goes about parading what they donate and gets their names on college buildings and community centers, lie about their real purpose – they are making believe they are serving others but they do it only for their own gratification. The danger of altruism is trying to force YOUR pet charity on others, like allowing churches not to pay taxes. I, an atheist, have to pay more taxes because a bunch of Christians, Jews, etc. want to have special status, over me. That is exactly the kind of thing that libertarians want to avoid, making me do something based on others personal beliefs.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      There is a huge difference between there was probably a guy named Jesus alive around that time frame, and the Jesus of the bible was an actual person.

      Reliable evidence of the latter has yet to be shown to exist.
      But lets go ahead and assume a guy named Jesus was roaming among the Jews 2,000 years ago, doing good things, preaching love and tolerance, and for his troubles was killed. Rip away the miracles and the story seems reasonable, no major reason to doubt it at least. no reason for it not to plausible. But it also strips Christianity of it's god, removing it from religion and turning it into a philosophy.

      And not a horrible one actually, as most of thee BS in the church is due to the whole "We're going to heaven and you aren't" nonsense.

      August 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  6. Peg - AZ

    Different cultures, regardless of their particular religion, recognize the virtues of community, and have moral codes, ideas about right and wrong. Even if you are not religious, studies have shown, that simply by being social animals, people seem to have a natural desire to help others. Even toddlers who have not learned to even how to form complete sentences will automatically try to help another if they see them drop something on the floor that they can't reach, etc. It is rather natural for human beings.

    So Rand, to me, seems not just against Christian teachings, but rather, against a basic human code of morality.

    If you combine this with the fact that even from an economic point of view, she is extremely wrong, I do not see how anyone can be intrigued by her. Perhaps for some, she represents a way to rebel against strict moral teachings, a way to escape and be rather hedonistic and claim it is good for the country – but it simply isn't. I knew someone once who was attracted to narcissistic women, because they would always find arguments to justify his desire to be selfish, and would alleviate his guilt for being so- but he did have an internal sense that it was wrong. Maybe that is what Rand does for some Republicans. Because by simply being human, they must (well most of them) must know that these ideas are fundamentally wrong on a moral level, but she gives them a justification or an excuse to behave in an immoral way.

    But even the excuse Rand proposes, is wrong economically, because the individual acting in his or her own self-interest will not always lead them to be concerned about the health of the company or the country as a whole. If you make hundreds of millions in a year, by being a shark, why would you care if your selfish shark-like behavior leads to the destruction of the company or the country? You got yours as a result, and would not have been able to do so if you were concerned about others. So the idea that self-preservation will lead to effective self-regulation is completely false anyway.

    The truth is, that it is unselfish behavior that leads to our success as a nation, to wealth generation. It is actually good for our economy. Doing the right thing is actually good for us.

    Our government has played an extremely significant role in the economic success of our nation. It actually provides the foundation for our economic success. However, this has become the unpopular thing to point out, in politics. 

    Countries that do not provide the things our government provides, do not have wealthy economies – ever. It simply does not happen. In fact, where do you only seem to find small governments? In third world, or underdeveloped, countries. Think about it.

    In order to generate maximum wealth in a modern economy, government must provide the essentials for businesses to thrive. An educated workforce is essential, along with a strong middle class. So is infrastructure for roads, bridges, airports, communications, utilities, as well as a good legal system protecting rights & private property ownership. Also, a reliable banking system is key, one we can trust, one that is properly regulated. National & local security & safety & public health, are all essential for businesses as well. 

    In addition, government expenditures, do not disappear, they cycle throughout the economy & fuel private sector growth. Money spent in an economy is nothing like money spent from a pocketbook or shown on a business balance sheet, it does not disappear, it cycles & contributes to generating economic activity.

The foundation, provided by government, has always been the source of our success in the US.

    This does not mean that we should be careless with government spending, but that a good government is essential, and that may mean a reasonably large one, as well. Wealthy economies simply do not exist without the things government provides.

    The truth is, that it is this unselfish community generated behavior towards a common goal, providing infrastructure, education, security & health, for our people that leads to our success as a nation, to wealth generation.

    Doing the right thing is actually good for us.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Tom

      @Peg: You said "In addition, government expenditures, do not disappear, they cycle throughout the economy & fuel private sector growth. Money spent in an economy is nothing like money spent from a pocketbook or shown on a business balance sheet, it does not disappear, it cycles & contributes to generating economic activity.

The foundation, provided by government, has always been the source of our success in the US. "

      True, but government expenditures are a zero-sum proposition. They remove money from corporations and individuals and direct it elsewhere. This does not create wealth, in merely redistributes it. The creative processes of design and manufacturing (and farming) are the only activities that create new wealth, and until government creates an atmosphere that fosters and encourages design and manufacturing which creates new wealth, we'll remain a country that merely chases the same dollar around in a circle.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • rh

      The only problem with your diatribe is that the idea of anyone being truly unselfish is a lie. I recycle because it is in my best interest to save the planet. I donate to charities of my choice because it is my best interest.

      There is a difference between selfishness as those such as you interpret it, that is, selfishness = putting everyone else down, and true selfishness, where you actively acknowledge that you live your life for yourself, and in your best interest. Until you put away the fairytale of religion, that you only do good if your God says so, or do evil if your God says so, you won't see the reality of life, that we live for ourselves, and no one, nor any fake idea of an omnipotent being, should distract us from that goal.

      A lot of Rand's concern is with leeches on society like Toohey, and others who judge without actually doing meaningful work or contributing to society. Unfettered capitalism is not what she was putting forth, rather, she was putting forth that ludicrous regulations and laws that thwart individuals *based on values they do not believe in*, such as complete tax relief for religious organizations, or almost absolute protection for public school teachers from firing, should be abolished.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Peg - AZ

      Tom – government expenditures are not a zero-sum proposition – even if you take away government to simplify the argument – if money on a macro level were always zero sum – we would not ever have growing economies on a global scale – we would expect to show that if our economy grew that another had shrunk – zero sum. The truth is, that money only "represents" economic activity, the more activity, and the more often money changes hands representing this activity (often driven by consumer confidence) the larger our economy and the more jobs we create. The faster it spins, the bigger it gets. When an economy is stagnating, it is spinning to slowly, when government spends and injects, it is like giving the wheel a spin generating more activity "represented" by money (remember money only is used to represent the value of the transaction – and has no value of its own &why gold standard makes no sense and is actually more volatile). Now if the public sector should be growing rapidly, then some crowding out can occur to some degree, but not in times like this, in time like this the government is taking up the slack – besides it still does not take away from the fact that businesses and individuals depend on the things government provides to generate wealth in a modern economy as well.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  7. NoTags

    Paul Ryan is going to have a hard time disavowing his love for Ayn Rand since he gave away her book "Atlas Shrugged" as Christmas presents. Also, her writings were required reading by Ryan's interns and staff.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Jim in PA


      August 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Paul Rand

      Oh just call me Paul Rand... it's ok 🙂 🙂 🙂

      August 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • rh

      You have GOT to love a Catholic giving away an atheist's book as a Christmas present.

      Why not give a Chris Hitchens book too?

      August 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  8. Michael

    Excellent analysis/comparison for those that do not know about the works of Ayn Rand or the accompanying philosophy. It is completely unfortunate that in order to have access to the political machinery in this country, you have to profess that you are an avowed Christian, attend church regularly, and do not believe in the majority of scientific data that proves that our climate is changing largely in part to the proliferation of hydrocarbons, the relative age of the earth, and that all things evolve within the confines of our planet (and elsewhere for that matter).
    Romney doesn't pose much of a threat to our republic becuase it is obvious that he is simply a man that purchases whatever he wants. He is the consummate politician.

    Ryan, on the other hand, presents a more insidious threat to us. He appears to be and do all the right things. He is a catholic, he's married, he has children, and he has gone to good schools and currently works in congress. His happy-go-lucky, blue-eyed optimism is somewhat infectious, yet, when you look at the mantra that he is proposing, it is a radical departure from the moral and ethical compass that has guided this country for centuries.

    Individualism is great in the context of one's own life, but as a means for trying to propel a society and a country forward, it is simply a precursor to chaos. Following the Rand mantra, we never would have defeated the British and even thought of forging out upon our own destiny. The only actions that have moved the world have been those that were great acts of selflessness.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Acts of selflesness should be an individual act, not a government mandated one. When people need help and support, they should be helped by their family and or their church, the federal government should have no place in it.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • rh

      PerceivedReality is right, the problem is trying to legislate giving based on the beliefs of others.

      Society can be run by selfish individuals, it is selfish to not want the world to end up destroyed, it is selfish to want your progeny to do well. But you can't come to that conclusion without education.

      August 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  9. ArthurP

    Ah, but the question is will he have the courage to the Fundamentalists to stop the bast.ardization of public school science education that only prepares their kids for jobs that entail the phrase "Would you like fries with that?".

    August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  10. JoJo

    Never trust a philosopher.....nothing is real to them.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      What is "real"?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  11. guest

    "Ryan's Robin Hood budget"? Didn't Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor? Ryan wants to do the opposite.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      No, he wants the government out of everyone's pocket. Lowering a person's taxes is not giving them anything, it is taking less from them. If this country was run correctly, the federal govt would run on 1-5% income tax and that is it! Why do people think that taking less from someone is giving them more, does the government own 100% of your income and then gives you a portion or do YOU own your income and you give the government a portion?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  12. manhandler1

    Personally, I don't believe in a God. But, to turn that into a philosophy of selfisness is not on my radar. I don't think most any atheist belives that we shouldn't care for and respect one another. I don't believe in a devil either. But if their were one, he would be a Republican.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Lol man you got it all wrong! Amazing!

      August 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  13. Kelly J Cowan

    Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand have divorced....but he is going to keep her as a mistress!


    August 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  14. El Flaco

    A Conservative cannot be a Christian. The two philosophies are opposites. Rand thought Christians were lunatics.

    Rand, by the way, was a loony old Russian bat who wrote some of the most forgettable prose in English.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Cindy

      How so?

      August 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Jim in PA

      I beg to differ. It is quite difficult to forget prose that painful.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • El Flaco

      How right you are, Jim. I wasn't thinking clearly.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Here is American Conservatism.

      1. All for me and nothing for anyone else is my goal – or as close as I can come in one lifetime.

      2. Other people's welfare and happiness are not of interest to me. Others will either make themselves happy or they will suffer. If I can profit by making them suffer, I don’t care. Screw them.

      3. I have what I've got because I deserve it. I was not caught breaking any laws getting it. If I have to bribe a Congressman to change the laws so my methods become legal or bribe a judge to find me innocent, that is OK. You are innocent until found guilty. Legal is legal. Business is business.

      4. I have no obligation of any kind to my nation or any nation I do business with. During wartime, I will get a lucrative government contract if I can but my goal is to maximize profits, not help in the war effort.

      5. I have no obligation to my employees. They are on their own, just like I am. They get what they deserve from me or they wouldn’t work for me. Employees are a cost of doing business. The lower the cost, the better. If I can cut my employees’ pay and they don’t quit, then that means they deserve less.

      6. I have no obligation to my customers except to conduct business with them in a lawful way. If I can manipulate their thoughts with clever advertising, deceive them with clever small print in the contract, or give them less than they think they are getting, then good for me. Clever is clever. Business is business. I have an MBA and a staff of marketing experts, legal experts, economists, and accountants advising me. My customer has a high school diploma. If my customer wants to, she can hire her own panel of experts to advise her.

      7. I have no obligation to enhance the quality of life in my community, my state or my nation. I do not wish to pay any taxes but I do want the law to protect my interests and maximize my profits. I want the government to help me make more money in every way it can. I want good roads for my trucks to run on, but I really don't care about roads that my trucks do not use. I don’t want to be taxed for road building or repairs whether my trucks use them or not. I can pollute the air, ground, and water as much as is legally allowed. If I can bribe a congressman to write a law allowing me to pollute more, then I will pollute more; it cuts my costs. Legal is legal. Business is business

      8. It is often good business to subvert the democratic processes of my nation by bribing elected officials, bribing government regulators, running bogus candidates for office to split up the opposing vote, secretly running candidates for judgeships who I know will rule in my favor in an upcoming lawsuit, and secretly funding a lot of whackos out there to keep a lot of street theater going. Business is business.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  15. Michael

    Wait a min.. Buddism rejects God? Are you KIDDING me??!

    August 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • El Flaco

      There is no Yahweh in Buddhism.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • c

      Buddhism is not a Christian religion.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Buddhism recognizes "gods" but gives no place of prominence to any one over any other, stressing the ultimate expression of being is non-being by transcending "gods".

      August 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  16. tffl

    The article doesn't contrast "morality" and Randism – it specifically contrasts _Christianity_ and Randism. Calling Randism a religion is a stretch, but not a big one, as a religion is a set of beliefs and a worldview that leads to a particular morality, lifestyle, and ethics. It may or may not involve any supernatural beliefs. So Randism isn't a supernatural or spiritual religion, but it can be considered a religion nonetheless – it is certainly a belief system. The author gives point by point places where the 2 belief systems directly contradict, indicating that it isn't possible to legitimately follow both at the same time. The article is a political attack only in the sense that a particular politician has explicitly indicated that he indeed does follow both at the same time, which the author would argue isn't possible if the believer is being intellectually honest. (And by the way, the Trinity is at the core of most mainstream Christian sects, not just Catholicism. Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, and Mormons are (I think) the only major groups of Christians that _don't_ believe in the Trinity – along with a large number of small/fringe groups.)

    August 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • tffl

      Oops – this was supposed to be a reply to a comment by HA25 below...

      August 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • HA25

      Calling Randism a religion is a stretch, but not a big one, as a religion is a set of beliefs and a worldview that leads to a "particular morality, lifestyle, and ethics."
      I think that's not religion, but merely culture. Religion must involve faith or God – at least one. In my opinion.
      "it is certainly a belief system"
      Agreed, but so is Democracy and few call that a religion.

      In any case, as to comparing them and deciding they are incompatible and therefore Ryan must choose – I could make a similar list showing how Christianity and Capitalism have incompatible beliefs, yet no one calls Obama on it. Jesus lived in quite a different time.
      Reconciling otherwise incompatible truths or beliefs is an integral part of the human experience.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • HA25

      I don't believe any Protestant group – hardly a fringe group – believes in a Trinity.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  17. Frank C.

    Why do liberal leaners view a small federal govenrment as uncaring and unChristian. Since when is robbing from the productive to "help" the less fortunate through redistributive taxation the only way to help the poor. I am for helping the poor and for small government and low taxes. These beliefs are perfectly compatible. Why do liberals insist that opposing redistributive taxes is hateful to the poor. There are simply far better ways to help them. Since "the war on poverty" began, the ranks of the poor have exploded. Liberal policies perpetuate poverty rather than curb it.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Michael

      I love how you couch those terms. Taxing the rich is somehow "robbing" the productive. That's funny, I look around me and see all these fantastically wealthy people who are avoiding taxes and not doing anything particularly useful for the nation as a whole. I say, tax them like they were taxed before Regan, our country as a whole was much stronger back then. The path of less and less taxes for the richest and less support for the needy is just a path of destruction for America.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • El Flaco

      The difference is that under your system, the poor stay poor.

      Under Liberalism, the poor are helped out of poverty. I'm a Liberal. I'm willing to support a small government as long as there is no poverty, curable sickness, or ignorance in my country.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • TruthMatters

      Please enlighten us oh great one as to what these better ways are? No the trickle down effect doesn't work. The rich want and work to be richer so how can anything trickle down if they are taking more and more? Millionaires want to be billionaires and billionaires want to be trillionaires (they're almost there), while the poor and middle class want to pay rent, buy food, buy clothes, go to school, and get medical treatment when needed.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Tom

      @ Michael & El Flaco: I'm all for helping the poor by "teaching them to fish." Giving (and giving, and giving ad nauseum) them a fish, eh, not so much. Unfortunately, an increasing number of poor have the opinion that they are "owed" a fish, and unless this cycle is broken it will prove to be unsustainable.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  18. williamfriskey

    Rand watched her parents lose their business during the Communist takeover of Russia. That colored her view of all things, including religion, economics, and morality. She was obviously scarred for life by it. While I believe Jesus had it right, not Rand, Jesus also told me not to judge, even someone like Ayn Rand. You have to walk a mile in her shoes. We all have different experiences. I feel Rand's only mistake, like Ryan and most politicians, is going full on to one side and not dealing with issues pragmatically. Forget ideals, philosophies, and novels when it comes to government and do what's going to work in the particular situation you've been given.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • rh

      I don't think that she went "too far to one side" – I think she is a victim of a few soundbyte quotes and over-interpretation of her philosophical works.

      Her works have helped me believe in humanity and the goodness of mankind, and that people who put others down, and who lie about their intentions, should be removed from society. I consider myself as following objectivism in an a la carte manner, and I have no problem in serving myself through donating time and money to the charity of my choice, or serving myself by taking my daughter to the ER though it was inconvenient at the time.

      She has many valid points, but I do disagree with the idea of completely unfettered capitalism, as frankly that's why religion exists in the first place. I also think that a lot of what she says is based on an educated citizenry, which is slowly happening. For example, the "Green" symbol on a product does help people decide to buy a product, but 30 years ago no one would have cared. Or how about "dolphin-free tuna"? For her philosophy to work in practice, you need to have an educated society that does not put up with liars, cheats, and leeches. Private lawyers for example would go away (a few kids got awarded about $20,000 each for being forced to eat lunch on the floor at their school – their lawyer was awarded over $200,000 – is that altruism?).

      August 15, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Just think. If she had stayed in Russia instead of coming to America, she would probably have been purged by Stalin for her ultra-capitalistic beliefs, or else forced into the military and suffered the same fate as thousands of other Red Army during the "Great Patriotic War", oh, sorry, I mean WW2.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  19. Ted Davenport

    I read Ayn Rand, but only for the dirty bits.

    August 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  20. guest

    Buddhism has not "rejected God". There are Buddhists who are agnostic, who are atheist, and who believe in a form of God (though it probably doesn't take the same form or use the samelanguage as Judeo-Christian vision of God). What Buddhism says is that, in terms of ending suffering for oneself and the world, it's up to you, not God, and it outlines the way to achieve that. Buddhism says that the existence of God is not relevant to your work in this regard. God is not going to save you from difficulty in this life–that's your job–but it doesn't say God doesn't exist. It treats the question as simply not terribly relevant. That is quite different from "rejecting God".

    August 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
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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.