Atlas Shrugged. In response to Scott's latest post, I thought I'd give a brief description of why I only liked, but didn't love Atlas Shrugged.
Scott, I know that you are a fan, and I've been meaning to ask you about Atlas Shrugged, so I'm glad you posted this. I read it for the first time a year or two ago, and while I liked it a lot, I had a big problem with it as well.
I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book (I don't remember exactly where it changed, but it was one of John Galt's big speeches). I agreed with all of the ideas and big speeches in the book up until I felt like I was sucker punched by John Galt. Between Dagny, Francisco, and Hank Rearden, there are so many great ideas and speeches given in the first part of the book. At no time does any mention of religion happen in those first parts (at least that I can recall). Then, when John Galt starts talking, he begins his tirade against any form of tyranny against the human mind. He reiterated much of what had already been said by the other principal characters throughout the book, but then it seemed to me that out of nowhere he launches a very specific attack against religion and the very idea that a person or philosophy that teaches anything but personal liberty of the most extreme variety is bad. Of all the ideas against tyranny that Rand presents, she made the most vicious attack against the very idea of religion, and especially the practice of any systemized or organized religious institution.
So, Scott, I am interested to know how you square this very specific idea that Rand presents in Atlas Shrugged with your personal beliefs, religiously speaking. We believe that through Christ’s Atonement and through obedience is the only way to gain true freedom in this life and the next. This seems to be completely at odds with Rand’s philosophy that subjecting our minds to any other will or thought or doctrine is the very essence of slavery and is the opposite of the kind of freedom that she believes in.
This is in essence the big problem I have with Atlas Shrugged. The ultimate in (Rand’s version of) personal freedom is devoid of any sense of morality. It is ethical to the extreme, but there is no inherent morality in her philosophy. Helping someone out of the goodness of one’s heart is viewed as flawed and ultimately, a weakness. The only actions that are viewed as noble actions are those done for personal gain. The only limitation on actions one takes is that you should not harm anybody else’s property or liberty. However much you may benefit others incidentally through your actions (inventing or making something useful), that benefit to others is subordinated to the fact that you were able to exercise your personal liberty and that the action was done out of self-interest. Therefore, any Christian philosophy of helping others, giving to the poor, or even restraining one’s passions or desires for moral reasons, ends up, in her view, as subjugation of the mind or enabling others to persist in their mooching. There is no middle ground, as the gospel teaches, to show compassion while helping people learn to become productive members of society. Her take on human sexuality is also completely at odds with religious thought.
If someone can persuade me that the two ideas of Rand and religion can peacefully coexist, I would be much more open to embracing her philosophy. That, Scott, is your mission, should you choose to accept it.