Another Blow To the Christian Objectivist Movement

Because a remarkable number of conservative middle-brow “intellectuals” (one thinks of a certain congressman from Wisconsin) are forever trying to square circles by embracing Ayn Rand’s perspectives on political ethics (in which selfishness is the supreme virtue and altruism encourages “looting”) with traditionalist Christianity, it’s always useful to find fresh reminder of Ayn Rand’s rabid hatred of “the mysticism of the mind,” her term for religion.

At First Things, that conservative Christian periodical founded by the late Richard John Neuhaus, Matthew Schmitz looks at a 1998 book compiling Rand’s margin notes on authors she read, often composed with a poison pen, and zeroes in on her comments about the great Christian novelist and apologist C.S. Lewis.

Ayn Rand was no fan of C.S. Lewis. She called the famous apologist an “abysmal bastard,” a “monstrosity,” a “cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-meta­physical mediocrity,” a “pickpocket of concepts,” and a “God-damn, beaten mystic.” (I suspect Lewis would have particularly relished the last of these.)

Rand also called Lewis “abysmal scum,” and a “cheap, drivelling non-entity,” showing that her favorite method of abuse was to repeat insulting adjectives and nouns in every conceivable combination.

As I argued a while back in a long piece in Democracy on Rand and her contemporary influence, her boundless capacity for hatred was as often directed at religious conservatives as at “socialists.” And more than anything else, she most hated syncretism, the casual adoption by “second-handers” of bits and pieces of incompatible philosophical stances, particularly if it involved her own highly systematic thought.

We can all joke about people like Ryan being unable to overcome his adolescent fascination with Rand, or more obviously sinister characters like Teafather Rick Santelli applying the terminology of Atlas Shrugs to the “free-loaders” victimized by a financial crisis. But if you think ideas have consequences, this sort of self-serving mix-and-match appropriation of the material necessary to justify vicious public policies needs to get debunked as often as it arises.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.