In-Sight: Spirituality in an Ayn Rand World

I admit that until about two months ago, I was a stranger to the thought and writing of Ayn Rand.  I had heard her name, but had not taken the time to become more familiar with her.  I am still a novice when it comes to anything close to an in-depth knowledge of her life and work.  I am playing catch-up, and I have to admit it.

But….setting foot on the path of exploration concerning her has been enough to see an intersection between her thoughts and the kinds of things Oboedire emphasizes.  As I have said from the start, it’s impossible to isolate the spiritual life and reserve it for the “religious moments” of life.  The spiritual life is—life.  Life is always the context for spiritual formation.

Ayn Rand has gotten the attention of a lot of people.  Her ideas are experiencing a resurgence.  Why should we care?

We should care because her views take us to “ground zero” of self-centeredness.  She would not deny this, and the philosophy of objectivism does not deny it either.  That’s too much to write about in a blog post, but those who know Rand and objectivism will know I am not saying anything about her that she did not say about herself.

This is not a view hurled at her by “the religious Right.”  It is acknowledged by mainstream media such as The New York Times and Time magazine—two places I’ve seen it acknowledged in recent days.  Even the renowned atheist, Christopher Hitchens, has said that her views should not be used to make the case for a responsible atheism or objectivism.

If you have read Oboedire for any length of time, you know that one of the primary definitions of sin which I’ve promoted and written about is this:  sin is essentially self-centeredness…self-reference.  It’s what Thomas Merton and others called “the false self”—what Martin Luther called the self turned in on itself.

For today, there are two key points to note.  First, Ayn Rand’s philosophy not only reflects this worldview, it condones it and advances it.  And second, it is a philosophy that feeds egotism, particularly in a time when society comes to realize “there’s not enough to go around.”  The phrase today is “austerity politics,” and the jury is out on exactly how it is going to play out in our country and elsewhere.

We must not take this lightly, even though we may never agree on precisely how Ayn Rand plays into it all.  Whenever it becomes apparent that “we cannot keep going down the path we’ve been going down”—when it becomes apparent that some people are going to have to experience severe cutbacks in their livelihood and their benefits—that is precisely the time to “keep watch” on how egotism plays itself out.

Some of the early signs are not good—and not just for the politicians who have to try to figure it out, but also for those who say, in effect, “Yes, I know things have to be cut, but don’t touch my stuff.”

We may do well to explore how directly the writing of Ayn Rand may be influencing our thoughts and actions.  But it would be mistake to stop with her.  We need to go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when we decided that “looking out for number one” was the way to go.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to In-Sight: Spirituality in an Ayn Rand World

  1. It seems like objectivism is a quick and easy way out, a way out of ethics and way out of wrestling with our demons (or dilemmas). “Haste makes waste” as my mother would say.

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