atlas_hardback__60910-1363218818-1280-1280Alastair McIntosh’s recent piece What is it About Evangelicals? sparked a lively response in the comments which included this perceptive statement from John Page: “The most pernicious trend in the US currently is the alignment of evangelicals and followers of Ayn Rand”. Exit polls show white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Origins and Beliefs

This alignment is not intuitively obvious. Rand (Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) was a Russian-Jewish émigré to the US – with a profound hatred of Russian communism – but also of Judeo-Christian beliefs and morality. In her world-view man lives only for pleasure – and the maximum good is obtained by self-gratification and hedonism. Her pseudo-philosophy ‘Objectivism’, unbelievably with its own ‘learned’ institute – holds that the pursuit of ethics-free self-interest, is the highest good -its obstruction is “evil” -leading some to believe that Rand herself was demonically evil.

A mistress of expansive tautological banality: “I am interested in philosophical principles only as they affect the actual existence of men, and in men, only as they reflect philosophical principles” . Her ‘Institute’ in all apparent seriousness describes Objectivism thus:

“In contrast to the idea that reality is a plaything of gods or that it varies from person to person, Objectivism holds that facts are facts, independent of anyone’s wishes or beliefs. Things are what they are – and act accordingly. Reality – nature – is absolute: ‘you can’t eat your cake and have it too’.”

In this profound postulate Rand demolishes simultaneously, with economic elegance, Descartes’s hyperbolical/metaphysical doubt; Hume’s problem of induction; Witgenstein’s Tractatus; and Sartre’s existentialism.

Such categorical conviction over nature’s fixity would surely have left the fickle Heisenberg “uncertain” – and the relatively unreliable Einstein muttering inanities about it “depending on one’s point of view”.

Wittgenstein’s proposition in Tractatus: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” never applied to her -even in death: Her influence on the US right – and in the UK – has never been greater. But what is truly surprising – are the similarities, and the common cause she has with today’s US religious right.

She was ideologically capricious. She opposed US entry into WW II and the Vietnam war, but supported Israel’s wars (despite being an anti-Jewish Jew); Eisenhower was “soft on communism”; she endorsed Goldwater and opposed Ronald Reagan for being too close to the Christian right; opposed the Civil Rights Act; and believed big business was a ‘persecuted minority’. She was a serial adulteress; supported abortion; despised both hippies and the draft; and believed government agency should be confined to the armed forces, police and the courts. Income taxes were ‘evil’; altruism doesn’t exist; selfishness is a virtue; “rational egoism” is the only right way to live. Her ideas are used to justify inequality, and to uphold institutionalized wealth-based elitism.

Her influence is mainly through novels – promoting heroes of capitalism as the highest attainment of mankind. Her works have had enormous influence on the US neoliberal revolution – her most influential disciple Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, vigorously implemented her ideas whilst in office – with catastrophic consequences. Her fans are advocates for a ‘free society’ with minimal governmental interventions and regulation (1).

Her most famous novel – Atlas Shrugged has a ludicrous plot where corporate CEOs and the 1% are selfless heroes upon whom society depends – and workers, intellectuals and especially government employees, are freeloaders and parasites. Its hero John Galt ends the book triumphantly leaving the miserable bastards below him to get on with it, as he turns his back on “civilization” entering self-imposed exile, refusing participation in a society he views as irreconcilably evil and oppressive.

Teachings and Influence

Since her death in in 1982, her Institute has promulgated her ‘philosophy’ relentlessly, beginning as the ‘Collective’ – Rand’s ironic name for the soirees held in her New York apartment – where Greenspan was hooked. Its newsletters – her gospel messages – recording the good news include: Repeal of child labour laws; no Medicaid or Medicare; no Social Security; no public schools; no public hospitals; no heath and safety or environmental protection legislation; no public anything (2).

If these ideas seem familiar, then you have been following US Republican politics, and Trump’s election utterances. Here, we have UKIP leader Paul Nuttall’s plans to privatize the NHS to “make it more competitive” and Brexit Tories, including climate change denier Nigel Lawson, describing the NHS as a “national religion”; leaving the EU is a means of “finishing the Thatcher revolution” by repealing social, workplace and environmental protections enshrined in EU legislation.

Rand’s lifestyle, beliefs and philosophies would appear to offend traditional Christian morality and sensibilities. Yet in the formation of the Tea Party and the election of Trump, the “most conspicuously irreligious presidential candidate in years” (Boorstein, 2016) (3) Randians and Evangelicals, overcoming any scruples, have made common political cause.

Rand’s followers and the Christian Right increasingly find themselves on the same side of issues. The Tea Party’s support of red-blooded capitalism and ‘libertarianism’ (but only for the rich) has been a focus for both groups. Republican House Leader conservative Catholic Paul Ryan, now a Trump ally despite his previous open contempt for the thatched property tycoon, has openly stated his admiration for Rand’s opus: “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it” he has said: Rand’s thinking is “sorely needed right now”, because we are “living in an Ayn Rand novel” : “Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism, and this, to me, is what matters most.”

So a prominent Catholic politician, who makes a political fetish of his religion, not only admires the life and works of a libertine atheist, but also cites her as a ‘moral’ exemplar.

Some in the Evangelical Christian Right have gone even further. Mark Henderson, a Christian Libertarian, has compared John Galt, the hero of Atlas, to Christ Himself in his book: The Soul of Atlas: Ayn Rand, Christianity, and the Quest for Common Ground .

See this review by Dr Norman Horn in Libertarian Christians:

“A fascinating theme that Mark develops in the book is that the ultimate ‘John Galt’ character in history is none other than Jesus himself. Galt is presented as an ideal man with immutable character. His words of wisdom resonate with those who are ready to hear it, and his philosophy attracts a following that changes the world. Yet he is treated like a criminal for speaking the truth. Galt even endured torture to rescue the person that he loved. As Mark says, the ‘not-so-ominous parallels’ to Jesus are pretty clear: ‘When you understand that Jesus is not only the Ideal Man, but that he is the One who brings us to Joy, all of the good things in your life will pale in comparison to His surpassing greatness’.”

Previously, that would have been called blasphemy.

David Kotter, of Colorado Christian University also compares Galt to Jesus Christ. His paper (reviewed here) entitled: Check Your Premises: Ayn Rand Through a Biblical Lens, also finds the redemptive theme in Atlas. The Reviewer, Art Lindsley of the Institute of Faith, Work and Economics writes as follows:

“Atlas Shrugged .. has been ranked as second only to the Bible as one of the most influential books in the lives of modern readers, and more than 30 million copies of her books have been sold. Nearly a million dollars in cash prizes have been awarded in essay contests encouraging high school and college students to read Rand’s novels, and increasingly universities are making her books required reading.”
Ayn Rand – “second only to the Bible”! From a Bible Protestant?

To be fair, to Dr Lindsley, he goes on to state “..common grace, .. means that every favor of whatever kind that this undeserving world enjoys originates from the hand of God. While it is true that unbelievers eventually twist truth, they nonetheless have some truth to twist. In other words, non-believers have both honey – created truth – and hemlock – truth twisted by the Fall.”

Honey and Hemlock. It’s a useful analogy.

Not all Christians are so sanguine. Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has made a more orthodox (and funny) commentary:

“Sometimes I think the fact that so many Christians slavishly devote themselves to Ayn Rand is part of her infernal punishment. I imagine Satan periodically delivering her reams of praise for her work, all of it penned by delusional Christian libertarian types. Thumbing through it on the way to her cell, I suspect the Prince of Darkness would be pleased, in part because the arguments are so weak, and he loves lies; and in part because Rand is still doing the work of the devil posthumously, convincing Christians of her corrupt worldview.”

Common Ground

I argue here that rather than being antithetical, Evangelism and Rand’s philosophy of ‘Objectivism’ are in fact two sides of the same American radical Right coin: one ‘sacred’, one ‘profane’; both madly wrong and utterly dangerous.

Rand’s ‘philosophy’ stresses the necessity of capitalism to individual ‘rights’. There is an emphasis on property, individualism and freedom (as defined by the Right) coupled with an invincible belief in American Exceptionalism.

Alastair McIntosh reminds us that:

“..in Anglo-American Protestant political thought, the presumption of being God’s “chosen people” drove an imperial sense of “manifest destiny”, justifying American exceptionalism as the God-given right to lord it over lesser nations. “

This ‘individualism’ meme derives from “individual salvation” which McIntosh reminds us is traceable to “the 16th century Protestant reformers, starting with Luther, (who) narrowed down their usage of the term to focus on personal salvation” and “the evangelical belief that from before the foundations of the earth were laid, God chose the Elect and the Damned”: That “fundamental inequality”.

Rand’s work chimes with deep currents of American thought, in particular that strand that holds riches as a token of God’s favour (the “Prosperity Gospel” – the Elect) – and hence poverty is deserved as a sign of God’s disfavour (the Damned). Rand preaches a secular – anti-religious version of this – so ensnares those that the Evangelicals can’t.

These currents, so eloquently set out by McIntosh, along with other common beliefs, place Rand’s Objectivism and the US Christian Right (and their UK disciples) on the same side. The common essence linking Rand to the Religious right are: Simplicity, certainty and superiority.

As anthropologist Karen McCarthy Brown has explained (4):

“Fundamentalism is the religion of those at once seduced and betrayed by the promise that we human beings can comprehend and control the world. Bitterly disappointed by the politics of rationalized bureaucracies and the limitations of science and the perversions of industrialization, fundamentalists seek to reject the modern world, while holding on to these habits of mind: clarity certitude and control……since ambiguity, inconsistency and irrationality are part of human existence, the only way believers can push forward is to pretend that these troubling aspects of our internal and external reality do not exist. “

Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist, academic socialist and Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges explains this in American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (5): “There runs through the fundamentalist belief system a deep dread of ambiguity, disorder and chaos.”

And the Objectivist credo: “Reality – nature – is absolute.”

Simple – simplistic, concrete, unambiguous, ordered, obvious, clear, certain and wrong.

Not for these folks – the Randians and the Fundamentalists – the uncertain world of Heisenberg, where one cannot know with any certainty both the momentum and the location of an electron; or Shrodinger’s illustration of quantum mechanics; a cat simultaneously alive and dead; that a quantum system can exist as a combination of multiple states – until observed by the external world, whereupon it assumes one or other definite state; still less by Einstein’s special relativity; that two events, simultaneous for one observer, may not be simultaneous for another observer, if the observers are in relative motion; or that time is ‘slower’ for stationary observer than one in motion. God help them with Chaos Theory.

Most shocking of all for Randian and fundamentalist bigots: The findings of the Human Genome Project that race is not genetic at all – it is a social construct; that the biological basis of human equality, is at least as compelling as its ethical imperative. Nature, like people, is complex, ambiguous, chaotic, nebulous, uncertain, opaque, maddening, wonderful and beautiful.

Theocratic Currents

And so back to Alastair’s marvellous piece analysing the shift from the social to the personal; of sacrificial salvation ; Calvin’s view that an angry God is “armed for vengeance” on the wicked.

In American Fascists, Chris Hedges takes this ‘angry God’, argument further with the fundamentalist Dominionist Movement, based on Genesis where God gave human beings “dominion” over all creation – a homophobic, racist, sexist, misogynist vision of religion – driving the US towards being an absolutist Christian fascist state. :

“…with its roots in radical Calvinism (Dominionism) looks to theocracy … as its political model….American Christians have been mandated by God to make America a Christian state …a Christian Dominion.”

Few Dominionists self-identify as such – though Sarah Palin may be an exception, as a believer in apocalyptic end-times. More commonly they identify as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) increasingly prominent among charismatic Christians and Pentecostals under the influence of preacher and author C. Peter Wagner. Prominent “apostles” in the NAR include Lou Engle, co-founder of ‘TheCall’ assemblies and Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.

Dominionism’s holy book, The Institutes of Biblical Law, by R.J Rushdoony, draws heavily upon Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion whereby this Christian State must be: “Harsh, unforgiving and violent”. Christians are “the new people of God and are called to do what Adam failed to do: Create a Godly Christian State”.

The angry, vengeful God of Exodus, who smote the first born and drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea for the deliverance of the Israelites to the promised land; who delivered the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock and a new promised land of milk and honey through His providence; gave total dominion over its land, peoples and resources; promised deliverance that brought the Calvinist creed to the ‘New Jerusalem’ – this “shining city on a hill”; the Exodus story that “fueled the hopes and dreams of ..African Americans in the bondage of slavery”, has also been used to “foster religious chauvinism”.

“To tell men that they are equal has a certain sentimental appeal. But the appeal is small compared with that made by a propaganda that tells them they are superior to others, and that others are inferior to them” – Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, Vol I

This theocratic version of American Exceptionalism – that America has been uniquely ordained by God Himself to do His work – is denounced as fascist by Hedges. McIntosh too reminds us that: “Lutheran and Calvinist thought was at the root of Nazi ideology: Luther, for his explicit writings against the Jews, and Calvin, for his positing of basic inequality”.

Drawing on academic work on both fascism and religious cults, including the German historian Fritz Stern, Hedges paints fearful parallels between 20th-century totalitarian movements and the Dominionist Evangelical cultist movements.

“America becomes in this militant biblicalism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply as agents of Satan. … America will no longer be a sinful fallen nation, but one in which the commandments form the basis of our legal system, creationism and ‘Christian Values’ form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Labor Unions, civil rights laws and public schools will be abolished. Women will be removed from the work-force to stay at home, and all those deemed insufficiently Christian will be denied citizenship…the federal government will be reduced to the protection of property rights and ‘homeland’ security…church organisations empowered by the government (will) run our social-welfare agencies and all schools. The only legitimate voices in this system will be Christian. All others will be silenced.”

Convergent Currents

As a guide to Rand’s lunacy, Adam Lee has listed ‘ten insane things’ (1-10 in bold below) – defining the Randpsychopathy detailed here, derived from reading Rand’s manifesto Atlas Shrugged. Areas of convergence with Christian fundamentalism are not difficult to identify.

1. Poor people are all ugly; rich people are beautiful – having nature’s bounty bestowed upon them. You can tell good and bad people apart by looking at them

It is not just Reverend Wringhim in James Hogg’s masterpiece The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, who claimed to be able to discern the Elect from the Damned on sight – in the novel his (strongly inferred) illegitimate son Robert. George Colwan, the cuckolded husband, suspecting the truth calls him out: “You sir, are a presumptuous, self-conceited pedagogue, a stirrer up of strife and commotion in church, in state, in families, and communities…one…whose righteousness consists in splitting the doctrines of Calvin into thousands of undistinguishable films, and in setting up a system of justifying-grace against all breaches of all laws, moral or divine. In short…a mildew,-a canker-worm in the bosom of the Reformed Church” – (Hogg). Such “canker-worms” have been known to exist right to the present, both in Scotland and the US – though mercifully increasingly rare here. The convergence between Rand and Fundamentalists is uncanny.

2. Great businessmen disregard and sneer at public good and safety “Conservative evangelicalism does not accept that salvation is universal…. The Damned are quite literally, the Godforsaken… As Patti Smith, the ‘godmother of American punk’ put it in her lyric, Gloria: ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine’.” – Alastair McIntosh.

Why bother about the ‘Damned’ (the public) if you are one of the ‘Elect’?

3. Bad people rely on democracy to achieve social goods; good guys just use violence to take what they want

Redemptive Violence: “.. Christ on the cross is not about the power of love absorbing the violence of the Roman empire and of corrupt religious authorities. Here is not a testament to the power of nonviolence” – Alastair McIntosh

Apocalyptic Violence: – “And the congregation gathering in this church waits for the final, welcome relief of purgative violence (the Rapture), the vast cleansing that will lift them up into heavens and leave the world they despise. … “The (Evangelical) movement is marked ..by its obsession with…paranoia and death, but also by its infatuation with apocalyptic violence and military force (On its edge are old messianic warriors, those ready to fight and die for Christ)” ;
“America.. (according to leaders in the Apocalyptic Movement) is being ruled by evil clandestine organizations that hide behind the veneer of liberal, democratic groups…(that) seek to destroy Christians” – Hedges

4. No government has done any good for anyone – ever

Hedges cites the Christian textbook: America’s Providential History by Mark Belisles. After the flood God calls on Noah to “re-establish the Dominion Mandate (giving) Christians the responsibility for “governing all other men”; “The book fuses the Christian message with the celebration of unrestricted capitalism. It denounces income tax as ‘idolatry’ and property tax as theft, and in a chapter titled ‘Christian Economics’ calls for the abolishment (sic) of inheritance taxes.” But just in case we are in any doubt: “Even if Christians manage to outnumber others on an issue, and we sway our congressman by sheer number, we end up in the dangerous promotion of democracy… We really do not want representatives who are swayed by majorities but rather by correct principles”. – Belisles cited in Hedges

Well, there goes democratic government. This is indeed pure Rand – except that this is a supposedly ‘Christian’ textbook.

5. Violence and jealousy are signs of true love

Rand’s books are full of abusive, violent, loveless sex and the ‘justified’ sexual jealousy by capitalism’s great men. Marital infidelity is ‘normal’: “Believe it or not, none of this is meant to make us judge these characters negatively, because in Rand’s world, violent jealousy is romantic and abuse is sexy. She believed that women are meant to be subservient to men – in fact, she says that ‘the most feminine of all aspects is the look of being chained’ and that a woman being the dominant partner in a relationship was ‘metaphysically inappropriate’ and would warp and destroy her fragile lady-mind.” – Adam Lee

The cult of ‘Redemptive Violence’ pervades the philosophy and discourse of the Evangelical right just as sexual violence does in Rand. Both find expression in male dominance over women, and the violent language and impulses of ‘hypermasculinity’.

“ .. Nicki came along, who was a 25 year old stud… I went after him, he was my ticket to God. He started taking me to Bible studies two weeks before my 16th birthday, and I had a ‘born-again’ experience” – testimony of Roberta Pugh – cited by Hedges.
“ I was told to adopt a more Christian lifestyle…. She suppressed her periodic waves of anger and frustration at the abrupt, painful and difficult changes imposed on her, believing she had no right to question the demands of the church’s male hierarchy…Pugh soon believed that God would punish her if she failed to carry out the demands of the men who spoke for God “.

“Images of Jesus often show him with thick muscles clutching a sword… The language of the movement is filled with metaphors about the use of excessive force and violence against God’s enemies”. “The hypermasculinity of radical Christian conservatism, which crushes the independence of women, is a way for men in the movement to compensate for the curtailing of their own independence, the abject obedience to church authorities and the call for sexual restraint.” – Hedges

6. All natural resources are limitless

A clear distortion of Providence and an example of Dominionism – The Lord will provide – whatever … no need to safeguard and husband the fruits of the Earth and its unlimited bounty. Hedges again cites America’s Providential History which “calls on ‘Bible believing Christians’ to take dominion of America and the World. “The book teaches that that the Christian’s primary responsibility is to create material wealth. God will oversee the increase and protection of material resources.” – Belisles cited in Hedges

7. Pollution is beautiful; pristine wilderness is ugly and useless

Pure ‘Christian’ Randism: “America’s Providential History belittles secular environmentalists, who see natural resources as fragile and limited, .. those that hold these concerns ‘lack faith in God’ s providence’….the Christian knows that the potential of God is unlimited and there is no shortage of resources on God’s earth’. The book blithely dismisses the threat of global warming and overpopulation.. ‘Christians know that god has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all the people’.” – Belisles cited in Hedges

8. Crime doesn’t exist even in impoverishes areas

Lee expands: “In the world of Atlas Shrugged, the only kind of violence anyone worries about is government thugs stealing the wealth of heroic capitalists to redistribute to the undeserving masses. There’s no burglary, no muggings no bread riots. ..in Rand’s view poor people will sit and starve, and that’s a good thing, because accepting that crime exists might lead to dangerous heretical ideas – like that maybe the government should pay for education, jobs and training… cheaper in the long run than spending ever more money on police and prisons. “

Luckily, we can rely on America’s Providential History for righteous Christian Randism: “The fall of man brought about corruption in the heart of man, which manifested itself externally with violence, murder, theft, and all manner of criminal behavior. God established civil government in the earth as the means of restraining evil doers and protecting law-abiding citizens (Genesis). It was given the use of the sword to enforce its authority to protect the life, liberty, and property of the people.”
– Belisle – direct quote.

As ever, righteous violence is the answer as part of a very limited government.

9. All that matters in life is making money and enjoying it.

“For [Evangelicals] it was unthinkable that capitalism led to class conflict, for that would mean that God had created a world at war with itself. The evangelicals believed in a providential God…and they saw the new industrial economy as a fulfilment of God’s plan. The free market… was a perfectly designed instrument to reward good Christian behavior and to punish and humiliate the unrepentant; poverty is part of a divine program….the mental anguish of poverty and debt, and the physical agony of hunger or cold, (are) natural spurs to prick the conscience of sinners;… the suffering of the poor would provoke remorse, reflection, and ultimately the conversion that would change their fate. …poor people were poor for a reason, and helping them out of poverty would endanger their mortal souls. It was the evangelicals who began to see the business mogul as an heroic figure, his wealth a triumph of righteous will.”
– Theocracy Watch
Pure unadulterated Randian Christianity

10. Smoking is good for you

All heroes in Rand, like Rand herself, smoke. Although it is difficult to find biblical authority for smoking per se, it is not hard to find Dominionist and Christian libertarian support for the abolition of controls over tobacco. The Dominionist dominated Texas Republican party issued the following manifesto:

“We support the abolition of … the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the position of Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce and Labor. We also call for the de-funding or abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Public Broadcasting System.”
– Theocracy Watch

So it’s: Praise the Lord and pass the fags and ammunition.

Conclusion

Every ruling class throughout history has required a justifying discourse or narrative –whether invoking gods, God, or divine right to defend the ‘rights’ and privileges of rulers over the ruled. Theocracy has a long been an immensely powerful force for rule –in the UK we have a residual theocracy in much of the constitution – the current Supreme Court case is being asked to rule on Mrs. May’s use of Royal Prerogative powers that can be traced to the Divine Right of Kings.

The US appears to be moving in a dangerous theocratic direction – ironic given that the it was founded specifically to counter European theocratic tendencies- through strict separation of powers. Drawing on Jeffersonian principles of “a wall of separation between church and State”, the First Amendment specifically protects religious freedom whilst prohibiting laws respecting an establishment of religion. Despite the religious right’s continuing efforts to undermine the first amendment, there remain in the US strong strands of secularism.

In framing a strategy for continued dominance, the elites need to ensure that the supportive discourse encompasses as many stands of popular opinion as possible – as efficiently as possible. To do so, it must sometimes seek to reconcile the irreconcilable: The views of the atheist, hedonistic Randians and the righteous God-fearing Evangelical – through their common ground on the political Right, drawing on deep streams of the national narrative founded on Calvinist and Lutheran doctrines.

But one must always ask the question: Cui bono? Who gains from promoting these beliefs?

The ruling commercial, industrial, oil, coal, tobacco, arms, aerospace, Big Pharma and financial elites are clearly prime beneficiaries, and are deeply involved in the exploitation and promotion, of the common beliefs of this unholy alliance.

We now know that Rand herself was a supreme hypocrite who made extensive use of Medicaid and Medicare and collected Social Security for herself. Examples of hypocrisy in religion are too commonplace to merit repetition here.

But it is also important to record the strands and examples of Christian decency and heroism represented by the likes of Chris Hedges and Alastair McIntosh. The fight they share for truth, peace, decency, honesty, and integrity are examples of a very different Protestant Christianity than that described above.

McIntosh writes warmly of his Scottish “Island Christianity” in his wonderful books and in his Bella article: “…neither was all of Calvin the trumping of divine mystery by cold human logic. He also had sublime moments, very relevant to the ethos of the isles. Passages like: ‘Mankind is knit together with a holy knot … we must not live for ourselves, but for our neighbours’.”

In American Fascists Hedges writes movingly of his Presbyterian minister father and his own training at Harvard Divinity School: “We were taught that those who claim to speak for God, the self-appointed prophets who promised the Kingdom of God on earth, were dangerous. We had no ability to understand God’s will. We did the best we could”. Of his father he writes: ”But coupled with his piety was a belief that Christians were called to fight for justice. My father took an early stand in the town in support of the civil rights movement, a position that was highly unpopular in rural, white enclaves….he opposed the Vietnam war telling me that if the war was still being waged when I was 18, he’d go to prison with me”. Like his father Hedges has fought continually for the oppressed, the poor, for peace and for justice, driven by the Gospel imperatives of his Christian beliefs.

The elites themselves believe in very little beyond their own wealth and power, but in maintaining these they are ruthless and fastidious. In marketing terms, what we see here is a clear case of segmentation, whereby the same message may be addressed to disparate groups by targeting the message using symbols and stories tailored to the susceptibilities each group.

Rather than being antithetical, Evangelicalism and Rand’s philosophy of ‘Objectivism’ are in fact two sides of the same American radical right coin: one ‘sacred’, one ‘profane’; both madly dangerous, in the service of the 1%.

Honey laced with hemlock may taste sweet – but it is lethal poison nonetheless.

NOTES
1. Weiss, Gary, 2012, Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul, St Martin’s Press, New York.
2. Weiss, G. Ibid
3. Boorstein, Michele. 2016. ‘‘Trump on God: ‘Hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.’’’ The Washington Post, June 8.
4. McCarthy Brown, Karen, 1994, Fundamentalism and the Control of Women, In: John Straton Hawle (Ed) Fundamentalism and Gender, Oxford Univerity Press, Oxford. 176
5. Hedges, Chris, 2008, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Vintage, London.