Ayn Rand and US Evengelicalism: Two sides of the same Worthless Rightwing Coin

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.

Comments (63)

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  1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Thanks for this as it confirms my belief that religion, all religions of whatever the hue, are the cause of most of our troubles by misrepresenting what religion/s actually stand for.

    1. MBC says:

      You could say the same thing about secular ideologies like Nazism, Maoism, or Bolshevism. They too have their rigid beliefs that they hold so sacred they will willingly sacrifice millions just to advance an idea.

      1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

        Yes MBC I quite agree with you but the article is talking about Evangelicalism not the others you suggest.

        1. MBC says:

          My comment was to Charles.

    2. Pilrig says:

      Of all the books of religion perhaps the Kama Sutra has caused the least trouble.

      1. Patrick says:

        Texts such as the Kama Sutra, the Ananga Ranga, are written on three levels.
        1. The art of making love.
        2. The art of governing, and meeting the needs of everyone in a nation.
        3. The art of achieving enlightenment or the knowledge of your own natural.
        From my point of view these texts should be part of education in all Western nations.
        We will be less vulnerable to hate, war.
        Do you remember ” Make Love and not War”

  2. MBC says:

    Funnily enough, I read an article recently, a question and answer piece, where Steve Bannon, the right-wing editor of Breitbart website, and lately head of strategy for Trump, decried Ayn Rand.

    Seems she was too toxic even for the alt-right in America.

    1. MBC says:

      https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.lrLJ82vD6#.qqxn4EQRa

      OK this was the article where Bannon decries Ayn Rand’s form of capitalism.

      Could just be deflection though.

  3. john young says:

    Always religion that gets it in the ear Charles,well unless you live on another planet the secularistas/atheists/agnostics are making a very good job of life enhancement at the moment,I attend mass most mornings and derive great pleasure/tranquillity in my connection with the God I believe in as do all other attendees,maybe it is because we are for the short time in contact with something not of this/our world but something that is a joy,no hatred/no killing/no greed,just for that 30mins or so removed from the horrors of theworld we live in the world that we have fashioned,try it sometime you won,t be dis-appointed.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      Well said, though the article is dealing with the abusive interpretation and weaponisation of religion, and not with the kind of faith to which you are testifying.

    2. kailyard rules says:

      Yes, I too derive great pleasure and tranquility. By sitting on a park bench with a copy of the afore-mentioned Kama Sutra. Different universe maybe.

      1. Alastair McIntosh says:

        Oh not at all, not at all, Kailyard. Your Kama Sutra will give Hindu satisfaction, albeit at the cost of magnificent contortions that I never quite managed to master back in the days when I tried, and I tried, and I tried…. But equally, you will find spiritually erotic material in the mystical traditions of most if not all major faiths. You can read it as metaphor, or you can read it as a way of showing that the love of God (sorry) is a very flesh and blood love – it is about the meanings of love, in all its passions (to borrow from Audre Lorde).

        Some of the Sufi poetry of Islam is exquisite, and in the Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament”) you have it superbly in the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs). In the gospels of Christ, I always think that not enough sermons are preached on the sheer tenderness of Luke 7:

        “37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them…. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.”

        1. Pilrig says:

          There is a beautiful passage on the nature of love in 1st Corinthians 13 versus 4-7 on the nature of love. This tends to balance out malignant nonsense like Exodus 22: 18

          1. Pilrig says:

            Should have read ‘verses 4-7’. Oops !

  4. Scott says:

    Excellent piece and very well written. One of the best essays on political beliefs and the influence of Rand on the American elites ever written. Very timely. Someone should do a psychoanalysis on her hatred of what she thought communism to be. She was born to aristocratic heritage and the evil commits took that birthright away from her. So she had her wee nest egg of elite fortune stolen! Poor sod. Her arrogance suits the dummies who read her crap. As Carl Sagan said of another writer, her books should be read at school for courses in sloppy logic. She is one of the worst writers in history but she appeals to the egos of the twisted elites to justify their callous nihilism and inhumanity. She held a mirror up to the Americans given she was an immigrant filled to overflowing with hatred of others. Her fantasy novels are simply that. Her Objectivism is indeed a form of Fascism that destroys every other form of intellectual knowledge and all of the science we know to be true. I’ve suffered a Rand crank up close and they are sad people who kill their conscience and are the worst hypocrite the earth ever spawned. They despise moo hers but slyly they take from others, manipulate and bully and do plenty of taking from others themselves. Objectivism in Rands sense is dangerous where it turns any opinion of a big headed elite into facts because they said it. Hedges is a fantastic critic of Rand. The institute in her name is a dangerous group who would destroy all radicals and intellectuals who criticise them! If ever there were a gathering of earth destroyers and people capable ofnmurdering all mankind with Nukes it is a group of Ayn Rand fruitcakes.

    1. John O'Dowd says:

      Thanks Scott. Much appreciated, John

  5. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    The article casts an impressively wide net and establishes many fascinating connections. However, I suggest that an overworking of the anti-evangelical premise leads to imbalance (arguably Alastair McIntosh’s own ‘tour de force’ original essay suffers from a similar flaw).

    Not unaware of this, the author proffers a sentence or two of redress near the conclusion, eg:

    “But it is also important to record the strands and examples of Christian decency and heroism…”,

    and (rehearsing Alastair’s own rather ‘after-thoughtish’ quote from Calvin):

    “Mankind is knit together with a holy knot … we must not live for ourselves, but for our neighbours.”

    So in a modest effort to amplify that balanced note, I mention a couple of references for general readers:

    Firstly, it is clearly germane that the Free Church of Scotland (of which I am not a member) ruled against Rousas Rushdoony’s ‘Theonomy’ back in 2004:

    “In light of the inconsistency of Theonomy with the Confession and with the Biblical doctrine which underlies the Confession, demonstrated above, what should be the response of the Free Church of Scotland? […] It is essential that the General Assembly declare that the teachings commonly known as Theonomy or Reconstructionism contradict the Confession of Faith and are inconsistent with Biblical doctrine. It is also essential that the Assembly communicate that declaration to the Church and the grounds on which that judgement has been made. To this end the Committee is recommending that this section of the Report together with the relevant part of the Deliverance be circulated to all Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions.” (General Assembly Committee on Public Questions, Religion and Morals)

    Secondly, the Christian socio-political thinker Jonathan Chaplin (I think an Anglican), wrote a short article in 2009 refuting the notion of national “exceptionalism”:

    “It is one thing to confess—as we must—that God continues to rule providentially over all nations and call them to submit to his will, but quite another to claim that he calls particular nations into a covenantal relationship with him akin to that he entered into with biblical Israel. This negative conclusion is reinforced by an equally important positive one. Not only are there no chosen nations today, but the New Testament people of God has been founded from the very beginning as a trans-national community. In Jesus Christ, the Gentiles are brought into a covenant relationship with God. We see this enacted visibly in the trans-ethnic, trans-national, multi-lingual character of the early church in Acts, which confessed, dramatically and subversively, that ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus’. Hence the Great Commission to ‘make disciples of all nations’. The New Testament church can never literally assume the title of ‘New Israel’, in the sense of a territorial political community in which divine positive law prevails.” (Jonathan Chaplin: “Can Nations be ‘Christian’? An English Debate”, 2009)
    https://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/1164/can-nations-be-christian-an-english-debate/

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      Hello Fearghas. You seem to have insight into current Free Church process, though I am not clear why you think that theonomy (religious law) impacts here. To me, the bottom line issue is a confessional basis, not unique to the FC, that can treat humankind as unequal because of double predestination, and accordingly holds to “limited atonement”, the doctrine that Christ’s full efficacy is “limited” to the elect only. It’s an old debate but one that the psychodynamic of Trump’s US evangelical support base reignites. I raised it in my recent articles because if it is not aired, an ugly, supremacist, politics can play out in the name of Christianity. Just last week my friend the American scholar Michael Newton gave a lecture in Edinburgh University on how Christian/Celtic imagery has been appropriated by parts of Trump’s support base. If we consider ourselves to be Christian, and especially Presbyterian or of Presbyterian provenance consistent with Trump, we have a duty to challenge these interpretations and uses. The irony is that while a significant part of American cultural psychohistory has been shaped by Calvinist/Puritan doctrines, it is often the Presbyterian churches that are, today, on the liberal side of things. Such layers and interweavings of theology and sociology through time are too complex for a comment reply, or for this time of night, but I appreciate your remarks and John O’Dowd’s article in helping to open them out.

      1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

        Hi Alasdair,

        I have no insight into “current Free Church process”. The “Theonomy” reference from 2004 was dredged up from my email archives.

        You say that you are not clear why I “think that theonomy (religious law) impacts here”. The lack of clarity is my fault, and doubtless due to my inadvertant substitution of a synonymous term. John O’ Dowd refers to “Dominionism” a number of times. That movement is (or at least used to be) known also as “Reconstructionism” or “Theonomy”. I note John’s statement that “More commonly they identify as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)”. I appreciate that new information.

        Rousas Rushdoony was of course the patriarch of “Theonomy” or “Dominion Theology”. In the fifth para down from the article heading ‘Theocratic Currents’, there is an allusion to Dominionism and Rushdoony. If I might go off slightly on a tangent here, the relevant sentence invites further scrutiny. It states that:

        “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’.”

        On reading that I duly assumed that “Harsh, unforgiving and violent” was a direct quote from Calvin’s ‘Institutes’ regarding the kind of society he wanted. Sounded rather unlikely to me. I tried a (brief) search to confirm the quote. No success. Ah! I thought, it must be a direct quote from Rushdoony then. No success there either. What I did come up with almost immediately was the following Wiki entry on the latter:

        “Rushdoony calls for a Christian society that is harsh, unforgiving and violent. His work draws heavily on the calls for a repressive theocratic society laid out by Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion…”

        Granted that it is accurate enough as a description of Rushdoony’s program per se, the phrase “Harsh, unforgiving and violent” nonetheless appears to be a direct quote only in the sense that it is directly lifted from a Wikipedia writer. I would be happy to be corrected.

        And just for amusement, if we go to the Wiki entry on Calvin himself, we are duly informed that:

        “The aim of Calvin’s political theory was to safeguard the rights and freedoms of ordinary people.”

        As to your linkage of the doctrine of “double predestination” to Trump support, I read your original article with interest and respect. I concluded that the issues are essentially beyond my competence to further comment on. Suffice to say, perhaps, that the “roots” of human certainty continue to intrigue me as much as the “fruits”.

        1. Alastair McIntosh says:

          Fearghas -to quote MacDiarmid here, from memory: you “dodge the curst conciet o being richt (right)/ that damns the vast majority o men.” Respect.

          1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

            You make virtue of my bewilderment… 🙂

        2. John O'Dowd says:

          Hi Fearghas,

          The quote: “Rushdoony calls for a Christian Society that harsh, unforgiving and violent” is a direct quote from Chris Hedges, American Fascists (p.12).

          It forms part of my passage (above) that states:

          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.

          I had supposed (wrongly) that its citation in that part would make its attribution obvious. Sorry!

          I try to avoid Wikipedia since it is never clear whether it is fact-checked or not – and there is substantial evidence of its being used by subversive forces.

          I presume the wiki writer got his quote from the same source as I did – but failed to attribute it. In a piece for Bella – unlike an academic article, one cannot for reasons of space continually cite.

          My assumption that the attribution was clear was, as it turned out wrong, and for that I apologise.

          1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

            John, thank you for the very helpful clarification. You may be correct that in context the attribution was obvious to others. Difficult for me to know!

        3. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

          I wrote above:

          – And just for amusement, if we go to the Wiki entry on Calvin himself, we are duly informed that: “The aim of Calvin’s political theory was to safeguard the rights and freedoms of ordinary people.” –

          I fear my word “amusement” was ill-chosen, and may be taken by some to imply mockery of the Wiki quote. Not intended. Here is a supportive quote from another, not un-nuanced, source (‘The Basic Ideas of Calvinism’ by H. Henry Meeter, written 1939):

          “A privilege of a very different order which the State must guarantee the citizen relates to his spiritual existence. Just as the State must provide conditions which will tend to promote his material well-being and enable him to earn a decent living, so the State must promote his spiritual freedom – freedom for man’s soul. This will include free speech, a free press, freedom of religion, in a word, freedom of conscience. This is a cause of which the historic Calvinist is an ardent defender. Calvinists in history have not always consistently practised this principle in granting liberty of conscience to others; nevertheless, freedom of conscience follows directly from the principles of Calvinism and must strenuously be maintained as a right which the State must grant its citizens. Liberty of conscience may be defined as the boundary line of the State’s authority in the realm of the spirit. (p 149, “The Basic Ideas of Calvinism” by H. Henry Meeter, Th.D., Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan,1973)

          1. John O'Dowd says:

            That’s the problem, Fearghas. People pick and choose the bits of scripture/theological interpretation that suits their purposes.

            My thesis hear is very simple: People a the top – people who control the media, own the banks, exercise imperialist power across the globe, utilise whatever levers and triggers they believe will maintain and promote their ascendency – including fomenting wars and violence.

            Rand’s use to these people is that she wrote stories that very much do that. These stories appeal to people who have been inculcated by the US national foundation myth.

            A large part of that myth relies on the religious strands of thought described by Hedges and Mcintosh.

            The spiritual content of the myth – and its continued religious and spiritual purpose for truly religious adherents is – to the elites – utterly irrelevant.

            All I’m trying to do in this article is pick out the common strands that have been used to get a political message to a wider public – wide enough to get elected the type of persons that will continue to maintain the wealth and power of the elites.

            As a non-religious person, I have no interest whatsoever in the content of the beliefs – they are as meaningful to me as debates on the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin.

            If people wish to believe these things – fair enough – as Alistair says in his wonderful Poacher’s pilgrimage – there remains a widespread belief in fairies on Lewis/Harris. Harmless and charming. Just like Island Christianity – until it got to Massachusetts.

            I am however interested in the phenomenon whereby something that had its origins in religious belief, then became part of the US foundation myth, and is now used cynically and dangerously to impose a political system, and to wage war across the globe – and to rely on these strands to garner and maintain popular support for this at home.

            That is an interesting phenomenon – and if it is to countered it needs to be understood. I think therefore we may be at cross purposes.

            I mean no harm – I am a left libertarian – and I have no interest in preventing people from a keeping to a way of life and believing in things that brings meaning to their lives – whether it be fairies or Calvinist exegesis. So long as it does not endanger other people or a world that I regard as “complex, ambiguous, chaotic, nebulous, uncertain, opaque, maddening, wonderful and beautiful”.

            As a biochemist, I believe science is the best way to do that – but poetry and art work for me too.

        4. John O'Dowd says:

          Hi Fearghas,

          The quote: “Rushdoony calls for a Christian Society that harsh, unforgiving and violent” is a direct quote from Chris Hedges, American Fascists (p.12).

          It forms part of my passage (above) that states:

          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.

          I had supposed (wrongly) that its citation in that part would make its attribution obvious. Sorry!

          But it is a direct comment on Rushdoony.

          I try to avoid Wikipedia since it is never clear whether it is fact-checked or not – and there is substantial evidence of its being used by subversive forces.

          I presume the wiki writer got his quote from the same source as I did – but failed to attribute it. In a piece for Bella – unlike an academic article, one cannot for reasons of space continually cite.

          My assumption that the attribution was clear was, as it turned out wrong, and for that I apologise.

          1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

            (Repeated response to repeated comment)

            John, thank you for the very helpful clarification. You may be correct that in context the attribution was obvious to others. Difficult for me to know!

  6. John O'Dowd says:

    Hi Fearghas,

    Thank you for your comments. They are very helpful and provide much needed ballast. I wish to be clear that this is not an attack on religion – particularly reformed Christianity – per se.

    My intention here was to draw together strands of hateful thinking – both religious and deeply profane- that are used and manipulated by the cynical nihilists who stand to benefit from them, both materially and in terms of power and influence. I am grateful for the theological elaborations you provide as a counterweight to my piece – I neither had the space – nor have the expertise to do so.

    My ‘sentence or two of redress near the conclusion’ was neither grudging nor meant to provide total balance. It was simply a statement of the fact the the vast majority of good people who have honestly held Christian beliefs, and who faithfully practice their religion in good and well-informed conscience, and who in doing so do good – and harm no-one – are simply not the subject of this essay.

    My limited remit – and even that took an alarming 5000+ words – was to explore common ideas and cultural currents, many originally derived from certain forms of religious thinking, that are used by an elite and tiny minority to exercise power over the US and the world.

    These currents and these people – however much of a distortion they might be – are real enough, and dangerous enough to merit the exploration presented here. My reliance on the deep scholarship of Rev Hedges – as well acknowledgment of as his relentless struggle on behalf the downtrodden and against war – I hope speaks for itself.

    Finally, there are respectable secular, non-religious arguments to counter these dangerous currents.

    I eschewed these, both because there is a more than adequate confessional rebuttal for them – of which your own contribution is a useful and important addition – and because the aim and remit of the piece was as describe above.

    I wish you well.

    1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

      Hi John. Thank you very much for your genial and expansive response. It is generously considerate and greatly appreciated. To you in turn also, my best wishes.

      1. John O'Dowd says:

        Thanks Fearghas,

        You are very welcome, John

    2. Patrick says:

      John, the only thing religious people has to do is read whatever his or her religious text with a scientific approach, nowadays it is very difficult to prove that some kind of intelligence created the universe and all beauty on our planet, but none in this text you can obtain a scientific explanations of how he or she did.

      I’m not a monotheist perhaps, the God who created the earth playing some type of game with fire in the Olympus produce the Big Ban, the explosion was so huge that he or her became Deaf, blind and dumb, as a friend of me explain: as he or her is deaf cannot hear our claims, as he or her is blind cannot see all disaster we are making in the earth, as he or her is dumb cannot call another God or Goddess to give us a solution. So then the solution is on our own hand, is up to us find the way, and the best way is a scientific approach in every act of our life. For that what we only need is a good education and less wepons.

  7. John Page says:

    Brilliant essay, respectful and courteous comments…..what an advert for Bella Caledonia!
    My biggest concern about the influence of Rand (who would in other circumstances be dismissed as both unpleasant and barking mad) on the American Christian Right concerns the climate crisis. We all know it is a perversion of any decent Christian message ( one could add Pope Frances’ robust Laudatory Si encyclical to the references in the comments above) but what chance do we have for sane environmental policies if a sizeable chunk of the populace of the world’s wealthiest and most influential country believe that a patriarchal God has specially chosen them to have unfettered dominion over both the Earth and its other peoples and that it doesn’t matter about resource depletion, species extinction or CO2 emissions since they are destined to glory in another world living with their God in a high up hall of gold like a heavenly Trump Tower.

    1. John O'Dowd says:

      Thanks for the kind words John – though it all started with you – I hadn’t thought to deeply about the links until you mentioned it – and luckily enough I had a number of useful books in my study – especially Weiss and Hedges – that brought together the stands of thought you highlighted.

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. By far the biggest threat to us all (other than nuclear annihilation – which is still with us, especially given the sabre rattling against Putin) is degradation of the planet, its ecosystems and its climate. All in the cause of profit.

      So thanks for the nudge – and of course for your further insights.

      Best wishes,

      John

    2. patrick says:

      Whoever has a glass roof can not throw stones; At least the Americans choose their monarchs in turn, short enough shift to make the necessary changes, but to the British that God imposed them, and until when?

  8. john young says:

    Returned a book to the library,I couldn,t read anymore it is far too dark far too horrendous,it is a book about the USA,s involvement in Vietnam,I didn,t understand the depth of depravity that man is capable of,these terrible terrible acts of inhumanity happened on a daily basis with the full concurrence of those high up the chain of command,most of these involved will claim Christianity,no way no way,I pray for the human race because there is nothing else left to do.Rabbie had it so right “mans inhumanity to man”.

  9. Patrick says:

    Maybe it’s blasphemy, But many of the precepts of Christianity in the world are outside the Law.
    According to the Bible, Jesus poured water into bottles and turned them into wine, if you do that, the law penalizes you for adulterating the product.
    According to the bible, God in the form of the holy spirit comes down to earth and inseminates Mary; If you go to any place and by the art of magic you suck a woman and let her Encinitas, the law if it locates you penalizes.
    In the bible it is said that we are all children of God, but no one has seen God in person, and the worst of the case I have brought to multiples of women, and disappeared, or I leave all orphans, if you do and You appear in some place the law will force you to pay Child Support.
    Listen every day I read the biblical I find different cases that are really alarming, For example now I do not remember the passage where there were scarce men or thought that the world would end, and the daughters drunker the father and lay with him to stay Preenadas, I do not know how they would treat the case today, but surely the father goes to jail. Beside in our society behaves like Jose geting to a pregnet women from another will be qualify as Cornude.
    On concern to:
    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.
    At biblical time every body use haschichi or Cannabis to receibe the God inspiration. Perhaps this is why around the world want aprobe the use of Canabis.

  10. J Galt says:

    She loved Trains, just as long as they weren’t nationalised ones!

    I seriously doubt whether Trump’s ever ploughed his way through “Atlas Shrugged”.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      The point about Trump is that this is not about Trump. As Pussy Riot said about Vladimir Putin, this is about the “system” that Putin represents. The system is the spiritual interiority, as Pussy Riot recognised of Putin, and we must do likewise of Trump if we want to understand the dynamic that’s at play.

      1. J Galt says:

        Pussy Riot?

        Basically traitors to their country and working to undermine their own people on behalf of malevolent outside forces.

        Disgusting and untalented to boot!

        They got what they deserved, I’m just surprised they got off so lightly.

        1. In what way are Pussy Riot traitors?

          1. Alastair McIntosh says:

            J Galt – I have met in person with Pussy Riot and have published this, not about their punk (which is not my scene) but about their theology: http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/articles/2012-Pussy-Riot-Liberation-Theology.pdf

          2. J Galt says:

            Working to undermine your own country on behalf of a foreign power is as good a definition of treason in my book.

            Of course some may have them as beacons of freedom.

            So it all comes down to personal opinion I suppose.

          3. Freedom of speech? Civil liberties? Any interest in these?

          4. J Galt says:

            They weren’t arrested for exercising “freedom of speech” they were arrested for Hooliganism – and rightly so.

            As well as freedoms there are obligations such as behaving decently in public areas, particularly in places of worship.

            Their actions have been exploited by the enemies of the Russian people and they have gone along with that.

            They are the very definition of “useful idiots”.

  11. Interpolar says:

    An interesting and far reaching read which reflects both very well on the author and this site.

    Despite the many lucid insights, I would take issue with the notion the Nationalsocialism was grounded in the teachings of Calvin and Luther. In fact, I think it drew generously from the ideas of Social Darwinism and Germanic ledgers. It is noteable that it was the Protestant churches in Germany who were the most openly critical of Hitler.
    Calvin for his part does not sit well with the American Religious Right in that he had quite developed views on the social responsibility of society and the need to restrain the unbridled concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

    Despite their chauvinism, the Nazi on their part make equally bad bed fellows with the Religious Right. Rather than being individualistic, the Nazis were over large stretched collectivist in their instincts – but of course not inclusive. On this basis, I do not think the Nazis are a useful reference point for the arguments.

    One problem I see with the theology of the Religious Right is indeed its affiliation with Modernism as modelled on the ideas of the Enlightenment. The results in the Bible being read as a scientific textbook, but one you may not criticise. If your experience of the world does not match the text book, then your interpretation must be corrected in a way that brings everything back into line. The result is that the Bible is read and understood in a way for which it was never intended. As a result, the true wealth of Scripture and much of its deeper truth and meaning are lost.
    The resulting contorted, pseudo-modernist mindset of many in the Religious Right is also responsible for a host of other short-circuited conclusions they draw and which the article elaborates on rather well.

    1. John O'Dowd says:

      Hi Interpolar,

      My article had a very limited scope – to identify common stands of thought between Randians and the Evangelical Right. I drew heavily from (Presbyterian minister) Chris Hedges’s book American Fascists – which I recommend everyone to read. The following from the book may clarify the argument:

      “The Puritans, who hoped to create a theocratic state, believed that Satan ruled the wilderness surrounding their settlements, they believed that God had called them to cast Satan out of the wilderness of this promised land. That divine command sanctioned the removal or slaughter of Native Americans this hubris fed the deadly doctrine of manifest destiny. Similar apocalyptic visions of the world cleansed through violence and extermination nourished the Nazis.” Hedges P31

      “In a 2004 study, the political scientist John Green identifies those he calls traditional Evangelicals. This group, which green estimates at 12.6% of the population, comes closest to the Religious Right widely discussed in the media.

      It is overwhelmingly Republican; it is openly hostile to democratic pluralism, and it champions totalitarian policies….Green’s ‘traditional evangelicals’ can probably be called true Dominionists. …but the potency of this radical movement far exceeds its numbers.. radical social movements, as Crane Brinton wrote in The Anatomy of Revolution were almost always tiny, although they use the the tools of modern propaganda to create the illusion of a mass following…the impressive demonstrations.. in Germany, Italy, Russia and China ought not to deceive the careful student of politics. Neither Communist, Nazi nor Fascist victory was achieved by participation of the many; all were achieved by small, disciplined, principled, fanatical bodies.” Hedges P19

  12. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    (I posted a version of this on the thread of Alasdair McIntosh’s article “What is it About Evangelicals?”. I do apologize for its length, but it surely bears repeating here in an attempt to widen our analysis of fascism, very needfully spreading the focus beyond “evangelicals” and “Calvin”).

    I am interested in the thinking of the late Dutch Christian philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977). He lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The Dooyeweerd family sheltered Jews. After the war Dooyeweerd wrote a long series of newspaper articles which were eventually published as the Dutch original of the book: ‘Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular and Christian Options’ (Paideia Press, 2012).

    In part of the book Dooyeweerd seeks to philosophically plumb the origins of German fascism. There are various elements to this, but the strand to note here refers to the corrosive influence of “Historicism”. Classical Humanism (circum French Revolution) had posited rationalist absolutes which over-arched time. By the early 20th C, in the wake of Romanticism, an irrationalist counter-polarity of humanism was taking over. Absolutization of the Historical “Aspect” (Dooyeweerd-speak) of life began sucking everything into an existential maelstrom. There was now no recognition of absolutes spanning time. Norms were only provisional – a fleeting consensus within a universal flux. The collapsing Weimar Republic grows desperate for stability. German Fascism (goose-)steps out of the flux, recognizing no laws above itself EXCEPT the genius and destiny of the German volk.

    Dooyeweerd writes:

    “It calls itself dynamic, believing that all of reality moves and unfolds historically. It directs its polemic against static views that adhere to fixed truths. It considers reality one-sidedly in the light of historical becoming and development, arguing that everything is purely historical in character. This ‘historicism’, as it is called, knows of no eternal values. All of life is caught up in the stream of historical development. From this point of view the truths of the Christian faith are just as relative and transient as the ideals of the French Revolution […]  

    “Following the example of the mathematical and natural sciences, earlier humanistic theory had always sought after the universally valid laws that control reality. It constructed an ‘eternal order of natural law’ out of the ‘rational nature of humankind’. This order was totally independent of historical development, and was valid for every nation at all times and in all places. The earlier rationalistic humanism displayed little awareness of the individual traits of peoples and nations. All individual things were regarded as mere instances or examples of a universal rule and were reduced to a universal order. This reduction highlights the rationalistic tendency of this type of humanistic thought.  

    “But as a result of the polarity of its religious ground-motive, humanism veered to the other extreme after the French Revolution. Rationalistic humanism turned into irrationalistic humanism, which rejected all universally valid laws and order. It elevated individual potential to the status of law. Irrationalistic humanism was not inspired by the exact mathematical and natural sciences but by art and the science of history. Art revealed the ‘genius’ and uniqueness of individuality. This ‘romanticism’, which for a time dominated western culture during the Restoration period after Napoleon’s fall, was the source of the view of reality defended by the Historical School.

    “When the Historical School attempted to understand the whole of culture, language, art, jurisprudence, and the economic and social orders in terms of the historical development of an individual national spirit, it elevated the national character to the status of the origin of all order. It therefore denied the truth that the individual creature always remains subject to law. It argued that if the individual potential of a man or nation is the only law for development and action, then this potential cannot be evaluated in terms of a universally valid law. Accordingly, any nation was considered to act rightly and legitimately if it simply followed the historical fate or goal implicit in its individual potential or disposition.  

    “This view of reality was historicistic in the sense explained above. Although the Historical School fundamentally rejected the validity of general laws, it nevertheless tried to compensate for this by seeking to reach a kind of compromise with the Christian belief in ‘divine providence’. It proclaimed divine providence to be a ‘hidden’ law of history, arguing that God’s providence rules the history of a nation. As the Christian mask was laid aside, ‘providence’ was replaced by SCHICKSAL, the historical destiny or fate of a nation. Schicksal played the same role as divine providence; it operated as a norm for the development of a national character.  

    “Careful readers will have noted how closely this view approaches the spiritual atmosphere of national socialism and its appeal to providence, to the ‘Destiny of the German People’ [Schicksal des deutschen Volkes]. We will do well to keep the affinity between national socialism and the Historical School in mind, for later we will see that nazism must be considered primarily a degenerate fruit of the historicism propagated by the Historical School.”
    (Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular and Christian Options, Paideia Press, 2012, pp 43, 50, 52)

  13. douglas clark says:

    Can I just say that Ayn Rand was an extreme example of thepsychopath human psyche?

    It is within the bounds of our brains to be infinitely selfish or infinitely giving. There are numerous examples of each, and folk that see that polarity as stupid.

    Quite why vast numbers of folk find Ayn Rand even vaguely interesting is a worry. The notion that you are only in this life for satisfaction driven by self satisfaction seems to me to be the work of a psychopath:

    “Hare claims that psychopaths “are not disoriented or out of touch with reality, nor do they experience the delusions, hallucinations, or intense subjective distress that characterize most other mental disorders. Unlike psychotic individuals, psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behavior is the result of choice, freely exercised.”

    Seems reasonable to me.

  14. douglas clark says:

    Mike, could you give us an edit facility?

      1. douglas clark says:

        Err, yes Mike.

        It is a tad embarrassing to have thepsychopath, when you meant the psychopath. once you have committed, sometimes in a rage, to see your whole point pulled down by grammatical errors.

        1. John O'Dowd says:

          Try not to rage. Never write in a rage. Reflect, and then calmly commit your words to the page.

  15. John O'Dowd says:

    Precisely my point Douglas:

    “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.”

    Of course, psychopaths aren’t ‘mad’ in the ordinary sense – many of them function very well – most of our large organisations – public and private – are run by them.

    They merely lack a conscience – and will do whatever – and whoever – it takes to get what they want. I’ve had several bosses that fit the bill.

    For a good read get a hold of the late Leo Abse’s The man who lost his smile” – a psychoanalysis of Tony Blair.

    1. douglas clark says:

      John O’Dowd,

      Thanks.

      You say, “Of course, psychopaths aren’t ‘mad’ in the ordinary sense – many of them function very well – most of our large organisations – public and private – are run by them.”

      Can I give you this link to DSM?

      http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.640505

      Psychopathy may in a Venn sort of a way be congruent with sane, but it has a pretty large area of incompatibility too.

      1. John O'Dowd says:

        Psychopathy overlaps with psychosis insofar as there is a detachment from what most of us recognise as ‘reality’ – psychopaths inhabit their own parallel universe. The main distinction as I understand it, is that unlike poor psychotic folks, they do not suffer – they are not ill in that sense.

        But everyone around them is made to suffer!

  16. douglas clark says:

    This is interesting:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNCFR8SqioE&index=12&list=PLc1Nd4kfseu8OK4KWgrwh4njEjSSe8ay7

    The complete opposite of the brain dead Ayn Rand, perhaps?

  17. douglas clark says:

    Or, on a more generalist note, what about:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM0sTNtWDiI

    Is that not the exact answer to the brain dead Ayn Rand? We are more than our molecules…..

    She was an idiot, and she will perhaps bring similar idiots here. For they are a germ on the face of the planet, idiots the lot of them…

    Let the dance commence.

  18. douglas clark says:

    Did I mention brain dead? Not enough.

  19. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    For those who might enjoy listening to a bit of French, I recommend today’s edition of the excellent Christine Ockrent’s ‘Affaires étrangères’ discussion programme on France Culture radio:

    ‘Etats-Unis-Europe, les conquêtes du populisme’

    “La présidence Trump annonce-t-elle une ère nouvelle où le populisme va engloutir et déborder le conservatisme traditionnel et triompher de l’ordre démocratique libéral qui régit nos pays depuis 1945 ? Assiste-t-on au retour de la réaction en politique ?

    Réaction contre la mondialisation, contre l’immigration, réaffirmation plus ou moins factice d’une identité spécifique: c’est ce qu’on voit déjà à l’oeuvre à l’Est, en Hongrie, en Pologne, comme au Royaume Uni avec le Brexit et aux Etats-Unis avec la réaction contre le multiculturalisme.”

    https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/affaires-etrangeres/etats-unis-europe-les-conquetes-du-populisme

  20. Patrick says:

    My fellow Scottish you must see those videos of this Great Philosopher and then, you will understand what happen in Scottland and around the world.
    The News
    https://youtu.be/FpYby16Zxf4
    Airport Security
    https://youtu.be/uQdC-e82gmk
    List of people who ought to be killed
    https://youtu.be/tVlkxrNlp10
    YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS – George Carlin
    https://youtu.be/hWiBt-pqp0E
    The Owners of the Country
    Death Penalty
    https://youtu.be/qDO6HV6xTmI
    https://youtu.be/9dY4WlxO6i0

  21. IDL says:

    A couple of little asides.
    Ayn Rand’s serial adultery.
    Is the seeking of sensation in this way some kind of aberration? Is there an underlying incapacity to find satisfaction in stable and continuous human contact. Sensation seeking as a substitute for emotional satisfaction. Does such a dysfunction not discredit her ideas?

    I wonder what the psychological origins of her sexual behaviour. One would suspect some kind of personal abuse but I know little of her origins other than the well known stuff-Russian emigre etc.
    Also Richard Seymour in his Patreon site argues in his ‘Extinction’ article, in effect, that Capitalism, in its current American form, is a death cult. Curious to compare this with (competing) death cults.

    Well, that is my interpretation.

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