Ayn Rand: The GOP’s Godless Philosopher

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REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

When George W. Bush declared in a 1999 GOP debate that his favorite political philosopher was Jesus, pundits snickered and wondered whether he actually knew any political philosophers. But the answer was politically canny, establishing Bush’s evangelical bona fides with social conservatives.

In contrast, the philosopher GOP leaders quote most reverently these days was vehemently anti-religion, and referred to Christian teachings as “evil” and “monstrous.” Awwwwkward. Fortunately for Republicans, most social conservatives haven’t yet made the connection.

Here’s just a taste of the praise GOP and other conservative leaders have for Ayn Rand:

  • Paul Ryan says Ayn Rand is the reason he entered politics and he requires all staff and interns to read her books. Says Ryan: “Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism.”
  • Clarence Thomas requires his law clerks to watch The Fountainhead, and has said “I tend really to be partial to Ayn Rand.”
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, Ryan’s GOP colleague from Wisconsin, calls Atlas Shrugged his “foundational book.”
  • Rush Limbaugh calls Ayn Rand “the brilliant writer and novelist.”
  • Fox News repeatedly promoted the recently released movie version of Atlas Shrugged, airing the trailer on several shows and interviewing cast members.

The conservative evangelical leader Chuck Colson has become so concerned about Rand’s booming popularity in the GOP that he recently recorded a video warning that Rand “peddles a starkly anti-Christian philosophy.” And the Christian group American Values Network, which presents itself as an alternative to organizations like the Family Research Council, has distributed a memo to congressional offices highlighting Rand’s criticisms of Christianity and some of her more controversial comments, including praise for a man who raped, murdered, and dismembered a 12-year-old girl. “Ayn Rand’s strong atheism, absolute rejection of Christ’s teachings, and goal of replacing religion with her belief system,” reads the memo, “stands in total opposition to all that which America’s faith community holds most dear.”

In a similar vein, some faith communities are also upset with Paul Ryan over the budget he has been spearheading. Two Christian groups are airing a radio ad in the Catholic Ryan’s district starting this weekend, arguing that the GOP budget “abandons pro-life values.” The ad is voiced by a priest in the district, and it’s sponsored by the Catholic social justice organization NETWORK and the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Richard Cizik, a former top official at the National Association of Evangelicals, says the ad is necessary to remind politicians that “being consistently pro-life requires more than caring for the unborn, it requires following the Biblical call to care for the poor and the downtrodden.” Cizik continues, “People of faith are embracing this full definition of what it means to be pro-life. If our leaders ignore the needs of the poor or favor the rich at their expense, they reject pro-life values. It’s that simple.”

Updated 10:46pm