The Personalist Project

Anthony Daniels (who also writes under the lovable penname Theodore Dalrymple) has a devastating critique of Ayn Rand’s godless individualism in the latest issue of New Criterion. Rand’s work is apparently enjoying a kind of renaissance in these days of exploding government and deepening debt. Though she has worthwhile insights into the errors and dangers of collectivism, her ideas are repulsively inhumane and as far as can be from the Christian personalism we are about here.

Humanity, according to Rand, is divided into heroes, creators, and geniuses on the one hand, and weaklings, parasites, and the feeble-minded on the other. Needless to say, the latter outnumber the former by a very wide margin, but only the former are truly human in the full sense of the word.

See also Whittaker Chamber’s 1957 take down of Atlas Shrugged.

Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber — go!”

Comments (2)

Scott Johnston

#1, Feb 10, 2010 12:05pm

Some conservative pundits seem to be fans of Rand. This would be one way in which I think an authentically Christian (and thus, most human) understanding of life can depart in significant ways from some contemporary commentators who might otherwise seem to be allies.

This is an indication of how important it is for faithful Christians to be present in contemporary politics, as distasteful as it can be at times. Imagine what might happen if the predominant voices in conservative politics were all avid devotees of Rand. Huge problem.

Scott Johnston

#2, Feb 10, 2010 1:05pm

Just read Daniels’ article and thought it very good.

I am reminded of the vast difference between a (Masons-like) deliberately un-pietistic approach toward doing “good” in the world (separating man from motives that intertwine with ages-old religious faith), and genuine charity, which is in part inspired by love of God and the example of Christ, who tolerated those (all of us) who were less than Him, who chose to suffer for us for our benefit out of love, in part to manifest the selfless authenticity of His love for us who were undeserving.

This portrait of Rand depicts a person who morally speaking never seems to have moved beyond the predictably self-absorbed world of childhood: Care for those who “deserve” it (i.e., those who do things I like and who think I’m great) and scorn those who don’t contribute to my ego by agreeing with me.

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