This evening I read Ayn Rand’s Anthem. For those of you who are unfortunate not to have ever read any of her works, I highly recommend that you do. This one is particularly good to start with, since it is extremely short (well under 100 pages).
Be warned, though, that Ayn Rand is not someone to read as a source of Christian inspiration. In fact, she is one of the staunchest atheist writers I have read. Still, there is something in her philosophy that is so intellectually honest that it is, in an odd way, attractive to me. Furthermore, she is one of the few philosophers who writes fiction to convey her ideas. If it were up to me, all philosophers would be required to write stories portraying how their ideas would work in real life. Otherwise, it is easy to get people writing garbage that only makes sense on a very cursory level and that seems to have absolutely no practical application whatsoever.
Let me give you a prime example of Rand’s basic philosophy from Anthem:
I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction. (p. 94))
Okay, so it’s obviously pretty sacrilegious. But here is another thing I really like about her: she unwittingly gives insight on what it would mean to be God. What I mean is that Rand portrays man as a god, an end in himself, and responsible to no one but himself. She argues that no other person or god should have control over man. Her philosophy is often called “ethical egoism” for that reason.
Obviously, this selfish doctrine doesn’t mesh well with Christianity, at least as far as how we should run our lives. But think about God in this light: no one has any claim on God, and He is responsible to no one but Himself. It seems to me that often we get in a mindset that because God sent Jesus to die to pay for our sins that God is somehow obligated to have done that. In reality, God owed us nothing (and still owes us nothing, for that matter). Amazingly, He sent His son to die for us while we were actively warring against Him.
Two things, though. First, I think that Rand would roll over in her grave if she read this. This type of thinking is completely antithetical to her philosophy. Second, this one idea isn’t the only thing that has kept me pushing through two of her larger works, Atlas Shrugged (about 1100 pages) and The Fountainhead (about 700 pages). (I would highly recommend both of those books, by the way.) I find her ideas interesting, because she is the only person you will read who takes capitalism and egoism to such extremes. She isn’t a touchy-feely kinda gal, but I recommend that you read something of hers in your lifetime; she will definitely make you think.