Ayn Rand: The Appropriate Atheist

Ayn Rand, the author of brilliantly thought provoking works of literature such as Atlas Shrugged, was an atheist, and appropriately so.  Her response to religion was no different to her response to the rest of reality.  She gives a logical argument for doubting any given premise through one of her primary characters, Hank Rearden.  In the novel, Atlas Shrugged, Rearden is forced to come face to face with an ugly truth:

He had cursed these looters for their stupid blindness? It was he who
had made it possible. From the first extortion he had accepted, from the first directive he had obeyed, he had given them cause to believe that reality was a thing to be cheated, that one could demand the irrational and someone somehow would provide it.  If he had accepted the [them]…then were [the looters] illogical in believing that they existed in an irrational universe?  (Atlas Shrugged, page 903)

In this passage, Rand reveals a truth long ignored by the Christian church about religion.  This truth is that religious individuals throw their minds away in substitute for the more pious “blind faith” when direct contradictions appear before them.   Rather than “checking their premises” they choose to ignore facts and their implication as a sign of “trusting in God.”  Unfortunately, the major tenets of Christian religion don’t even hold up to this super-spiritual approach.  As Rearden inquired of the deluded business men who asked the impossible of him, so Rand might translate the question of a god no one can see, reputedly immeasurable power that seems to do nothing.  People expect blindly with no really logical understanding.  In fact, logic should and must be suspended to allow “faith” any chance.  After all, faith is the magical wish that makes all your dreams come true.  We ought to “trust in the Lord…and lean not unto our own understanding,” right?  After all, much of the Bible affirms that a true faith is one that believes without seeing.  If this is the case and Rand is an atheist in the same way that Rearden is a non-believer in his own omnipotence–then she is an atheist with good reason.

The sad fact is that ambiguous theology has created a “god of the gaps” that is impossible for rational individuals to believe in.  A god with no boundaries and unlimited power ought to be able to do anything we ask of him, right?  The problem is, that the God of true Christianity is necessarily a God with boundaries.  The case of faith is not a case of strong enough belief but of belief in the reality of what is and is not possible.  C.S. Lewis accurately addresses the issue of what is meant by “with God, all things are possible” by explaining the difference between “things” and “nonentities.”  Essentially, not even God can make contradictions exist.  There is no point in a religious order that does not acknowledge this and there cannot exist any religion that does not stand upon logical points of boundary.  At some point in Christian history, there was a very real attack on the intellect of the believer that made mysticism an inevitable result and has made it an unattractive hanger on to the otherwise orthodox belief in God.  In other words…Huston, we have a fairy tale.


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