To the delight of Tea Party activists everywhere, a movie version of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is finally seeing the light of day. It'll be a trilogy that will try to be as faithful to the original book as possible. Part One comes out today . . . Tax Day.
With it's strong emphasis on capitalism and individual freedom, Atlas Shrugged could be seen as holy scripture for the Tea Party movement (next to the Bible and the U.S. Constitution). If you go to any Tea Party protest, no doubt you'll see many references to John Galt, referring to the hero of the book who leads the people to revolution. While I have not read Atlas Shrugged, I've read little bits here and here about Rand's philosophy. To be quite honest, I don't understand why a lot the Tea Party activists would embrace the teachings of both Jesus and Rand, because they seem like two completely different gospels.
First, Rand was an atheist who believed that religion was a threat to personal freedom. Faith, according to Rand, was "the exact antithesis and enemy of thought." In Atlas Shrugged when John Galt is giving his 70-page speech (which, one might say, is Galt's version of the Sermon on the Mount), he says:
"For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors - between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and the good is to live it."
Which brings us to my second point: the key concept of Rand's philosophy. Jesus sums up the entire Law of Moses with just two commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' . . . And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37, 39) Galt, on the other hand, sums up his philosophy with this: "I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." One says the self must decrease and the other must increase; the other says the exact opposite.
Third, let's take a look at the symbols used to represent both worldviews. Christianity is symbolized by the cross: an ancient Roman device used for capital punishment. For John Galt, Rand uses the dollar sign: a symbol of wealth and prosperity. So basically Christianity is about losing the self, and Rand's philosophy is about gaining treasures for the self.
So just who is John Galt? To quote Monty Python, "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"