Saturday, August 25, 2012

Letter from Ayn Rand

The following excerpt is from a letter to Sylvia Austin, dated July 9, 1946, in Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 287:

There is a great, basic contradiction in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism -- the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means -- one's ego and the integrity of one's ego. But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul -- (this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?) -- Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or live for others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others.

This is a contradiction that cannot be resolved. This is why men have never succeeded in applying Christianity in practice, while they have preached it in theory for two thousand years. The reason of their failure was not men's natural depravity or hypocrisy, which is the superficial (and vicious) explanation usually given. The reason is that a contradiction cannot be made to work. That is why the history of Christianity has been a continuous civil war -- both literally (between sects and nations), and spiritually (within each man's soul).
From: On Christianity, at the Objectivism Reference Center.


Graphic at top is from Library Grape.

Other recent, interesting commentary about Rand's strange new popularity:

Jim Miller: Ryan tone deaf to dissonance between Ayn Rand, his faith (Wisconsin State Journal)

Cynthia Tucker: Ayn Rand is odd deity for GOP (

Paul Ryan’s “conversion”: real or expedient? (Ottawa Citizen)

Paul Ryan's faith in Ayn Rand is a political problem for Romney (UK Guardian)

Paul Ryan Denies Ayn Rand Thrice! (Brad DeLong)


Jim said...

Rand makes this mistake because she reifies the self as an independent reality unto itself. She is an essentialist and she can't get beyond that.

Ali Burhan said...

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