Caring for me, myself and I all too much in vogue nowadays
The selfish worldview as preached by Ayn Rand has helped create the mess we are in
THE US presidential election is a wonderful spectator sport, but thank God I don’t have to vote in it. The prominent part played by religion is one fascinating aspect.
For example, there is an ecumenical Christian group called Circle of Protection, with members from many Christian denominations, which believes treatment of the poor is a key election issue.
It called on the presidential candidates to declare in a video response where they stood on poverty. Meekly, Obama and Romney did just that, and their responses are available on YouTube.
Obama’s is particularly striking, as he uses the word “Christian” again and again, and even talks of falling on his knees many times to ask God for help, not only in his personal life, but in governing the US.
It is just impossible to imagine an Irish political candidate doing the same without being accused of not being in touch with modern Ireland, and of ignoring the secular nature of our State. Of course, the cynics will say that by emphasising his own Christian faith, Obama is just playing to the bigots who don’t like Romney’s Mormonism.
Perhaps the same cynics would say Paul Ryan was added to the Romney ticket to woo the Catholic vote, which has been quite lukewarm about Romney so far. Ryan is very clear on his opposition to abortion, which will not harm Romney with sections of evangelical Christianity either.
And yet, Ryan provides yet another illustration of how different the US is from Ireland.
I know very, very few Catholics or Christians who would admire Ayn Rand, while Ryan gave people her books as Christmas presents. In fact, I wonder how anyone could admire Rand and still say they were a Christian.
Her ideas are directly opposed to Christianity. Take this quote.
“Man – every man – is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.”
The title of one of Rand’s books, The Virtue of Selfishness, sounds like a parody of a self-help book, but she was completely serious. She felt altruism was a deadly virus that destroyed the possibility of human happiness.
The Jesuit Fr James Martin, without I believe specifically mentioning Rand, manages to satirise this approach brilliantly in his parables of the “not so-social gospel”. He takes well-known parables such as the parable of the loaves and fishes and rewrites them according to the gospel of rugged individualism.
So, when the disciples approach Jesus to tell him the crowd of 5,000 are hungry, Fr Martin has Jesus reply: “Don’t waste your time and shekels. It would be positively immoral for you to give away your hard-earned salaries for these people. They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves to bring more food. As far as I’m concerned, it’s every five thousand men for themselves.”