It seems that this -- embodied in the tea party movement, the reigning conception of "conservatism," and those at the helm of the Republican Party today -- is America's "Ayn Rand moment."
And it is not a conservative meme being embraced by "God-fearing" conservatives all across the land, one that's absolutely pervasive across the country's Bible Belt. Instead, it is an absolutely radical one.
It is a movement devoted to turning traditional morality on its head, taking Darwinism out of the biology books and inserting it into the heart of civil society and relegating Father, Son and Holy Ghost to the ash heap of history . . . and the Sermon on the Mount with them.
It's deeply ironic, this embrace of a societal "fifth column" by all manner of folk most concerned about a fifth columnist in the White House. I'm sure Rand would have appreciated the irony, but I can't decide whether she would be horrified by the irrational embrace of objectivism by those she surely would deride as mediocrities and "second handers" or welcome the slack-jawed assistance.
It's rather like Homo sapiens taking a PAC donation from Neanderthals for Natural Selection.
You can't be a Christian and buy into Ayn Rand, too. Christianity and objectivism are mutually exclusive. This circle cannot be squared -- if you set out on a mission to "pick and choose" useful, non-contradictory parts of objectivism and the gospel of Jesus Christ to fashion into a blueprint for society, you wouldn't have enough of either to even rise to the level of incoherence.
And at long last, some folks (above) are calling Republicans and tea partiers on their sins against both God and reason. You not only can't be a Christian and a Randian, but you can't even be a conservative while making like Atlas and shrugging.
DON'T TRUST ME, listen to what Ayn Rand herself had to say about faith and society. She never wanted to "conserve" anything about society as Americans understood it; she wanted to blow it up and replace it with one of her own conception.
Take particular note of what Rand says starting at 4:15 in this 1959 Mike Wallace interview.
WALLACE: You put this philosophy to work in your novel Atlas Shrugged. . .IF THIS IS WHAT conservatives are buying into nowadays, is there nothing they wish to actually conserve? Is there nothing under heaven or on earth they don't wish to commodify?
RAND: That's right.
WALLACE: . . . you demonstrate it in human terms in your novel Atlas Shrugged. And let me start by quoting from a review of this novel, Atlas Shrugged, that appeared in Newsweek. It said that you are out to destroy almost every edifice in the contemporary American way of life, our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified, government-regulated capitalism, our rule by the majority will. Other reviews have said that you scorn churches and the concept of God. Are these accurate criticisms?
RAND: Uh, yes. I agree with the facts but not the estimate of these criticisms. Namely, if I am challenging the base of all these institutions, I am challenging the moral call of altruism -- the precept that man's moral duty is to live for others. That man must sacrifice himself to others, which is the present-day morality.
WALLACE: What do you mean by sacrifice himself for others? This is now where we're getting to the point. . . .
RAND: One moment. Since I am challenging the base, I necessarily would challenge the institutions you name, which are a result of that morality. And now what is self-sacrifice?
WALLACE: Yes, what is self-sacrifice? You say you do not like the altruism by which we live. You like a kind of Ayn Randist selfishness. . . .
RAND: I would say that don't like is too weak a word. I consider (it) evil, and self-sacrifice is the precept that man needs to serve others in order to justify his existence, that his moral duty is to serve others. That is what most people believe today.
WALLACE: Well, yes. We're taught to feel concern for our fellow man, to feel responsible for his welfare, to feel that we are, as religious people might put it, children under God and responsible one for the other. Now why do you rebel? What's wrong with this philosophy?
RAND: But that is what in fact makes man a sacrificial animal. That man must work for others, concern himself with others or be responsible for them. That is the role of a sacrificial object. I say that man is entitled to his own happiness, and that he must achieve it himself, but that he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. Nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. I hold that man should have self-esteem.
WALLACE: And cannot man have self-esteem if he loves his fellow man? What's wrong with loving your fellow man? Christ -- every important moral leader in man's history -- has taught us that we should love one another. Why then is this kind of love, in your mind, immoral?
RAND: It is immoral if it is a love placed above oneself. It is more than immoral, it is impossible. Because when you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately, that is to love people without any standard, to love them regardless of the fact of whether they have and value or virture, you are asked to love nobody.
What's next? Don't answer that.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, the father of modern conservatism -- when "conservatism" actually was "conservative" and not an ongoing, collective spasm of wild-eyed radicalism -- certainly knew the score.
He paints a picture of a woman who, come to think of it, may just be the personification of Tea Party America . . . Ebeneezer Scrooge with a penchant for grand pronouncements and purplish prose.
Listen, I can understand one having an Ayn Rand moment. As a young man, I had one myself.
But then you grow up. You realize that you're not half as exceptional as you once thought. You realize that you are not a self-contained, self-sustaining entity. You fall in love. You realize there may well be a God, and you are not Him.
And you realize that choices must be made. That the Randian circle cannot be squared -- not with God, not with your fellow man.
Finally, it comes to you with full clarity. You come to know this one thing:
If you're smitten with the works of Ayn Rand in your 20s, you're normal. If you're not over it by 30, you may be a monster.