Political Animal


February 06, 2013 3:02 PM Militant Atheism in the Idaho GOP

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t normally think it useful to focus on the random utterances or actions of random wingnuts, particularly at the state legislative level. But occasionally you just have to call them on distinctive forms of folly or hypocrisy. Check this out from the Spokane Spokesman-Review:

Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.
When Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked Goedde why he chose that particular book, Goedde said to laughter, “That book made my son a Republican.”

The Idaho solon allowed as how he wasn’t serious about pursuing this legislation. But he needs to be held accountable for it, anyway, and by that I mean his constituents should be abundantly aware their senator is robustly endorsing for consumption by children a book that preaches atheism as relentlessly (and no one in the history of literature has been more relentless than Ayn Rand) as capitalism—indeed, the author thought the two were indivisible.

I don’t have a copy of Atlas handy (like most people, I read it as an adolescent, though not as a school requirement), but here’s one quote from John Galt’s famous radio address:

[I]f devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking…. the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.

“Faith is a short-circuit destroying the mind” is probably not a motto Goedde’s going to put on his bumper stickers next time he runs for re-election. But if you know any God-fearing conservative folk in Coeur d’Alene, be sure to share with them the news their senator thinks that’s an important lesson for their kids.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on February 06, 2013 3:19 PM:

    Another case of somone reading a book, and only taking away what they want to from it.

    Now, to me, her Atheism is Ayn Rand's only redeeming social feature, but a part of me kind of wouldn't mind if this book was required reading in High School.
    Well, what would turn students off more, than being made to read an overly lengthy tome, where 80+ page are dedicated to a self-aggrandizing monologue by some rich @$$hole, extolling about how his selfishness and greed were actually virtues.

    Not exactly a great selling technique, unless the young person is already leaning in the direction of sociopathy and greed.

    Besides, Ayn Rand makes sense only to people who have the maturity level of a 3 year-old with emotional problems and anger issues, and the ability to withstand a huge volume of insipid writing, violent sex (Ok, the boys will probably like that - sadly), and brutal and selfish cartoon characters.

    So, imo, making that dreck required reading, would make more children less inclined towards cut-throat Capitalism, and less religious, at the same time.
    A WIN/WIN!!!

  • Speed on February 06, 2013 3:26 PM:

    There's a video on Youtube of Rand's last public speech, in which she trashes the Moral Majority and questions whether Reagan is really a conservative.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 06, 2013 3:28 PM:

    require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”

    Suuuuurrrre... Good luck getting EVERY student to read a 1000-plus page book... Yeah, on their down time between varsity sports, after-school jobs, hormonal ravings, and general teenage bullshitting... Sounds more like cruel and unusual punishment to me.

    Hell, even I was an avid reader in high school but I definitely took advantage of Spark Notes (or Cliff's Notes for you old timers), even for books that I did like.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 06, 2013 3:58 PM:

    Dorothy Parker on Atlas Shrugged: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

  • Peter C on February 06, 2013 4:15 PM:

    Yeah, nothing says 'free society' like using public education for political indoctrination.

  • bigtuna on February 06, 2013 4:48 PM:

    Doesn's Atlas Shrugged have a female character who has an underage sexual adventure? And and affair? And doesnt' Galt and Dagny go at like wild pigs in one scene?

    Maybe this clown's son became a republican because a 16 yr old figured he'd get laid more often .... or could attack women more often.

    methinks these guys don't read these books.

  • SecularAnimist on February 06, 2013 5:00 PM:

    They might as well require the students to read L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth". It's more realistic, less pretentious, and better written.

  • Mark Kawakami on February 06, 2013 5:12 PM:

    While you're alerting his constituents about the atheism in Atlas Shrugged, feel free to also mention the extramarital rough sex between the two protagonists. Also mention how Ayn Rand has a wildly inaccurate understanding of the history and origin of the dollar sign (hint: It's not the letters "U" and "S" superimposed on each other).

    Oh, and let's not forget one of the good guys is both a pirate and a terrorist.

  • TheOtherJim on February 06, 2013 5:28 PM:

    Pardon me if I remember this incorrectly. I read that book -- I suppose I have to call it that since it's many pages stuffed between two covers -- a long time ago and had to scrub my brain out with Drano® to remove the vile odor. But as I recall, the heroine in the story -- Dabney Coleman or some such -- screwed everyone and everything with wild abandon. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, since she was single and could probably afford all the contraception that entailed (remember, this is years before Obamacare), but I still have to wonder about any Republican wanting to expose our impressionable youth to all that out-of-wedlock sex. Something seems wrong here.

  • Kathryn on February 06, 2013 5:28 PM:

    Why CUND Gulag, I think you have accurately described Paul Ryan in paragraph four of your comment, bravo

  • Kathryn on February 06, 2013 5:31 PM:

    Why CUND Gulag, I think you have accurately described Paul Ryan in paragraph four of your comment, bravo.

  • Paradoxx on February 06, 2013 5:42 PM:

    But the bible with its rape, incest, murder, pedophilia, genocide, prostitution, slavery,

    that needs to be in the hands of every kid right?

  • lb 22 on February 06, 2013 8:04 PM:

    I try to imagine the enormous $hitstorm that would result from a Democrat proposing legislation requiring children to read a specific book, and explaining that the reason was that it would turn kids into democrats. Fox would devote months to the propagandizing/brainwashing/mindcontrol plans of the fascist liberals.

  • Helen Bedd on February 06, 2013 8:42 PM:

    John Rogers: "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

    The other, of course, involves orcs."


  • MikeN on February 06, 2013 10:54 PM:

    Is this the kind of stuff the Senator demands our children be taught?

    On the right to life:
    "An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

    Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?"

    On the right-to-life movement:

    "I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object. Judging by the degree of those women’s intensity, I would say that it is an issue of self-esteem and that their fear is metaphysical. Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today’s intellectual field, they call themselves “pro-life.” "


  • JM917 on February 07, 2013 3:43 AM:

    @ TheOtherJim:

    Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, so Dabney Coleman did all her screwing back in the good old (moral, of course) days before The Pill.

    So I suppose she must have patronized plenty of (then-illegal) abortionists.

    My stars, just the novel to put into the hands of the innocent teens of Idaho... How their morals will get corrupted!

    Of course, figuring that out might require Idaho schools also to teach critical thinking, and I wouldn't think that would be on the Republican agenda.

  • SecularAnimist on February 07, 2013 9:51 AM:

    Ayn Rand wrote: "Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience ..."

    What Ayn Rand does not experience, NO ONE CAN EXPERIENCE.

    This is what Ayn Rand laughably called "Objectivism" -- the megalomaniacal projection of her subjectivity into dogmatic, absolute laws of nature.

    What Ayn Rand valued, ALL MUST VALUE -- otherwise they are "objectively" evil.

    And what Ayn Rand's limitations prevented her from experiencing, NONE COULD EXPERIENCE -- otherwise they must "hate" the "mind" and "reason".

    After all, this is a woman who wrote that impressionist painting and atonal music were "immoral" -- and why? Because she didn't understand them and didn't like them.

  • Martin on February 07, 2013 2:36 PM:

    I had a twentieth century lit/his class from Herbert Marcuse as an undergrad. When someone suggested that he include Atlas Shrugged on the reading list he replied, "I don't read Mrs. Rand. Her books are too long."