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June 04, 2011 9:25 AM This Week in God

By Steve Benen

First up from the God Machine this week is a little something Amy Sullivan describes as “Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand Problem.”

The right-wing House Budget Committee chairman is well known as a Rand acolyte — he demands his staffers read her novels — but what’s less well known is that Ayn Rand was actively hostile to Christianity. The problem was ideological, not theological — Jesus touted principles such as charity and compassion towards the less fortunate, concepts Rand and her followers strongly reject. Randians believe altruism is evil and those in poverty should wait for the hand of the free market to lift them up.

With this in mind, Ryan appeared at a major religious right gathering yesterday, Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Conference in D.C., and was confronted by a young man from Faithful America. The far-right Wisconsinite was asked a good question: why not base his budget plan on Biblical teachings on economic justice instead of Ayn Rand. The discussion didn’t go well:

You’ll notice in the clip that Ryan was offered a free Bible, which he didn’t want to accept. He was also urged to honor the Gospel of Luke, advice the congressman chose to ignore.

As Sullivan noted, “These days, when people question a politician’s ‘morality,’ they usually mean his or her personal behavior and choices. But an interesting thing is happening right now around the GOP budget proposal. A broad coalition of religious voices is criticizing the morality of the choices reflected in budget cuts and tax policy. And they’ve specifically targeted Ryan and his praise for Rand, the philosopher who once said she ‘promote[d] the ethic of selfishness.’”

To put it mildly, Paul Ryan doesn’t care for this discussion, which isn’t surprising. But in the bigger picture, when was the last time a Republican attended a religious right gathering and refused to accept a Bible?

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Eddie Long settles: “Georgia megachurch preacher Bishop Eddie Long has settled out of court with four young men who accused him of sexual misconduct, Long’s spokesman said Thursday.”

* “Faith-healing” parents go on trial in Oregon. I can only hope this serves as a deterrent to others.

* In Bahrain: “Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim government demolished or seriously damaged 43 Shiite Muslim mosques or religious structures during its crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, according to an official tally compiled by the state-supported endowment that oversees Shiite sacred buildings.” (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* After some very sketchy financial mismanagement, Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ church and 40-acre campus are being sold as part of the Chapter 11 process. (thanks to J.P. for the tip)

* And Ted Haggard goes Hollywood.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • Texas Aggie on June 04, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Ryan: "I've got some Bibles. Thank you very much."

    Has it ever occurred to you that you might read them? It might give you a different perspective on your life and your behavior.

  • DAY on June 04, 2011 9:45 AM:

    Ryan:"I've got some bibles"

    -they are propping up the wobbly table holding my bust of Ayn Rand.

  • SaintZak on June 04, 2011 9:47 AM:

    Throw your hat in the ring Ryan, please.

    I predict he gets booted out of congress in 2012.

  • c u n d gulag on June 04, 2011 9:47 AM:

    The only Luke Ryan's interested in impressing is Russert.

    I do hope he runs for President.
    We can label it "The Screw the Poor Tour."

  • DelCapslock on June 04, 2011 9:54 AM:

    I was wondering when the unapologetic atheism of the tea party's heroine would make first contact with the political forces of the Christian right. At some point, the question has to be asked of Randians,: "once you remove all the intellectual rationalization, what distinguishes your libertarianism from abject selfishness?"

  • berttheclock on June 04, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Steve, you may wish the Oregon case will serve as a deterrent, but, this is third case brought against members of that church by Clackamas County.

    The first case was on a charge of 2nd Degree Manslaughter for actions involved in the death of a couple's daughter. Both the husband and wife were found not guilty, but, the husband was convicted on a lesser charge of criminal mistreatment and received a sentence of 60 days in jail.

    The second case was for Criminal Negligence in the death of their son and both parents were sentenced to 16 months in prison.

    The State Senate is considering passing the measure passed by the House which would not allow such religious practices to be used as a defense, however, it would not affect this current trial.

  • hell's littlest angel on June 04, 2011 10:05 AM:

    "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."
    -- Steven Weinberg

    Guess now we know what kind of person Ryan is.

  • John D'oh on June 04, 2011 10:21 AM:

    He was probably afraid it would burn his hand if he touched it.

  • calling all toasters on June 04, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Wait, Amy Sullivan nags Republicans about religion, too? It almost makes me sympathetic to Ryan.

    Just kidding.

  • Neil B on June 04, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Correction, Steve - the feud between Rand and Christianity (etc.) is theological too and not just ideological. Rand was an atheist and ridiculed the concept of God, the supernatural, etc. So that's extra trouble for a person who wants to both admire her and pretend to be a Christian.

    PS: Some extra info was posted at the thread on Sarah Palin's Revere story, about Revere being captured by British officers and indeed warning them that the colonists had been warned, etc. I admitted there that her story was basically then a half-truth and not utterly misguided, although her description of the ride itself was still wrong (wasn't that the key issue?) It would be good to see that noted.

    One thing bothering me is some commenters reveling in the notion that Palin maybe deliberately fudges a little to set up critics to overreach. That doesn't mean she does (I doubt it) but it reflects poorly on such supporters.

  • Chris on June 04, 2011 12:06 PM:

    RE: "[Ayn Rand], the philosopher who once said she 'promote[d] the ethic of selfishness.’"

    Actually, it's much worse. Ayn Rand published a book entitled "The Virtue of Selfishness"

    http://www.amazon.com/Virtue-Selfishness-Signet-Ayn-Rand/dp/0451163931/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307203562&sr=1-1

  • kevo on June 04, 2011 12:28 PM:

    Ayn Rand was a fraud, and so is Paul Ryan!

    She used Medicare to fight her lung cancer while condemning government, and he wants to use his power in government to destroy Medicare without saying so!

    Two loony birds of the same feather - doting over a vestige of cruelty and spite, and claiming theirs is the American way! -Kevo

  • exlibra on June 04, 2011 4:31 PM:

    Ayn Rand is genetically coded into Ryan's name -- if you use Captcha principles, you can see it quite clearly: Ryan = Ayn R. Poor bastard can't help it.

    "BOOK ardies": Ardent readers of THE BOOK (Bible) show Ryan for the psychopath he is.

  • Rich on June 04, 2011 6:39 PM:

    I'm heartened to see someone on the Right figuring out something obvious about the Randian cult. Membership in that cabal really should be a mantra of Lefties, with encouragement of looking at her atheistic views. It's the perfect wedge issue just waiting to be exploited and it would get the public (if not the media) to start wondering why a cult is responsible for so much fiscal policy.

  • Steve P. on June 04, 2011 8:14 PM:

    Ryan's a Catholic, which to the hardcore saved is nearly as bad as LDS--the Great Whore and all that.

    I'm sure the contradiction inherent in his embrace of Rand never comes up at his home parish, Our Lady of Comforting the Comfortable; the last assistant who tried to bring up unpleasant truths in the Gospel is now ministering at the inner city church he really wanted all along.

    Still, someone should bring it up--not for the waffling answer, but for the preacher-caught-at-the-rest-stop bugout that his eyes do.

  • MikeN on June 05, 2011 1:06 AM:

    I wonder what he thinks of Rand's positions on abortion?

    "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?"

    "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?"

    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?

    Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights—and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable."

  • toowearyforoutrage on June 06, 2011 2:41 PM:

    Not with you, Steve.

    The same premise that says we can stop parents from Faith-healing their kids says that fundamentalists can "save" unborn children of women.

    Both parties feel children die unnecessarily.
    OUR sensitivities say fetuses are not children, but law cannot be based on subjective assessment.

    Frankly, Darwinism will eliminate Faith-healers. Some of the Faith-healers most ardent opponents were Faith-healers who regret their rejection of modern medicine. That's swell of them, but everyone has the right to make the same mistake they did.

    What if you and I lived in a society of Faith-healers who prohibited us from taking our children across a border to get Godless surgery performed? I support their right to live foolishly so that I may indulge in what others may deem foolish. Your way is a slippery slope.

    Of curse if a child files with a court to be legally separated from holy roller parents, a few might save their own lives. If the child is convinced his or her parents are correct, do we force medical salvation on them?

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