Ayn Rand Argues That Believing in God Is an Insult to Reason on The Phil Donahue Show (Circa 1979)

Ayn Rand — she’s often con­sid­ered the intel­lec­tu­al dar­ling of Amer­i­ca’s polit­i­cal right. Rand’s free mar­ket think­ing rubbed off on Alan Greenspan in a big way. At the Cato Insti­tute, Stephen Moore writes, “Being con­ver­sant in Ayn Rand’s clas­sic nov­el about the eco­nom­ic car­nage caused by big gov­ern­ment run amok [Atlas Shrugged] was prac­ti­cal­ly a job require­ment.” Supreme Court Jus­tice Clarence Thomas acknowl­edges a deep debt to The Foun­tain­head, Rand’s cel­e­bra­tion of the indi­vid­ual, and makes his law clerks watch the 1949 film adap­ta­tion of the nov­el. Rand Paul, the new Tea Par­ty sen­a­tor, calls him­self a fan of both books. And Ayn Rand book sales surged once Oba­ma came into office. You get the pic­ture.

Giv­en this love affair, it’s a lit­tle incon­gru­ous to redis­cov­er old footage (cir­ca 1979) that fea­tures Rand com­ing out “against God,” call­ing faith an abdi­ca­tion of indi­vid­ual respon­si­bil­i­ty (so impor­tant to her phi­los­o­phy), an insult to the human intel­lect, and a sign of psy­cho­log­i­cal weak­ness. If she were alive today, Rand would eas­i­ly give the “new athe­ists” (Richard Dawkins, Christo­pher Hitchens, Daniel Den­nett, etc.) a very good run for their mon­ey. It’s not exact­ly the stuff that tra­di­tion­al­ly makes you a con­ser­v­a­tive saint, but stranger things have hap­pened. Maybe.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Athe­ism: A Rough His­to­ry of Dis­be­lief, with Jonathan Miller

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why He’s Uncom­fort­able Being Labeled an ‘Athe­ist’

Athe­ist Ira Glass Believes Chris­tians Get the Short End of the Media Stick

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Comments (15)
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  • Hur­ray! I won­der what the tea bag­gers would think of her if they saw this
    video? What an excel­lent find!

    • Dale Holmgren says:

      I am a tea par­ty lib­er­tar­i­an Chris­t­ian, and her beliefs in this area do not upset me at all. Belief in God is some­thing every­one must decide for them­selves — I can­not force it on anoth­er per­son. This is very con­sis­tent with Ayn Rand’s phi­los­o­phy not to force or impose beliefs on anoth­er.

  • Tamer Ibrahim says:

    I’m not sure how you can claim Greenspan even under­stood Rand with all the pro­tec­tion and bailouts he afford­ed cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca.
    Greenspan obvi­ous­ly under­stood noth­ing from Rand.

  • Brianna says:

    Most con­ser­v­a­tives who admire Rand under­stand that Rand is an athe­ist (yes, includ­ing the “teabag­gers” oh tol­er­ant lib­er­al Hierony­mus). They sim­ply dis­agree with her on that score. See, one of the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences between peo­ple on the Right and peo­ple on the Left is that the Right does­n’t demand total intel­lec­tu­al lock­step. Peo­ple are allowed to say, “I agree with this per­son on eco­nom­ics, but dis­agree with her on reli­gion because I don’t under­stand how we could have an objec­tive moral­i­ty or nat­ur­al rights with­out God.”

    P.S. I agree with Rand’s the­o­ry of nat­ur­al rights, and that we don’t require God in order to pos­sess nat­ur­al rights that are inher­ent in our natures as opposed to some­thing made up or grant­ed by gov­ern­ment. But that does­n’t mean I don’t under­stand what the con­ser­v­a­tive objec­tion to the the­o­ry is.

  • Pamela says:

    If only all con­ser­v­a­tives had your atti­tude, Dale. How­ev­er, the real­i­ty is quite the oppo­site. I know plen­ty of peo­ple, Bri­an­na, who admire Rand sim­ply because their far right lead­ers say they should, & who would be hor­ri­fied to see this video. They will be see­ing it very soon, tho.

  • simplyforposting says:

    Bri­an­na — “the Right doesn’t demand total intel­lec­tu­al lock­step”


  • Marian Wiederrich says:

    Thoughts that I have had all my life! Moth­er was pos­i­tive I would go straight to Hell! Well, much of life has been “HELL”! But that has nev­er lead me to a belief in a god. One must con­sid­er their own view of what makes up life. Has any one noticed that we are not the only liv­ing ‘beings” on this plan­et? How about a can­did look at the uni­verse which is in evi­dence every clear night? Think­ing is the only way to dis­cov­er life, In real­i­ty, there is no “death”! The cells that make up our liv­ing world sim­ply exchange space to go on liv­ing in dif­fer­ent forms, each new form bor­row­ing from pre­vi­ous enti­ties. If we humans want to “live for­ev­er”, write a book, paint a pic­ture, have chil­dren. Pass on your thoughts.

  • Valerie says:

    Ayn Rand is sim­ply stat­ing her view . It has become impos­si­ble to express any kind of views that make peo­ple uncom­fort­able in 2017. We have all become so PC gone are the days when sit­ting around a din­ner table and hav­ing an intel­lec­tu­al con­ver­sa­tion happens.Everyone is afraid to express an opin­ion .I would love to see her here now!!
    Peo­ple seem to need reli­gion to help them get thru life but that is just a crutch ‚a cop­ing mech­a­nism .Reli­gion nev­er deliv­ered — with the excep­tion of Bud­dism it has been used as a method of con­trol and an excuse to imple­ment pow­er.
    The think­ing of Rand is refresh­ing­ly hon­est and log­i­cal and as such it cre­ates unease.Atheism by its very def­i­n­i­tion makes one live life in the now not for some­thing after and as such means you live your life to the best you can because that is all there is as we know it.Anything that might come after accord­ing to any reli­gion will not be expe­ri­enced as a human being.

  • Brad says:

    I believe in sci­ence and God my evo­lu­tion is good pos­i­tive. Yes this means I am pro choice open mind­ed per­son. Some reli­gion is fine as long as it’s on the per­son­’s want­i­ng that reli­gion. Chris­tian­i­ty as with oth­er holy books are reli­gions.

    Now faith in God can be done with­out going off reli­gion’s for real.
    Pos­i­tive good belief can be added the non reli­gious belief of evo­lu­tion and sci­ence

  • Brad says:

    I believe in sci­ence and God my evo­lu­tion is good pos­i­tive. Yes this means I am pro choice open mind­ed per­son. Some reli­gion is fine as long as it’s on the per­son­’s want­i­ng that reli­gion. Chris­tian­i­ty as with oth­er holy books are reli­gions.

    Now faith in God can be done with­out going off reli­gion’s for real.
    Pos­i­tive good belief can be added the non reli­gious belief of evo­lu­tion and sci­ence.

    This as no offi­cial name or tidle
    Pro choice and good­ness

  • Derek sarath says:

    I don’t believe in myth­i­cal, invis­i­ble beings (oth­er than father Christ­mas, the tooth fairy, and those pesky faeries at the bot­tom of my gar­den), but I think that those who REALLY believe there IS a god and so an after life, are so very very lucky, not only do they think their exis­tence albeit changed will go on indef­i­nite­ly, but they’ll have the chance per­haps of meet­ing loved ones who have also passed on, I myself don’t have that belief, there­fore no hope and am extreme­ly jeal­ous, but good look to them they’re not harm­ing any­one

  • David Robbins says:

    I have dif­fer­ent views on reli­gion and belief in God. I believe there is a God, just not a per­son­al God, as man­i­fest­ed in Jesus, Moham­mad ir Brah­ma, etc.
    I believe our ener­gy lives on as our bod­ies return to the earth as com­post after death. Our ener­gy or soul may inhab­it a par­al­lel uni­verse as defined in 11 dimen­sions described in Quan­tum Physics in String The­o­ry. To deny there is a cre­ator lacks proof as does believ­ing there is. Nei­ther can be proven until we die. Per­haps the col­lec­tive knowl­edge base doesn’t expand with­out the coun­sel of pre­ex­ist­ing col­lec­tive con­scious­ness of our ances­tors. Per­haps there are no unas­sist­ed “aha” moments, luck or for­tune with­out the aid of those “old souls” which live in eter­ni­ty as influ­en­tial spir­its.
    Clear­ly, our mor­tal­i­ty is vest­ed in the genes of our off­spring. That’s a fact.
    But life is beau­ti­ful and we are all bril­liant­ly engi­neered liv­ing machines who have evolved in sub­tle ways, but I don’t believe an amoe­bas to a chim­panzee to a homosapi­en. We were put here for a pur­pose, if not mere­ly for a grand exper­i­ment for a benev­o­lent God.
    I relate best to the phi­los­o­phy of Pan­the­ism.

  • Theresa Jordan says:

    The prob­lem is the god you are reject­ing is not The God who cre­at­ed the Universes.…and per­haps the rejec­tion comes because of a lack of per­son­al­ly seek­ing God and whether God exists… I will savor my Knowl­edge and Expe­ri­ence of God’s omni­science and leave it to you, to walk through this life’s jour­ney with or with­out God. I do firm­ly believe that Ayn Rand was like the ant on the Ele­phan­t’s back.. and too bad, she could­n’t vis­it us from the oth­er side… God IS Big­ger than even the great­est believ­er’s or unbe­liev­er’s com­pre­hen­sion. I do believe that if we can peel back the lay­ers of all issues of the day, and be entire­ly hon­est, we would find that self­ish­ness, pride, greed, lust, jeal­ousy, avarice, is what under­lies most harm caused… a fail­ure to love, a fail­ure to choose respon­si­bly, a fail­ure to con­sid­er the harm caused to anoth­er, etc.
    I find that since my expe­ri­ence of GOD, I found a reser­voir of infi­nite resilien­cy and pos­si­bil­i­ties… I wor­ry not that peo­ple don’t believe in GOD, for I believe in the end we will all meet our Maker…and I think it will be an emo­tion­al re-union… for after all, we were all first a thought in GOD’S mind, before we came into being through the union of egg and sperm, female and male con­trib­u­tors, which I hope were lov­ing par­ents who were excit­ed at the rev­e­la­tion of your exis­tence. ❤

  • Alan says:

    Boy this com­ment did­n’t age well.

  • Question says:

    I kind of agree. I am a Chris­t­ian, and not very knowl­edge­able as I am rel­a­tive­ly young when com­pared to most peo­ple, but I have a gen­er­al ques­tion. It could be fair­ly argued that the ori­gin of the idea of moral rea­son could be drawn back to reli­gion, (not just Chris­tian­i­ty) which placed a val­ue on human life, not just as a mem­ber of a species, but as indi­vid­u­als with feel­ings and mean­ing. Of course, you could argue that sci­ence revealed those things about us through exper­i­ments, and that our val­ue of each oth­er is noth­ing but emo­tion­al cues that we evolved to help the species sur­vive, but I think that if we did­n’t have reli­gion, our intel­li­gence would have end­ed us. By this, I’m talk­ing about the hor­ror of exis­ten­tial nihilism. If we remained pure­ly sci­en­tif­ic, would we not come to the con­clu­sion that life is mean­ing­less and there­fore worth­less. That our exis­tence is a pure acci­dent and the uni­verse is just a con­cen­tra­tion of life­less, and just as acci­den­tal mat­ter. I think that the exis­tence of reli­gion (not the prac­tice just the exis­tence) is essen­tial to soci­ety, and is the one thing that can com­pen­sate for our auton­o­my and bring sta­bil­i­ty to the mind.

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