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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