Saturday, September 27, 2008

Atlas Shrugged and Christian Eschatology

I'm struck by the number of parallels in the themes of Atlas Shrugged and in Christian Eschatology, the end of the world narrative so beloved by the denizens of places such as Rapture Ready and readers of Left Behind.

In Atlas Shrugged the great mass of people are not only mistaken, they are irretrievable and inherently morally corrupt. They cannot be saved, they should not be saved, and they do not deserve salvation.

Among the great mass of people are the elect. Although they are morally pure, they are helpless against the corrupt, and doomed by this corruption to failure.

Their is a heaven (Galt's Gulch) where everyone lives in perfect harmony and happiness... and every bit as wooden and one-dimensional as the Christian heaven.

There is a time of tribulation, which begins by a rapture, the mysterious, almost supernatural magical removal of individuals deemed perfect.

Those left behind, i.e. our protagonists, Hank Reardon and Dagny Taggart, although basically good, must resist and overcome the vestiges of moral corruption (their concern for other individuals as individuals, rather than the qualities of the Ideal Individual) to gain entrance to heaven. One character (Dagny) is even lifted up to heaven to give her a glimpse of the reward for her moral journey.

And, of course, we have a messiah of truly supernatural powers: At twenty, John Galt redefines science from the ground up to make his magical perpetual-motion machine. Take that, Second Law of Thermodynamics!

Update: As Paul Robinson notes:
Galt is offered the opportunity to run the world at the last supper, err, excuse me, the state dinner at the Wayne-Falkland hotel. Then Judas betrays him for 30 pieces of silver, err I mean Dagny betrays him for $500,000. Then he's crucified, err, I mean he's attached to an electric generator and tortured.

And, he miraculously resists the torture and rises up escapes. (After the third day? I didn't count. Do we have an empty tomb cell?)

Also, all the bad people die in the end.

Is Ayn Rand a closet Christian? Nah. But does Rand appeal to the same sort of murderous and hateful self-righteousness as Christian Eschatology (gleefully anticipating the infinite tortures of hell for non-believers)? Has Rand borrowed these themes to leverage this narrative?

Of course.

5 comments:

  1. A+ for being provocative.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You mystic, you. :)

    I'm a bit perverse, I suppose. I am deeply intrigued by Objectivism, but love to see a good Rand-ripping.

    Not that I'm on your team, but bravo for the drama and intelligence.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rand deserves the ripping, especially since for a supporter of reason, she sure didn't like dissent.

    I do credit her for being the first person to really make me understand how wrong religious thinking is.

    I first really begain to think God was fiction after I read her work.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I among others have noticed some religious symbology in Atlas Shrugged. Galt is offered the opportunity to run the world at the last supper, err, excuse me, the state dinner at the Wayne-Falkland hotel. Then Judas betrays him for 30 pieces of silver, err I mean Dagny betrays him for $500,000. Then he's crucified, err, I mean he's attached to an electric generator and tortured.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jesse: Yes, Rand deserves unqualified credit for her confident atheism.

    Paul: Ooh! Very nice!

    ReplyDelete

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