The Atlas Shrugged Film: A Christian Review

We Saw Atlas Shrugged

We went to see the new movie, Atlas Shrugged, Friday evening at Chicago’s AMC theater at River North. It was a fascinating evening. This was the opening weekend of a very limited release.

The venue was very impressive. The theater itself had seating for 950 according to the placard on the wall. It was comfortably full; I’d say at least 700. The most interesting thing about the crowd was that it was at least 80% 30s-and-under; mostly couples and groups of couples. We actually felt like the “oldies” in the group!

The attendees had obviously read the book. There was lively discussion about its contents, about the movies adaptation of its story line and the general philosophy/approach of Rand overall. I would say that if this is the so-called “tea-party-crowd,” then the Tea Party is in pretty good shape.

The movie itself was a bit of a disappointment for me. The acting was ok, I didn’t get the “made for TV” feeling mentioned in some of the critical pans (remember the critics have to be “politically correct” in assessing this most unpolitically correct movie). The not-big-name-actors made it rather refreshing, as the “no-namers” held their own.

My less than satisfying feeling came mainly from the fact that it turns out this is a “Part 1” of what seems to be a planned 3-part effort. You don’t get very far into the book with this part and “who is John Galt” is never answered–the movie ends with the igniting of “Wyatt’s Torch” (a point of info for those who’ve ready the book). If the other two parts get made, this will be resolved but with low budget movies that have taken decades to get this far, that is not a sure thing. I’d have like to have had more resolution of the overall story of the book.

It is a movie well worth seeing. And a book well worth reading. I read the book in the ‘60s and had actually forgotten about it until hearing about the movie. I’m pleasantly surprised it is still being read—and from our observation of the crowd, studied and appreciated.

Which brings me to a point that needs to be made: In our current cultural clamor to reconstruct a society which once again will celebrate individual achievement and enlightened self-interest, we need to be informed about those to whom we give our ear.

Ayn Rand was the “mother” of the Objectivist movement. She (as well as this movement) was outspokenly atheistic and demonstratively anti-religion. Although she/they saw “religion” mainly in terms of Catholicism, she/they rejected out of hand the idea of faith and revelation as the basis for any epistemology (i.e, view of knowledge), code of ethics/values or view of reality. This needs to be understood clearly by those believers who seem to be enamored by her work. Her basic philosophy is anti-god-in-any-and-all-forms.

The Objectivist school bases its understanding of social and societal construct solely on human virtues, reason and intellect, while denouncing as impossibly irrelevant any idea of faith or God. To them the idea of “pride as a virtue” is paramount; the idea it may be a “sin” is scandalous.

For Rand and her followers, both then and now, the watchwords are not faith, God, service; but rather: reason, nature, happiness, man. The absolute, which must guide everything, is the principle of reason; every other idea must meet this test. It is in this approach–in this fundamental rejection of faith–that their philosophy lies. For them, faith is simply “belief in the absence of evidence.”

And it is the propagation of this philosophy that lies at the heart of this novel. When Rand first discussed the publishing of her work with Random House, she reports that she told them, “This work is an extreme, uncompromising defense of capitalism and free enterprise and presents a new philosophy…a new morality….A direct affront to Judeo-Christian values.”

Thus the book works from a premise of abandonment of God, the belief that we have a right to exist for ourselves, opposition to the concept of “sinful” man, the pursuit of happiness as a worthy and ultimate goal coupled with the need for a lack of compassion, charity and humility.

So, my friends, in your search for those to help buttress your economic/political/social model or an idealized Americana, be aware that the Rand model will broach no allowance for a deity, divine revelation or a sinful/in need of redemption man, nor the idea of self-sacrifice as a virtue. No. This is a totally sufficient man, with no need of a belief in an unknown and unknowable “other” and no goal beyond a worthy pride.

It is their view that because this world is of vital importance, the definitive motive of man’s action should be the pursuit of happiness. Because the individual, not a supernatural power, is the creator of wealth, a person should have the right to private property, the right to keep and use or trade his own product. And because man is basically good, they insist, there is no need to leash him; there is nothing to fear in setting free a rational animal.

Thus is the ideal of the author of Atlas Shrugged. It is an ideal doomed to fail. See Romans 1:19-25.

4 responses to “The Atlas Shrugged Film: A Christian Review

  1. I am quite happy about Objectivism’s definition of faith, and absence of a belief in God in the absence of any evidence thereof. No wars have been fought in the name of Objectivism, nor lives threatened or lost. This is not something I can say about Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, in whose name oceans of blood have been spilled.
    I concur that this healthy scepticism will play a part in the inevitable success of the author’s ideal referred to, rather than failure.

  2. The statement “God exists” has meaning, and may even be true.

    However, since no conceivable observation can refute it, it is not a _scientific_ statement.


  3. “Because the individual, not a supernatural power, is the creator of wealth, a person should have the right to private property”

    A strange comment indeed. Where is all this wealth God has supposedly created and how did it exist without anyone to value it? I hope he isn’t trying to suggest that God should take credit for all individual actions, because that would include the bad as well as the good. I hope he isn’t trying to suggest that God has values, either, as an immortal, omnimpotent being would be incapable of them.

  4. I am a Christian and I read the book not really knowing what I was getting into. I found myself swept along by the story but, not by the philosophy though I soldiered through the book. I believe that we are to be individuals that God gave us that in our lives. The government should make some regulations but very few. We should help people but we should not let them just mooch through life. This was the hardest book that I have ever read. I feel that it would have been a better book if Ayn Rand would have allowed people to see things in her writing instead f out and out telling people what to believe. To me it expresses many values that are important such as hard work and self reliance, also that the government should stay out of regulating the economy as much as possible. I think that the life of an Objectivist would be very depressing and I don’t see how anyone could fully embrace the statement:””I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” If they have ever married or especially had a child. So much of the philosophy seems to come from Ayn Rand’s own past and her struggle to leave communism. I wish that more of the book had focused on dealing with the encroachment of government and the power of the human mind. Also, I wish that the book I be continued. The heroes of “the men of the mind” Dagny Taggart, John Galt, Hank Reardon, Francisco D’Anconia, Ragnar Danneskjold and the others have went back to the valley and said that they are going to go back. I want to know how many people are left for them to sell to when the audience just “watched” New York collapse and we know that their are not many people left. I would have read a couple hundred more pages to understand this. I short individual liberty, hard work, LESS (not no) government regulation, giving to people who need and and not letting people who can earn their own wages mooch. All things that I learned from “Atlas Shrugged” even though I know that it is not what the author intended.