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Ellis Weiner

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Rapture and Rand: Peas in a Pod

Posted: 05/06/11 09:02 PM ET

A Facebook friend quoted a comment about the movie version of Atlas Shrugged: "I get it now -- this is the capitalist/atheist rapture story." And I wanted to smack my own face with a slab of halibut for not having thought of that myself -- which I would have, if halibut weren't so expensive.

This brilliant insight evokes no fewer than two books of which I am author or co-author: one, a recently-digitally-published parody of the titanic Ayn Rand monstrosity, and the other, a more-timely-than-ever post-apocalyptic investment guide for those of us who, come May 21, will not have the pleasure of being swept up to Heaven prior to the onset of the seven years of (literally) hell on earth known as The Tribulation. That book (How to Profit from the Coming Rapture), published in 2008, bears the subtitle, "Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind," which says it all.

So I, more than any other person on Earth, should have seen the stark similarities between these two stories. The least I can do to make amends, now, is to compare the two, taking care to italicize their common elements.

First, the Christian Apocalypse:

At any moment, the skies will part, Jesus will appear, and those who have accepted Him as their personal savior will be airlifted up to Heaven. First the dead (or what's left of them) shall arise, and then the living. Everyone else (including all Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Scientologists) will remain here. Over the ensuing seven years, evil will proliferate, prompting our loving and merciful Heavenly Father to inflict upon mankind war, famine, pestilence, and a robust series of other catastrophes, including the seas turning to blood, the stars falling from the sky, an attack of invisible locusts, and the rise of the Antichrist.

He will be abetted by the False Prophet, his advance man/p.r. flack/comical sidekick. Oh, there will be men of virtue -- the Biblical sages Elijah and, probably, Moses will appear -- but they will be mocked and scorned.

Eventually Satan himself will "indwell" the Antichrist, and will lead the forces of Evil against the forces of Good, led by the descended Christ, in the final confrontation at the Battle(s) of Armageddon. SPOILER ALERT: Good wins. Satan will be chained to a rock in the Abyss, which is not a Goth night club but a chasm that isn't really Hell but is no picnic.

Then Jesus will leave Heaven and live amongst us. After this Thousand Year Reign, Satan will be released one last time, to meet his foretold destruction in the Lake of Fire. Finally -- and I mean finally -- the New Jerusalem, a city 1,500 miles wide, long, and high, will descend from the sky and land we-know-not-where. Not only will all believers move into this structure to live literally forever, each enjoying what we estimate to be an apartment one-half mile in each direction, but God himself will move in, too.

All this, and so much more, is set forth in blood-curdling but portfolio-maximizing detail in How to Profit from the Coming Rapture. Now let's compare this End Times scenario with the one set forth by the militantly-atheistic Ayn Rand. Of course, Atlas Shrugged is fiction not prophecy, although that hasn't stopped its Randian fans and acolytes from noticing "disturbing" parallels between its made-up story and the actual events of today as we live here, now, in the reality of the moments of our lives. Thus:

Some time in the near future, all the true producers of society disappear into "Galt's Gulch," a secret valley in Colorado, where an ideal society has been established for individually-invited achievers who (amusingly, considering Rand's disdain for unions) have elected to go on strike. In their absence, wicked men with icky names such as Wesley Mouch prevail; the economy grinds to a halt and society collapses, as it is manipulated and destroyed by the bad people, including bureaucrats, weaklings, corrupt union thugs, careerist scientists, moochers, leeches, looters, and (as I suggest in the parody) hoochie-koochers and koochie-koo-ers.

Of course, there are men of virtue, including Francisco d'Anconia, the supposedly dissolute playboy Chilean copper heir, and Ragnar Danneskjold, the strikingly attractive Swedish pirate. But they are mocked and scorned by the morally-bankrupt preeners and hypocrites of polite society.

Finally, when all seems lost, John Galt (the savior of capitalism) confronts the forces of Evil in a sixty-page radio address to the nation and the world. SPOILER ALERT: Evil is vanquished. The book ends with Galt escaping captivity and torture and leading his community of producers back into the world, to presumably inaugurate a thousand-year paradise of no taxes, no unions, no minimum wage, no socialism, no tripartite government, and no Jesus.

Rapture and Rand: What a couple of sexy, compelling twins! They're the Mary Kate and Ashley of late capitalist eschatology. Both offer unsparing moralistic revenge fantasies. Both solicit your agreement and your endorsement in exchange for your salvation. The constituencies for each display a cult-like belief in their own superiority, combined with a self-flattering view of themselves as bravely enduring persecution and unfair victimization. Both offer comic book notions of virtue and villainy as embodied in a winner-take-all melodramatic clash between one-dimensional characters. Both offer an irrefutable source of authority: For the Rapturists, it's the Bible. For the Randists, it's "rationality."

Coincidence? It's enough to make you believe that there really is a collective unconscious. Which myth you prefer depends on, as the Randians say, "your premises." I don't know why some of the Rapturists have chosen May 21 (at least the Mayans give us another year to live), but we'll see what happens. Or doesn't.

Not that it will matter to the believers. The point of a cult isn't to be right -- to promulgate an accurate picture of one's real life or of the world, or to correctly predict the future. It's to feel special. Maybe the Church Lady had it right all along. Bad news for you, SATAN!

 
 
 

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