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Rev. Chris Glaser Headshot

Ayn Rand Was Consistent

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Ayn Rand was consistent. She was an individualist and an atheist. Notice what I am NOT saying: I am not saying that an atheist is necessarily an individualist. In truth I am aware of more atheists who are collectivists than individualists.

Rather, I would say that belief in either God or spirituality goes hand in hand with collectivism. Spirituality is about "the whole enchilada," a term the Watergate scandal helped popularize. It witnesses the connectedness of all things -- that in the poet's words, "no man is an island"; that, in Jesus' words, "as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it so to me."

In biblical understanding, not even God is an individualist. God created companions, dwells among us and invites us to enjoy the common spiritual wealth that is already available. In both Jewish and Christian understandings, God treats us collectively: if one sinned, all are collectively responsible in the Old Testament; in the New Testament God makes rain and sunshine fall on the just and the unjust. In both testaments we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, which requires compassion -- identification, solidarity, justice and mercy.

The Reformed tradition of Christianity emphasized collective salvation over individual salvation, but this has been a theme of Christianity from the beginning. Despite the emphasis on individual salvation in present-day evangelical circles, Jesus was said to reconcile the whole world to God's self. It's not "all about me," but "all about us," and I would add that the whole creation is included in "us."

This does not mean that I don't believe in individual responsibility, but that we are individually responsible for the whole world, that every action we take or don't take -- "sins of commission or omission" -- must be accountable to needs broader than our own.

I don't know how anyone following the news does not cry or become indignant and angry at the inequality and injustice and violence, as well as grieve the losses of every nation in conflict or enduring calamity and the environment suffering global warming and deforestation.

Something else I am NOT saying: I am not saying that Christians who claim individualism over collectivism are not Christian. I am saying they are inconsistent.

See also 'The Making of You,' an earlier post on Glaser's blog, "Progressive Christian Reflections." Glaser is the author of 12 books, including 'The Final Deadline: What Death Has Taught Me About Life.'