“…this call no voice has spoken, yet we have heard…” – The Idolatrous “Atheism” of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand

It had been a while since I last picked up Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, so I decided to make another run through the book last week. What I found was mostly what I expected (viz. heavy-handed symbolism, poor plot development, ironically non-ironic self-righteous atheistic religiosity, et cetera, ad nauseum). However, I also found what I, for some strange reason, was not at all expecting (although I should have been expecting it).

What did I find?

In a nutshell, I found Ayn Rand admitting that Creation speaks to individuals, and that it demands ethical and practical responses from them. This is not strange given that the Scriptures reveal that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork” (Ps 19:1). At every moment of man’s earthly existence, creation’s testimony to the invisible attributes of God bears upon his consciousness and conscience; likewise, the moral law of God cries out in judgment against man.

While Rand’s dystopic novella is primarily a literary exploration of the problem of collectivism, her solution to the problem is a radical individualism founded upon the presupposition that each individual is responsible for his response to “…this call no voice has spoken, yet we have heard…” (Anthem, Part X, p.36). After breaking away from the oppressive collectivist society which frowns upon individual expressions of desire (either intellectual, physical, or romantic), the main character of Rand’s book begins to spend time experiencing and reflecting upon Creation. This reflection causes him to state the following:

…now [I] look upon the earth and sky. This spread of rock and peaks and moonlight is like a world ready to be born, a world that waits. It seems to ask a sign from us, a spark, a first commandment.

[…]

We look ahead, we beg our heart for guidance in answering this call no voice have spoken, yet we have heard.

-Anthem, Part X, p.36

Rand’s main character now understands that he is responsible for the way in which he responds to this “call.” And it is here that we see the idolatrous nature of Rand’s atheism.

You see, the character does not deny that he is obligated to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28). Rather, he simply denies that it is God who is calling him to do these things.

And in the place of Yahweh, Trinune Creator of all things in heaven and in earth, he says:

…now I see the face of God, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.

This god, this one word:

“I.”

Anthem, Part 11, p.38

This is not the abandonement of belief in God, it is only belief in another so called “god” – viz. the self.

What is evident to the main character is perverted by him. Why? Because he refuses to acknowledge the fact that his existence is merely a reflection of God’s own.

Rand’s character, a reflection of her own moral character, is suppressing the Truth in unrighteousness. He does not acknowledge Yahweh as God, but himself. He is the god of heaven and earth. Consequently, he is no atheist. He is an idolater, a lover of self rather than a lover of God. He is a worshiper of himself. He is a devotee of himself.

This is idolatry, not atheism.

And if this character reflects Rand’s moral character, then the same applies to her.

Ayn Rand may not have worshiped the One True God, but she knew that Creation testified about His greatness and her responsibility for being-in-the-world. And instead of bowing before Him in repentance, she vainly attempted to steal His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.

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2 thoughts on ““…this call no voice has spoken, yet we have heard…” – The Idolatrous “Atheism” of Ayn Rand

  1. cucumberlodge says:

    Excellent article! Discerning analysis. Rand’s dynamic reminds me of a short poem I wrote recently. Please indulge me:

    Go choose your higher power, but please don’t be surprised,

    If when you do discover, it’s just you, so disguised.

    Like

  2. Robert Rutler says:

    Hiram, Excellent observations!

    I felt conflicted when I read that too, but I did not see as clearly as you the inconstancy/consistency leading to idolatry rather than atheism. I agree with your assessment and found it most helpful.

    Thanks, Robert

    Like

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