This week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gays for religious reasons.

The question that has always fascinated me about Gay Rights controversies like these is: why is it such a huge deal?  There are not really that many gays in the population, and yet Conservatives make it sound like (for example) allowing gay marriage would mean the end of civilization itself.

Personally, while the anti-gay groups frequently resort to citing scripture, I have always believed this is simply a red herring.  The Bible is one of the most-read (and believed) books in the world, and happens to have a few passages forbidding homosexuality, which are convenient for them to cite.  If it had nothing whatsoever to say on the topic, I think they would oppose gay rights just as vehemently. (The same thing goes on with the NRA and the Second Amendment–if it didn’t exist, they would be no less zealous in their opposition to gun control laws.)

My reason for thinking this is that the Bible also forbids, for example, the loaning of money at interest, and yet I haven’t seen any preachers holding rallies to condemn banks.  Indeed, the Republican party as we know it would likely destroy itself within a day if the social conservatives ever decided to enforce that particular point with the same force they do the issue of homosexuality.

So, if not religious, what exactly is their reason for opposing gay rights so strongly?

In the past, I’ve occasionally mentioned how nationalists (which I believe is what the Republican rank-and-file is) believe in a society based on blood and heritage.  Naturally, this prejudices them against gays, since by definition they cannot contribute to the heritability based society.

I bring this fact up not because it is terribly significant in its own right–the social conservatives oppose gay rights, nothing new here–but rather because I think it helps give the interested political observer a better idea of the logic behind the social conservatives’ policies.  Contrary to appearances, I don’t believe they just picked a random part of the Bible to passionately uphold, but rather, it is part of their larger worldview.

As I think I’ve mentioned before on here, I don’t have cable TV.  I just get the major networks, PBS, a few local channels and a bunch of Christian channels.  The last are mostly devoted to people on elaborate stages giving speeches and asking for money.  However, the other day on one of these channels, I saw a different sort of program.

I don’t know the name of the show or the channel, otherwise I’d tell you.  All I know is that it was some older fellow standing in the middle of the desert on the outskirts of Jerusalem, reading from a bunch of papers he was holding and trying to keep from blowing away.  The production values were, to say the least, horrifying.  If any of you readers can guess what show this may be, feel free to tell me.

What the guy had to say, however, was somewhat… interesting.  He was talking about how many intellectuals, especially in the atomic age, desired a “one world government”.  He dated this impulse  back all the way to Nebuchadnezzar II, and said that they [the intellectuals] did not believe you could have many strong countries, you could only have one government.  (I’m paraphrasing.)  I got the impression he was getting towards the point that these intellectuals were wrong, and one world government was a very bad idea, and that the Bible had predicted all of this.  He was taking his time about it though, and I had work in the morning, so I didn’t get to hear how it all ended up.

(The politics on these religious shows are always interesting.  One day, while channel surfing I saw a show claiming that people were now placing their faith in government instead of God.  What we need, according to the Bible, so they said, was less government.  Smaller government.  In fact, watching some of these shows, you get the impression that they feel the Republican Party platform is the word of the Almighty.)

“One World Government” is a phrase conspiracy theorists throw around a lot to mean all sorts of wild things.  But I think it is true that many people would like to see more international cooperation and conflict resolution by some means other than wars between nations.  I think this train of thought really started because of World War I, which showed a lot of the problems that can arise with multiple competing nations.

In Europe, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, you had lots of strong, independent nations–strong empires, even–such as Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Germany and so on.   The peace among these nations, such as it was, was kept by treaties the countries made with each other.  Unfortunately, this system of treaties proved to be unstable in the face of rebellious nationalist agitators and military build-ups between competing nations, and thus, through a complicated series of events, the treaties dictated that a massive war broke out.

In the aftermath, people looked around and said, quite logically, “how can we make sure that this doesn’t happen again?”  That very intellectual President, Woodrow Wilson, even proposed the League of Nations, though ironically the U.S. did not join it.  Of course, the League failed to prevent ultra-nationalist sentiment in Germany from igniting another, even more terrible war.

The League was replaced with the United Nations after World War II.  And ever since, nationalist sentiment has opposed the U.N., fearing that it will destroy all of the country’s traditions and create a one world government.  As some readers know, I am fascinated by conspiracy theories, even though I do not believe in any of them.  And, as I said, there are a lot of conspiracy theories about the “one world government”, and I think the root reason for all of them is the nationalist elements’ fear of being governed by cosmopolitan intellectuals.

Having said all that, I think really all most people actually want is some international way of resolving conflicts without having to go to war. People, both nowadays and especially in the immediate aftermath of the World Wars, just don’t want to see a repeat of that.  Seems hard to blame them, really.

A new poll has come out showing that only 49% of Americans think President Obama is Christian.  17% think he’s Muslim.  James Rainey writes:

The lingering questions about Obama’s faith likely come from people of two mind-sets. One is those who have an intense dislike of the president and find confirmation of all their fears in a fever swamp of conspiracy websites. Where a birth certificate is not accepted as proof of someone’s place of birth, forget about verifying something as intangible as a statement of faith.

The second factor driving up Obama’s “Muslim number” is doubtless the urge of some respondents to stick it in the pollsters’ ear — to commit a small act of defiance by giving an answer the voter knows is untrue. When the interloper in the Oval Office is deeply loathed, why credit him with anything, least that he is a Christian?

Rainey focuses his attention largely on 17% who think he is Muslim.  Probably this is because it really is incredible that anyone could honestly believe he is a devout Muslim, as so many of his actions are inconsistent with that faith.

What I wonder about is the people who answered “don’t know” or “other” in the poll.  Is there also a conspiracy theory that Obama is secretly Buddhist?  Actually, most of the people I’ve talked to who doubt Obama on this suspect that he’s an atheist, not a Muslim.  Not sure why those people would answer “don’t know”, though.

As for the results on Romney’s religion, I was surprised how many didn’t know it.  It’s one of the most notable facts about an otherwise fairly dull politician.

Image via Wikipedia

“Gentlemen, this is a football.”  Thus did the famous coach Vince Lombardi supposedly begin every first team meeting of the season, while holding up same.   The point being, you always start off with the basics. However, I don’t know about the AIFA; some of their players might be seeing a football for the first time.

The other day, somebody got to this blog by searching for the terms “how would max weber view american football”. I don’t know if he was even thinking of the same Max Weber I’m so fond of, but regardless, I thought to myself: “Heck, I would like to read that article.”  So, here is a cursory attempt at writing it.

Of course, it’s hard to figure out the answer without a Ouija board and some arcane black magic.  And even then, it would probably only be something simplistic like “the competitiveness reflects the Protestant ethic” or “the Browns are 6 and 10 this year, best case.”

I’m not too familiar with his most famous writings about religion; I’ve mostly studied Weber’s contributions to political thought. Long-time readers probably remember his three types of authority:

  1. Charismatic authority
  2. Traditional authority
  3. Legal authority

Well, I suppose he’d think that coaches like Rex Ryan and players like Tim Tebow have charismatic authority, whereas coaches like Belichick and players like Ray Lewis rely on a sort of traditional authority–they have enjoyed a lot of success, so people are supposed to automatically respect them.  The equivalent to Legal authority is, well, the referees and the commissioner. (As the Saints are discovering.)

But this doesn’t tell us anything about the broader social phenomenon of football. Maybe Weber would note the similarity of the sport to religion.  After all, some fans follow it with the same zeal that people follow religions. They even collect artifacts and relics relating to the heroes of the sport.  And then, of course, there’s the ubiquitous Mr. Tebow. (I know I’m breaking my vow here. I’m sorry. But I promise you one thing: you will never see another blogger try as hard not to mention him as I will try the rest of the off-season.)

I once saw an NFL Films show about the Pittsburgh Steelers championship run in 2005.  It started off with this quasi-hymn or chant-like music that sounded religious and very eerie all at once. Imagine “Duel of the Fates“, only way creepier.  It seemed pretty serious for a bunch of football highlights.  But there are people who definitely see football as nearly as important. (Another Lombardi line, of which there are some variations: “All that matters is your God, your family and the Green Bay Packers”.)

Still, Weber studied religions as a way of highlighting differences in cultures and people’s philosophies.  The superficial resemblance of sports fanatics to religious fanatics is obviously more about the features of fanaticism than religion.  So we’re still at a dead end.

Let’s approach this from a different direction: we know that American football, though wildly popular in the United States, is not the number one sport in any other country. Perhaps the reasons for this are tied to “American exceptionalism”.  But this is more Tocqueville than it is Weber. (Where is that Ouija board?) And unfortunately, I cannot find much that Weber had to say about America.

So once again, I am frustrated.  I leave it to you, blogosphere and distinguished commenters, to sort this problem out.  What would Max Weber think of American football?

In the first three parts of this series, I have established what I see as the logic of the American political system as it stands today.   Now, we need to examine the flaws and the potential dangers in this system.

It is first of all the case that nationalists—as opposed to patriots, the distinction between which you can see analyzed here or here—have been on the losing end of things since the 1960s.  Cosmopolitan liberals have been gaining since then, and this the nationalists will not abide.

But still, the clear winner over this time period has been the materialist business interests, for whom the nationalists vote based on their promises to cut the size of government, and with whom the cosmopolitans are obliged to compromise in the interest of seeing their gains on social issues protected.

The Thomas Frank question is: why do the nationalists continually vote for the anti-government big money people when they never do actually do anything to help the nationalists in their quest to abolish gay marriage, feminism, and secularism and restore militarism, flag-waving culture, traditional families and Christian dominance?

One hypothesis is that the nationalists are, by and large, ignorant hicks.  They certainly do hate the education system, bastion of liberalism that it allegedly is.  Thus, they can be duped every four years by some businessman who spouts slogans about “family values” and “sanctity of marriage” and who once elected cuts the capital gains tax and curtails welfare benefits.

When you add in that most nationalists are rural, and that many of them are Southern, where the schools have never been as good as the North or West, it looks compelling to say that they are just easily-tricked bumpkins.  Some liberals pity them, some liberals mock them; but they are seen widely as buffoons.

There is some evidence against this hypothesis, however.  That is why I read the works of Oswald Spengler or the political writings of H.P. Lovecraft.  They were both nationalists and, abhorrent though their views may be to me, there can be no doubt they were very intelligent men.

Moreover, you can see intelligent, educated nationalists even in the present day: a loose association sometimes called “the alt-right”.  I had a brief exchange with one of their number, OneSTDV, that some readers may recall.

Many of them are quite intelligent and well accustomed to philosophical debate and reasoning.  And they hold political views which I think many people supposed were now extinct in this country.  For example, they are fairly open about their admiration for fascism. They are more reactionary than most liberals can even imagine.

There are a few mainstream figures as well—Pat Buchanan is one—who may be classed as reasonably well-educated nationalists.  So, it is possible for such people to exist. Their philosophy is surprisingly intricate, and they can prove quite formidable in debate.

Given that, why keep voting for the materialist business interests, which care nothing for nationalism except insofar as it dictates the currency whose flow dictates their actions?  Well, in some cases, the nationalists don’t.  But in general, the reason is simply that both sides have common cause in that they hate the government. (With the exception of the military, in the case of the nationalists.)

They have different reasons: the nationalists hate it because it is populated by liberals.  (Most Republicans in government are far too liberal for their taste.)  Materialist corporate-types hate it because it has the power to take their money.  This fact means that business interests have a much easier time compromising with government than nationalists do.  Business wants to keep the government from getting its money; nationalists hate the actual people in the government .

Nonetheless, the nationalists’ plan is therefore rational: allow the Randian-minded businessmen to screw with the government long enough and it will eventually become weak.  Once it is weak, they will be in fine position to send in a candidate who really does mean to take us back to the 1950s. But clearly that day has not yet come.

Liberals are semi- cognizant of this threat, but it is very difficult to make the connections and realize that the nationalists may not be merely an angry group of people, but actually followers of a philosophy; one that is internally consistent and entirely antithetical to liberal values.

When I had my exchange with OneSTDV, many of his readers commented on my blog.  Interestingly, the topic that they focused on was this part:

[OneSTDV’s] belief that blacks are inherently inferior to whites intellectually. He calls this idea “Human BioDiversity” or “HBD”. I call it “racism” myself, and I believe it to be false.

Most of their comments centered on this point, and there was a lot of back-and-forth about the validity of it. One thing that caused some confusion—and this is my fault—was disagreement over whether “HBD” was the same thing as “racism”.  To my mind, they amount to the same thing: the belief that different races are in inherently different in non-trivial, especially mental, ways.  Now, some HBDers seemed to object to my effectively calling them racists, but I didn’t mean to imply that they are all klansmen; merely that they see race as an important factor in determining how well a person’s mind functions.

That’s an aside, but I wanted to get that bit of terminology clarified before proceeding.  What was especially interesting to me about the response to my OneSTDV post was a comment by “Ken S”:

“I am a fairly liberal HBD’er and I also frequently find OneSTDV’s blogging distasteful.  But don’t let that turn you off from finding out more about this viewpoint, there is much evidence in support of some of the non-political tenets of HBD…

While I like might like what you have expressed in the context of the arts, this is not the proper context that HBD lies in.  HBD itself is a scientific idea and the politics expressed at blogs like OneSTDV are responses to scientific data that question whether or not current social policies are doing more harm than good.  Even if he is wrong about the politics it would not make him wrong about the scientific findings that he uses to support his position.”

I also discovered the writings of a blogger named “John” at the sadly now-removed blog Stream of John, who also holds fairly liberal political views while still agreeing with the validity of “HBD”.  (I assume that he discovered my blog through reading OneSTDV)

Together, these two go to demonstrate a very interesting point: agreeing with the HBD hypothesis does not automatically determine one’s political beliefs.  After all, if these two can be liberals while still agreeing with the HBD view of things, it shows that there is no political philosophy that automatically follows from it.

Which is interesting, for it implies that OneSTDV and I would still have cause to quarrel even if one of us were somehow able to persuade the other on issues of race.  More broadly speaking, it shows that the divide between cosmopolitans and nationalists runs much deeper than even racial issues.

At bottom, these are whole philosophies of life that clash; they cannot be reduced to beliefs about race, or gender, or economics or any of the other issues.  The philosophical battle encompasses all of these.  If this hypothesis is correct, it in turn implies that there will never be consensus, and thus there is constant tension the political system.

Via Huffington Post, Rick Santorum has written an essay detailing his interpretation of the First Amendment, in which he further explains his problem with JFK’s 1960 speech in which he said “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

Santorum’s objection:

While the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t appear in the Constitution, the concept of protecting religion from the government does.

The first part of the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from establishing a state church, such as existed in England and in some of the states in 1791, and from discriminating for or against particular faiths. The founders were determined to ensure that the new national government had no jurisdiction over matters of religion, in large part to insure that each American would be free to pursue the religion of their choice without state interference. Far from reflecting hostility toward religion, our founders, rooted in their own faith convictions, knew that faith was not just an essential element, but the essence of civilization and the inspiration of culture.

Santorum says that “Kennedy took words written to protect religion from the government and used them to protect the government from religion.”

For background, here’s the First Amendment in its entirety:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

At present, we are concerned with the religion bit. “respecting an establishment of religion”. According to no less an authority than something quoted on Wikipedia this:  “‘prohibits the federal and state governments from establishing an official religion, or from favoring or disfavoring one view of religion over another.'”

Whoa! “Favoring or disfavoring one view over another” is a big step from just not establishing an official religion. And you can’t tell me that Christianity doesn’t get preferential treatment over Zoroastrianism in this country. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a Zoroastrian congressman, and yet there are apparently 11,000 practicing Zoroastrians in the United States. I wonder if they feel Congress grants them equal favor?

Then we come to the bit that says Congress shall not prohibit “the free exercise thereof”. Okay, then. I guess if somebody wants to form an Esoteric Order of Dagon and sacrifice people to the Deep Ones in exchange for jewelry, the Congress is powerless.

Obviously, this isn’t the case. Congress can prohibit the free exercise of religions if they determine they’re a threat to the population at large. And that could really be anything, especially since most religions seem to hold that all the other religions are a threat.

So, Santorum opposes abortion and contraception, apparently because his religious beliefs tell him to. He doesn’t want the government to fund these things. He wants Roe v. Wade overturned, because his religion tells him so. Other people feel just the opposite way on these issues. But Santorum’s religion tells him these people are wrong.

Let’s get something clear: no amount of parsing or interpreting the First Amendment will ever solve this fundamental disagreement. If there were an amendment that said:

The interpretation of meteorological conditions being necessary to the enjoyment of a walk in the park, the right of the people to disagree about the weather shall not be infringed

…it would not be of any help to us if I say it is a going to rain and you say it is going to be sunny. All it says is that we’re allowed to disagree. But eventually, we’re going to have to answer the question anyway.

Santorum’s “vibrant marketplace of religions”(?) has the same problem. Yes, we’re all allowed to have different religion, and the government isn’t allowed to ban them (except under extreme circumstances) but we still have the massive problem of determining which policies are good and which aren’t. Suppose some religion advocated something stupid, such as selling the strategic oil reserves to build a massive golden calf. At some point, the government have to say: “Your religion’s ideas are lousy. We will not listen to you.”

Santorum seems to be just sort of rambling off on a tangent in this essay, trying to avoid getting into a discussion over his actual beliefs.

P.S. Once again, I’m not a lawyer or a constitutional scholar. If anyone can explain the flaws in my reasoning, I’d love to hear them.

In Stephen Vincent Benét’s short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, the Devil at one point says:

“When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on her deck. Am I not in your books and stories and beliefs, from the first settlements on? […] I am merely an honest American like yourself — and of the best descent — for, to tell the truth, Mr. Webster, though I don’t like to boast of it, my name is older in this country than yours.”

It’s a very interesting story, for it is very patriotic–jingoistic, even–but it doesn’t deny the unpleasant parts of American history, either.

I was reminded of this on hearing the recent controversy over Rick Santorum’s comment that Satan “has his sights on… a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age. [sic] There is no one else to go after other than the United States“.

First of all, as I said before, I’m not a religious person. And also, I have no intention of voting for Rick Santorum. I do not plan to vote for any Republican candidate, and even if I did, Santorum would be my third choice out of the current field of four. So, I am not defending him here.

However, it doesn’t quite make sense to me why this is such a big deal. I mean, it is a (in my opinion, regrettable) fact that this country is not going to elect a President who does not publicly profess to be a Christian anytime soon. We have had Presidents who were not very religious in the past, of course, but nobody knew it then, because they kept it to themselves. Personally, I think this is a sub-optimal state of affairs, but there’s no point in denying it.

So, given that, and given that the Bible talks about this “Satan” figure rather a lot, why should anybody be surprised to hear Santorum talking about him? I mean, if you believe in the Bible, as Christians are supposed to do, it seems like you’ll probably end up believing in Satan, too. Now, I know some Christians regard him as an actual guy with horns who is out there somewhere, and some think of him more as a symbolic character representing “Evil”. It seems to me that Santorum’s comments could be read either way, as well. Why is everyone so surprised? Did people actually not realize what Santorum believes before now?

So, with that said, I personally don’t care for what he says in this speech at all, and it has very little to do with the Satan bit, and almost everything to do with deeper, philosophical issues. Again, it’s interesting to contrast the ideas in The Devil and Daniel Webster with Santorum’s remarks. Here’s part of Daniel Webster’s big speech from Benét’s  story:

[Webster] talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days… He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.


[Satan] didn’t have much success in the early days. Our foundation was very strong, in fact, is very strong. But over time, that great, acidic quality of time corrodes even the strongest foundations. And Satan has done so by attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has [sic] so deeply rooted in the American tradition.

Like I said, both the story and Santorum’s speech are basically advancing nationalistic viewpoints, and yet Benét’s story has a much more optimistic–dare I say it, “progressive”–theme to it, whereas Santorum’s is a dark vision of decadence. I just think that’s kind of interesting. Of course, Benét wrote that in 1937–maybe he would be firmly in the Santorum camp if he were around today. Who knows?

Nationalist conservatives nowadays are very reluctant to entertain the notion of wrongdoing in the early days of the country. It’s curious–I think their narrative requires that everything be wonderful until the damned liberals showed up.

Ta-Nehisi Coates used to occasionally do posts titled “Talk To Me Like I’m Stupid” when he wanted to know about some subject. I am going to borrow his line to put some questions to you readers on the issue of Catholics and their opposition to contraception, which has been in the news lately.

I am not a religious person, and never have been. Most of what I know about religion is just the commonplace knowledge one can’t help picking up in our society. But I don’t know much detail, or history, of religious teachings. So, I don’t actually understand why so many Catholics, especially their leaders, are against contraception. I consulted my favorite source, Wikipedia, on the topic, and it reported that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is where it’s all codified.

Unfortunately, having read that article, it’s still not clear to me who originally wrote this Catechism and when. Apparently, it rests on the authority of the Pope–which surprised me, because I was expecting that something from the Bible itself would be the ultimate grounds for this. I was surprised, in fact, by how little the actual Bible got cited in all this.

Now, on to the second issue I don’t understand. If I recall correctly, this whole thing started because religious institutions don’t want to have to pay for contraceptives for their employees. Now, what I’ve never seen actually explained is: might it be the case  that some of  these employees are not followers of the same religion as their employer? If  so, then the question becomes: Is there a “nor tolerate those who do” clause anywhere in the Catholic teachings?

That’s important, because if it turns out there is, it could lead to some serious problems. But quite honestly, I realize that the answers to these questions are probably quite obvious, and that I am displaying an embarrassing ignorance of the subject.

Christopher Hitchens, Kim Jong-il and Tom Lehrer. What more could we want in a video? (Via Reason)

I gather from that video that the late, lamented Hitchens didn’t much like Christmas time. I suppose most atheists don’t.

It seems to me that most people either love Christmas time or hate it. Some people get so much into the celebration of it that their merriment can be a bit grating. I can see what Hitchens was talking about in that respect.

But I don’t really have a curmudgeonly dislike for Christmas, either. I am not a religious person, but I have not in my personal experience ever felt as if the religiousness of the holiday was being imposed upon me by a Believer. In my life, I have never found either the religious trappings or the exhortations to joy particularly offensive. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen, only that it has never happened to me.

“Exhortations to joy” reminds me of the line in the Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Grand Duke, when the title character says “the entire population will be commanded to enjoy themselves”. I think this is the sort of feeling Hitchens got from the holiday. And I understand entirely the instinctive desire to rebel against such a thing.

But I don’t. For me, Christmas is neither a particularly happy occasion nor a very unpleasant one. It’s not my favorite holiday. (That would be Halloween.) But I do get a certain pleasant, yet almost melancholy feeling from looking at Christmas lights and decorations. Not sad, not joyous, but rather contemplative.

As I write this, I realize that my Grand Duke reference above is quite appropriate, in that the feeling I get from listening to it and from watching Christmas festivities is strangely similar. I have no idea why this could possibly be, but there it is. Perhaps it is the vaguely Germanic atmosphere of both the music in the Grand Duke and many traditional Christmas customs that causes it. But who knows.

It leaves me in a peculiar state of ambivalence towards the holiday, when I find that most other people hold strong opinions for or against it.

P.S. You may have noticed that throughout this post I addressed “Christmas” and not just “the Holidays”, even thought there are other holidays which take place at this time of year. I do not wish to give offense by doing this, or to seem as if I am diminishing the importance of these other holidays. The issue is rather that the feelings I am alluding to are related to the imagery and rituals associated with Christmas in particular and not any other holiday. So, I am saying “Christmas” so as to be precise about what I mean.

(Note: This post builds a bit more upon this post by P M Prescott. [Which links back to me, as it happens.]) 

Last week something of debate appeared in the pages of USA Today. A religion professor named Stephen Prothero argued that the “Objectivist” philosophy of Ayn Rand is incompatible with belief in the Christian religion. He is, in my view, correct; because Rand herself repeatedly stressed that this was the case, and moreover that one had to either accept her philosophy entirely or not at all. One could not believe some of John Galt’s teachings and some of Jesus Christ’s teachings, in other words.

But some people disagreed with this view, and wrote in to USA today to say so. You can read their dissensions here. Their general point is that you can in fact believe in both these things.

Quite apart from Rand’s own statements regarding this, I really do not see it. As a friend of mine pointed out to me: consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Both of these appear to be endorsing the idea of equal rewards for unequal work–sharing rewards based upon needs. Add to this the well-known statements made by Christ on the subject of the poor and Christianity and Objectivism look quite irreconcilable, in my opinion.

Prothero goes on to make the following remarkable statement: “In fact, [Objectivism] is farther from Christianity than the Marxism that Rand so abhorred.” Indeed. Rand herself called Christianity “the best kindergarten of communism possible.” (This reminds me of the conservative philosopher Oswald Spengler’s claim that “Christian theology is the grandmother of Bolshevism.”)

Now, I am not one to make such bold assertions as those above. But I really, really do not understand how one can glean support for free market capitalism out of Christian teachings.