Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and grew up there and on the Crimean Peninsula in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. She died in New York City of heart failure.
Rand was born Jewish, though she declared herself an atheist at a relatively young age.
Religion was something Rand officially addressed in her philosophy of Objectivism. To Rand, religious faith was not only contrary to reason–something she elevated to near all-importance–but it was a sign of a weak-minded and weak-willed person. She said:
Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.
Furthermore, religion, (particularly Christianity) with its glorification of altruism and the unconditional love of all mankind, was in stark contrast to the Objectivist idea of "the virtue of selfishness." Rand believed that the most enlightened people were self-serving, upwardly mobile, inherently selfish and not ashamed of it. In fact, what Rand considered "moral" was the person who exercised their freedom to be and do whatever made them happy, regardless of religious moral frameworks. A good person, according to Rand, is a strong, ambitious, selfish person. She once said:
Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves–or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.
A Political foundation for madness
Rand is often considered a libertarian and is heralded as somewhat of a prophet of the libertarian movement. The reason for this is her love of unfettered capitalism and her promotion of small government–almost non-existent government. For Rand, capitalism without constraints was the only socio-economic system that allowed for powerful and ambitious people to thrive and achieve what they deserved–wealth and power. She viewed governments as roadblocks to capitalism. She said:
Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others.
But Rand didn't consider herself a libertarian and associated the libertarian movement with anarchism, which she despised and categorized with liberals and socialism. She said:
All kinds of people today call themselves 'libertarians,' especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies, except that they're anarchists instead of collectivists. But of course, anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet they want to combine capitalism and anarchism. That is worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It's a mockery of philosophy and ideology.
I still say Rand was basically a libertarian. She felt that government shouldn't interfere in economics or how people live their lives. Isn't that basically libertarianism? She thought gay people were "immoral" and "disgusting," but she didn't want any laws to hinder their lifestyle. Plus, she felt abortion should be an individual mandate.
Perhaps her most controversial statement was regarding Native Americans, who she said had no claim to American land, were weak savages, and deserved to be completely overrun by European settlers.
Rand has become quite popular among the extreme right in American politics. They seem particularly attracted to her economic positions and her distrust of the government, but in their ignorance, glorify her and Objectivism in its entirety. Hypocritically, the far right also espouses their fundamentalist Christian views as the only worthwhile moral framework, causing many to beg the question: Can a person follow both Ayn Rand and Jesus?