This is pretty amazing! Ayn Rand was introduced to me at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. She was a favorite of two of the teachers and one of the reasons I eventually called myself an Atheist. She was definitely on the free market side, which led me to the conclusion that you can be anything you want, even a Satanist, and still be accepted in the conservative Christian community, as long as your politics are right wing.
An Atheist with a view of free market capitalism will be accepted moreso than a professing Christian whose politics tends to be liberal.
Well, it turns out she did express a great admiration for child murderer William Edward Hickman who eventually became a model for her male heroes portrayed in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
This really doesn't come as a surprise to me. I read about her admiration for Hickman in The Journals of Ayn Rand, but never grasped he killed and dismembered a 12 year old girl whom he liked!
In her Playboy interview, she is asked about a comment made by one of the characters in Atlas Shrugged about who the most depraved person is. Playboy even mentioned the phrase 'child molester', but Ayn Rand did not accept that even a child molester was the most depraved individual.
Nope, the most depraved individual was 'a man without a purpose'.
Keeping that in mind, let's look at some excerpt from her journals courtesy of this article by Mark Ames:
Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer.
Hickman did kidnap and kill a twelve year old girl. Here is his description of how he did it:
"It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me," he continued, "and I just couldn't help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marian. Then before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly. I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. "When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. "I knew she was dead. "Well, after she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out."
Hickman embraced the philosophy of Nietzsche and used it for his defense. It was this use of philosophy to defend himself that captivated Rand, and was eventually adopted for her character's defense of acts that would be criminal in the real world:
According to an LA Times article in late December 1927, headlined "Behavioralism Gets The Blame," a pastor and others close to the Hickman case denounce the cheap trendy Nietzschean ideas that Hickman and others latch onto as a defense:
"Behavioristic philosophic teachings of eminent philosophers such as Nietzsche and Schopenhauer have built the foundation for William Edward Hickman's original rebellion against society," the article begins.
The fear that some felt at the time was that these philosophers' dangerous, yet nuanced ideas would fall into the hands of lesser minds, who would bastardize Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and poison the rest of us. Which aptly fits the description of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy developed out of her admiration for "Supermen" like Hickman.
"Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"
This echoes almost word for word Rand's later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: "He was born without the ability to consider others."
Ayn Rand wrote of Hickman:
Hickman represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should."
You know, I've got to confess, there was a time when I actually confessed to a twisted admiration of criminals. Those who flaunt society's rules. I often wondered why that was. Now, after reading this article, I can understand where that twisted admiration originated from.
Thing is, it's not just me. This sociopathic mentality glorified by Ayn Rand has influenced the highest levels of our government:
What's really unsettling is that even former Central Bank chief Alan Greenspan, whose relationship with Rand dated back to the 1950s, did some parasite-bashing of his own. In response to a 1958 New York Times book review slamming Atlas Shrugged, Greenspan, defending his mentor, published a letter to the editor that ends: "Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. Alan Greenspan."
As much as Ayn Rand detested human "parasites," there is one thing she strongly believed in: creating conditions that increase the productivity of her Supermen - the William Hickmans who rule her idealized America: "If [people] place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite."
And yet Republican faithful like GOP Congressman Paul Ryan read Ayn Rand and make declare, with pride, "Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism." Indeed. Except that Ayn Rand also despised democracy, as she declared: "Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom."
With heros like these, it would be amazing if I, or anyone influenced by Rand and the fundamentalists who admired her, didn't develop any personality disorders!
This article by Michael Prescott is also quite illuminating.
Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman.
I remember reading The Journals of Ayn Rand when it first came out. The editor just didn't see fit to tell us the girl Hickman was accused murdering was not only twelve years old, but dismembered. Prescott mentions this.
Ayn Rand seemed to have a sneering attitude toward young victims:
" '[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.' "
I could say that about Ted Bundy or Charles Manson! It's not what Charles Manson was, it's what Charles Manson suggested to me! Hmmm, what does Charles Manson suggest to you?
Okay, more excerpts:
The editor also provides the briefest and most detail-free synopsis of Hickman's crime possible: "He was accused of kidnapping and murdering a young girl. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in February of 1928; he was hanged on October 20, 1928."
As far as I can tell, this is the one and only reference to Hickman's victim to be found anywhere in the book. Ayn Rand never mentions the victim at all in any of her journal entries. The closest she comes is a sneering reference to another girl, "who wrote a letter to Hickman [in jail], asking him 'to get religion so that little girls everywhere would stop being afraid of him.'"
Notice that the editor does not bother to tell us that the victim in question was twelve years old, that Hickman tormented her parents with mocking ransom notes, that Hickman killed the girl even though the parents paid the ransom money, or that Hickman cut the girl in half and threw her upper body onto the street in front of her horrified father while scattering her other body parts around the city of Los Angeles.
Rand is quite critical of the jury:
Rand discusses the jury in the case: "Average, everyday, rather stupid looking citizens. Shabbily dressed, dried, worn looking little men. Fat, overdressed, very average, 'dignified' housewives. How can they decide the fate of that boy? Or anyone's fate?"
Their sin, evidently, is that they are "average," a word that appears twice in three sentences. They are "shabbily dressed" or, conversely, "overdressed" -- in matters of fashion, Rand seems hard to please. They are "dried" and "worn," or they are "fat." They are, in short, an assault on the delicate sensibilities of the author. Anything "average" appalls her. "Extremist beyond all extreme is what we need!" she exclaims in another entry.
Well, she sure got it! The only people who seem to admire her these days are the extremists.
Speaking of 'fat people', according to Barbara Brandon, Ayn Rand developed a weight problem of her own from eating too much Godiva chocolates.
I shouldn't criticize, of course, since that's the kinda thing that happens to 'ordinary' people.
All this is ultimately used to condemn Christianity:
But of course we know the real villain in the picture. Not Hickman, but Christianity! More specifically, "All the criminal, ludicrous, tragic nonsense of Christianity and its morals, virtues, and consequences. Is it any wonder that he didn't accept it?" So it is Christianity that is characterized as "criminal," just as it is average Americans who are excoriated for their "sins and crimes."
In case there is any doubt as to Rand's position vis-a-vis Christianity, a few pages later we find her fulminating against the depravity of:
"... the pastors who try to convert convicted murderers to their religion... The fact that right after his sentence Hickman was given a Bible by the jailer. I don't know of anything more loathsome, hypocritical, low, and diabolical than giving Bibles to men sentenced to death. It is one of those things that's comical in its stupidity and horrid because of this lugubrious, gruesome comedy."
Remember, though, I was introduced to her writings at a Christian school. One of Billy Graham's daughters expressed an admiration for Ayn Rand. She's not exactly an unwelcome presence in the libraries of many Christian homes and universities.
When today's 'Christian heros' are put on trial for child molestation, and as the recent case of Matt Baker demonstrates, murder, it shouldn't come as a surprise they have defenders who regard their trials as either 'a bump in the road' or as persecution for a higher ideal.
Ayn Rand might not have been a Christian, but, when it comes to defending that which is indefensible, she has probably influenced American Christianity probably more than most American Christians would care to admit.
Ah, the ironies of life!