At the CATO Institute, author Mark David Henderson says “a conversation between Ayn Rand and Christianity may have many outcomes, but at least one of them should be understanding one another.” The barriers that exist between adherents of each world view cannot be broken down unless we first engage, and second, understand.
Misconceptions abound… I would know
Growing up in the worlds of my two fathers, I have seen misunderstanding and misrepresentation from both sides. Christians often mis-characterize Ayn Rand as against benevolence, immoral, uncritically pro-corporation, anti-government, and a relativist. Objectivists wrongly believe that Christians are duty-bound, anti-reason, and without vital concern for the material world, ascribing to a religious version of socialism. Sometimes the characterizations contain an element of truth, but what each side vilifies is the cartoon version of the world view. Instead, why not seek first to understand?
How can we understand each other?
To understand any world view, I suggest that a seeker ask four questions:
- What is the nature of reality? the nature of the Universe?
- What is a human being’s highest purpose?
- What is wrong with the world?
- How do you fix it?
Asking and answering these questions–from the perspective of any world view–will begin the process on some solid ground. Not the flimsy, faulty sand that characterizes the misunderstandings that I continue to encounter in my conversations with both Christians and Objectivists, followers of Ayn Rand.
From The Soul of Atlas:
The Soul of Atlas illustrates a particular example of “coming to understand.” My need to reconcile my fathers and their ideals has driven me to actually embody this process. The inclination to reconcile, it turns out, was the most intentional way of figuring out what was personally important to me and to people whose world views most directly affected me. Furthermore, the process has revealed to me the imperative for empathy and understanding between any different views—maybe principally those most disparate.
Not only has the process revealed to me the imperative for empathy and understanding between variant views, but my experience has revealed important aspects of method for anyone seeking to evaluate perspectives. The four questions discussed in the second chapter ground that method: “What is the nature of Reality?” “What is a person’s highest pursuit?” “What is wrong with the world?” and, “How do you fix it?” When I have engaged with an ideology long enough to hear the reasoning behind the answer to these questions, I have begun to understand. Furthermore, I strive to articulate another’s view as clearly—if not more so—than it has been articulated to me. Anyone who succeeds in doing that gains credibility.
I am very interested in your thoughts on this approach. And I’m eager to hear what misconceptions you think are out there that should be cleared up. Please share.