Ayn Rand is the hero of many in the tea party movement, and ironically so. An avowed atheist, she would have found the fundamentalist Christian strain to the modern tea party repugnant, to say the least. But she's dead now. And once someone is dead, that person can no longer object if somebody else comes along and makes her the unwitting symbol of something very far afield from what she actually believed.
Look at what they did to Jesus, who is used these days to justify everything from extreme pacifism on the one hand to armed invasions on the other.
On fiscal matters, however, the tea party's ideals jibe quite nicely with Rand's philosophy. Her appeal to the tea party crowd lies, to some degree, in the fact that she was an avowed opponent of communism and everything remotely resembling it. Rand was, in fact, the consummate laissez-faire capitalist, and she had very personal reasons for adopting this philosophy. Born in Russia in 1905, she lived through the Russian Revolution and watched as the Bolsheviks confiscated her father's pharmacy and forced her family to flee. She came to the United States at the age of 20 with the intent of becoming a screenwriter and set out for Hollywood. There, she became involved in anti-communist causes and actually testified as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee - a panel used to conduct a witch hunt in an attempt to "expose" (often falsely) communist sympathizers. Instead of screenwriting, however, Rand became a novelist, turning out her most famous works The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
The hero of the latter work is a philosopher and inventive genius named John Galt. He provides a counterpoint to the society depicted in the novel - one that has settled for mediocrity in an attempt to preserve equality for all. Sounds a lot like communism. Galt is anything but mediocre. Like Atlas, he holds the world on his shoulders, but he ultimately "shrugs" by refusing to offer his assistance to the dull and vacuous society beneath him.
Galt has become a symbol for the tea party crowd, who have taken to carrying signs bearing the opening phrase of Rand's novel - "Who is John Galt?" - at their rallies.
The association is a natural one. Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, delineated in Atlas Shrugged and expanded upon in subsequent works, foreshadowed the modern capitalist's aversion to big government. She once proclaimed that "government 'help' to business is just as disastrous as government persecution" and that "the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off. " Such sentiments are certainly in harmony with the libertarian strain of tea party philosophy. They're also in line with the philosophy of Anton Szandor LaVey, founder and first high priest of the Church of Satan.
LaVey once declared: "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" and that his version of Satanism was "just Ayn Rand's philosophy with ceremony and ritual added."
And trappings galore. LaVey built a colorful history of his own that was part fact, part creative fiction, and he used it to great effect in building a personal following. To start with, he claimed to have been indoctrinated into certain dark mysteries regarding vampires and werewolves by his grandmother, whom he claimed was a Transylvanian Gypsy grandmother. In reality, however, LaVey's grandmother was Ukrainian, and he had no Gypsy blood in his background.
LaVey claimed to have obtained further occult knowledge during a trip to Germany with his uncle - a trip that in fact never occurred. He also said he worked as lion-tamer and calliope player at the Clyde Beatty Circus after running away from home as a teenager. The circus' records, however, contain no reference to anyone named LaVey ever having worked there in either capacity.
It seems only natural that LaVey, a consummate self-promoter with an outsized ego, should have patterned his philosophy after that of Rand, who once declared herself "the most creative thinker alive." As a novelist, Rand had made herself a master of mixing philosophy with fiction. LaVey just took that process to a whole new level by adding ritual elements, the frosting on the cake, as it were.
Far from seeking to obscure the relationship between Rand's ideas and LaVey's, the modern Church of Satan admits it right up front on its website: "Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, is an acknowledged source for some of the Satanic philosophy as outlined in The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey."
Which leads us to the startling conclusion: The same person who inspired the fiscal principles that are held so dear by the fundamentalist-infused tea party also served as patron saint to the Church of Satan. In light of this, one must wonder: How on earth do so many Christians feel so at home within the tea party's ranks? And if, in fact, they do feel at home there, is it simply because they're ignorant or - perhaps more troubling - because their brand of Christianity actually have more in common with modern Satanism than it does with the spiritual movement purportedly founded by Jesus of Nazareth?
Doubtless they won't find either answer particularly palatable. But at least they can take some comfort in the fact that the Church of Satan doesn't actually worship Satan. Satanism, the group's website states point-blank, is not devil worship. And LaVey himself stated that Satan was only a convenient symbol to signify "our love of the worldly and our rejection of the pallid, ineffectual image of Christ on the cross."
In fact, Satanists hold that deities and demigods are human projections, created "because many of our species cannot accept or control their personal egos." Worshiping a god, the group argues, is tantamount to worshiping that god's creators. And who are the creators of the Satanic philosophy? Anton LaVey and, according to LaVey himself, Rand - the godmother of fiscal conservatism who in fact didn't believe in a god at all. Just like LaVey.
Everything is beginning to come together here. To illustrate, let's take a look at the "Nine Satanic Statements" from LaVey's Satanic Bible (many of which appear to be based directly on Rand's philosophy) and see how they match up with tea party ideology - and with the teachings of Jesus:
This sums it all up nicely. If one accepts that the tea party is, in fact, operating on principles that have more to do with LaVey's Church of Satan than with Jesus' spiritual teachings, the alliance between social and fiscal reactionaries that is the tea party becomes more than ironic. It's downright comical.
There's one more way that Rand's philosophy fits perfectly with the attitude of the modern tea party. Rand, like the tea partiers, saw compromise as weakness. To her, there was no middle ground: "There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil." Ironically, that's the same black-and-white thinking that drives the supposedly ultra-religious fundamentalist crowd. But should that really surprise us? Satan, it has been said, does his worst by masquerading as an angel of light.
That's exactly what today's fundamentalists are doing.