A Reason for Faith: 6 Fatal Misconceptions

5) Being Selfish Precludes Charity, Kindness, and Love

Christians tend toward disgust when first encountering Ayn Rand’s description of selfishness as virtue, perceiving concern with one’s own values as disregard for everyone else. Commentator Tom Hoefling responds typically:

According to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the firefighters who went up the stairs of the World Trade Center on 9-11-2001 were fools. The men who rushed the cockpit on Flight 93 to stop the plane from being crashed into the Capitol or the White House were idiots. The soldier who gives his life for his buddies or for his country is to be scorned for his ignorance of Ayn Rand's immoral "morality."

An objectivist friend of mine, a fellow Tea Party traveler, recently bid farewell to her only son as he shipped out to become a Marine. She does not think her son a fool.

Rational egoism does not produce a short-sighted self-centeredness which ignores all context. On the contrary, true selfishness recognizes the value of relationships and takes joy in rational giving. The sentiment that giving is better than receiving recognizes the selfish gain which occurs through gifting. Why else would we watch our loved ones open presents on Christmas morning? If it was just for them and did nothing for us, what would be the point?

Firefighters do not run into burning buildings in order to die. They run into burning buildings in order to more fully live. Soldiers do not enlist to die for their country. They enlist to live free. No one throws their body on top of a live grenade because they seek to die for their friends. They do it to protect those whom they value.

The use of the word “sacrifice” in our language distorts the true motivation behind service. It is not a sacrifice for a parent to divert time from other interests to invest in raising their child. It is not a sacrifice for a police officer to run toward gunfire in an effort to restore the peace. It is not a sacrifice for a husband to spend his life savings on a desperate effort to cure his sick wife. These actions, commonly thought of as sacrifices, are actually winning value trades. Raising your child is worth more than indulging a hobby. A chance at curing your spouse is worth more than money. Neutralizing a threat to the public is worth risking grave injury or death, because life can only be truly lived if free from brute tyranny.