Flannery O'Connor Was No Fan of Ayn Rand

In a letter dated May 31, 1960, Flannery O’Connor penned a letter to the playwright Maryat Lee that was obviously part of an ongoing conversation they were enjoying. O'Connor was clearly not a fan of Rand.

She wrote:

I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.


I, however, find myself very grateful to Ayn Rand in a sense. Oddly enough, it was her work which helped to lead me back to Catholicism. I was working as a security guard while going to college. In truth, I was securing nothing except my homework and reading everything I could get my hands on. I read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and was intrigued and then plowed right ahead into Atlas Shrugged. I found it quite moving. Her sense of the corrupting power of socialism seemed accurate and scary to me.

But then I dove deeper. read Rand's essays and interviews and was puzzled by the frothing hatred she levelled at Christianity.

Here's some examples:

“[Faith] is a sign of a psychological weakness . . . I regard it as evil to place your emotions, your desire, above the evidence of what your mind knows. That’s what you’re doing with the idea of God.”
“If you take Jesus Christ as the example of the ideal human being, and that is properly the view of Christians, what do you do with your ideal human being? You put him on the cross. You torture him and murder him for the sake of those who are less virtuous . . . I think that is a monstrous idea.”

I must admit that at that time in my life her hatred of Christianity gave me a newfound interest in my faith. Why she was so hateful towards Christianity?

I came to see that while I think Ayn Rand correctly diagnosed the problem with BIG GOVERNMENT, her remedy was poisonous to the soul.

I came to see how mutually exclusive her thinking was with Christianity.

Rand also scorned National Review and this led me to a review of her book by Whittaker Chambers which appeared in National Review. I read it and felt like I was listening to an old friend. Chambers, of course, was a communist spy turned Christian. I then read Chambers book Witness and came away convinced that Christianity is the only thing that can stand against godless brutal reason; a belief which has long informed my life and writing.

So in the end, I'm quite thankful to Ayn Rand. I think Flannery O'Connor is right about her work. But I'm still thankful to her.

HT Open Culture