Ayn Rand Objectivism and the Cult of Personality

y^ ccording to psychoanalysts, projection is the process of attributing one's own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or objects— the guilt-laden adulterer accuses his spouse of adultery, the homo-phobe actually harbors latent homosexual tendencies. A subtle form of projection is at work when fundamentalists make the accusation that secular humanism and evolution are "religions" or announce that skeptics are themselves a cult and that reason and science have cultic properties, a claim that sounds absurd given that a cult is by definition 180 degrees out of phase with reason. And while it should be obvious to the reader by now that I am strongly pro-science and pro-reason, a recent historical phenomenon has convinced me that the seductiveness of facts, theory, evidence, and logic may mask some flaws in the system. The phenomenon provides a lesson about what happens when a truth becomes more important than the search for truth, when the final results of inquiry become more important than the process of inquiry, when reason leads to so absolute a certainty about one's beliefs that anyone who is not for them is anathematized as against them, and when supposedly intellectual inquiry becomes the basis of a personality cult.

The story begins in the United States in 1943 when an obscure Russian immigrant published her first successful novel after two consecutive failures. It was not an instant success. In fact, the reviews were harsh

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