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Why do people believe in Ayn Rand?

Guy Incognito

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I've always been perplexed by this question. What causes people to become adherents of Objectivism? I pose this question to all on these boards alike, both the Objectivists and everybody else can feel free to answer.

As a philosophy Objectivism seems facile; as a guiding principle for political beliefs it seems distasteful to the point of being inhuman. I, for one, do not see anything praiseworthy about selfishness, nor anything heroic about being born rich. What is it people find so convincing about Objectivism?
 

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I've always been perplexed by this question. What causes people to become adherents of Objectivism? I pose this question to all on these boards alike, both the Objectivists and everybody else can feel free to answer.

As a philosophy Objectivism seems facile; as a guiding principle for political beliefs it seems distasteful to the point of being inhuman. I, for one, do not see anything praiseworthy about selfishness, nor anything heroic about being born rich. What is it people find so convincing about Objectivism?
Well, Rand certainly makes easier reading than Nietzsche.

That selfishness is being offered as if virtue IS the hook as far as I'm concerned.
 

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That selfishness is being offered as if virtue IS the hook as far as I'm concerned.
Thanks for the response! I do see the similarities between Nietzsche and Rand. I wonder if you could elaborate a bit more. The "Selfishness as a virtue" is exactly what I don't understand. Selfishness is a vice. Objectivism is totally counterintuitive.
 

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I've always been perplexed by this question. What causes people to become adherents of Objectivism?
Different reasons. I like it because of its adherence to reason, self-sufficiency, and personal responsiblity. It kind of ties in with some of my "religious" beliefs that I am the only person who can travel my specific path, and I am the only one responsible for my decisions.

edit:
To answer your thread title, people don't "believe in" Ayn Rand. They like her philosophy. She's not a prophet or a god.;)
 
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Hoplite

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I couldnt say, I've never read anything by Rand. Ive had Atlas Shrugged suggested to me but I havent gotten through my mountain of other books I've wanted to get through.

Is there anything more brief that she's written? I hate skimming people's work, but I dont have the time to chew through Shrugged.
 

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Is there anything more brief that she's written? I hate skimming people's work, but I dont have the time to chew through Shrugged.
There are a couple, but they aren't as good imo. There's plenty of info "out there" on Objectivism, if it's the philosophy you want to learn about. Atlas Shrugged is extremely "wordy", and not what I would call "light" reading, and can get boring if you're not really interested.
 

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There are a couple, but they aren't as good imo. There's plenty of info "out there" on Objectivism, if it's the philosophy you want to learn about. Atlas Shrugged is extremely "wordy", and not what I would call "light" reading, and can get boring if you're not really interested.
I know a little about the Objectivist idea, but it seems as bass-ackwards as it's possible to be and still be written in a language recognizable by humans.
 

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Couple of reasons.

First, being ruled by reason sounds good but reason does need to be tempered with some form of humanity. Things like understanding, mercy, justice, humanity, and kindness are often against logic. Sharing when you dont have enough yourself doesnt make any logical sense. You cant expect people to act like machines.

Second, the idea that total pure laissez-faire Capitalism can help us bring about our self interests and our desires is so horrifically wrong as to be absolutely mind boggling. The idea that the selfishness of the few can benefit the many doesn't square. We've had as pure of Capitalism as has ever existed and it was an absolute nightmare for anyone not two steps above the poverty line. The engine of Capitalism is fueled by the workers, either by their willing sweat or their silent dead. Objectivism seems to miss that Capitalism will only bring about a utopia for a select few, not for everyone.

I should add that my looks into Objectivism have been very brief. If I have misinterpreted or misread anything, feel free to correct me.
 

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I should add that my looks into Objectivism have been very brief. If I have misinterpreted or misread anything, feel free to correct me.
I would love to discuss (no intention of correcting, because we all see things from our own perspectives):), and will tomorrow, but I've been up since 0400 and I'm really tired after a busy day.
 

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I would love to discuss (no intention of correcting, because we all see things from our own perspectives):), and will tomorrow, but I've been up since 0400 and I'm really tired after a busy day.
Sounds good
 

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First, being ruled by reason sounds good but reason does need to be tempered with some form of humanity. Things like understanding, mercy, justice, humanity, and kindness are often against logic.
Objectivism allows for both reason and humanity, but the humanity should be guided by reason.

Second, the idea that total pure laissez-faire Capitalism can help us bring about our self interests and our desires is so horrifically wrong as to be absolutely mind boggling.
We haven't had a system of pure Capitalism for around 100 years or so, and have seen persistent government intervention, which has hurt more than help, so we don't really know what a pure capitalistic system would look like until it's implemented.


Why is it horrifically wrong when we have not seen the results?

The idea that the selfishness of the few can benefit the many doesn't square.

The engine of Capitalism is fueled by the workers, either by their willing sweat or their silent dead. Objectivism seems to miss that Capitalism will only bring about a utopia for a select few, not for everyone.
The idea is that everyone should have their own self-interest in mind, and that a lack of self-interest is unnatural. Have you ever met a welfare recipient who did not hold his self-interest in higher regard than that of those who are paying for his existence?
 

Guy Incognito

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Objectivism allows for both reason and humanity, but the humanity should be guided by reason.
What is reasonable or self-interested about denying perfectly natural human emotions such as empathy and compassion? Objectivism is incoherent in denying the importance of family and community, when it is only rational to acknowledge the significance of others.

We haven't had a system of pure Capitalism for around 100 years or so, and have seen persistent government intervention, which has hurt more than help, so we don't really know what a pure capitalistic system would look like until it's implemented.


Why is it horrifically wrong when we have not seen the results?
What about all the "pure capitalism" from 100 years ago that you were just talking about? But I find it hard to believe that "true capitalism" that the Objectivists envision has ever existed, or can exist. It is nothing but a fantasyland that cannot be sustained. Any society without government will soon enough have that vacuum filled by government of some sort. Even if a real "free market" were to be set up, it is still subject to the second law of thermodynamics, and will eventually wind down.
The idea is that everyone should have their own self-interest in mind, and that a lack of self-interest is unnatural.
This is just plain false. It is this single minded egoism that is unnatural. Human beings are social animals, it is perfectly natural and normal for us to care for others, and for us to value that community. I'm sure that there is some complex contortion of the word "natural" that is behind this odd statement, but frankly I'm not interested in doing mental gymnastic to justify sheer egoism as "natural." Why not just come right out and be a nihilist?

Have you ever met a welfare recipient who did not hold his self-interest in higher regard than that of those who are paying for his existence?
This is nonsense, hardly worth addressing, but I'll answer it anyway. I've met plenty welfare recipients who are much more concerned with the well being of their children and other family members than their own well being. Not everybody is a secretly self concerned, unless you want to water down the meaning of selfishness to the point that it loses its original meaning. Everybody, even the most altruistic person like a Mother Teresa or Gandhi, are motivated by selfish interests if you think about it, but their "selfishness" is in seeking an inner peace through helping others, not really true selfishness at all.
 

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What is reasonable or self-interested about denying perfectly natural human emotions such as empathy and compassion? Objectivism is incoherent in denying the importance of family and community, when it is only rational to acknowledge the significance of others.
It doesn't deny the importance of family and community. It stresses a need for self-worth and productiveness so that one may participate in a meaningful and fulfilling manner.

But I find it hard to believe that "true capitalism" that the Objectivists envision has ever existed, or can exist. It is nothing but a fantasyland that cannot be sustained.
We won't know because it doesn't exist, and most likely won't any time in the near future. It is our current manner of living that cannot be sustained.

Human beings are social animals, it is perfectly natural and normal for us to care for others, and for us to value that community. I'm sure that there is some complex contortion of the word "natural" that is behind this odd statement, but frankly I'm not interested in doing mental gymnastic to justify sheer egoism as "natural."
Of course it's perfectly natural for us to care for others, but in order to care, one needs to be mentally, emotionally, and financially capable of caring for others.

This is nonsense,
Why is it nonsense? The natural order of importance in most peoples' list of priorities is self/family, community, state, nation, world. If you don't exist, you cannot provide care for anyone. Would I give my life for my family or someone I loved personally? Yes. Would I give my life for someone I don't know? Maybe.
 
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rivrrat

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I've always been perplexed by this question. What causes people to become adherents of Objectivism? I pose this question to all on these boards alike, both the Objectivists and everybody else can feel free to answer.

As a philosophy Objectivism seems facile; as a guiding principle for political beliefs it seems distasteful to the point of being inhuman. I, for one, do not see anything praiseworthy about selfishness, nor anything heroic about being born rich. What is it people find so convincing about Objectivism?
Selfishness is inherent in everything we do and say. Everything. Nobody does anything without some benefit to themselves. Even if that benefit is just "feeling good". It's a benefit. Yes, people care for and help others. But why? Because we WANT to. Because it makes US feel good.

Pretend to be altruistic all you want, but there's no such thing. There are varying degrees of selfishness, of course. But selfishness is always there. Simple fact.
 

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It doesn't deny the importance of family and community. It stresses a need for self-worth and productiveness so that one may participate in a meaningful and fulfilling manner.
That's putting a new gloss on Ayn Rand if ever I heard one. Things like taxes and wealth redistribution only serve to help people "participate in a meaningful and fulfilling manner." If Objectivists are so interested in community, they sure don't act like it.

We won't know because it doesn't exist, and most likely won't any time in the near future. It is our current manner of living that cannot be sustained.
What we do know is that all systems wind down. Nothing can last forever, and it is naive to think that an unregulated market would somehow not be subject to the laws of physics. This is one of my major problems with objectivism and libertarianism in general, is this assumption that the free market is some sort of transcendent principle. It is just a description of how economies behave, and economies are made up of people. People are more important than pennies.


Of course it's perfectly natural for us to care for others, but in order to care, one needs to be mentally, emotionally, and financially capable of caring for others.
I'd like to see your evidence for the assertion that "in order to care, one needs to be... financially capable of caring for others." But aside from that, how exactly does this support objectivism? Egalitarian and communitarian philosophies do not oppose people being mentally, emotionally and financially able to care for others, indeed they encourage it, particularly with regard to ensuring the financial capability of every person to survive. Objectivists seem to be more concerned with allowing people the "freedom to starve" than with ensuring their ability to survive and care for their families. In short, the above sentence functions more as an argument against Objectivism than in favor of it.

Why is it nonsense? The natural order of importance in most peoples' list of priorities is self/family, community, state, nation, world. If you don't exist, you cannot provide care for anyone. Would I give my life for my family or someone I loved personally? Yes. Would I give my life for someone I don't know? Maybe.
It is nonsense because it needlessly contorts the idea of selfishness and altruism, which I will address below.


Pretend to be altruistic all you want, but there's no such thing. There are varying degrees of selfishness, of course. But selfishness is always there. Simple fact.
A simple fact, indeed, rivrrat. One might even call it simplistic.

What you dismiss as "varying degrees of selfishness" is the very difference between selfishness and selflessness, the difference between morally reprehensible and morally praiseworthy... to be blunt, those "degrees" are the difference between evil and good.

I've read Heinlein too, he's a great SF writer, but he was also a crotchety and selfish old man, and his brute cynicism is illustrated in his idea that a saint is just as "selfish" as someone who dedicates his life to pursuit of material wealth. This is sheer sophistry. When a saint, like Mother Teresa, dedicates his or her life to the assisting others, the saint is doing something good, that is beneficial to others, and the self-interested good feeling one gets from altruism does not detract from the praiseworthiness of the action. Perhaps if you remove that good feeling, the saint may not pursue the good ends, but this does not make the pursuit of goodness "selfish," merely self-interested, and in a way that does not come at the expense of others. Contrast this with somebody like Gordon Gecko, whose ruthless pursuit of material gain is "self-interested" indeed, but is also what we would call "selfish" because the good feeling he gets from his pursuit is at the expense of others, he sacrifices the needs of others to achieve this good feeling. This sort of self interested behavior is objectively different from the selfless (if self-interested) actions of the saint.
 
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What is reasonable or self-interested about denying perfectly natural human emotions such as empathy and compassion? Objectivism is incoherent in denying the importance of family and community, when it is only rational to acknowledge the significance of others.



What about all the "pure capitalism" from 100 years ago that you were just talking about? But I find it hard to believe that "true capitalism" that the Objectivists envision has ever existed, or can exist. It is nothing but a fantasyland that cannot be sustained. Any society without government will soon enough have that vacuum filled by government of some sort. Even if a real "free market" were to be set up, it is still subject to the second law of thermodynamics, and will eventually wind down.


This is just plain false. It is this single minded egoism that is unnatural. Human beings are social animals, it is perfectly natural and normal for us to care for others, and for us to value that community. I'm sure that there is some complex contortion of the word "natural" that is behind this odd statement, but frankly I'm not interested in doing mental gymnastic to justify sheer egoism as "natural." Why not just come right out and be a nihilist?



This is nonsense, hardly worth addressing, but I'll answer it anyway. I've met plenty welfare recipients who are much more concerned with the well being of their children and other family members than their own well being. Not everybody is a secretly self concerned, unless you want to water down the meaning of selfishness to the point that it loses its original meaning. Everybody, even the most altruistic person like a Mother Teresa or Gandhi, are motivated by selfish interests if you think about it, but their "selfishness" is in seeking an inner peace through helping others, not really true selfishness at all.
Excellent post. I know you were replying in pieces to her post, but this functions as a synopsis, for me, of what I believe is wrong with Objectivism, Rand and the Libertarian philosophy as it would manifest in our society. It denies our humane and social instincts in favor self-interest and is really used as a justification for acting selfish and permitting lawless behavior until it damages someone. My first preference is not to be poisoned before the government takes action.

I especially appreciate the portion with regard to Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

Of course it's perfectly natural for us to care for others, but in order to care, one needs to be mentally, emotionally, and financially capable of caring for others.



Why is it nonsense? The natural order of importance in most peoples' list of priorities is self/family, community, state, nation, world. If you don't exist, you cannot provide care for anyone. Would I give my life for my family or someone I loved personally? Yes. Would I give my life for someone I don't know? Maybe.
Personally, I don't mind doing without something now in order to help someone in dire need. Do Libertarians? Or must their needs be fully met before giving?
 

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What you dismiss as "varying degrees of selfishness" is the very difference between selfishness and selflessness, the difference between morally reprehensible and morally praiseworthy... the be blunt, those "degrees" are the difference between evil and good.
Good and evil are human constructs, not absolutes. Objectivism doesn't subscribe to any theistic ideology. You believe it's evil to be self-preserving. I believe it is necessary for the good of oneself and for all those whom one affects the lives of.

Perhaps if you remove that good feeling, the saint may not pursue the good ends, but this does not make the pursuit of goodness "selfish," merely self-interested, and in a way that does not come at the expense of others.
If I make choices and perform actions that make me successful, how does that come at the expense of others?
 

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A simple fact, indeed, rivrrat. One might even call it simplistic.

What you dismiss as "varying degrees of selfishness" is the very difference between selfishness and selflessness, the difference between morally reprehensible and morally praiseworthy... to be blunt, those "degrees" are the difference between evil and good.
There's no such thing as selflessness.

I've read Heinlein too, he's a great SF writer, but he was also a crotchety and selfish old man, and his brute cynicism is illustrated in his idea that a saint is just as "selfish" as someone who dedicates his life to pursuit of material wealth. This is sheer sophistry. When a saint, like Mother Teresa, dedicates his or her life to the assisting others, the saint is doing something good, that is beneficial to others, and the self-interested good feeling one gets from altruism does not detract from the praiseworthiness of the action. Perhaps if you remove that good feeling, the saint may not pursue the good ends, but this does not make the pursuit of goodness "selfish," merely self-interested, and in a way that does not come at the expense of others. Contrast this with somebody like Gordon Gecko, whose ruthless pursuit of material gain is "self-interested" indeed, but is also what we would call "selfish" because the good feeling he gets from his pursuit is at the expense of others, he sacrifices the needs of others to achieve this good feeling. This sort of self interested behavior is objectively different from the selfless (if self-interested) actions of the saint.
All a matter of perspective. Personally, I think Mother Teresa was a ****ing bitch and anything BUT a saint. And certainly NOT altruistic. (because altruism doesn't exist, for one thing)
 
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Objectivism allows for both reason and humanity, but the humanity should be guided by reason.
But where should reason prevail over humanity and vice versa? What or who draws that line?

We haven't had a system of pure Capitalism for around 100 years or so, and have seen persistent government intervention, which has hurt more than help, so we don't really know what a pure capitalistic system would look like until it's implemented.


Why is it horrifically wrong when we have not seen the results?
We did see the results. Turn of the century Industrial Revolution was as close as we've ever had and that was pretty damn close. It was a time of basically unrestricted economic growth; business had essentially free reign to do as it pleased with basically no intervention. It was a time of rampant abuse of workers, no consumer protections, no safety requirements, and starvation wages.

The idea is that everyone should have their own self-interest in mind, and that a lack of self-interest is unnatural.
I dont contend that self-interest is wrong, I contend that an economic system based on the idea that self-interest can work to provide for people's needs without some form of rules and guidelines is an inherently terrible idea.

Have you ever met a welfare recipient who did not hold his self-interest in higher regard than that of those who are paying for his existence?
I dont think its entirely fair to expect people in that situation to prostrate themselves in thanks. I'm on the edge of needing that kind of help right now and when you're staring mounting debt in the face with the possibility of not having enough money for dinner or a tank of gas on top of not having a job in an environment where there are bad prospects for jobs....your head goes into a sort of survival mode. Your own sense of self-interest sometimes overshadows other things out of desperation.
 

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But where should reason prevail over humanity and vice versa? What or who draws that line?
One shouldn't necessarily prevail over the other, and with a productive society of people who have the character to maintain a free and uncorrupt system, there shouldn't be a case where that choice was even necessary. I realize it's highly idealistic and requires a minimum level of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior on the part of the population. I don't expect it anytime in the near future.

I dont contend that self-interest is wrong, I contend that an economic system based on the idea that self-interest can work to provide for people's needs without some form of rules and guidelines is an inherently terrible idea.
It's only a terrible idea because we allow our society to function in such a dysfunctional manner.

I dont think its entirely fair to expect people in that situation to prostrate themselves in thanks. I'm on the edge of needing that kind of help right now and when you're staring mounting debt in the face with the possibility of not having enough money for dinner or a tank of gas on top of not having a job in an environment where there are bad prospects for jobs....your head goes into a sort of survival mode. Your own sense of self-interest sometimes overshadows other things out of desperation.
I don't expect nor want thanks.
Yes, self-interest overshadows other things, whether out of desperation, necessity, or plain old human nature, which is merely an extension of nature itself.


Courtesy of the Atlassociety page (and copyrighted):

To elaborate on the first point: Rand believes that the elements of human self-interest are objective. All human beings have objective biological and psychological needs, and one's actual interests are identified by reference to these needs. Mere whim-fulfillment is therefore not constitutive of human well-being because one's whims might be at odds with one's actual needs. Moreover, the character traits of the "selfish" brute are not compatible with any human being's actual, rational interests. Humans live in a social world; in order to maximize the value of their interactions with others, they should cultivate a firm commitment to the virtues of rationality, justice, productiveness, and benevolence. A commitment to these virtues naturally precludes such brutish behavior. (For the Objectivist view of benevolence and its component virtues—civility, sensitivity, and generosity—see David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence).
 

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Good and evil are human constructs, not absolutes. Objectivism doesn't subscribe to any theistic ideology. You believe it's evil to be self-preserving. I believe it is necessary for the good of oneself and for all those whom one affects the lives of.

It is not inherently evil to be self-preserving. It is inherently evil to be self preserving at the expense of the innocent. Morals may be a human construct, if you consider the evolution of human society a "construct," but they are also absolute. Abhorrence of "selfish" behavior (Gordon Gecko selfishness, I mean) is literally hard wired into our brains, and you don't have to subscribe to a theistic ideology to recognize that.

If I make choices and perform actions that make me successful, how does that come at the expense of others?
Think about Heinlein's principle of TANSTAAFL, financial success necessarily comes by the deprivation of another. What is going on here, and in the quotation above, is an equivocation of the word selfishness. I still do not grant that the so-called selfishness of a saint is morally (or semantically) identical to the selfishness of Gordon Gecko.
 

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There's no such thing as selflessness.

All a matter of perspective. Personally, I think Mother Teresa was a ****ing bitch and anything BUT a saint. And certainly NOT altruistic. (because altruism doesn't exist, for one thing)
You still have not shown how a good feeling from charity serves to negate altruism in principle. If you are interested in attempting to prove that point (and frankly the burden of proof is on you, because the claim that altruism doesn't exist is prima facie absurd), you might begin by addressing some of my arguments repudiating the idea that Mother Teresa and Gordon Gecko are both "selfish" in the same way. What you are doing here, basically, is committing the fallacy of equivocation by conflating these two distinct forms of "self-interested" behavior. You can continue to assert over and over again that altruism doesn't exist, and it won't make it true. I'm sorry to hear that you feel that way about Mother Teresa, but I imagine Ayn Rand would be proud of you.
 

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You still have not shown how a good feeling from charity serves to negate altruism in principle.
The good feeling doing something gives you is what makes the act selfish instead of selfless. You're getting something out of it, so it's not selfless, it's not altruistic.

If you are interested in attempting to prove that point (and frankly the burden of proof is on you, because the claim that altruism doesn't exist is prima facie absurd), you might begin by addressing some of my arguments repudiating the idea that Mother Teresa and Gordon Gecko are both "selfish" in the same way.
Gordon Gecko?

Mother Teresa was a cruel, self-righteous bitch.

What you are doing here, basically, is committing the fallacy of equivocation by conflating these two distinct forms of "self-interested" behavior. You can continue to assert over and over again that altruism doesn't exist, and it won't make it true.
My asserting something does not make it true. The fact that it is true is what makes it true. ;)

You show me what you think is altruism and I'll show you how it's NOT. True altruism means the person doesn't get anything out of it. The person performing said act ALWAYS get something out of it. That includes 'feeling good'. That IS something positive gotten from the act. Therefore, altruism cannot exist. It's a nice little fairy tale, like utopia.

I'm sorry to hear that you feel that way about Mother Teresa, but I imagine Ayn Rand would be proud of you.
I've never read Ayn Rand, so I wouldn't know, nor would I care if she were "proud of me".
 

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I'm sorry to hear that you feel that way about Mother Teresa, but I imagine Ayn Rand would be proud of you.
Whatever you think you know about Mother Theresa is probably false, Please look up Christopher Hitchens' The Missionary Position.
 
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