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The Soul of Atlas: Ayn Rand, Christianity, a Quest for Common Ground Paperback – February 27, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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About the Author

Mark David Henderson studied Victorian poetry and neuroscience at Brown University and earned an MBA from Columbia Graduate School of Business. He writes in a conversational style, but wields an intense passion for truth and understanding, especially where the practical ideas that shape our lives are at stake. His unique perspective stems from the Atheist and Christian influences of his two fathers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Reason Publishing; 1 edition (February 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0988329506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0988329508
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lewis Chamberlain on September 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A wonderful read, even for Objectivists. The author provides an interesting personal dialogue about two philosophies which remain fundamentally opposed. I heard about the book on Fox and assumed it was another attempt to rationalize faith by linking Christianity to Rand. I was mistaken. The personal appeal of the book pulled me in very quickly. For me it is a story about a man's journey to find happiness. His vantage point is unique... in many ways opposite the experience many go through after growing up in religion then discovering philosophical independence. I admire the standards of his faith that result, and found myself wondering how religion would be different if children weren't so often indoctrinated without a choice.

There were times when I rolled my eyes at the author's philosophical compromises. I was often frustrated with his interpretation of Rand's philosophy and the limits of his conclusions about Objectivism. The fact that he doesn't address her axioms head-on caused me to question the book's intention at times. Regardless, I think the message is valiant and his personal quest can be well received by the most Randian of fans. I certainly walked away with a more compassionate appreciation of the dance between reason and faith, and a desire to hear (understand) more.

I'm adding the author to my list of interesting people I'd love to have lunch with.
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Format: Paperback
"The Soul of Atlas" is a highly accessible exploration of two philosophies that are ostensibly at odds with each other: Christianity and Objectivism. What makes the book so compelling is Henderson's use of his personal narrative to explore what otherwise might be a highly cerebral subject matter. Few could write a book that grapples with deep philosophical issues and at the same time evoke deep emotion. But Henderson's vulnerable display of his own life experience animates the story and invites the reader in.

Mark considers these philosophies using the voices of his father ("Dad") and stepfather ("John") - each articulating the best understanding of their respective philosophies/worldviews. Mark becomes the impartial arbiter of his fathers' perspectives and invites the reader to join him in the arbitration as he navigates the arguments and the life-decisions that emanate from them. This approach is more compelling than an exposition of each idea on its own terms, because it feels like more of a conversation. But in many ways it is better than a conversation, because it allows each person to fully establish their arguments, without the messiness that usually comes with actual argument.

Additionally, the two-voices approach brings the differences in philosophy to life and demonstrates how those differences flow into key areas of life (e.g., money, sex, power). Henderson does not merely examine differences though; he defines the common space between the philosophies. His conclusions are surprising, thought provoking and provocative.

Henderson's deep respect for his fathers translates to a thoughtful and nuanced handling of the philosophies that they embody. Consequently, this is a book that both objectivists and Christians will find appealing. It will allow each to better understand his own worldview and to better appreciate the perspective of those who don't share it.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed The Soul of Atlas. I like the way the author moved away from a one man's rather cult-like Randian premises and saw the value in his father's moral footing. Who cares if the philosophical reconciliation is ever consummated logically if the author’s personal quest is accomplished in some meaningful way?
On another note, individualism as an overriding premise ignores the achievements of collectivist thinking. When you scratch the surface you find that individuals have rarely achieved much or as Rand likes to say "produced" much without a form of philosophical plagiarism or first standing on the shoulders of others and using the labor of still more. And that's not just true for Hoover Dams and Notre Dames and the Parthenon and Pyramids. It also applies to Democracy and capitalism and US Constitutions and art and philosophical hedonism. Objectivists ought to look into the Nash equilibrium theory or the version of it uncovered by Cournot (oligopoly). In laymen terms - my desires are more effectively and efficiently achieved by taking into consideration the desires of my competitors.
For some reason Rand makes me think of another neo-Nietzschean voice of the sixties, Eric Hoffer. Hoffer demanded of his readers that they think through his aphoristic summations. He worked from similar premises of individual freedom and responsibility but often came to subtly different conclusions than Rand and far less ideological in tone. His shortcoming was of course a dearth of solutions, the plague of most ideologies, and the occasional inconsistency, the birthright of all reasoning. All that ideologies really possess are their premises and a guess that those premises will produce some desired solution.
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In an age when the most common form of debate is to shout ever louder, so that no one can hear your opponents ... or worse, to increase the level of fury and batter them into submission, Mark David Henderson swims against the current. In The Soul of Atlas, he actually reduces the volume to a whisper. He methodically extracts perspectives on topics such as the meaning of life, and how one should approach the topics of sex, money, and power - from both the Objectivist and Christian viewpoints.

He sanctifies this Conversation by drawing us into the intimacy of its most poignant struggles. His unique journey includes fathers of both the Objectivist and Christian viewpoint, and he skillfully relates his pursuit to find common ground from the people closest to him.

Subtle and approachable, yet deep and nuanced, like any fine meal, be careful with this book lest you over-indulge. It is best taken in measured doses, perhaps a chapter a day. I'd also recommend an excellent digestif - that you start your own conversation along the way!

I hope that the Conversation doesn't end here; we need more dialogues modeled after this one, where we first seek to understand prior to being understood. Perhaps the first discussion could be titled, "Who was more selfish? Jesus, or Ayn Rand?" Bravo, Mark, for kicking off the Conversation!
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