A liberal group has grabbed a number of headlines in the past week by attacking Paul Ryan's budget plan as un-Christian. The group claims that Ryan's a devotee of the atheist Ayn Rand, whose values are explicitly anti-Christian, and that this is the real inspiration for Ryan's budget:

[I]n a petition drive, video, ads, and websites, liberal Christians counter that Rand's dog-eat-dog philosophy is the real inspiration for the GOP budget and its author, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

"You've got a guy who is a rising Republican star, and who wrote the budget, saying he's read her books and Washington needs more of her values," said Eric Sapp, executive director of the American Values Network, which produced the video. "If you're a Christian, you've got to ask some serious questions about what's going on here."

In other words, Sapp argues, you can follow Ayn Rand or Jesus, but not both.

There are three points to be made here. 1) Ryan is a committed Roman Catholic -- his love for Ayn Rand has its limits and has frequently been overstated. 2) Atlas Shrugged is one of the most popular and influential books in modern history, and most readers find it entirely possible to enjoy and appreciate what Rand has to say about individulaism and capitalism without surrendering your religious beliefs. Suggesting otherwise is absurd. 3) The group lobbing these accusations has recieved at least $400,000 from George Soros, who happens to be one of the world's most famous atheists. [Disclosure: The preceeding link is to my wife, a religion writer.]

The Soros angle has gone entirely unmentioned in the media coverage of this campaign against Ryan, despite the fact that looking at who's behind such efforts should be standard operating procedure. At least one media organization has misidentified the group as "conservative Christians." Soros is free to fund religious groups, but given his own atheism and strident left-wing beliefs, it's fair to ask whether any religious group that takes his money and criticizes Republicans is expressing altruistic Christian concern about the poor or really pushing a political agenda. The fact that the American Values Network's advisory committee is a who's who of religious left figures and Democratic party officials, suggests that they're motivated much more by politics than religion.

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