William F. Buckley, Jr. is finally dead. Buckley was the man who initiated and sustained the movement to bring religion into the conservative movement. His first book was “God and Man at Yale,” which I haven’t read or looked at, but which is said to have criticized Yale education for being both leftist and anti-religious.

He then founded the magazine National Review, which Ayn Rand in her Playboy interview of 1964 called “the worst and most dangerous magazine in America,” because of its crusade to tie capitalism to religion. Here is what she said of National Review in a letter to Barry Goldwater in 1960:

This leads me to the subject of the National Review. I am profoundly opposed to it–not because it is a religious magazine, but because it pretends that it is not. There are religious magazines which one can respect, even while disagreeing with their views. But the fact that the National Review poses as a secular political magazine, while following a strictly religious “party line,” can have but one purpose: to slip religious goals by stealth on those who would not accept them openly, to “bore from within,” to tie Conservatism to religion, and thus to take over the American Conservatives. This attempt comes from a pressure group wider than the National Review, but the National Review is one of its manifestations. . . .

The attempt to use religion as a moral justification of Conservatism began after World War II. Observe the growing apathy, lifelessness, ineffectuality and general feebleness of the so-called Conservative side, ever since. You are, at present, a rising exception in the Republican ranks. I do not believe that that pressure group could succeed in making you its tool. But a philosophical pressure group is very hard to detect, particularly at first. That is why I want to warn you against them now, and help you to identify the nature of their influence.

I am not certain that you understood my relationship to the National Review, when I spoke to you here. I thought that you knew the facts, but perhaps you do not. In brief, they printed a review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers, which I have not read, on principle; those who have read it, told me that this former Communist spy claimed that my book advocates dictatorship. Thereafter, the National Review printed two articles about me (which I did read), one of them allegedly friendly, both of them misrepresenting my position in a manner I have not seen outside The Daily Worker or The Nation. What was significant was their second article: it denounced me for advocating capitalism. [Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 571-2]

The Whittaker Chambers piece on Atlas Shrugged was probably the most hostile and distorted review of that great work ever.

In the intervening years, National Review has written at least two major attacks on Ayn Rand. I recall one titled, I think, “Saint Ayn,” and it featured on its cover a drawing of Ayn Rand, as if on a stained glass window, looking heavenward.

Another data point: in the mid-sixties, conservatives offered a proposed package of amendments to the New York State Constitution. One of them would have allowed State aid to Catholic schools (Buckley was a Catholic). Another had approximately this wording: “All powers not expressly delegated to the people are hereby reserved to the State.” It was a deliberate reversal of the entire meaning of a constitution, echoing, the language of the Ninth [(“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”)] and Tenth Amendments [(“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”)] to the U.S. Constitution, but as an unlimited grant of power to the government. Buckley campaigned in favor of the package.

Incidentally, Ayn Rand told me that in the years following her public condemnations of Buckley, he sent her more than one letter “crawling on his knees” (her words) trying to get her approval and/or a rapproachment. Needless to say, he failed in this attempt.

Buckley, more than anyone else, is responsible for subverting the “conservative movement,” turning it into its current, depraved status as the anti-reason, anti-man, welfare-statist “religious right.” The world is well rid of him.

The following two tabs change content below.

Harry Binswanger

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is a professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is an instructor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute, and a Senior Contributor at RealClearMarkets.com. He is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation and is the creator of The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Dr. Binswanger blogs at HBLetter.com (HBL)--an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. A free one-month trial is available at: HBLetter.com.