Before becoming a Christian, I was a big fan of Ayn Rand. Her novels touched my soul in a way that no other novel has. After much reflection, I found her morality to be without foundation and thus somewhat futile. Yet there was still something that made her philosophy so attractive: she described the objective goal of having “a face without pain or fear or guilt.”
This idea struck me as having merit, even though I couldn’t explain why. Rand’s solution to the problem of pain and fear and guilt is to simply stop feeling them – to become a super hero who can do no wrong. However, as soon as I tried living out this philosophy in my life, it utterly failed. I couldn’t live without pain; I would accidentally hurt others and they’d hurt me It was an inevitable part of life that even the closest of friends will cause each other to suffer at least a little bit. I couldn’t live without fear; the prospect of life ending or of not being able to live up to the high standards that I set for myself was utterly terrifying because it rendered my life meaningless. I couldn’t live without guilt; I’d invariably do something wrong and regret that I hadn’t handled the situation better. Living without pain or fear or guilt was impossible. Yet it still held some appeal.
It struck me that Rand’s insistence on rejecting pain and fear and guilt stemmed from her hatred of religion. Christianity seemed to uphold suffering – pain – as good. For Christians fear of God was of inestimable virtue. Guilt seemed to be the backbone of the faith, reminding Christians of their unfulfillable obligations to their imaginary deity.
It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I began to appreciate how pain and fear and guilt are all vital parts of life. They shouldn’t be our goals, but they all help us recognize and reject sin. The reason that we will inevitably feel pain and fear and guilt is because “all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” A man feels pain because he has been sinned against. A man feels fear because he knows that others may sin against him, or because he knows that his own sin may soon be revealed. A man feels guilt because he has transgressed the moral code ingrained in him and knows he has fallen short of Perfection.
Christianity never assures us that we will be rid of sin in this life, but it promises us a Paradise where sin – and thus, pain, fear, guilt, and tears shall be no more. Rand’s dream of “a face without pain or fear or guilt” can be found fulfilled in only two places: her novels and Heaven. Only one of them is real.