Secularists rejoice! Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate means that like President Obama, he too is conducting a war on religion.
The charge against Ryan derives from his devotion to the economic ideology of atheist novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Last year, the American Values Network (a group devoted to making the Democratic Party safe for religion) put out a clever if queasy-making video-cum-memo titled "Paul Ryan & Ayn Rand vs. Judeo-Christian Values," charging the author of the GOP's budget plan with being an anti-Jesus wolf in sheep's clothing. It's now been revived, making Romney guilty by association by association.
Romney seems to have anticipated the renewed assault when he introduced the party of the second part by calling Ryan a good Catholic who "believes in the worth of human life." Ryan himself has done his best to demonstrate his affinity for the Catholic philosophia perennis over Randian Objectivism. As National Review's Robert Costa reported earlier this year,
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.
If Ryan wants to paste Thomist epistemology on to himself, then I suppose he ought to take more seriously what those vicars of Christ, the popes, have to say about capitalism and the government's role in providing for human needs. As various liberal Catholic commentators have pointed out, official Catholic social teaching is almost as far a cry from Ryan's anti-welfare-statism as official Catholic theology is from Rand's atheism.
Whether that makes the Romney-Ryan ticket anti-religion is another matter.
On Thursday, the Romney campaign rolled out a new TV ad charging the president with using his healthcare plan to "declare war on religion." On Friday, Romney called on Obama to stop attacking his record at Bain Capital and calling for release of his tax returns in favor of a campaign based on "issues."
I say, let's all just call a truce on the charges of wars on religion. That's because there are more religious things in heaven and earth, Republicans and Democrats, than are dreamt of in either of your philosophies.