The atheist philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand published more than a dozen books before she died in 1982. Now, liberal Christians say another work belongs in Rand’s controversial canon: the 2012 Republican budget.

House Republicans passed their budget along party lines in April, saying its drastic cuts to federal programs are necessary to prevent a deficit crisis.

But in 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.

In novels such as “Atlas Shrugged,” the Russian-born Rand portrays American capitalists as heroes battling an encroaching government bent on milking their success. In nonfiction writings, Rand is more explicit about her Objectivist philosophy, which prizes individualism and regards religion as a “primitive” sop to the feeble-minded masses.

Tea Party Republicans have embraced Rand’s writings, particularly “Atlas Shrugged,” which some argue foretells the Great Recession and Washington’s extraordinary efforts to end it. Rush Limbaugh, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas all call themselves Rand fans.

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