Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism.
The salvation of one’s own soul means the preservation of the integrity of one’s ego. The soul is the ego. Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the word, in a high, noble and spiritual sense. Christ did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself, but He never said that you must love your neighbor better than yourself – which is the monstrous doctrine of altruism and collectivism. Altruism – the demand of self-immolation for others – contradicts the basic premise of Christianity, the sacredness of one’s own soul.
Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy, which has never been resolved. The entire history of Christianity in Europe has been a continuous civil war, not merely in fact, but also in spirit. I believe that Christianity will not regain its power as a vital spiritual force until it has resolved this contradiction. And since it cannot reject the conception of the paramount sacredness of the individual soul – this conception holds the root, the meaning and the greatness of Christianity – it must reject the morality of altruism. It must teach man neither to serve others nor to rule others, but to live together as independent equals, which is the only possible state of true brotherhood. Brothers are not mutual servants nor mutual dependents. Only slaves are. Dependence breeds hatred. Only free men can afford to be benevolent. Only free men can love and respect one another. But a free man is an independent man. And an independent man is one who lives primarily for himself.
— Ayn Rand, letter to Reverend Dudley, 1943
[Cut into pieces.]