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Ayn Rand devotees hug over 'Atlas Shrugged'

On the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Rand's seminal book, followers date using a website where romance is pursued selfishly and productively.

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Ayn Rand might seem an unlikely matchmaker. In a 1964 Playboy interview, she famously said that a man who places friends and family above "productive work" is immoral, an "emotional parasite."

Yet as "Atlas Shrugged" turns 50 this week, Rand's iconic intellect presides over The Atlasphere (www.theatlasphere.com) – a dating, networking, and news website that has connected her admirers since 2003.

In many ways, of course, it's no different from the mix of pragmatism and love that tugs members of any group – Christians, Jews, ardent vegans, or home-schoolers – toward one another in their choice of mates. But to some – at least those who don't adhere to Objectivism, Rand's philosophy of rational self-interest as man's highest pursuit – her name evokes more cold capitalistic greed than candlelight dinners. On a 1999 commemorative stamp, Rand's features are sharp, her face a cold shade of moonlight, as she peers out from behind a skyscraper.

For Joshua Zader, The Atlasphere's founder, the notion of Rand-inspired love makes perfect sense. "At a certain point in my 20s," he says, "I realized I had met all my closest friends through Rand club meetings, conferences, or book signings." He later met his wife that way, too.

Critics call Rand's work shrill, arrogant, dogmatic, and godless. And while her fans – from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey – talk about being inspired by her work, they don't necessarily use it as a dating manual.

That wasn't Francisco Villalobos's intention either. Rereading "Atlas Shrugged" in college, he loved the respect that Rand's industrialists and entrepreneurs show one another. "That was something very foreign to me in the neighborhood where I grew up," says Mr. Villalobos, referring to the Cypress Hills area of Brooklyn, N.Y.

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