Atheists and Anarchism...

riverrun
Posts: 57
Joined: 2007-02-12
User is offlineOffline
Atheists and Anarchism...

 

 

 

 

I recently came across this fantastic open source document on Anarchism called The Anarchist FAQ. It has been in development online since 1996, and is constantly being updated. Anarchism (which almost by pure semantic default) has rationalism, liberty and atheism as core values has been, like atheism, the subject of slander, distortion, and misrepresentation - from both left and right wing groups - since its beginnings:

"[Anarchists are] the radical of the radical -- the black cats, the terrors of many, of all the bigots, exploiters, charlatans, fakers and oppressors. Consequently we are also the more slandered, misrepresented, misunderstood and persecuted of all." [Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti, p. 274]

Since many western democracies are in the grip of irrational religion(s), irrational consumerism (a possibly more fatal condition when combined with faith) ands high levels of concentrated unaccountable private power, the anarchist society may well remain a utopian dream. However the level of thought and consistency within anarchism is worth paying attention to as we battle the forces of dogmatic absurdity in this world.

 

In light of this I have posted a very relevant section from this document. Enjoy.

The source is available here, and a Wiki article on this essay is here.

Tim. 

 

A.2.20 Why are most anarchists atheists?

It is a fact that most anarchists are atheists. They reject the idea of god and oppose all forms of religion, particularly organised religion. Today, in secularised western European countries, religion has lost its once dominant place in society. This often makes the militant atheism of anarchism seem strange. However, once the negative role of religion is understood the importance of libertarian atheism becomes obvious. It is because of the role of religion and its institutions that anarchists have spent some time refuting the idea of religion as well as propagandising against it.

So why do so many anarchists embrace atheism? The simplest answer is that most anarchists are atheists because it is a logical extension of anarchist ideas. If anarchism is the rejection of illegitimate authorities, then it follows that it is the rejection of the so-called Ultimate Authority, God. Anarchism is grounded in reason, logic, and scientific thinking, not religious thinking. Anarchists tend to be sceptics, and not believers. Most anarchists consider the Church to be steeped in hypocrisy and the Bible a work of fiction, riddled with contradictions, absurdities and horrors. It is notorious in its debasement of women and its sexism is infamous. Yet men are treated little better. Nowhere in the bible is there an acknowledgement that human beings have inherent rights to life, liberty, happiness, dignity, fairness, or self-government. In the bible, humans are sinners, worms, and slaves (figuratively and literally, as it condones slavery). God has all the rights, humanity is nothing.

This is unsurprisingly, given the nature of religion. Bakunin put it best:

"The idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, both in theory and in practice.

"Unless, then, we desire the enslavement and degradation of mankind . . . we may not, must not make the slightest concession either to the God of theology or to the God of metaphysics. He who, in this mystical alphabet, begins with A will inevitably end with Z; he who desires to worship God must harbour no childish illusions about the matter, but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity.

"If God is, man is a slave; now, man can and must be free; then, God does not exist." [God and the State, p. 25]

For most anarchists, then, atheism is required due to the nature of religion. "To proclaim as divine all that is grand, just, noble, and beautiful in humanity," Bakunin argued, "is to tacitly admit that humanity of itself would have been unable to produce it -- that is, that, abandoned to itself, its own nature is miserable, iniquitous, base, and ugly. Thus we come back to the essence of all religion -- in other words, to the disparagement of humanity for the greater glory of divinity." As such, to do justice to our humanity and the potential it has, anarchists argue that we must do without the harmful myth of god and all it entails and so on behalf of "human liberty, dignity, and prosperity, we believe it our duty to recover from heaven the goods which it has stolen and return them to earth." [Op. Cit., p. 37 and p. 36]

As well as the theoretical degrading of humanity and its liberty, religion has other, more practical, problems with it from an anarchist point of view. Firstly, religions have been a source of inequality and oppression. Christianity (like Islam), for example, has always been a force for repression whenever it holds any political or social sway (believing you have a direct line to god is a sure way of creating an authoritarian society). The Church has been a force of social repression, genocide, and the justification for every tyrant for nearly two millennia. When given the chance it has ruled as cruelly as any monarch or dictator. This is unsurprising:

"God being everything, the real world and man are nothing. God being truth, justice, goodness, beauty, power and life, man is falsehood, iniquity, evil, ugliness, impotence, and death. God being master, man is the slave. Incapable of finding justice, truth, and eternal life by his own effort, he can attain them only through a divine revelation. But whoever says revelation, says revealers, messiahs, prophets, priests, and legislators inspired by God himself; and these, as the holy instructors of humanity, chosen by God himself to direct it in the path of salvation, necessarily exercise absolute power. All men owe them passive and unlimited obedience; for against the divine reason there is no human reason, and against the justice of God no terrestrial justice holds." [Bakunin, Op. Cit., p. 24]

Christianity has only turned tolerant and peace-loving when it is powerless and even then it has continued its role as apologist for the powerful. This is the second reason why anarchists oppose the church for when not being the source of oppression, the church has justified it and ensured its continuation. It has kept the working class in bondage for generations by sanctioning the rule of earthly authorities and teaching working people that it is wrong to fight against those same authorities. Earthly rulers received their legitimisation from the heavenly lord, whether political (claiming that rulers are in power due to god's will) or economic (the rich having been rewarded by god). The bible praises obedience, raising it to a great virtue. More recent innovations like the Protestant work ethic also contribute to the subjugation of working people.

That religion is used to further the interests of the powerful can quickly be seen from most of history. It conditions the oppressed to humbly accept their place in life by urging the oppressed to be meek and await their reward in heaven. As Emma Goldman argued, Christianity (like religion in general) "contains nothing dangerous to the regime of authority and wealth; it stands for self-denial and self-abnegation, for penance and regret, and is absolutely inert in the face of every [in]dignity, every outrage imposed upon mankind." [Red Emma Speaks, p. 234]

Thirdly, religion has always been a conservative force in society. This is unsurprising, as it bases itself not on investigation and analysis of the real world but rather in repeating the truths handed down from above and contained in a few holy books. Theism is then "the theory of speculation" while atheism is "the science of demonstration." The "one hangs in the metaphysical clouds of the Beyond, while the other has its roots firmly in the soil. It is the earth, not heaven, which man must rescue if he is truly to be saved." Atheism, then, "expresses the expansion and growth of the human mind" while theism "is static and fixed." It is "the absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralysing effect upon thought and action, which Atheism is fighting with all its power." [Emma Goldman, Op. Cit., p. 243, p. 245 and pp. 246-7]

As the Bible says, "By their fruits shall ye know them." We anarchists agree but unlike the church we apply this truth to religion as well. That is why we are, in the main, atheists. We recognise the destructive role played by the Church, and the harmful effects of organised monotheism, particularly Christianity, on people. As Goldman summaries, religion "is the conspiracy of ignorance against reason, of darkness against light, of submission and slavery against independence and freedom; of the denial of strength and beauty, against the affirmation of the joy and glory of life." [Op. Cit., p. 240]

So, given the fruits of the Church, anarchists argue that it is time to uproot it and plant new trees, the trees of reason and liberty.

That said, anarchists do not deny that religions contain important ethical ideas or truths. Moreover, religions can be the base for strong and loving communities and groups. They can offer a sanctuary from the alienation and oppression of everyday life and offer a guide to action in a world where everything is for sale. Many aspects of, say, Jesus' or Buddha's life and teachings are inspiring and worth following. If this were not the case, if religions were simply a tool of the powerful, they would have long ago been rejected. Rather, they have a dual-nature in that contain both ideas necessary to live a good life as well as apologetics for power. If they did not, the oppressed would not believe and the powerful would suppress them as dangerous heresies.

And, indeed, repression has been the fate of any group that has preached a radical message. In the middle ages numerous revolutionary Christian movements and sects were crushed by the earthly powers that be with the firm support of the mainstream church. During the Spanish Civil War the Catholic church supported Franco's fascists, denouncing the killing of pro-Franco priests by supporters of the republic while remaining silent about Franco's murder of Basque priests who had supported the democratically elected government (Pope John Paul II is seeking to turn the dead pro-Franco priests into saints while the pro-Republican priests remain unmentioned). The Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, started out as a conservative but after seeing the way in which the political and economic powers were exploiting the people became their outspoken champion. He was assassinated by right-wing paramilitaries in 1980 because of this, a fate which has befallen many other supporters of liberation theology, a radical interpretation of the Gospels which tries to reconcile socialist ideas and Christian social thinking.

Nor does the anarchist case against religion imply that religious people do not take part in social struggles to improve society. Far from it. Religious people, including members of the church hierarchy, played a key role in the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. The religious belief within Zapata's army of peasants during the Mexican revolution did not stop anarchists taking part in it (indeed, it had already been heavily influenced by the ideas of anarchist militant Ricardo Flores Magon). It is the dual-nature of religion which explains why many popular movements and revolts (particularly by peasants) have used the rhetoric of religion, seeking to keep the good aspects of their faith will fighting the earthly injustice its official representatives sanctify. For anarchists, it is the willingness to fight against injustice which counts, not whether someone believes in god or not. We just think that the social role of religion is to dampen down revolt, not encourage it. The tiny number of radical priests compared to those in the mainstream or on the right suggests the validity of our analysis.

It should be stressed that anarchists, while overwhelmingly hostile to the idea of the Church and an established religion, do not object to people practising religious belief on their own or in groups, so long as that practice doesn't impinge on the liberties of others. For example, a cult that required human sacrifice or slavery would be antithetical to anarchist ideas, and would be opposed. But peaceful systems of belief could exist in harmony within in anarchist society. The anarchist view is that religion is a personal matter, above all else -- if people want to believe in something, that's their business, and nobody else's as long as they do not impose those ideas on others. All we can do is discuss their ideas and try and convince them of their errors.

To end, it should noted that we are not suggesting that atheism is somehow mandatory for an anarchist. Far from it. As we discuss in section A.3.7, there are anarchists who do believe in god or some form of religion. For example, Tolstoy combined libertarian ideas with a devote Christian belief. His ideas, along with Proudhon's, influences the Catholic Worker organisation, founded by anarchists Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933 and still active today. The anarchist activist Starhawk, active in the current anti-globalisation movement, has no problems also being a leading Pagan. However, for most anarchists, their ideas lead them logically to atheism for, as Emma Goldman put it, "in its negation of gods is at the same time the strongest affirmation of man, and through man, the eternal yea to life, purpose, and beauty." [Red Emma Speaks, p. 248]


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
Deludedgod, it's great to

Deludedgod, it's great to hear that your country isn't blinded by consumerism.

 

I wanted to ask though, isn't religion outlawed in china? I was also told the chinese are pretty decent people because they still have buddhist philosophies in their hearts.

"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche


deludedgod
Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
Firstly, China is not my

Firstly, China is not my country, I am Canadian

Religion used to be outlawed in China under Mao, but the government is relaxing it's grip on religion. This is why, when I sometimes went to Chinese churches, I found that no-one actually believes this crap, they just go as they like to piss off the government.  As religions go, Buddhism is the dominant ethics system. The only difference between China and say, America, is that religion has no place in the public sphere where it does not public, like in public schools, on money. One of the things that confuses the Chinese is why people would waste precious public resources on something quite so useless. Religion is no longer outlawed, but people still mostly reserve distaste for faith even though the country still holds confucious ethics.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
deludedgod wrote: Firstly,

deludedgod wrote:

Firstly, China is not my country, I am Canadian.

Haha, sorry man. 
deludedgod, can we talk more outside of this forum about biology, science in general, and defending reason? I think you said you are a biologist, am I right? I'm just a 19 year old kid trying to find his way.  Do you chat on aim or anything?

"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche


deludedgod
Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
Hi Chosenbypasta. If you

Hi Chosenbypasta.

If you want to talk about bio, i'd be really happy to. I just started a new thread called : The axioms of evolution. check it out.

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


Vastet
atheistBloggerSuperfan
Vastet's picture
Posts: 13211
Joined: 2006-12-25
User is offlineOffline
Apologies for not responding

Apologies for not responding earlier. I somehow missed this topic while looking through others I was participating in.

deludedgod wrote:
A modern(technological and defensive) world. But not our species. All our species needs to exist is fuel and sex. Your argument of complex organisms is inapplicable. There are a great many complex organisms on this planet that have no society at all, yet manage to function and survive with little trouble. And to obtain that fuel and sex almost always requires reliance on others, and even if it did not require reliance, the point I made was that evolution has primed us to exist in society because it is advantegeous, not because it was necessary. That is why some complex organisms can operate indepedently, so I retract my earlier point. The correct thing to say would be that many complex animals work in societies.

Fair enough.

deludedgod wrote:
yet not all complex organisms work in societies(ex: sharks). Even worse, many simple organisms work in societies(ex: ants). We have different understandings of the word complex. An ant is a complex organism from a biological standpoint.

A biologically physical standpoint certainly. Not a mental standpoint. I see complexity having two seperate paths that I have identified(one appears to always come before the other is possible). Likely there are others I have not. An ant may be more physically complex than a bacteria, but it is not as mentally complex as a human.

deludedgod wrote:
The problem though is that it's just a longer road. There's more equality at the beginning, but the further down the road you travel the less equality there is at the end of it. The gap between the rich and poor has been steadily widening now for who knows how long. Certainly my entire lifetime. People who were once referred to as middle class, had a home, car, etc, can today not even afford an apartment. The only thing capitalism can lead to is revolution. Eventually the poor will be sick of being poor and remove the heads of the rich. Which may not in and of itself be a bad thing, but such conflicts are completely unpredictable.
If there is one thing that we have learned from history, it is that every revolution carries within the seeds of it's own destruction. 

Why be satisfied with continual revolutions if there may be a better way?

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
deludedgod wrote:  And

deludedgod wrote:

 And societal advancement has no intrinsic value.

 

From an evolutionary standpoint, I'd disagree. A human is a selfish creature that needs to co-operate in society to survive. But if he cannot promote his own self-interests, like making money, his incentive to work will flag. People have no instinctive concept of "greater good", there are two ways to overcome this. The first and most commonly employed method throughout history was simply for the elite to subjugate the people. Then the wanton to advance was overome by the pressing needs of survival and food. But in a society which operates on a free market, people need to climb the rungs, or at least believe they can climb the rungs, to work. Capitalism works because it gives people incentives that quell their evolutionary requisites.

Yeah, you make a great point that needs to be addressed. I'm not knowledgeable enough in anti-capitalist thought to comment on it. I may have to agree with you unless someone else can clear that up.

"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche


riverrun
Posts: 57
Joined: 2007-02-12
User is offlineOffline
I guess we can call the

I guess we can call the mother who dies to save her own child selfish if we want. Greedy reductionism is all to common, but when science can serve the current economic needs then it will be used. The analogy of the rungs, hence the ladder, is interesting: As many realise they have climbed the ladder of 'success' and when they reached the top realised it was leaning against the wrong wall.

It's a common assumption that people live in a free market... its the usual case of rhetoric vs. reality. NO society lives under a free market, the closest the world came to anything remotely akin to the free market was late victorian england.

Making money as a goal for peoples life is patently absurd, people work as best as they can under a system in order to survive. Slaves got better off during slavery, is that an argument for slavery?

Humans do not need Nokia ads or Wallpaper magazine to give them enough incentive to get out of bed and go to work... Every retired person I know spends time doing the things they would love to have done during their years of slavery, including my own parents.

People are creative. Capitalism is a primitive sideshow. Slavery enriched and built , for example, the roman and british empires but that is no justification... just as the religious abolitionist belief in god, which helped over-throw slavery, is no argument for God.

T.

 


qbg
Posts: 298
Joined: 2006-11-22
User is offlineOffline
From an anticapitalist

From an anticapitalist perspective...

deludedgod wrote:

But if he cannot promote his own self-interests, like making money, his incentive to work will flag.

For the working class, a switch to anarchism would be in their own self-interest. They would no longer be slaves to the ruling class and they would gain autonomy. They would be able to advance on their individual goals without the interference that capitalism currently imposes.
As for making money, depending on the anarchist economy they are in will determine how important such a goal is. Chances are that it will be reduced because they will no longer have capitalist parasites on them. Now, if they were to try to exploit others, they could expect a response from the others in the community. Now, they wouldn't get too far unless they imposed on those who they would be exploiting because there would be workable alternatives that one could choose that wouldn't involve their exploitation.
Quote:

People have no instinctive concept of "greater good" there are two ways to overcome this.

Are you saying people have no altrustic instincts? (Not that anarchism depends on such traits much more than other economic systems)

"What right have you to condemn a murderer if you assume him necessary to "God's plan"? What logic can command the return of stolen property, or the branding of a thief, if the Almighty decreed it?"
-- The Economic Tendency of Freethought


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
I forgot all about those two

I forgot all about those two arguments that both of you riverrun and qbg made.
I think they are right, deludedgod. You are pointing out that we are self-interested, but this is the very reason why we need to do away with capitalism. It is capitalism that drives us to be self-interested in the first place. In a libertarian socialist society there is a community effort to stablize this drive of selfishness.

"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche


kriz
Posts: 33
Joined: 2007-02-15
User is offlineOffline
I don't know why you

I don't know why you couldn't make money in an anarchic system if that was your goal.  I think the difference is you have to work for it. 

 

In an anarchy, there are no rulers, but there could be certain laws and wages, decided on democratically.  Supposedly, you could do some horrible jobs that people had elected should have higher salaries, like digging ditches or something, and could amass a small fortune.  But you would have to work for it, instead of becoming rich by speculating on property values and starting up businesses that others run for you.

So the greedy could work it out of their system I guess. 


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
Another thing I wanted to

Another thing I wanted to point out is that the anarchism we are referring to is the relevance of anarcho-syndicalism/libertarian socialism. I think the others would agree.
I think this social model really cuts the ice. It contains the elements of individualism (libertarianism) and complete equality and freedom for all, but also the elements of cooperation, community, and social responsibility (socialism).
I remember this video I always use to watch. I thought I would bring this up because deludedgod used that one quote earlier in this discussion. I wouldn't mind being an old radical like this man:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR7dNntU5oI&eurl=

"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche


deludedgod
Rational VIP!ScientistDeluded God
deludedgod's picture
Posts: 3221
Joined: 2007-01-28
User is offlineOffline
Whoa, it seems like everyone

Whoa, it seems like everyone has ganged up on me since Ive been gone (deep scuba diving off Koh Samui). The truth of the matter is, I entered this rather half heartedly. I am a scientific purist. Ideology and politics, these things come and go, but science is forever. I don't care much for politics so long as it is not totalitarian in any way and I get my scientific research money.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

Books about atheism


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
deludedgod wrote: Whoa, it

deludedgod wrote:
Whoa, it seems like everyone has ganged up on me since Ive been gone (deep scuba diving off Koh Samui). The truth of the matter is, I entered this rather half heartedly. I am a scientific purist. Ideology and politics, these things come and go, but science is forever. I don't care much for politics so long as it is not totalitarian in any way and I get my scientific research money.

Haha, I'm on the same page as you man.

"Every true faith is infallible -- It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search." - Nietzsche


kriz
Posts: 33
Joined: 2007-02-15
User is offlineOffline
deludedgod wrote: Whoa, it

deludedgod wrote:
Whoa, it seems like everyone has ganged up on me since Ive been gone (deep scuba diving off Koh Samui). The truth of the matter is, I entered this rather half heartedly. I am a scientific purist. Ideology and politics, these things come and go, but science is forever. I don't care much for politics so long as it is not totalitarian in any way and I get my scientific research money.

 

I hope you dont think Im ganging up on you...its not my intent.  Just making some observations on what I understand anarchism to be.

 

I'm also very interested in science, esp. evolutionary theory and anthropology, as well as physics (at a layman's level).  You seem to have a good grasp on different scientific areas, it would be great to discuss those with you (of course in a different thread).

 

Once again I'm not trying to attack you in any way, and as I interpreted responses here it doesnt seem like others are either. 


riverrun
Posts: 57
Joined: 2007-02-12
User is offlineOffline
I second what Kriz says.

I second what Kriz says. Not my intention in the least, and deludeds posts on science, genetics and evolution are first rate and a brilliant contribution to the board. I just wish some of the Jesus freaks would try an rebut him.

Laughing


ChosenByPasta
ChosenByPasta's picture
Posts: 141
Joined: 2006-08-08
User is offlineOffline
Yeah really. I want to see

Yeah really. I want to see some pwnage.