Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reconsidering Aggressive Atheism

Anarchist Outreach or Pure Egoism?
The American anarchist tradition is almost entirely atheistic and sometimes expresses those opinions in very alienating, aggressive, condescending ways. As a movement it is in our interest to emphasize commonalities rather than differences so that common bourgeois Americans can slowly flirt with the radical ideas we hold. Screaming about how their god is dead to their face is the exact opposite way of garnering widespread, grass root support.

And there's a lot of evidence that this rhetoric is out of date and not precise. The primary thought process is that extremely dualistic, hierarchical religious relationships (both internal and external) for an individual reinforce the acceptance of hierarchical relationships in the social and political spheres of normal experience. There is a great deal correct about this, in my opinion. It is not, however, always the case.

Most Latin social movements, for instance, have had strong religious undertones. One only has to do a little research into characters like Romero to see the importance Catholicism has had in people organizing and struggling towards liberation--quite the opposite of the American anarchist stereotype of the "Catholic sheep," though there was once a strong Union movement in this country that was predominantly Catholic as well. These Latin American movements have emphasized truths about religion beyond how capitalist, hierarchical religious structures have re-written them--truths about Jesus Christ living in a collective, truths about intentional communities, about restricting over-consumption, about egalitarianism, love and compassion. Even truths about Jesus being a radical political figure in the historical dimension of his believed existence.

These religious similarities with anarchism extend even beyond Catholicism, including Buddhism, Vaisnavism, Saivism, New Age-ism, etc. Exceptions to these are Protestantism, with it's strong "Protestant Work Ethic." But the Protestant Work Ethic is not a universal force common to all religions, and it is a very deep mistake, in my opinion, to condemn all religious ideas. Especially when so many religious ideas are synonymous with anarchist ideas. Those commonalities need to be expressed, strengthened and discussed rather than just blindly and egotistically discarded.

It is not only hypocritical for anarchists to condemn others for their beliefs if their beliefs aren't, in fact, detrimental to egalitarian society, it is also alienating and offensive to attack someone for what they hold to be a deep and profound truth--again, so long as that deep and profound truth is not that the white race is superior, hierarchical power structures are necessary, and money is desirable. Many of us have had negative experiences with the evangelical, protestant American movement, and I believe we should be critical of that, but not alienating towards all religious thought.

Then we become just a bunch of mean people who nobody will ever want to have anything to do with. We restrict the ability for our message about power to be heard because anyone with a strong spiritual/emotional experience will simply ignore us. We should beseech people to be true Christian rather than condemn them for their spiritual beliefs. We should build societies where there cannot be a parasitical church, not threaten to burn their churches down. Otherwise we simply become a force of malevolence in the world.

After all, it is the Bible which first instructed the masses that they cannot "worship God and Mammon" (the demon representing money) at the same time. We should be reaching out to that aspect to build a movement against capitalism.


  1. We should alter are spray-painted messages and flyers to reach out to people in the religious community, perhaps using messages like:

    "Thou Shalt Not Kill is NEVER Negotiable!"


    "Did Jesus Ever Make a Profit?"

  2. how about

    "Jesus was not a Patriot"