Does Anarchism Have To Mean Anti-Religion?

170 posts / 0 new
Last post
Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 16:55
Does Anarchism Have To Mean Anti-Religion?

Being an anarchist myself I have begun to notice than many anarchist groups take an anti-religious stance. Surely Anarchism would suggest that someone is free to do what they will? I am personaly an Atheist but know many religious people who think along the same anarchist lines as I?

Answers would be much appreciated!

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
May 25 2010 17:33

Being opposed to religion is not the same as trying to prevent people from practising religion.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
May 25 2010 17:41
Farran wrote:
Being an anarchist myself I have begun to notice than many anarchist groups take an anti-religious stance. Surely Anarchism would suggest that someone is free to do what they will? I am personaly an Atheist but know many religious people who think along the same anarchist lines as I?

Answers would be much appreciated!

This is a question that gets asked quite a lot on this site, especially with reference to the A&Ps of the Anarchist Federation, which are explicitly anti-theist.

The reason that our organisation adopted this position (as I understand it) has to do with the way we understand class and workers' struggle. We have a materialist view of the world: we see society as based on concrete, material things and relations. Therefore, the only way to change it is through concrete struggles - strikes, occupations, sabotage, and so on.

I think this notion is diametrically opposed to what I'd call an 'idealist' world-view - in which the things that underlie society and the rest of the world aren't material things but ideas like God, spirituality, Tao, karma or what have you. According to this notion, the best way to change the world is through prayer, or meditation, or crystal healing or whatever your personal superstition happens to be. Direct action, in this view, takes a back seat.

Of course, we don't want to police peoples thoughts or anything like that - rather, we seek to change peoples ideas by engaging with them, and through struggle.

Does that answer your question?

Boris Badenov
Offline
Joined: 25-08-08
May 25 2010 17:55

If the Church (any Church) would have no power whatsoever as a social institution, if it would be more like a knitting club than a bastion of reaction, I would not be against it. What people believe or not, whether they pray or not, is of no concern to me.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
May 25 2010 18:05
Vlad336 wrote:
If the Church (any Church) would have no power whatsoever as a social institution, if it would be more like a knitting club than a bastion of reaction, I would not be against it. What people believe or not, whether they pray or not, is of no concern to me.

I think this is a bit of an oversimplification. I think what individual people believe is politically relevant; for example, I think it's important to attack racist ideas even if they aren't expressed by an organised racist movement.

petey
Offline
Joined: 13-10-05
May 25 2010 18:06
BigLittleJ wrote:
I think this notion is diametrically opposed to what I'd call an 'idealist' world-view - in which the things that underlie society and the rest of the world aren't material things but ideas like God, spirituality, Tao, karma or what have you. According to this notion, the best way to change the world is through prayer, or meditation, or crystal healing or whatever your personal superstition happens to be. Direct action, in this view, takes a back seat.

but there are other religiosities. epicureans claim both a material understanding of the world (atoms, of which even souls are made), and the existence of gods (a modern close-but-not-really-exact equivalent would be deists). also, being religious does not necessarily entail claiming prayer etc. as the best course of action. the christian scientists may do that, but even a short reading of the NT shows a guy who tells people what they should do, not just what they should think.

(full disclosure, i'm a skeptic)

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 18:10

A little more clear thankyou, sorry if it bores you to have someone else ask this question! I just felt that surely a part of anarchism would be individualism which would mean that you could practice any religion you wanted.

Boris Badenov
Offline
Joined: 25-08-08
May 25 2010 18:17
BigLittleJ wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
If the Church (any Church) would have no power whatsoever as a social institution, if it would be more like a knitting club than a bastion of reaction, I would not be against it. What people believe or not, whether they pray or not, is of no concern to me.

I think this is a bit of an oversimplification. I think what individual people believe is politically relevant; for example, I think it's important to attack racist ideas even if they aren't expressed by an organised racist movement.

Yes it is important to attack racist, sexist, ethnocentric and so on ideas, but on their own ground, not as a proxy issue in a battle with religion (as professional atheists usually do). Many religious people are perfectly normal and unprejudiced individuals who just happen to think that after they die they'll find their loved ones in a Unitarian Church and be led towards the Light by Jack's dead father. As ridiculous as that may be, I think it's ultimately irrelevant. Religion in itself can exist as a perfectly benign social institution, as long as it is purged of its more reactionary elements (which should not be seen simply as "beliefs" but as historical developments that have to do with a specific social and economic arrangement; this is certainly how religious homophobia and sexism should be understood imo)

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 18:18

But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
May 25 2010 18:22
Quote:
epicureans claim both a material understanding of the world (atoms, of which even souls are made), and the existence of gods (a modern close-but-not-really-exact equivalent would be deists).

But Epicureus lived thousands of years ago, and 'religion' in those days was quite a different beast to what it is today. (Also, obviously there aren't souls made of atoms so you'd have to be a bit odd to go about believing this today!).

But if you don't believe in Gods, souls, spirits, magic or other supernatural entities then you're not religious in the sense that we'd have a problem with it. (But then I'd also say you're not religious in the way most people understand the term.)

Quote:
also, being religious does not necessarily entail claiming prayer etc. as the best course of action. the christian scientists may do that, but even a short reading of the NT shows a guy who tells people what they should do, not just what they should think.

Of course it doesn't necessarily entail it (clearly religious people do other things than sit around praying all day, after all!). But I think it leads you in that direction, and away from concrete action; and I think this flows logically from a religious view of reality, as I said. And it's clear that this is contrary to the materialist world-view I set out above.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
May 25 2010 18:29
Elly wrote:
It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods.

Right, which is why I said-

I wrote:
we seek to change peoples ideas by engaging with them, and through struggle

Obviously the workers of the world won't just wake up one fine morning, decide religion is bollox and go out and wreck the avenues where the wealthy live. But it is certainly worth engaging with these sorts of beliefs through propaganda, public meetings etc.

Vlad336 wrote:
Yes it is important to attack racist, sexist, ethnocentric and so on ideas, but on their own ground, not as a proxy issue in a battle with religion (as professional atheists usually do). Many religious people are perfectly normal and unprejudiced individuals who just happen to think that after they die they'll find their loved ones in a Unitarian Church and be led towards the Light by Jack's dead father. As ridiculous as that may be, I think it's ultimately irrelevant. Religion in itself can exist as a perfectly benign social institution, as long as it is purged of its more reactionary elements (which should not be seen simply as "beliefs" but as historical developments that have to do with a specific social and economic arrangement; this is certainly how religious homophobia and sexism should be understood imo)

I think it's a bit more complicated than that. I don't think that it's coincidental that religious people often express the worst sort of reactionary nonsense - whether it's about AIDS, gays, women, or what have you - I think it flows directly from their world view, which invariably sees reality as secondary to spirituality, at least to some degree.

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 18:30

I see your point, but maybe your looking at it a little too politically. Religion makes up a huge part of many peoples lives, and there never going to agree with a revolution that would take that part of their life away from them. God I sound like the freaking pope, im not even religious - _ -

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 18:32

TBH, whilst its true that religious people understand the world in non-materialist terms, that doesn't mean they only want to change (or conserve) the world via spiritual methods. If that was the case then you wouldn't have nut-job evangelists running for parliament (and winning), you wouldn't have all those social-justice groups, you wouldn't have the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or whatever. You'd just have a bunch of people praying to God to put money in their bank accounts. But most religious people incorporate some sort of responsibility into their life via the mystical free will. What I am saying is that a belief, say, that God created the universe doesn't inherently mean that all subsequent change is via God and that therefore they would refuse strikes or direct action.

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
May 25 2010 18:33
Elly wrote:
But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

your really shit at attributing your quotes http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/dec/03.htm

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 18:34

What about Taoism, isn't that almost a form of anarchism?

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 18:34
BigLittleJ wrote:
Elly wrote:
It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods.

Right, which is why I said-

I wrote:
we seek to change peoples ideas by engaging with them, and through struggle

Sorry, that wasn't addressed to you. It was written by Lenin.

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 18:37

admin - off topic flaming removed. This is a no flaming forum

Boris Badenov
Offline
Joined: 25-08-08
May 25 2010 18:38
BigLittleJ wrote:
I think it's a bit more complicated than that. I don't think that it's coincidental that religious people often express the worst sort of reactionary nonsense - whether it's about AIDS, gays, women, or what have you - I think it flows directly from their world view, which invariably sees reality as secondary to spirituality, at least to some degree.

Yes but their world view is not just a matter of them having the wrong beliefs. Homophobia for example is not a necessary condition for a religious denomination. As you pointed out religion in the times of Epicurus was a wholly different affair; homosexuality was not frowned upon back then as it is today in Christianity. Is this simply a mysterious change in beliefs, or a transformation, social, cultural and economic (in other words a transformation in the material conditions of the age)? The latter obviously.
What I'm getting at is religion should not, in the words of Lenin as quoted by Marsella, be understood as an "intellectual problem," divorced from the reality, and history, of class society. Racism or any other type of bigotry is not a priori a necessary consequence of religion, but in a society that is shaped by hundreds of years of colonialism, patriarchy, and so forth, these prejudices will obviously be quite prominent in any religious institution just as they are in all institutions, including secular ones. Religion is not special just because of the centrality of metaphysical beliefs. Its bigotry has the same causes as that of society in general, and isn't just the product of believing the wrong thing. Historical materialism in this sense is simply the pointing out of this reality, not a competing philosophy to be pitted against those of Christ, Buddha and Mohammed.

Choccy's picture
Choccy
Offline
Joined: 9-12-04
May 25 2010 18:38

for reference - there was quite a long discussion on anarchism and religion 2 years ago, amongst the madness and BobSavage being spineless there was decent discussion
http://libcom.org/forums/libcommunity/religion-usa-26062008

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 18:40

I guess that clears things up somewhat, just for reference, why the hell is there so many different forms of anarchism. Surely it makes more sense to unite people under one banner for the purposes of a revolution?

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
May 25 2010 18:43
Elly wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Elly wrote:
But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

your really shit at attributing your quotes http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/dec/03.htm

Hey, fuckhead, you're really shit at understanding simple mistakes. I mean, that's a very well-known passage, its not as if I'm trying to plagiarize Lenin, you fucking dipshit.

I didn't attack you, its a tendency I've noticed in your postings, you also posted those articles about about sexism in the anarchist moment without any indication of where they came from.

Yorkie Bar
Offline
Joined: 29-03-09
May 25 2010 18:43
Farran wrote:
What about Taoism, isn't that almost a form of anarchism?

I don't think so, and if it was that wouldn't necessarily mean I'd support it.

Elly, I didn't mean to imply that religious people don't also take part in and advocate action in the material world (take part in strikes, occupations etc.) since they clearly do. My point was more that there *is* a conflict between materialism and idealism, and that for a political group to make this conflict explicit and take a side isn't unreasonable.

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 18:46
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Elly wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Elly wrote:
But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an “intellectual” question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the worker masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.

your really shit at attributing your quotes http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/dec/03.htm

Hey, fuckhead, you're really shit at understanding simple mistakes. I mean, that's a very well-known passage, its not as if I'm trying to plagiarize Lenin, you fucking dipshit.

I didn't attack you, its a tendency I've noticed in your postings, you also posted those articles about about sexism in the anarchist moment without any indication of where they came from.

Fuck off. Every article I posted had the authors names, provided they were given. The only one I remember that didn't was one that was removed from the library, and in the process the name was removed by the admin. Get your facts straight before you run your mouth.

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 18:46

Fair Nuff I guess. I also am nowhere near as smart as you guys. I dont even get what your arguing about...

Matt_efc
Offline
Joined: 13-02-07
May 25 2010 18:47
Farran wrote:
What about Taoism, isn't that almost a form of anarchism?

Yes and no...

I actually did my Masters dissertation partly discussing the interplay of Taoism and Dialectical thought.

Theres a very niave approach to it, which basically just reads lines from Tao Te Ching and says "That sounds like anarchyz" while often criticisising Christianity in the same swoop. Which is just stupid and inconsistant. However there are other ways of approaching Taoism and its relationship to anarchism.

From my dissertation

Quote:
It is impossible to understand Taoism and its relation to praxis-based critical theory without an understanding of its philosophy of nature. The Taoist conception of nature is based on the dialectical principles of yin and yang; these two forces are both complimentary and opposite at the same time. This is the very make up of the universe, all matter and energy is understood through this relationship. Yin is the “feminine power”, which is often portrayed as cold and reflective, while Yang is the “masculine” of warmth and activity. This opposition makes up absolutely everything that exists in the realm of phenomenon. I believe that this simply concept echo’s the dialectic that Hegel saw as constituting the world, and it with that in mind that I would like to proceed.

Like most anarchists, Taoists understand the universe in a constant state of flux. Reality is not simply a fixed object, but a process. The dialectical understanding of change as a dynamic interplay of opposing forces also fits quite cleanly into the body of theory I am developing. While both Taoism and Confucianism have similar conceptions of nature, Confucianism developed as a theory of the state and ritual rather than action and reflection. Hegel (1975) wrote in his “Lectures on the History of Philosophy” that
“to the Chinese what is highest and the origin of things is nothing, emptiness, the altogether undetermined, the abstract universal, and this is also called Tao or reason. When the Greeks say that the absolute is one, or when men in modern times say that it is the highest existence, all determinations are abolished, and by the merely abstract Being nothing has been expressed excepting this same negation, only in an affirmative form. But if Philosophy has got no further than to such expression, it still stands on its most elementary stage. What is there to be found in all this learning?”

Wu-wei is the core concept of Taoist ethics. I believe that this concept can be linked to the “anarchist” tradition. It is often translated as non-action - wu can be understood as “without”; and wei can be understood as action, but more specifically non-natural action or governance. This is much the same as the definition of the Greek root of the word “anarchy”, which literally means “an” – without; “archy” – ruler or governor. While modern political anarchism may eschew all relationships with spirituality in favour of an atheist doctrine, I believe it is the case that when anarchism and spirituality combine, there is no inherent conflict; it can, in fact, such as with Taoism, provide an understanding of the world that is in dialogue with “cultures” where the political theory of anarchism does not exist.

Wei, in a political sense, can largely be thought of as to impose action or authority, so to follow wu-wei is to consider the most natural and least intervention, which will in turn create further spontaneous order. The Tao Te Ching clearly states the role of force or authority 'force is followed by loss of strength' (30), 'a violent man will die a violent death' (42). The imposition of force does nothing but weaken us and for Taoists, the ideal way to be is metaphorically like water. 'Under heaven, nothing is more soft and yielding than water, yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better; it has no equal. The weak can overcome the strong; the supple can overcome the stiff.' (78) It is in this notion that I believe Taoism can be closely linked to the trend of humanist critical theory that I have been referring to. Taoism is not simply a philosophy of resignation and acceptance of an unfair world, but much more an ethical paradigm for how to achieve a harmonious society. It must be noted however that Taoism cannot be considered a revolutionary idea in the respect I am perusing. When it was conceived of there was no “working class” and, while there might have been a state, it certainly didn’t interfere as much in the daily lives of the people as it began to with the development of industrial capitalism. At heart, the ideal social organisation was an agrarian collectivism, in which the spontaneity and natural order of a non hierarchical society could flourish.

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 18:50

Another good reason to ignore dialectics.

petey
Offline
Joined: 13-10-05
May 25 2010 18:50
BigLittleJ wrote:
But Epicureus lived thousands of years ago, and 'religion' in those days was quite a different beast to what it is today. (Also, obviously there aren't souls made of atoms so you'd have to be a bit odd to go about believing this today!).

how old the theory is doesn't matter, it's the content. as i say, there are moderns who kinda follow it. and if you're a materialist, why would it matter if religion was different then? it's all hobgoblins anyway!

BigLittleJ wrote:
i wrote:
also, being religious does not necessarily entail claiming prayer etc. as the best course of action.

Of course it doesn't necessarily entail it (clearly religious people do other things than sit around praying all day, after all!). But I think it leads you in that direction, and away from concrete action

i'd have to disagree, the point of religion is to find a guide for how to live one day to the next, it's just that prayer is seen as one kind of action along with all the others you could think of.

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 18:52

I see. So would you say that buddism would be able to function around an anarchist society? Alot of my anarchist beleifs fit fairly nicely alongside some buddist.

Matt_efc
Offline
Joined: 13-02-07
May 25 2010 18:57
Farran wrote:
I see. So would you say that buddism would be able to function around an anarchist society? Alot of my anarchist beleifs fit fairly nicely alongside some buddist.

No I think you might have missed the point slightly...although saying that that bit I posted sounds more "pro taoist" out of context of the rest of the work...

What I was really trying to get at in the chapter was weather the development of a "praxis" as Marx understood it, was historically contingent on the rise of Industrial Capitalism - or was it something that reared its head in different situations. I allude to it at the end, that the idea that Taoism and Class analysis can co exist is a bit dodgy really... although there was no doubt a class system which Taoism came into conflict with (theres various taoist rebellions etc) it never was able (maybe because of its historical limitation) to get to the idea of self management. It forms the same critique of Authority that most Anarchists would have on a philosophical level (I suspect) but it is not "Anarchism" as we know it... there is very little discussion of anything resembling "communism" within the wider taoist field either which suggests its uneasy relationship I think

Farran
Offline
Joined: 25-05-10
May 25 2010 19:00

Ah right that makes more sense!

Elly's picture
Elly
Offline
Joined: 24-05-10
May 25 2010 19:02

Buddhism: the religion which is okay for leftists to worship.

Exported under the guise of new-age spirtitualism and meditation, its one of the most disgusting religions.