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What's the deal with the religious tendencies/ideologies of anarchism ?

0 votes
I am confused by the tendencies of religious anarchism(s). Christian Anarchism, Islamic Anarchism, Catholic Anarchism (is there such a thing as Protestant Anarchists ?), Buddhist Anarchism, Taoist Anarchism, Pagan Anarchism, New Age Anarchism, on and on...what other religious anarchist tendencies or ideologies have you heard of that I'm not mentioning ?

Do these anarchists want to keep organized religion (but just without governments and capitalism) ? Are these ideas similar to a theocracy with a universal religion guiding the lives of a people within a specific region ?

What do these religious anarchists think of clergy ? Clergies have a huge influence over the lives of many religious people (priests, monks, imams, rabbis, ministers, cult leaders, and other clergy.)

When I think of being anti-state, I think of not just governments or any type of mediated political bodies, but I think of all hierarchical bodies/organizations which direct our lives. Of course, I include organized religion in this overarching idea.

Overall, I'm not thinking that all anarchists have to be atheists or be anti-spirituality. It is mainly the "organized" in "organized religion" that I'm confused about...

edited for tags
asked Dec 12, 2013 by Artificiality (9,990 points)
edited Jul 15, 2014 by dot
"what other religious anarchist tendencies or ideologies have you heard of that I'm not mentioning "

anarcho-primitivism...?   :-)

modern civilization consists of, among other things, a network of institutions of domination. imo the cornerstones are, loosely: government/state, capitalism/communism/economics, religion(/moralism?). religion pretty much REQUIRES the belief in a "higher power" above oneself (ie, a master/slave relationship), leaving aside the claimed non-religion of buddhism. so just like the @caps, anarcho-religionists are an irreconcilable concept in my mind.
I cannot remember if it was Orwell that remarked about the seemingly religious dedication that 1930's Spanish anarchists observed but it all makes sens. A period of transition may be necessary for some, (that were previously submerged by religion/spiritual thinking/interaction) wherein they may adapt to new ways of relating and try to change habits away from objective moral ideologies. In "the Battle for Spain" Anthony Beevor mentions the significant role that idealism played amid the events preceding the Spanish revolution and suggested how that differed from later social developments. Stirner's critiques, as well as those of other individualist or egoist tendencies are certainly relevant.  Yet ironically two articles about the American insurrectionist, anti slave abolitionist, John Brown, were recently published in the semi-individualist or egoist Modern Slavery. John Brown's family either were, or were from a puritan heritage and at a time when some within the political establishment were starting to form an opposition to them. The puritans believed that conscience trump laws, always, hence John Brown's violent insurgency against the institution of slavery. In later times the Brown family helped out anarchist trying to escape the Hay market persecution. All that has definitely opened my eyes to the potential inherent within idealism and spirituality.

3 Answers

+3 votes
there are a lot of ways that people can experience the sacred in their lives and families, including that god is in each of us as the voice of right behavior, which presumably can change with context etc (ie, god can be divorced from the church, in some cases).
dorothy day is always the example of a decent person who was actually both an anarchist and a christian, but i'm not sure i accept that it's possible in anything other than theory. at least about christianity. but i don't know. liberation pedagogy can be interesting. while i despise christianity with everything in me, people are complicated, and secularity hasn't solved a lot of the outstanding problems either...

but in general i think that people who hold on to religion do it not because it's in synch with anarchism much, but because there are important cultural/family ties that people associate with food, clothing, language, and worship.

a note about semantics: i mostly think of "religion" as organized, and of "spirituality" as personal. they can overlap, but...
answered Dec 12, 2013 by dot (50,920 points)
One thing I find interesting about religion is the degree to which it relies upon interpretation and argument; the reason so many different denominations of Christian thought exist is that there have been wildly different philosophical and practical tendencies derived from the same source.

I think the most interesting Christian anarchist I've ever heard of was a fictional one by the name of Reverend Moss Gatlin who gave sermons from the back of a cart and argued that dynamite was the only way to properly settle the scores in God's ledger.

I'm not sure to what degree this kind of subversion is really useful, though. I feel like most modern organized religion is just a sort of spiritual backdrop for more-or-less conservative lifestyles and philosophies based around stability, family, tradition, etc.

Yet, on the other hand, it seems like a lot of religious or spiritual groups have been pretty successful at building communities that look out for one another, socialize, and spread ideas.
@ Rice Boy: There are also some interesting "Christian anarchists" (though not calling themselves that) in Q by Luther Blissett.
Also, check out the Jesus Radicals, who are an anarchist-christian group who love the A-P's.
0 votes
I'm not a religious anarchist, so my answer might be imprecise, but, in addition to what dot said, I think anarchism lends itself to a certain degree of religious-like fantastical thinking. As many anarchists would spin it the utopian world we are working towards looks a lot like the ideas of heaven or paradise or the sweet hereafter that we're sold by religious hucksters.

As the comment by funkyanarchy alludes to, it isn't just religious (as in organized religion) folks who are drawn to this aspect of anarchy - many primitivists talk about anarchy in terms of a fall from grace (or innocence, or wildness) and a return to such; it was always funny to me that the Wobs appropriated religious hymns to preach a supposed beautiful future of work (because work makes you free?).

Much of anarchism suggests some sort of millenarian revolution after which all will be neatly resolved and there will never be the problems of the capitalist world. If that doesn't sound a lot like religion, I dunno what does.

I don't know that this answer is helpful, and I am not endorsing these takes on anarchy, but I think for at least some folks I've encountered, this is the angle they come at it from.
answered Dec 14, 2013 by ingrate (20,130 points)
The yearning for a millenarian revolution is not unique to anarchists. Marxists have that as well, although theirs is tinged with a much more apocalyptic aspect, possibly carried over from the (especially Engels') romanticizing of the German Peasants' Rebellion, which (like its English counterpart) was explicitly religious. The search for the engine of that apocalypse is where Marxism and anarchism tend to diverge, but sadly, the kooky utopian goal remains: a world of inverted values (in Marxist terms, the Hegelian negation of the negation or some other similar dialectical hokum) where the oppressed are now able to oppress -- what Bakunin saw clearly when Marx yammered on about the dictatorship of the proletariat (and unfortunately, how many anarchists retain certain class-revenge fantasies).

It constantly amazes me how the professed atheism of many looks like a mirror-image of religious fanaticism, and it's certainly true that many anarchists fall into that. It's difficult for me to stomach the sort of expectations that anarchists bring to an ideology of Revolution-As-Event, as if it were the advent of the Messiah, some sudden burst of overwhelming politico-spiritual power. Messianic thinking elevated into a political ideology relieves people from engaging in the boring non-activist hands-dirty (counter-) infrastructural crap that brings no glory or celebrity.
lawrence - you are absolutely right that this is not isolated to anarchists, but as an anarchist it is a thing I pay close attention to when it shows up in my yard.
+1 vote
Ultimately, I would say people who attach a spiritual teacher's to anarchy are anarchists like any other anarchist. Otherwise they wouldn't be anarchists. Anarchists, it seems, reject any hierarchy, so they would reject any hierarchy.

My view is that your first and last statements are inconsistent. In the first part, you asked about people who identify w specific teachings being anarchists. In the last you said you were asking about people who are religious.

I Can be a Christian anarchist  w/o being part of a religion that calls itself Christian. Not liking to label myself I won't. I used to be part of the religion of Christianity. Today, I think religion is counter to how I live my understanding of Jesus' teachings.

From my observation, people who reject a spiritual individual's teachings because they are against religion are combining two different worlds.

Religion is an organization. Following a person's teaching is what any one does who reads and studies, say Marx, and tries to live according to said principles. This does not require organization.

GOd as an ultimate authority dictating to us is part of the religious aspect of belief. Many similar dictates come from the religion, not from living spirituality.

I Think studying the growth of Xianity is a great way to follow development of a group that started out leaderless but ended up an institution.

I Know, it would be easy to say Jesus was a leader. He wasn't. He was a teacher. People made him into an authority. And this is what can easily happen with any group. Anarchists would likely be having to fight this human tendency to create leaders out of teachers.

An important aspect of the Christian religion, as we know it today, is that it became a state institution under Constantine. When was that? The 4th century CE? From then on, it is likely a high percent a of "Christians" were not following the teaching of Jesus. They were religionists taught by the state since the state demanded participation.
answered Jul 7 by zz (270 points)
zz, first, it's unclear if this is meant to be a comment or an answer. second, it's unclear who you're rsponding to (first and last paragraphs?). third, i don't understand your first first two sentences in relation to each other. you seem to be saying that having a spiritual teacher is not the same thing as having a boss/master (my words, obviously)? but i'm just guessing...

i look forward to some clarification.
IT was meant as an answer which is why I thought I could use the phrase "first & last."

No, I not see a spiritual teacher as a boss. If some one has more information/experiences than me and is willing to share it, I am free to listen and to take what I like and leave the rest. I do not see it any differently than any other teacher. Spiritual teachers' body of knowledge is what makes them different from any other teacher.

I Can only speak for me personally.

As for the two contradicting phrases, he called them religions. I think what makes a spiritual teacher's followers religious is the organized part. I don't think Buddhism has the organization so some don't refer to it as a religion.
Re: whether a spiritual teacher is a boss, this is something I think about a fair amount, having come from a religious background. I've not reached any firm conclusions but I tend to err on the side of 'a spiritual teacher isn't necessarily a boss'. I think there's something to be said for looking at it through the lens of free association. You can't be a 'worker' in the Marxian sense if you don't have an employer, someone who has formal authority over you, but you can be a Christian (or 'follower of christ', 'follower of the way' etc) without a priest or pastor. Formal authority isn't necessarily a part of the relationship between a spiritual teacher and those they teach. I've definitely seen pastors who behaved like bosses, and had formal authority both spiritually and as an employer, but I've also seen pastors who didn't hold any formal authority and didn't behave like bosses.

Like I said, no firm conclusions, just disorganised musings.
WHere my thinking is different from yours, Yosemite, is I was not considering a pastor as my teacher. I was thinking of Jesus as my teacher. I can learn from pastors. They, if they ever listened to me, might be able to learn from me.

Spirituality is a part of my life as much as eating is. I did the church thing for several years but don't anymore. I don't have a pastor. I would be open to a form of teacher than taught w/o owning. If a pastor was able to do that, I might listen.

Yeah, I am one who got burned by the organization called the church and people who call themselves Christians. It works for many. In the log run, I was not a good fit.
That's what I was alluding to (though not very clearly) with the point about free association and the fact that you can be a follower of Christ without a priest, but not a worker without a boss. Your point about teaching without owning is the crux of it I think, that's what distinguishes a teacher from a boss. Where I still have some trouble is whether or not Jesus/God 'owns' you, but I guess that's more of a theological matter.
I Agree the idea of "owning" is theological and one I don't agree with.

 Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest worth checking for an understanding of God that has nothing to do with religion.

A Book you might find interesting is "Parables as Subversive Speech" by William R Herzog, II. In essence, he has Jesus teaching from an anti-authoritarian perspective. He backs it up, of course, with translations and writing about it in terms of the context of the times.

The first part of the book has, essentially, a beginner's guide to authoritarian structures. He describes how religions and state work in collusion. About bureaucracies, the hierarchies of the system, the establishment of bureaucracies, all functions of individuals down to "expendables."

It was easy to see the similarities of now and then. The rich creating situations landowners had to sell off the lands to the rich with the previous owners having to work on the land they had owned. And the spiral downward of the people.

LIke I said, it reminded me of today. But it also showed me how ingrained the power system is. I could go on.

But maybe if you read it we can discuss it here or elsewhere.
Just re-read your original reply. I need to improve my reading skills. I skip over too much.

In other words. You made your point fine. I didn't read it well.

MY apologies.

(Editted for *further* clarity.)
No worries zz, and thanks for the recommendation, sounds like an interesting read!
zz - have you checked out Dorothy Day, the Catholic Workers and Leo Tolstoy? All were folks who drew from their (Christian) spirituality as anarchists. As I said in my answer, I'm godless, without spirit, so I can't really address some of the deeper questions that this pokes at for those who are religious/think they have a spirit.

I do see a difference between a teacher and a master. I've gone to Buddhist practices and retreats and some of what I got from the teachers was fantastic, but they weren't leaders in that I knew they were largely full of shit, and when it came to living my actual life, I viewed their teachings as suggestions, just like my mom, my dad, my friends, and other people I maybe have varying respect for would have for living my life.
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