Warning: You should probably know that when I blog, I sometimes try and write well-crafted and carefully structured essays, and other times I just spew my thoughts into a big fucking mess. This post is in the later category.
Preamble: Since Crimethinc started podcasting, I’ve listened to it almost every time and would encourage other folks with anarchist leanings to do the same. They always summarize anarchist struggles and actions, which is helpful for a person like me who gets discouraged at the thought of being alone in their beliefs of freedom and equality. They also usually do a good job of examining issues of importance to anarchists through commentary, interviews, and historical summary. Past issues have looked at environmentalism, facism, and squatting. Whether or not I agree with the particular statement they’re making, I can usually respect the place they’re coming from and am enriched by their criticism.
Preamble over. The latest episode of Crimethinc’s “The Ex-Worker” was a completely anti-religious holiday special. If you feel like it, check it out here: http://crimethinc.com/podcast/15/
Toward the beginning of the episode, they give the following definition of religion from the Crimethinc Contradictionary:
Etymologically speaking, hierarchy means “rule by the sacred.” In theory, religion is not necessarily oppressive. One could hold, as certain revolutionary heretics have, that everyone and everything is sacred. In practice, the only religions that survived the rise of empires were the ones that were willing to make themselves accomplices to conquest and colonization, not to mention the ones leading the charge.
They then summarize a history of anarchist opposition to religion, complete with relevant quotes from all the greatest anarchist writers. It concluded with a commentary by the two podcasters, Clara and Alanis.
I have a crap-ton of reactions to the content of the podcast. Way more than could fit into a blog entry of reasonable length (even though I doubt anybody’s reading), so I’ll just outline a few of them.
The most valuable portion of the podcast was the history piece in the middle, definitely makes the whole podcast worth listening to.
The commentary by Clara and Alanis was interesting. They did concede that many devout Christians have also been dedicated anarchists and done good work, including Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, and some of the early IWW organizers. Ultimately, however, they dismiss it because of the view they generally see among religious folks regarding authority. As anarchists, they say, a person is their own authority and should not look to any scriptures, traditions, or institutions.
This view is interesting and makes for good rhetoric, but I consider it to be simplistic and absolutist. They state that scriptures are a mirror in which the viewer sees affirmation of whatever views they want to see. Christian anarchists find scriptures that justify their views, Liberationists find some to support a Marxist views, right-wing Americans think the Bible tells them to bomb abortion clinics and speak highly of a fictionalized version of Reagan, and the vast majority just don’t give a fuck about any of it. This is true, but offers the possibility of meaningful dialogue with the hope of resolution, whereas the only future I can see for an individualistic view of authority supported by the podcasters can only lead to eternal fighting. It’s a problem we both have to solve.
I’m going to wrap this up by looking at the definition of religion they quoted at the beginning. As they say, religion is not necessarily oppressive, but the long-lasting ones become parts of empire. I hope to be part of a non-oppressive religion, knowing fully that this means that nothing I contribute to it will last. It will be wiped out, but that’s OK.
What do you all think? Leave a comment if you feel like it.