An Anarchist Atheism

Okay, first…for those few who may be reading this who didn’t know: I am an anarchist. Now, there is no reason to be alarmed, because being an anarchist does not mean I believe in chaos and destruction, or that I am a bomb-wielding terrorist or anything…anarchism is a political philosophy just like any other. To be really simple about it, it’s a philosophy that people deserve the maximum amount of freedom possible and thus that we deserve a society that is free from all forms of oppression: sexism, racism, homophobia and heterosexism, ecological destruction, poverty and economic exploitation, and government oppression and war, etc…it is a philosophy that believes in grassroots, participatory democracy…it IS radical, it COULD be called naive or utopian, but it IS NOT mean-spirited, cynical, or destructive…and if anyone has any more questions about it, I would love to talk with you about it…for hours and hours and hours.

Now, with that said, I really want to write about something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile now: my spirituality.

Somewhere in the last few years, especially as I’ve become more and more fascinated with the growth and organization of right-wing christian movements in the US, I’ve started to become really bothered by the fact that I, as an anarchist atheist, am so often considered non-spiritual…and so I’ve been thinking, writing, and talking with Briana about this, trying to get a grasp on just what my beliefs are…what my spirituality is…so here I’d like to chat a little bit about it.

“If You Don’t Believe In God, Then What Do You Believe In?”

I believe that we are here, right now, and this is it. This is our life…and it will only last for a short time, and then we will be gone. Because what we are, as human beings, are beautiful, complex, and fragile patterns of matter…nothing more, yet nothing less, which have risen like a wave out of deep and rich process of evolution…but which will ultimately crest and crash back into the ocean of particles and elements that we were born from…and with our deaths, our memories, our consciousnessess will scatter in all directions…circulating back into the stew.

There is no higher consciousness guiding us, there is no grand plan…there is simply energy and matter and time…and the dancing, dancing relationships between them…

“Boy, That Sounds Depressing”

Now, I know so many people who hear this and think it’s so depressing…but I’ve never understood that…I think it’s just the opposite…I think it is an immense and almost unthinkable blessing that out of a gigantic mess of natural processes and chemical reactions…we have actually come to be, with our eyes and ears and our languages and cultures…that out of completely lifeless and soulless universe life actually DID happen, and that these impersonal processes have actually led to the evolution of PERSONALITIES…our personalities…and so we are lucky enough to be here…alive…and we are here together right now…sharing this thing, this experience of life…and really we are all we’ve got…

And this is another thing that is so depressing to so many people…this idea that without God we are alone in the universe…but when I hear THAT perspective I get depressed…because it feels to me like it’s missing the whole point: WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE. We are surrounded by life…we are surrounded by personalities and emotions and consciousnesses…more than we will ever be able to comprehend. People, bird, fishes, three-toed slothes, amoebas, viruses, chimpanzees, mushrooms, forests…what I don’t understand about people who believe in God is…why isn’t this enough…Why isn’t it enough that we have eachother? Why do we need something above us, watching over us? What extra comfort does that give…because for me that idea is far more scary…(that there is a boss in the sky that has a plan for me and that He doesn’t have enough respect for me to actually treat me like an equal, to introduce himself…and to level with me about what the point of this world is…but that’s just me. I don’t think it shows any real kind of love to leave your children in the dark, suffering and dying so you can watch and judge…that seems pretty abusive actually…sorry, I went a little too far into the negative there…apologies).

So this is the foundation for my spirituality…a spirituality of us…a spirituality without a hierarchy or a need for a leader or for a top-down plan…it is a spirituality that says: we are here, in this beautiful world, and we are here together…now we have a choice…we can work together to learn and grow and celebrate all of the beauties together…or we can fight and exploit each other and waste our lives…or we can tell ourselves that this world is actually just some kind of test or fake world, and that real life begins after we die…as for me, I choose the first. And by choosing that first, I have my moral code and I have my politics…and I don’t need any ten commandments or other scriptures to tell me not to kill or hate or steal…because I know that we’re sharing this life…so I don’t have any reason to do any of that bad stuff.

“But What Happens When We Die?”

Now there is one other part…and that is the whole death piece. I know that alot of religious people find it really important this question of what happens after we die…and there is all this fear of that after death piece…and for those people who feel like they need to know that they will live forever somewhere…there is no comfort I can give…because that sounds boring to me. I find it far more fascinating and powerful and neat that really I just have this tiny window…that I need to make this as powerful an excursion as possible…and…

…and I need to make sure that I am doing what I can to help my fellow people and creatures get the most out of their lives as well…because that’s the point for me, that we get to live TOGETHER…so this is why justice is essential for me…and also I believe that it is only in each other that we find our meaning and where we can become bigger than ourselves…by carrying the stories of those who came before us, and having our children carry our stories…we become a part of a larger project, something that, while not immortal and absolutely eternal…will continue for more than just one or two generations. We find meaning in our lives in how we live with each other…and for ourselves.

And so my spiritual practice is in sharing my life with my family, my friends, my neighbors…my spirituality is rooted in the struggle for justice…my mass is those times when we sit around to tell our stories, and where we bring forward the stories of the past…of those people who had their time and then passed…for us to learn from, for us to be nurtured by, for us to be inspired by (and for us to acknowledge those billions who have been wronged)…

This works for me…this fulfills me and enriches me…this gives me meaning…and this makes sense to me…

And I’d love to hear what you think about it…

“But Atheists Don’t Have The Communities That Churches Offer”

And this is absolutely true…I think one of the strongest and most positive things about religions are the social elements…the congregations, the discussion and study groups…the buildings that you can go to at least once a week to find people who connect with you about a deep part of your life…they connect with your most basic worldview…

And this is why I keep saying…not even joking…that anarchists and other social justice activists need to start building churches…or something similar…I would love to have a place to go once a week where I knew I could find people who shared my beliefs…where we could celebrate together and tell stories and histories together…share donuts and tea…in fact, strategically, I think it’s going to be essential for building commmunities that can actually change this world.

Ooh, this was a fun post to write!

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi

9 comments

well, i have tears running down my cheeks, because your description of your beliefs, and mine, is so amazingly beautiful. i think this world, what we share with each other and everything in it, is the most wonderful, brutal thing i can imagine and i’m so glad to be here. i’ve been constantly thinking lately about how complex people are. we have such huge capacities for love and beauty and rage and horror and we all navigate our complexities in such unique (and often common) ways. i am in awe of all that we are and all that we could be if we fostered the best of ourselves, in our communities and took true care of each other.

Jeremy and Briana,

I love you both quite a bit.

~jessica

I love both of you quite a bit, also. Hope your planning for next year is going great, Jesssica!

I’ve loved reading your thoughts, Jeremy. Thanks for sharing them. You’ve helped me to understand the term “anarchist” in a positive way. And I truly grok your concepts of spirituality. I, too, wish there were gathering places for “atheists.” Only we’d have to be careful that they didn’t become as dogmatic as churches.

i love you too!

goddamn, jeremy: it’s been rad getting to know you more thru yer blog.

one day soon, kyle and johnny and i are gonna come steal you away for a couple hours of anarchist, athiest (ok, i don’t really know if kyle’s athiest) let’s eat sugar and play time.

🙂

i hope that doesn’t sound scary.

see ya soon!

jen

wooooow, ur in big travel, big??? i mean huge dude, i really feel sorry for you that you believe this, cause there is a God, and I wont argue with ANYBODY about, i know what i believe and NO ONE can change that. But obviously one day you and the whole world will see this, and believe me I’m really sad to say this but by then it will be too late.

Lonnie Ray Dugan Jr.

I am an aspiring writer and also both an anarchist and atheist. I have been conscidering your Idea of creating areas “simmilar to churches” where atheist can meet and discuss beliefs and spirituality on a regular/weekly basis. I believe that this would help build unity as an atheist community….and would send the message that it is ok to be an atheist….thus producing a more tolerant and accepting society. I believe it would also be good for atheist to have a unifying symbol. But my first focus is this: That I plan to write a book on Anarchist-Atheist/Anarcho-Atheism….I would really like your insights as I write both upon the political and spiritual sides of this. I hope you will conscider this and I look forward to hearing from you soon. You can reach me at: atheistpatriots@yahoo.com

“In this yogi-ridden age, it is too readily assumed that “non-attachment” is not only better than a full acceptance of earthly life, but that the ordinary man only rejects it because it is too difficult: in other words, that the average human being is a failed saint. It is doubtful whether this is true. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings. If one could follow it to its psychological roots, one would, I believe, find that the main motive for “non-attachment” is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work.

The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is “higher”. The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all “radicals” and “progressives,” from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.”

-George Orwell

I agree with you and I am also an anarchist atheist. Both are just about freedom from oppression, whether from church or state. Neither are about violence.