Atheists reject the idea of organized religion and supernatural deities, and anarchists aren’t all that different. Yet while atheists have in many countries gained widespread acceptance, or at least are a recognizably large niche of the population, anarchists exist entirely on the fringe, and have more misconceptions thrown at them than anyone else.
(Please note I am referring to libertarian anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, or voluntaryists – not the bizarre strands of socialist anarchists.)
Google defines anarchism as “Belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.”
To most people that sounds pretty extreme. To me it sounds like the only reasonable and morally consistent political position, if one chooses to follow a moral code. Or maybe it’s a philosophical position, since many anarchists disavow of any political method for achieving their goals.
Getting back to my original question, I want to explain why I think atheists and anarchists should be regarded as fairly similar. To understand this, I have to explain the following statement:
Statism is a religion
For me, Statism means any political ideology that advocates the use of, or justifies the existence of, the State. That is to say, pretty much all of them.
To me it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a gun-loving conservative, or a marijuana-defending liberal – both of you want to use the State, that is to say coercive force, to achieve your goals. Your goals, though they may differ, are basically an imposition of what you consider right or wrong, i.e. your morality, on others. Hey, atheists, does that ring a bell?
Statism is a religion because it operates on the same principles as all organized religions do.
- The State is a rigid hierarchy of power – so are organized religions.
Questioning the legitimacy of the State is a taboo subject, even more so than questioning the existence or plausibility of supernatural deities. Talking heads on the news may talk about the degree to which our lives should be controlled by the State, but never whether it should be done in the first place.
If you’re part of a political science, economic, or other social science faculty, questioning the necessity or legitimacy of the State will immediately make you a social pariah. Exactly the position questioning supernatural deities will put you into on a theological faculty. Belief in the State is an unstated but pervasive assumption, that precedes all other debates on any matters even remotely political.
Most people believing in the State are in a state of cognitive dissonance, which is exactly the mental state religions aim to put you in deliberately through their use of self-contradicting beliefs and doctrines. (See point number 3 here.)
For example, you probably consider murder, kidnapping, and theft to be wrong. However, when the government does it and calls it war, jailing, and taxation, you probably have no problem with it. This despite the fact that in almost all cases it is done as an initiation of violence (and not as just retaliation).
All Statist beliefs are essentially collectivist in nature. Think about the last time you spoke or listened to someone expressing their opinions on what the State should be doing. Odds are they said, “We should do this,” or, “We should do that.” The prefix “we” implies a lot of muddled thinking and mental confusion as to who exactly is doing anything in a political system, and who actually has all the power.
Religions, like all cultist beliefs, are collectivist in nature too. If they weren’t there would be no churches, nor any political structure to religious organizations. To me, individual religious belief is when you think you have a direct link to your god, without needing any intermediaries. It’s a belief that doesn’t resort to confusing and frankly poorly written religious texts. But most importantly, people who are religious on an individualistic basis usually don’t go around bugging other people to try and convert them – I only seem to get that from the collectivists.
- Belief in a supernatural deity is the utmost of mental slavery, in the sense that it is belief in the most powerful and vicious authority figure one could conceive of. The State is likewise an authority figure, though one more terrestrial in nature.
An atheist is ultimately a skeptic
And that skepticism should extend to the State too!
Both religious organizations and governments are primarily motivated by the quest for power over other people’s lives. The only difference is that religions use supernatural deities to justify their power, while governments use lofty concepts riddled with contradictions, like “democracy”.
It is for this reason that I am saddened whenever I see an atheist passionately denouncing the authority of imaginary deities, only to supplant that authority with that of the State. After all, the State is an entity most people, including atheists, believe to have at least demigod status.
I believe this is what is really meant when we hear talk of “secularism”. People simply replacing one set of mental chains for another. “It’s like saying we don’t need a God, but we need a huge church.”
So I ask again, why are there more atheists than anarchists?
(Hint, Statists will often try to destroy religion in order to increase the power of the State. Atheists only become upset when religion is taught in school. I also get upset when Statism and fake history is taught to children.)