Anarchism, the New Atheism

I can remember a time in my own lifetime when freedom of religion was frequently interpreted to mean you could be whatever flavor of Christian you wanted to be. In time, the language of religious freedom generally started to include non-Christian religions. It was still more time before the notion of religious freedom began to include the notion of freedom from religion altogether. Atheism used to be a much more fringe viewpoint, so much so that many people didn’t even fully understand what it meant. Atheists with the courage to speak up back when it was still a largely fringe viewpoint played a significant role in promoting freedom of religion. This applies even to those who, while not atheists themselves, held minority and perhaps unpopular religious views.


Today people seem much more likely to understand what atheism means and to respect an atheist even if they themselves are theists. Today people seem much more aware of a broad array of religious views that differ dramatically from their own beliefs. The introduction and discussion of an, at the time, radical viewpoint changed the entire discussion that had always been held in the context that there must be some deity guiding our world.

I see many similarities now in the emergence of anarchy as a personal view. It still appears to be a fringe viewpoint. However, just as I suspect there are and were a number of atheists who didn’t label themselves or desire to speak up and subject themselves to ridicule by a theist majority, there may now be many closet anarchists. The word “anarchy” still means chaos to the general public largely ignorant of the subject. Many people choose not to vote or otherwise become politically involved. They may simply be apathetic but doubtless many others have lost faith in “the system” that lords over their lives and simply have no term for that lack of faith. We are deeply embedded in the context that some universal system must exist to explain civilized society just as many believe that life cannot be explained without an intelligent designer. They may feel the system has become corrupt but lack the vocabulary to discuss what that means or to come to consistent logical conclusions about the nature of that corruption. The introduction of anarchy broadens the entire context of the discussion about government and freedom.

In a recent post, I inspired a lot of angry comments when I spoke a rhetorical question, “How do you gently convince a person that their god doesn’t exist and they won’t be going to Heaven when they die?” The point of the rhetorical question was to point out that such a powerful message that conflicts with lifelong core beliefs, whether true or not, cannot be conveyed gently and tactfully. The responses I got confirmed my point. The question was so unsettling it became a distraction of what I was talking about. Obviously, one can be an anarchist without being an atheist and vice versa. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s often a useful analogy. For many religious anarchists, their religious views are at the core of their lack of faith in government, seeing God as the only true source of authority. However, that doesn’t describe me and I cannot speak from that viewpoint with any conviction or intellectual honesty. I’ll leave it to them to explain anarchy to those theists that are too distracted by my atheism.

As an atheist, when I consider a vast institution like the Catholic church, I see actors in fancy costumes, engaged in elaborate ceremonies, and ultimately putting on an intricate show meant to reinforce the fragile fallacy at the core of it all, the existence of a supreme being that created the universe. As an anarchist I see government the same way. Yes, the agents of government most definitely exist just as churches and priests exist. Government has its elaborate costumes and ceremonies all meant to reinforce the fragile fallacy at the core, that there is some supreme authority that its human agents represent. It’s that supreme authority that I do not believe in, and without it the rest is comically absurd. I see all human beings as fallible and imperfect, including those we’ve placed in positions of power through one ceremony or another. If you pray for a loved one with cancer and they recover, God gets credit. If they fail to recover, God doesn’t get the blame. Praying won’t help but chemotherapy or surgery might. Both religion and authoritarian government represent illusions that provide a degree of false comfort to believers. Abandoning irrational beliefs won’t fix any problems by itself, but it’s an important first step which allows us to seek rational solutions to our problems.

Anarchy most literally means “no rulers” (not no rules). To me it means a lack of belief in the authority of government. In place of that true authority, we have substituted costumes like military and police uniforms, or black dresses on judges propped up on pedestals above the “normal” people, and rituals like elections and declarations of freedom and constitutional conventions. In place of real authority we have the constant threat of violence for disobeying. Of course I believe in and fear that violence which is why I still dance when they fire bullets at my feet. Whether you share the views of the anarchist or not, realize that he broadens the vocabulary of the discussion about liberty. The anarchist if nothing else is a devil’s advocate, challenging the very right of anyone to establish a monopoly on violence, and forcing government to put up a better defense for its own validity. Such a challenge has the power to actually make government better, to discourage governments from pushing the boundaries of their control ever outward and infringing ever more deeply into our personal rights. I personally believe that such a challenge is the only thing that can actually shrink the reach and power of government. Acting politically validates government and fuels the dangerous illusion it depends on for its existence.

I have no idea whether monopoly governments will ever cease to be. The most optimistic part of me is still inclined to think it will happen long after the last church closes its doors for good, which could be never. It doesn’t matter. That is not anarchy! Those who say anarchy will never happen, that there will always be movements to create authoritarian monopoly governments, I feel they misunderstand what it means. Anarchy can happen because it happens in your own mind. It happens the moment you cast off your comforting illusions to see reality with greater clarity. When the authority of government is built on a fallacy, then any act of aggression by a government is no different than any other criminal activity. An arrest is a kidnapping. Taxes are theft. Crime may never cease completely, but as an anarchist, I realize that we must oppose it consistently if we want as little crime as possible. Anarchy is not the violent overthrow of government. It is not a new monopolistic system to be imposed on all in place of an old monopolistic system. It is a personal viewpoint about the fallacious nature of current governments. Even as a minority viewpoint, when the view is more broadly held and and more clearly understood, it has the potential to change our world for the better just as atheism has.

Anarchy isn’t the goal. It’s the path. Anarchy isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

UPDATE 11/8/2008: I’ve linked this video which is a nice compliment to this post.

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Discussion (37)¬

  1. Kevin Dean says:

    I think this is really important to keep in mind. Far to often the questions are framed in a “Where do you want the govenrment to go” and “Away” isn’t usually an option to those asking the question.

  2. Samuel Skinner says:

    That is nice. Unfortunately, atheism is a fact statement about reality. Anarchism is a political sysyem. As such it has to deal with people and their raw stupidity.

    Anarchy simply doesn’t work- all drizes toward it flowder with either warlordism or the fact that most people don’t want insane change.

    Also, you appear to be using the “they laughed at x” fallacy. Alot of true ideas have been ignored or laughed at- but so have alot more false ones. Popularity is irrelevant to truth. Except for questions like “do people like x”.

    You seem to be objecting to the system and the pompousness of the actors in it, but politicians, unlike religious leaders do have an excuse- they make decisions affecting the lives of billions. They shouldn’t be exalted- they only manage to pull that off because people fall for it. However, eliminating the government won’t fix it.

    As always, society needs certain things done- defense, law, public works, etc. Countries that don’t do these end up like Poland- dismembered by their neighbors.

  3. Samuel, when I see you make statments like: “Anarchism is a political sysyem” and “Anarchy simply doesn’t work”(again implying a system) and “all drizes toward it flowder with either warlordism”, warlordism is just another ‘government’ and not anarchy in action, and “As always, society needs certain things done- defense, law, public works, etc.”, yes there will be a need for public works, but there is no need for a state system for such a thing, especially since the state IS the problem, it’s in essence no different from any other criminal organization and it is based on violence and the treath of violence.

    The general impresion I get when I read your post is not that you disagree with his point, but that you’ve completly missed the point.
    I suggest you re-read his blog and have a look in his previous entries, he has already spoken about such misconseption as you seem to have.

  4. Samuel Skinner says:

    Fair enough. He is probably wrong, but information is always valuable.

  5. Mike Ruff says:

    Speaking as a free market (and thus, non-coercive) provider of some of those needed “public works” I respectfully disagree w/ you, Mr. Skinner.

    Speaking as a non-atheist anarchist, I agree w/ you Dale–great point, and good analogy.

  6. Giggan says:

    The comment that got people upset in the last one I found similarly stated in this one, in commenting that prayer does not help a cancer patient, which is a definite statement. Some atheists could agree, if mind and body are at all connected, that believing one will heal (through prayer or other personal belief) very well could impact one’s health in addition to the obvious medical treatments. The problem I have with professing atheism is the same I have with that statement, which is being definite with an idea that is impossible to proove one way or another. Many theists don’t understand what they are doing when they dress up in funny clothes and perform special services, and when they profess knowledge in something they don’t understand. This does not mean that they are wrong, just because they truly don’t know.
    As for respecting costumes, I find the same dilemma with police. Many drivers can attest to the fear rush we get driving by a cop on the highway, and I know they can rob and steal from me at will, but I try to supress the fear as I drive by, remembering its just another guy with a gun who thinks what he’s doing is right, whether or not it is. Great post.

  7. Samuel Skinner says:

    I looked. Didn’t find too much- I know the government is based on the threat of force- that is the definition of a government- a body that holds a monopoly on the legitamate use of force in an area.

    As for getting services without the government, some can’t be had and some work best when done by the government- health care being a prime example of the latter.

    Mike, can you give the example of public works done by the private sector? I know they do some, but if it isn’t profitable, they won’t do it.

    As for defense… well, individuals can have their own weapons, but it is no match for professional troopers. And if you turn the city into a death trap?… seige!

    There is also the issue of wealth concentration. After all, not everyone starts off with the same cards in life. However, you wouldn’t have a system or the potential for a system to redistribute wealth.

    And lets not go into how you’d have to redo municipal services- ever heard of Heinland? He points out how a system can decay into “Functionalism” where people become loyal to their profession and use their position to wring concessions out of everyone else.

    The police can simply strike until you raise their wages, the garbage men, the utilities, the hospitals, etc. Of course, they can do that now… wait… I think public sector imployies are banned form striking.

    Basically, it is impossible for a society to exist without authorities. In hunter gathers tradition and a vote would be the authorities. We can’t do that anymore and so we use government. Under anarchy, you seem to be hoping there will be no authority… so what happens when two individuals disagree? Rule by force? Rule by tradition? Rule by popularity?

    How can you have a stable system without rule by law?

  8. gu3st says:

    Samuel, you seem to be very very new to this. There are answers, and pretty darn good ones at that, but to answer all of them in depth would require some very long posts here. You might be better off getting a book and when you have time reading/listening to it with an open mind: http://freekeene.com/free-audiobook/

    But in extreme short, anarchy is not the absence of law. It just privatizes it and makes those “ruled” by it be in complete voluntary agreement with it. Once they aren’t, they can opt out and opt in for something different. Why it doesn’t result in conflict is simply in the fact that your law rules only yourself and in instances where your action does affect another, rules another only if he too agrees with it. Otherwise, you simply part ways.

    Anarchy is in fact a free market, “governed” by the laws of nature, diversity of human values and voluntary agreements.

  9. [...] Anarchism, the New Atheism [...]

  10. Samuel Skinner says:

    Except as the government has shown, the only way to get people to agree to follow laws is force.

    More to the point, the free market isn’t good for everything. The US has a freer market than most of the world and a large portion of the population doesn’t like the results. Free markets make wealth- but equitable distribution? Ha!

    As for
    ” rules another only if he too agrees with it. Otherwise, you simply part ways.”
    This is even more idealistic than communism! You do realize there are so many issues that people will resort to force over? People are NOT always guided by rational self-interest.

  11. Black Bloke says:

    Before Mr. Skinner’s posts I hadn’t seen this many misconceptions about reality since wading into the NYT blogs. You need a whole education on these topics that we neither have the time nor (probably) the inclination to give to you. The link above is a fine start (The Market for Liberty). But just about anything that you find linked from this site should steer you in the right direction.

    This statement right here is one of the most ignorant I’ve seen in a good long while: “The US has a freer market than most of the world …” Oh lord… If you think that what exists in America resembles anything like a free market, you are in for a rude awakening.

    I also recommend Kevin Carson’s work for more good directions: http://www.mutualist.org/id47.html & http://mutualist.blogspot.com/

  12. Samuel Skinner says:

    I am aware we don’t have a free market- we have more inefficiencies than you can shake a stick at. Registration, trade control, support for companies, etc. However note I said “rest of the world”. That IS true. The US is easily the most open market in the entire world- I’m sure there is one more so (maybe the Netherlands), but the US IS one of the most open.

    I might read that, but… anarchist economics? Anarchy is a political system, not an economic system. How are the two at all related? You are promoting free market capitalism as your economic system.

  13. Dale says:

    This video by Brain Police is a nice compliment to this post.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ4ylS1C6v4

  14. Sans Authoritas says:

    I am a Roman Catholic, and an anarchist. While I do see that the author is entirely honest in his views, I’d like to make a couple of points.

    An anarchist is someone who believes that no human has the right to initiate violence/aggression against any other human. Reasonable and true self-defense, of course, is acceptable.

    But why? Why may one person not initiate violence against another? Anarchists have arrived at this same truth, but through different means. To me, an atheist, in all sincerity and respect, has nothing upon which to ultimately base his idea that he may not initiate violence. If, as an atheist says, there is no God, and that right and wrong are simply inherent in human nature (or individual and subjective, as some hold) there is no point in being a good person, there is no point in not initiating aggression, so long as A) you don’t get caught by earthly powers or B) you have so much power that no one poses a threat to your will.

    I posted a bit of the following on Stefan Molyneux’ comment section regarding his video on “Religion and Government.”

    Are we, as Marx said, merely clumps of matter that happen to exist and happen to be able to manipulate other clumps of matter? If so, what is your basis of morality? How can matter do evil? Only if there is an individuating spiritual principle can we have any moral code. A non-material individuating principle that allows us to be responsible for our individual actions. It is what makes genetically identical twins able to have entirely different personalities.

    If people are ultimately responsible and culpable for morally good and evil (evil being the lack of a due good, not an entity in itself) acts, then there must be someone that holds us responsible. If we are responsible to no one but those with earthly power, then you have no reason to be morally good, so long as you aren’t caught by someone with more force at his disposal. If, however, you believe in a moral law of any kind written into men’s hearts, you must believe in a moral lawgiver.

    Most atheists recognize an order, and human rights. But on what basis do these rights exist? Is there any universal moral code binding all human beings? If not, is there a partial moral code? Who decides who may do what?

    To me, as one who believes in God and as a Catholic, it is illogical to believe that there is a universal code to which everyone must adhere (e.g., no one may initiate violence against another person) yet no one who can enforce this universal code, if you don’t get caught/overpowered by some earthly force.

    I know a lot of atheists think that those who believe an all-powerful, all-good God exists do so simply because they want God to exist. Look: I want a never-ending hot fudge sundae dribbled with brown rum, right here, right now. That doesn’t mean I believe it exists! I can honestly say that on an intellectual level, I believe in God because I believe he exists. It’s like asking someone why he loves another person: “Just because,” is a very common, and frankly, acceptable response to such a question. Any other concepts and truths that become articulated and flow from my belief in God belief are just gravy. (Or hot fudge?)

    The point is, if there is such a thing as a universal moral law, then there must be some universal moral lawgiver, and one who enforces it. If there is any justice, there must be perfect justice. The fact that there is imperfection leads us to the idea of perfection. For every physical human desire, there is something to satisfy it. We thirst, and there is water. We hunger, and there is food. We want a smoke, and there are Macanudos. I hunger and thirst for perfect justice. I desire perfect peace of heart. I desire to be perfectly happy. I want to love perfectly. But I know that on earth, these things will never come about. Still, the desire is there. Why, if there is no such thing? Every human being on the face of the earth wants to be happy, even if they choose the wrong goods to achieve being happy. So why don’t humans spend their entire lives desiring other apparently impossible things to make them happy, such as a stableful of flying horses?

    I would go insane if I desired all these things and believed that I would never achieve them. In all honesty, I think that each person would go insane if they had such “irrational” desires without any hope of achieving them. Life would have absolutely no meaning, and I believe that to be true for those who believe in God and those who do not. We are horribly finite creatures with an insatiable thirst for the infinite. And I believe the cause of that infinite thirst is the individual human soul: that which makes us responsible for our actions.

    I was once a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying fascist neocon, though I didn’t recognize it, and I shudder to remember what I believed. Then I was an adamant constitutionalist. Then I realized that none of these systems made sense. Did I therefore “create” anarchy to fill the intellectual void of fascism and coercive government? No. Anarchy always existed. I simply recognized it as the only morally sound, logical conclusion to the question of justice in the order of human interaction. Anarchism is the one practical political belief that holds up under scrutiny. Honestly, I find it ironic that both atheist and theist anarchists are bombarded with the false accusation that we are “seeking a utopia that has never existed, and will never exist,” while atheists are making the false (as I hold as a theist) statement that “God has never existed and will never exist.”

    Just as the “liberals” could never convince me with mere logic, I don’t expect you to say, “of course, that makes sense.” But I came around to believing in the truth of anarchism. Perhaps someday some of you will come around to believing in the truth of the existence of God. It’s not a purely intellectual thing. It’s a faith thing.

  15. Aaron Kinney says:

    Re: Samuel Skinner,

    You are soooooo right that anarchy doesnt work, especially not for essential services. I mean take for example the food distribution system here in the US! I mean, imagine if food were grown for profit and only those who could afford food could eat. Imagine if people had to shop for food in stores and wait in lines and count their pennies. Imagine if food were produced competitively… People would starve to death and the fields would lie barren because there would be no incentive to grow anything!

    Thankfully for such a VITAL service as food distribution, we have the wisdom to tax everyone for it and simply let the government control all farms and then drop off a pallet of food every month to every household. This way it is fair, and this way everyone eats, and this way nobody tries to profit off the food production.

    We absolutely MUST have a single-payer, tax-funded monopoly for all essential services, like roads, food, automobiles, clothing, security, water, and the like. Anything else would quickly lead to poverty. I dont want to end up like Hong Kong now, do we?

  16. Aaron Kinney says:

    Re: Sans Authoritas,

    I see why you need to find a source for universal morality, both atheists and theists typically share this need. But you are looking in the wrong place.

    Let me put it to you this way: when confronted with a commandment from God, why do you obey? Because you will be punished if you disobey. But why do you care if you are punished or not? Because God commands you to care about your well being? But then, why do you care about what God commands you to do? Because you will be punished if you disobey…?

    See where Im going with this? Your obeying of God’s laws originates from your self-interest. Your self-interest however does NOT originate from Gods laws. So your fundamental motivation for doing something and for recognizing right and wrong comes from inside you, not outside you.

    In other words, your morality is internally derived, not externally derived. God is superfluous to universal morality. In fact, Gods laws presuppose it, for only through your own self-interest do you seek to avoid Gods punishments for disobeying his laws. God cannot command you to care about his commands, really.

  17. Sans Authoritas says:

    Mr. Kinney,

    Let me turn your argument around a little. When you were confronted with a command from your parent(s), why did you obey? Did you grow up only obeying your parents in everything because you feared punishment? Or, perhaps, did you begin to obey out of love for them? And also because you know they had your best interest in mind when they made rules for you?

    Certainly: my self-interest is intrinsic to my nature as a human being. That does not mean I created my nature! God, as the creator of our human nature, is thereby the legislator of all moral law. I am not human nature, though I share human nature. Human nature is not identified with me, but I try to fully participate in it. I try to conform my actions (as one’s actions, in part, make one what one is) to human nature. I try to be fully human. We have a human nature created for happiness with God in eternity. Fear does not drive that. Fear is not a long-term motivator. One becomes sick and tired of constant fear, and therefore the fear ceases to motivate. It’s why governments eventually implode: people stop believing in it. Why do they stop believing? Because they see the truth, and love it more than they fear the consequences of disobeying the government. Love is always more powerful than fear.

    If my morality is internally derived, then I can change my morality whenever I feel like it. To quote an ethicist, “To say that every person has his own moral standard is to say that there is no moral standard at all.” Who are you or any other external force to say what is moral, if there is no universal, objective moral code? All you logically can say in such a situation is, “You cannot do that to me or I will physically prevent you from doing it.” I know you don’t believe that morality consists of this last statement: that ultimately, might makes right.

    So no, my morality (and everyone else’s) is not internally derived, except insofar as the laws of morality are legislated by our human nature as it was intended to be before man sinned: human nature is that rule against which all human action is measured.

    Just as you can defy the law of gravity for a time, you must eventually succumb to it. No man jumps off a cliff saying, “I have my own law of gravity!” without falling pretty hard, despite his notion that his own perception of the law of gravity actually creates the law of gravity. Does the man’s self-interest have its root in the law of gravity? Certainly not. It has its root in his human nature, which God created. Which does not include wasting his life, because he has KNOWLEDGE fo the law.

    Love drives the world. Love is self-giving. As a Christian, I believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God: meaning, we are created to know and to love. It was John Paul II who said, “This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

    God can command you to care about his commands, but he will not force us to care about or believe in his commands. Belief is a free acceptance of the truth as perceived by the intellect. It is, therefore, a contradiction in terms to “force someone to believe” anything. It’s like the tired old canard, “If God can do all things, can God create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?” Certainly, God can do all things. Is a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it a thing? No. Can God create a square circle? A square circle is not a thing at all, but a contradiction. To force someone to believe something is a contradiction in terms. So, he cannot force you to care about his commands, because it is a contradiction. He can command you to and allow you to face the consequences of refusing to care about his commands, but he cannot make you care about them. That’s where the human will comes in. We should care not because of the punishments, but because it is part of our intrinsic human nature to do so. It is why, as Bishop Fulton Sheen said, that “Just because” is a better reason for loving someone than “Because she’s beautiful, funny, smart.” My human nature originated from God, and therefore I am only fully myself if I live according to the human nature he created. We are created for happiness. And that happiness can be attained by doing good and avoiding evil. Why would I want to do anything against human nature, and therefore against happiness? It is foolish to do so, because it’s not what we’re created for. I wouldn’t expect a dog to sing opera, but I would expect a human to do so. And I do expect human beings to be good (act in accordance with reason and human nature) because participating in goodness is the basic essence of what it is to exist and to be human.

  18. Samuel Skinner says:

    Aaron Kinney… are you familiar with the logical fallacy known as strawman? You just commited it. I am not arguing that the government should run ALL of the economy- I am an authoritarian, a liberal and a rationalist, not a statist. I am simply saying that there are services that the government can provide better than the private sector. Health care is a good example- it is CHEAPER in all the countries where the government is responsible. Many of them even have higher quality.

    In case you are curious, the government DOES buy up food and heavily control the agricultural market… as does every government on Earth. I have no idea why- someone probably has an answer though.

    And now we get the theist. Tell me- why should an anarchist, who is staunchly against the idea of control and force, be for a being that is ALL ABOUT totalitarianism? Religion and God is the truest expression of Orwellian fears… the purest expression of ALL anarchists hate and fear.

  19. Sans Authoritas says:

    Mr. Skinner,

    Is there any such thing as “justice?” We both probably admit that there is. If there is imperfect justice, don’t you suppose there is something that is truly perfect justice? Because if there isn’t, I don’t see any reason for not doing whatever I want, either from a love OR fear standpoint. Because love and fear are quite meaningless if there is no justice underlying them. You can’t love injustice, and there’s no reason to fear a just punishment that isn’t there.

    If your idea of God is “control and force,” then yes, you’ll probably hate and fear him. If your parents were about nothing but “control and force,” you probably hated them, too. The atheist anarchist outcry against God is that “He makes us do things.” Well, yes. Insofar as he created the entire universe, which is therefore his, unlike the government, which leeches off everyone to do anything it does, then yes, he caused us to exist, and he caused us to exist with a certain nature. That in itself is not enough to make me cry out “Help, help! I’m bein’ oppressed! Now you see the violence inherent in the system!”

    An anarchist isn’t against control and force, is he? He’s against the unjust use of control and force, right? Punishing someone for evil they have done is not an unjust use of force. To destroy that which you have created is not even an unjust use of force. That is the difference between God and government. God created everything. Therefore, it is his. But, he has restrained himself from essentially “Starting over again from scratch.” (He came close with Noah.) Government, on the other hand, creates nothing that does not already exist in some form or other. It even claims to have the audacious right to your labor and life. It has neither. No human can ever take another person’s right to life. A murderer, by the very act of murder, has forfeited his life. To kill a murderer is not an act of man somehow temporally effecting God’s infinite justice. That would be the height of arrogance. Execution is merely defending oneself or others from someone who has proven himself a deadly threat.

    If your idea of freedom is “doing whatever I want,” then you probably have to hate God to remain intellectually consistent. I would not, of course, recommend the latter course of action. Nor would I propose that you embrace such an idea of “freedom.” Freedom is the ability to do what one ought. Do I think that every immoral act should be punished with violence? Certainly not. Only those which violate the life, limb, and reasonable will or property of others. Those are the rules that pertain to physical human interaction. Any other laws would be of spiritual import. The Catholic Church officially teaches, in the encyclical Dignitatis Humani, that every person must be free to believe whatever they want. Is whatever one believes necessarily moral or true? Certainly not. But you may not force them to believe otherwise. If their beliefs result in action that threatens my physical integrity, I may defend against it, but such an act of self-defense is not forcing them to believe anything.

    A very clumsy, and perhaps at face value, an unpleasant-sounding comparison, but think about it: if you created little people made from clay, and gave them life, and a free will to do with what they chose, purely for the sake of those little people, who never existed before you created them, but who long to be like and close to you because you gave them life and a part of you, would you be oppressing them if you punished them for missing the whole point of their existence and proceeding to initiate violence against each other? I think we can agree it would not be unjust.

    Our existence is not a given. We were given our existence. Why? Why would you ask that question? “Why” indicates a reason for our existence. What, I ask, is the reason for our existence? I believe it is to be good and happy in this life so that we can be good and happy with God in the next life. The interloper known as “death” never would have entered the scene if the first men hadn’t adhered to the idea, “freedom is doing whatever I want.”

    If ensuring perfect justice for people who were good and those who actually did wrong is “control and force,” then I humbly submit that this world could do with a bit more of each. Especially if we all acted in a just manner, based on the human nature God gave us. That would give each person a lot of control. Over their own souls. Which is really the only kind of control that should matter to us. Of course, if more people were just, there would be little cause for the just use of force. As it is, I thank God there is such a thing as justice. And that governments are not its final arbiter.

  20. “To me, an atheist, in all sincerity and respect, has nothing upon which to ultimately base his idea that he may not initiate violence.”
    Nothing to base upon, exept the person’s own personal beleifs. Beleifs coming forth from what he considers just himself. What that is based on is that he doesn’t not want it done upon himself, if it’s wrong when it’s done upon him when he finds it is wrong, then it is wrong when the person he does something to finds that what he does to him wrong.

    You may not understand what it is to have your morals based on your OWN personal convictions and opinions.
    In my opion if you’re sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’(to silmplify morals/ethics) is based on either the law or a god, then that aren’t morals, that’s just obediance.
    If there would be a cult where the members would sacrifice humans and kill at random, because of their god, you could say they are immoral and in a way (but not completly) I would agree with you, BUT I would also say the same of Cristians and jews and muslims, etc…
    Also I can find examples of people and groups of most religions have taken actions that would generaly be considered ‘wrong’ and they done them ‘in the name of God’.

    Morals that don’t come from yourself or that you would atleast agree with even if the person/society/religion/god didn’t exist, but come from following what others tell you your allowed to do AREN’T morals they’re and act of obediance.

    There is no universal moral, often some people will find one thing wrong while others will find it not wrong at all and there shouldn’t be a universal moral either, the only constant should be that a person makes his own morals, both in what he does and what is does upon him.
    You can do what you want, but everyone should be able to do that, they should be able to choice to join or not join you.

    ‘Dou what thou wilt’ and if everybody could do and be allowed to do that, ‘what thou wilt’ would not lead to opresion of others.

    P.S. Sorry for the spelling/grammer faults if there are any, English is not my native language and I’m in a hurry and tired.

  21. Dale says:

    “English is not my native language…”

    I wouldn’t have guessed that from reading your comment.

  22. @Dale
    Thanks! Dutch is my native language, but watching the Simpsons has thought me most of the english I now :)

  23. Sans Authoritas says:

    “There is no universal moral, often some people will find one thing wrong while others will find it not wrong.”

    Yes. Hence, we have rapists, child molesters, thieves, robbers, people who drop incendiary and atomic bombs on civilians.

    “There shouldn’t be a universal moral either, the only constant should be that a person makes his own morals, both in what he does and what is does upon him.”

    That’s not making your own morals. That’s doing what you want, despite morals. So anyone can be “moral” in his own little dream world, while he initiates aggression, rapes people, and kills innocents. What is your definition of “morality?” You said that “right and wrong” is too simplistic. Really?

    “You can do what you want, but everyone should be able to do that, they should be able to choice to join or not join you.”

    You just used the word “should.” Where did you get that word? Certainly not from “morals” that you yourself or society have created. Because you just said that I “should” be able to do anything I want. Why shouldn’t I do something, even if other people don’t want me to? Ultimately, you’re saying that “might makes right.” This is not the case. Right is right. Nothing can make right something that is not itself right. Even you can’t describe how we can act in the absence of an objective, universal moral code.

    “‘Do what thou wilt’ and if everybody could do and be allowed to do that, ‘what thou wilt’ would not lead to opresion of others.”

    Oppression? What is oppression? You’re bringing a third term into the argument. Oppression brings with it the notion, “bad.” Who are you to determine something is “bad,” if I want to do it? Either A) There IS an objective, universal moral code, or B) You don’t care if something is “bad,” but you will use force to ensure that your own personal will is not crossed, no matter what: even if someone else has not initiated aggression. But this latter is not “morality.” It’s “might makes right.”

    That is my problem with the idea of atheist anarchists. Anarchism is an ideal of human interaction based on the core principle that one SHOULD NOT initiate aggression against another person. To what elementary level can you take this “should?” Why should anyone do something? Where does this “should” come from? Who says I “should not” initiate aggression? Why? You, because you’ll defend yourself with force if I do? That’s not “should,” that’s “you must.” Justice is not the same thing as self-defense, and a great many statists make the terrible mistake of believing that it is. Self-defense is the best that we humans can hope to accomplish by punishing a criminal.

    Why do I have the right to defend myself from the initiation of aggression? Where did it come from? Atheist anarchists, please engage.

    -Sans Authoritas

  24. Dale says:

    Good comment, Sans. I’m going to restrain myself from arguing a particular moral framework for now so I can keep this brief and focus on what I belief is a fallacy in your thinking here. I would direct you to Stefan Molyneaux for arguments for a certain moral framework, one that seems largely in line with my own views on the subject. He’s Stefbot on YouTube and has a website-
    http://www.freedomainradio.com/

    A universal morality can exist as an axiom of the universe just as easily as mathematical axioms exist. These things can exist without a supreme being and in fact, the potential existence of a supreme being doesn’t help to explain them at all. Just as the origin of God must simply be accepted as an axiom, so also can other universal axioms be accepted. If one holds that God is eternal or exists outside of time and therefore has no beginning, then there is no origin or explanation for its existence, and therefore its existence doesn’t help to explain any other concept that perhaps “just is”. It must simply be accepted. I don’t think we invented math. I think we discovered it and we continue to discover and explore all of it’s ramifications and how it is crucial to how things work in the universe.

    At the moment, I’m not arguing that there are universal moral axioms. A sound argument for the anarchist viewpoint doesn’t depend on their existence and I didn’t discuss it from that standpoint in the above post. Therefore I’m not especially interested in the elaborate debate over the existence of universal morality, though I do contemplate and discuss it occasionally. I’m simply pointing out, for now, that the existence of moral axioms does not depend on the existence of a supreme being.

  25. If you would do something and stumble on a decision you need to make based on morals, if it only affects you you do wathever you want, if however it would also affect one other person it isn’t anymore your only decision to make, you make it together if that is possible if it isn’t you make it with the others persons needs in mind. When more and more people get affected, there the society makes up the moral and forms a democratic decision of what is allowed and what isn’t.
    Now those are a standard somewhat universal moral, but should they be a moral for EVERYONE EVERYWHERE?

    What if society frowns upon something, but I don’t and I do it anyway, without directly affecting them (harmfully), what if a small group of people would agree and form a group that would do it within their cicle? What if another society had other ideas on those morals, morals can differ culturaly.
    Should there be one golden moral rule and one alone? Should there be anyone, any group that chooses the moral ‘rules’, should they decide what is right or wrong even if they’re not involved or affected with the specific situation?
    I don’t think so, I think morals shouldn’t be unchangable and universal, I think they should be possible to change if a majority of people involved sees it one way, I think they should be reconsidered, even if it is briefly, for every matter, and I think the only one who should have any say over it are the ones involved. So that would be how I see non-universal moral, A democratic variating local anarchistic moral, democratic in that the majority, through society(like cities, towns, comunes, …), makes the general rule; variating in that it changes according to situation, affected people and culture; local in that it isn’t global and the local society would decide what they do not what others do; anarchistic in that there is no single group that decides what is done, but the people themselves decide it.

    So when I say you decide your own morals I firsly mean anything wich you decide for yourself, personal morals (is eating animals wrong, are drugs wrong, the religious ’seven sins’: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, … wathever you can think of that doesn’t affect anyone else.
    Then there are things that affect others things like murder, stealing, … Those kind of things, things that harm or aid others, wich involves other people, so logically they who are affected by it should have a say in it aswell, shouldn’t they? So that’s where society, families, and such have a democratic say in it.

    A lot of laws and religious rules forbid you to do one thing or force you to do something that doesn’t directly affect anyone but you, wich is why I don’t like those universal morals/rules/laws.

  26. Al says:

    It is easy to assume that anarchy and Christian or Jewish faith are incompatible if you are unfamiliar with the Bible. And indeed, so many Christians and Jews are as well. They seem to forget that God strongly advised against establishing a government early on, when the Jews demanded a king. In the book of Samuel, he warned them what would happen if they got a king. He went ahead and let them have one, but everything He said about what a ruler would do came to pass.

  27. metalhannes says:

    I do not think that being an atheist is required to be an anarchist.
    Of course a hardcore anarchist would deny god as an athority even if he/she believes in the existence of one.
    BUT There are numerous examples of church groups house meetings and other kind of religious groups that do not oppress but simply share their faith and believe.
    As a christian i believe that the man in its core is wicked, evil and selfish and that only with the help of jesus christ these can be “washed away” as we say.
    This does not mean that being baptised or any other kind of worldly ritual can do this but only through the supernatural power of Jesus Christ.
    But selfishness is the destruction of anarchy. That is why we need god not only for our eternal souls but also for our world to function here.
    I was brought up as a missionaires child and saw mircales happen and also that the hierarchy in their system was not based on being more authoritative but being a servant. The highest Unit therefore was the regular missonary on the field. the field leaders were resposible for the health an the finances of the missonaries on their filed but could be putten out of charge very easily.
    What i am trying to explain is that the hierarchy we had was also some sort of anarchy because it wasn’t based on authority but on serving.

    and THAT is what a christian should think about politics. Not having worldly authorities but having one supernatural whith whom we have direct contact so that others who wnat to be some kind of mediator would not try to manipulate us.

  28. PhysicistDave says:

    You wrote:
    >Government has its elaborate costumes and ceremonies all meant to reinforce the fragile fallacy at the core, that there is some supreme authority that its human agents represent. It’s that supreme authority that I do not believe in, and without it the rest is comically absurd.

    It seems to me that this is not quite right, and that your analogy with religion breaks down a bit here.

    Traditional religious believers really think there is some entity, God, that truly exists. Non-believers such as you and I may disagree with this, but we are disagreeing about the real existence of some possibly real entity, who, supposedly, engages in real actions, really communicates with humans, etc.

    Believers in government, on the other hand, do not really believe there is some entity actually existing somewhere that continues to exist independent of all the officials, employees, etc. of the state. Ask them where the government is, and they will point to the President, the Capitol Building, an aircraft carrier, etc.

    Tell them you only see a man, a building, and a very dangerous machine, and they will not tell you that there is some eternal, supernatural power existing invisibly and eternally somewhere behind those concrete things.

    We are somehow expected to see those things, as they actually exist, as helping to constitute the mysterious entity, the “government.”

    No one that I know of believes that the USSR still exists, now that its human manifestations no longer are present.

    The state is, in a way, an immanent God, not a transcendent one. It obviously really does not exist, and everyone, in some sense, knows this.

    Government, as a matter of logic, can only exist in people’s minds: it is simply a mental construction designed to obfuscate and excuse very real and very monstrous crimes carried out by real, individual human beings. Religious entities, logically speaking, might really exist outside of people’s minds (though I doubt that they do exist).

    It is because everyone knows, at some level, that this delusion of government only works if almost everyone buys into it that supporters of government can get so angry at those of us who refuse to participate in the fantasy and the delusion.

    TinkerBell really will die if the children cease believing in her because, after all, TinkerBell only exists in their minds. She is make-believe. Government too is make-believe, although the wicked decision to participate in that make-believe has very real consequences.

    That, after all, is the problem everyone here has had in communicating with “Samuel Skinner.” He keeps believing that certain activities are carried out by “government,’ although, if he possesses a normal level of intelligence, he really knows that those activities are carried out by individual firemen, librarians, etc. who could continue such activities even if everyone stopped believing in the state – if those people wished to do so voluntarily or if someone chose to pay them.

    Religion is, in my opinion, a mistake. But it is an actual error: one can imagine some religious beliefs being true. I simply think they are not true in fact.

    But one cannot even imagine government as truly transcending the individual human beings that comprise the government. “Government” is simply a dishonest word used to excuse the crimes of those individual human beings.

    That’s what makes our task so hard: believers in the state already know, at some level, that they are lying, but they strongly wish to keep lying and to have us help them to believe in their impossible fantasy.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  29. PhysicistDave says:

    Sam Skinner wrote:
    >Basically, it is impossible for a society to exist without authorities.

    I noticed as a very young child, before I entered kindergarten, that adults systematically lied about everything from Santa Claus to morality to recreational drugs to religion and politics.

    When I got old enough to ask about this, early in grade school, I was told that society as we know it simply cannot exist without such lies.

    No doubt that is true.

    So, ever since I learned the word “society,” as a young child, I have hated the concept of society.

    Society = lies.

    The day will come, Sam, when people will view “society” as they now view accusations of witchcraft, as a dangerous and evil delusion used to destroy actual human beings.

    The same thing is true of “authorities.” If “authority” means simply someone who knows a great deal more about some factual subject than most people know, then, of course, there will always be “authorities.”

    But if “authorities” means simply some poor, ignorant human beings who, we pretend, have some right to lord it over and order about their fellow human beings, even though they really have no special factual knowledge or skill, well, I do not doubt that such “authorities” are indeed necessary to society as we know it.

    “Authority” in that sense is simply a synonym for “bully” when the bully’s actions are condoned by most of the people in the area, in the name of preserving “society.”

    Yes, “society” must indeed die so that free human beings can live.

    Perhaps some of you will not be able to stand life without the existence of society.

    Then, you will have suicide as an option. No one will stop you.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  30. PhysicistDave says:

    Sans Authoritas,

    Your two posts seem to me to contradict each other.

    In one post, you wrote:
    >To me, an atheist, in all sincerity and respect, has nothing upon which to ultimately base his idea that he may not initiate violence. If, as an atheist says, there is no God, and that right and wrong are simply inherent in human nature (or individual and subjective, as some hold) there is no point in being a good person, there is no point in not initiating aggression, so long as A) you don’t get caught by earthly powers or B) you have so much power that no one poses a threat to your will.
    [snip]
    > The point is, if there is such a thing as a universal moral law, then there must be some universal moral lawgiver, and one who enforces it. If there is any justice, there must be perfect justice.

    Here, you seem to say that there can be no morality without God.

    But, in your other post, you wrote out the basic view of us atheists towards morality:
    >Certainly: my self-interest is intrinsic to my nature as a human being. That does not mean I created my nature!
    [snip]
    >I am not human nature, though I share human nature. Human nature is not identified with me, but I try to fully participate in it. I try to conform my actions (as one’s actions, in part, make one what one is) to human nature. I try to be fully human.
    [snip]
    > If my morality is internally derived, then I can change my morality whenever I feel like it.

    Yes, you, even as a Christian, can indeed change your morality if you feel like it. You have free will. We and you are in the same boat here. It is the blessing or the curse of being human – even if you believe in God, you need not follow His commands.

    And, conversely, we atheists can recognize human nature just as well as you can. Perhaps, God created human nature. Perhaps, He created the sun, moon, and stars.

    Regardless, all of those things are now actually there, and their nature can be investigated by both atheists and theists alike.

    Humans are the rational animal. We cannot run as fast as a cheetah, we cannot fly like an eagle by flapping our limbs. We survive because of our rational faculty, because we are smarter than any other animal.

    That is just a fact, the basic fact of human nature observable by theist and atheist alike.

    So, we both get the same basic input to morality – the reality of human nature.

    And, because of free will, we both get to choose what to do with that input: we can act in such a way as to allow ourselves and others to realize fully our potential as rational beings.

    Or we can choose not to.

    You may believe that God wishes you to behave in this way, and that may help motivate you. But it does not force you.

    This is not just academic: as a child, I thought that God did exist, but I found the morality that I was taught in the name of God to be a hateful morality. So I rejected it. I refused to be baptized, to join the church we attended (I was listed on Sunday-school attendance rolls, but never as a church member), I refused to “accept Jesus as Lord and Savior,” etc.

    So, the existence of God does not simply mean that moral justification is settled because you simply accept the will of God. I chose, with excellent reason given the supposed “morality of God” I was offered, to reject God’s will. I thought I was going to Hell, of course. That was a choice I was willing to make, in order to reject the hateful morality taught in our church.

    Of course, when I reached my mid-teens, I came to realize that there were other views of God and His morality, and also to realize that God might not exist at all. So, I realized that the morality I myself had always endorsed was based on human nature anyway, independent of the existence of God.

    And, that is, after all, why you and I have similar views of morality: human nature is its basis. We do not need God for morality.

    Incidentally, this is simply the traditional Christian view. Both Aquinas and St. Paul insisted, quite rightly, that morality could be ascertained by natural reason independent of one’s religious beliefs, and that non-believers were therefore subject to the same moral rules as believers.

    And, of course, given the fact of free will, believers are just as free to reject morality as non-believers are, as is born out by experience: those who claim to believe in religion do not seem to be more moral on average than those of us who are not believers.

    So, your argument in your second post contradicts your first: Aquinas and St. Paul were right on this. Morality can, does, and should exist independent of religious belief. That is just as true for traditional Christians as for us non-believers.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  31. Caleb says:

    quote from Dale: “A universal morality can exist as an axiom of the universe just as easily as mathematical axioms exist. These things can exist without a supreme being and in fact, the potential existence of a supreme being doesn’t help to explain them at all. Just as the origin of God must simply be accepted as an axiom, so also can other universal axioms be accepted.”

    I don’t think this is true. I’ve been thinking about ontologically real platonic forms a lot lately, (particularly as a solution to the thornier metaphysical problems) and I just cannot accept that they can exist. The primary problem is that “platonic forms” are usually appealled to as a justification for some abstraction: morality, mathematics, etc. But an abstraction, by definition, is the construct of a mind. A mind is the only conceivable locus for an abstraction. The more I read on this, the more I agree with Whitehead who became convinced that a universal psyche is the only conceivable explanation for our notions of concrete, ontologically real abstractions.

  32. Daniel says:

    “When the authority of government is built on a fallacy…”

    But it’s not. To claim that it is requires more than a naked assertion. Besides being intellectually strained (to put it mildly) there is a level of self-righteous condescension to this analogy. Basically what you are saying is: “Everyone who hasn’t adopted my ideology just hasn’t thought it through rationally and is clinging to fear and faith.” But it seems to me that someone could make a case for just the opposite: anarchism finds wide appeal with college-aged kids who eventually mature and realize how childishly naïve and faith-based anarchism really is. The idea of “unanimous consent” could be equated with the concept of a “virgin birth”—neither seems grounded in any understanding of basic biology. And when someone points out copious historical examples testifying to the unworkability of anarchism, its proponents faithfully cling to the belief that it simply has not been implemented fully and correctly. Such is the beauty of mythology: there is no such thing as counterevidence. Every piece of evidence—in one way or another—supports one’s beliefs. In this respect, anarchism—for the true believers—is as unfalsifiable as theism.

    “Both religion and authoritarian government represent illusions that provide a degree of false comfort to believers.”

    But I receive no “comfort” from a belief. I receive tangible benefits that I deem worth the cost. These benefits are not in my imagination; they are not an “illusion.” I have researched and deeply considered this philosophy of anarchism and I found its tenets appealing and well-intentioned but ultimately less preferable. I’m sorry if the “irrational fear” defense is the only one you can fathom.

  33. Dale says:

    @Daniel,
    You can’t “implement” anarchy since it’s a personal philosophy. An attempt to implement it as some kind of system upon a society would be hypocritical. I address this fallacy in Anarchy Isn’t the Answer.

  34. How, if at all, does an anarchist differ from a garden-variety sociopath? It does not comfort me to think that the difference exists only in the mind of the anarchist.

    Anarchy has existed in the past, in panicked mob responses to disaster in cramped quarters. Anarchy raises its head when a sperm donor walks away from the product of its ejaculation, free from restraints of responsibility or love or self-sacrifice, free from the social effects of its consummated urge. Anarchy is everywhere, wearing the faces of mayhem or selfish neglect or callous manipulation of others for personal, short-term gain.

    May God save us from anarchy.

    I hold the Person of God in my heart; His Spirit does not beckon me from black robes or chant-filled cathedrals. His Spirit inhabits and informs the love my wife and I share with one another and with our child. His Spirit prompts loving self-sacrifice, forgiveness, gratitude, joy and hope. These virtues come to me as gifts, not social impositions or legislative mandates.

    What prospect does anarchy offer but selfishness.

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