Twisting Christianity into Gordian knots…

From Atheism Meme Base.

I wrote an entry on the contradiction of Christian Anarchism, where I argued that Christianity is inherently hierarchical and therefore fundamentally incompatible with Anarchism, which seeks the end of hierarchies. I’ve already written a clarification of what I said, but I wanted to address the comments as well.

Some theologians argued with me that I was misrepresenting Christianity. Far from me to argue with these eminent thinkers. The thing is, though, I am not talking about theology, I am talking about politics.

As an Anarchist, the first thing I need is a working definition of hierarchy and thus to be able to identify them. My definition of hierarchy is: any social system where control is used in a way that is both 1. systemic and 2. directed. I can now use this definition to differentiate between what is and is not a hierarchy. For example, a government is a hierarchy. Are there modes of government that are less hierarchical than others? Sure, but that doesn’t refute the conclusion.

Now, if I read the Bible, the conclusion I naturally draw is that, for Christians, reality itself must be a hierarchy, with God as the ultimate superior. The morality of the Bible is not justified as anything but orders, which demonstrates that the control is systemic (it is not incidental but part of the very structure). God’s genocides, or his creation of Hell, are justified based on his ownership of man and with the same language. The Bible clearly tells us the layout of this hierarchy:

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Ephesians 5:23

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 11:3

This proves that moral control in Christianity is directed, as well. This is all the evidence I need to declare Christianity a hierarchy, and therefore contrary to anarchism. I do not need to apply a standard of proof greater than anarchists apply to any other institution or system. Any attempt to impose a greater burden of proof in the case of Christianity is nothing more than special pleading.

So that’s from the political standpoint. But what about the theological standpoint? We have to distinguish between theoretical Christianity and actually-existing Christianity. Sure you can say that Christianity is about love or the Golden Rule or anything you want it to be. But when I look at actually-existing Christianity, especially by reading the Bible, I don’t see a system that has as its primary aim love or fairness.

I realize it is a generalization. Some Christians do try to be more loving or more fair, and some strands of Christianity are more loving and fair than others (otherwise there wouldn’t be such a thing as liberation theology, for example), but they do so in spite of their religion, not because of it. Of course they don’t believe that, but I have no particular reason to believe them; after all, as an atheist, I reject their theological claims a priori anyway.

Again, I want to emphasize that this process is purely political in nature and cannot be informed by theological considerations. There really is nothing a theologian can argue that changes the process any more than a politician could argue away the conclusion that governments are hierarchical. The anarchist, by his revolutionary nature, cannot leave to authorities or “experts” the power to decide what is hierarchical and what is not.

There is also an inherent contradiction in theologians claiming that I can’t make claims about Christianity because there is no such thing as a uniquely defined Christianity, and then telling me what the fundamental principles of Christianity are:

Nor do I make any claims about “real Christianity”, (your term, not mine). The fundamental principles of Christianity are two, and neither implies a hierarchy – love your neighbour as yourself explicitly denies one.

This is something you see in many areas. On the one hand, it is declared that anyone can be anything, and that there’s no real definition for any ideology. On the other hand, it is then declared that there are these fundamental principles that represent what the ideology is really about. This is a stupid self-contradiction, and the theologian who posted it could only mock me for pointing out a logical contradiction. He could not correct it, of course, since it is the basis for his “non-hierarchical Christianity.” This is the stupid way of doing it, but others are more skillful at it (never mind that “love your neighbour as yourself” can fit perfectly within a hierarchical frameowrk, especially depending on how you define “neighbour”).

As an atheist, I look to Christians and other theists to learn what God is supposed to be about. Likewise, I trust them when they tell me what their religion is about. Let’s be honest, theologians are not run-of-the-mill believers: they have a vested interest in building systems of thought which are not necessarily related to what anyone actually believes. They are not the kind of people I should be expected to trust in explaining to me what Christianity is about, any more than I trust politicians or political scientists to tell me the truth about democracy, or CEOs to tell the truth about the corporate structure.

Their very job is to make something relatively simple into something that requires (their) expertise to construct and defend. Christianity in itself is not very complicated: we can talk about the history and culture of Christianity for a very long time, but being a Christian itself is not something that requires a college education in theology. If that was so, there would be very few Christians indeed. In the same way, understanding evolution does not require a college degree and one may grasp its basics in a short period of time. But the main difference is that evolution is about reality, while theology is about a self-contained, inter-subjective delusion. As such, you can make it as complicated as you want, and it really doesn’t matter.

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