UPDATE: Also see my follow-up to this entry, Further clarification on “Christian Anarchism”…
There is a system of thought called “Christian Anarchism,” which I have always tried to confront, despite a lot of reticence from other Anarchists to do so. It seems that they have some reverence for Christianity which prohibits them from realizing how absurd the idea of “Christian Anarchism” is. I put it in the same hole as “anarcho-capitalism”: just pure conceptual nonsense mascarading as a coherent ideology.
Consider the following bits of comedy:
The man who obeys God needs no other authority.
The Kingdom of God is freedom and the absence of such power [of man over man]… the Kingdom of God is anarchy.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Just like how “anarcho-capitalism” is based on the refusal to acknowledge that a private individual holding property over land by force is no less damageable to freedom than a group of individuals holding property over land by force, “Christian Anarchism” is based on the refusal to acknowledge that a divine ruler is just as much a ruler as a human one. These bizarre mutants believe that by “obeying God” and living under the “Kingdom of God,” they are free and live in anarchy. Nothing could be farther from the truth… it does not matter to a man whether the ideology binding him is divine or earthly.
(I know you may argue that I don’t believe God exists, so why should I worry about an imaginary rulership? But that’s hardly the point. The problem in any rulership is not the existence of rulers itself but the obedience and value-arrogance they generate through their organization. Whether God exists or not is irrelevant to the fact that organized religion and fanatical religious belief are anti-society and anti-freedom.)
Like all Christian arguments, it is based on a Special Pleading fallacy. Why should we obey God, and not any other person? Why slavishly follow the Bible, and not any other book? What is the substantial difference between a man who obeys God and a man who obeys the State? In both cases, what we see is a man on his knees, not a free man.
In any case, Christianity is not even compatible with free will. To be fair, Christians redefine free will in a much, much more restricted sense. They define it as being solely the choice between God and Satan, between not sinning and sinning, between Heaven and Hell. That’s all they reduce the whole of human life to, that’s all their religion can comprehend.
But how does the Christian even have this breadcrumb of free will? If he is threatened by eternal damnation for making the “wrong choice,” then in no way can we say that there is the possibility of consent. His free will is the same free will as the victim of a brigand who can choose to either give up all his money or be shot, except that in the case of Christianity the brigand is omnipotent and throws you into eternal suffering instead of just shooting you. How can any ideology which denies even an extreme mutilated form of free will ever be compatible with Anarchism?
Here is a little analogy in the form of dialogue, which I wrote to illustrate the absurdity of the “Christian Anarchist”:
Zeusist: “Hi. I am an atheist too!”
Atheist: “Really. Huh.”
Z: “I also believe in the god Zeus, who created mankind and whom I worship.”
A: “Uh, you do know ‘atheist’ means no-gods right? You can’t be an atheist and believe in a god.”
Z: “Stop being so mean to me! I have the right to call myself an atheist as much as anyone else!”
A: “Yea, but to be an atheist, you can’t believe in any god. That’s what the term MEANS.”
Z: “Atheist, you are way over the top here. At least I don’t believe in any of the monotheistic gods! You should be glad I’m on your side.”
A: “But you’re not on my side. You said you believed in a god. So you are not an atheist, by the very meaning of the word, not to mention the meaning that all atheists thinkers have argued for. Furthermore, the corollaries of your belief in, and worship of, Zeus completely goes against the realist, humanist approach that most atheists adopt towards the world and each other.”
Z: “I am outraged that you’d call me out on such a juvenile thing as not fitting the definition of a group I profess to be part of! Just let me be, all right? I am an atheist, and that’s that! Stop persecuting me!!!”
In the case, the corollaries of belief for the Christian v the Anarchist are: man is innately evil/man is basically good, and ethics comes from obedience/ethics comes from freedom. These are major issues, which only prove that an actual Christian Anarchist would be a strange paradoxical beast indeed.
Of course, there are plenty of self-professed “Christian Anarchists.” It is entirely possible for someone who calls himself Christian to also be an Anarchist, as long as he is one of the nominal Christians or CINOs (Christians In Name Only), a person who derives absolutely no moral or ethical commitments from his religion. Then there is no contradiction, since the person is not a committed Christian.
Some people may say that I am being out of line. After all, there is a “Christian Anarchist” tradition. Certainly, but there is also an “anarcho-capitalist” tradition. Why should we respect one foolishness more than another simply because it’s older?
Is it possible to be a Christian without believing that God is one’s ruler? The Bible clearly argues against that notion. It is possible for some Christians to wave away these passages as not being literally true. But if they are not literally true, then what do they mean? If the Christian is not bound to obey God, even in believing in Jesus as his savior, then how can he be called a Christian at all? What defines a Christian if not that very belief in Jesus? Is it respect for the Bible, or the search for goodness? Certainly not, since many atheists have both, and yet they are not Christian by any standard. Neither is it belief in God, a belief which Jews and Islamists share.
It is impossible for the “Christian Anarchists” to come out of this dilemma without implicitly dropping either Christianity or Anarchism. Ideologically, it is a dead-end. It needs to be dropped and we must make clear that Anarchism is an ethical ideology with an ethical foundation which is diametrically opposite to that of Christianity. Whereas Christians believe in Original Sin and that force is necessary to make the individual moral, we believe that force only turns man into a slave. Whereas Christians believe that ethics comes from commands, we believe that ethics comes from cooperation. Whereas Christians routinely try to rationalize the genocide, rape, capital punishment, sexism, racism, slavery, and other atrocities in their Bible, we see no need to rationalize any such thing. Insofar as they believe, Christians reject reality; insofar as we believe, we Anarchists accept the facts of reality and deal with them.
With all due respect, then, to the metaphysicians and religious idealists, philosophers, politicians, or poets: The idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, both in theory and practice.
Unless, then, we desire the enslavement and degradation of mankind, as the Jesuits desire it, as the mômiers, pietists, or Protestant Methodists desire it, we may not, must not make the slightest concession either to the God of theology or to the God of metaphysics. He who, in this mystical alphabet, begins with A will inevitably end with Z; he who desires to worship God must harbor no childish illusions about the matter, but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity.
If God is, man is a slave; now, man can and must be free; then, God does not exist.
Mikhail Bakunin, God and the State