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+2 votes
Is anarchy compatible with any religion?
What does religion mean to you? Does it differ from spirituality? Is anything unscientific religious?
Anarchy is not compatible with religion, since religion means a belief system you fallow (it's questionable if anarchism is compatible with anarchy...but i won't discuss that here), but some of jesus's teachings are meaningful and vaguely imply anarchist thought

8 Answers

0 votes
Christian anarchists, who are fairly significant branch of the anarchist family even if they never get invited to the reunions, say yes, and they have the scripture to prove it. Citing that book, though, with all of the other things it endorses, to advance a libertarian philosophy strikes me as unjustifiable.

Then again, before they went all pacifist the anabaptists were more anarchist, in my book, than many who have been granted that title. The ideas of equality and justice are flirted with in the New Testament, but in the 16th century the anabaptists advanced by sword and fire the hererodox idea that God's Kingdom should be brought to earth, and set about offing nobles and priests and restoring the commons.

Nonetheless, the majority reading of "Give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's" finds in Jesus a challenge to, but not a negation of, authority, and thus, not anarchy.
by (1.0k points)
+5 votes
Jesus was not an anarchist, but I don't exclude the reality that some people have reached anarchist conclusions by following his (supposed) teachings, even if that anarchism doesn't quite look like mine.

As far as other religions, there are people who have done the same with other religions. In particular Buddhism lends itself nicely to some aspects of anarchist thought. The danger comes when people actually believe that Buddha was more than just human (that enlightenment was somehow holy), or that Jesus was the son of god more than anyone else might be (if we were to accept the existence of said god).

That is where the rub comes. If people are accepting the dictates of some god over their own desires, they are still enslaved. There is something to be said here about religion versus spirituality, but I don't have the energy in me right now, and I reject both religion and spirituality, so I might not be the best person for the job anyway.
by (22.1k points)
edited by
edited for punctuation and readability.
+2 votes
I would say 'no,' he is not because he advocated submission to authority (i.e. God).
by (1.6k points)
not all christians are about the submission, and when you get into things like defining god as in all of us (a not un-common idea for some kinds of christianity), then your point is a bit simplistic.
i mean, i hate christianity more than most people, but the answer to this question is a bit more involved than you're allowing for.
Jesus Christ preached turning the other cheek, loving your neighbor as yourself. He was a man who said "...not as I will, but as you will" during his final prayer to God before his crucifixion. Christian philosophy obviously extols submission of individual desire and will. It teaches that humans are sinful and must rid themselves of the proclivities of the flesh. A Christian is someone who follows Christ's example and his teachings. So, a Christian is submissive by definition. (Read John 3:30.)

Even if god is "in all of us," he still gets to sit behind the steering wheel. I'm sure there are theists out there who think that they--along with the rest of creation, or at the very least, humanity--are god or part of god. (Meher Baba preached this and other spiritualists have too.) But if one is a Christian, they must submit to that personal piece or representation of God--Christ incarnate. To eschew submission to him and his teachings is to cease being a Christian.

To put the onus back on you: Explain to me how anyone could legitimately call themselves a Christian without submitting to God's will.
eh, matthew fox and those type of people talk about Other takes on christianity that have been de-emphasized since aquinas (i think it's aquinas, maybe some other "a" name)... tendencies that are not body- or woman-hating...
and i know that without having done much research or really giving much of a shit.
your examples of what jesus said can be interpreted to be "submission of desire/will", or they can be interpreted as promoting the ability not to be at the whim of our tempers...
and so on.
but i am not defending christianity any more. hate on it all you want, by all means. i just think that something that covers so much territory, and is so significant to so many people, is worth understanding a bit better than the shallow response you seem to be giving.
The quote you gave of Jesus in the garden should make it obvious. "Not my will, but yours." Who is Jesus talking to here? God? But Jesus is God, there is only one God in Christianity, not two or three. So in submitting to God's will Jesus is submitting to his own will.

It's the same for the rest of us.

When the divine became man, man became divine. This is not a fringe theology, but the heart of Christianity. It's a mythological way of saying something which was of course true long before Jesus's birth. Most simply, it can just mean that we're capable of righteousness, like God. The myth of the Garden of Eden is also about the same thing. In it humans gained the divine knowlede right and wrong at the cost of our animal simplicity and happiness. Now, certainly the will to do right comes along witht the knowledge of it and that is God's will.

So God's will is your will and your will is God's will. There's no distinction on which to base the kind of submission you're talking about. Of course, it's silly to say that an individual has a single unified will. In reality, we have many will's pulling is in different directions and that's where the submission comes in. Submit to righteousness, which is the will of God that is within you.
Sweater Fish:

This all sounds very nice, but you're ignoring the obvious. At some point, every Christian arrives at a crossroads. Every time he sins, he is consciously separating himself from the God within him. Or, put another way, he is acting on non-religious desires instead of religious ones. This duality is inescapable. All religion is built upon the same premise: that there are two sides to man, the carnal and the spiritual; and that man the carnal animal is somehow wounded, somehow imperfect or sinful; and that he must therefore suppress this side of himself if he is to attain spiritual enlightenment, which is the predominance of the God-will of which you speak.

The problem is that man cannot go against his nature anymore than he can fly. One must admit that they have 'given into the flesh' to even become a Christian in the first place. And this 'sinful' impulse is the heart of anarchy because it is a rebellion against any and every restriction. It's a rebellion against forms, including the "form" (straight-jacket really) of the God-will.

You made my point when you wrote: "Of course, it's silly to say than an individual has a single unified will. In reality, we have many will's pulling is [sic] in different directions and that's where the submission comes in. Submit to righteousness, which is the will of God that is within you."

Listen to yourself: What word did you just use there at the end of your comments? 'Submit.' Think about it: if the name of the spiritual will is "God's will" and not "Sweater Fish's will," then no matter where it is housed--whether or not it even registers in time--that will is not your own. It is an ought generator. A demander. A boss. A ruler. A master.

The only thing you have succeeded in proving is that, conceived a certain way, religion is about submitting yourself to an idea (or 'ideal') rather than a person or a god. So be it. That's still submission and submission is decidedly opposed to anarchy.

Anarchy is Satanic. It is anti-religious. To my mind, anarchists who embrace religion are either deluding themselves or were never really anarchists in the first place. Anarchy is adversarial. It represents the rejection of structure and normality. God and religion, on the other hand, in the words of Satanist Blanche Barton: "generally [represent] conventionality, predictability, the safety of normality, the comfort of the larger group and the rewards of staying within the bounds of propriety."
–1 vote
Jesus never existed as a real person, but he was never an anarchist for many reasons.  He did advocate a very profoundly severe submission to his conception of a god and that god's demands.  Those god's demands were very much against any substantial conception of anarchy.  Biblical verses are pretty ok with slavery, rape, murder, and all sorts of horrible shit that is justified in all sorts of weird authoritarian ways.

That said, since Jesus wasn't a real person, if you wanted to (like many other folks have) you could retell the story of Jesus in a way that was very anti-authoritarian and furthers your beliefs by reinforcing them with the authority of this famous historical figure.

Also, see wikipedia for definitions of religion and spirituality.
by (200 points)
Actually, most biblical scholars believe that he was a real historical figure, although they obviously differ on which actions and statements  attributed to him are "real."  There's about as much evidence of his historical existence as you could reasonably expect for someone of that time period. See
Sure, most Christian scholars agree since they have such a strong bias.  Proofs they give such as Tacitus's testimony, who was born after Jesus was dead already, don't really help their case.  The wiki article says that people can only agree that there was probably someone baptized by John the Baptist who was later crucified.  Whoever this person was, despite what people of his time actually said about him, he was very clearly nothing like what the stories tell of him.  People can't even agree on what his name was.  So sure, most of these biblical scholars can agree that there was a real person that started their religion, but no one knows a single thing about him.  So effectively, the Jesus that everyone thinks of is not a real person.
You are right, there isn't very much definite information about his life, but I think that to say that "the Jesus that everyone thinks of is not a real person" simplifies things too much.  It's possible to have erroneous beliefs about real people, right?
jouiss, whole lot of brouhaha right now about a muslim scholar writing a biography of jesus. so, it's not all "christian scholars and their biases".

we don't need to make our enemies small to fight them. we're better when our enemies are big.
I found someone that says big words that agrees with me!

dot - I don't really think most christians are my enemies.  Though I do like to poke at religion.  I don't really know what is up with all that brouhaha either... probably not interested.
i wasn't talking about christians being our enemy, but christianity itself.
+4 votes
I am uncomfortable with the critique of "Christian anarchism" that focuses on pointing out irreconcilable differences between the supposed "tenets" of Christianity and anarchism because obviously neither of these is truly a completely static doctrine. For me, the value of each of these, if there is any, is precisely in the fact that they are not closed systems of thought, or at least do not have to be.

I think that that anarchists can definitely make theological claims that reinforce their political claims. In fact, I don't think it is even possible to avoid making theological claims!

Moreover, I personally think that it would be strategic for us to couch our arguments in theological terms, the way political radicals of the middle ages generally had to. I believe that the terrain of political economy and political ideology is an extremely limiting one, whereas theology is potentially a much more open field.

Whether this means that an anarchist can be religious is a complicated question -- the answer depends on what you mean by religious. The term 'religion' probably comes from Latin religare (to bind fast) or relegere, (to go through again and again) both in the sense of monastic devotion to spiritual texts. Which, in a loose sense I would say that many anarchists I have known are very guilty of (although this is perhaps something we ought to try and avoid).

On the other hand in popular usage, religious usually means belonging to a particular religious organization or, more recently, individual belief in a god or gods. Both of which an anarchist might do, but probably not without a lot of difficult conflicts arising.

Also, no, Jesus was not an anarchist.
by (8.0k points)
edited by
asker - how are you defining theological?
I don't have any complicated smart-aleck definition, it's just claims about divine stuff.  Thus, even saying that there is no god is a theological claim, I think.
Jesus was royalty.   And, I know, Kropotkin was a prince, but that shit is pretty rare.

edited to make into a comment.
0 votes
If Jesus was an anarchist, Satan also was an anarchist. At least Mikhail Bakunin thinks so:

"But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge."

Mikhail Bakunin.
"God and the State"

Proudhon also had good opinions on Satan. As such "Proudhon was fascinated with Christianity, and wrote about it from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of tones, but he is probably best remembered for writings like his “Hymn to Satan” and the final chapter of the first volumes of the Economic Contradictions, where he worked himself up to a sort of declaration of war against the very idea of God..."  

Introduction by Shawn P. Wilbur to "God is Evil, Man is Free"

Individualist anarchist Emile Armand thought both Satan and Jesus were anarchists. He said that "History and legends cite the names of numerous anarchists: Prometheus of mythology, Satan of the bible, Epictetus, Diogenes, and the mythical Jesus could be considered, under many aspects, old kinds of anarchists."

Émile Armand
2Anarchist Individualism and Amorous Comradeship2
by (3.3k points)
edited by
–1 vote
The render unto Ceasar quote that Peter Mandzhukov mentioned and is always brought up in discussions of Jesus's politics has clearly been misinterpretted even since pretty early in the history of Christianity. Or a actually, it was deliberately re-interpretted in order to defuse the political meaning of the original. Jesus, in Jerusalem, holds up a coin bearing the image of Ceasar. That's enough. Those graven images of a so-called son of God were highly controversial, especially the fact that the Roman demanded they be used in the holy city of Jerusalem. Jesus was inciting a riot. There can be no doubt that Jesus was an anti-Roman revolutionary. The story of casting out Legion is an obvious myth of overthrowing Roman rule. And Jesus was executed for it.

That doesn't say whether he was an anarchist, though. The question is what kind of rule did Jesus and his followers imagine in place of the Romans once they were gone? Jesus was meant to be David risen again, the divine king. But divine meant more than just blessed by God. The idea was that in God's presence on Earth, the Divine Kingdom would become harmonious and not require any actual rule. The people would spontaneously be united. So I think it's impossible to say whether this is anarchy or not because it's really dealing with wholly different concepts than we're used to today even in religious contexts, let alone political ones.

To answer your second question, yes anarchy is certainly compatible with religion. Many religious people are anarchist. These people prove that they are compatible. Zealots might say "oh, but they're not REAL anarchists" or "they're not REAL Christians" or whatever, but that's fundamentalist bullshit.
by (560 points)
Some people here are as clear as if they were alive centuries ago. 'Jesus did not exist!' Spoken with such 'authority'! Clearly we cannot know that Jesus did not exist as a person. Assuming that he was, is no sign of religiousness. And--the gospels according to whom? Why does anyone assume that Christian anarchists would be following the 'official' gospels. Have you heard of The Gospel of Thomas? The Gnostic Gospels? These gospels were shunned by the organized church. Guess what they teach? Where is mention of Tolstoy in all this? The most prominent Christian anarchist? This conversation could be more well-researched.

I am an anarchist. I am not a Christian. Though, I revere Tolstoy as an anarchist Christian. I also think that some of Sweater Fish's comment is excellent beyond measure!
i liked sweater fish's answer until the last paragraph, which doesn't back itself up with anything. many people call themselves anarchists who i would say are not (not just christians), and i hope being clear about definitions is not just a fundamentalist practice now...
what does it mean "many religious people are anarchist"?  what is an example? where does the "many" come from? where are all these friends i haven't met yet, and why are they hiding from me?!? (lol)
"and why are they hiding from me?!"

They must've read the rest of your answers.
:D  (and we hit the door a runnin')
+1 vote
I would say Jesus was a Monotheist more then an anarchist. He was an anarchist in that he did not submit to human rulers over the law of God and he taught that people should follow the law of God over the laws of men, Matthew 23.

What does religion mean to you?
A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. (Wiki)

Does it differ from spirituality?
Yes, I think that we have separated ourselves from "spirituality" simply because we doubt that there can be anything spiritual or that we could even consider to comprehend spiritual things being that we are all so physically bound. I think spirituality such as the act of prayer is an act the individual takes part of that strengthens oneself more then it alters the decisions that God makes. God only listened to man once and that is in Joshua 10:14.

Is anything unscientific religious?
Religion and Science are an interesting subject both inside the church and outside. I think Science can only show us "what is" and can't show us "how".
Anything science reveals to us is simply us learning "how" our physical reality works, even if you can prove your own consciousness science still can't come up with a valid answer to where all this came from and how or why it is in such order.
by (170 points)
Hello again, cd88. You wrote: "Yes, I think that we have separated ourselves from "spirituality" simply because we doubt that there can be anything spiritual or that we could even consider to comprehend spiritual things being that we are all so physically bound."

Rather than it being a case of some 'doubt that there can be anything spiritual' here's another possibility:  that any *thing* may be spiritual so long as breathing remains. Understanding the subtlety of this difference may well show us atheist and theist sharing the same bedroll in the well-groomed grounds of Camp Spooky... which is intentionally far removed from anything singing a wild 'language older than words.'
i usually wonder what a person means when they use the word "spiritual".

i've heard and read a lot of different interpretations.

people often talk about spirituality without meaning the same thing at all - i've had more than a conversation or two like that, and witnessed plenty of others.
baa: I like to get at the radix of our words. I usually find a great deal less abstraction to plow through and far more play. Really, I meant what I said about breathing. No spookiness. 'Spirit' may be best met in and as breathing prior to all other jargon and meaning.
AF, do you mean: spirit = breath?

in your previous comment, when you wrote "any 'thing' may be spiritual so long as breathing remains", it led me to think you meant breathing as a prerequisite for the spiritual, rather than as a synonym for it.

i like your desire to remove abstraction....i share it...and i enjoy the discussions that follow from that desire.
baa: "AF, do you mean: spirit = breath?"


baa:" it led me to think you meant breathing as a prerequisite for the spiritual,"

No. The motivation for such a 'prerequisite'  has enticed us for far too long into conceiving a separation where none exists. This makes up that very bedroll I spoke of. The 'doubt' or the 'affirmation' of anything spiritual has already arrived at Camp Spooky, fresh in from the city and the expectations found there.
thanks, af. that makes it clearer.

when i conceive of "spiritual", i don't think of it as a prerequisite for anything either, nor do i think of it as separate from anything else.

but i do see it as a different aspect of experience (or perhaps better put, a different mode of perception) that can present along with the physical and mental. with words, it seems we can't help but abstract and delineate, no matter how hard we try.

so while i don't see "spiritual" as something separate from (or "before" or "after") any other description of experience, i describe it as something i've witnessed/experienced that doesn't seem fully defined by mental or physical phenomena.
baa:"with words, it seems we can't help but abstract and delineate, no matter how hard we try. "

Yes. Maybe this is why we monkeys have hummed, chanted, sung, shouted, squealed, whistled, laughed, cried, and wailed as well stamped, beaten, and struck our rhythms for so long. Musical undulation seems, to me anyway, far more akin and, hence, resonant with being-in-the-world (if you'll pardon the Heidegger-ism) than do the staccatos of logic, of The (Civilizing) Word.

edit for grammar
well said! words and all. :)
And to think so many believe typing online is liberatory! ;-)

Btw, have you ever read 'Spell of the Sensuous' by David Abram? You might enjoy that.
no, i haven't read it. thanks for the suggestion....i'll check it out.