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RELIGIOUS ANARCHISM AND CRITICISM OF RELIGION

This issue is about why I started my "Religious Anarchism" bulletins. They are directed against statements claiming bluntly that religion means submission and, so, excludes independent thinking and acting and hence anarchism. So, I started giving examples from real life of various religious people who consider themselves anarchists in the sense of propagating a world "without masters and slaves". I never found specimens of blunt and often untenable statements about religion which I found succinct and complete enough to use as examples. Fortunately, the Belgian monthly Alternative Libertaire came to the rescue a few times recently. The articles published there were not meant to demonstrate the incompatibility of religion and anarchism but they are good examples of talking about religion without much use of factual knowledge if available. I'll render relevant passages from the article Principes d'athéologie (announced as an abstract of a text Traité d'athéologie published in the review Tribune des Athees (no place of publication mentioned) No 119, June 2004. If somebody wants to criticise or to reject religion as such or particular religions s/he should make sure that s/he does it on good grounds and not on nonsense.

Awful things have been done in the name of religion(s) but splendid things as well. So, awful things don't necessarily say something pertinent about religion(s).

Awful things have also been done in the name of secular ideologies, think of the French (liberty, equality, brotherhood), Russian (communist), German (suppression by social-democrats in 1918, nazis in 1933) and Spanish (anarchist) revolutions.

Here are the main elements I drew from the article in Alternative Libertaire (B-Liège) No 40 (276), October 2004, pages 6-7, author Michel Onfray.

PRINCIPLES OF A-THEOLOGY

A-theology aims to do three things: 1) to deconstruct the three monotheisms, 2) to deconstruct one of them, Christendom, in particular, 3) to deconstruct the theocracies.

1) In the deconstruction of the three monotheisms a-theology aims to show how they are basically identical, in spite of their differences in time and place of birth, in spite of the hate for each other by which the protagonists of the three monotheisms have been driven for centuries, and in spite of the seeming irreducibility of the Law of Moses, the words of Jesus and the words of the Prophet. The three monotheisms are identical in that people promoting them and claiming to be the keepers and interpreters of God's word, i.e. priests, impose by force hatred of intelligence - to which monotheists prefer obedience and submission -, hatred of life combined with a never absent passion of death, hatred of life on earth considered filth in opposition to the life after death said to await us and to be the only possible source of truth, certainty and happiness; hatred of the body considered worthless and doomed to decay in opposition to the eternal, immortal and divine soul ornamented with all qualities and virtues; and, finally, hatred of the female gender and of free sex.

2) After an analysis of the reasons why the monotheisms reject immanent and, possibly, victorious life, a-theology looks in particular at one of the three with a view to see how this monotheism has developed and how it is based on principles that invariably suppose falsification, collective hysteria, lies, fiction and myths, to which all power is given. The constant repetition by the many of all kinds of untruths converts them into a body of truths which it is dangerous to touch: the strong spirits that dare to question them risk punishments going from the Christian stake of the past to the Muslim fatwa of the present.

A deconstruction of Christianity may show how mythologies take shape.

The construction of the Jesus person was based on certain historical moments in the first and/or second century of the Christian era: the hysteria of a period in history crystallised in a conceptual personality that catalysed seemingly miraculous processes and personified the millenarian, prophetic and apocalyptic aspirations of those days, an unhistorical, entirely methodological piece of fiction. This fiction was enlarged and propagated by Paul of Tarsus, who believed to have been sent by God but, in fact, simply followed his neurosis; his self-hate that became hate of the world: his powerlessness, his rancour, the revenge of a monster - as he said himself - his masochistic pleasure became the masochistic pleasure of a whole sect counting thousands of adherents at the time. All that becomes clear at the least reflection when one rejects obedience and submission in matters of religion and, instead, repeats the old forbidden act of trying the fruit of the tree of knowledge. ..

3) The third part of our job is the deconstruction of the theocracies that claim that their powers come from God, who, for good reasons, doesn't speak but to whom priests give voice.

(...) The remedy against theocracy is democracy: the power of the people, the immanent sovereignty of the citizens against the alleged rule of God, i.e. against the rule of people who claim to rule on behalf of God.

(...) After the deconstruction comes the development of new ethical principles and the creation of conditions for a true post-Christian morale in the West, in which the body is no longer a punishment, earth no longer a valley of tears, life no longer a disaster, pleasure no longer sin, women no longer a curse, intelligence no longer arrogance, voluptuousness no longer leads to damnation. This in turn might result in policies more guided by lust for life than by a thrust for death. The Other might no longer be an enemy, something different that ought to be eliminated, pushed back, submitted, but something new that ought to be welcomed as a chance to build here and now in intersubjectivity, not before God or gods but before the protagonists themselves, in the most radical immanence. So that Paradise will no longer be the fiction of Heaven but an ideal of life on earth guided by reason.

What to say about this text? It looks like an introduction to a major work but nothing such is said in the text published in AL. Most striking are the disproportionate generalisations in respect of religion both on the horizontal level (religions are not monolithic) and vertically: religions and their adherents change over time. A telling example that was uncovered recently: Pope Pius XII seems to have been anti-Jewish and, for instance, to have opposed the return, after WWII, of European Jewish children who had been christened to save them from deportation and death, to their families and/or to their former religion. This pope's delegate in Paris (later to become pope John XXIII) seems often to have sabotaged his instructions and has, in any case, later, as pope, worked for the rehabilitation of the Jews in Roman Catholic thinking. The author of "Principles of a-theology" has also neglected the current movements for change in the Roman Catholic churches of countries like Austria, Germany, France and The Netherlands. The scandals around the protection by bishops of priests abusing children and youth have also led to a wave of protests and demands for reform in the US.

To heap more coal on the poor head of the author of "Principles of a-theology" I copy two recent examples of positive stories about members of the Roman Catholic church, one is about risk taking for peace in the name of Jesus Christ, i.e. of a religion, the other about criticising policies of the church leadership by Roman Catholic lay person Frank Cordaro (I published letters from prison from him some time ago) who has abandoned the priesthood but has remained a believing Catholic.

AGAINST NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Clara Terrell, age 19, was arrested today for walking onto Offutt Air Force Base to deliver the Christmas message reprinted below. She was arrested by base security and released with a "ban & bar" letter stating that "Your misconduct....created a substantial threat to the peace and order of the base community...". This linecrossing was part of the 28th Annual Feast of Holy Innocents Retreat and Witness which was held today at STRATCOM, Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue, Nebraska. STRATCOM serves as the home of our nation's nuclear weapons targeting and command headquarters. They hold the whole world under a threat of global nuclear annihilation every day, every hour, every minute of the year. This annual witness is held on the Feast of Holy Innocents as an attempt to explore the links between King Herod, his killing of the innocent children in Bethlehem, to the murderous deeds of modern day. We attempt to expose, confront and convert our country's God-awful nuclear weapons' operational headquarters through this prayerful retreat and witness at Offutt.

Linecrosser statement: "I believe that the message brought to us by Jesus Christ is a message of peace. We cannot buy this peace with the blood of Iraqi children and we cannot pay for it with the lives of United States service people. Even all of the power held behind these gates cannot console the mothers and fathers, Iraqi or American, who are grieving for their children this Christmas. This is a place where the power of weapons of mass destruction rests. This is a place where the decisions are made, which children will live and which will die. This is a place where we come to celebrate Christmas and proclaim the Gospel: that the powerful will be thrown down and the lowly will be lifted up."

Clara Terrell, December 28, 2004

(News Release Des Moines (Iowa) Catholic Workers, 28.12.2004)

SPEAKER ASSAILS CHURCH'S POSITIONS ON KEY ISSUES

"The Church is somewhere in Plato's cave when it talks about war," said Frank Cordaro, former priest and long-time leader with the Des Moines Catholic Workers. Last Thursday night, November 18, Cordaro spoke to approximately 65 members of the Saint Louis University community about the importance of continuous work for nonviolence.

During his talk, he criticized the Catholic Church for its narrow definition of the "Culture of Death". As he said, it includes more than only abortion and euthanasia. "Any church that claims to have more moral clarity on the use of condoms than on the use of nuclear weapons is seriously misdirected," Cordaro said. "We who call ourselves Christians are the best killers," he said. "We kill ourselves very, very well, but we kill others even better."

Cordaro has been involved in the Catholic Worker movement for 28 years. Catholic Workers live in voluntary poverty and solidarity with those they serve. Cordaro said the Catholic Worker movement is the "singular most important radical lay movement in the Catholic Church for peace and justice." Cordaro was a priest for 18 years but officially resigned from the priesthood in August. "I couldn't live the celibacy," he said of his resignation. "It wore me down."

Cordaro has spent 44 months combined jail time for a variety of actions. Most involve civil disobedience; such as the line crossings he takes part in each year at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, home to vast quantities of nuclear weapons. "The law is on the side of the war-makers," said Cordaro. "We need to re-look at Jesus and ask ourselves, 'What was he all about?' as a human being. The resurrection itself was an act of civil disobedience. The state had condemned him to die." During the question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Cordaro addressed questions of how to find balance between the military and universities. "Nowhere does Jesus ever give anyone the authority to kill," said Cordaro. "The agenda for the 21st century is to save the planet. But from whom do we save it? We need to save it from ourselves and our violent ways."

- Katie Childs, The University News, Saint Louis University, November 23, 2004

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