Anarchism: Atheism, Agnosticism or Faith?

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September 8, 2006

There is a wing of the Anarchist Movement which contends that rejection of the State must, of necessity, walk hand in hand with rejection of the notion of any Creator's existence. The argument being, of course, that holding a religious faith necessitates self-subordination to the perceived will of a deity (or deities, such as with Hinduism), rather than remaining pristinely true to the anarchist's self-ownership axiom. Indeed, I have engaged in much spirited debate on this subject with friend and fellow Root Striker Jim Davies, to the extent that, while I was providing some modest suggestions to the development of The On-Line Freedom Academy website, Lesson 5 of that Web-based educational program appears as it does now.

Anarchist philosophy aside, the decision to believe or not believe in a Creator is a deeply individual one, and one which we cannot base on empirical evidence--for there is none to be had. The atheist will argue that this alone proves the non-existence of any deity, to say nothing of the fact that no Creator can create His, Her, or Itself. (One of the most cogent expositations on this theme I have ever read is in Jean Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness.) This is a powerful argument, and one which at once exhausts any and all avenues of logic when considering the question of God.

That said, it's confession time: I am both an Anarchist, and an agnostic. I find no contradiction in my position whatever, nor do I find one in the Anarchist True Believer. Of course, it's relatively simple to justify my own anarchistic agnosticism: Since I neither believe, nor disbelieve, I do not (and cannot) prostrate myself before Something or Someone which I am not even sure exists in the first place, much less understand the nature of. Why am I not on one side of this proverbial fence or the other? While pure logic does indeed dictate the absence of any Divine Presence, it is also limiting in the greater range of human experience. There is love, intuition, the emotional stimulation of music and poetry, the wonder of a sunset and the rush of the ski slope. Indeed, academic science has been studying for decades more esoteric dimensions of the human mind, such as ESP , precognition, psychic abilities, and even telekinesis. That said, there is no reason to ascribe any spiritual dimension to any of these human harmonics. Yet, there is equally no reason to not do so. It is my contention that our civilization, from its miniscule vantage point, understands so little about the human condition and our place in the cosmos that to pass final judgment on the question of a Creator is simply not possible. For we see, as William Blake said of man in "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," ". . . all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." It may well be that all of these ranges of experience possess scientific explanations. It may well be that the scientific and spiritual are inextricably intertwined. Fact is, we don't know. And it may well be that we never will.

But what of the Anarchist who believes? I will grant (and this may raise some hackles, I'm well aware) that one cannot possibly ascribe to an "organized" religious faith and remain wholly true to anarchist principle. But what of Deism? Since its Enlightenment-period origins in the late 17th and throughout the 18th Centuries with the philosophes, Deism has held that there was and is a Creator who now plays little if any role in earthly (or even cosmic) affairs, and hence, affords no precepts in terms of human conduct. Hence, can there be any contradiction between Deism and Anarchism?

The answer must be a resounding No. For in this case, as with that of agnosticism or atheism, full individual freedom of conscience (along with that of property, body, and all other mental faculties) is essential to Anarchism and its Self-Ownership Axiom. And unlike the compulsory aggression of a State, ascribing or not ascribing to a spiritual belief is wholly voluntary. This is as it should be, and is, as a matter of natural justice.

Thus, I look forward to my life's continuing inquiry into these very profound questions. I in turn hold that no other Anarchist should hesitate in the least to exercise their conscience in similar fashion, arriving at whatever conclusion (or non-conclusion) they may.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 111

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.