"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
Market Anarchy and Christianity Make for Bad Bunkmates
Exclusive to STR
November 14, 2006
I have been led to understand that a controversy has been brewing at Strike The Root on the issue of Anarchy and Christianity, or religion in general. Being a long time debater of morality, theology and religion, I would like to weigh in on this controversy.
I have never made my opposition to religion and theism a secret. My opposition does not rest primarily on the existence of religion itself--as all anarchists, I only desire people to live in the way they desire, as well as think in the ways they desire--but rather on moral and epistemic grounds. The morality presented by Christianity specifically is extremely corrupt and evil, and its epistemology is utterly primitivist and anti-scientific. Consider this my caveat to believers.
Given my positions, it may not be a surprise for you to learn that I consider "Christian Anarchy" to be a rather awkward position. Now, let me make one thing clear. I agree with the Christian commentators that Market Anarchy and Christianity are compatible, which is to say, that they do not contradict outright. It is possible for one to be a Christian and believe that man should be ruled by his family, his church, or what he interprets as being the dictates of God. I also think that Anarchy does not have any direct bearing on morality, and is indeed compatible with all sorts of moral outlooks. Having rejected the authority of the state, one may bow down and worship any idol desired, even if that idol is a weird, bearded man doing magic tricks.
This being said, I must strongly reject any suggestion that Market Anarchy and Christianity are harmonious, which is to say, that there is a confluence of values or interest between Christian doctrines and the values that justify Market Anarchy.
First, from the organizational standpoint, religion is the worst enemy of Anarchy. This is not surprising, given that statism and religion are both collectivist belief systems which reify an abstraction (God/the state) as a concrete social agent with dogmatic rules to be imposed on all (doctrines/monopoloid law) by the principle of "might makes right" (God's infinite power/the state's guns) as justified by the assumption that man is inherently corrupt ("original sin"/selfishness and individualism). They are both parasites on the production of the majority, and both seek to stratify society in two classes: the law-makers or, ostensibly, law-interpreters (religious hierarchies/politicians) and their subjects (believers/citizens). They both pursue the same objectives, merely with different means--the state by controlling bodies and resources, religion by controlling minds. They are generally in synergy with each other, except when an extremist form of one chases away the other (Nazi Germany, Communism, fundamentalist Christianity, fundamentalist Islam).
You may object that the believer himself does not seek such objectives or structures. This is correct, but he sanctions them through his open belief, just as clearly as the voter sanctions the state's coercion by voting even if he does not always agree with the objectives of the state.
Historically, the story of the fall of the Icelandic Anarchy should be a stark reminder that the dogmatism of religion divides people who are otherwise united by their common freedom. Market Anarchy, and all anarchic systems, reject coercion as a mode of interaction and embrace voluntary cooperation--trade and persuasion. But religions are a matter of faith, obedience and dogma. Inherent in Christianity is a lack of respect for other ideologies, which they can only rationalize by trying to equate them with their own (such as saying that Islam and Judaism worship "the same god" as they do, even though this is obvious nonsense). Most religious converts are made through childhood indoctrination or by taking advantage of mental confusion or despair. Religious doctrines are a matter of personal belief, as our Christian colleagues constantly remind us, and this damns them. Without a universal standard to evaluate Christian claims by, there can be no common grounds for persuasion.
Religious dogmatism and bigotry is the only force that can overcome the natural deconstructing effect of trade in an Anarchy. Indeed, voluntary trade and religion are enemies. Religion relies on cultural models to maintain the believer in a state of self-abnegation, and trade breaks down cultural models through the possibilities of value expression that it offers to the individual. It is well known that prosperity lowers the need for religion, and no coincidence that religious authorities stand opposed to the power of the market and its accompanying freedom.
Voluntary trade is also predicated on free will, the ability to make choices in accordance with our own values. Christianity defines sin as disobedience of God's dictates, and hence Christians must consider deviation from Christianity's specific value system to be immoral in some universal way. Some even believe that they are under threat of eternal suffering if they fail to obey God's dictates. Surely we cannot say that these people have freedom of will. Granted, many Christians do not believe in Hell, but all Christians believe in God's moral authority and God's judgment over all human beings, which definitely puts a moral imperative on them above and beyond what freedom would allow any human authority or agent of force.
Then there is the little matter of Romans 13. I am not in the habit of quoting the Christian Bible, but this passage is surely too antagonistic to Anarchy to be omitted or rationalized. The founder of Christianity himself, Paul of Tarsus, openly declares that obedience to political authorities is necessary because these authorities come from God. In his article "Christianarchy?" Michael Tennant tries to rationalize Romans 13:1 but twists it grossly out of context. His claim is that Paul only wants people to follow authorities that God has appointed, and that not all authorities are appointed by God. Read the verse in its whole context, Romans 13:1-7, while keeping in mind Tennant's rationalization:
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (emphasis mine)
Does this sound to you like Paul is saying that most authorities are illegitimate? It states clearly that God appoints all authorities, and that taxes are justified by that appointment. Don't let people tell you what to believe about what the Bible says: judge for yourself with the full context.
What about personal moral issues? In this, Christianity fares no better. The very basis of Christianity is a constant perversion of justice--through the doctrine of the "original sin," the doctrine that one is guilty of the crimes of one's ancestors, as well as the doctrine that a sinless "savior" can exonerate everyone's sins. Such primitivist ideas of justice are surely incompatible with the values of Market Anarchy in the most direct way. Market Anarchy is founded on the values of non-coercion and the Trader Principle--that people should deal with each other as potential cooperators. We must admit that Christians are free to believe that they are sinners if they so desire, or hold each other guilty of the crimes of their ancestors, but to hold these principles as true for all human beings goes against our stance that the individual must be free to choose his own standards of justice.
Furthermore, as Jim Davies rightly points out in his article "Ethics, Religion and Freedom," Christianity represents the abandonment of absolute moral principles, and the abandonment of responsibility as well, due to the dependency of Christian morality on God's subjective dictates as well as the subjective dictates of religious authorities. Unlike Market Anarchist values, which are based on universal, verifiable reality, Christian values are the product of one non-material mind, of a nature completely unlike our own, expressed in contradictory and unclear writings, interpreted by people holding all sorts of different belief systems and viewpoints.
Christians have never been able to, and cannot, justify why God's personal moral opinions should have any importance to us, any more than a president or dictator's personal moral opinions should have any importance for us. Christianity offers no moral defense whatsoever against statism, just like it offers no rebuttal to the pseudo-scientific nonsense of Intelligent Design. In fact, the strong anti-reductionist stance of Christian thinkers can only indicate a complete lack of understanding of the markets. This stance is aptly demonstrated in the article "Christianity and Anarchism - A Match Made in Heaven" by Roger Young:
It is dangerous to merely trust your intellect. What is intellect but the collective result of a definitive, finite group of neural synapses firing in the brain--a combination of electrical charge and chemical reaction. Should we completely trust the product of a chemical reaction in determining our walk through eternity? Should we rely, alone, on a physiological system deemed, by atheists, as a 'cosmic accident'?
To this we must reply, with force: what is society but the emergent result of a definitive, final group of individuals interacting voluntarily? Should we completely trust the product of mere dispersed interactions in determining our well-being? Should we rely on a social system ruled by "accidents"? To all these, the Anarchist answer must be: yes! And yet the reasoning behind those questions is just as ignorant of the emergent order as Young's questions. To Young's questions, we must equally answer: yes! Between your blood-soaked myths and the wondrous complexity and reality of the human mind, there is no contest.
Yet this is the attitude of the "Christian Anarchist," outwardly professing an adherence to freedom, but obeying a higher master--the moral imperative of his dogma. This makes them different from people like me, who fully embrace the values of the market. Religion makes one a bad anarchic citizen, and perverts the meaning of the true social contract, the desire to respect other people's desires. Can we trust such people to not turn against us when society becomes too "liberal" for their tastes? This is something that each of us has to answer for ourselves. As for myself, I refuse to trust people who do not believe in absolute moral laws.
The person who decides consciously to follow Christianity, or to persist in following the indoctrination of his youth, abandons rationality in favor of childish and primitivist myths in order to feel better about his place in the universe and his limited outlook as a material being. It is a form of pure hedonism, not the hedonism of a Marquis de Sade, but a more deluded hedonism, which takes pleasure from being labeled "special" by an imaginary otherworldly authority, rejoices at God's assumed attention on him when he survives a terrible event that kills hundreds, and excitedly anticipates an afterlife where billions will suffer forever. The Market Anarchist should reject such a cavalier attitude towards his fellow human beings, and promote the true social contract, promote society as the basis for our interactions, not mythical claims of spooks or new moral rules springing magically from the unknown.