Anarchy and spirituality

19 Feb

I have the stick and poke ‘no gods no masters’ tattoo on my arm.
I have a huge amount of skepticism towards almost all organized religions. I find most religious people to be full of the same crap that most non religious people are full of.
Is there a type of spirituality that is okay? Can one be an anarchist and religious or spiritual?
I met a new friend at Richmond Food Not Bombs. Turns out he is a Christian. But probably one of the most impressive people I have met in a long time. We share many of the same beliefs and world views. We both strive to lessen suffering. And honestly for a non- anarchist he has really spot on analysis of many economical and political issues.
The one thing we don’t agree on is God, or as he puts it for my sake, the G word.
It is incredible to both of us that our very different methods have led us to many of the same conclusions. And this new friendship is really making me wonder about what I am even comfortable with in terms of spirituality.
I tend to supress my emotions and try to not deal with complex issues like spirituality. I am not comfortable being that open, and I am not sure that there would be benefit for such emotional risks.
But in the past I have found useful information and ideas in buddhist texts. They have helped me stay sober and work on my patience and compassion.
I am really uncomfortable at the idea of spirituality.
And I don’t really see much in most anarchists or at least in what I know of them.

Is it even possible to be religious and anarchist?

I have gone to things like AA meetings, and seen people completely convinced that they can not stay sober without God. And I think there is quite often an unhealthy level of dependence on God and religion.

Coming from a punk rock Do It Yourself culture, I have a serious problem giving up control or what I see as my control in a situation. And I get really sad when I see people not thinking they are strong mentally. I am also a really stubborn person, and I have accomplished a lot through sheer will power. Why would it be that I can do that while others struggle with that? Is it my background and family? My privilege? My education? Is doing it all by myself just mean I am making life harder on myself?

And I also think that people being so dependent on God is really disempowering. And without Empowerment and Accountability (which go hand in hand) we will never have a just and positive world. If people do not feel like they can do things themselves then they are less likely to try. And then folks are less likely to take responsibility for their own actions.

I can’t fake belief. And I have a lot of problems with religion and ‘God’. I am unsure how to react though when faced with a deeply religious person who is so similar to me.

What are others’ experiences along these lines?

I am not so good about talking about religion or spirituality, so my apologies for this incoherent ramble of questions.

9 Responses to “Anarchy and spirituality”

  1. Death February 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm #

    Well, we all have death in common. It’s the fear that pulls us apart. So the trick is to go after the fear not the ideology.

  2. Sidney Carton February 19, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    It’s a delicate balance.

    Faith is realizing that there are things that occur in life that cannot be prepared for, be effectively resisted, or avoided. These things must be accepted and dealt with as they come up, or one will suffer nothing but frustration. Hence faith provides a perspective from which to consider those events in life that simply had to be endured.

    That said to believe in God (unless you believe in predestination, which I do not) is to believe that he also gave us free will, an inherent sense of good and evil, and a desire to act in accordance with the good. Hence faith ought to spur a believer toward action, not fatalism.

    Nevertheless I see your issues here, and do kind of understand.

  3. Jamie February 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    I have struggled hard and somewhat consciously with the same issues and decided about 5 years ago to focus research efforts on surveying the possibilties. After about 4 years of very evocative exlploration, I came to the conclusion about God that I was already muddling around in: “I don’t know.” However, the I did come away with more respect for many people’s faith efforts, and I also came to the conclusion that practicing mindfulness, compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and joy could only make me a better person, for myself and others. These pursuits are the cornerstone of Buddhism, but do not require belief or faith in Buddhism (or any other theology) to be worth pursuing. They are their own rewards. According (supposedly) to an old Native American story, each individual is comprised of a fearful, greedy and violent wolf and a compassionate, loving and peaceful wolf. The two are always in a struggle with each other. Which one wins? The one you feed. I call the first one “closed wolf” and the other “open wolf.”

    Best book I have found for wisdom and instruction on practicing these skills: “Comfortable With Uncertainty” by Pema Chodron.

  4. Arty February 21, 2010 at 12:27 am #

    I’ve been starting to study spirituality a bit more lately. To me, spirituality is different from religion, and you can be a spiritual person without affiliating yourself with a religion. Have you ever read about the Left Hand Path? I’ve been reading about that and random stuff like Odinism. I don’t want to go into detail about stuff you may already know. Basically, I believe you can embrace your spiritual self and still be an anarchist. Faith has nothing to do with politics and doesn’t mean that a person lacks reason.

    Here are a couple of links if you’re interested:

    Next book I’m going to read after Watership Down is about Osho’s …can’t think of the word…philosophies. If you’re interested in that stuff and would like to read/discuss with me?

  5. anarchymo February 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I will definitely check that book out. Buddhism is something I go back to a couple times a year and read a book. I’m not even into the religion or anything, but I have found it really helpful to read books about the practice by Punk dudes (there are actually two authors about punk/buddhism which is kinda crazy). I’m reading a second Brad Warner book right now. The other author I’ve read is Noah Levine. It helps I think that they come from a punk rock history and that Noah Levine is sober and had struggles around that issue.
    I have Compassion tattooed on my toes, which is something I did after going through a stage where I was reading some Noah Levine books.
    I like the idea about the Wolves.
    One of my major critiques of most of American culture is that people live in constant Fear. They are so afraid and will not take what they perceive of as risks. By avoiding risk they are avoiding life.
    And it makes sense too that greed and consumerism would go along with the fear.
    I think mindfulness, compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and joy are really good things for everyone to work on.
    Thanks Jamie!

  6. anarchymo February 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Arty- Yea, remember the title and then I can get a copy and we can both read it and then talk about it sometime if you want. That would be really cool! Let me know : )

  7. lexa February 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I have read books by both Noah Levine and Brad Warner. I can relate to their ” ‘subcultural’ background” if you will, and how they tie Buddhist concepts into spiritually healing a wounded psyche in a really fucked up society, and giving ourselves clearer direction in our life paths.

    I believe that spirituality independent of organized religion is pertinent to positive expansion and fulfillment as a human being. I don’t feel obliged to worshipping any “higher power”, nor do I buy into any of that “let go and let God” crap. I hold the reigns, I make my decisions using my best judgment and my moral compass of sorts, and I hold myself accountable for my actions.

    I do, however, acknowledge that Mother Nature is much bigger and more powerful than I am, according to what little vague understanding I have, and that we are ultimately at her mercy and would do well to be kind and helpful to our environment and its inhabitants. I don’t believe that specific devine forces are at work to which we may ascribe human traits, and I don’t believe in any kind of hellfire and damnation upon any kind of This Was Your Life final judgment. Religious texts are more to me like collections of fables originially intended to be an example to the masses of how they “should” lead their lives. Some are more extreme than others, and many have certainly been twisted over the years and definitely taken way too literally, especially as society and technology evolve. Organized religion, to me, is a crutch for those who choose to remain weak in mind… or havent embarked on a path of self discovery and/or have yet to objectively examine how what they believe came to be and why they believe in it. Growing up going to church frequently can have very powerful effects on the mind. It took me a couple of years as a “Recoviering Christian” to undo a lot of damage and I still occasionally feel struck by episodes of needless guilt that I have to reason myself through.

    I like many Taoist ideas, too. Taoism is not a unified religion, rather it consists of numerous teachings based on various revelations in regards to the principles of human nature. Sometimes I thumb through “Living the Wisdom of the Tao”, by Dr. Wayne Dyer, which is a good translation of the Tao Te Ching (“living and applying the Great Way”), with corresponding affirmations by Dr. Dyer. The basic foundation of the 81 verses is this: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.

    Just my two cents. Some important questions you’re raising to yourself, Mo, and always good to receive feedback and discuss.

    (oh and Re Jamie and Mo- I really like the comparison of the two wolves in struggle as well.)

  8. rationalrepublic February 22, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Religion and anarchism cannot coexist. Religion seeks the dominion of the mind. Spirituality I believe is misnomer in today’s world. I think a more apt term would be ‘reflection’. And there is no reason those two cannot exist. In fact, it’s almost a prerequisite.

  9. Jeb February 28, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    I do not feel that the Anarchy & belief in God are mutually exclusive. Anarchy is essentially anti-authoritarian, that one should not accept anyone else’s arbitrary authority. The danger in with religion is not the belief in God, but how those in positions of religious authority may use that belief against the people.

    Belief in God, no problem. The Pope (or other religious leader) claiming he has authority over you based on some twisted logic arising from some obscure point of scripture taken out of context, big problem. It is no wonder that religious figures crown royalty. They are in cahoots to protect each other’s authority and power over the masses. The Pope or bishop crowns a king giving him an air of legitimacy, and then the king uses the power of the state to reinforce the doctrine of the church.

    So look at religion with your own open eyes. The Bible tells us that God gave us free will. So why do those in authority tell us that we must obey them and their interpretation of God’s word. Sorry, but God told me I get to choose, not you!

    The Bible tells us that all of humanity began with Adam & Eve. We all share common & equal origins. So why do some brag and claim authority based on the position of their fathers? Go back far enough and we are all equal!

    The Bible also tells us that God created mankind. We are all God’s children; we are all family so we should love one another. A lesson Jesus repeated. Yet those how would be are masters tell us otherwise.

    Take the loaves and fishes story. Did Jesus really feed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes? Perhaps he just shared what he had with those gathered to hear him. This inspired them to share as well. The rich with plenty of food sharing with the poor who had none. There is a miracle for you, a miracle of human spirit! But the church will not tell you that. They can not have Jesus, the one in whose name they claim authority, encourage the rich to share.

    I guess my point is that spirituality and belief in God are not necessarily bad, just don’t let someone else exercise authority over your beliefs. It is your soul. Follow the path that you feel is right, or no path at all. Exercise the free will God gave you!

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