16 October 2008

"If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him,"

so said the the 19th Century Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. He also said, "the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory and practice."

But you can't abolish God in modern day USA. You can't even pretend there is separation between church and state but it is heart-warming to see some people are making an effort...

A few years ago, I was asked to write, "What do you see when you think of God?" for an art project for Kara, who helps out with Foulweather's layout/ design. Here it is...

In the times of hunter gatherers (more accurately gatherer hunters) God or the gods were, seemingly more rooted in nature. People were closer to nature in every sense. They lived in the wild, vulnerable to the elements, ever moving onwards in the search for food. Before language, God was all that was before them, the mystery of life. Once language was developed, the gods were used to explain all that was unexplainable. With the advent of agriculture and domestication we see the beginnings of science. People started to understand how to grow food and work the land. Humans in some sense, had more control over nature and civilization began to form and God took on a slightly different role. The priests played a huge role in early civilization and it has been suggested, by researchers into primitivism , that they were largely responsible for the solidification of hierarchy. The priest was the people’s connection to God and thus was held in high regard. Inescapably, the King needed the priest to keep control over the people. As civilization “progressed” the more abstract the concept of God became. Science continued to unravel more and more of the mysteries of life but the ruling order had to ensure its continual hold on power.

Arguably, since then God has been a force used by those in power to keep the masses in order. For instance, slaves in the antebellum south were allowed to go to church and embrace Christianity. For if, they were destined to a life in bondage then at least they had eternal paradise to look forward to in death. On the other hand if the slaves had no belief in God or an after-life then all they had was the “here and now,” so to speak. If that was the case, then the desire for immediate freedom would be overwhelming. If you only have one life and this is the only world you’ll ever know, then you are going to fight, rebel or rise up for your basic right to live.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise in agnosticism, atheism, rational thought and “free-thinking”. Darwin argued his theory of evolution and many people (in the Western world) chose to dismiss “the creation myth” as absurd. God was loosing his foothold. However, industrialization was already well underway. In industrialized regions the masses lived miserable lives in terrible conditions. Working people spent most of their lives working in dangerous conditions just to survive. Industrialization removed people further from nature and to this day people make up for this disconnection by substituting it by worshipping a God.

In modern times we live very isolated lives. Nature is completely disappearing. Work for many of us is meaningless. If our jobs allow us more than just the basic food, clothing and shelter we spend out time and money in cars or on computers. We get ourselves in debt by desiring more material goods, more technology, a better car, yet we are “spiritually” starving. We conquer this starvation with drugs, legal and prescribed such as Prozac or illegal drugs both of which, arguably, keep the vicious cycle of spiritual decay going. Less and less of everyday life actually depends on human interaction. We get our money out of an ATM rather than talk to a bank teller. We work in a dull office cornered off in a cubicle staring into a screen. We drive, one by one in metal boxes to our destinations. Religious politicians tell us the family is sacrosanct and convince us to care about little else outside of these isolated units.

Inevitably people still look to God and reject science and logic, to make up for this alienation of everyday life. Nowadays in the West, people embrace “untraditional” religions. Some look to the East towards more “passive” religions and reincarnation, others look back to pre-Christian religions and embrace Pagan influenced ideas. Most of the planet still adopts the one true almighty God of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and they kill each other over who worships him (?) correctly. God continues to offer us false hopes. God continues to manipulate and control us, even us unbelievers. God continues to hinder any steps we might be taking towards a more egalitarian society. God continues to deny us the pleasures of the here and now. Pleasures that are ours for the taking. When I think of God, I think of all this and I want to kill the bastard.

“If I have miscalculated… and there really is a God, I’d like to feel if he’s got any sense of humor or feeling for humanity there’s nobody he would sooner have in heaven than people like me, and if he hasn’t, who wants in?” Albert Meltzer, atheist/anarchist.