CFP: “No Master But God”? Exploring the Compatibility of Anarchism and Religion

A Call for Papers, via the NAASN listserv.

Call for paper proposals:

‘No Master But God’? Exploring the Compatibility of Anarchism and Religion

ASN 2.0 (‘Making Connections’) Conference
Loughborough University (UK)
3-5 September 2012

Anarchism and religion have long had an uneasy relationship. On the one hand, many anarchists insist that religion is fundamentally incompatible with anarchism, recalling that anarchism calls for ‘no gods, no masters’, pointing to the many cases of close collaboration of religious and political elites in oppressing and deluding the masses, arguing that religious belief is superstitious, and so on. On the other, some religious/spiritual radicals insist that their religious/spiritual tradition cannot but lead to a rejection of the state, care for the downtrodden and the quest for a more just society – despite of, indeed sometimes precisely because of, the acceptance (by some) of a god as ‘master’.

A number of recent publications both in religious and anarchist studies have focused on religious anarchism, but consideration of their compatibility in the first place has been rarer. The aim of this stream of panels is to explore critically and frankly the relationship and tensions between these two notions, with a view to publish its proceedings in a peer-reviewed edited collection. The size of the stream of panels will depend on the number of applicants, but the intention is to foster mutual engagement and collaboration. Proposals are encouraged from sceptical as well as sympathetic perspectives, the aim being to foster critical discussion of these themes.

Questions which may be addressed include (but are not necessarily restricted to):

  1. Is rejection of religion (and/or spirituality) a sine qua non of anarchism?
  2. What do we mean by ‘religion’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘anarchism’ when considering their relation?
  3. What is unacceptable to anarchism about religion/spirituality, and to religion/spirituality about anarchism?
  4. Are some religious/spiritual traditions inherently more compatible with anarchism than others?
  5. Why do religious institutions tend to move away from the often radical intentions of their original prophets and founders? How does this compare to non-religious institutions?
  6. What explains differences in the reception of religious/spiritual anarchism across different contexts?
  7. To what extent can religious/spiritual anarchists’ deification of religious/spiritual notions (such as ‘God’) be compared to non-religious anarchists’ deification of secular notions (such as freedom or equality)?
  8. What role do (and can) religious/spiritual anarchists play in the wider anarchist movement, and in their wider religious/spiritual tradition?
  9. What can religion/spirituality and anarchism learn from one another’s history and ideas?
  10. Is religious/spiritual anarchism really anarchist? Is it really religious/spiritual?

Please send abstracts of up to 300 words (along with name and eventual institutional affiliation) to Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos on a.christoyannopoulos@gmail.com by 31 March 2012 at the very latest. Any questions should also be sent to that address.

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8 replies to CFP: “No Master But God”? Exploring the Compatibility of Anarchism and Religion Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Em_ptySkin

    “What do we mean by ‘religion’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘anarchism’ when considering their relation?”

    Pythagoras looked at ‘anarchy’ as a sin because of what he had thought about the construct of the material world. Seeing mathematics everywhere the Pythagoreans saw in nature the same patterns over and over again led them to believe that, what they called, a ‘monad’ had created everything in perfect harmony (this, obviously, leads to the theories of music and color that the Pythagoreans had deduced).

    Contrasting that with John Locke, a Christian (I cannot remember of what brand), who thought of anarchy as “the state of nature” and was fully compatible with religion and civil society. Locke says that anarchy is the natural state of man where he is truly and fully free, but also inherently in danger from arbitrary invasion of the law of reason, which enables man to comprehend and respect rights of life, liberty, property, and health.

    Essentially, the Pythagoreans looked at anarchy metaphysically with the thinking that ‘chaos could never produce the fractal mathematics that constitute everything on Earth’. As to where Locke looked at the material world as a given, and that anarchy meant simply ‘void of arbitrary authority’. Thus, the Pythagorean model of anarchy and the Lockean are compatible since Locke concedes the point the Pythagoreans had condemned. The rhetorical trick is that Locke kept the name “anarchy” and instead of connotating chaos and disharmony he supported voluntary human cooperation and a coercion-less society.

  2. Roderick T. Long

    Pythagoras looked at ‘anarchy’ as a sin

    What Pythagorean text do you have in mind?

    John Locke, a Christian (I cannot remember of what brand)

    He seems to have been, if not a Socinian, then at least a semi-Socinian.

  3. Francois Tremblay

    “Is rejection of religion (and/or spirituality) a sine qua non of anarchism?”

    Yep. No Gods, No Masters.

    If God is not the ultimate hierarchical authority, then what is?

    I know Anarchists are gonna keep running away from the truth because they want religious support, so I don’t expect any of these essays to reflect that…

    • mutualist11585

      If God is not the ultimate hierarchical authority, then what is?

      Your objection here seems to hinge on the assumption that “religion” or theism always includes a divine-command theory of ethics, which is false. Buddhism is one obvious counter-example; for another, see A World Full of Gods: A Study in Polytheism by John Michael Greer (indeed, very few Neo-Pagans believe in divine command). Even monotheistic religions don’t have to see God as some sort of dictator: I’d recommend pretty much anything by John Shelby Spong for a Christian example of that.

      Then there’s the Thelemic and quasi-Thomist view that the Divine Will is your true will: essentially making it a form of religious eudaimonism rather than Sunday School do-as-I-say morality. I could also see one embracing a version of divine command that accepts that God gives commands, but sees them as clarifications rather than binding authority.

      Then, of course, there are Roderick T. Long’s estimable posts on the subject: Theism and Atheism Reconciled and [http://praxeology.net/unblog03-04.htm#27](The Unspeakable Logos).

      So, no, you probably can’t believe that God has a right to arbitrarily micromanage your life like the Chairman in The Adjustment Bureau and still be an anarchist but fortunately that’s not the only kind of religion out there, just the dominant form at the moment.

    • Samarami

      I see “anarchists” who diss the beliefs of others as sociopathic wannabees — wishing to direct the anarchy of others to fit their own mold. This has given rise to a host of anarchist nomenclatures (“ism’s”, leaning in the direction of religion-without-apparent-religion): “Left-Libertarianism, Voluntarism”, et al. I once started a list of such “ism’s” I ran across on the web.

      I quit when my list went over 50. Ridiculous.

      I am involved with no organized religion. Not that you shouldn’t be — I’m not your master. On the other hand, when confronted with sincere folks who attempt to convince me I should support a Ron Paul for some political office I often respond (I’ll mention that I haven’t voted since 1964, the year Barry Goldwater’s defeat broke my little statist heart): “…my President is responsible for the rotation of the earth on its axis — I’m supporting The Incumbent again this year…”

      Figure that out in your spare time.

      Sam

· March 2012 ·

  1. marjaerwin

    It would seem odd to speak of ‘no master but conscience,’ or ‘no master but doing the right thing,’ wouldn’t it?

    In a lot of religious traditions, the divine is present in each person. And relating to the divine in one’s self hardly seems hierarchial, and relating to the divine in one’s self and in others would seem to preclude hierarchies.

    And I think the ways of relating to other people, assuming they have the divine within them, also make sense for relating to other beings who are divine, or manifestations of the divine, and/or have the divine within them [only more so?].

· May 2012 ·

  1. Discussed at angelofreproduction.net

    Jewish Mysticism and Anarchism abstract | Angel of Reproduction:

    […] I will be presenting the paper below at the second Anarchist Studies Network conference, Making Connections, held at Loughborough University September 3-5. I’ll be participating in a session called ‘No Master But God?’ Exploring the Compatibility of Anarchism and Religion. […]

· September 2012 ·

  1. The Opiate

    An anarchist who serves “God” (etc) is like a recovering alcoholic who “only shoots heroin now”.

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