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BAKUNIN on Christopher Hitchens' anti-theism

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For the people, the church is a kind of celestial tavern, just as the tavern is a sort of celestial church on earth. In church and tavern alike they forget, at least momentarily, their hunger, their oppression, and their humiliation, and they try to dull the memory of their daily afflictions...


Social revolutionaries know these things and therefore are convinced that the people's religiosity can be eliminated only by a social revolution, and not by the abstract, doctrinaire propaganda of the so-called free thinkers. Those gentlemen are bourgeois from head to toe, incorrigible metaphysicians in their methods, habits, and way of life, even when they call themselves positivists and fancy themselves materialists. It always seems to them that life follows from thought, that it is in some way the realization of a preconceived idea, and hence they believe that thought (their impoverished thought, of course) should direct life. They do not understand that thought, to the contrary, follows from life, and that in order to alter thought one must first of all change life.


Give the people a broad human existence, and they will amaze you with the profound rationality of their ideas.


The inveterate doctrinaires who call themselves free-thinkers have yet another reason for making theoretical, anti-religious propaganda a prerequisite for practical activity. For the most part they are bad revolutionaries, simply vainglorious egoists and cowards. Moreover, by their social position they belong to the educated classes, and they very much cherish the comfort and refined elegance, and the gratification of intellectual vanity, with which the life of those classes is filled. They understand that a popular revolution, by its nature and objective, is crude and unceremonious, that it will not hesitate to destroy the bourgeois world in which they live so well. Therefore, aside from the fact that they have no intention whatsoever of inflicting upon themselves the great inconveniences that accompany honest service to the revolutionary cause, and have no desire to provoke the indignation of their less liberal and audacious but still valued patrons, admirers, friends, and colleagues, with whom they share education, worldly ties, refinement, and material comfort, they simply fear and do not want such a revolution, which would pull them down from their pedestal and suddenly deprive them of all the advantages of their present position.


But they do not want to own up to this, and they feel compelled to shock the bourgeois world with their radicalism and to draw the revolutionary youth, and if possible the people themselves, behind them. How is this to be done? They must shock the bourgeois world but not anger it, and they must attract the revolutionary youth but avoid the revolutionary abyss! There is only one way: to direct all of their pseudo-revolutionary fury against the Lord God. They are so sure of his non-existence that they do not fear his wrath. ...


On the strength of such reasoning, they declare relentless war on God, in the most radical fashion rejecting religion in all its forms and manifestations and fulminating against theology, metaphysical fantasies, and all popular superstitions in the name of science - which, of course, they carry in their pockets and sprinkle into all their verbose screeds. At the same time, however, they treat with extraordinary delicacy all the political and social powers of this world, and ... express the hope that those powers can be reformed.


// 'Statism and Anarchy' (1873).

Edited by Lazzarone

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