Though our philosophy has strong spiritual elements, we also rely on free thought and the scientific method. The former provides a path for liberation from programmed beliefs, and the latter provides rigorously tested theories upon which we can base our understanding of the world. These methods have tremendous power, but they don’t provide any moral guidance, and they have no aesthetic or lasting culture. We intend to remedy that absence by reclaiming the art and icons of oppressive religion to our own purposes.
Aren’t Religion and Atheism Mutually Exclusive?
The word religion has no fixed definition, but it generally means a set of teachings about the nature and origin of life; and it typically implies the expectation that followers will believe its teachings on faith alone, without evidence beyond the dictates of its prophets, priests, and interpreters. Scientific inquiry also provides information about the nature and the origin of life, but it does not require faith — scientists from any culture can test all claims for repeatable soundness.
Both freethinkers and scientists demand reliable evidence to support their beliefs; and the total lack of reliable evidence anywhere for gods, devils, heaven, hell, angels, prayer, etc. naturally steers many people to atheism. Religionists often point to aesthetically pleasing natural wonders as “evidence” of a divine creator, but when you ask them about teeth that rot, or little children who die of cancer, they can only hand-wave about some unknowable master plan. The same goes for the “power of prayer”, which they declare whenever things go well for them, but when life goes wrong they chalk it up to God having “mysterious ways”.
Apart from science, some of us may have actively rejected religion because of its use as a brutal regime of oppression, whether in our personal lives or on a global scale. But atheism by itself does not provide anything positive to live by. Religion provides both a code of ethics (though often terribly flawed) and an emotional and psychological comfort that you may not find by staring clear-eyed into the godless void. We have compassion -not pity, but supportive love- for people who rely on those comforts to help them survive a brutal and cruel life. People need a moral code, and accountability to that code, but the morality has to come from a sense of unity with the rest of life on earth, rather than from the perversely-interpreted rulings dictated by power-hungry men claiming they speak for a god.
Some freethinkers use phrases such as “good without god” and “do what thou wilt”, asserting that they naturally come to a positive morality on their own, without the tyranny of theism dictating its rigid (and almost always exceedingly hypocritical) judgments. However nearly everyone, even you, thinks of themselves as a good person making the best choices under the circumstances. Even the most selfish, callous, and cruel people think that; so atheists cannot assume any natural righteousness.
The state-ordered atheism of Stalin’s regime illustrates an extreme example of this problem. The Russian Orthodox church and the Tsarists had already built a national culture of submission to their ultimate authority; when Stalin took over, he imposed atheism not as a means of freeing the citizens, but of stripping all power from the previous authoritarian masters, and seizing that power for himself. He installed himself as a secular “god” and forbade the worship of anyone or anything else. So while free thought can typically lead to atheism, atheism does not inherently imply free thought.
In fact the current “New Atheist” movement has a terrible problem with racists using the platform to promote their ideology, because atheism in general has no structural means of preventing or responding to such twisting of the language of logic and reason.
Therefore, as with almost all “isms”, both theism and atheism fail us when we take them too absolutely and exclusively, or when we use them to abuse other people. Atheism by itself does not cover the internal (moral, social, spiritual) needs of humanity; while religion addresses those needs but only by convincing people to worship something that doesn’t exist. The stricter the doctrine, the more absurdly cruel and arbitrary it becomes.
The Internalized Subjugation of Faith
Religious indoctrination means not only convincing people to believe in their own subjugation, to a “master” (or multiple masters) who they cannot actually touch or see, but further convincing them to teach their children and neighbors to believe the same thing. The oppression passes from generation to generation, enforced not by armies or powerful priests, but by the subjugated people themselves.
They will even fight endless wars over these beliefs–eagerly carrying on the dirty work of those in power who rely on unquestioned obedience. Consider the bloody “Troubles” of Ireland: one faction believes the whole island should submit to the Church of England, while the other faction believes they should all submit to the Vatican, and the factions will tear each other apart for the offense of having a different colonial subjugation indoctrinated by their parents.
Faith binds people’s thoughts and emotions, limits the world they can witness, and locks them into a trajectory of fatalist submission. The language of most prayer takes the agency and responsibility out of your hands. People who have suffered through slavery, war, and generations of oppression have historically turned to prayer for some hope of relief. With one abuse after another from those who hold the power, and fate seeming stacked against you, it can feel like you have no other options but to pray. If people have faith in an eventual salvation then they can hold on through another day. In this way, and this way alone, prayer works — as a psychological buttress against forces that could crush us.
But salvation comes from our own hands, not from the fantasy of a future savior in the sky. Actual salvation comes from real actions such as starting mutual aid societies, underground railroads, food banks, protest groups, and other means of taking back your lives and communities. With as much cruelty as we see in the news and in the streets every day, we have endless reasons to work for each other’s well being, and endless evidence that the magical sky hero will never come.
O faithful, do you not think your parents and neighbors have prayed fervently and faithfully for justice, for generations — and do you not see that their prayers have gone unanswered? Do you really think any sort of “mysterious master plan” will make sense of the outrageous miseries imposed on untold millions of people every day? And listen to the prayers! “I beg for mercy”, “please take my suffering away”, “I submit to your will”. That language cannot make you free.
Most people believe in the religion their parents and community believed in, and they only believe what they do because of indoctrination from childhood. Of course when your parents and your entire community share a culture that seems fundamental to them, it can feel like abandonment or insanity to even consider breaking away from those traditions. But remember that even their established beliefs have a fairly short or localized history; if you look farther back in time, or outside that community, the ancestors and the rest of the world have different beliefs and practices. So why cling to the ones that they taught you as a child?
Stevie Wonder sang “when you believe in things that you don’t understand, and you suffer, superstition is the word”. He may have added the phrase about suffering to distinguish “bad” superstition from “good” faith; but you know the faithful have suffered terribly, while believing in things that they don’t understand. Their belief might help them to feel better for a moment, but it does not address any of the root causes of suffering, and its internal language works against the will to break free.
Demonkind Encourages You to Free Yourself
We treasure freedom of thought, supported by science and compassion. We appreciate a plurality of viewpoints though, so we do not shun believers in faith, unless they use their religion as a tool of oppression. From the side of atheism we take the study of life through the persistently questioning work of science. From the side of spirituality we take the poetry, the sense of exaltation, the intimate connection to something grander than our tiny individual selves. Additionally we absolutely love the rituals, costumes, ornate altars, and other dramatic trappings of the occult and mystery schools, so even the atheists among us will take those symbols back from the religions of dominance, in the name of Demonic culture.