I once knew a person who had been raised as a rightwing Christian fundamentalist, a real true believer, and that then became a Marxist atheist in college. The curious thing was that while the content of his beliefs had changed radically, the form seemed to remain the same. He still had a very binary way of thinking organized around the friend/enemy distinction, privileged group allegiance against a “them”, and was incredibly self-righteous and moralistic, filled with a passion to denounce and judge. He just now had a different framework for doing so. This is why real change, I think, can’t simply be a change in content, but must also be a change in form or structure. The pattern itself must change. If the form of thinking and practice remains the same, it matters little how we’ve changed the content. It matters little whether we place God, the king, or a dictator at the top, we still have structurally identical systems of power that re-enact the system of alienation and oppression. Changes in content aren’t enough. We must also always seek to transform the structure. In raising my daughter, I think to myself that it’s not enough to teach her to reject racism and patriarchy, but that I must also take care to teach her not to think in terms of the friend/enemy logic, the sad moralistic desire to judge and denounce, and authoritarianism. How much have I really accomplished if she’s just an authoritarian of a different stripe? This is what I mean by a-theism: not a denunciation of the existence of god, but of the very structure of authoritarianism and patriarchy as a cognitive and social form. Theism is just one variant of that form of patriarchy and authoritarianism.
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