Emma Goldman: No Gods, No Masters

Here is a little taste of one of my favorite godless Jews, the intrepid anarchist Emma Goldman (1869-1940).

If Freud believed God represented an imaginary wish fulfillment, Emma Goldman would have warned us to be careful what we wish for. Goldman, in the spirit of the anarchist credo “No Gods, No Masters”, saw belief in God as an obstacle to moral, economic, and social development. Not merely content with rejecting God on philosophical grounds, Goldman argued that belief in God has left human beings deformed and submissive animals – “bowed into the dust – a will-less creature, broken and sweating in the dark.” For Goldman, the very idea of a deity who controlled, judged, and demanded submission, was morally repugnant.

While Goldman thought all religions were based on false and pernicious premises, it was Christianity that was particularly evil. In her article “The Failure of Christianity” published in 1913 by the anarchist journal Mother Earth, Goldman had stated (with a clear nod to Marx) that the very essence of Christianity, its otherworldly character, has lulled humanity into servitude and suffering. “Christianity is the conspiracy of ignorance against reason”, Goldman wrote, “of darkness against light, of submission and slavery against independence and freedom; of denial of strength and beauty, against the affirmation of joy and glory of life.”

In her 1919 essay “The Philosophy of Atheism”, Goldman stated that the goal of atheism is to “free man from the nightmare of Gods”. Emancipation from theistic beliefs, she believed, would ennoble humankind by focusing their minds and hearts on the affairs of this world.

“The philosophy of Atheism has its root in the earth, in this life”, Goldman wrote, “Man must break his fetters which have chained him to the gates of heaven and hell, so that he can begin to fashion out of his reawakened and illumined consciousness a new world upon earth.”

For Goldman atheism was a necessary condition for the anarchist vision of a free society.

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3 responses to “Emma Goldman: No Gods, No Masters

  1. Isn t it a very FAITHFUL vision towards the humankind?

  2. With people like Ama the world would have been saved from war and misery Justifying the most horrible acts in the name of God. Theologies sometimes declare the entitlement to destroy and kill people by making righteous in the sight of God.I don’t want t generalize however I am referring to the misuse of the name of God, use (something) in the wrong way or for the wrong purpose .
    Ama was a courageous woman and I would like to learn more about her. Can you elaborate more about her life? Or direct me to her additional writings?

  3. Personally, I think atheists and fundamentalists are very similar – they have both reached conclusions on a topic about which we can know nothing. Agnosticism is the only perspective I can relate to.

    You’ve piqued my interest though. I think I’ll read up on Emma. I don’t know much about her. I’m not sure I buy the argument that atheism and anarchism go hand in hand. That mixture might actually be a little dangerous. But, maybe I’m wrong. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.

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