Despite the Dawkinsian rise of the New Atheists, true religious rejection in contemporary society is actually fairly low. Not literally believing that two of every animal could fit on a wooden ship, or that a man could survive inside of a whale is not new, and theologians have been discussing the purpose of religious allegory since religion has been around. It is a discussion that takes place within religion, not outside of it. Beyond this theological non-argument “against” God, there are asinine claims like religion could never contribute anything like the iPhone, as if that is the purpose of religion, or even something worth striving for at all. These are not rejections of religion; these are a waste of time.

I want to talk about true rejection. Friedrich Nietzsche deconstructed the entire Christian faith and found it abhorrent. Nietzsche wasn’t rejecting God qua God, he was rejecting an entire social order that a belief in God entailed. “God is dead” was the death of Christian morals, beliefs, social norms, and institutions, and that void where God-as-institution used to be is what Nietzsche set out to fill. Nietzsche sought to take the power that resided in God and install it into man (yes, man, Nietzsche is quite famous for his misogyny). Not just any man, as Nietzsche believed that the pussification of Europe had created the 19th century equivalent of the cuck (soyboy? I think I’m falling behind in my alt-right slang…), but a future man who would rise above the beta herd: the Übermensch.


The Alphamensch

A slightly earlier contemporary of Nietzsche, who rejected religion with just as much enthusiasm, was Mikhail Bakunin. However, rather than a Promethean heist of power from God, Bakunin saw the religious subservience to God mirrored in subservience to the state, and, recognizing the oppression in both, rejected the notion of power entirely. Not necessarily authority, as he says that when it comes to matters of the railway, for instance, he defers to the engineer, but he would never allow the engineer power over himself. Bakunin saw the same problems as Luther, but rather than try to rectify the problem with more God, he wanted to pull it out by the root.

If someone follows the rules without question because they perceive some degree of moral infallibility in their authors, whether they are the secular laws of the state, traditional social mores, or the divine scriptures of revelation, then they possess religious fervor essentially indistinguishable from any other fundamentalists. Atheism means questioning the face of religion regardless of the mask it wears. Given how religion was founded in power (power over morals, the family model, social hierarchy, sexuality, and so on), if we reject religion, that power has to go somewhere, and allowing it to disperse throughout other institutions is just infusing religion into other aspects of our lives; rejecting it becomes absurd hypocrisy.


I’m against gay marriage. Not for religious reasons, I just think the institution of marriage is sacred. I am basing this on literally nothing.

Nietzsche’s vision is Hobbesian in nature. He believed enemies were more important than friends, and a friend that wouldn’t stab you in the back wasn’t worth having at all. The continuous warfare between “friends” was supposed to keep the Übermensch in top form, I guess until he slips up and takes a blade between the vertebrae. The lives of others are supposed to only be seen as instrumental to the Übermensch’s goals, since the only thing worth having is power, and we should all live, constantly striving for more. Like with Hobbes, it seems the only way there could be any form of social cohesion is if the most Über of all the mensches can seize power, might making right, and use his totalitarian control to ruthlessly enforce his will until one of his “friends” overthrows him in a vicious coup. This libertarian wet dream (minus the social cohesion) is one possible direction we could follow if we decide to take God’s power and make it our living goal.

Luckily there are alternatives. What would abolishing power look like? Bakunin’s vision had societies organizing their institutions democratically. Industry would be managed by its employees. There would be no state government because Bakunin believed that we could collectively run our own affairs without overarching regulations so long as everyone had an equal say. Bakunin’s methods for achieving this utopia may be even more violent than anything Nietzsche might conceive, but the vision itself for a world without God is certainly much more palatable.


Communism ≠ Anarchism, but this image is just amazing.

Regardless of your approach, be it Nietzschean or Anarchistic, rejecting God requires recognizing the multifaceted power that historically has belonged to God. Institutions that rely on power require justification for that power; without God, scrutiny becomes a social necessity, lest we fall into hypocritical dogmatism.