The Church of Atheism

A feminist communist known for her outlandish protests against the Iraq War, Sunsara Taylor spoke at Stanford last week on a book tour for Revolutionary Communist Party Chairman Bob Avakian’s latest ‘masterpiece’: Away With All Gods!: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Altering the World. Mr. Avakian was a radical protestor in the ‘60s and now writes books while others speak on his behalf. On this tour, Ms. Taylor filled that role.

In a private interview with Ms. Taylor before her formal presentation, she acknowledged that religious institutions have been vehicles for good, but then reverted to bashing Christians. She consistently fell back on talking points about the Bible and fundamentalism. A number of times, Ms. Taylor’s communist ideology blocked potentially productive discussion. When I suggested that religion was simply a vehicle with which humankind can do good or bad, just like a political ideology such as communism, she instead lectured me on how communism was about “the emancipation of humanity and getting beyond any state and beyond any social antagonism or divisions.” When I suggested that hundreds of millions had been slaughtered under the banner of communism, Ms. Taylor contested “He [Stalin] didn’t kill as many as a lot of people claim.”

Once in front of a favorable crowd, Ms. Taylor became even less intelligent in her manner of argumentation on the matter of religion. Instead of employing philosophical arguments based on reason, she related stories of militant Christian youth groups and referred to violent passages in the Old Testament. She also referred to Sarah Palin as a “Nazi” and criticized Barack Obama, saying “He’s not the answer.” When lambasted by members of the audience for faulty interpretations of the Bible and the Spanish language, she digressed to arguments about the relationships between Jesus, patriarchy, and slavery.

As Ms. Taylor ranted about the ignorance and illogic of organized religion, I couldn’t help but recall a passage in Mr. Avakian’s book when he casts aside the argument that religion can be used as force for good, declaring “The fact is: this will not work, and it will not do.” Mr. Avakian then moves onto his next topic, offering no justification for his prior statement.

Ironically, the whole event mirrored organized religion in a number of ways. Ms. Taylor assumed her position at the pulpit, clutching a text to which she has claimed allegiance. Once she had belted out her belief in the lack of a god, she alerted us to the presence of a collection basket that was coming through the aisles.
In sum, the event came off as an odd parody. Ms. Taylor ultimately tried to prove the irrationality of religion by showing how her own vehement, illogical arguments just don’t cut it.

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