Re: Religion bashing

Ken Clements (
Fri, 22 Oct 1999 10:15:08 -0700

There is no point in bashing religion, as there is no point in bashing life itself. Both are examples of patterns that 'just are' because it is possible for them to be, and propagate. It makes more sense to study how these patterns replicate, are passed on, mutate etc., so we can better understand the world around us.

Here are two paragraphs from Susan Blackmore's _The Meme Machine_ (1999):

>Religious memes are stored, and thus given improved longevity, in the
great religious texts. The theologian Hugh Pyper (1998) describes the Bible as one of the most successful texts ever produced. 'If "survival of the fittest" has any validity as a slogan, then the Bible seems a fair candidate for the accolade of the fittest of texts' (p. 70). It has been translated into over two thousand languages, exists in many different versions within some of those languages, and even in a country like Japan, where only one or two percent of the population are Christians, more than a quarter of all households possess a copy. Pyper argues that Western culture is the Bible's way of making more Bibles. And why is it so successful? Because it alters its environment in a way that increases the chances of its being copied. It does this for example by including within itself many instructions to pass it on, and by describing itself as indispensable to the people who read it. It is extremely adaptable, and since much of its content is self-contradictory it can be used to justify more or less any action or moral stance.

>When we look at religions from a meme's eye view we can understand why
they have been so successful. These religious memes did not set out with an intention to succeed. They were just behaviors, ideas and stories that were copied for one person to another in a long history of human attempts to understand the world. They were successful because they happened to come together into mutually supportive gangs that include all the right tricks to keep them safely stored in millions of brains, books and buildings, and repeatedly passed on to more. They evoked strong emotions and strange experiences. They provided myths to answer real questions and the myths were protected by untestability, threats, and promises. They created and then reduced fear to create compliance, and they use the beauty, truth and altruism tricks to help their spread. That is why they are still with us, and why millions of people's behavior is routinely controlled by ideas that are either false or completely untestable.