Day after day I see Atheist Nexus members argue scripture details, spreading theistic memes here, without realizing their self-betrayal. Memetics still seems, to most, an abstract intellectual debate. We can't grasp religion as an infective agent. We can't see ourselves as merely copying machines for viruses.

A visual metaphor intrudes on my mind, of atheists holding one inch feces balls in their palms, peering at them closely. "Look at these glittery golden bits on the top." "No those look like silvery sparkles to me." "But these green inclusions below them are more striking, take a look!"

 

Imagine religions as infective agents which pass to hosts through feces, as many parasitic worms do. Infected feces balls draw the attention of new hosts, who pick them up and absorb the virus as they linger. Then hosts begin to produce identical feces balls, to pass around to everyone else. People become zombie copying machines for the infection, without knowing. While many hosts become knowing dedicated parasite spreaders, others pick up and spread the virus to make fun of the poo lure.

 

"This doesn't make sense, how can a ball be glittery green and sparkly pink at the same time? Take this one in your hand to examine it closely. Don't you see the contradiction?"

"Take this one, see how disgusting!" "No, this other ball is even more revolting, (passing it over)?"

 

RELIGION MEMEPLEXES ARE A PARASITIC INFECTION!

 

Quoting scripture to criticize it, satirizing Jesus, they're alternative ways to pass the poo. It's still infected poo. The only defense is "Call it infected poo and don't pick it up." Don't give it a place in your brain. Don't make it come out of your mouth, or type it out with your keyboard. It's a mind virus. VIRUS!

This is not to imply that I'm immune. I've posted satire which spreads those religious memes too. *sigh* We have to start by recognizing our role in viral contagion.

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Tags: memetics, mind virus, quoting scripture

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Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on December 28, 2011 at 10:55am

Neoclassical economic theory is locked into archaic presuppositions and assumptions. But the issue of being past-oriented is independent of memetics. I'd suggest reading Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine for an introduction to memetics.

However your visual image of hurtling into a hazardous future looking into the rear view mirror captures beautifully my point about our need to look ahead if we're to create the secular future we want. Thanks!

Comment by Joan Denoo on December 28, 2011 at 2:09am

OK Ruth, you make sense.  The visual image of holding poo is so graphic, how can one not notice? I wish I had read your piece before I sent my most recent comment on Government, Economics and Religion and had focused on imaging the future without religion.  Allow me to try to reframe my thinking ... In economic theory, when one looks to attitudes, beliefs, customs, traditions and values of neoclassical economic theory one is locked into the past.  It is kind of like driving through a steep river canyon going 100 mph with no brakes and looking into the rear view mirror. To have an effective and efficient economic system in place, one looks ahead to where one is going and how one is going to get there safely.  The way to do that is through observing evidence and making decisions based on it.  

Is that getting closer to memetics?  

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on December 27, 2011 at 11:27pm

Ruth, Sandworms, you know I hate em. Rrrr earwurms, yeah I get those but good. In fact I loop. For me it can be an ordinary earwurm r else I will read some word without being aware and it triggers a damn wurm. Later I might spot the dang trigger. N dont forget James Joyce literary technique a scent can take someone back twenty years. Okay we are along for the ride, passive actors only, I get it. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on December 27, 2011 at 11:02pm

Glen, When I put together these pieces from your comments

I can't fairly critique memetics based on inadequate exposure. But it seems to me that it is an abstract notion...

The visceral reaction is probably autobiographical.

Stagnation refers to the rat on a wheel metaphor.

tiresome, overdone

I get the impression that memetics is boring and abstract to you, because you've never actually applied it to look at your experience. Don't you get earworms from time to time? Haven't remembered images or sounds from an ad intruded on your mind? Have you never found yourself bombarded by messages? Have you never been irritated to find your attention hooked, distracting you from your interest?

Comment by James M. Martin on December 27, 2011 at 4:13pm

:-)))

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on December 27, 2011 at 3:21pm

Ruth,

The visceral reaction is probably autobiographical. Stagnation refers to the rat on a wheel metaphor.

On the one hand humans have been subject to centuries of proselytization. On the other nary a sound. In promoting counter-propaganda it makes more sense to examine religion in a naturalistic way: The science of indoctrination, the history of religion, the current impact of religion. In fact I would love to see a monumental scholarly series of encyclopedias exploring same and explaining how it is that women are not equal to men. . .

When adherents come around to reality because they realize natural processes govern our journey and that our forbears made up stories to cope and to make the universe intelligible and that it makes no more sense to believe the tenets of religion than it does to believe in a great whopper fabricated in front of you; and when they further realize the imposition of immoral morality is a consequence of the anachronistic religion which they are perpetuating, the new apostate is more amenable to questioning the way things are and desiring amelioration.

I cant fairly critique memetics based on inadequate exposure. But it seems to me that it is an abstract notion which can only gain credibility by studying our brains and learning more about how information is processed and why the brain resists rejection of false information. Such knowledge will be helpful in explaining indoctrination and perhaps part of the puzzle in deconversions.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on December 27, 2011 at 1:21pm

Glen,

I don't understand what you mean by " the visceral reaction or memeplex stagnation is actually an impetus for change." Could you please elaborate?

I think I see your point in, " Castigating religion and building a better world are not either ors, they feed each other." I'm not suggesting we never castigate religion, only that we (1) don't make it our rallying cry, and (2) do so with the knowledge that we're dealing with infective ideas which distract us and change our mental focus. When you stick your arms into molasses up to the elbow, you should realize it's molasses.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on December 27, 2011 at 11:57am

Ruth,

Exposing harm done by religion is not the thing in itself. Rather, a more effective tool and means to an end. Improving civilization is the goal. Castigating religion and building a better world are not either ors, they feed each other. Contrary to the way you conceive the issue, I suspect that the visceral reaction or memeplex stagnation is actually an impetus for change. You know what I meme? 

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on December 26, 2011 at 8:25pm

Glen,

I get the impression that exposing the harm done by religion is your ultimate goal here. Is "thinking about improving civilization" a tiresome and overdone topic too? Is it more productive to castigate religion among ourselves than to imagine how we might build a world without religion?

Where's the beef? Why don't we soar with innovative ideas for meaningful secular social activities, so becoming an atheist doesn't carry a high social cost? (see Scott A. Hunt's discussion) Why aren't we creating community connections so enjoyable and validating that people harboring religious doubts feel drawn to us? Do we have tin cans tied to our heels with string? No, we still have past-focused religious memeplexes on the brain. Memetics helps us to articulate how and why religious memeplexes can cause atheists to spin our wheels, to waste our resources and creativity.

It's time for us to look to the future! Imagine ourselves without religion. Really. Imagine atheists in a world without "the enemy." What would our community be without unfavorably comparing religion to our way of life, perhaps in an enlightened future? If we can't think how to live or be ourselves without our favorite arch enemy, we are not free. We are not ready to create an enlightened future.

Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on December 26, 2011 at 5:55pm

Wanderer, you said

...if, according to you, memetics is a set of metamemes but philosophy is not, then the set of metamemes amounts to next to nothing. That is as much as to say that the solution to dealing with memes is only to recognize that there are memes! I'm afraid that solves nothing. I also think that you do not know what philosophy actually is, if you think that it is not central to philosophy to put ideas in a broader perspective.

The solution to dealing with memes only begins with recognizing that they exist. Why do you insist on concrete problem solutions when the discipline is so young? Did you have insisted that genetics wasn't valid in the first decade because it didn't immediately produce practical benefits?

I never said it wasn't central to philosophy to put ideas into a broader perspective. I implied that not every organized effort to achieve a broader perspective counts as philosophy. The methods of philosophy and memetics differ.

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