October 2008

(A lot may depend on the nature of the religion)
by Lloyd H. Whitling

Updated 8/1/2013

People often write to me, or complain to me, about the religious people in their lives. They want to know what to do about them, to understand why they behave so badly, what makes them so pushy and arrogant, and why they say such crazy things that fly in the face of reality. They want to know why, when faced with something obviously true in an argument, they issue stock responses that seem not quite on target.

Their simple questions don’t have simple answers. Because they have nothing more tangible than archaic words in ancient scripts, the religious are seldom inclined toward complete accord with each other, let alone any at all with us. Each variety of them uses different explanatory information (called ‘apologia’) to authorize their system of beliefs, however similar or different they may be. They do develop standard sets of obfuscations to rely on in the heat of battle, that some of them use as rules to live by, which makes their responses seem not on target but satisfying to themselves because they derail their opponents’ lines of thought. Opinions win; reality loses.

Moreover, religious or not, the world seems full of people who will intentionally misunderstand anything told to them, and twist it into something they consider “bad.” I think that kind of person breeds a lot faster and more often than healthy-minded people, and so they outnumber us by far. I also think that their kind tends to kill off healthy-minded people whenever and wherever circumstances allow that, which further adds to their numbers and depletes from ours. Beyond that, I think they tend toward hatred more than love emotions, and so that gives impetus to their negative characteristics, and drives them to try to be always “in control” because they fear that all of their negative ideas might be true. (Define ‘healthy-minded’ as not driven to murder; even-tempered, approachable, honest).

To our own innocent eyes, it seems like the Satan and God they claim to worship have switched sides for many of them. Satan and God being unrecognizable as to which is which by their worshipers, as they willingly address the mental idol of their choice by “God”, and the opposition that stands in conflict as “Satan.” Since there are no tangible features by which to identify either, a worshiper is left to decide according to what is written, political manipulation, rabble-rousing speeches, and whatever other kinds of expression have attracted his or her attention. All of such influences get sorted into an idea set with which each worshipper will accord whenever and wherever reinforcement arrives.

Not that we do much different from that, but I will get to our secular side later, in Unrecognized Religions. We can use what goes wrong with their processes to correct and maintain our own processes as we learn from them. We should not waste a wonderful opportunity for self-improvement by burning up energy generating nothing but complaints. Let them do that.

Memeplex Competition: The basis of their illnesses: The Arabic religions originate from a modified design meant specifically for an ignorant, backward society, and it includes justification for ignorance designed to promote acceptance from those who suffer from it. “I am illiterate, and the Torah says it is a good thing to be.” (So he got told.) The Xian Old Testament was derived from the ancient Jewish literature, which influenced Islam as well. We, who promote nurturing education as a good thing, have that still working against progressive causes. If what we want goes against their grain, they are bound to be intolerant as part of their belief set, since it looks to them like everything we stand for would work to destroy their religious ideals, as you can often hear them complaining.

The ideas that such influences generate and perpetuate by passing across generations and permeating social groups’ ideals have become known as ‘memeplexes’ (‘memes’ for short, even though that refers to any single idea). Such ideas are contagious, either through an inherent ability to appeal to human senses, or to induce their ‘hosts’ (the people who adopt and believe in them) to scatter and induce them by any available means. Whole populations of human beings acting as hosts to such memeplexes willingly turn to violence and self-effacement to support them. Recall the events of 9/11/2001. Read up on the Crusades, the Dark Ages, Hitler’s regime in Germany, the application of state-run Communism in Russia, China or North Korea. The book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions, and the Madness of Crowds, recounts many examples of human pack mentality. All are examples of humanity being victimized by memeplexes, and there are many others.

We find it hard to see such folks as victims, but that’s just what they are. The memeplex driving them causes all kinds of self-effacing acts that use their time, energy and resources to advance the memeplex in every way it can steer them, to their own detriment. We see them as another person (which they are) and their actions as purposeful (which they are) and blame them because we do not realize the self-effacing forces at work inside their minds. Those are not apparent until we realize an idea-set provides a bias that causes them to lose focus on their own natural interests and needs, and become highly interested in perpetuating and defending whatever set of ideas has gained dominance within their mental systems. We feel forced to defend ourselves from their induced aggressiveness when they start behaving like cats on the prowl.

In other words, they are sick. Most times, they are no more at fault for their illness than is anyone who has caught a cold, the flu, or cancer. The illness was likely passed down to them at the defenseless beginnings of their lives, as a part of the directives contained within the idea set that drove their elders at that time, who had contracted it the same way, themselves, passed down through many generations. Are memes something real? Ask yourself: “Are ideas a recognized part of reality?” They usurp a portion of a human mental system and use it to perpetuate themselves and so, as described by Richard Dawkins, become comprised of human flesh, nerves and blood, but they are not the human being him/herself. We can expect they can be recognized by testing which portions of a human neural system they light up when they become active. They are real, and they can make their hosts sick.

It is hard for all of us to accept, and we may wonder by what good fortune we may have escaped that kind of influence for our own selves. We tend to believe that, if we could do it, they ought to be able to. The credit, however, is not all ours to claim.

Truth is, we are not all constituted exactly alike. Evolution requires diversity of all sorts to be always present for its own processes, to assure that every species always has the widest range of survival options. That is how it maintains balance between species. Truth is, we all operate according to memeplexes, the central set of rules by which we guide ourselves. No one is immune to them and memeplexes, too, evolve and so are subject to evolutionary processes. In other words, memeplexes compete with each other the same as all species of life, as predator and prey in either symbiotic or parasitic relationships with the hosts that serve to perpetuate them. The conflicting memeplex your religious parent or neighbor hosts vies in competition with the different memeplex (the group of ideas that work together to generate a worldview) that you host. If his is parasitic (destructive of its host in its own interests) and yours is symbiotic (which serves to steer you toward goals and ideals that foster your own interests and preservation in order that it, too, can survive intact) they will be in conflict. The parasitic memeplex will drive its hosts to attack the symbiotic as “selfish,” “evil,” “Hell-bound,” in whatever way it can. As true of many things, the symbiotic memeplex will place a high priority on long-term effects of their hosts’ choices, and avoid the deleterious effects of some short-term distractions.

So, yes, when religion works to cause people to act against their own best interests (though not necessarily seen as such from their own eyes), then religion is an illness. Memeplexes that sponsor personal advancement, nurturance, creative freedoms, and the like are very seldom accounted as religion, but promote mental and physical health and social responsibility, could hardly be seen to be illness.

All of this does raise another question: “Should religious freedom, then, refer to a freedom to stay ill?” Your memeplex will tell you the answer. If you are still young and not yet jaded, and it kicked you in the gut when you read that question, I would suggest its abandonment. Develop one that loves you.

Stay tuned for a page about unrecognized religions such as infect the secular community. You can read a much deeper exposition about memes in my book, The Complete Universe of Memes. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595244297

Visit my web site for details.


There is no God in America.

by Lloyd H. Whitling


Sure, I’m an atheist, bonafide, but this is not about that, this is about what is it that people are calling God and, “Why are they calling it that?”

Now, Xians have been taunting me all my life about this thing called God that they say really exists. I might believe them if they could tell me what it is so I could go check it out. They tell me my puny brain cound not stand up to meeting with God, according to their Bibles, and that even Moses would be blinded by a vision of it.

To prove it, they showed me a verse in the Bible that said pretty much that, and told me that whatever I wanted to know, to just look through my Bible and I would surely come across an answer. Well, I think they doubted I would do that. I think that they have never done much of that themselves, and had just heard that someplace and repeated it. Maybe their mamas told them, or a preacher somewhere, I have no idea. I do know they can’t have taken their own advice, or they would be just the same as me.

Now, come to think of it, I have heard a couple of them brag about having read their Bibles through more than once, and daring me to do the same. I tried it, but it scared me too much and then tried its dambdest to put me asleep, it seemed there was no middle ground. What I learned from it, mostly, was why Xians act so bad as they do, what with their instructions to go about killing off people who won’t believe their tall tales, or else go to cutting of body parts for punishment. That’s scary, to think that people would believe in something like that, claim to one and all about how its the godawful truth, and proclaim themselves to be the servants of that belief.

And one or two of them seem to be such nice people! Good gracious, go to living! How can that be?

Well, I have found, during my studies, that there seems to be two kinds of Bibles that have been mashed together into one hodgepodge of stories that go in opposite directions. I don’t see how those braggarts could have missed that, unless they were so busy at doing their reading that not much if it sank in. It does make it clear, though, why the Catholic Church of old condemned to dire consequences anybody caught actually reading that book who was not an actual priest or somehow else in charge of churchly teachings.

What if it became commonly known what all it says people are expected, by God, to do and actually tried doing that? When they would try what the God on this hand says is right, they are going to discover themselves going against what the God of this other hand demands. They are going to say, “God works in mysterious ways, but even this is too much for my puny brain to figure out,” and end up doing what they had been doing in the first place, which was to go to the preacher in their churches, and do whatever he tells them. “Ask God’s forgiveness, because no matter what you do, you will have sinned and will come up short.”

The problem with that, as I have always seen it, is that one person’s preacher will say one thing is right, and another one will condemn it and tell us something else. It makes me believe they all are just guessing, and guessing also about the forgiving part. One thing is for sure, you can test a preacher by putting some money in front of him. By their own words, and by that verse I told you about somebody showing me, if they had ever been in God’s presence they ought to be blind. If a preacher reaches out to touch the money, or gives any sign he knows it’s there, he is just plain being dishonest.

So, okay, somebody told me that’s the law side of whatever it is they call ‘God’. While I still await their showing of that to me (een though I might go blind from it, I would have such a story to tell I have no doubts at all I could still earn a living. They do, after all, even with it being obvious they don’t know the first thing about it. That’s why they get so mad so easily, and go flying off the handle issuing condemnations and such. I would not ever have to get that mad at people, if I knew a story I told was true. No, if I knew that story was true and nobody would listen, I would not get mad, I would cry.

I would cry because the law side of this God thing is still being pressed, even though it seems like all the dirty deeds that God demanded have been done. All the people were killed that it ordered to be slain. All the people were maimed, the babies were burned, the women enslaved, and the cities burned. That’s all in the past, and all that’s left, for the most part, are some how-to’s about things like trading jackasses and slaves that we don’t have all that much of going on nowadays. There’s all that stuff about murdering and keeping the Sabbath and such, some of what we have laws about, and some of which we can’t keep because our calendars don’t have the right days on them.

I could send you to my web site for a better explanation of that but, it being kind of beside the point, let me give you something to mull over instead: There are 365¼ days in every year, leap or not. There are seven days in every week, leap or not. The calendar we follow was contrived about 5000 years after the week Creation was supposed to have taken place, and so it was by necessity that the Jews (who came along some couple-thousand years after that week) and the Catholics both not only had to guess at exactly what days were the first and last of each week, but also guess about the effects of that extra quarter day of every year. We know, and it has always been plain how the Jews and Catholics have always been at odds with each other, and it seeems strange they would agree about this one thing and very little else.

They don’t even agree on whether the first or last day of the week should be kept holy!

And that even increases my perplexity about why so many people take their words about something that ought to be important, without checking out all they can of it for themselves.

Well, that aside now, if I could only see it demonstrated as though people actually believed in it, I would take the description of God I found in the New Testament part of it. Now, no one can believe what they see is wrong. No one can force that. We can, at best, pretend for so long as we cannot be shown otherwise, but only because we are frightened of what the messengers might do to us, or because we cannot perceive of any alternatives. Either way, to pretend about this is unforgiveably wrong. People have tried, as I said, to convince me but my questions were those they had no resources for dealing with. Some would try, as I have said, but only get angry when I would talk about things for which they had no awareness, and then their attacks became more personal. (I am very familiar with ad hominems and other logical fallacies, as people over the years have plied all kinds of them against me until I became familiar with their tactics).

Still, I remain basically tolerant. People can pray all they want, say “God bless you” or “I am praying for you” and I will accept that as an expression of love or concern (as the case may be). It is their effort that is being made and, if that is all their resources allow, I can accept that as the best gift they have to offer. When we first came to tennessee (I have not noticed of late, as we seldom go that way anymore), a sign near Nashville along Hwy 70 informed everybody who read it, “God is love.” That seems like something seldom practiced when it comes to God’s messengers, especially of late, but that sign bothered me when I first saw it because it seemed untrue.

I had some thoughts that led to this: “If God created all. then god made lust, which begets love. If love in any form is a sin, then, there is not God, or else God is evil.” Would it not be better for God’s reputation that love in all its forms should be understood as a force for the good in every way. How can we be so foolish as to misunderstand that so badly that love gets our condemnation, and so, too, then, does God.

Quite some time ago, I had occasion to write about it, and about the nature of love and logical fallacies. It is a logical fallacy (equivocation) to turn it around while thinking, “If God is love, then love must be God.” [1 John 4:8] “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” I know that, but I am not the guy who wrote it into that New Testament Bible verse. If the fellow who wrote that was so all-knowing as wise as is claimed, then he must have intended the equivocation and it must be true if the Bible is deemed inerrant.

Now I, as an ordained clergy for the Church of Spiritual Humanism (UK), would not ordinarily use the Xian scriptures as a source of information, but it sometimes can serve as a source of inspiration, usually in the reverse of what God’s self-appointed (they are not blind that I can tell) messengers would want. What I find inspiring is how that verse seems to justify the logical fallacy in this instance (I can somehow feel you glowering at me) so that its meaning holds when it gets turned around. If Love is God, then I can accept that and practice that for I find that to be sensible and even some kind of lovely. It heightens my urge to be tolerant of others, who have not had the opportunities life has offered to me, and gained the vantage point I occupy. It stills my concerns over their intentions towards me and towards those over whom I watch.

I am more aware, of late, about when I am being attacked and when I am not. People do concern themselves about others in many ways, and concerned people who believe in spirits and souls will be concerned about that aspect of our existence they believe in. They are expressing love when they ask after others, mostly. Quite a few ask after that kind of concern because they feel like someone with a worldview unlike their own will somehow contaminate them. It threatens them to the point where they feel driven to eradicate the presence of it, either by seeking conversion or the removal of themselves or the other person from that current situation. Their concern is not one of love, but of self-preservation or preservation of the vested interests their beliefs have caused them to develop.

It appears like the various sects of Xianity produce people whose natures differ greatly from one sect to another. Seventh Day Adventists appeared on my porch, learned I am someone willing to discuss with them, but to whom they had little they could say. They now leave me alone, and I appreciate that. Some people from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons took a while longer to reach that conclusion, and now they no longer come around. Some people from an Evangelical Baptist sort of church kept at it the longest. I used to see them around town at various intersections haranguing people in their cars. Mama Lou read in the paper where someone had them arrested for harassment, and I have not seen them lately. I would join their church only to have somebody with whom I could ride bicycles, but I would not like having to wear a penguin suit while doing so. Besides, I would then be a hypocrite, and Love would not approve. I doubt, though, that they knew much about 1 John 4:8, about God being love, and so had very little experience at practicing love as being God.

Let love be God, and act like it, and I will no longer complain about the nature of what I have come to know as the ‘Arabic Religions’. Let love be God, as the New Testament proposes, and I will take that as the proper interpretation for such phrases as “May Love go with you,” “You need to find love in your life,” or “Love forgives all sinners.” Only a crazy person would get angry over that, unless you made it clear you really meant otherwise, like the way it now seems: “Love, if You are out there, speak to your people and let them know you are real. Please?”

Now, I could be very wrong about all of this. After all, there is little of science in the Bible, it having been assembled into written form a thousand and a half years ago, but I will still be the same person I have always been: If I am wrong, don’t tell me about it, show it to me. Is there Love in America? If there be love here, please show me it.