(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

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