I’m not talking about the shit you pass around to your friends on Facebook or wherever the fuck you go to be clever. I’m talking about actual memes. Cultural markers that reproduce and either flourish, or fail. Of course, there’s still wide debate about whether a meme is a “thing”, but then again we don’t really know what a “mind” is either, having never observed one. We just know the brain makes one. But some evolutionary biologists think an idea is like a virus, transferable to others with the same chances for successful replication or error that genes have. Dawkins first coined the term in 1976, and there are still adherents to the concept today.
I’m reading some oldish Daniel Dennett at the moment, and as of 2004 he was still a proponent of memetics. It’s as good a theory as any, and not being an educated person in any of the fields studying why ideas and behaviors live and die I will just accept his argument that memes exist and are subject to the rules of nature just as our DNA is. He wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that our evolutionary advantages like speech replicate in a virus-like manner. Mutations can be happy accidents for the carriers of memes and genes, and of course, they can be quite damaging to their hosts if not copied correctly or if an environment is hostile to a change.
Dennett put forth the idea that it was possible to scientifically study the origins of religious ritual. At the time he was writing the book, he had scant ideas on how that could be accomplished-merely asserting that it could and should be examined given how much human activity is inspired by it. But he did believe that some of the strange affectations surrounding worship of a supernatural being were products of evolution. A new folk dance by a trusted holy person that brought rain at the same time the dance was done per se could inspire confidence in a group of humans, and that could be passed on over generations, perhaps with slight variations. Our concepts of God and gods have surely evolved in different places and different times. The war-god in the Old Testament of the Bible is markedly different from the merciful one in the New Testament. Different times and places caused different mutations. Millions of religions over the course of our existence as a species failed having been eliminated by stronger and more cohesive religious memes.
One big question is: is religion escapable, or has the God meme persisted for so long that it’s dug deeper into our brain as something that can be physically expressed? We aren’t going to know any time soon. As far as I know, neuroimaging can’t see a “thought” and I have my doubts it ever will, given that we do know that multiple centers “light up” in the brain for a single activity. But as we know, there is no such thing as pure nature and pure nurture that makes a life form what it is. Handed down tradition also gives us our idea of God. But these don’t have to be permanent memes; memes can be replaced by better ones by simply reading or being taught something more compelling. This could be where free will lies, the ability to resist a stubborn meme and undo its influence on you. The God meme is still there, but your relation to it has changed. You can believe in belief, as Dennett says, but you don’t have to believe.
Well anyway, it is certain that religious memes can bring benefit, or destruction. It could do both at the same time. I think about my brother, who has a terrible image of himself for reasons I can’t always discern, and the Jesus meme makes him feel delivered from his dark urges. The Jesus meme helps my mother, who has had more pain in her life than any one human should. It doesn’t seem to do much for my father, who carries the Jesus meme but it doesn’t deliver him from the need to get attention from young women at the age of 79. He has a “Playboy” meme has hasn’t been able to shake. This, as you may imagine, has made him a target for internet con artists. But he likes to participate in the delusion that women still want him, so whatever.
The point is, it doesn’t really matter what truth actually lies in these memes. The fact is that they, by and large, work. What is truth anyway? It’s a metaphysical concept. There is an objective reality out there, for certain, but we cannot see all of it and really, what good would it do to be able to? The best humanity can do is find paths to a better, richer life. And memes are part of that effort, if they exist. We hew to lies and call them truths if they foster our survival, optimism, and pleasure. Love memes and hate memes accomplish similar things in this vein.
But I feel bad that I cannot de-program my family as the only nonbeliever. I feel really good about being free to not have to worship something or not having to worry about being punished for my actions by an unseen being. It helps me remember that this is the life you get so make it a good one if you can. But my feel-good free-will meme might not be transferable and probably would be super damaging to all members of my family. What might I unleash within my brother, with all that hate and anger suddenly out of check? How could I make my mother happy if I convinced her that she will never see the people she loves again? What kind of a lecher could I turn my father into were he completely free to indulge his tastes in blondes with big tits?
In all these cases, my wish to replicate the atheist meme is a bit stymied, and for good reason. I have given up trying to change these people I love, because they are doing the best that they can and don’t need me to upset their applecarts. The atheist meme in America is a lonely one right now, because it has never really coalesced into a group of people with any actual power. Fortunately, I’m mostly content with the fact that the other three members of my family are nonbelievers. My wife and I never introduced the God meme to our kids and they simply turned out to be atheists. It’s the default natural position, undermining the idea that belief in God has become somewhat hardwired.
Anyway, philosophically I’m back to my old friend Nietzsche, who was the first person to scare the God meme right out of me. Thinking back on some of his other contentions, I remember one was that falsity, artifice and appearance were realer and of more utility than anything “nature” could come up with. Trying to find the nature of reality was a secondary concern to him, which at the time differentiated him from any other major philosopher before him.
We are the creators now. We are the gods, the scientists looking for the paths that help asking no assistance from the sky. We put the memes to work for us, and create new ones. In this sense, the control of the meme is relatively new. We have domesticated their transmission with things like writing, politics and computers. Our lies have become quite sophisticated and as a result, and I wonder sometimes if that is a boon or a curse. Sometimes the “memes from every corner” feeling (a feeling produced a lot by things like advertising) is deleterious to us. It causes conspiracy thinking, a type of destructive memetic that makes you feel like someone is always out to get you and that you need to find “the truth” to escape. But that’s what happens in a free market of ideas. It can be good, but God knows there’s plenty of shit memes to indulge in today no better than the delusions that religion produces.
Tamar Courtney and Morgan Strong have been together for six years and will be getting married this summer in Virginia. They wanted a friend to officiate the ceremony but after facing some difficulties in obtaining his license, they figured they would just go to the county courthouse and take care of the legal paperwork.
They had some issues obtaining a public servant in their home county, so they jumped over to another. They were rebuffed:
Morgan: … am I speaking with Bud Roth?
Roth: This is he.
Morgan: How you doing. I just received a phone call. I guess my fiancee had called up looking to be wed in Franklin County?
Roth: Okay, yeah.
Morgan: Okay… and why was she declined the service?
Roth: Because she’s Agnostic and you’re an atheist. I will not marry you. You don’t believe in God.
Morgan: I mean… but… so that’s your judgment on it, correct?
Roth: That’s my decision. I’m not judging you. I just don’t marry anyone who does not believe in God [or] believes that there is a God someplace.
This is a miscarriage of social justice and I’m utterly repulsed by this treatment of non-believers. I love how in the end, the dickheaded public servant says “I’m not judging you.”
No. You don’t get to say “I’m not judging”, and then judge the couple unworthy of simple civil rights. Typical. Your whole fucking faith is based on circular logic, you sons of bitches. I can’t wait for the lawsuits to fly.
A while back, I wrote about an Oklahoma bill that would require clergy to sign off on all marriages.
Everyone knows that it was the backlash to Obergfell. But that bill didn’t just take a giant shit on gays, some of its splatter could have easily hit atheist couples.
Now it’s Kentucky’s turn to be motherfuckers in the same vein:
New legislation in Kentucky would allow those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against atheists.
The new legislation is designed to allow conservative Christians to discriminate against same-sex couples without fear of legal consequence; however, the legislation is so broad and so poorly written that it would allow discrimination against gays, atheists, interracial couples, interfaith couples, and anyone else that is offensive to a person’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
SB 180, titled “An Act Relating to the Protection of Rights,” creates a statewide group of “protected activities” and “protected activity providers” to afford immunity from any federal or state laws
In other words, interracial couples, atheists, LGBT people and others can be denied services by businesses and the government for religious reasons even though federal law explicitly forbids discrimination.
Stay vigilant, gang, because they are trying to drag us back to an era that they romanticize, an era that hid its sickness, that hated change, and was nice and white and heteronormative and Christian. Vote like your life depended on it, freaks- because if you read this blog and know me, it does.
I bring you part two of “stop killing words”:
Political operative David Lane, who has worked to get Religious Right leaders to rally around a single Republican presidential candidate (Ted Cruz is their man), and who is trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 election by getting 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office, is fixated on the idea that the United States of America has a national mission to advance the Christian faith. In his latest diatribe at Charisma magazine, Lane writes:
It looks as if America has come to her kairos, her moment in time—to be faithful to Jesus or to pagan secularism.
Which word do you think I mean? Is it kairos?
It’s the mess of tying “pagan” to “secularism”.
I don’t need to explain how stupid that is to my tiny but intelligent readership. But for the sake of being clear, let’s review:
Pagan:a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.
Secularism: the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries.
What is David Lane trying to say? Because there ain’t no pagans threatening the supremacy of Christianity. I’ve met a few, and their number is small and they’re like the least threat to democracy there is. So is he trying to make this about atheism and humanism? I’d say yes. But Mr. Lane, like many Christians, trips over his dick trying to paint us as religious, because we have to believe in something.
How many times does it need to be said? There is no god. Period. That’s about as far as you can get from religion. And you can kindly fuck yourself for attempting to break the separation wall that the founders were concerned about. There are no ifs, ands or buts about this being, my friend, a secular nation. Keep your Jesus shit out of my government, and I’ll try to hold back the hordes of pagans that your little minds have conceived from destroying your Christian paradise.
I am a political animal first.
Second, I am a humanist.
This means I will put party and country before religion, or lack thereof in my case.
Lord knows I have spent more time than I want to ballyhooing Hillary Clinton for the presidency. She’s the worst best hope we have. Anyone who can’t see her obvious advantages over Bernie Sanders as a candidate has horse blinders on. I’m not too keen on idealism. I am, despite the yearnings of my heart, a pragmatist. Half a loaf is better than none.
But I am still impressed with him. So far, he has not been able to project the encyclopedic breadth of knowledge that Clinton has. I think he will do better in the next debate. He’s probably been told he needs to jump her, even if that goes against his integrity. He’s stuck in a pattern of repeating himself robotically, speaking in platitudes where Clinton has been showing off her bona fides and experience. That will probably not make the nut.
As you probably know, voters will support a Muslim or a homosexual before they vote for an atheist. The only group more vilified than atheists are socialists. And by my lights, Bernie is both. He isn’t quite willing to come out of the closet, but I give points for effort:
On “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night, Sanders was explaining his popularity and why he is electable.
“You say you’re culturally Jewish, you don’t feel religious,” Kimmel told Sanders. “Do you believe in God, and do you think that’s important to the people of the United States?”
“Well, you know, I am who I am,” he replied. “And what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. That I think it is not a good thing to believe that, as human beings, we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people,” he continued, as the crowd applauded and cheered so loudly he had to pause.
“And you know, this is not Judaism. This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money. Life is more than that.”
Yup, that’s one of our boys.
Hillary Clinton did the religion dance, and quoted the Bible as a great source for inspiration. My heart sank a little when she did that. I mean, the book is not all bad, but I can only stomach so much pandering before I get upset. I’m not exactly holding my nose to vote for her, but I would love some forward motion on the religion issue. But it is what it is and I have to do what is best-namely supporting a winner. Christ, we have a black man in the White House. Some people are not even going to vote for a woman yet, and that’s where we are at.
They will probably put my ashes in an urn before an atheist arrives at the White House.
Timing. And that time is not right yet. There is too much to lose if we do not keep the Oval Office.
No doubt you know by now that I’m a raging, fire breathing atheist. I think religion is stupid and dangerous in some circumstances. Jesus worship is pathetic, and so is the idea of original sin-and the semantics surrounding the free will debate irritates the shit out of me too. I can’t stand the argument that I can’t be moral without God. And there is no way to find the first cause. You can’t find that shit in an antedated manuscript wherein the absence of an answer must be a very cross eternal creator who brought the universe into being. For me, that is way too simple. I’m going to have to say that “I don’t know and neither do you” is about how I feel. There’s too much chaos, randomness, and just plain brutality that a good God would eschew. One sin and the human race was cooked forever after.
Fuck God. What an asshole.
Now I just read an article that atheism doesn’t have to be diametrically opposed to religion. There’s some sophisticated arguments brought forth by two erstwhile authors struggle for and against religion to the very end:
“Man was happier before Christianity,” he wrote, “than after it”. But the alternative to Christianity, in modern times, was what he called “the barbarism of reason” – secular creeds like Jacobinism in revolutionary France, which aimed to remake the world by force. These political religions would be even more intolerant than Christianity, Leopardi believed, and if you consider the history of the 20th Century, he was surely right.
…he believed humankind would on the whole be better off if it renounced religion. But he didn’t deny that religion contained something of value. “Sometimes, of an early Sunday morning,” he wrote, “I would enter the old grey church to take the sacrament… And as I knelt with bowed head to partake of the beautiful, antique ritual I would try to conceive what inner secret the wild rumour held… I would feel half-inclined to believe also. Why not?”
As Powys saw it, the “wild rumour” of Christianity was like all religion – a response to the fact of mortality.
It’s a good article except for the final paragraph where the writer of the piece lands a jab aimed at what is called New Atheism. He calls us religious in our quest to make our presence known. Whatever, dude. You should pay attention to the fucking Christians who can’t stop themselves from proselytizing and want God to be part of everything we do as a society. When Christians stop bothering polite folks with their unctuous beliefs, chances are that the other religions and the nonbelievers will settle down and we can have a respectable, pluralistic democracy that includes all faiths and no faiths.
In the end, I couldn’t care less what you worship. Just don’t bug me with it. Because when you do, me and my fellow atheists have ways of upsetting your apple cart.
Those who do not have a god are not often taken seriously. My own family has insinuated that I am going through “a phase”. I’m 43. I don’t have any phases left. I don’t even think I will go through an easy listening or country music phase as I get longer in the tooth. I’m about the most complete me I can be. And you can go get fucked if you don’t like it.
I have said that no one, if given the choice, would sign up to be a minority(unless you have the chutzpah that say, a Rachel Dolezal has). However, I guess that’s what I have done. And maybe I should get loud and stand up for my rights just like any other marginalized and vilified group. We’re winning our respect slowly but surely. Thanks to the penumbra of the First Amendment, I do not have to put up with religious bullshit in my government or tolerate disenfranchisement in my community. And you know what? That’s good for you and me, Christians.Your bumptious attempts to inject religion into every public space you can have earned you the ire of Satanists and the mockery of other assorted freethinkers. Whine all you like. This absurdity will continue unless you let go of the notion that this is a Christian nation .
Now I don’t have a thin skin. Perhaps I take offense at egregious bigotry and cruelty. But my main emotion when I catch wind of something like this is not one of umbrage. I’m just irritated. Annoyed. Sick to death of this bullshit. Teed off. Not offended. There’s a subtle but stark difference. I think “taking offense” is a dirtied phrase; claiming “offense” is derided by bigots. The proper response is indignation. We gotta just get mad. And we gotta get proactive. These days are ripe for social change. We’re entering a new age of Aquarius, in a manner of speaking. The walls are crumbling. I am more optimistic than ever, even as our heroes are found to be mere men.
Forward, friends. Stick together and we will change this country by hook or crook.
In their neverending quest to remain Palinesquely relevant, the Duck Dynasty folks sporadically issue brain-vomit from their faceholes about something they don’t understand. Each utterance is somehow exponentially more stupid than the last one.
They really have a problem with atheists. We are told by Phil Robertson that we must rape, mutilate and kill because we have no God to tell us how to behave. That was a good one. But now I’m being told that I don’t exist:
There’s no such thing as an atheist, according to one of the stars of the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty.”
Si Robertson, known to fans of the show as “Uncle Si,” told the Christian Post that anyone who uses the date is acknowledging Jesus.
“There’s no such thing as an atheist,” Robertson told the website. “I’m serious, because there’s too much documentation. Our calendars are based on Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in him or not, every time you sign your calendar, you add down the day’s date, you’re saying he’s here, OK? That’s documented.”
Sign my calendar? Add down what? Does not compute. But the ramifications of such a stance is what is sad here. Apparently I can’t “be” if I acknowledge anything that has to do with Jesus. Does that mean there are no Jews, no Muslims, no Hindus, no Buddhists, etc.? Oh, those are false religions, if you ask these simpletons.
Let’s turn this around. Philosophical history is full of atheist thought. None other than our Founders created a government that would be free of religion. That’s documented.
Poof. Bye, God.
Apparently Si has not heard of the “Common Era” that people the world over use. Just because Christianity rolled roughshod over every other cult does not mean that everyone needs to believe in Christ, obviously. All of them exist. So do I, Si. We’ll just have to live with each other.
No doubt that by now most of you have heard some Christian rock. It’s oxymoronic. By nature, religion does not rock. At its heart, rock is about hedonism, independence, protest, rebellion, drugs, devil worship, ennui and what Christians would call perversion. I think I’ve covered most rock themes in that list(I omit love because too often people kill the spirit of rock by being maudlin and sappy). My point is that typically the only things Christians know and get excited about is Jesus Christ, with a side of more Jesus. And all of their media is Christian. So they write what they know, sometimes in a rock format. It never works. It’s derivative and sterile.
That said, I don’t think we need atheist rock. Not specifically, anyway. “Atheism” is already a part of rock; countless songs have made fun of religion and deny God’s existence. In other words, it’s been done. I can probably cite examples off the top of my head. Here’s one about evolution and the insignificance of man against nature:
I stole the phrase “religious vomit” from this:
This is about as heretical as shit gets:
I could go on, but I won’t for space reasons. Sorry if I made you watch some ads to make a statement-that rock made for “atheists” is a bad idea. It comes off sounding as fake as Christian rock. It’s too sincere, it doesn’t flow. The reckless nature of rock is missing from the piece.
Rock is blasphemous enough. Let’s not force it.