After a long meditation this morning I decided whether or not to write about the recent religious violence. I imagine many people wish, or at least expect, me to rail on the Orlando shooting at some point. This is not going to happen, as many of my colleagues† have already done this at length. The voice is loud and most of you, my Gentle Readers, know I have been expressing the evidence that religiousness is mental pathology for years now. No, today I will stick to my guns. Of course, the internet has made easily available the flood of crazy extremists that will now descend on the public with righteousness. After all, there is only one rule to socially acceptable behavior: everyone is doing it, so can you.
This is seen in Nazism, Christianity, Islam, US policy making, and/or driving on the interstate. Technically, under the (hopefully soon to be defined) laws of memetics, every fundamentalist-anything could give themselves permission to loot, destroy, break, kill, attack, beat-on, piss-on anything running in opposition to their “belief.” I have heard it from my own family. “See! There is something wrong with lesbians.” We have a presidential candidate that puts pejorative ideas on the nightly news claiming to be deeply religious. And those who think they have the right kind of religion always express that those types of “beliefs” are not what is really religious.
You wanna know why I put that word, “belief” into quotes? Because it is a false notion. After years of research, most recently a close reading the first 110 pages of Phantoms in the Brain (still studying it), I am over the whole conscious experience thing being anything other than a data transmission tool. The most basic statement is: we believe things so that we can reproduce genetically. End of story.
I know a ton of people will sit back and want to get all spiritual on me. I feel a lot of empathy for you. There is very strong evidence that the ability to have spiritual perceptions, beliefs beyond rational ones, would have been a memetic bonding agent for small communities. Pascal Boyer mentions on the subject of institutionalized religion as compared to a smaller community’s superstition saying,
“it’s really just your choice of terms… those beliefs are there institutional or not, and they are there in very simple societies where you don’t have a church. But, that’s just one of the features. Another one you’ll find is a propensity to organized ritual, to get together and do a whole set of things that are directed at those unseen agents in an organized way.”
And when someone asks, “why, if it is rational to disbelieve, did religious tradition maintain. Boyer might say, “who but a witch would go around saying that witches don’t exist.” Those people did not survive often enough to spread their anti-witch, anti-religious, anti-establishment message.
As societies bred and cities became larger, enough people speaking out could and would be killed by the establishment, whatever the establishment would be, in concert with those who would die from natural causes creating a selection niche. An added survival advantage for those who more easily believed in establishment superstitious feelings and notions. I believe there is even evidence for the property of genetic drift applies to these ideas in regards to infecting the ruling class. A ruling class using the ideas to control large groups of people might persist for a hundred generations, but eventually noble lines collapse with kingdoms and empires, forcing blood lines to either go extinct, killing off the lines of lower-belief propensity, or a royal lineage would be forced to breed with the very commoners under the influence of religious establishment. There couldn’t be a reverse of this trajectory, as large groups of people don’t become a ruling class. So even if you did see pious belief persist for a few generations within a new ruling body, selection pressure to extenuate those beliefs wouldn’t be as strong. A single line of noble genetics does not much evolution make, unless of course it does drift back into the general population. Voilà! Another system for the perpetuation of religious belief via ruling classes that are as old as agriculture and just as much a part of our natural makeup as our diet. So, why is disbelief becoming more and more popular over the last 500 years? The old bloodline process of the ruling class is changing. Notice I said changing, not changed.
More of us have access to the world and resources. And while the large banking cartels have a few bloodlines that still try to use the “In God We Trust” garbage on the masses, most of us use debit cards, even the poor—for anyone who knows what a EBT card is. Their constant force fed control is collapsing. Many of the modern religious don’t read their holy books, and church is having to become as much about a sales pitch for lefty or fundamentalist beliefs as it is about the spirituality. This will continue too if government continues to uphold a separation of church and state. The selection pressure will be off from a genetic standpoint. This is where memetics takes over the religious notion.
Nowadays, the only thing keeping religious belief intrinsically a part of the human experience is the merit of the ideals themselves. And like any ideas, we can choose the ones to let go of, like slavery and lead use. And as Daniel Dennett once said, we need to “move the center” when it comes to ideas that are particularly harmful or predatory to our “hard wiring,” such as religion.
I don’t want to try to tell the religious to not be religious. A genetic precedent has been satisfied with religious belief, and like sugar and nicotine, they may not shed those harmful beliefs without treatment. As a meditator, I think the best medicine for many mental disorders (if not most) to be the placebo effect of meditation.
Better than “Vitamin C” or “armor and a shield” for your mind, meditation can be a healing via behavior. No externalities need be considered. Meditation has been shown to have potential at being a long-term solution for harmful behavior, and indeed physiology.
Yet, I speak of meditation free of superstition. Meditation that makes allowing belief of being more spiritual sets one up for elitism. More spiritual, than whom? More division from a spiritual notion. In this way a misguided meditator can be just like Jesus.
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division… father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother.”
So how do I move the center. The only way I intend to do this today is via a little challenge. That little quote from above begins at Luke 12:49, one can go with Leviticus 20:13, it doesn’t matter. This is your Holy book if you are Jewish or Christian. If you are Muslim, just go with, Quran 47:3-4. These are all verses of hate from two major superstitions. So the challenge runs like this.
Renounce your books of hate and division. You want to be spiritual? Alright, grab that bull by the horns. Remove the immoral texts of man from your lexicon of spirituality. Take them for the poor histories and fairy tales they are and renounce them.
Climb on a rooftop and shout out, “I will no longer believe that my morals and spiritual feelings can be guided by this silly book!” Free yourselves. You could still call yourselves Christians, a namesake to the reason you all got together, but now without the troublesome issue of having to look through a bronze age control tool to do it. You can do like the rest of us, and cherry-pick The Bible for some okay quotes, and discard all the dreadful and harmful notions. Without feeling the undeniable guilt that comes with knowing your divine book gives the permission to kill, rape, and enslave your friends, peers, and their children, you will take control of your spirituality by seeing what it really is—just another type of thought, like enjoying ice cream
Take up the challenge, and be free.
I will still contend it is dangerous to think that there is a god at all, but all I wish to do is move the center. And if one Christian says, “enough is enough, this book is ridiculous,” then it will have been worth it, and I will rejoice with them in their new-found freedom. Prost!
Image of Confucius: http://worldreligions.weebly.com/confucianism.html