Here we are, late December, and there sure is a lot of Christian talk going around. Someone from outer space would be asking, “What’s that all about?” Mangers, wise men, gifts of frankincense and myrrh.
Our alien visitor would be told that Christmas is a celebration of a man who was sent by God to redeem the world’s sins; that he died, was resurrected, and now is able to give other people eternal life in heaven if you believe in him; and that he expects believers to praise his glory to others so that they too can be saved.
“Oh, I see,” the visitor’s Universal Galactic Translator would say. “The minds of your people have been infected by a powerful meme. Our consciousnesses are prone to the same disturbances.”
Not exactly how Christians view the birth of Jesus. But it’s an entirely reasonable explanation of the hold that Christianity, along with other salvific religions, has on billions of Homo sapiens.
The Christianity Meme web site is dedicated to exposing what’s really going on:
"--Christianity is a meme, a mind virus that lives in the minds of people and is spread through proselytization and other means.
--Christianity is a meme about God, but it has no other connection to God.
--The Christianity Meme has been shaped purely by natural selection--the law of survival of the fittest--as it has played out in human minds. It is a sophisticated product of cultural evolution.
--Being a "true Christian" infected by the Christianity Meme will subject you to aid its survival through its adaptations that allow it to exert control over human behavior.
--As a consequence, the more Christian you are the more you are prone to certain kinds of immoral behavior. The Christianity Meme is not bound by the moral principles it carries.
--We seek to expose Christianity for what it is and we advocate a conscious and rational approach to morality in its place."
Makes sense. Memes are theorized to be the mental equivalent of genes. Whereas genes are passed on from parent to child through DNA, memes propagate through cultural forces: books, conversation, magazines, television, movies, art, blogs, all kinds of methods.
When you hear a new song and can’t get it out of your head, that’s a meme replicating itself. Or when you just have to get an Ipod, because everyone else has one. Or, if you’re of a certain age, when wearing a baseball cap anyway but backward becomes unthinkable.
In his essay “Viruses of the Mind” (in A Devil’s Chaplain), Richard Dawkins says, “Like computer viruses, successful mind viruses will tend to be hard for their victims to detect. If you are the victim of one, the chances are that you won’t know it, and may even vigorously deny it.”
These are the tell-tale signs that Dawkins says we should look for.
--The patient is impelled by a deep conviction that something is true, right, or virtuous. This conviction isn’t based on evidence or reason, but still is totally compelling and convincing. In other words, “faith.”
--Patients make a virtue out of faith’s being strong and unshakeable in spite of the lack of evidence. Indeed, the less evidence there is, the more virtuous the belief. Once the proposition is believed, it automatically undermines opposition to itself.
--A related symptom is that “mystery,” per se, is a good thing. It is not a virtue to solve mysteries. Rather, we should enjoy them and even revel in their insolubility.
--The sufferer may find himself behaving intolerantly toward vectors of rival faiths, in extreme cases even killing them or advocating their deaths. He also will be negative toward apostates (people who once held the faith but have renounced it) or toward heretics (people who espouse a different version of the faith).
--The patient’s beliefs likely have nothing to do with evidence and a lot with epidemiology. Meaning, it is the faith his parents and grandparents had, for by far the most important variable determining a person’s religion is the accident of birth. If he’d been born in a different place, he’d have a different religion.
--Yet even if the patient follows a different religion from his parents, the explanation still can be epidemiological: he has been exposed to a particularly potent infective agent, a John Wesley, a Jim Jones, or a St. Paul.
--The internal sensations of the patient may be startlingly reminiscent of those more ordinarily associated with sexual love. Some priests speak of the consecrated Host, the supposed body and blood of Christ, in romantic terms: “I would gaze on the Host…soft-eyed like a lover looking into the eyes of his beloved.”
So beware of what lurks within the religious mind. Memes, like viruses, don’t care about you. Their goal is simply to replicate by means fair or foul.
You might find yourself flying a plane into a building at the behest of a religion meme. Or, donating more money than you can afford to a meme that says, “God loves those who give to Him until it hurts.”
Have a Merry Christmas-meme. Just don’t turn your back on the devious creature.
You have told right sentences. Problem that you have raised is real. The virus exists.
But You would have to get attention. Virus exists on the opposite side too.
We have to keep our mind free of any meme and don't negate beforehand religious stuffs.
The truth is relative and we can get it by each spot.
Posted by: Spark | December 22, 2006 at 03:56 AM
I wish that in a couple of years, I could be a fly on the wall in the Hines hearth; your grandchild will be about 2.5 years old, then.
What joy it would be to have a glimpse of Grandpa Brian cradling his grandchild and recounting the story about the Great Christmas Virus. It warms my heart. :-)
Posted by: Marcel Cairo | December 22, 2006 at 09:27 AM
So now you will only accept certain metaphors for processing this complicated life of spirit?
It is convenient to forget evolution and blame the victim: It is my fault if I contract a virus, or a meme. How I behave in my illness, or my suffusion of brain processes, must be a result of poor choices and actions.
"If you are the victim of one, the chances are that you won’t know it, and may even vigorously deny it.” Like being a witch! See the Maleus Malefactum.
I think that the metaphor of memes as genes and/or viruses is full of holes. Pattern analysis is part of biological operation. If viruses are not attacks on the human system, but evolutionary adjustments, (because everything belongs here,) similarity in pattern processing across genetic groups is necessary as well.
Here's Laurie Anderson again: there is the 1986 song "Language Is a Virus."
"Language is a virus from outerspace, and that's why hearing your name is better than seeing your face."
I do not accept the meme of memes. At least until having an opinion is rightfully regarded as memetic behavior. Sorry, but the definition has to be universally applied.
Posted by: Edward | December 22, 2006 at 09:42 AM
Thank you for sharing with us the true meming of Christmas.
Blessed be. Namaste in '07.
Posted by: benandante | December 22, 2006 at 09:44 AM
Being a Christian, I always look forward to this time of year. Then I read your post. At first, I was taken aback by the idea that Christianity is merely a meme, but the bold, trustworthy words from such an insightful thinker as Dawkins forced me to ponder the possibilities...
So, I did some online research and was amazed by what I found. There is a wide gamut of opinions as to who Jesus was. Even more surprising, I found there are educated people who believe Jesus the person never even existed. [The gospels were written decades after Jesus was crucified and the other historical records such as Josephus' were altered by over-zealous monks who were only serving the Supreme Meme(TM)]
But the most shocking revelation of all is that within the Christian community there is a faceless (as far as we know), hidden, shadow-like cadre who not only prescribe which actions the president should take, they also control the media. They even go so far as to utilize back-masking techniques to further spread The Meme. Here's proof:
Posted by: Steve | December 22, 2006 at 10:00 AM
Catholic school cured, or innoculated me, but it doesn't work for everyone.
Is thinking for oneself a meme?
Posted by: zhoen | December 23, 2006 at 10:52 AM