I think we should try to Memetically Engineer an Atheism that is just as viral as theism! So let's get to it!

Religions are very old, highly evolved memeplexes. They have been designed through memetic evolution to be resistant to science--they are unfalsifiable. They claim that unfalsifiability as one of their greatest strengths and virtues. They punish adherants for even thinking about alternative world views, otherwise known as alternative memeplexes. Apostasy, the abandonment of one memeplex for another, has historically been punishable by death. Adherents are rewarded through the positive feelings of communal activities. Those infected with the religious memes are compelled by the memes themselves as well as other infected to propagate and spread the virus through proselytization.

So, what is the most virulent version of Atheism we can create here? There's a catch: it has to uphold the general values of modern democracy. Liberté, égalité, fraternité! Rights and Responsibilities!


Thomas Paine: The Age of Reason
John Stuart Mill: On Liberty
John Milton: Areopagitica

Let's get to work!

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Cynicism. 2000 years, still no takers.
For a guy with an alias of Prytanis, this was a great read. I particularly enjoyed the "History of the Name" section and the interactions between Diogenes and Alexander.

To sum up:
Askesis - Free oneself from social conventions and constantly practice freedom and rigorous training. Live a Spartan life and abandon material goods. As Fight Club has taught us: "The things you own end up owning you." Only once we have renounced possession can we therefore be free. Askesis is used to acheive...
Autarkeia - Self sufficiency. Only once we are self sufficient, enable by the constant training of Askesis, can we then achieve true...
Parrhesia - Freedom of Speech in the absolute sense. Practicing all three of these "virtues" leads individuals to be tough, independent, and free. This freedom exists only in the context of a community, however. But the community of the Cynics is not just the city or state, it is all humanity.
Cosmopolitanism - States, faiths, neighbourhoods, ethnicities, etc are all artificial constructs which must be rejected in favour of the greater context of the human race.

Well, this sounds pretty good to me so far. With one big exception: the Stoic lifestyle.

Any memeplex requiring adherents to surrender their material goods is doomed to fail. The Abrahamic faiths, the most successful faiths in terms of number of adherents, don't have much of a problem acquiring and holding onto stuff. Sure you can find a few monks and orthodox jews and impoverished imams here and there. But let's just consider the Vatican and Saudi Arabia and the fight over the land in the entire state of Israel for a moment.

Now, I'm not saying our Atheist memes should replicate that level of greed, but neither should we be required to give up our stuff to adhere to the path. To quote your posted article: "Epictetus in particular advocates the Cynic stance, but warns against taking up lightly something so difficult." In order to go viral, memes need to be easy to take up.

They must also be pleasant. In exchange for giving up 10% or less of their stuff, the faithful get to keep the rest of their stuff and enjoy it (Relatively enjoy, anyway. Cars-good. Sex toys-bad. Mennonites excepted, of course.). If they want to give more, they can. So it seems that extreme cults of 100% taxation are forever doomed to fringe status. The tax-meme must be one of moderation.

Having stuff, and others having stuff, is a good motivator too. This "do not covet thy neighbour's" so and so is no good at all for the economy and for innovation!

So, let's keep the reason, the self-sufficiency, the constant improvement of the self, and the speaking truth to power. But let's keep our stuff too. Even though having stuff may provide incentives to us to NOT speak freely out of fear of losing the stuff, if we praise truth more highly than possession, and if that meme spreads far and wide enough, we'll be fine.

Do you have any thoughts on what that meme might look like?
Prytanis: Any memeplex requiring adherents to surrender their material goods is doomed to fail.

What are material goods ? A hummer and a beachfront property ? Or good music and good reading ?

Diogenes was a bum. But with only his wit, he was never short of booze or hookers. I contend he led a very satisfied life, with our western concepts of materialism being thoroughly irrelevant.

I need very little. I feel nauseated by what I'm told I need. Enlightened self-interest is more in line with cynicism than abandoning materialism altogether. Define what you "need", take what you want, leave whats left undisturbed. Hedonism as opposed to Stoicism.

Fight Club is the bible of our generation. It simply is the greatest vivisection of what our culture has become. Ever. If anyone hasn't seen it, see it. A 1000 times. It made me proud to be human.
Right on: Fight Club is the bible of our generation.

Hey - I'm probably older than you given that statement - but I get what you are saying, nonetheless.

I live in Tom Paine's other hometown (not Philly) and consider him the greatest of the 'Founding Fathers'. He understood that any group with a diverse set of ideologies and interests is smarter, when they collaborate effectively, than any individual in the group. But religion is the anti-thesis of this idea because the group is ruled by a common ideology and, therefore, its members do not collaborate so much as abdicate.

BTW - this website is a type of memetic generator.
"Religion is evil. The religious want to steal your money and control your mind. They bring nothing but war and death to humanity. Religion is a plague. We want to protect you. Join us, and be free. Save your loved ones from their tyranny!"

I think that'll work. :) Then you can put in all the freedom, equality, rights and responsibilities. Those are fairly easy, since democracy is well established.
Trouble is this description of religions is not true. Sure religious groups can do these things, just like any group can. However, it is not true to say that religions bring nothing but war and death to humanity. They can do much good also. The problem I have to face is the truth of the good which religions can do, and the fact that they do it in the belief of a god, which I do not believe in.

Yes I do want to be free of their tyranny, and as an atheist I am. However, to make false claims about religion is unhelpful. We atheists don't want to be known for 'peddling' untruths surely?
I've been thinking about this subject a lot since reading George Lakoff's book, Don't Think of an Elephant! Most of us are great at having the facts and figures justify our worldview and don't get why theists, when confronted with them, don't instantly change. Lakoff provides the answer: the facts alone just bounce off their frames.

If we want to 'unconvert' more people, we need to understand the frames theists have and then construct counter frames of our own. Some of those frames might be:
* Moral authority (a very big one) - How often have we heard that only god provides the authority to provide morals and ethics?
* The comfort of an afterlife
* Churches/synagogues/etc. as social pillars
* Religions as (sole) sources of wisdom
* Religion as the answer to "why" (why we exist, why we should be good, etc.)

Many of us know that religion isn't any of these or doesn't actually possess them. We can catch theists in logic traps all day long, but other than making us feel self-assured, how many people convert from it? Usually it only succeeds in making believers retreat into their shell of faith.

What are the frames we could try? Not sure yet, but we could start with common values from secular humanists and go from there.
1. Try gently suggesting personal responsibility to (initially) augment moral authority. Faith doesn't preclude attempts to be 'like Christ'. And, in the face of their version of free will, personal responsibility isn't excluded, per se.
2. Pointing out that there was little discomfort 'before birth' can open a crack into the whole 'hopelessness of no afterlife'; especially combined with Jesus' 'tomorrow will take care of itself'. This one helped me get over the last remnants of my faith.
3. I use the 'sports fan' analogy here. Push on the 4,200 versions of 'us and them' there are in formal religions world-wide.
4. Point to the Constitution as a non-Biblical source of proven wisdom. Any other strongly held doctrine that amounts to a source of wisdom can be used to illustrate alternative sources of wisdom and open a crack for things they hadn't thought of.
5. This one is the hardest and kookiest - because they cling to a meaning that isn't discovered but, simply, transcribed into a bronze-age book. I try to get people closer with 1-4 ... and add that, if god gave you a brain, might as well use it...
I don't think you can create a worldwide movement around an idea that's based on a negative. The term atheist is kind of negative sounding even if it isn't literally negative. A viral meme needs to supercede all other memes in a way that is inclusive. A higher logic if you will. That's how mainstream christianity does it. They tell you that you can pretty much think what you want so long as you give yourself to god. The new meme needs to trump the idea of god.

I agree with Fred that transhumanism probably has the best shot at derailing the momentum of religion. It kind of is a religion with its forward thinking idea of a sort of endgame, the singularity. Transhumanists can actually work towards their goal. They could theoretically bring it about. For christianity to do that they would have to kill everyone on earth and see who makes it to heaven. For transhumanism to do that they just need a bunch of supercomputers, no mass murder.

I look at nature and think nothing brings people together like a natural disaster or common enemy. We only need a way to get everyone on the same boat, regardless of what they bring aboard, so long as everyone is rowing together in the same direction. I think the green movement has a good chance of doing this but many elements of the movement have backwards thinking ideas like going back to loincloths and scratching in the dirt. I want my descendants to know what rocketry is thank you very much. Still the idea of global warming being an all-encompassing-natural disaster is getting a lot of steam. Either we all start filling sandbags or we'll all die. A new meme has to trump environmentalism too.

How about a meme that stomps on greed and selfishness? These two behaviors sure seem to cause alot of grief.
Good ideas, Prytanis. Having studied Memetics and the anthropology/neuroscience/psychology of religious belief, I want to make sure we understand that the power of religious belief in humans is deep seated. One example is that in human development up to the age of 3/4 years old a child believes that others have omniscience. Parents are infallible until the age of four. Some deity is usually supplanted into that role to create accountability..."God is watching you." There are good psychological reasons for why people grasp onto a deity that is quite deep seated. There are also socially reinforcing factors. Studies have shown how members of groups will accept total illogic to be part of the group "think."

The more understanding we have of these factors, the better able we will be to come up with a meme that is powerful enough to move people away from these beliefs. Perhaps we should be targeting people who are already inclined towards atheism, but need a better understanding of why others believe and a reinforcing understanding of life without a deity explanation. And, I would emphasis the fact that social groups do not grow without some form of recruitment. Logic doesn't usually suffice.
"Hey, let's make some ideologues!" No. Not "no thanks"; just "no". Ideologues are the opposite of thinking and the opposite of good.




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