Knowledge Problems

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Parasitic Religion

I see a good deal of truth in the argument (per Dawkins) that religion is a kind of parasite, a set of memes that replicate themselves from generation to generation by cleverly commandeering certain critical mental faculties to ensure their reproduction. (And even recognizing this, I find myself unable to take any kind of measured stand to prevent my own exploitation as a receptive host.) As hard as it is to internally revise or reject religious beliefs learned in childhood, it is much harder yet to resist conveying these beliefs to one's children. Religious beliefs do seem to force one inexorably to communicate them to the next generation. They hijack one's rationality by playing to emotions of guilt and fear. Religious people who don't really believe any of the religious fairytales will still transmit religion to their children, either directly or through the schools in which they enroll them. This process is rarely ever disrupted by a host declaring "I will not transmit!" Rather, disruption occurs when a host transmits ineffectively, for example, when a parent sends their child to an after-school religious program. While such a measure may satisfy the parent's compulsion to transmit religion, it is not adequate to implant the religious memes into the new host. Thus we find that completely secular people are generally not raised on secularism, but are more often raised on "religion-lite". For these individuals, someone indeed did attempt to infect them with the relevant memes, but the effort was not adequate for the memes to take root and the religious parasite was extinguished. Am I being too negative?


  • I don't know if you're being too negative, but you're pointing out something which is very true. It is a very strong instinct. Perhaps we have our fond recolections of our childhoods, even if we have rejected religion later in life. I also hear people who are very 'skeptical' saying that they prefer the more right wing schools for their kids over the more modern ones.

    I am completely non religious. But I know that I will have some mixed feelings and sense of loss if and when my own kids give up orthodoxy.

    By Blogger dbs, at Apr 11, 2006, 2:39:00 PM  

  • I think the truth may be deeper than we care to look down the bottomless hole of our own psyche. I for one see religion as having some utility in regards to community and possible moral scaffold structure, but I do not believe in any of the particular teachings.

    Despite this I fuly intend to enroll my children (in the future, when I have some) in MO/conservadox schools.

    I have told myself, this is because I want them to have jewish heritage and community. However, I suspect that on some lower level, I have a neural inference system hard at work, reminding me of the consequences of ending the "chain from sinai", and this silent "pusher" has not been disarmed despite the fact that I no longer believe the relevant data that would allow any of this to make sense...

    Did that make any sense ?

    By Blogger Ben Avuyah, at May 10, 2006, 12:02:00 PM  

  • Makes a lot of sense... thanks for posting!

    By Blogger Big-S Skeptic, at May 10, 2006, 2:19:00 PM  

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