RE: virus: FAQ: question (c) - Believing

Richard Brodie (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 17:55:02 -0700

I think you'll find it an interesting exercise. I predict zero conversions and an expansion of your model of how people operate.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter!

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Dan Plante
Sent: Friday, June 18, 1999 5:11 PM
Subject: RE: virus: FAQ: question (c) - Believing

At 08:54 AM 18/06/99 -0700 Richard Brodie wrote:

The effectiveness of such an argument assumes that people's primary reason for believing in God is that they think it's the Truth, which as I've pointed out many times is not the case, just a shallow misunderstanding of religion by atheists.

At one end of the spectrum, a small percentage actually _do_ believe it's the "Truth", because believing gives them a warm squishy feeling. At the other end of the spectrum, a small percentage don't believe any of it, but decide to appear to believe, probably because that's how they want to be percieved, which promotes cultural inclusiveness, which gives them a warm squishy feeling. The rest of the "professed believers" (in word or in deed or both) run the gamut of the spectrum between these two extremes, but always because it gives them a warm squishy feeling for one reason or another. The point is that it is a spectrum, with, predictably enough, a gaussian distribution. _If_ your goal is to "convert" some away from theism (not my goal, I couldn't care less), then the particular statement below would have more efficacy in this regard than the vast majority of other possible statements with this goal, for the stated reasons. It would be at its most successful when read by the particular bunch in the middle who are wavering because they were brought up believing, but they have a natural propensity to interpret what they see in the world through a lens of ruthlessly logical consistency, and also lack a natural ability to lie convincingly (and therefore will probably lack the desire to do so). A statement with the particular attributes described below would have the greatest statistical efficacy in "upsetting the apple cart" towards proffessed disbelief from these people.

It's been my observation that, if graphed, the bell-shaped curve described by the distribution of human behaviour along a line from antisocial through asocial to very sociable, the "theist" graph would look essentially the same as the "athiest" graph. With the proper controls in place to substantially prevent a tyranny of the majority (a democracy-and-personal freedom constitution underpinning the laws people are forced to abide by, the neccessary supremacy of which is ingrained into them almost from birth), the net difference between the graphs regarding predicted random acts against my person or my loved ones by individuals at large is essentially zero. Nevertheless, all things being equal, this type of approach will have the greatest effect compared to any other type of short "sound-byte". But this is a relative evaluation, not an absolute one. Would it "tip the scales" for a significanly large minority of "believers"? That's difficult to say, but I'm working on it. But in the final analysis, who cares? As I stated, the cultural impact would be minor at best, and I'm in it for the academic exercise.

I'm rather partial to the quote that was posted a while back (I don't remember who posted it); it went something like " when you understand why you don't believe in all those other gods, you'll understand why I don't believe in yours.", or words to that effect. The central argument in this quote is so loud and clear, and of such an insidious nature (it subverts and co-opts the reader's own understanding and feelings about their beliefs about other religions, and uses it as a mental mirror), that one simply _could not_ miss the point, and it does it with few words, and without explaining the point explicitly. This is a good "stealthy infiltration" meme because it's vector of infection is through the back door of the emotions rather through the front door of intellect (to a close approximation).