Abstract and Introduction


ABSTRACT: The topic of this paper is to examine religion and reason as conflicting memes. R. Dawkins and D. Dennet develop the thesis that there are "intellectual viruses" or "memes" which can invade and replicate themselves in minds and change the behavior or output of those infected minds. Religion is identified as a meme. I specify reason with the primary attribute of consistency to be a meme. My thesis is to show that religion has sub-memes which enable it to produce behavior which is contrary outcomes associated with reason. I argue that memes of a religious nature cause a rational weakness akin to moral weakness; Pascal's wager, a form of religious persuasion, uses "sub-memes" (memes that are axiomatic to a generic meme) to control associated emotions and/or desires so that they override the outcomes designated by reason. The net result is a less than rational choice is made. In a nutshell, religion mystifies the associated outcomes of choosing between a belief in God and atheism to cause a person to opt for and then act on a belief in God. Pascal's wager works because, with the use of religious sub-memes, it is a "bait and switch" scam. However, I maintain that a choice for God is to be expected among the general population, for the improperly desired goods (Heaven and the Christian life style) are paramount determining factors in opoting for a belief in God; the choice has been skewed by religious sub-memes operating more efficiently than reason. The choice of believing in God has a greater survival value for the memes of religion than for those of reason, given the present educational states of minds and conditions of the world.


My inquiry will center on Pascal's wager and a commentary on that work by Thomas V. Morris in a paper "Wagering and the evidence." (Paper appears in a book, Gambling On God, ed. by Jeff Jordan, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Boston: 1994) In the first section of my paper, I explain briefly how religion is a meme and how memes operate. The basic point here is to show that memes can affect the output (behavior; decision making processes) of an organism. In the second section, I add to a key religious generic meme for Christianity ("God exists") four sub-memes: "A person is never alone given that God exists;" "Things will get better sooner or later;" "It's God's will;" and "God is beyond knowledge and it is imprudent to question God or His dictates." The sub-memes are used, "undercover" as it were, in Pascal's wager to achieve two goals: 1, to cast a "veil of ignorance" around the disjunction "Either God exists or He does not exist," so that the mind will not entertain the impropriety or inconsistency of affirming one alternative ("God exists") when it knows that such an affirmation is impossible given that the disjunction can never be other than a perpetual tautology (there can be no conclusive evidence for affirming either disjunct); and 2, to allow an improper evaluation of the lifestyles associated with the beliefs --to entice a judgment in favor of God through desire for embellished Christian ''goods.'' "God exists" is chosen as a good bet because the payoffs are perceived to be better than the payoffs associated with "God does not exist." Finally, I contrast reason and religion as competing memes with the conclusion that, in general society, religion is a stronger meme. Religious memes can combine more easily with desires and emotions than can reason and in doing so can "persuade" a mind to act in certain ways even when the underlying basis of those actions contains a suppressed contradiction. I conclude that, as a meme, religion is in many cases dominant over reason, especially in the topic case of acting on a belief which is irrational in nature (acting on the belief that "God exists" when it is presumed that the truth of that proposition cannot be known). It is dominant because in the contemporary world of minds, it has better survival power than reason.

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