Let’s nail down some concepts before proceeding on our discussion of religion, which will span many blogs, but will be rooted in concepts in this post.
First, what is a Meme? Well, some have used it to describe a single idea, or even part of an idea. I think this gets too specific and wishy washy of concepts we don’t yet understand.
So, for all intents and purposes, we’re going to use a very abstract concept of a meme. A meme is a full concept “App” in the mind. A large meme might be the Christianity app, or the “I speak English” app, etc.
Now, there are smaller memes, the solitaire and calculator apps of the meme world, such as the “Eating with utensils” app, the “how to use a bathroom” app, and the “operating a car” app. These are the flashlight apps of the mind, which run mostly autonomously once learned.
These smaller apps may or may not be written well, but they have much less structure than the larger apps, such as religious apps. A religious app is the equivalent of Microsoft Office, or Facebook. Massive amounts of code and complex innerworkings with other apps as well. Some people won’t even install it all. Some just have the starter pack, say, MS Word or Facebook Messenger. This would be a “I believe in monotheism (one god)” app, but not the full suite of Christianity.
So, those are memes.
Second, what is a mind? A mind is a plural of meme. A mind is a collection of many memes. Think of a mind as having many apps covering most areas of daily life. A mind can install new memes or not, but it is not a blank slate, like a brand new iPad with only the default apps installed. A mind is a fully setup suite of apps. You added your Facebook, Whatsapp, some games, email settings, calendar, maybe Flipboard, maybe Pinterest…
All of this software, together, is called a mind.
Third, what is the Legio. Legio is the species of self conscious minds currently inhabiting human bodies, the intangible information software running on the inside of a person’s brain and nervous system.
What is the Human? Human is the DNA based species, the body, and only the body, the tangible.
What is the Gemina? Gemina is the combined species, the twins, of Legio and Human.
So, let’s talk about religion.
Religion is a class of meme that deals with specific issues. The dictionary defines religion as “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.”
In a way, Atheosophy is a religion, as it believes in the superhuman, or “having or showing exceptional ability or powers”, beings known as the Legio, ie - your mind. Not a particularly surprising idea. We have a mind, the mind controls the body. Descarte was essentially professing this faith when he said, “I think, therefore I am.”
Among other processing software, be it in other animals or computers, it is exceptional.
Religions include Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Shinto, etc.
There are religious families, such as paganism, which covers many individual pagan religions.
There are also questions about some philosophies being religions. Confucianism is said to be debated as not sure if philosophy or religion. I’m going to put it squarely in Philosophy, right along with Stoicism. Though it deals with the supernatural, it’s not necessary at all. Buddhism could be debated as well, except that Buddhism requires belief in its supernatural claims. One who doesn’t believe could claim to have a “Buddhist philosophy”, but not that they “are Buddhist”. The same holds true for all religions, really. One can think that the Christian philosophy of living is correct, but not accept any of the supernatural elements, though this is uncommon and would be unusual as a conscious choice.
Religions usually have a basic structure, though even the structure may differ slightly.
Countless books have been written on religious patterns. I’m not even going to recommend any single book. I’ve studied this my entire life, and no book is definitive. But once you have seen your first three religions, they all start looking the same. Here is the basic structure that we’ll need to understand for our purposes.
Mythology - These are the stories that explain the religion. These include creation stories, hero stories, salvation stories, tribulation stories, and prophetic stories. These are usually supernatural in nature.
Precepts - These are the codes of conduct. Do this, don’t do this, try to do this, try not to do this.
Rituals - These are the ceremonies performed to carry out and carry on the religion.
Scripture - This is the codified method of transmitting the religion’s other structures. In oral tradition religions, scripture is information transferred through rote memorization. Other religions have used other forms of scripture, such as bead blankets and pictographs.
All of the religions that I’ve listed as religion meet this structural requirement. This is why I put Buddhism squarely in religion. It has a mythology, precepts, rituals, artwork, and scripture.
I’ve had one Buddhist argue that Buddhism was nothing like Christianity.
At its structure, it’s exactly the same. There is no debate here. Period.
Most religions have other aspects, such as artwork. These are the creative expressions of the religion. Distinctive buildings, tapestries, carvings, paintings, statuary, etc. This can also include music and song, though this is usually part of ritual, not independent artwork from devotees. Pop Christian music is artwork. Songs sung at particular moments in a church is ritual.
But artwork is often a result of the culture that revolves around an established religion. It is not a requirement.
So, if one wants to create a religion, and not a mere cult, one must perform all of these requirements. This is critical to understand in the difference between a religion and cult.
If there is no mythology, there is no religion. If there are no precepts, there is no religion. If there are no rituals, there is no religion. If there is no scripture, there is no religion.
What is a religion without mythology? That’s probably Philosophy.
What is a religion without precepts? That’s could be culture, fables, fairytales… An atheist who puts up a Christmas tree, reads A Christmas Carol, and sings “Deck the Halls” is just practicing culture, not religion.
What is a religion without rituals? Now, we mean, absolutely no rituals, at all, not even meeting at a regular time. What that’s called, at most, is a dead religion. A scholar studying ancient Greek or Egyptian religious practices may have scripture at hand, with a full mythology and precepts. But nobody is practicing any of the rituals. It’s a religion that nobody is following. Anyone can sit down, write a mythology, precepts, and have an official scripture book, but if there are no rituals or ritual performers, they have not created a religion.
What is a religion without scripture? That can be a cult, which all religions start out as, with a small group of followers. At best, it’s the “discovery phase” of a religion that is not established. Another way to put it is that it’s just an agreed upon set of myths, rituals, and precepts by a small group of people who have not even established an oral tradition yet.
So, let’s go into the problem with all religions. I hate particulars, because we can get lost in the sea of them.
What we will do is attack religion on its major weakness, and that’s in the mythology. Religions usually start in obscurity with only a few or no eye witnesses, and makes claims that no reasonable person would believe if not made by scripture.
According to Buddhism, the Buddha was once a bird that talked to an elephant and a monkey. In his “final life”, Buddha, before he became Buddha, apparently jumped straight out of his mother’s vagina, walked seven steps, and declared that he would never be born again. He was also to have 8 spoked wheels on both of his hands as a sign.
According to Christianity, mankind was made out of mud, its savior was born without a human father, who was killed, and rose from the dead and then flew away to heaven. And, the world will end when an angel army comes and wipes us out in fire. The creation myth and the end of the world myth is common in most religions, including Buddhism.
Some mythology is based on a real story, but told as a fish story, or a story embellished with supernatural twist. This is often the case of stories of wars where supernatural powers are used to win. The war may have been real. People mentioned may be real. But just like Abraham Lincoln and Einstein, words are added to their life that they never did, and words are added to the story that were never spoken by them or anyone around them.
The mythology tends to be the glue of a religion. It ties together the rituals. “Why are we wearing red robes and chanting Blah blah, blah blah and blowing out 3 candles? Well, the red robes symbolize the blood of our hero, and the chant is the ancient words he spoke before victory, and the three candles symbolize the three armies he overcome, which also symbolize the three life mysteries he discovered.”
Precents are taught via mythology, which often lays out the precepts in story format. Don’t kill, or BlaBla will kill you with lightning. If you lie, you will grow sick and die. All religions have precepts, even Wicca which may have the smallest list of precepts that I’ve ever seen. “An it harm none, do what you will.”
So, it has one precept in the simple form, don’t hurt anyone. And it specifically says, other than that, you are free to do absolutely, and they mean absolutely, anything. Of course, those familiar with Wicca have many more precepts, mainly precepts on how to properly perform rituals properly. There are precepts for good behavior, but these are very mild and tend to defer to concepts like karma. You are free to do them, so long as you can live with the consequences. For instance, if you do harm, it will return on you threefold. And if you do good, it will return to you threefold. Good and harm defined by your own good conscience.
Precepts differ from mythology in that precepts are lists of rules, whereas mythology explains “why we do this”.
The rituals usually, but not always, play out aspects of the mythology. Catholics drink wine and bread as their mythology says was done at the last supper, along with the precept of their savior to “do this ritual”, as stated in scripture. In this, we see all four components of religion. If that were the only mythology (God ate dinner before leaving us), the only precept (you must do this), the only ritual (communion), and the only scripture, Catholicism would still remain a religion.
Scripture can be canon and apocrypha. Canon is defined as accepted by most/all, whereas apocryphal remains doubtful, but most still would believe its true. Apocryphal scriptures, stories, mythology, precepts, and texts can eat a religion like cancer. Most religions hold a council to determine canon (absolutely true) from apocryphal (either not true or not vital).
Buddhists had the First Buddhist Council, 543–542 BCE. Catholics held their first Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, and many after that.
The Quran followed a slightly different path, mainly attributed to the work of a single person in 634 AD, Abu Bakr. If you wonder why I am not speaking of Islam much, it is because there is no real lesson there as per our discussion, and I don’t care about current politics. I neither want beheaded nor lampooned, by radicals of Islam or radical opponents of Islam, respectively.
I just don’t fucking care.
So, why create a religion?
Ask the NFL.
Sports love a mythos in as far as larger than life figures, past and current. It loves precepts. Arguing the rules as in football, or even knowing all the rules as in baseball, helps establish hierarchy among fans. It really loves rituals! The Tailgate, the Seventh Inning Stretch and Song, Singing the National Anthem, the throwing of the first ball, the half-time show… And the scripture? That’s the official scores, official record books, the halls of fame.
But it’s not religion. First, it lacks a supernatural mythos. Second, it has no real scripture or clearly defined rituals in the same way a religion does. But add these elements, and you have a real argument that sports can become religion quite easily.
And this vehicle is great for hacking large groups of people to a cause. Ask any ad campaign. Ask any business, sport, school, etc. Universities have all of these things, as do their fraternity systems.
Ask Apple customers about the Cult of Apple. Steve Jobs is their savior, mind you.
These groups are powerful through their exploitation of religious meme structures.
Catholics may have a billion followers, but without the structure, it was just a cult of 12 broke guys in the Middle East.
Buddha might have been a cool guy, but he was no John Lennon with millions of followers in just a few years.
Structure is what carried ideas into full fledge religious memes. Just look at Scientology, a pure fabrication by L. Ron Hubbard. I’ve yet to this day decided if what he did was a good thing or a bad thing. Not seeing his real purpose clearly (which may have been to disrupt other religions, I have no idea… I’m an optimistic person.) I have no desire for it. If it were useful in some visible way, it might be interesting to study. As it is, it looks like an experiment to see “Can I pull a haox on the whole world” and he did.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous. I’m a philosopher. And whether the person who starts a religion or a philosopher who creates a new line of thinking, neither gets credit until after their deaths, usually. The greatest painter ever to live, Vincent van Gogh, died broke and unrecognized.
Greatness and popularity are not always directly connected. And quick popularity rarely lasts.
I certainly seek greatness in my achievement of my goal, regardless of who else cares.
But, I have a real fear for sentient life in this solar system should the goal not be realized by the first people to exist digitally.
I believe the most that previous religious leaders were happy to start cults in their day, assuming they were real people. They all had their asses kissed by the throngs. And all religions come up with an excuse why these supposed saviors decided to even waste their time teaching us their lessons.
I may be the first undeluded religious creator. But, I may not. Either way, not important. The religion that I need to do this work of stopping extinction doesn’t exist. So, I really don’t have a choice but to create it.
I do this with a lot of hesitation. Even with the best intentions, religion is dangerous. It’s the nuclear warhead of memes.
Alas, I am not Plato with the ear of the people. Nor do I have a thousand years to wait. Hell, I’ll be lucky to have 30 years.
And rather than start from scratch, I go to my Wiccan roots. Most self respecting Wiccans realize that Wicca is a created religion based on taking rituals, myths, scripture (spells), and precepts from past religions and modernizing them a bit.
Most Wiccans have a choice. They can go the British Traditional Wicca route, which few today choose. This is to Wicca what Catholicism is to Christianity. Some forked this idea into a few others. Problems with these traditions is that they carried the sexism of the 1950’s with them. Also, nobody really bought the mythos of a secret witch cult living on through the dark and middle ages to finally emerge. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wicca for more information. I prefer Patty Wiggington, writer for About.com and really awesome human being who I’ve met and conversed with, for a full history of Wicca and book recommendations.
Wicca comes out of the 1950’s, takes its own mythology with a HUGE grain of salt, and is very free minded, not putting up with doctrinalists very well. Many, such as myself take another route, which is Solitary Wicca, or the Solitary Witch. We don’t belong to a “coven”, study on our own, practice on our own, etc.
Now, Atheosophy directly translates literally as “godless philosophy”. This word was created by me. It is clearly a philosophy, not a religion. That’s not even an arguable fact. I created the damn word in 2011 (though some metal band used this word, but I have no idea why). I own, or owned I should say, Atheosophy.com and @Atheosophy on Twitter. As you can see, I made some tweets in 2011 and referred to the domain, which is now dead.
I probably abandoned those articles to dust save for my original on the topic which was posted here as the first post.
Anyways, as the creator, and assuming some of this writing will exist 10,000 years from now, and beings look back to know the thinking. No, it’s not a goddamn religion! It’s philosophy!
Just getting that out there. I wonder how many other religions would be dead if the person said to be its creator said something like that.
But… I have to create a religion. I even have to come up with a name for it.
The problem isn’t ritual, Wicca provides an open book to write that.
The problem isn’t precepts, I have the Philosophy of Negation which is fully compatible with an interpretation of the Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what ye will”.
The problem isn’t scripture, I’m a freaking author! I can write about 100 pages a month, or if you look at word count, I could write the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy from scratch, in my own words, in about two and a half years, and that’s almost a half million words.
I think I can get by with a thousand pages or less, so about a year.
After all, this is what I do all the time. I’ve already got 8 pages just for this post.
The problem is the mythos. I struggled with this problem 10 years ago when this idea formed almost fully in my mind in about the space of a weekend. It seemed like something that would come to me eventually. I’d just focus on the real work, the philosophy, and let the mythos just, well… come to me.
That was 10 years ago, and having not thought about it in 10 years, no, nothing has come to me.
I have a few options. I can go with a mythology so ridiculously untrue that its entertaining and completely allegory. I love analogies and examples, so this would fit well.
But it’s been 2500 years since Buddha and 2000 years since Jesus, and people take that shit literally and seriously. There’s no way in eternity that I’ll let THAT fubar happen!
Even if I wrote a disclaimer, some jackass a thousand years from now will start a splinter group claiming that some “evil” inserted the disclaimer. They’ll remove it, and then there’s a real religion running loose. NOPE, not an option.
The material must not provide anything false. And that’s a bit of a problem. Because nothing supernatural exists.
How do you interpret reality with the same awe as a mythos, and not create a monster.
One thing has happened in 10 years that has given me a ray of hope that there is a solution to this problem.
If Neil Degrasse Tyson doesn’t excite you with just the facts… shit, nobody will.
He has a gift, and I believe he has a gift I would have a hard time copying in any form.
And if I’m to fill even 1000 pages, or what is that, at least 150,000 words, it will not go at my current typing rate.
I’m a nonfiction writer, and I don’t do poetry or stories or fables or the like. Could I write a story? Yeah, but mine would look more like a crime drama, not what one normally associates with Scripture.
There is another problem. Science changes when new facts are learned. And that matters. One can’t write scripture, and then have the facts change.
So, at this point, without a mythos, I’m still stuck with a philosophy.
I’ve thought of one other idea, and that’s to split the difference. To create a strawman hero, much like A Brave New World worships Henry Ford and the Model T.
And like cosmos, we can have a fictional traveler that follows along watching discoveries. We see this character, the everyman, face down the hordes of the dark ages, and all other evils we’ve overcome. And that the everyman grows, changes, evolves… over time… with each discovery, with each setback.
And we send this traveler out with nothing but his wit, and the Philosophy of Atheosophy. His morals are completely the Philosophy of Negation. His power is the power of his Legio. And in each age, his Human benefits or suffers depending on the circumstances. In the end… well, not sure yet.
The idea is growing on me as I approach my deadline to start writing. The philosophy still needs more work. But it will be time to turn my attention to the mythos by 2016.
I trust I will find a way. Man created religion. I intent to simply replicate the feat.