ReligionSee also: Evolutionary psychology of religion
Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for 'biological advantages' in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection. —Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.
In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.
Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.
Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty, then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional "modernization" and "supply side" theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.
Read more about this topic: Meme
Other articles related to "religion, religions":
... Main article Religion in the Middle East The Middle East is very diverse when it comes to religions, many of which originated there ... Islam in its many forms is by far the largest religion in the Middle East, but other faiths that originated there, such as Judaism and Christianity, are also ... There are also important minority religions like Bahá'í, Yazdânism, Zoroastrianism, Mandeanism, Druze, Yarsan, Yazidism and Shabakism, and in ancient times the region was home to ...
... Religion in Saarland - 2007 religion percent Roman Catholics 64.1% Protestants 19.5% Other or none 22.0% The Saarlanders are the most religious ...
... as a distinct group, and it was their attitude to religion that distinguished the left and right from then onwards (August Cieszkowski is a possible ... under the influence of his relatively enlightened minister of religion, health and education Altenstein, allowed pretty much anything to be said about religion so long as there was practical obedience to his ... at first found it easier to direct their critical energies towards religion than politics ...
... Court ruling When we think of the Hindu religion, unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet it does not worship any one god it does not subscribe to any one dogma ... argue that the Hinduism is not a religion per se but rather a reification of a diverse set of traditions and practices by scholars who constituted a unified system and arbitrarily labeled it ... necessitated by the desire to distinguish between "Hindus" and followers of other religions during the periodic census undertaken by the colonial British government in India ...
... Main article Criticism of religion Religious criticism has a long history, going back at least as far as the 5th century BCE ... During the Middle Ages, potential critics of religion were persecuted and largely forced to remain silent ... century with the Enlightenment, thinkers like David Hume and Voltaire criticized religion ...
Famous quotes containing the word religion:
“Religion is an attempt to get an irrefragably safe investment, and this cannot be got, no matter how low the interest, which in the case of religion is about as low as it can be.”
—Samuel Butler (18351902)
“When I read of the vain discussions of the present day about the Virgin Birth and other old dogmas which belong to the past, I feel how great the need is still of a real interest in the religion which builds up character, teaches brotherly love, and opens up to the seeker such a world of usefulness and the beauty of holiness.”
—Olympia Brown (18351900)
“As, therefore, we can have no dependence upon morality without religion;Mso, on the other hand, there is nothing better to be expected from religion without morality;Mnevertheless, tis no prodigy to see a man whose real moral character stands very low, who yet entertains the highest notion of himself, in the light of a religious man.”
—Laurence Sterne (17131768)