The specific religious meme you believe in was passed down to you from your parents which was passed on down to them from their parents and on and on. Thus, the type of religion you have was primarily given to you by your genetic lineage (your parents). This is one important way how memes function. Memes can also operate in a more horizontal manner. They are pieces of cultural data that are transmitted from one mind to the next by way of language or behavioral imitation. There are exceptions to this rule, of course; in the case of religion, some people converted to a different religion from their parents and some religious individuals relinquished religion, entirely. (I tend to focus on trends, because trends usually offer more predictability than looking at exceptions.)
Compared to other memes, I think a religious meme is a very strong, infectious piece of data. I say this because religion has the power to rearrange a person’s entire way of thinking and perceiving the world around them. It so strongly modifies their thinking to such a grand extent that they literally become trapped inside a delusion.
How does one know that it is the religious individual trapped in a delusion and not the atheist? Perhaps it is really the atheist confined within the real delusion and God really does exist and accurately impinges himself upon the minds of the religious.
Anyone can be trapped in a delusion, so how do we know who is affected by it? Is the religious mind more likely trapped in a delusion or is the atheist mind? Is this a false dichotomy? Are there more than these two possibilities—perhaps both the atheist mind and religious mind are trapped inside delusions? Or, maybe there exists a delusion continuum and one of these world-views is measurably more delusional in degree than the other.
Again, how can we tell? To say that the religious mind is suffering from delusion is a tacit suggestion that the atheist mind is not, or, is less so. It would be difficult to propose that both an atheist mind and religious mind are equally right at the same time; these two would negate each other due to possessing claims that are in diametric opposition to each other.
We are right back to where we must decide. Which of these—the atheist or the religious theist—is more delusional than the other? One of these has got to be more delusional because the claims that are acknowledged by one of these views are opposed to the claims acknowledged by the other view. In other words, they contradict each other. More clearly, ask yourself whether god(s) can and cannot exist at the same time.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there are some minds following a set of ideas and beliefs that are false—ahem, delusional. Some people may not like this statement. The notion of labeling some minds more delusional than others is a very offensive declaration. How can anyone person’s line of thinking and believing be superior to anyone else’s?
A good way to think more about this is to look at reality. Of course, this is assuming that there is an objective reality that exists outside and independent of human minds and human senses. I happen to think there is—or else, what now? Also, if one says that “Reality is really a subjective experience”, are they not making an absolute statement here? It ends up defeating itself. Where can we even go from there if we don’t at least make this fundamental assumption that we can all agree on?
There must be some kind of absolute, objective reality that exists in order for us to contrast and measure delusion against. From another angle, if reality is ultimately subjective, how can we even begin to propose that someone is suffering from delusion—maybe such delusion would be that individual’s reality? In other words, we can’t reproach anyone for being delusional if no universal reality exists.
Next, if we agree that reality is objective, we can look for evidences of delusion. We can look at which of these views (atheism or theism) offers an overall position that is reflective of this objective reality. We can begin to sift through the purported claims of each. Are there more false claims offered by religion (e.g. Christianity) or atheism?
Atheism would seem to be a rejection of the claim that god(s) exist(s). A religious/theistic view might say, “A non-physical, god(s) exists and that he rules the world and has an eternal plan for each human being—not for other mammals, and certainly not for icky bacteria.” Notice how this is a densely loaded, non-vague assertion.An atheist (non-religious) stance would say that humans and other life forms are the result of a materialistic, physical process that can be explained through DNA, evolution and rewound back through time. There are many preceding physical steps that gave rise to human beings (and other life-forms) existing. Where there are gaps in this physical history, they are not explained by something that transcends nature (as far as I know). If all the other gaps we have ever come across throughout history have been explained by a physical mechanism, why, for a new knowledge gap would we resort to a non-physical one, such as god(s).
Those are just some quick thoughts tonight...