Religion: An Essential Meme

Like genes, religion spreads from person to person, propagating from person to person, though through minds in the form of information and ideas.

—- Jason Tobi Maitimu

Nowadays, religion is just as big as ever, with most of the population of the world following and believing in one religion’s teachings. However, not many people appreciate that religion affects more than just the lives of individual people, but their culture and even become one of the few things that can shape the course of history, nor the many different groups that exist within the major religions.

Religion has existed for as long as humans have known how to write. The earliest known works of humans include stories, legends, folklore, and even epics that talk about gods and goddesses that interact with humans, for better or for worse. The examples include “the Epic of Gilgamesh”, “Homer’s Odyssey”, “the Iliad”, “the Kesh Temple Hymn”, and “the Ramayana and Mahabharata”. Religion spreads from person to person like genes, propagating from mind to mind, though through information and ideas.

Memes, as described by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene”, are a unit of cultural transmission, something that like a gene; mutate, adapts, replicates, and evolves. However, unlike genes which replicate through biological means, memes replicate from influencing one another through social interactions, such as spreading ideas, art, fashion, and culture. For example, in the book, Dawkins gives the following example: “If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.” (pp. 169-179)

Like genes, religion spreads from person to person, propagating from person to person, though through minds in the form of information and ideas. From this, we can define religion as a meme. Religion adapts depending on the region; assimilating or blending some aspects of other cultures or religions to further spread their ideas and influence. For example, we celebrate Christmas on December 25thevery year even though we do not have concrete evidence that Jesus Christ was born on that date, this is because during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine, the church in Rome at the time started to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.

This was done for various reasons, but mainly because the 25th of December is strongly connected to Solar related celebrations from the Romans and Pagans. Religion also tends to take over from the previous culture before it. For example,  when Greek Civilization collapsed and was replaced by the Roman Civilization, the Romans adopted their polytheistic system.

Religion does not just get affected by cultures that are foreign to them but can affect those very cultures as well. The affects can cause significant changes toward the native culture, from a shift in architecture, literary works, and arts, to ideas and laws. These ideas and laws tend to stick with people for an incredibly long time, changing their way of life for years to come for better or worse.

Due to humans’ tendency to share ideas and information, it is inevitable that they will interpret certain things as slightly differently. This, inevitably, causes some religions to have branches that though at first glance is only slightly different, may lead to major differences in ideas, systems, and teachings. They do things differently, have different outlooks towards specific situations, different laws, and different systems some of which can lead to disagreements and may lead into conflicts. For example, the main difference between Sunni and Shia is the interpretation of the succession to Muhammad, with some political and theological differences, or with the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church, which was made due to Martin Luther having protested to some of the teachings that were pushed by the Catholic Church during his time.

Religion is something that needs to be learned and preserved because it has become intangible with the cultural development of humans throughout human history, shaping cultures while religion itself adapts to new regional cultures to propagate easier and faster in those regions. It has differing branches that need to be learned as to preserve and to respect its ideals. Thus, religion is something that needs to be learned and preserved as an integral part in human history. [MFR]

Malleability of Fate and Pandemic

Fate is both malleable and not. We cannot change the past and we do not know what will come in the future but, we should not leave our life to fate before putting our best effort and there are stuffs that we would not know.

—- Vindo. P

We have heard many people lament over their inability to perform a certain act or skill and claim that they are not fated to be successful in that aspect. Some may claim that they are not lucky enough to achieve those feats. Others may groan it off as not having the opportunities to achieve it. There are many debates whether pure talents beat hard work and vice versa. Have people ever consider how much effort poured by those who have talents and those who have not? Do some people think about predetermined destinies? Do people believe in the concept of ‘making your own destiny’? Is everything that has happened and will happen have been set in stone? Or, is everything that has happened and will happen is the result of our actions? Regardless, many people believe in the concept of Fate. However, can you really call these phenomena “fate”?

There are two answers for this, “yes” and “no”. In consideration of my current affiliation, I will integrate it with qada and qadar, which mean ‘decree’ and ‘fate or predestination’. Both qada and qadar are tied with each other because qadar (predestination) happens due to qada (decree) of God. Despite the meaning, it does not mean human has no force to decide their fate. In fact, you should and ought to make effort to drive your life into the direction you want it. There is always a room for improvement even if the result is different from your initial expectation.

 In accordance with the previous statements, we can conclude that we can change, we can raise up against any anxiety of inability to perform well on certain skill, and we can turn the table of our current condition, as god will change our course of life if we make effort to do that. If you think you do not have the talent, you can put more effort in it. Of course, it is harder but it is not impossible. If you are not lucky, you can make your own luck by planning with your wits and courage. If you have no opportunities you can always try another way using your perception and analysis. It is all about making and taking action. Even if you fail, you have to continue. In the end, you will not reach your destination of you stopped walking and making effort to reach it. Things that we, as a human, would not know are something like the end of the world, our exact date of death, or which talents we were born with, etc.

In short, fate is both malleable and not. We cannot change the past and we do not know what will come in the future but, we should not leave our life to fate before putting our best effort and there are stuffs that we would not know. God encourages his believers to not lose hope and keep on trying, learning, and adapt to changes that happened and will happen.

So, how is it related to our current problem (Covid-19 Pandemic)? Everything that is happened might be a trial, a punishment, a reflection of our action or anything but, regardless of the cause, we should deal with it. Humanity has faced such problem since the ancient times. It is not the first time humanity faced a worldwide pandemic.

Let us look on some other pandemic in the past such as the flu pandemic in 1889 – 1890, the bubonic plague in 1855 – 1960, and the swine flu in 2009 – 2010. It is true that these pandemic has taken many victims but despite the differences in medical knowledge and technology humanity managed to find the cause of it whether by virus, bite of an infected rat, etc.  The symptoms of the disease include cough, nasal congestion and runny nose (for influenza), vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches (for bubonic disease), etc.  The ways to cure it could be through vaccine, antibody, and immune system and implanting protocol or specialized procedure to control the infection. Collective efforts of prevention are highly important to fight against the virus.

When this article is being written, humanity has found the cause of Covid-19, the transmission, the prevention and common health protocol. The vaccine is being researched and tested. The very least we can do about this is by following the protocol. I understand how stuffy a masker can be. I know how boring it is to be limited on where you can go. I share your frustration for not being able to meet your friends.

Nevertheless, please understand that these changes are for our own good. We should follow the health protocol and abide the law; at least it will minimize the damage and the spread of virus. After all, we have to make a collective effort on its prevention. We have talked about the relation of fate and making action, and we look back a bit about some worldwide pandemic. Even the slightest of action may affect the spread. Let us just hope this perilous time cease. [MFR]

Religion and the Modern World

In the end, people can choose to believe in what they want to believe. People can choose to believe in religion or believe in science, and neither of them can fully understand what they believe.

—–Joelinus Jason Hidayat

Nowadays, people doubt the existence of religion and the relevance of religion in the modern era. Modern people argue that religion has shifted its purpose from bringing people to a better life in the opposite direction. They see religion can no longer provide solutions to social problems but it instead creates social troubles. Many behaviors from the religious perpetrators make people no longer consider religion a peaceful entity.

Abuse of power and injustice committed by religious leaders to their congregations, camping for religious people against the infidel, violence in the name of religion to oppose certain groups, or hostilities between religious communities to prove whose faith is right are among the many examples.  Because they feel religion cannot provide peace and comfort, people choose not to have religion rather than having to fall into disputes and discomfort. Therefore, modern people choose to renounce religious faith and prefer science as a substitute for religion for the betterment of human civilization. They assume science can be understood easily, unlike religion, and do not create unrest in the social environment.

Rapidly growing science is increasingly convincing people that the scientific phenomenon can now explain things that happened in the past that previously considered being God’s power. However, not all human needs can be satisfied by science alone. Modern people still need to believe in religion because religion provides more than an explanation of nature’s world or the world’s afterlife but also anything beyond it. Religion provides community and friends where everyone can be well received and treated like a brother/sister. Moreover, it is like glue that holds one’s identity together. For example, Muslims from various regions came to the holy land of Mecca and are well received by the people there and treated as families because they hold the same identity. This proves that the beauty of religion as providing community and holding identity that occurs in society is still closely interrelated.

Religion also provides psychological support that cannot be given from science. Religion gives mental strength and comfort to grieving people. For science, grieving is irrational, and people cannot dissolve in yearn. This is different in the view of religion; people can be sad, and religion will help them to get out of sadness and return to live a new life. In a desperate situation, people can rely on faith to give them hope in overcoming problems beyond their control. When people begin to lose direction and despair because of their failure, religions appear to provide motivation and support. Religion comes to calm fears of failure and invigorates the believer to keep moving.  Religion plays an essential role in emotional life that cannot be reached by science. For the most part, religion is an instrument to give mental peace, mental comfort, and mental satisfaction to the believer.

Religious practice is one of the ways to get mental peace and psychological support. However, many modern people cannot accept something they do not understand. Understanding religion is not like understanding science. It needs a different approach to understanding religion. Religion is learned in extraordinary ways. To understand religion, modern people need to believe it first. In fact, people often believe in something before they understand it, but they never realize it. For example, people know that the covid-19 outbreak is dangerous to human civilization. However, if they are required to explain in detail why the covid-19 virus can be life threatening and dangerous, it is likely they cannot answer clearly. They can believe that virus covid-19 is dangerous, but they do not know clearly, why this virus is dangerous. This is because they trust the scientist, doctor, or expert who said that.

Like religion, modern people can also believe in what they do not understand because they believe in someone else who understands. Believing in people who testify the truth of religion or religious leaders or religious authority will help modern people believe in religion without fully understanding it. Another thing is that life is too short; there are many things to know, and humans do not have much time to know everything. That is why humans have a limit, and sometimes they need a shortcut to understand something.

In the end, people can choose to believe in what they want to believe. People can choose to believe in religion or believe in science, and neither of them can fully understand what they believe. Agree to disagree seems to be a perfect phrase to respond to people’s different views toward belief. The most important thing is to understand each other and creating a peaceful environment.[MFR]

Gods of Tomorrow: What is the Future of Religion?

Perhaps religion never really dies. Perhaps religion becomes more or less durable on the future. Perhaps the next great faith is just getting started. No one knows about that. What we can do as a human is only to respect and to give tolerance to the other so that happiness is in our hands.

—— Ihza Lisiano al-Qushi

It would be good to start the article with a short interesting story from my childhood. That moment is probably the first turning point that happens into my life. When I was still five years old, I was watching with my mother a cooking show on the television. I really remember that the chef on the show gave some directions on how to cook egg in many kinds such as scrambled egg, sunny side up, hard-boiled egg, and many more. However, the one that really took my attention is the scramble egg. I am still wondering until now why I really loved scramble egg before—probably because it looks sweet in my eyes.

Then, I asked my mother to cook scramble egg exactly the same way as he has directed on the show. As a kid, I was so excited to watch my mom cooking, and I decided to take a chair for me so that I can stand and see her. Suddenly, my mother said, “This egg is actually your life”. At that moment, I had no idea about what she said. All I had in my mind is that I was born from the egg, and that is the reason why egg is my life. My mother then started to smash the egg on the frying pan and said, “This is your life when you have no faith on God. God will do something to you or give you rush and you will be scrambled by him like this egg on the afterlife.”

 I was so shock hearing that words coming out from my mother mouth. “Otherwise, you will be born as a real living thing, unless you do nothing towards your faith. Just as the egg did, if they are kept near the mother, they will do something inside to hatch. Now look, if people sell them, they will be kept on the refrigerator doing nothing and end their life here on the frying pan being scrambled,” said her. From this story, it is clear that my mother tried to convince and encourage me that God exist in my life. That was the story about fourteen years ago.

This will be a very different story if I was born on the modern world. Besides illustrating life as an egg, it will be a debate about which one occur first, egg or chicken—no one knows. This has no mean that the kid who born in this era is bad, but it is to concern that the world is changing over time. With a lot of advancement on technology and science, many people are having a crisis of faith now.

People now have two perspectives in religion: the famous view that religion is no longer relevant or outdated and the traditional view that religion is fundamental thing. In fact, on the Western countries, most of the young generation leans more on the first perspective that religion is outdated. On a survey did by British Social Attitudes in 2016, about 71% of people with age ranging from 18 to 24 belongs to no religion. Even, Gallup poll stated that 76% of people in America release the influence of religion from their life with 38% of people stops visiting worship place and 38% of people consider religion is outdated. On the other hand, Pew Research Center stated that most Asia and Africa country still believe that religion play an important role on life—with Indonesia having the highest percentage of 83 percent.

It is somewhat true that developed countries have a tendency to be more secular rather than developing countries. People who live in developed countries like United States, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, etc. are interested more on the development of technology and science. They are the example of community who has the first perspective on religion nowadays. They want to explore everything in this world without any limitation. Science theory invention, business strategy, and some advance technology are mainly coming from the developed country. Beside they have more and better facilities, the people there also concentrate more on those topics. Universities of Bristol and Tennessee revealed that a country with a small percentage of people who believe in religion is predicted to have a faster growth rate in economic development. On the other hand, the second perspective of religion nowadays seems to appear in most developing countries with higher percentage of people who still believe in religion. Specifically, it occurs on the country that is rich in culture like most Asia and Africa countries. It is because religion is actually a culture that survives and evolves on a certain region. People there think that religion is still relevant, and that is why every aspect in their life is based on religion. This does not rule out the possibility for them to develop more. The survey above stated that a country with high percentage of religion believer will also have a good economic development if and only if respect and tolerance for individual right are established.

Every people who live in this world have a final goal to achieve happiness and to overcome suffering. Now, talking about pain and pleasure, there are two kinds of category of it, which are physical and mental. Let us just focus on the mental level since it has a close relationship with religion. People said that religion would bring comfort and mental peace into our life. It may also the answer that modern people will still have a possibility to believe what they cannot really see and understand. From the ancient history itself, when people face a desperate or hopeless situation, they will use faith to bring hope and comfort. For instance, people are always looking for their mate with a purpose to achieve happiness together and to find someone who will always believe them. When they face a very desperate situation, there is at least one person who stays besides them to provide comfort and secureness. However, their mate is just a human that is the same thing as they are. They cannot expect anything more from them.

God, in a form of religion, is there to serve what they need in their life. God has an infinity and limitless power that any other thing does not have. Many cases about suicide that happen to the younger generation is because they have no one or nothing that they can talk to and always stay on their side. In other word, loneliness attacks once problem comes to our body. By having religion, we have God in our side. Religion could also give us a community, which has the same perspective so that we can support each other. That is why religion provides a mental peace into people’s life, and that is the reason modern people will still need religion.

Our world is changing over the time as well as our mind. We, as a human, never know what will happen towards the future. We cannot make a conclusion that religion will disappear to our life as the impact of some advancement in technology and science. Perhaps religion never really dies. Perhaps religion becomes more or less durable on the future. Perhaps the next great faith is just getting started. No one knows about that. What we can do as a human is only to respect and to give tolerance to the other so that happiness is in our hands. [MFR]