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]