I think chain emails and computer viruses are one of the most fascinating sociological phenomena of the internet age. My favorite computer virus was around a decade ago, it was just an email that asked the user to delete a particular crucial file from their operating system (for some bogus reason) and spread the email to others (to help them too). I saw it and thought ‘what an absolute piece of genius – a virus writer that is programming the people to deliver the payload’.
The image above is from Apostate’s Chapel. Its not as bizarre as it looks. In fact it seems to me that this is exactly how evangelical religion works.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about why I thought Christianity was a potent religion. Unlike its theological parent it incorporates the commandment to evangelize and provides a theological reason for doing it (to receive blessings and grace and to save people from eternal torment). All other things being equal, if you have a population split 50:50 between two religions, one evangelical and one not, I’d expect over time the evangelical religion to win out. This is one reason why the fundamentalist mega-churches are bigger than the mainstream Methodist chapels.
This is simple evolutionary dynamics, of course.
I have two questions that I’m fascinated by in this.
- Do these theological mutations (like becoming super-evangelical) happen by accident, or did someone sit down and plan it with the aim of beating the less evangelical religion?
- What would a constructed religion (conreg?) look like that deliberately tried to optimize its spread?
My sense is that at least part of the second question can be seen in Scientology, but I’d be interested to know anyone else’s thoughts.