Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Virals Continued: Is religion the ultimate viral?

September 26, 2008





As a follow up to my previous entry on viral marketing, I have been looking for natural examples of the viral effect in society. It turns out that many of these have already been identified and are called “memes”.


A meme consists of any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a culture just like a viral campaign. The more beneficial a meme is to society the more it spreads, the less beneficial the more quickly it dies out.


Dances, cultural traditions, catch-phrases and even well-known theories are all examples of memes. Some memes were very useful (e.g. wearing animal skins) whilst others served no purpose at all, but were copied anyway (e.g. putting feathers in one’s hair).


But perhaps the most consistently successful type of meme is religion (or perhaps religion itself is just a collection of memes…) Religion can unify your society, it can make your armies fight harder, it may reduce the chance of civil unrest (how many rulers have been ordained by God?), it can lower the chances of spreading disease (e.g. no sex before marriage), it can reduce crime, it can provide a basic code of laws and so on. Little wonder more successful cultures had religion!


So next time you want to make a viral that works, take a look back through history. Viral marketing is as old as we are. For now the tip seems to be “make your viral as beneficial as possible”, but this has also shown me that humans have evolved to copy and pass on information. We have literally evolved to be susceptible to viral marketing!

Susan Blackmore on Memes:


The New Religion

August 1, 2008
Al Gore thinks the end is coming...

Al Gore thinks the end is coming...


It’s widely accepted as the incontrovertible truth. It’s seen as a suitable punishment for all the excesses of our decadent lifestyles. Disagree with it and you will be vilified. Fail to believe in it and you’ll be the first to burn in the unrelenting heat. Doomsayers wander the Earth preaching our imminent destruction. The only solution is to live a frugal life, constantly feeling guilty for any wasteful activity.


What am I talking about?


Global warming, of course.


The hysteria around Global Warming does bare some striking similarities to religion, doesn’t it? Not the least of which is the general feeling that when most people believe something, it must be true.


Well, no. During the Black Death both the religious elite and most of the common people thought that cats were responsible (cats were regarded as agents of witchcraft and the Devil). They promptly killed all the cats, which were actually the only thing killing the rats that were carrying all the plague infected fleas. With no cats the disease spread even faster. Fail.


The cat-culling policy - failure?

The cat-culling policy - failure?


In the 1970s there was a mass-hysteria around the idea that the world was entering another ice-age, since global temperatures were dropping. It turned out to be nothing more than a blip.


The Earth is old. Thirty years, fifty years, one hundred years – these lengths of time are meaningless on a geological timescale. All of human “pollution” has been going for around 300 years. That’s nothing.


The Earth is also very big. Two-thirds of it is water. A lot of the rest is desert, mountains, thick jungle and other uninhabitable areas. Cities, on the other hand, are very small.


We just don’t affect the planet that much. We’re not that important. Even if we are having an impact, the world isn’t going to become uninhabitable for an extremely long time.


The government likes pollution scare-mongering for the same reason it likes terrorism. Suddenly it’s acceptable to smack a massive tax on air travel or petrol and say that the “polluter must pay”!


At least we’re not being burnt at the stake, I guess.


It’s time to stop preaching doom and gloom and develop cleaner energy sources and improve technology like Hydrogen Fuel Cells (currently being developed by various companies including Ilika Technologies Ltd and Ceres Power) because we’re obviously not going to go back into the trees and live in a perfect carbon neutral world.


And don’t believe things just because everyone else does.


Whos to blame?

Who's to blame?



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