Re: virus: Jesus as a Memetic Engineer

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Sun, 27 Jul 1997 14:34:30 -0700 (PDT)

On Fri, 25 Jul 1997, Eric Boyd wrote:

> Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:
> > Another example: Hell, while a powerful argument in modern Christianity,
> > is not present in the Bible. The most that can be said from Biblical
> > texts is that "unsaved" souls are _destroyed_; there is no mention
> > anywhere of their being tormented forever, the modern conception of Hell.
> What about Jesus's favorite line about "weeping and gnashing of teeth"?
> (here is an example now: "But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown
> outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of
> teeth" Matt 8:12) And how about those quotations like "it will be more
> bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that
> town" Matt 10:15; "And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the
> skies? No, you will go down to the depths." (and the note at the bottom
> for "depths" says "Greek: Hades", which is "the underworld" in Greek
> mythology, i.e. Hell) Matt 11:23
> I personally think there is *lots* of evidence that "Jesus" (the man)
> beleived there was a "Hell", as in everlasting punishment, even if he
> didn't use *that*word*.

I will follow your pointers and expect to modify my claims. Are there
such quotations from Jesus in the other Gospels, or only in Matthew?

> > It is certainly worthwhile to look at religions as memetic structures and
> > attempt to learn from their successes, but we should try to kept straight
> > who did what when, if we're trying to attribute memetic intent to
> > individual sources.
> Yes. One thing I think I'd do differently in that post is where I
> ascribe the "intent" to... I think the proper place to put it is
> *on*the*memes*themselves*. Of course, this makes Christians the victims
> of a powerful mind virus, but at least then I'm not involving "Jesus"
> (the man) in memetics. His memes where "good" enough to survive long
> enough to mutate into *really* "good" memes.

Uh huh. This might be the easy way out, abandoning hope of tracing human
(/divine) intent accurately, but it certainly is a valid approach.
If we want to analyze a scheme like Christianity with regard to its
memetic success according to original intentions, though, we have to delve
into those murky speculations. Noting that a scheme has been "successful"
in that it's hugely widespread is not the same thing as knowing that what
has spread is what the author or authors intended. So if we want to learn
from past efforts how to spread a memeset, we should try to understand the
mutations as well as the propagation. No good learning how to make
*something* spread if we can't make it be the memes we wanted in the first