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Thursday, August 17, 2006

You made it all up ! "Fundamentalism vs liberalism" part 2

Belief systems also resist competing beliefs by attacking them. There are many different ways of doing that, like outright violence, semantic marginalization, political struggle, and so on. But there is one means that we are quite familiar with - mimcry, a process by which a meme attempts to imitate the semantics of a successful meme. Intelligent Design is a very good example of that process.

Now there is one important component to belief inoculation, and that's the fact that you have enemies. Most belief systems, at least those that have a good resistance to competition, have two mechanisms : us vs them, and victimization. "Us vs them" is an attitude where the world is divided in clear-cut allies and opponents. This is obvious in the case of fidelity but framework-builders have enemies as well - anyone who argues against the framework itself and declares that there is a superior way of doing things (like science and empiricism). Victimization is the process of using people's FUD by portraying them as persecuted victims who need to take action.

Once again, let me go through the major beliefs and belief systems and see how these concepts apply. The concept of the original sin applies here as well, insofar as the masses are the believer's enemy because they have this original sin and don't recognize that fact. While some belief systems are egalitarian in practice, they all share this basic horror of the masses, insofar as the greatest mass of people do not recognize the imaginary need being peddled.


Monotheism : As discussed before, religions have fundamentalist sects and liberal sects. Fundamentalist sects mostly use fidelity, hold as enemy any belief which does not fit within their sect doctrines, and constantly portray themselves as victims of secularism and its tendancy to soften religious discourse and promote commercialism. Liberal sects, which mostly use framework-building, and framework-building in religion is done under the tent of "god-belief". As for any other collectivist framework, its enemies are atheists and other evil freethinkers/individualists who dare to question the obvious necessity of religion to keep people in line.

Greenie : Greenie belief systems are an unusual mixture, which privileges framework-building - putting every belief which reifies nature values over human values under the same tent - while being very strident in having multifarious enemies, ranging from Joe Sixpack who eats meat and doesn't recycle, to genetics researchers, to big corporations in the domains of food production, medical research and forestry, to the concepts of capitalism and globalization themselves. This dichotomy comes to a certain extent from the fact that Greenies are fanatic in their cultural relativism, at least from the socio-economical aspect.

New Age : As New Age is a loosely assembled group of belief systems to begin with, there is not much doctrine to be defended to begin with. New Age beliefs resist deconversion by integrating themselves in a framework of pseudo-science and quackery. Their main enemy is science and anyone with at least two neurons still connected.

Buddhism : Buddhism has few defenses against competing belief systems. This is why Buddhism is not very popular any more.

Statism : The state either uses force unilaterally or by proxy. Democracy in an example of the latter, where people vote to decide who gets to be victimized by state force. The belief in democracy is a perfect example of framework-building, where all sorts of beliefs are united by a singular framwork, that of the democratic process, which provides legitimacy equally to all beliefs united under it. Its enemies are any belief which seeks to undermine the legitimacy of democracy or to eliminate it altogether. All the political belief systems united under democracy sometimes receive the same benefit from it, but not always (for example, third parties in most advanced democracies are often stopped by strong barriers to entry).

Racism and nationalism : Racists, like religious believers, cultivate the victim mentality. They strongly believe that the mixing of cultures is inherently evil and that any person sharing their race who supports such a mixing is a "race traitor". Racism is a pretty clear case of fidelity, in that anyone who does not share the same race (in the believer's idea of race, anyway) or support their race is an enemy. More sophisticated forms of racism practice cultural supremacism and isolation, like Greenies, but more for the sociological aspect of it. Nationalism applies more or less equally, with "the nation" replacing "the race".


On a moral standpoint, both mechanisms engender false moral positions. Fidelity gives us absolutism and the belief that morality is a top-down process proceeding from a higher standard (Gud, the state, the people). Framework-building gives us relativism and the belief that positions which affirm truth and values (such as science) are arrogant and disruptive. But we must make sure to identify the commonalities between both approaches and point out that both have one ultimate source - anti-individualism.

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