Religion Is A Purpose Engine

Builds Upon: A Formal Mental Science,
Loopholes In Evolution

Superstition, darkness, the inquisition, the opiate of the masses.

This is religion in polite ‘rational’ society.

Yes, religion has been used as a control mechanism and to help keep people docile under oppression but to focus on this only is to think very small.

Religion is a purpose engine for human societies.

The same type of thinking that allowed humans to plan for the winter or the dry season enabled us to become aware of our mortality and the impermanence of all things. This awareness allowed us to arrive at the logical conclusion that the universe is indifferent and our petty struggles pointless.

Humans require some means of fixing this bug. We must have some way of establishing meaning and purpose.

Nihilism is fatal to the continuity of the human species.
No nihilistic human society has ever survived. Societies that lose their sense of purpose are quickly subsumed by their neighbors and forgotten.

A well-established reason to exist better determines a society’s competitive success than sheer numbers, force of arms, or abundant natural resources. Meaning comes before all else.

This does not mean we all ought to try to revive traditional Christianity or any other religion. The old ways have failed for a reason in our own age and we are naive to suppose there ever was a golden age.
Systems of absolute morality have always been a clumsy way of regulating human behavior.
Absolute morals must self-contradict in countless unforeseen ways. A whole science of apologetics is required to keep the system afloat. Absolute morals set a standard that’s impossible to emulate in real life. Most people just ignore The Rules because absolute morality lays out an abysmally poor model of human reality.
In a highly religious society the payoff for clever, hypocritical defectors is very high while those who naively follow the rules are easily exploited. This is the problem that irks critics of religion to no end.

Despite all these shortcomings, however, religions kept thriving societies alive for millennia.

If a traditional religion is no longer suitable as a purpose engine, it must be replaced.

Secularism, a philosophy that favors a lowest common denominator that offends no one is not the answer. It provides a legal basis for a society of many factions but it cannot provide the power of purpose and meaning.

The ‘humanism’ set forth by atheists is not a viable answer. It is Christian ethics without Christianity to support it, a foundation fancifully suspended in mid-air.
Strong atheism reduces to nihilism. It can never uphold or produce a system of social values derived from a system of absolute morality.

There are two main functions that must be performed by a replacement purpose engine.

1) Avoid nihilism.

Traditional religions perform this function by assuming the existence of an eternal, omniscient creator(s) that cares about its creation.

I would propose that a post-religious thinker must assume a higher purpose.

This higher purpose ‘exists’ precisely because we perish without it.
The possibility of a pointless existence self-eliminates.

The higher purpose is pragmatically self-evident from the very laws of our universe.

2) Establish purpose.

In traditional religions the omniscient creator(s) gives us some kind of mission in life.

I have my ideas on how this problem might be approached. I hint at these ideas throughout this blog and will continue to develop them in new posts.

Conclusion:

The old religions arose spontaneously from societies operating wholly in a state of nature.

If Western civilizations continue on their present course, they will be engulfed by the old religions as they falter. The cycles that led to the rise and fall of our civilization will repeat. Better luck next time.

For now, there is a brief window of time to experiment with creating a deliberately engineered purpose engine; a construct superior in function to those that arise by chance and which can never develop beyond a bare minimum required by natural selection.

The fatal flaw in Western enlightenment thought is its relentless obsession with the material and the empirical.

After centuries of technological breakthroughs, methods of social organization, the use of belief systems, the power of human consciousness have remained in an uncultivated, pre-scientific state.
Indeed, it is precisely this lopsided mode of development which now brings the West crashing down.

3 Books That Inspired This Heretic

I’ve been influenced by dozens of sources, but some books have exerted unusual influence.

This does not mean I’ve become a disciple of the authors of these books. Nor does it even mean I interpreted or used these works in a way the authors would have ever intended. Nor does it mean that they would in any way approve of my views.

The important thing is that they propose models of reality that make sense.

1) Diplomacy – Henry Kissinger

If you want to learn how a shepherd of the human herd sees the world, this book is a useful resource.
Kissinger not only gives us an entertaining history of the powerful men who drew all the lines on maps in grand conferences, his role as one of these men makes his narrative resonate on another level.
His envy for the truly powerful monarchs and nobles of Napoleon’s day is transparent – as are his own frustrations with having to placate the public while negotiating with North Vietnam.

Whatever we may think of Kissinger, his ideas boil down to one coherent concept: Power.

Kissinger cuts right through the veneer of diplomatic ceremony and tells us exactly what each side seeks to gain with every cordially worded dispatch.

One of the most important lessons that this book can teach is how even the herders are mere slaves to the macro trends. In a three hundred year slice of European history we repeatedly see how the rulers are impotent as their kingdoms careen toward a tragedy of the commons.
The balance of power determines outcomes far more than kings.
He contrasts the conference of Vienna that changed Europe by decisively altering the balance of power to the treaty at Versailles that failed to make any fundamental changes.

Many of us tend to blame the troubles of the world on an omnipotent cadre of elites. This book is a primer on just how small elites are next to much larger forces.

2) The Culture Code – Clotaire Rapaille

By gathering randomly selected sample groups and asking them questions, Rapaille distills their collective concept of anything down to a single word.

He asks them how they feel about a certain topic or he might ask them for childhood memories about it.
For instance, he might ask a group to brainstorm whatever words come to mind about ‘luxury’ or ‘peanut butter.’

There are patterns that are consistent throughout samples of hundreds of people from the same cultural bloc.
If you talk to hundreds of Americans from all ages and both genders you will find that:
Food = FUEL
Money = PROOF

The key is not in asking any single person what they want, but in learning what is in the mind of the collective.
Products that give this collective subconscious what it wants are the products that sell. They are ‘on code.’

Reading this book, I realize that I’ve never quite been ‘on code’ with the collective will. Many of the difficulties I’ve had in life make a lot more sense. It has little to do with individuals I’ve met. It’s about the collective.

This book explains how the American hive mind sees the human body as a machine and cares mostly about status climbing.
He spells out everything I’ve always felt down in my gut. I’d always felt a deep contempt in my birth culture for the needs of the flesh and perceived that no matter what people say, income is the truest measure of our worth.

This book is potentially an excellent survival guide for a heretic. It allows one to consciously avoid ‘off code’ opinions and behaviors in public.

One can predict with remarkable accuracy how people will really judge in their heart of hearts and who can really be trusted:

-If you don’t have a ‘career’, the ‘on code’ person will see you as a loser no matter what they tell you.

-If you eat a delicious goat cheese instead of a bland plateful of spaghetti, they will secretly hate you. Food is fuel! Expressing more than contempt for our bodies breaks a powerful taboo.

If you look inside someone’s pantry and see Jif or Skippy peanut butter, the dissident ought to tread lightly. This mass market gooey peanut butter is the ambrosia of those with warm and fuzzy feelings for mainstream American culture.

3) Class – Paul Fussell

Fussell exactly predicted most of the decorations in my maternal grandmother’s house – apparently she was a textbook example of a high prole.

It became painfully apparent as I read this book that both my parents began as high proles and spent a lifetime trying to be middle class.

Thus growing up, I got a double dose of the stifling anxiety that defines all things middle class. My life practically stood explained and there was nothing cool or extraordinary about it. In many ways, between nature and nurture I was set up to be a prime candidate for heresy.

This book really strips away illusions and reveals the truth about your place in society in its full banality.

It’s also hilarious. The author includes illustrations of the stereotypical dwellings, dress, facial features, and facial expressions of each class.
He associates furry toilet seat covers and garden gnomes with proles.
He sets forth airports as high temples to middle class mediocrity, pointing out how terms like ‘flotation device’ cater to ridiculous middle class notions of gentrified language.

Most importantly, Class is a manual for escaping the class rat race.
No matter how much one might want out, one inevitably repeats patterns of behavior learned early in life.
This brutally honest look at the class structure can help us break the cycle.

I would of course invite readers to suggest books that shaped their own world view.

Why Tyrants Stand in the Way of Progress

An ordinary modern person enjoys luxuries ancient kings couldn’t have dreamed of.

Yet throughout history, we see kings standing in the way of innovations that raise the standard of living for everyone.
If absolute monarchs still ran things, we surely wouldn’t have a shower and microwave in every house.
For short-sighted despots, having an abject, beaten population incapable of organization or resistance serves their interests.
It does not cross their minds that loosening their stranglehold on their own people could enrich them far more.

Yet people in power aren’t in power because they are enlightened visionaries. They are in power because they are good at staying in power.
The system gets exactly what it selects for.

These despots have always understood on some level that they cannot possibly anticipate all the complex changes brought about by a rampant stream of invention and innovation.
The same technology that allows everyone to communicate instantly across hundreds of miles or cook a meal in a minute might also undermine the ruler’s power.

We might think of the story of the town mouse and the country mouse. The country mouse enjoys the riches of the city but finds he must live in constant fear and uncertainty. He ultimately chooses to return to a secure life in the country.

Thus, an overwhelming desire for security becomes the poverty of the rich.

I’ve seen the tombs of the rich and famous of medieval Europe, I couldn’t help but notice that none of them lived past age 60.
I’ve imagined what modern medicine could have done for an older, ailing Henry Tudor.
These winners of the social game lived sickly lives alongside those they’d beaten. In some ways, they had not succeeded in being truly prosperous but only in becoming less wretched than their counterparts.

And so long as they were less wretched than anyone else and were secure in their power, any uncontrolled change was more likely to be a threat than an asset. In their circumstances crushing new ideas was rational.

But to really understand the conservative tendencies of the powerful down to the present day, we have to be honest about human nature.

How much does an i-phone or a television really improve our lives if everyone has one?

The ruler loses when one of his prized luxuries becomes commonplace amongst the seething masses. He will soon turn his attentions to some other thing that is still inaccessible to most people.
The more ways he can distinguish himself from his peons, the happier he is.
As humans, we tend to perceive our wellbeing not by an absolute barometer but by the capriciously shifting circumstances of others.

Might not the farmer who makes a decent living while his neighbors are starving feel a greater swelling of satisfaction than a modern millionaire who owns the same i-pod as the commonest of peasants?

It’s all about relative status and power.

Does a television or a hot shower change the fact that most of us are impotent corporate cogs?

On the other hand does dying young while ruling over a neolithic cave change anything if you can mate with anyone you want and wield ultimate power over life and death?

Does ‘progress’ then really change the way we experience life and our place in society?

Do ‘conveniences’ and ‘entertainment’ do anything more than make our lives as tools and slaves slightly more palatable?

If not, can we blame tyrants who prefer to die in filth as the absolute rulers of starving peasants to living in a wealthy society as mere ‘representatives?’

Physical Training for Heretics

In late November I signed up for a 4 mile New Year’s run in the town I was living in.
I hadn’t done a competitive run in several years, not since I’d been a college student with a secure place in suburbia.

I’ve been an endurance athlete since I was an 8th grader and over the years I’ve learned a few things about what works.

Growing up, I spent years on cross country and track teams putting in a high volume of training every week only to be drained on race days and burnt out by the end of the season.
Experience has taught me that it pays to be strategically lazy.

In preparation for this race, I went out running no more than 4 times a week, often less. I kept the distance pretty short for most workouts but pushed my limits with sprint intervals every time. I’ve learned the hard way that high mileage at a steady pace just wears you out while yielding relatively low returns.

I also had some weights to work with that I used about 2 times per week. I focused on intensity in order to get the most out of my time.
In between workout days I’d enjoy some cigars, sip some brandy, and go out for leisurely walks.
I never bothered to time myself or chart my progress.
Every two weeks or so I’d go out for 10+ miles. On one of these trips I went about 16 miles and loafed the whole way through breathing mostly through my nose. However, for these runs I’d wait until it had been 18-24 hours since my last meal.
These runs were about teaching my body to use its glycogen stores efficiently and to cope with sustained stress.

I barely worked out at all the week before race week, I was busy hanging out with someone I hadn’t seen for a long time. When he was gone, I went back to training with just a few more days to go before the race. I realized I had definitely gotten a bit out of shape and did what I could with the days I had left.

On new year’s I ended up finishing the 4 miles in about 25 minutes, around an average of 6:15 per mile. I was pretty pleased with the result. It was comparable to the pace I’d been running at when I was 8 years younger and putting in 10 times the effort. I was pleased because I realize I could have easily done better.

And this leads me straight to an older experiment in heterodox training.
Most endurance coaches discourage extensive weight training.
When weights are involved at all, it’s always low weight at high reps. But 8 years ago as a college sophomore I decided I wanted some muscles so I started hitting the gym, often right after cross country practice.

I normally would start out a season at about 6:35 pace on an 8k(5 mile) course and plateau around 6:15 pace. Even at a very small college I was pretty mediocre at the competitive level(Not sucking begins below 5:30 per mile). Yet even as I worked myself to death trying to run and lift at the same time, my race times started to plummet. I was constantly sore and exhausted but I kept getting new PRs. Finally, around mid-season, I broke 6 flats.
At the same time, I was benching more than my body weight and heavy squatting about twice my body weight.
It was soon after this point that exhaustion finally started to catch up with me. I had to choose.

I quit cross country and ceased to be a specialist. Ever since then, I’ve focused on reaping the benefits of multiple types of physical activity.
I’ve found that approaching the Pareto point in different types of exercise:

-Is easier, less time-consuming
-More fun
-Feels better
-Causes much less wear and tear

Than trying to compete in just one.

I often wonder what I could accomplish if I had the rare combination of leisure and resources to pursue a serious program making use of everything I’ve learned.

But the real payoff, perhaps, is having an enjoyable hobby that doesn’t eat up tons of time and effort while keeping me in pretty decent physical condition.

Above all, my move away from the micro-specialist philosophy of sport was a formative experience in shaping the way I think about societies and nations.
In time, I was applying the same principles I used on my own body to much more massive bodies.