Ha! Nailed It!

Posted by : Rev. Ouabache | Monday, September 7, 2009 | Published in

I love my little memebombs very much. For those not hip to the lingo, memebombs are short one sentence sayings meant to invoke a powerful thought in another person. They are very similar to Zen koans and have been a Discordian tradition since day one where the Principia Discordia was littered with weird sayings in the marginalia such as "It is my firm belief that it is a mistake to hold firm beliefs" and "King Kong Died for Your Sins".

About a year ago, I wrote what I thought was one of my better memebombs:
Religion is a man staring at a tree and wondering who is moving the leaves.
I thought that it succinctly encapsulated the problem religious thought has with purpose, intentionality and agency. Religions often sees intention where none is involved. Everything is seen to have a purpose and many inanimate objects and natural forces are seen as having a mind capable of making decisions. Now imagine my surprise when I was reading the terrific book "Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable" by Bruce Hood (website, Twitter) and read the following on page 97:
In hundreds of interviews with children between the ages of four and twelve years, [Jean] Piaget asked them to explain the workings of the world. He asked them about natural phenomena such as the sun, clouds, rivers, trees, and animals. Where do they come from? Do they have minds?, and so forth. What he discovered was recurrent supernatural beliefs, especially in the youngest children. They thought that the sun follows them around and can think. That’s why children paint smiley faces on suns. It’s much more reassuring to think of it as a friendly being who makes summer days pleasant and people smile than as an inanimate ball of nuclear energy that would frazzle us if it were not for the earth’s protective ozone layer. The children Piaget studied believed that trees have minds and can feel. In short, they thought the inanimate world is alive, something Piaget called “animism.” Animism means attributing a soul (Latin, anima) to an entity, and it can be found in many religions as well as in secular supernaturalism. Where do children get these ideas? No one tells them to think like this. It’s just the way the child makes sense of the world.
Now, I'm not one to brag but...
Excuse me while I do a little victory dance. Don't ever doubt me again.

P.S. Greetings, Google Searcher. Please give credit where credit is due. It took me a whole 5 minutes to make that image.

(5) Comments

  1. Anebo said...

    What this post actually means is that you were heretofore unfamiliar with Piaget's work. That being the case, one wonders what bases you had for claiming to understand the psychology of religion that seems to be one of your main themes?

    September 11, 2009 at 8:43 PM
  2. Rev. Ouabache said...

    Dude, don't ruin the moment. I'm just happy that I accidentally got something right.

    September 11, 2009 at 9:10 PM
  3. Anonymous

    My only question is this:
    "If animism and dualism are common emergent characteristics of the brain, and thus likely to have had a role in the development of religion, could neurology assist in explaining religious history and the persistence of religious beliefs?"

    September 16, 2009 at 9:01 PM
  4. Rev. Ouabache said...

    I think Hood and Daniel Dennett would both agree that neurology and evolutionary psychology combined could explain the persistence of religious beliefs. Religion hijacks several innate thought processes and makes us see the supernatural when it isn't there. The bad news of all of this is that while we may someday be able to get rid of organized religion we will never get rid of supernatural belief. People will always believe in silly things without evidence due to our faulty wiring.

    September 17, 2009 at 3:56 AM
  5. Anonymous

    It seems so sad and bereft to use the phrases "faulty wiring" and "get rid of" in reference to children's ability to trust trees and feel that the sun is smiling at them. And what kind of Discordian uses the word "silly" as a pejorative?!

    August 13, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Leave a Response