"Among many anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers, it has recently become fashionable to dismiss all religions as memes - parasitic mental processes which propagate in the same manner as chain letters [Dawkins 1989, Dennett 1995]. In this view, religious belief is a self-perpetuating delusion. A meme (rhymes with 'dream') may be defined as any self-referential belief system which contains within itself the instructions for its own propagation. Memes are often described as the cultural equivalents of computer viruses.
A meme carries exactly the same fear-driven psychological motivation as a chain letter - "If you propagate me then something nice will happen, if not then something horrible will happen". In order to justify themselves against attack by reason, memes place absolute reliance on faith, which is seen as being superior to reason. They also contain self-referential or circular claims to the truth such as "This meme says it is the divine truth. Since it is the divine truth whatever its says must be true. Therefore it must be divine truth because it says so and all competing memes must be the work of the Devil".
These two types of self-referential statement "propagate me" and "I am the only truth" provide the driving force for memes to invade the minds of their hosts. In addition, many memes contain the instructions "Help people who believe in this meme, attack people who do not". These commands being the ultimate cause of all religious hatred, wars, pogroms and persecutions throughout the centuries.
The general defining features of all memes can thus be seen to be self-referential 'closed-loop' type of circular statements, and a strong tendency towards hate and intolerance. The science of the study of memes, their internal structures and modes of propagation is known as memetics (by analogy to genetics - how biological entities propagate themselves).
More detailed analysis will usually show the following features:Like a virus or parasitic worm, a successful meme must perform two actions:- Ensure it takes up long-term residence in its host.- Bring about the conditions for its spread.
To establish itself in the mind of its host it will use some or all of the following mechanisms:
 Promise heaven for belief.
 Threaten eternal punishment in hell for disbelief.
 Boost the believers' egos by telling them they are 'chosen' or superior to believers in false memes.
 Disable the faculties of disbelief ('immune response') by claiming that faith is superior to reason.
 Establish itself as the One True Meme, usually by some sort of holy book containing a circular self-referential argument such as:
X is the one true meme. We know X is the one true meme because The Source of Universal Truth has approved X. We know The Source of Universal Truth has approved X, because X contains statements which say so. We know what X says is true because X is the one true meme.Once it has parasitised the mind of its host, a meme needs to propagate itself.
A successful meme will contain instructions for some or all of the following:
 Holy war - convert or kill all unbelievers.
 Intimidation and terrorism - threaten and discriminate against unbelievers.
 Enforced social isolation or even death to apostates. (An apostate is a host which has cured itself of a meme-infection. It is especially dangerous to the meme because it might pass on meme-resistance to others).
 Fecundism - encourage true believers to breed faster than believers in false memes.
 Censorship - prevent rival memes from reaching potential hosts (a theological doctrine known as 'Error has no rights').
 Disinformation - spread lies about rival memes. Demonise them - the bigger the lies the more likely they are to be believed. The disinformation may even include instructions for a meme to lie about itself!"
This is a thought-provoking article, but I think there's more to religious memes than these simple "instructions." I think it is arguable that the "god(s)" of these religions represent a kind of "parasitic intelligence" that is able to "borrow" the processing capacity of the host brain to "think," "act" (via its hosts' bodies) and adapt to changing circumstances. For example, the Bible contains a considerable amount of information relating to the character and personality of Yahweh and/or Jesus, including stories (myths) showing how he acts, and a volume of propagandistic pronouncements, commandments, etc.
Taken together, this information is sufficient to enable the host brain to "run" a copy of the Yahweh persona, and through evangelism, transmit the Yahweh persona to others. When a Christian wears a "What Would Jesus Do" bracelet, this amounts to an instruction set:
1)Run Jesus Persona Program.
2) Consult its decisionmaking process.
3) Act in accordance with Jesus Persona Program's decision.
Through reading of the Bible, listening to sermons, etc., a Christian is able to build a model of Jesus' personality, values, etc. in their brain that is sufficient to "operate" their body as a secondary (or, arguably, primary, if the Christian is truly devout) personality, similar to what takes place in a person with "multiple personality disorder." The important distinction between an ordinary MPD persona and a "god" is that the "god" is copied in an entire community of hosts, rather than just one. The "god" is able to evolve on three levels:
1) Copying errors and "mutations." Since no two "believers" will have the exact same mental model of the god, the interaction of the different models within a community of god-hosts will provide the god with new information and adaptability just as mutations and variations of traits give a species new information and adaptability.
2) "Contradictions" in the software transmission system (e.g.the "scriptures" which are analogous to a CD-ROM). For example, it is easy to find in the Bible instructions for believers to be peaceful, loving, and submit to authorities or even aggressors ("Turn the other cheek"). It is also easy to find instructions to hate and make war (Entire books of the Hebrew Bible; "I came not to bring peace, but a sword," the doctrine of Hell, the Book of Revelation in the New Testament ). When the Yahweh-community possesses sufficient force, it is able to (and frequently has) repress rival memes. When theYahweh-community is faced with overwhelming force from rivals (as itwas in the era when Christianity was founded), it can switch to appeasement/adaptation and a devout pacifism that persuades the rivals of its moral superiority. Thus, in either case, the Yahweh meme is pre-adapted to survive. And, since both sets of protocols are preserved in "Holy Scripture," the community can switch strategies whenever it is advantageous, as Christianity did once Constantine made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. [*]
3) Conscious choice on the part of a host or hosts made while "running" the god-program. This can manifest in any number of ways. Whenever an ancient Hebrew prophet proclaimed "Thus saith theLord!" followed by a pronouncement relevant to a new situation (the appearance of Babylonian armies, etc.), he was "running" the god-program and giving it, through the use of his brain-hardware, the ability to think, feel, and react to the situation in real-time. Since a 'god' may be viewed as an actual, sentient program borrowing the brain-hardware of its hosts (and able to parallel-process to some extent as well via inter-communication between its hosts), it is far more resilient than a mere "dumb virus" (as described in the article) would be.
*This is a somewhat over-simplified description. During the Jewish Revolts against Roman rule, the Yahweh meme basically chose both stategies. The "warlike" path was represented by the rebels themselves, who fought to drive off the pagan Romans and establish a messianic Jewish theocracy. However, many Jews either benefited from Roman rule (the elites), or preferred a more tolerant, cosmopolitan approach than the strict fundamentalism of the rebels. The Romans exterminated the warlike Jews, leaving those willing to submit alive. This submit-to-the-Gentiles version was predominant in the Jewish community until after the Holocaust, which demonstrated that obediance to Gentile authorities and quiet endurance of persecution was no guarantee of survival. The result: a well-armed State of Israel that embodies a version of Judaism that is more than willing to fight.
The early Christian community may have experienced a similar evolutionary branching. Robert Eisenman's book James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls provides compelling evidence that the Jerusalem Church founded by Jesus and led by his brother James was a militant, populist sect aiming to expel Rome and restore the Davidic monarchy. According to Eisenman, this Church was closely tied to the Essenes (authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the Jewish revolutionary movement in general.
It was rivalled by the pro-Roman Pauline sect that sought to abolish the Jewish law for Christians and welcome Gentiles into the Church without requiring them to become circumcised or adopt Jewish laws and customs. Eisenman proposes that James "the Just," brother to Jesus, and his successor to both leadership of the Church and the Davidic throne, was so revered by the Jewish revolutioonary movement that his martyrdom touched off the first Jewish Revolt in 66 C.E.
As with Judaism, Rome exterminated this early militant faction of Christianity, while the pacifist variant (Paul and his followers) survived...until Constantine provided the Christian version of the Yahweh Meme with Legions to enforce its will, beginning the era of Christian persecution of Pagans and "heretics" (i.e. mutant versions of the Meme).