26 January 2011

Is God a Meme?

Several atheists, including Dawkins, if memory serves me correctly, have argued that God is a meme.  A meme, to put it simply, is a unit that transmits an idea or symbol.  The argument that God is a meme, then, suggests that God is really a symbol of what might be described as collective knowledge or collective tradition.  This is certainly a compelling argument, given how “science” has confirmed that some moral practices are generally beneficial.  (Some moral practices regarded as beneficial include, but are not limited to: abstinence, marital fidelity, and honesty.)

Certainly, then, God could have memetic qualities.  The problem with this argument, though, is that it can only really prove that God has memetic qualities.

You see, God can be both a meme and a spiritual being.  There is nothing to suggest that memes are inherently false, nor is there anything to suggest that memetic status precludes said meme from being real.  The meme that Asians are generally smarter than most has been demonstrated time and again.  Claiming that God is a meme doesn’t inherently preclude God from existing.  Thus, if he does, in fact, have memetic qualities, it does not stand to reason that he doesn’t exist.

I realize that the argument of God existing as a concept is offered as an alternative explanation for belief in God’s actual existence, but this argument implicitly presents a false dichotomy, since being a meme does not preclude God from existing.  Indeed, it may be that his existence is the reason he is also a meme.


  1. No. I simply remember Vox Day mentioning this once, so I constructed an argument for why God is a meme (something I agree with, by the way). The issue with the "God as a meme" argument is that it simply cannot, by its nature, prove that God being a meme precludes him from existing. In fact, God's memetic existence provides a positive argument for God's existence.

  2. I should mention that I am a part time seminary student as well as a full time IT person. As a Unitarian-Universalist, it has been an interesting experience. The diversity of education involved in getting a M.Div. is quite large, among other things, this semester I am taking the second half of a course on Buddhist traditions. I have learned that I have no interest in ever becoming a Buddhist.

    Some of my coworkers are a Christian with a noticeable bent towards fundamentalism. I have resisted pointing out the idea that religions have a large influence on the survival or destruction of societies over the millenia. Their (our) society has not survived because of the word of God, what they belive to be the word of God has survived and prospered because the society has.

    Trying to go from being a computer geek to a minister has already been a life changing experience, mostly for the better.