Friday, 21 June 2013

Short lists

Nobody even attempted the previous short list: "Titles of songs by the Velvet Underground which were later used by Led Zeppelin for completely different songs"

The answers were of course "(The) Ocean" and "Rock and roll". Glad to have cleared that up.

Next topic, I happen to know somebody who is in one of these minority religions, I think it's a Christian sect, I asked her whether her boyf was also from that church and she replied, yes of course.

I was about to ask her whether they belong to one of those sects where you are only allowed to marry other from the same sect, when I realised that her riposte would simply be that all religions or religious "communities" demand this, which is probably true, so I didn't bother.

So that's this week's Short List: "Religions where there is no pressure to get married to somebody from the same religion". I'm buggered if I can think of any, but perhaps there are some.
That then led me to wondering why this might be.

1. The superficial answer is, that people in any religion consider themselves to be superior to 'everybody else'; the Catholics think they are better than Protestants, the Hindus think they are better than the Sikhs or Muslims; the Muslims (actually an inferiority complex, not a religion) want to wipe out all other religions; Jewish people like to keep themselves to themselves (and appear to think of themselves as a 'race' who share a religion, rather than just a bunch of people who happen to share the same beliefs, i.e. they are not a proselytising religion, which goes for Hindus as well) etc.

2. But actually, in practical terms, the reason for this is that religions are a meme. The ones which survive are those who lose least members and gain most new ones, and the main transmission mechanism for this is that most children adopt the religion of their parents. This is why the more extreme sects encourage their members to have as many children as possible.

3. Now, as we know from watching TV programmes about On The Origin Of Species, genetic selection only works if the subsequent improvements are kept within a species. So lions become better at catching zebras and zebras get better at running away from lions.

4. Obviously, lions and zebras are separate species so they can't interbreed. That is the definition of a "species", it's any group of animals which can breed with each other (I think). So each species gets a bit better at something specialised.

5. If there were only one type of omnivorous animal on an island, the species as a whole would neither get better at hunting nor at escaping. If it did the former, they would eat each other all up and the species would die; if they did the latter, they'd either starve to death or revert to vegetarianism, in which case they would lose both their hunting and escaping skills.

6. So, if we see the members of each religion as a sub-species of human, there is an advantage to having lots of kids (my wife knows a Moonie couple who've had five or six) but it is also vitally important that those kids follow the religion of their parents (or else their is no point in encouraging them to have as many kids as poss).

7. We know from observation, that if both parents are the same religion, about 80% of their kids will end up following the same religion - they are indoctrinated to think of themselves as somehow better than everybody else and will tend to marry somebody from that religion - not to do so would be 'unclean'.

8. We also know that if parents are from different religious backgrounds, it soon becomes clear to their children that neither parent has an automatic claim to be following the true path of righteousness (either the sabbath is on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can't believe in more than one). At least one of their parents must be in the wrong and quite possibly both. And out of courtesy to each other if nothing else, such parents are less likely to push their children one way or another, even if they continue to believe or practice.

10. So let's say, a third of the children of such mixed couple parents will follow neither religion, a third will follow the father's and a third the mother's (slightly different for most Jewish people, where it's only the mother's religion which counts).

11. Taking all religions as a whole, whose collective interest is that as many people as possible are religious, it must be quite clear that mixed marriages is a huge negative sum game for them, i.e. if two Catholics marry, they'll be under pressure to have as many kids as possible to create as many new Catholics as possible; if two Muslims marry, the same applies. Let's call it five kids each, of whom four will follow their parents' religion (i.e. 80% x 5).

12. But what happens if each Catholic marries a Muslim? Neither couple is under particular pressure to have as many kids as possible , because the Catholic relatives of the Catholic partners fear that the kids will become Muslim; and the Muslim relatives of the Muslim partner fear the same in reverse.

13. So mixed couples will have slightly fewer children. And not only that, of the fewer children they have, only a third will become Catholic and a third will become Muslim.

14. So in numbers terms one Catholic couple = five kids = four new Catholics and one Muslim couple = five kids = four new Muslims. Hooray! More power and influence and wealth for the ministers etc.

But if there are two mixed couples with three children each, of whom one-third end up non-religious, one third Catholic and one-third Muslim, those four adults only produce two new Catholics and two new Muslims. Boo! Instead of four new members over whom the ministers can exert power and from whom they can suck donations, they only get two new members.

15. Just sayin', is all.


The Stigler said...

Interesting post.

It might be the reasoning behind "why couldn't you meet a nice Jewish/Indian girl" nagging from overbearing mothers (Jewish mothers are very similar to Indian mothers, in a way that Christian mothers aren't). That the religious continuation is going to be a problem.

There may also be some self-selecting effects, that people who take their religion seriously seek out similar religious people, where those more inclined to atheism go out and survey a wider field. The problem, selection-wise, is that genetic knowledge seems to suggest that cross-breeding is more successful than inter-breeding (I seem to recall reading something about why people find foreign accents sexy).

Bayard said...

Anybody know what Buddhists think on the matter?

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, and there is also the human tendency to not want to even countenance the option that they might be wrong, so a religious person is reaffirmed in his beliefs if he sees other people around him joining/remaining in that religion.

As to "cross breeding" the positive effect has been widely observed and is called heterosis.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, good answer.

Bayard said...

On the subject of memetics, any meme that says that those not infected with the meme should be killed is obviously going to do better against the competition, given equal memetic attractiveness (or infectiousness), than one that doesn't.

Bayard said...

From "A Happy Married Life - A Buddhist View"
By Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda

"One of the causes of greatest concern among those who do not belong to the non-Semitic religions is the problem of conversion before marriage. While Buddhists and Hindus never demand that a couple must belong to the same religion before a marriage can be solemnized, many others tend to take advantage of this tolerance. Marriage, contrary to what many romantic novels say, does not mean the total and absolute merging of two people to the extent that each loses his or her own identity. When a religion demands that both partners must have the same religious label, it denies the basic human right of an individual to believe what he or she wants. Societies throughout history have proved that "Unity in Diversity" is not only possible but desirable. Out of diversity comes greater respect and understanding. This should apply to marriage also. There are many living examples all over the world where the husband and wife maintain their own beliefs and yet are able to maintain their happy married life without confronting each other.

Buddhists do not oppose the existence of other religions even within the same household. Unfortunately this generous attitude has been exploited by unscrupulous religionists who are out to gain converts by all means.

Intelligent Buddhists must be aware of this stratagem. No self- respecting intelligent human being who really understands what he believes according to his own conviction should give up his beliefs merely to satisfy the man-made demands of another religion. Buddhists do not demand that their partners embrace Buddhism. Neither should they surrender their own beliefs."

So, yup, Buddhism makes the short list.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, yes it appears that Buddhism makes the short list, and possibly Hinduism as well (going by that excerpt).

L fairfax said...

Unitarism believes this as well.

BTW this is not true
"The superficial answer is, that people in any religion consider themselves to be superior to 'everybody else',"
Christianity teaches that all are sinners and that Jesus has the words of eternal life. It does not teach that Christians should think of themselves as superiors to non Christians as we were non Christians and we hope that you will be Christians.

Anonymous said...

For Mormons, it's slightly more complex because while there are no requirements for a person to convert in order to marry there is another level, so to speak, of greater religious significance known as 'sealing' which *does* require both parties to be Mormons. In practical terms this does lead to a preference for intermarriage, the strength of which depends on how big the availability pool is where you are!

"The superficial answer is, that people consider themselves to be superior to 'everybody else'" - Fixed it for you ;)

As a bonus exercise, if a Faux-Lib married a Communist, what politics would the children have?

Mark Wadsworth said...

F: "if a Faux-Lib married a Communist, what politics would the children have?"

A Communist (in the West) is somebody who owns more than one house, a Faux Lib is somebody who dreams of owning more than one house, so basically, the children would spot the huge overlap and be plain vanilla Home-Owner-Ists.

Mark Wadsworth said...
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