Yet people are not merely passive recipients of ideas; indeed, one aspect of human psychology clearly visible on social media is the willingness of people to meme themselves into belief. Being around a community who express the same beliefs, repeating mantras and declarations of faith, regarding non-believers as an actual physical threat in order to solidify group cohesion – yes, you can fake it until you make it.

All this might provide some thought for Church leaders as they contemplate still-falling numbers in a country in which a minority now identify as Christian: can Christianity meme itself back into relevance? Can people not blessed with faith – which, after all, is highly dependent on childhood instruction and probably has a genetic component – talk themselves into it? I think, almost certainly, yes.

Religion comes in degrees, often differentiated by identification, practise and belief. Many who identify as ‘Christian’ don’t practise and many who practise don’t believe (including some clergymen). But putting your foot on the first step hugely increases the probability of reaching the second. It is the same with all beliefs.

Perhaps the most obvious example of memed belief is transgenderism, the very recent idea that people are born in the wrong body and can somehow change sex. Many men have memed themselves into believing they are women, simply because when once it would have been regarded as a fetish it is now seen as a sacred identity (and enforced by the law).

— Ed West, “The Rise of the New Theists

****

‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.

‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

— Orwell, 1984

****

A thinker is now that being in whom the impulse for truth and those life-preserving errors clash for their first fight, after the impulse for truth has proved to be also a life-preserving power. Compared to the significance of this fight, everything else is a matter of indifference: the ultimate question about the conditions of life has been posed here, and we confront the first attempt to answer this question by experiment. To what extent can truth endure incorporation? That is the question, that is the experiment.

— Nietzsche, “Origin of Knowledge,” The Gay Science