Twittering birds

Brute force crushes many plants. Yet the plants rise again. The Pyramids will not last a moment compared with the daisy. And before Buddha or Jesus spoke the nightingale sang, and long after the words of Jesus and Buddha are gone into oblivion the nightingale still will sing. Because it is neither preaching nor teaching nor commanding nor urging. It is just singing. And in the beginning was not a Word, but a chirrup.
D. H. Lawrence

Where there is veneration,
Even a dog’s tooth emits light.
Tibetan proverb

L'idéal trop élevé a dégradé la réalité.
Jean Grenier

I wonder if cosmically an idea is any more important than the bowels.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

What does it mean?
Gore Vidal, Palimpsest

I propose to define religions as social systems whose participants avow beliefs in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.
Daniel Dennett

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
Stephen Henry Roberts

 

God

The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal - God is the Omnipotent Father - hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.
Gore Vidal

You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step towards the diminution of war, every step towards better treatment of the coloured races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organised Churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organised in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
Bertrand Russell

Islamic couontries failed in several ways: in their economy, democracy, and cultural development. That creates shame and frustration, which easily produce fascist ideologies.
Zineb El Rhazoui

I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive.
The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
Bertrand Russell

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
Christopher Hitchens

Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.
Mark Twain

The essence of faith … is the idea that that which man wishes actually is: he wishes to be immortal, therefore he is immortal; he wishes for the existence of a being who can do everything which is impossible to Nature and reason, therefore such a being exists.
Ludwig Feuerbach

Une religion n'a pas forcément besoin d'un dieu, la foi suffit, et aussi le dogme.
François Cavanna

 

Traces of a god particle; a god reveals himself

The god particle at CERN

Man is quite insane. He wouldn’t know how to create a maggot, and he creates gods by the dozen.
Montaigne

 

We are not compelled in naturalism, or even in materialism, to ignore immaterial things; the point is that any immaterial things which are recognized shall be regarded as names, aspects, functions, or concomitant products of those physical things among which action goes on.
George Santayana (1863–1952)

Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.
Malcolm Muggeridge

Knowledge has burgeoned out of one's relation to pleasure. ... with Enlighltenment sex became a general method of securing knowledge.
Foucault

… demographic estimates suggest that between 12 and 17 percent of the world’s population is nonreligious, making it the third ... largest belief system in the world.
Adam Hughes (2008)

75 percent of Americans are God-fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.
Ricky Gervais

The gods are fond of the obscure; they detest direct knowledge.
Upanishads

Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will, like them, only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them.
Anacharsis (600 BCE)

...no ideology likes facts.
Arnon Grunberg

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
Umberto Eco

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.
Martin Luther

 

Dualism:

Us and them; in and out; rich and poor; bosses and workers; makers and consumers; dancers and poets; also:

Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.
Bruce Calvert

Abu'l-Ala-Al-Ma'arri

They all err—Moslems, Jews,
Christians, and Zoroastrians:
Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
One, man intelligent without religion,
The second, religious without intellect.
Abu'l-Ala-Al-Ma'arri (973 - 1058)

 

 

Jim Shaws Deluge of Myth, detail

Detail of "a deluge of myths" by Jim Shaw: beware of knowledge.

A myth is a fixed way of looking at the world which cannot be destroyed because, looked at through the myth, all evidence supports the myth.
Edward De Bono

Jamais le réel ne supporte la comparaison avec l'idéal.
Michel Onfray

La raison ne produit d'ordre que lorsque le corps a fourni le matériau.
Michel Onfray

In corporate religions as in others, the heretic must be cast out not because of the probability that he is wrong but because of the possibility that he is right.
Anthony Jay

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
Bertrand Russell

It will yet be the proud boast of women that they never contributed a line to the Bible.
George W. Foote

If god wanted people to believe in him, why'd he invent logic then?
David Feherty

Faith in the supernatural is a desperate wager made by man at the lowest ebb of his fortunes.
George Santayana

… I have seen everywhere that people love to daydream in order to avoid facing reality. Cooking up fantasy worlds would not be problematic were it not for its high cost, the forgetting of reality, the reprehensible disregard of the only world that truly exists. While belief conflicts with immanence, with the self, infidelity reconciles with the earth, another name for life.
Michel Onfray

 

Paulinism prevailed in Europe:

Paulus van Tarsus

What is this babbler trying to say?
Paul, Acts 17:18

Greek philosophy collapsed under paulinism:

Hypatia

All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must never be accepted by self-respecting persons as final.
Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.
Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.
It does not make much difference what a person studies. All knowledge is related, and the man who studies anything, if he keeps at it, will become learned.
Hypatia (355 – 415 CE)

 

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.
George Orwell

There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists...
Derrick Jensen

Without a constant misuse of language, there cannot be any discovery, any progress.
Paul Feyerabend

Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 3:19

... we are here today not because God reciprocates our love, forgives our sins, and attends to our entreaties but because each of our oceanic and terrestrial foremothers was lucky enough to elude her predators long enough to reproduce.
F. C. Crews

In the ... Hollywood movie it is considered obscene to show nude, if not sexually excited bodies while it is very acceptable to show bodies being torured to death. Can a better example be found of christian hatred for corporeal pleasure?
Philipp Blom

 

Cannabis SativaCannabis Indica

Christianity and capitalism are both probably right to detest a plant like cannabis. Both faiths bid us to set our sights on the future; both reject the pleasures of the moment and the senses in favor of the expectation of a fulfillment yet to come—whether by earning salvation or by getting and spending. More even than most plant drugs, cannabis, by immersing us in the present and offering something like fulfillment here and now, short-circuits the metaphysics of desire on which Christianity and capitalism (and so much else in our civilization) depend.
What, then, was the knowledge that God wanted to keep from Adam and Eve in the Garden? Theologians will debate this question without end, but it seems to me the most important answer is hidden in plain sight. The content of the knowledge Adam and Eve could gain by tasting of the fruit does not matter nearly as much as its form—that is, the very fact that there was spiritual knowledge of any kind to be had from a tree: from nature. The new faith sought to break the human bond with magic nature, to disenchant the world of plants and animals by directing our attention to a single God in the sky. Yet Jehovah couldn’t very well pretend the tree of knowledge didn’t exist, not when generations of plant-worshiping pagans knew better. So the pagan tree is allowed to grow even in Eden, though ringed around now with a strong taboo. Yes, there is spiritual knowledge in nature, the new God is acknowledging, and its temptations are fierce, but I am fiercer still. Yield to it, and you will be punished.
Michael Pollan

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you have only one idea.
Alain

Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level ... We are gods with anuses
Ernest Becker

 

Wise dude

Keep it real, brother.
Christopher Hitchens

 

... if our civilisation is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men make great mistakes.
Karl Popper

When the first swindler met the first moron, the first god was born.
Millor Fernandes

...the most sexually repressive people found in the world today - people who are stirred to a killing rage by reruns of Baywatch - are lured to martyrdom by a conception of paradise that resembles nothing so much as an al fresco bordello.
Sam Harris

...in general, people don't like to be murderers, unless it is for the sake of an idea.
Stefan Themerson

Les hommes le plus souvent se querellent pour des mots. C'est pour des mots qu'ils tuent et se font tuer.
Anatole France

Make molecules, not words.
Leucippus

Language is the very material on which to experiment for any argument to gain some meaning.
Bruno Latour

... freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.
Umberto Eco

There are no sacred things.
Bodhidharma (520 CE)

 

People are strange: they are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives they hardly seem to notice.
Charles Bukowski

Bukowslky-Lichtenstein

Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous.
Will Durant

 

Every time a nation becomes truly advanced in terms of democratic, egalitarian education and prosperity it loses the faith. It's guaranteed. That is why perceptive theists are justifiably scared. In practical terms their only practical hope is for nations to continue to suffer from socio-economic disparity, poverty and maleducation.
Gregory Paul, Phil Zuckerman

We will see that the greatest problem confronting civilization is not merely religious extremism: rather, it is the larger set of cultural and intellectual accommodations we have made to faith itself. Religious moderates are, in large part, responsible for the religious conflict in our world, because their beliefs provide the context in which scriptural literalism and religious violence can never be adequately opposed.
Sam Harris

Ignorance shared is ignorance doubled.
Terry Pratchett

… the fact that we are no longer killing people for heresy in the West suggests that bad ideas, however sacred, cannot survive the company of good ones forever.
Sam Harris

 

Piaroa prove that epicurean utopia are not fairy tales.

Mitochondrial Eve in Piaroa tribe

There is more poetry in Mitochondrial Eve than in her mythological namesake.
Richard Dawkins

 

[Religion] is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? — because you’re not!
Douglas Adams

Once we begin thinking seriously about happiness and suffering, we find that our religious traditions are no more reliable on questions of ethics than they have been on scientific questions generally.
Sam Harris

I don't believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance.
Natalie Angier

Heaven. The biggest waste of time we ever invented, outside of jigsaws.
...
When everyone in the world admits they're going to die, we'll really start getting some stuff done.
Caitlin Moran

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a wide-spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
Bertrand Russell

Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.
Bertrand Russell

 

Manhattan

A postmodern minaret

capitalism as religion ...: a true capitalist is not a hedonist egotist; he is, on the contrary, fanatically devoted to his task of multiplying his wealth, ready to neglect his health and happiness, not to mention the prosperity of his family and the well-being of environment, for it. There is thus no need to evoke some high-ground moralism and trash capitalist egotism. To put it in the terms of Alain Badiou: the subjectivity of capitalism is not that of the “human animal” but rather a call to subordinate egotism to the self-reproduction of the capital.
Slavoj Žižek

 

... the real business of human life is not contributing toward something called “the economy” (a concept that didn’t even exist three hundred years ago), but the fact that we are all, and have always been, projects of mutual creation.
David Graeber

[A discussion between economists:]
"Where is the railway station?" he asks me. "There," I say, pointing at the post office, "and would you please post this letter for me on the way?" "Yes," he says, determined to open the envelope and check whether it contains something valuable.
Amartya Sen

The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.
Gibbon

If ... all that is good in religion can be had elsewhere—if, for instance, ethical and spiritual experience can be cultivated and talked about without our claiming to know things we manifestly do not know—then all the rest of our religious activity represents, at best, a massive waste of time and energy.
Sam Harris

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.
G. B. Shaw

Patriotism is the conviction that your country is superior to all others because you were born in it.
We know now that the soul is the body, and the body the soul. They tell us they are different because they want to persuade us that we can keep our souls if we let them make slaves of our bodies.
G. B. Shaw

Tout nous vient des autres… Être, c'est appartenir à quelqu'un.
Jean-Paul Sartre

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.
G. B. Shaw

Ah ! Ah ! Monsieur est Persan ? C’est une chose bien extraordinaire ! Comment peut-on être Persan ?
Montesquieu

 

Dance couple by Steinberg

I see life as a dance. Does a dance have to have a meaning? You’re dancing because you enjoy it.
Jackie Mason

 

Indeed, my own philosophy of life begins with an explicit rejection of Darwinism as a normative principle for living, even while I extol it as the explanatory principle for life.
Richard Dawkins

In any case, why turn to the supernatural when our understanding of the natural is still in its incipient stages? We would be wise to heed this skeptical principle: before you say something is out of this world, first make sure that it is not in this world.
Michael Shermer

I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe, but because I want to know.
Michael Shermer

Surely our understanding of the nature of man or of the range of viable social forms is so rudimentary that any far-reaching doctrine must be treated with great scepticism, just as scepticism is in order when we hear that ‘human nature’ or ‘the demands of efficiency’ or ‘the complexity of modern life’ requires this or that form of oppression and autocratic rule.
Noam Chomsky

In any case, it is simply a fact that ... suicidal terrorism is overwhelmingly a Muslim phenomenon. If you grant this, it follows that applying equal scrutiny to Mennonites would be a dangerous waste of time.
Sam Harris

 

Picabia - Man Ray illustration

Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun.
Clifford Geertz

Do you see this egg? With this you can overthrow all the schools of theology, all the churches of the earth.
Diderot to d'Alembert.

Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. Science is belief in the presence of evidence. When the evidence disagrees with a scientific proposition, the proposition is discarded. When the evidence disagrees with a religious proposition, the evidence is discarded.
Victor Stenger

Throughout history the religion-inspired suppression of women has robbed humanity of at least half its potential creativity and genius.
A. C. Grayling

We need no extra cunning, no new ideas, no unnecessary gadgets, no frantic hyperactivity – all we need is less irrationality.
Rolf Dobelli

Yes, we have a soul; but it's made of lots of tiny robots!
Giulio Giorelli

The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages.
Banksy

Créer, c’est résister. Résister, c’est créer.
Stéphane Hessels

There is a sure, one word solution to all the world's current problems: Atheism.
Marshall Sahlins

Humanism

Humanism is an ideology that has adopted many materialist values.

 

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Idealism

Idealism as the opposite of materialism is a conviction built on platonic Ideas or abstractions that may constitute serious ideologies. An idea is not an Idea but merely a thought that usually represents something. Different concepts merit different names. Let’s follow Francis Bacon and choose the word idol for the platonic Idea, to indicate its relation to ideology. Someone who invents idols or worships them and makes up an ideology based on those idols, is called an ideot (a new word not to be confused with idiot). The word idealist is also used to mean someone who has a beautiful thought and pursues something perfect. Ideots are platonists, not necessarily idiots or idealists in that sense.

To understand materialism, it helps to first reconsider its opposite, antimaterialism or idealism. Idealism, for pedestrians (metaphorically those who do not drive around in wheelchairs), has a weak and a strong form. According to the strong version, matter is an idea: facts are opinions, reality is imagined. This strong type of idealism is uninteresting and can be ignored. The weak form, also named substance dualism or platonism (to honour its creator), holds basically that two types of entities exist, matter and immaterial ideas, in modern jargon, hardware and vaporware. Besides earth, water, air, plants, and animals, there are things that exist in addition to matter and usually superior to it such as gods, devils, dragons, spirits, or souls. Reified properties called essentials or idealizations were included by Plato later; those idealizations are caricatures of existing things that are supposed to generate real ones but we are not assumed to be able to observe idealizations directly. Concrete material things are merely imperfect instances of perfect abstractions. Souls, spirits, and gods are defined to be immortal, they live in disposable bodies or without material bodies but exist apart from matter; essences are thought to be more real than the imperfect real things (made of common matter) that are merely their projections. Weak idealism is the oldest form of the two; as a form of animism it is probably at least 100000 years old but still very much alive and kicking. In countries like the United States, Pakistan, and many others like them it is very popular.

The invention of heaven

A key hobby that humans developed with their oversized brain during their evolution was inventing virtual worlds. They could make up fairy tales for mutual amusement, but more importantly, also augment and dress reality. Increased consciousness in our ancestors about 200 millennia ago, together with their instinct to play, enabled at least three fascinating attributes: they could fool themselves and others with words and ideas, they could invent supermen having superabilities, and they could dream up an immortal soul for themselves. They knew all about individuals doing things to others and to the environment, so it was quite reasonable and convenient to explain impersonal phenomena such as earthquakes, accidents, illness, and bad weather by invoking retributive action of some supernatural person, invented for the purpose. Anthropomorphisms made the world more familiar and apparently more manageable by scapegoating and sacrifices. Some explanations for dangers, even wrong explanations, became part of the collective unconscious if they had beneficial effects (even if only imagined) on the clan. Inevitable death became less distressful by being ("having") an immortal soul which would end up in heaven. Humans are not unique in fooling themselves like this, many other organisms invent causes, even useless ones; Skinners pigeons became famous for it. Good stories and convincing causes are hard to resist, even when they are utter nonsense.

More recently, religious organizations were invented to continue animism with other means. Religions were devices for adapting to a new world that had large crowds and powerful gods in them. When 15000 years ago nomadic tribes started to settle, their increasing size required new methods and structures to ensure coherence. To unite the clan members a clerical hierarchy, heaven, hell, sin, and holy rituals were originated. Religion was total theatre that included the entire culture: it covered metaphysics, morals, social organization, arts, and rituals. It touched even the technologies. Religion was an institutionalized form of idealism, it consoled and produced a sense of purpose, old needs dating from animistic times. Religion is still claimed to be needed (by the faithful) but now alternatives for a belief in gods are available to satisfy tribalistic needs that are less lethal than religions; examples are fan clubs, sport competitions, olympic games, and pop concerts. Other alternatives such as patriotism, kapitalism, and racism are as pernicious as religion. The original religions could not evolve into novel types of art that unite performers and their public because religions were rapidly turned into comprehensive tools for maintaining power structures run by oligarchies.

Plato as a prophet

When people had more spare time they could afford to become even more playful and inquisitive. The arts flourished in the axial era and curiosity stimulated philosophy in the old world. Then came Plato who diverted and reversed the reasoning of earlier speculators, the presocratics. He invented secular idols such as forms, principles and essences and claimed that those abstractions really exist in the same sense as the familiar gods, spirits, souls, and some inferior shadows of forms called material objects. Plato designed a superplacebo with his theory of forms which was a system of brain rituals intended to soften undesired characteristics of existence and personal decline. Platonic abstractions did not remain mere parts of philosophic word games but became the basis and inspiration of secular ideologies which are very similar to religions: both flaunt a metaphysic, prescribe rituals and morals, and have inviolable leaders and holy books that explain and direct things. Platonism was for the elite what animism used to be for the masses; it was also consistent with the new monotheisms that started at that time. Secular beliefs such as nationalism, communism, fascism, and capitalism are religions having other gods than those that are usual in theisms. Like all faiths, secular ideologies require their members to read the script and play their role in it.

Theistic and profane ideologies

Human fantasy is unlimited. When it creates a virtual world that world is equipped with extrordinary convictions, expectations, and obsessions. A virtual world is much more glamorous than the real one. Examples of such fantasies are large religions having churches, gods, saints, a heaven, and rituals such as paulinism (a mithraic clone known as christianity), mohammedanism, hinduism, and shinto-bushidhism. Large religions that omit conventional gods are buddhism, feodalism, stalinism, nazism, capitalism and sundry nationalisms that replace theistic religions in secularizing areas. There are smaller ones such as the New Thought movement, scientology, and informal belief systems based on idols such as the honour of the nation, the efficiency of the company, or maximal shareholders return. Another secular religion is objectivism proposed by Ayn Rand. Its main idol is the myth of the independent ego with his sacred possessions. In the theocratic USA objectivism is an upcoming candidate state religion.

In secular tyrannies the nation assumes the rôle of the church; examples of patriotic idols that justify imperialism are Aryan Blood and the Russian Soul. Another secular world religion, that is even more compelling than paulinism or mohammedanism were in their heyday, is based on money and what is called the "free market". Supporting idols are increased consumption and monetary growth for owners. As a creed, that religion is called Mammonism or mammonarchy (Mammon is the god of riches). Other names are capitalism, economics, or spreadsheet fascism; Pignarre and Stengers call it sorcery without sorcerers. Mammonism is a universal faith with other rituals than those common in theistic religions: its priests don't wear funny hats, gods in heaven are not necessary, and psalms not sung. Money or its promise represents enough redemption. Financial products are sacraments. Money, sufficiently dissociated from value or from its mundane function of enabling trade in things, becomes an idol and provides universal ethics and metaphysics: money is everything. Originally money was virtual value or debt but is now once again virtualized by payments using keyboards or plastic cards; capital is virtuality squared, its ontological status is nil squared. This religion is a modern version of the ancient creed of Pythagoras that held that everything is number. A manual of mammonism can be found in The Prince by Machiavelli if its central concept power is replaced by money. Like all faiths mammonism aims at converting every nation and every institution into a theocracy. It successfully competes with the old religions because the salvation promised to all believers will not be given after death but here and later. Moreover that virtual salvation promises possession of money which is more enticing than a yawn-provoking conventional heaven or 72 virgin houris in the hereafter. Again, good stories are hard to resist, even when they are senseless. Mammonism is the only existing universal religion, everyone knows money and its magic. It is invincible and will ultimately wipe out all other faiths unless an idol is invented which is even more attractive than money. Like most other creeds, mammonism has strong material effects. Its priestly caste, the managers, optimizes the budget (the holy grail) by lowering expense (firing everyone and outsourcing productive work to foreign sweat shops) and generating income by any means, even those not necessarily related to sales. Production itself is an expensive liability to that goal and should be minimized. Built-in obsolescence in products is crucial. Any financial gains of that policy are assumed to be generated exclusively by the managing directors (the upper priests who need not know anything about what they are supposed to be managing) that are therefore worth their weight in gold. Someone at a keyboard who clicks an app that flashes money transfers over the world at a rate up to 1000 Hertz merits to be richly rewarded because he generates a lot of income for his employer. The idealistic value of that policy, which is required by the faith of mammonism, is obvious but its material effects are a polluted environment, destroyed resources, catastrophic inequality, massive penury, and injurious pseudofood.

The ideots cherish their fictions and protect them against counter-arguments based on hard facts. They postulate that matter is inferior to spirit, the body is wicked, lust is a dirty word, freethinking is blasphemy, curiosity is treason, and disobedience a capital sin. Plato proposed a social system having four castes, the same ones that the Indians have invented (except that Plato stipulated platonic philosophers as priests). In antiquity, processing matter as in farming and industrial production, was the job of slaves, in hinduistic India it was also left to the lowest caste. For brahmins, warriors, and even merchants, matter was so inferior that it was left to the sudras. According to hinduist ethics as specified in the laws of Manu, members of the sudra caste are forbidden to study; those who try are to be punished by having molten lead poured in their ears. All theistic and secular religions are antisomatic, paternalist, and hierarchical, even if they claim to be otherwise when they try not to repel potential converts. Their fake truths are holy and absolute; whatever they pronounce as sacred is immune to logic and experience. The pious must also be against liberty and equality simply to keep the followers in line which is accomplished by sacralizing leaders and demonizing dissidents. Emblematic are the republic of Plato, the ten divine rules of Moses for the paulinist and the seventeen rules of Shotoku for the Shintoist. Read them and shiver.

Ideologies survive by suppressing embarrassing empirical knowledge: censorship keeps the world “right”. Dogmas supply the answer to all questions. Galilei had obedient collegues who felt no urge to look through his telescope because they knew that any observation could only confirm their truth which was known from the bible or Aristotle. If it would show something else, the observation would be a mistake due to a failure of the instrument. Idealism denies its material roots, it is a perversion of thinking using the brain and a godsend for cognitive cowards. Gods or an Absolute Truth are an excellent excuse for passivity, they remove responsabilities. Hence their success. Revolt against platonic coercion occurs only when ideots exaggerate and are no longer able to stifle human curiosity or to suppress freedom. But truly secular materialistic revolutions always failed. The Jacobins, the stalinists and the mohammedans prevailed respectively after the French revolution, the Russian communist revolt and the Arab spring for a simple reason: to be successful, revolutions require a basic change of mind which is always too radical for the majority that is used to the old prerevolutionary habits and certainties. Freedom is scary. "Freed" African colonies were run by western-trained intellecuals that parroted the colonial habits of their previous masters. A post-totalitarian administration that is succesful after an extended civil war is invariably run by those who are used to act with violence. Post-perestroika Russians, inevitably disillusioned by western neoconservatism that they indiscriminately installed after communism collapsed, long for a return to stalinist or tsarist rule (who survived that has lived intensely). The recent revival of fascistoid populism in eastern Europe is a similar expression of the Stockholm syndrome that frustrates emancipation. Nevertheless reactionaries invariably claim that relapses after revolutions are the unavoidable outcome of the incoherence of the revolutionary demands themselves. Although Ur-fascism is as immortal as religion, as shown by the success of islamic and christian tea-parties, at the end some revolutions resulted in a gradual improvement. And individuals may be inspired by them to renounce their platonic stance; how liberation from mental oppression feels is poignantly told by Robert Green Ingersoll.

No idols without words

Idols are sentences invoking idealistic moods. Conventional wisdom has it that juggling words, that suggest logic is involved, is thinking rationally. Not who moves, sings, draws, or resists infections best but who writes or talks best is supposed to be the most intelligent. While everyone values the power of words for poetry, amusement, and titillating lateral thinking, their effect on existence is ambiguous; "newspeak" is essential to maintain a platonic world. Ask Putin. Ask Trump. Even after Jefferson it was criminal to teach slaves to read in the land of the free and the home of the brave. For ideots, wordless is worthless:

However:

Wise words to renounce the general custom to sacralize language or to demonize it; if we had no language, there would be no literature, science, large-scale collaboration, or civilization. Newspeak is the flip side we have to live with. And even an ostensibly true proposition can tacitly imply contrary and wrong assumptions; a bug and feature of language.

The pen as flute and sword; by Themerson

Is religion the source of all evil?

When criticized for the antisomatic character of their religions, the faithful invariably claim that others are worse. They point out that secular tyrannies, based on the superiority of the proletariat or some other privileged caste or superrace can be as lethal as any belief in a god. So, the argument goes, crimes of believers are not necessarily inspired by their religion. This logic is then supported by quoting a suitable selection from the holy books to show how user-friendly their religion fundamentally is. They have a point there but not a strong one. Belief, theistic as well as atheistic, correlates with violence but is at most a proximate cause. Ultimately the source of both theistic and atheistic violence is the aggressive part of tribalism which is an instinct, not a belief (identity politics is modern jargon for a tribalist ideology). Violent behaviour for defence is an inherited habit, it is anchored in our genes since the beginning of evolution; exercising power and obeying the powerful are expressions of strong instincts that help survival. However, ideologies provide moral justifications for tribalism and make violence respectable and culturally necessary, even if it is biologically senseless, harmful, and therefore immoral (materialistically immoral as Lao Tse suggested). But it is not a valid excuse that our taste for violence is a product of evolution: cultural attitudes may raise dormant aggression and violence has to be triggered by personal reactions to idols, superiors, or some institutional authority to become manifest. Such inspired violence has harmful material effects. Therefore the ideots can be held responsible for the antisomatic consequences of their beliefs.

Ideologies can be very compelling, they are even able to suppress strong biological drives. Many mohammedan and hindu parents are known to have killed their own child to save the honour of the family or because a girl is too expensive or because she is not allowed to light daddy's funeral pyre. Suicide bombers explode themselves and others to avenge a bizarre fiction. Soldiers kill crowds or allow themselves to be killed for the glory of the state. Loss of face and honour is compensated by genocide and mass destruction as the radically platonic Japanese with their shikata have shown in the second world war; now some of them have switched their talents to mass killing dolphins and whales. Nuns embrace chastity when ordered to (monks don't). Untouchables accept their miserable existence allowed them by brahmins with the promise of a better life after death. These examples show that theistic and secular religions are not invented in order to restrain harmful instincts, something they could easily do, but to justify them instead, as exploiting those instincts suits the purpose of the ideots. Those who tolerate religions do not seem to understand that. They admire the positive biological and social effects of a strong conviction, which are real, but prefer to ignore the implied horrors. In general, atheistic ideologies are not more human-friendly than theistic ones. Atheistic creeds hold that gods are absent and that assumption eliminates only a few proximate causes for violence (gods and prophets but not commissars and secular sacred principles). So, if ideologies are not the source of all evil, they are the main contributing component of all man-made evil.

The most effective injury which the religious inflict upon others, apart from killing or subjecting them, is mutilating children by circumcision. This patriarchal custom is practised physically by abrahamist and mohammedan parents and cognitively in madrassas and paulinist schools that turn pupils into ideots. Circumcision and infibulation are inspired by disgust and shame, they are Freudian rituals that cut out a vestigial feminine part of the male body and a male one out of the female body with dire individual, social, and political consequences (as horrid as any ideology-enforced rule). Rituals are senseless but may have had a practical source: it gave men the illusion to be less dirty (purity was a fetish) and made women more pliable by denying them to enjoy their body. Paulinist parents, who have no tradition to fiddle with the genitals of their children, rely on their educational system to remove innate innocence from the minds of their sons and daughters. Believers outnumber thinkers because at a gullible and dependent age most small children are brainwashed into the faith of their parents. When they grow up their environment will make sure they do not start to doubt. They become staunch supporters of ideologies and maintain the permanent clash of creeds. Why idealistic nonsense is so tenacious must be a mystery for a rational idealist but not for a materialist. Construction of synapse circuits in the central nervous system to form associations requires repetition: what you read daily in a holy book or 20000 times on twitter is utterly true. Moreover facts are merely other opinions and repetition converts fake news into truth as some American politicians and all Russians know. In early youth creation of associations is very easy because at that age the brain is busy growing circuits. The early idea of Santa Claus stays with the adult under some more appropriate name: god, king, president, maharishi, popstar, hero, or John Frum. The more abstract nation, market, race, and cargo cult are yuletides from our infancy.

The faithful create enemies because they need them. Their preferred enemies are infidels rather than those who venerate competing idols: in theocracies the atheist has always been a satan while heterodox believers could more or less survive by paying extra taxes for protection. The religious have incessantly persecuted the secularists for their opinion. Lokayata was destroyed by the brahmins, Chan taoism chased out of China, Socrates had to drink hemlock because he spoke intelligibly, Anaxagoras was sentenced to death because he questioned the existence of the gods, Cyrillus the saint lynched Hypatia, the church arrested Galilei, pope Clemens VIII burned Bruno alive, Koerbagh died in the rasphouse, books by Descartes were put on the index, intellectuals were murdered by Pol Pot, and the communist and fascist authorities killed those who reported unwelcome facts (they even had issues with genetics, relativity theory, the chemical bond, pussy riot, and other artists).

In addition to the tendency to think what the others think, there is another source of a belief in nonsense: the charismatic leader. Psychopaths and sociopaths, who always rise to the top in boards of directors (and among prison inmates) need sufficiently simple ideologies to recruit sufficiently simple supporters: "They do what they're told, they tend to believe the last thing they heard, they're not bright enough to ask questions, and they have that certain unshakable loyalty available to those unencumbered by too much intelligence." Note that Steward Brand points out here in passing that words (simple propaganda) generates followers. Conversely, no ideology can be very successful without psychopaths and sociopaths as leaders. Alfa-male politics, a biological left-over from pre-human times.

However, since platonism is deliberately installed in our minds it can be uninstalled. Teaching children contraproductive ideas which have to be unlearnt later after disappointing experiences, is unnecessary. A reform of education and schooling that eliminates platonism from our mindset might be succesful within a few generations if we wish. Apparently, we still don't.

Is materialism just another ideology?

Materialism, the absence of belief, is often seen as a belief like other beliefs, as the absence of cancer is just another type of cancer or that those who do not play tennis play another ballgame called nontennis. Admittedly, materialism derives a lifestyle and rules of behaviour from an ontology as all idealist systems also do. The similarity is superficial, their ontologies differ basically: materialism is unsystematic and it lacks idols which are essential components of ideologies. That omission makes the way of the materialist different from what all ideologies impose. Who thinks that materialism is necessarily based on idols, as all ideologies are, should consider their effect and think again:

  1. Idols are impractical, if taken seriously they make life even more incomprehensible than it is and that cannot be their intended purpose. All ideologies sport a complicated set of questionable assumptions and halftruths that support each other like the cards in a card house with too few cards on the bottom. Materialism is built on only one factual hypothesis that has easily understood and experimentally confirmed consequences.
  2. Idols kill curiosity, they function as taboos; all ideologies strongly restrict and obstruct empirical knowledge, discovery, innovation, and play. The idol-free, sceptic, materialist stance has permitted a staggering growth of practical knowledge and personal capacities.
  3. Idols induce cognitive bias and do not adapt to a changing world. Materialism has a built-in reality check using sensory feedback, positive or negative. Therefore it knows no conflict between the world as it appears to be and as it should be according to some assumed and unquestioned principles. Most common ideologies suffer from this conflict.
  4. Idols are parochial. Most ideologies are culture-specific, the values in one culture usually are incompatible with those of another culture which tends to lead to conflicts. Materialism on the other hand has a frame of reference which is universal because it is based on matter (the body) which is the same in all cultures.
  5. Idols are holy and beyond doubt. Materialism has no sacred axioms and is solemn nor absolute. We know so much and yet so little about matter that it cannot be the source of a creed. Nature is not an authority, a god, or an idol, nature has no bible and nature has no theory of everything. Anything goes in nature.
  6. Idols inspire self-hatred. In all ideologies the body is seen as an impediment to mind and in most ideologies the body is even despised as impure while materialism is inherently philosomatic and hedonistic. Hedonism is radical antifascism according to Onfray.
  7. Idols entail bad manners. Platonists are pushy and feel a strong need to impose their truths on the others, if necessary by force. In platonic organizations the individual is a disposable part; democritists have organizations to support the individual.
  8. Idols have depressing effects. They are accompanied with sinful thoughts, poverty, and hunger; they need suppressive authorities which do not increase happiness. Materialists are optimists because they don't sacralize their nightmares. The last one of the presocratic thinkers, who was called the laughing philosopher, inspired hedonism.
  9. Idols trigger vandalism. All ideots create enemies which they need for their own coherence; materialism is inherently peaceful. That innate aggression is one of the main reasons why idealism cannot be fully replaced by materialism as Cicero already noticed.

Obviously, idealists and materialists live in different universes of discourse. An atomist accepts being part of the manifold of atoms that makes his world. His model of the world is the world itself, not a more or less consistent set of platonic longings. On the other hand, an idealist feels incomplete unless managed by his idols; he cannot exist without the normative frame of reference that they provide. The world is as you deem it according to naive idealism. It is certainly true that many different models can be invented that are consistent with a given set of observed facts and events: thunderstorms might come from Poseidon, Thor, or the haunting spirit of a slain enemy. Usually an ideot does not know much and does not worry about it, he chooses the easy way out and projects his instincts and hang-ups into the metaphysics that he selects and into his own stories in which he likes to believe. Inevitably, idealistic ontologies tend to be bleak because the instincts on which they are based were formed in the past when the pessimist was better at surviving than the reckless libertine.

Bottom line: contrary to its name, materialism is not another ism. An ism is an ideological authority and materialists avoid ideologies and authorities. Materialism is the ultimate anti-ism as it rejects all of them. Antism is the generalization of atheism, it is atheism that also rejects secular gods. The sources of materialism and idealism also explain their contrast: materialism is a conviction grown out of prehistoric pragmatism while idealism is the sublimation of prehistoric animism. If the brain is a gland that, in addition to molecules, also secretes pragmatic thoughts and idols, then ironically, materialism is likely to issue from the cortical part of the brain and idealism from its limbic part.

Do human-friendly ideologies exist?

Exceptionally but not surprisingly, yes they do. Humanism springs to mind, it has a few materialist features (secularism, rationality). So has original liberalism and socialism (equality, well-being for everyone). Shaktism, which is one of the four main Hindu sects, is rooted in the ancient materialist Indus valley culture and has a top goddess that favours beneficial behaviour. Buddhism in south east Asia and Jainism are ideologies that were inspired by the carvaka’s. The Dalai Lama said in 2014 "ignorance causes suffering"; that opinion opened the book by Paul d'Holbach on materialism (Luther turned in his grave). Sufis exist as a remarkable exception in the world of Islam. Some paulinists have been known for human-friendly acts towards infidels: missionaries have stopped head-hunting in New Guinea (but were unable to stop it in the Middle East). In Europe paulinism recently changed into a bland ritual in a few of the places where it is still practiced.

Whenever people neglect the demands of their ideologies they start to think (or vice versa). When they do they tend to show philosomatic behaviour and therefore become useless for church, party, and company; as whistleblowers and dissidents they are even injurious for those organizations. Harmless ideologies exist but are not very successful. Materialists do not take issue with philosomatic versions of animism, spiritualism, vitalism, panpsychism or hylozoism, provided they have no hidden agenda that help authorities. They are mostly non-imposing convictions that try to infuse matter with something immaterial, not unlike spirit, force, or energy. All metaphysical systems that do no harm but inspire are valuable. But the four strongly established monotheisms, paulinism, mohammedanism, nationalism, and capitalism, require practices from their believers that are too antisomatic. So do hinduism and shintoism, both blatant variants of ur-fascism. The more human-friendly moral rules of those religions, if there are any, do not follow from some belief in the transcendental, but are actually inconsistent with it. They are borrowed from materialists for propagandistic purposes. However, the entire set of ethical choices of the materialists is incompatible with any faith because faiths promote tribalism and all reject the basic materialist assumption.

Is science a belief or vice versa?

The orthosciences are surprisingly similar to ideologies: basic assumptions in well-established scientific theories are like dogmas because they have authority and a status bordering on holyness. Where religious metaphysics assume the existence of the soul, the hereafter, devils, and gods, physical models also have guiding principles like symmetry, strings, conservation laws, and behaviour of functions such as entropy and action. Scientific laws usually prescribe what can be observed, or overrule what is seen but doesn’t fit. We know that it is customary in religion to hide inconvenient facts but it happens also in the sciences when occasionally experiments are carried out not to inspire the construction of new models or to falsify old ones but only to confirm those currently accepted as true. Too many physicists do experiments assuming that the world is as it ought to be according to the current paradigm. Popper wants theories to be experimentally falsifiable but the actual construction of scientific models is often non-popperian. Not because falsifiability at an early stage of development of a model would inhibit progress (a good reason to refrain from it) but because of the habit to reject experimental results that contradict theoretical expectations and to redo the experiments until they yield correct values. That habit tends to be kept out of scientific papers. Experimental results have to fit the current scientific model. As Lord Kelvin has it: thermodynamics says the earth is not older than 10 million years, the proof is so elegant it must be true; that means Darwins evolution theory is falsified by physics. That was long ago. But there were others. Pauli said something similar: my theory is so beautiful that it must be true; if experiments do not confirm it, so much the worse for the experiments. And according to Dirac "it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment." This belief satisfies some urges but may block innovations and discoveries. Nor do theories produce original inventions; the engineers who developed the nuclear bomb did not use Einsteins quantitative equivalence of mass and energy (E = mc2) but results from laboratory work.

Religious narratives and scientific models are stories that are composed to give us the feeling that we understand the complexy around us. Both try to find sense in a chaotic world. There are also differences. Probably the main difference is their emotional source: an ideology is produced by fear, science by curiosity. Another one is that they are not equally harmless: religious dogmas have moral pretensions leading to antisomatic behaviour while for scientific axioms not many murders or genocides have been committed. And they differ also because results from a reality check are sometimes, after a long time, allowed to modify assumptions in scientific theories but never religious dogmas. A fourth difference between physis and nomos, or between a model in a natural science and an idol is their subject: they discuss respectively 'what do things?' and 'what do fictions?'. However, the platonic way of thinking is so common that some people are tempted to turn science into an alternative faith or vice versa; it is called scientism; not to be confused with scientology, which is a common sect that has even less scientific content than animism.

Science confirms that gods and ghosts truly exist

The early Greek materialists were no ardent atheists for a good reason but some of them had doubts about the alleged powers, intentions, and properties of their gods on the Olympos. Materialists are prepared to admit under pressure that conventional spirits, angels, devils, and gods really exist (though not separate from matter) as long as the clerics do not define them more precisely. Consider their behaviour. Ghosts are said to be formless and may simultaneously be in different places. They also do things to us as the sacred texts mention: sometimes spirits or gods punish us or give us what we ask. Materialists hold that what exists can be observed and studied in order to know it better. So they did (the theologists did not because experimental work never interested them) and came to their well-known conclusion. Now we can add details to that because we know more about spirituality than our ancestors in classical and medieval times, when spirits could not effectively be studied because experimental science was a bag of tricks for magicians and con men (in Europe, not in China, India, and Persia). The ancient Greek atomists discovered that spirits are chemicals. For theatrical reasons they disguised their gods as very powerful humans. We have recently found that when certain chemicals have the proper spatial distribution in human tissues they may behave as gods or devils. Most attributes of traditional gods and ghosts are exactly those of chemicals. Chemicals are formless, immortal, and omnipotent, they are everywhere, they permeate the universe and affect our consciousness. They play with us and sometimes give us what we ask. We are chemicals and turn into other compounds after death; the buddhists had a good point with their reincarnation hypothesis. Research has shown that the hierarchy in the spiritual world is different from what was previously imagined: gods and devils are not supercreatures, they appear to be even less smart than common human spirits. Ethanol is a very simple god, alcoholism a major religion. Heroin is another god, addiction a sect. Before the scientific revolution people were convinced that mental illness was caused by evil spirits. They were right, those spirits are now known to be our own catabolic hormones. Combinations of hormones and neurotransmitters that cause depressions, anxiety, and schizophrenia are devils. Poison gas is another devil as all psychoanalysts know sinds the first world war. Visiting muses are acetylcholine and dopamine in action. MDAD (ecstacy) is a visiting angel, endocannabinoids are guardian angels. Tetrahydrocannabinol and mescaline are unmistakably muses as well. Au is an old god of a world religion (the only god that is an element) and cubic C a saint. In Europe, god is water if the idea of Thales (nature is water) is linked to the conclusion of Spinoza (nature is god). Lao Tse might have concurred. Goddesses are mixtures. Aphrodite, was a mixture of dopamine, oxytocine, nitrogen monoxide, nor-epinephrine, and acetylcholine (that combination with slightly different concentrations makes the other goddesses and nymphs). Mere human souls are aperiodic polymers of nucleic acids according to Schrödinger and Jaques Monod. Even platonic essences are now basically like souls: youth is a combination of DHEA, IGF-1, and telomerase. Obviously, our increased understanding of matter must lead to a novel interpretation of the holy books. Working out the details has to be left to the chemists in departments of theology of our universities. It will not happen soon because believers prefer to keep their gods mysterious to prevent disappointments. That we no longer need priests and shamans for exorcism we owe to Democritus; we create or delete gods and ghosts with our organs and we can even control them if we want to. The materiality of the gods now explains why they have always seemed so unreliable: because they are deaf and have never heard about causality; and also because their distribution and concentrations fluctuate strongly. And finally, it has been shown that the polytheists were right. Monotheism was an invention that was politically very attractive for patriarchism because it got rid of some pesky deities like Nin-imma and Ishtar but now monotheism has been refuted. Spinoza was the last monotheistic materialist, he saw nature as the only god. When after him materialists looked closer they had to conclude that the number of gods is vast.

The discovery of heaven with its chemical inhabitants does not imply a return to old-fashioned defective paleolithic polytheism, because the properties of the gods, as the atomists have shown, explain why prayers, a priestly caste, animal sacrifices and human ones never effectively realized most of their alleged goals (human sacrifices remain useful for Shintoists and Islamists). The medieval rituals in occidental churches have now been replaced by ritual trading of shares and options in banks; modern equivalents of the ancient pyramids are particle accelerators. The god particle, which was recently found in Geneva, is for the gods what blood cells are for humans but something like that has been suggested centuries ago by Spinoza.

How to deal with beliefs?

It is impossible to get rid of them, the passive intentional stance and the fascist attitude are too sexy and human brain structure keeps producing them. However, what all idols urgently need is immediate profanization, Gods and Money, Honour and Guilt, Love and Death. It is clearly necessary as long as English novels, Danish cartoons, French jokes, Bangladeshi bloggers or European festivities turn ideots into murderers. Switching to scepticism as a way of life would not destroy the source of inspiration for film scenario writers as enough tragedy will remain to inspire their dreary scripts. Skepticism need not even be the end of all faiths: examples of profanized and sanitized religions are Kopimism, the Church of the Subgenius, and Pastafari which are recommended to those who insist on having a belief. A more or less acceptable atheistic belief might be the materialistic dialectic. The Loginataka is an excellent substitute for the Ramayana. Idols of the more usual untamed faiths are insidious, and harmful for health not unlike the effects of mercury and dioxines in fish and nanosized soot particles in the air.

Fear, hatred, and aggression are produced by our limbic brain triggered by idols; they may overrule more beneficial instincts. Idols can be easily aimed at persons or groups that have nothing to do with the fear that inspired the invention of the idols. Fear is projected onto an invented cause, scapegoating is undiluted animism. Calamities are caused by jews, occidentals, chinese, muslems, socialists, fascists, intellectuals, or infidels. If one group is eliminated, another is found to blame. An appalling habit.

There is another good reason to desacralize gods or similar idols: pragmatism. Countries that suffer under a strong ideology such as theocracies, single-party states, and military tyrannies, are often poor, have large Gini indices, regularly reinvent their history, kill curiosity, cover their own stupidities by scapegoating, and have an uneducated population (rich Saoedi Arabia and poor Kerala are exceptions to this combination of features). Ideots poison the environment (stalinists and capitalists have an infamous reputation for it) because their doctrines favour an elite which ignores the consequences of their behaviour for others.

All cultures have adopted some religion because it expresses the tribalistic instinct which is as universal as the instinct for personal survival or sex. The universality of belief is widely supposed to be a manifestation of the innate biological nature of spirituality and religiosity in humans. Cargo cults keep popping up; real estate and dot-com bubbles are recent ones. There must be a local god region in the brain and in the chromosomes according to that hypothesis. None have been found in the human central nervous system or in DNA, which is not surprising. Religion is clearly not universal, there are too many infidels and existing faiths may have almost nothing in common. Myth-inventing is universal. Myths are tools and games and so are myths that are dressed up in scientific terms. The left part of the brain that has the language center, has to provide explanations for events. The urge to explain is imposed by an instinct that is a tool for memory and helped survival of the individual. Hence all those ubiquitous, persevering myths: they explain and produce meaning. Whether the contents of the myth make sense in some way or to what extent they are helpful is irrelevant because fake truths are made up and contents are adapted by the believer to suit his purpose.

As collective activities, religions are efficient constructions to unite people using the primitive means that were available at the time when those religions began. Humans are social animals and they need collectives. Religions unite and were quite successful, not because the existence of souls is self-evident or gods are personally useful, but because a belief is a form of wishful thinking, it provides causes for what happens as well as immortality for human souls. Its core feature is not the worship of a transcendency but the feeling to belong to a group. It would not be difficult to unite people without requiring that they believe in some divinity that demands obedience and orders to kill but orthodox faiths will not be abandoned if only because they are so efficient in producing obedience.

Materialists rarely worship, they reject idols. That raises the question whether they do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Religions and nationalisms have always been popular because the faithful like a strong belief in something even if it is harmful for non-believers who do not count anyway. Several studies have indicated that infidels are happier and healthier than believers. This is only to be expected. It is not surprising either that some other studies found the reverse. Gods and dragons may be helpful, owing to the placebo effect. It needs some insight into matter behaviour to understand this. The nervous system is an endocrine system that can produce medication (but also poisons when overstressed for a long time) by merely thinking. Religion is a mood modifier similar to working out, watching exciting movies, or making love; its beneficial effects are produced by simple means, widely available in any virtual world. A strong trust or belief in a guru or a placebo is enough for amazing physiological effects as research in psychoneuroimmunomodulation (PNI) shows. And it is no coincidence that one's mortality significanly increases after a partner or child has died. An ultimate placebo is meditation. Mindfulness is an endocrine stimulator, it is at least as efficient as the most beneficial religion or psychotherapy but lacks lethal side effects.

Plato has summarized a number of soothing metaphors that were also thought to be useful for explaining and ordering phenomena. They miscarry if they are given an elevated metaphysical status; we were so good in telling bedtime stories that they became real and started to harass us. Platonism can be blamed for something else. It pretends to give a sense of purpose and meaning to life, but while doing so never even tries to improve the miserable human condition that it causes.. That made Horatius tell off the ideots: “If you do not know how to live aright, make way for those who do. You have played enough, have eaten and drank enough. It is time for you to leave the scene…”. Not many were interested in Horatius. Arthur Miller, who also suggested that an era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted, was far too optimistic about the present era: the platonic age is briskly entering its third millenium in which mammonism and patriotisms prevail and strong leaders keep popping up all over the world. Notwithstanding enlightenments.

Idealism is the most pernicious hoax in human history. Every form of idealism wields incontestable doctrines and metaphysical models to concoct causes and to fix associations in the central nervous system. The brain has a negativity bias, it favours fear over courage and pessimism over optimism. So be it, that's how our nervous system evolved in prehistory. However, doctrines with their dismal effects behave as independent totems that justify instinctive behaviour having antihuman consequences. Idealism is an addictive drug that surreptitiously closes our mind and should be removed from school curricula.