Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Religion: a Sick System

How to Keep Someone Forever is a guide to creating a sick system in a business or a relationship, but the corollary to religion is striking. Perfect, in fact.

Rule 1: Keep them too busy to think. Thinking is dangerous. If people can stop and think about their situation logically, they might realize how crazy things are.

Religion is good at this one: pray 5 times a day, attend prayer meetings, worship services, bible studies, read the bible regularly, pray regularly, have as many children as you can, evangelize constantly, and on and on and on.

Rule 2: Keep them tired. Exhaustion is the perfect defense against any good thinking that might slip through. Fixing the system requires change, and change requires effort, and effort requires energy that just isn't there. No energy, and your lover's dangerous epiphany is converted into nothing but a couple of boring fights.

This is also a corollary to keeping them too busy to think. Of course you can't turn off anyone's thought processes completely—but you can keep them too tired to do any original thinking. The decision center in the brain tires out just like a muscle, and when it's exhausted, people start making certain predictable types of logic mistakes. Found a system based on those mistakes, and you're golden.

See number one, especially the fundy strains that require many, many children, like Quiverfull.

Rule 3: Keep them emotionally involved. Make them love you if you can, or if you're a company, foster a company culture of extreme loyalty. Otherwise, tie their success to yours, so if you do well, they do well, and if you fail, they fail. If you're working in an industry where failure isn't a possibility (the government, utilities), establish a status system where workers do better or worse based on seniority. (This also works in bad relationships if you're polyamorous.)

Also note that if you set up a system in which personal loyalty and devotion are proof of your lover's worthiness as a person, you can make people love you. Or at least think they love you. In fact, any combination of intermittent rewards plus too much exhaustion to consider other alternatives will induce people to think they love you, even if they hate you as well.

God above all else. That is what religion demands. God above you, god above your family, your spouse, your children, your friends. Are any of the people you love not of your religion? Shun them. Only god matters. And you must prove your loyalty constantly. How much are you praying, how much have you sacrificed, how often are you attending church and evangelizing? And the rules, are your following them? No matter how insane the rules, you must constantly strive for a level of perfection humans can't attain, but don't stop trying, or you're not loyal enough. (See also, rule 1, rule 2)

Rule 4: Reward intermittently. Intermittent gratification is the most addictive kind there is. If you know the lever will always produce a pellet, you'll push it only as often as you need a pellet. If you know it never produces a pellet, you'll stop pushing. But if the lever sometimes produces a pellet and sometimes doesn't, you'll keep pushing forever, even if you have more than enough pellets (because what if there's a dry run and you have no pellets at all?). It's the motivation behind gambling, collectible cards, most video games, the Internet itself, and relationships with crazy people.

Casinos live on the principle of random reinforcement. There is no more powerful force. I see it with my dog every day. I trained him to sit by always giving him a treat when he obeyed the command. Today, he sits on command about 75% of the time. However, he stalks Teh Hubby while he cooks because every now and again something tasty falls on the floor.

How does religion harness this power? Prayer. Pray and pray and pray. Pray for everything, for mom to survive cancer, for little Billy to make the team, pray for love, pray for rain in the desert. Every now and again, your prayer will be answered- god is great! Never mind the 43,000 other times your prayers were ignored.

I highly recommend reading the rest of the post, it's brilliant- and frightening. The section following reward intermittently is an excellent description of my office, in case you'd like to know what my normal workday looks like.

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