If I invented my own religion

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Benj’s entry for this week’s competition 

Momerath

Irving Benjamin

 

The Second Book of Momerath
Chapter 1

  1.  And the Lord Momerath spake, and his people did listen unto his mighty voice.

  2.  You are my people, and it is to you I give my commands. Let no man who reads my words disobey me. Let no man who hears my voice turn from me.

  3.  When my people shall read my words, they shall share them with friends, and with friends of friends, and great will be the increase of my realm.

  4.  My people who share my words will prosper: great things will befall them, and also their friends, and friends of friends, even unto many generations.

  5.  But beware! Those who would turn from the Lord Momerath will be smitten down, and great will be their despair.

 

I sat back and scrolled down on my PC screen to look at the latest numbers. I had resolved not to check them every day, but the results had proved irresistible. There had been even more growth since the previous week, and gratifyingly few dropouts. The geography was interesting too. I clicked on the map screen, which showed areas of the world with established followers in green, and new recruits in the past week in red. At the start there had been just a scattering of coloured dots on the map, but now there were large confluent areas of green covering most parts of the UK. There were increasing blocks of red in Western Europe, reflecting our latest campaigns, and more recently patches had appeared throughout the United States, predominantly in the southern “Bible Belt” states. All very satisfactory. I sipped my Glenfiddich and closed my eyes, sitting back in my armchair and savouring the aromatic spirit. Very satisfactory indeed.

How can I explain this phenomenon? It’s all to do with the amygdala, you see. In my previous life as a neuroscientist – that’s to say back in the day when I had to work for a living – I studied the relationship between cognition and emotion in the human brain. It’s never been easy to understand why some people can hold an unshakeable belief in an implausible concept, even to the point of sacrificing their lives for that belief. That’s the origin of most of national politics and the whole of religion, and it’s one of the most important psychological phenomena in everyday life. But now modern techniques in neuroscience have given us the answer. Functional MRI imaging (fMRI) can show which areas of the brain “light up” to different stimuli, and the research shows there are different areas for cognitive perception and emotion. In essence, the brain has one analytical network of neurons that enables us to think critically, and a separate network for empathy and beliefs, centred on the amygdala. When presented with a physics problem or an ethical dilemma, a healthy brain will activate the appropriate network while suppressing the other. A problem arises when we are confronted with facts which conflict with our preconceived ideas. The research has shown that it is difficult to “switch off” the bit of the brain where our emotional beliefs are housed, and “switch on” the “thinking” pathways. Put simply, it’s hard to replace beliefs with facts.

My last research project before I retired was to look at the problem in reverse: what if you could persuade the brain to switch off its cognitive networks, and activate the deep-seated nucleus that holds emotions and beliefs, independent of objective facts? We showed that you can do that by repeatedly bombarding the brain with appropriate stimuli – in effect, “pestering” the senses with contradictory information. A form of brainwashing. But how to do that without the subject simply turning off and refusing to watch or listen? It turned out that the solution was a very old one.

In 1957, James Vicary transmitted repeated images lasting 3/1000s of a second to movie audiences, advertising Coca-Cola and popcorn. This resulted in increased sales of Coke and popcorn even though the viewers had no recollection of seeing the images. (The movie The Exorcist similarly achieved some of its frightening effect by using a brief flashing image of a white faced demon.) The experiment has been repeated in a number of ways, and in 1974 resulted in a world-wide ban on the use of subliminal images for advertising. My own research demonstrated by fMRI scans that I could switch the brain from cognitive to emotive activity by the use of appropriate infinitesimally small messages.  And I showed that repeated exposure resulted in a permanent change in the amygdala, effectively “fixing” an unshakeable belief in an improbable “fact”. In other words, I could potentially make anyone believe anything!

So, how did I convert a large number of people to become followers of the Lord Momerath? That’s where my grown-up son came into the scheme. He was a top programmer for a major social media content provider, before he went to the “Dark Side” and became a professional hacker. Social media has given unprecedented access to the brains of a large proportion of the human race. We can all get annoyed by unwanted advertising on the Internet, but what if that advertising was unnoticeable – subliminal? With my neuroscience knowledge and my son’s technical ability it was not difficult to implant a firm belief that the Book of Momerath was revealed to his disciple on earth in a dream, and made available to the world through Facebook, Instagram and other sources. You know how you hate those posts that promise you that “something wonderful will come your way” if only you share this inspirational message, or repost that image, within the next 24 hours? Well, the disciples of the Lord Momerath don’t have to suffer any such annoyance, but can be easily and unconsciously convinced by my subliminal messages that they will enjoy such benefits! It’s a win-win!

I did feel sorry for the Bishop, though. He only preached against the growth of “false gods” in our society one Sunday, but I had not expected one of Lord Momerath’s disciples to take literally the instruction to “smite unbelievers”. I hear the prelate is recovering well in hospital from the hit-and-run car accident, and I hope it does not re-occur.

America is my greatest triumph to date. The Americans, in my experience, have always been more gullible than Europeans, and this has been borne out by my own research. However, to have captured the biggest prize of all has exceeded my highest expectation. Knowing what I have now shared with you, you will no longer be surprised at the extraordinary beliefs of the most powerful man in the world about “alternative facts”, or his obsessive use of social media.

So, why do I do it? Well, it’s all about the numbers, see. Nobody begrudges their god a pound, or a dollar, or a euro, do they? Multiply that by a few million every week, and there’s your answer. And I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this view, watching the sun setting over  the sparkling sea from my private island as I sip my sundowner.  So do please keep watching your social media, and may the peace of the Lord Momerath be with you.

 

10 thoughts on “If I invented my own religion

  1. Brilliant. Horribly plausible and very clever.

    Technical point, the text is centred (& I’m reading on my phone which makes it tricky).

    Otherwise, I” just waiting for you and your son to take over the world…

    Blessings of Lord Momerath (may He live forever) be upon you.

  2. I’d be prepared to follow my leader with his promises of an easy and good life in the Clan. Perhaps I could weave his Lordship an original tartan.

  3. A fascinating, informative, balanced read, with an impish ironic twist.
    A voice of clarity and reason.
    Where will this clever writer go next?
    Will follow.

  4. Uterley unique story.
    I loved the clever introduction and scene setter,in one,
    by using the book of Momerath Chapter 1.
    Your fascinating inclusion of “Subliminal and Cognitive”
    piled on more depth. The content is so profuse it warrents to be read more than once.

  5. Either very well researched or you were, indeed, a neuroscientist. All very plausible indeed, (love the Bishop and a sneaky mention of the great orange one) but all will be well – we can just step on Lord Momerath.

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