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Symbols And Gods

“You ask me, I welcome new gods. Bring them on. The god of guns. The god of bombs. All the gods of ignorance and intolerance, of self-righteousness, idiocy, and blame. All the stuff they try to land me with. Take it off my shoulders.” - American Gods

We all have a deep well of religious energy that we need to put towards something, and what we are seeing in the modern world is an outpouring of all these religious energies into things that are not what we will typically consider religion, but nonetheless share a lot of similar characteristics. Most notably, unifying symbols, memes and rituals.

If sexual energy and the resulting competitive environment is the main driver for the physical and behavioral diversity we see in the animal kingdom—cicadas waking up from 17-year slumbers to mate for a week, the sword fencing flatworm penis, the triple kangaroo vagina, the modern alpha homosapien’s workout routine or the silicon-enhanced Kardashian butt, then religious energies drive all our collective pursuits beyond familial closeness and economic necessity: charities, religions, cryptocurrencies.

One of the best examples of religious energy is the modern sports club, which I consider to be the epitome of human investment of energy without any familial ties or explicit gain.

Consider an international Manchester United soccer fan.

He is not from Manchester, has never been to the area, and knows nothing about Manchester beyond the fact that it is in the UK. Which of course, he has most likely never been to either. In terms of the sports club, none of the players have any connection to it, apart from being paid obscene amounts of money to be there. Even the owners are now fat cats living far across the Atlantic, and way more concerned about the bottom line than the results on the pitch.

So in essence, what is he supporting? He’s supporting the symbol of the club much more than he is supporting any given person, neighborhood, or history. In supporting his club, he participates in the rituals of observing the team’s matches, boosting their treasuries by purchasing merch and spreading the tribe by incessantly talking about his love for it, and more likely than not, brainwashing his kids to be supporters as well, creating the idea of a “We are a Man Utd Household”

What is frankly amazing to me is the amount of mental and emotional energy he invests—the soccer match is what he looks forward to after a grueling week of work and he watches the club’s spending habits with more fervent interest than his purse. If he acted with as much indignation about bad purchases regarding his spending habits, he would not have bought that latest Ronaldo homecoming jersey.

All this work, passion, and commitment for an organization that most likely than not treats him as a cash cow, and for whom he gets zero financial gain from any of their success, only increased financial layout from buying more merch and engorged ticket prices as their popularity increases.

Humans being animals, we rarely do anything for long that we do not consider a good deal. So what keeps him going?

The feeling of community, of course.

And what unites that community - the symbol, of cause.

By self-identifying as a supporter, he gets to participate in the rituals and feel like one with the community every weekend. Every goal scored brings huge collective joy, every foul committed against the team surfaces deep feelings of unjust, and he gets to walk around internet forums with a wholly justified sense of superiority over supporters of other clubs.

He can make friends with anyone wearing the same jersey in a pub, celebrate every win as his own, and despair over losses as if he himself was mortally wounded. No matter how much of a wife-beating hooligan loser he is in real life, he still gets to be a proud Manchester United fan all day, any day. When one game ends, he only has to wait a few more days for the next kick-off, and if he can’t stand to be away from his team that long, he has fan forums, podcasts, and YouTubers to keep him wired for next weekend’s collective ritual.

In other words, a hardcore supporter with true belief and passion gets to enjoy the emotional ups and highs that usually require actual individual achievement and actualization.

Maybe the same reason why we need to believe is the same reason why Wall Street brokers need to take crack.

To feel.

This need to feel and believe is, at the heart of all forms of collective manifestations - whether it’s religions, nations, currencies, ideologies, MLMs, or even the modern work-as-religion culture.

I would go so far as to endeavor that this collective evolution of religious energies is what makes us truly human - after all, all animals have sexual energies and all primates have some level of abstract thought - but in so far as we know, only we have the ability to individually pour immense amounts of energy into imaginary collective endeavors.

Maybe what makes us homo sapiens then, is not any physical or genetic characteristics, but rather the mental switch that makes us want to believe together and most importantly, feel together.

Today with the advent of never-ending 24/7 on-demand media, there are of course practically unlimited ways for any individual to harness religious energies - anyone can create own memes (tiktok dances), make their own monies (crypto) or invent their own rituals (marie kondo*) to try to capture the fascination of the worldwide public and build up their own religions.

If the last major phase of humans was augmentation of our bodies and souls via physical and communication technologies, we are finally sufficiently connected as a worldwide collective body and soul that the next major phase is probably going to be about what new religions we end up collectively creating and obsessing about together.

Some fear that we are becoming godless, but meh, we are becoming chock full of gods, just replacing the old stagnant set of gods with a never-ending rotating cast of new gods.

Just like how it is a rule of capitalism that a hundred products will bloom to serve whatever needs people have, it is a rule of human nature that a hundred religions will emerge to serve whatever insatiable belief needs that we have - be it new shiny cryptocurrencies, new shilly conspiracy theorists or new incel philosophers.

Lastly, what is really fascinating is this - all you need for a new religion or god is pretty much a new symbol, backed by the corresponding community and narratives.

And I think it’s really fun! Afterall, why should warlords have monopolies on creating societies or central banks on creating money and ancient crays have exclusive rights on creating gods? ;)

PS: I love Marie Kondo~~ She’s my spiritual waifu

Related topics: Icons, Iconolatry, Symbols