[AUDIO – OTR] Why the meme of religion was invented by humanity

Imagine if you will a tribal band of humans wandering the middle eastern desert, or a similar band of humans wandering the plains of western europe–on ‘first contact’ with a rival tribe,  a dilemma very similar to the one experienced in this tale of space contact would occur.  The solution historically was to disseminate–generally through force and threat of death–the myths and superstitions of the stronger/victorious tribal band throughout the populace of the defeated one.  In this manner the two previously distinct groups were able to TRUST one another and continue in contact.

Throughout history the progression of this ‘first contact’ lead to a larger and larger geography being held sway under the same myths, superstitions, and gods.  Much as the meme of the English language has allowed for modern global diplomacy, and the meme of capitalism in turn, for modern global commerce/trade.

Religion was an instrument of unity in primitive societies, so one tribe was able to understand and TRUST another’s frames of reference.  It was also used by elites to organize societies for otherwise unjustifiable objectives–such as war, construction, population growth, not dying from the consumption of rotting meat, or the extinction of valuable resources such as bovines.


Two spaceships meet for the first time – one of the ships is from Earth, the other from another planet. The first contact goes well, except that neither ship can leave first because they are afraid the other will follow them back to conquer their home planets. Story by Murray Leinster.


This episode of Dimension X originally aired on September 8, 1951.



Featuring adventures in time and space told in future tense, Dimension X aired over NBC from April 8, 1950, through September 29, 1951. The series adapted stories by the modern masters of science fiction, including Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Clifford Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, and many others.


First contact is a term describing the first meeting of two cultures previously unaware of one another. One notable example of first contact is that between the Spanish and the Arawak (and ultimately all of the Americas) in 1492.

Such contact is sometimes described later by one group or the other as a “discovery”, particularly by the more developed society. In addition it is generally the more advanced society that is able to travel to a new geographic region to discover and make contact with the generally more isolated, less developed society, leading to this frame of reference. However, some object to the application of such a word to human beings, which is why “first contact” is generally preferred. The use of the term “discovery” tends to occur more in reference to geography than cultures; for an example of a common discovery debate, see Discoverer of the Americas.

The historical record indicates that when one culture is significantly more technologically advanced than the other, this side will be favored by the disruptive nature of conflict, often with dire consequences for the other society. The introduction of disease can also play a role and has worked to the advantages of both lesser technologically advanced and more technologically advanced societies, e.g. negatively for indigenous American civilizations and positively for Africans and some others.

Fiction about the topic is commonplace in science fiction and fantasy. In science fiction, the first contact trope explores the possibilities of first contact between two intelligent species, generally humans and extraterrestrials.




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