Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lived Religion on Atheist Meme Base

In this segment, I will be focusing on answering the following questions:
1.) What are the common visual and creative techniques seen in my sample? In other words, what are the common characteristics of content and stance?
2.) How do the common characteristics of content and stance impact how the memes communicate their message about religion?

Throughout my sample, I have noticed that the memes communicate using repackaging and imitation or obvious visual reference to Christianity. Repackaging and imitation is the re-telling of a joke or message with a slight alteration of a recognized form (Shifman, p 19). By "obvious visual reference to Christianity," I mean that something in the image tells you that the subject is Christianity before you read the text. When one reads the text of these memes, the stance of the creator on the religion of Christianity becomes visible. All 12 of the memes in my sample group focus on the contradictions of Christian beliefs to science, contradictions between different Bible verses, or contradictions between these Christian beliefs and the lived religion* of its followers. The memes seem to be sarcastic and ironic while focusing on the use of referential and phatic communication. Referential communication is oriented toward the context or the "outside world," while phatic communication "serves to establish, prolong, or discontinue communication" (Shifman, 41). The use of these two forms of communication points to the intention of invoking a reaction or discourse among those who read the memes. I believe that the sarcasm and irony of the text is intentional in order to help the reader remember what is being said, while the use of referential and phatic communication is meant to encourage the reader into thinking for themselves instead of blindly following what they have been taught.

*For the purpose of this research, lived religion is defined as the phenomena in which "language and images of the sacred become definitional tools to redefine contemporary life" (Heidi Campbell lecture, 30OCT14). I like to think of lived religion as how the everyday follower chooses to express their beliefs on a daily basis through action, attire, and text or spoken word.

In this meme, one may first recognize the background which originated in the advice animal memes. One may go on to notice the placement of God's head in the middle of the image, the usual position for the head of an advice animal. The name, the Advice God, is even an imitation of the Advice Animal title. For these reasons, this meme can be defined as a product of repackaging and imitation. The text points to the directions from God given in Exodus 31:15. The phrasing "or something" gives a hint of sarcasm to the meme while using the text to point out the irony of another Christian contradiction. The meme implies the question, "if God is really who Christians and the Bible say he is, why would he lie?"

This meme does not use the repackaging method, but instead chooses to use an image in which one can see the religious symbols. These images include the Bible in the man's hand and the worship area behind the man that is complete with the classic stained glass often seen in churches.The text is written as if the man has had a sudden epiphany about the faith he believes in. The man seems to have begun to slightly question his faith, which can easily lead to thinking for himself or the metaphorical opening of his eyes. Irony is again used to highlight the man's skin color and the topic of slavery as viewed in the bible. Irony also draws attention to the problem of supporting the words of the Bible without objectively studying them. Why would someone support the enslavement of their ethnic or cultural group? Why is it ok to discriminate against one group but not another? This ironic meme could quite easily provoke discourse within the reader's community.

 This meme also does not use the repackaging and imitation method. Instead, it uses an image from which one can easily determine that the focus is on Christianity due to the front-and-center placement of the Bible. However, it is a little clearer from the image that the point is hilarity or sarcasm than what can be seen in the images of the other sample memes. This meme allows the image to do more of the "talking" instead of using words to portray the sarcasm. The irony is still found in the contradiction of the two verses placed at the top and bottom of the image. The meme draws attention to a contradiction in the sacred text of  Christians in the expected sarcastic way.

The study of these memes has led to my conclusion of the Atheist Meme Base community's view of Christianity as that of a joke in the sense that it cannot truly be believed. The community also appears to use the memes to highlight their belief in the need to think before choosing to simply follow as well as to encourage inquisitive discourse. However, they use sarcasm and irony instead of direct accusation. This may be due to the idea that people will be less offended or more willing to listen if the content is displayed in a laughable manner.

Note: I have decided to add the second meme into my sample group, and I have removed one that no longer fits my criteria.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Change of Mind and Narrowing of Control Group

From Last Week:
After further discussing the memes I have chosen to focus on for this study, I have realized that these particular memes are actually religious memes. I formerly considered them to be memes about religion because of their focus on Christianity, and also because I am unsure about the designation of Atheism as a religion. There is definitely debate about this designation, but I have decided that the memes on the Atheist Meme Base Facebook page and coinciding website are religious memes. Religious memes are memes that reflect the ideas and thoughts of a specific religious group. Though Atheism may not consistently be considered a religion, the members of this Facebook page are brought together by their shared views on religion or lack of a faith-based religion. Some may even argue that the religion of Atheists is science.

This Week:
In an effort to focus my research on a particular sample group, I have narrowed down my collection to only memes that either point to contradictions in the Christian faith (in the Bible or in lived religion) or that use science to dispute Christian beliefs. In order to gather a better collection of memes, I have decided to use both the Atheist Meme Base Facebook page and website, as they share the same material. However, I intend to focus more so on the Facebook page due to its ability to contact Atheists and read their comments on images.

After looking for a section of the website and Facebook pages that explains the origination of the posted memes, I have found nothing. There appears to be no singular creator, but I still may be able to find some answers. I have sent a message through the Facebook page and am now awaiting a response. So far, I believe the page and website are meant to spread knowledge of the flaws of religion, mostly Christianity, through humor. I also think the page itself serves as an online community where people can connect with others who share their idea of Atheism. I am hoping to have more background information to share next week.
As one would expect, the focus on flaws/criticism and humor dictate the memes seen on the pages. The memes are typically laughable to the Atheist audience and poke fun at the holes in Christian belief. They are then often circulated by members of the community or by other Atheist community pages through Facebook's "share" button.
The common themes expressed on the Facebook page appear to be the lack of scientific evidence for/scientific contradictions to certain Christian beliefs, the contradictions written within the Bible, and the irony between lived Christian religion and the sacred text.

Contradiction to Scientific Evidence:
Noah's Ark is a generally well-known part of the Bible in which Noah, a follower of God, builds an Ark to house his family of 4 and 2 of each species of animal on Earth during the Flood. The measurements, as given in the Bible have been converted to modern day measurements and the number of species existing at the time have been determined through science and evolution. The result points to the lack of space each animal would have if the measurements given were to be believed.
 Contradictions in the Bible :
This meme draws attention to the 7th Commandment which states: "Thou shall not commit adultery." However, according to the Bible, Jesus was born of Mary, a virgin and wife to Joseph. Therefore, God impregnated a married woman and directly disobeyed his own commandment. Christians believe that Jesus was conceived through immaculate conception, which means God technically did not contradict himself, but science has proven that the only way to impregnate a woman involves direct sexual intercourse.

 Contradictions between Lived Religion and the Bible:
As seen in the quote above, the Bible acknowledges money as "evil."Ironically, churches take in money under the terms of donations and tithes, but are not required to pay taxes. Sometimes the leaders of these churches, such as Joel Osteen, become millionaires. Sadly, while he sits in his 10.5 million dollar home, the poor still roam the streets. His hoarding of money, instead of helping those in need further contradictions Luke 12:33: Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. 

The following are the links to all 12 memes I will be using for this study.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Introduction to Atheist Meme Base

After recognizing several memes in which science is used to refute Christian beliefs, I began to find some of the points interesting. I continued to search for similar memes, and I realized that the Atheist community regularly uses science in its debates with Christians. Atheists tend to use science to debunk or highlight contradictions in the Christian faith and in the Bible. For this reason, I have chosen to study a Facebook community by the name of Atheist Meme Base. The memes feature various characters and concepts, ranging from Philosoraptor to images of God and from homosexuality to ethics. These memes are not religious memes; instead, they are memes about religion due to their use as a form of critique. I have decided to study this Facebook community because it ties together two concepts I am not largely familiar with, atheism and science. I also chose it because I am curious as to whether or not their observations may actually hold some sliver of truth. Are these references truly contradictions? Are they actually addressed in the Bible? Has science directly proven certain parts of the Christian belief to be false? What parts seem to be "common sense" or part of our fundamental ethics as humans?

The Atheist Meme Base Facebook page was launched in March of 2012. This is the same month in which began its archive, though the website was copyrighted in 2008. The meme base also has a twitter feed and Google+ page. The Facebook page often uses links to these pages to share memes. Because of this, my citations will come from the Facebook page and its sister websites. As of yet, I have been unable to find the creator of these pages or the specific reason behind their creation.