Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meme Summarization

This post will share a meme I created that summarizes the main idea from my meme samples that I chose:

Numerous memes are uploaded to the Atheist Meme Facebook page weekly. The page has a wide variety of topics that it addresses, but one common thread I focused one within each of my samples was the presence of contradiction. Each of the 12 memes either provoked ideas of contradictions about monotheistic views of science and lived religion. Self-identified Atheists on this Facebook page point out those contradictions with logic, reasoning and a base of morality to under cut religious ideas (primarily Christian). The type of humor used throughout the meme samples I gathered used incongruous humor. This dissonance of the text and the image, lent the memes to evoke a sarcastic tone. I created the meme above because it broadly encompasses all three contradictions. It seemed that this Facebook group confronted loopholes in conversation that are normally brought up about religion. This group wants concrete justifications, and when those aren't given, they confront loopholes about religion through memes so that others in their community can identify with the frustrations they have with those who ascribe to a monotheistic religion. 

After careful consideration, this group did not necessarily seem to be against religion so much as those who were overtly religious. Spirituality was not attacked, however it was how people enacted their religious practices and blindly accepted what they were told by a contradictory God. 

Case study comparison

For this project, there were two Atheist Facebook pages that were studied, mine and Atheist Meme Base. Our findings were similar in that these Facebook groups used to contradictions to expose the incongruities in religion via text. For example, we both found that "Scumbag Advice God" was a meme that used God's prestige to undercut beliefs that he would ask Christians to have. Her Advice God memes looked primairly at teachings about The Sabbath (that one should not work), unconditional love through salvation, discussions of slavery. Atheists may argue that those arguments do not stand in present day. My advice God memes also looked at contradictions atheists feel that God makes such as, the similar messages God gives to the three different monotheistic religions — being the "Chosen one," or whose God will super cede all others at the end of time. (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) Many  of our memes painted God as a fear-inducing puppeteer trying to confuse or coerced people into believing something. Our memes also aligned with the idea that the biblical scripture or feelings about spirituality cannot trump logical reasoning. For example, Mariah looked at memes that fostered discussion about Noah's Ark and the "Great Flood" and I looked at people's belief of miracles. One difference about our case studies was our kinds of memes used. My memes were primarily common memes found such as demotivational posters and advice macros, like Advice God and Opinion puffin. Mariah used other animated photos where the text was not always aligned on the top and bottom of the image. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

How memes frame religion

For this week's blog, I will answer the following questions:

1. What success strategies are used for memes to be reproduced, spread easily and repackaged?
2. How do these success strategies frame ideas about religion in my meme sample?

Meme 1

The first success strategy I will look at is the "provocation of strong emotions"(which I discussed in the previous post) (96) in the Santa Capitalist meme. In the meme above, we have Santa positioned towards the viewer, winking with a hand on his spectacles. People generally think of Santa as jovial and happy and not associated with any negative feeling. In this case, rather than discussing the "Naughty or Nice" list Santa is suggesting that Christians are hypocritical. Christians value the sanctity of Christmas as a religious holiday, while some would rather not have the pagan portion of the holiday  be labeled as religious. The meme suggests that they value authenticity and transparancy, when not only discussing faith, but practicing it as well. The atheist would rather not have faith and be authentic then for the case to be opposite. This meme evokes a strong response because it address the topic of lived religion — if Christians are going to be Christians than they need to not be hypocritical. The simple packaging of the meme also makes it more shareable.

Meme 2

According to Shifman, some memes evolve to be "memetic: content units that generate user-created derivatives in the form of remakes, parodies, or imitations." In the meme above we have, what I assume to be some sort of traditional Christian minister with his hand raised, likely trying to make a point about something. The person in the meme is in what Shifman would call "frozen motion," where the photos feature ordinary people who are "captured during an intense movement that is 'frozen' in time" (92). Shifman notes how they are usually captured when they are not in their most flattering of movements (92) where they are in a moment of "great instability" and we as the audience are supposed to finish their movements with out conversation.

 In the Atheist Meme Base community, an unidentified character "Twig" is often the main person who posts memes. He writes for the above meme as follows: "This is called an "argument from ignorance." It is used frighteningly often by religious people arguing in favor of their favorite deity." Of course the person in the meme isn't actually saying what is referenced in the text, however is to undermine the idea that God (or any religious deity) can be used as a blanket response to people's questions. Once again, these meme's call into question lived religion and the finiteness of discussion. The implication is that religious people are close minded and unwilling to explore other ideas because of their belief, likely in biblical infallibility. By using frozen motion, this meme displays how one may think a religious person would respond when in conversation about things they aren't certain about.

Meme 3

For my last meme, I chose this particular meme: the "crying girl" first world problems meme. 
This meme stems the humorous "first world problems" tag line that has spawned various images from the saying. This image, is an image macro that originated off of She usually is upset about a trivial subject. 

The meme is clearly sarcastic and from an atheist perspective. If anything this meme uses both humor and simple packaging. This is a meme which is recognizable, which is why out of any of the memes on this post, it has the most shares and likes on the Atheist meme Facebook page. The humor is that she's crying because she can't validate her point to the atheist, because the atheist relies on logic. Implied in the meme, this girl is sans logic, or like other Christians, sans logic as well. (from the perspective of the person who posted the meme). This meme is framing monotheistic religions as incapable of adequately explaining their faith to make it believable.

None of the above memes ascribe to a particular genre, with the exception of the "Crying girl" photo because she is widely circulated for a variety of "first world problem" subjects.
According to Shifman, meme genres share "stylistic" and "structural" features and "themes, topics, and intended audiences" (98). Shifman references the term "vernacular creativity," (written by Jean Burgess) which is the "every day innovative and artistic practices that can be carried out through simple production means" (98).

Meme 3 would likely be considered a stock image macro. "Crying Girl" is not an advice animal image, (which image macros are usually ascribed to), but the meme does focus on the "success and failure in the social life of a particular group" (Shifman 113). In the case of this "crying girl" meme, she is not able to convey to her atheist friends that God is real with concrete proof. In this particular Facebook community, proof and tangibility seem to be key when discussing monotheistic religions.

For meme 1 and 2, I would label their genres as "figures of well-known cultural authority." As we;ve discussed above — that memes fit well into genres because of their easy, every day relatable practices they convey. These memes are not viral and/or that popular, but two recognizable figures are represented — Santa Claus and some kind of Christian minister or pastor. Santa Claus, culturally, is known for discerning right and wrong. So are Christian pastors to some extent. On a spectrum, both are gatekeepers of morality.  The only difference between the two memes is that meme 2 uses its authority figure (the pastor) to emit ignorance versus knowledge and reasoning. What these memes could be suggesting is that authority figures do not always have the right answers, and that those who do speak about religion with authority (maybe some Christians) — their hypocrisy super cedes their reasoning.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Transmission V. Ritual in Memes

This week, I wanted to focus on Christian contradiction as an atheist fixation when looking at three memes from my sample. In "Memes in Digital Culture," Shifman points to two characteristics of memetic communication: Communication as Transmission (for the purpose of imparting information quickly to spread to the masses) and Communication as Ritual (the shared beliefs, values, symbols and cultural sensibilities) (60-61). I felt the the memes below are representative of ritual, because of their disbelief of God and rejection of religion is how this particular Facebook group enacts their identity as atheisits.

Meme 1

In this Advice God meme above (which can be read about here in my previous post), the text is referring to the shared belief that religion, likely the "Christian God," is a set of contradictions that is not resolute in his sentiments towards the people he created. Because we don't have any more information other than this meme about the reason behind it was posted, we have to infer that from the community's previous actions. They are renouncing the Christian belief that God's love is actually "unconditional." In terms of virility, this particular meme is not viral in a sense of the number of shares it received, but thousands of people were reached through this particular meme.

This meme doesn't really employ a strong humor element to it, however it does facilitate an element of anxiousness and in that regard, it has reached viral success. It is not "viral" however in the fact that it hasn't reached a high circulation. The admin of this site is likely inferring that either religious beliefs forcibly construct its own tailored ideas of what "God's love" is or that "Gods' love" is a fictitious element of spirituality.

Meme 2

Before I discuss the content of meme 2, I want to rehash its origin. Above, we have Unpopular Opinion Puffin, which is a part of the advice animal macro series. It's believed to have first appeared on the online in 2010 on That Cute Site. In July of 2013, it was featured in a subreddit, where someone then decided it would be a good alternate for "Confession Bear."The meme is meant to spread unpopular opinion about a particular belief.

In this particular puffin meme, the unpopular belief being addresse is that of salvation, the belief that if you choose to believe and practice a certain set of beliefs, than you will go to heaven, or have eternal life after death. The counter opinion being expressed here is that salvation is really an excuse or cop out or scare tactic for people who are afraid of going to hell. Salvation would enlist someone to practice or strive for morality, so the admins of this Facebook page are drawing that connection. 

Unpopular Opinion Puffin does not really meet either of qualifications for viral or memetic success. I would say that it reaches potential in both, but not success. However if you know the history of this particular meme, it's humorous because you know that an unpopular opinion when viewing religions is that people are not authentic in their sentiment regarding how they practice their faith. This meme is memetic in a sense that it was personalized on a renouncement of a particular belief, that this particular atheist community may be able to identify with.

Meme 3

Meme 3 is a post that the Atheist meme page took from "We F****ing love Atheism" Facebook page. I couldn't find the original post, unfortunately. (I'll keep digging).  This meme employs a simple message the admins of Atheist Meme Base want to convey: Science is a legitimate form of healing over religion. This meme meets the qualifications of both viral and memetic success, because of the strong emotion employed and the simplicity of the message. The will obviously be interpreted differently depending on who is looking at the meme. Christians would likely either feel indifferent or angry, given the fact that the biblical interpretations do not solely encompass physical healing. The Atheist group however, clearly find the juxtaposition humorous, because the end result is a rationale statement, backed up with visual evidence. It's viral potential lies in that would likely emit emotion in both groups of people. 

Each of these memes, finds an element of humor to shed light on religious contradiction. For Meme 3, the comment section was extensive with opinions, however for meme 1. The comment section was much different. Each of these memes also fit the qualification of virility. One thing I've noticed with these memes is that the more structured and clever memes increase in their qualifications for virility, because they prompt responses from people.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Blog 3 - Interpretations

For this week, I chose three memes that challenged Christian views of being the "right" religion, or idea that one would be morally correct. Each meme keeps with the theme seen in the samples — that this particular Facebook atheist group uses memes to contradict monotheistic interpretations of God in a sarcastic and humorous way.


I've already discussed where "Advice God" originated from. However this meme above, incorporates a mix of repackaging and mimicry of  "Scumbag Steve" and "Advice God" in which God wear Steve's hat. In a nutshell, the Scumbag hat is supposed to represent someone letting down another person or inconveniencing someone in a "jerk like" fashion. The first line of image text refers to the idea that each monotheistic religion has a belief that they are the group ordained and blessed by God and will prevail in the end. The second line of image text, sarcastically mentions how each major monotheistic religion will essentially kill themselves for not agreeing with one another.

Above, is a twist on the Advice Animal meme, only a bible is in the center and the multi-colored wheel normally seen, is in shades of tan. It's suggesting how the biblical interpretation of God's origination is a paradox that can't be explained solely through scripture. The added "LOL," is meant to add sarcasm and the atheist's view that intelligent design is contradictory.  

Once again on this group, we see Advice God presented with a scumbag hat. The meme is discussing homosexuality, a discussion that is both commonly discussed and argued among many people. The underlying argument: God must hate his creations when they do not align with certain biblical scriptures. The atheist on this comment thread would argue that it is contradictory or evil for a divine creator to hate something supposedly made in his image. God's hat would symbolize the insensitivity and ego-laden God that many Atheists seem to object. 

Each of the above memes utilizes repackaging to incorporate an original meme, but alter the message and form in a certain way. In the cases above we can see the Scumbag hat utilized with Advice God as well as a bible used as an Advice Animal. The hat implies that God as a insolent puppeteer who imparts various interpretations to anger people. These techniques impart religion is lofty because without its legalism, it wouldn't hold. 

My samples use referential communication as a stance. As defined by Shifman, this kind of communication is "oriented towards the outside world" (41). The memes address issues like religious tensions, intelligent design/evolution and homosexuality, which has been a weighty topic of discussion in the last couple of years. Those who post on the atheist meme page are looking to discredit or paint an unrealistic picture of how religion functions. These memes also stand as emotive communication because the issues presented target some difficult inward reflection, such as "What do I believe?" or "Are my sentiments rational?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Advice God & Demotivational posters

There are many different kinds of atheists. Some are more vocal about their beliefs (or lack thereof) and often set a stereotype that those of the atheist community are mean spirited and out to eradicate religion. I would argue this is not the case. Atheists often believe that religion stands in the way of scientific reasoning and keeps people from thinking rationally and objectively. 

The memes I chose to look at this week from the Atheist Meme base Facebook page were an "Advice God" and two "Demotivational memes." Each of the memes highlighted evoke a sense of sarcasm and drive to instill rational thought.

 Pictured to the Left is "Advice God." If you know anything about Advice God, he actually gained popularity in 2010, but his origins come from the meme "Advice Animal." The face pictured is actually from Michelangelo's painting "The Creation of the Sun and the moon." This meme in particular evokes a sense of sarcasm. The first line "Thousands of religions" seems vague and a little obvious, but the second line "Hope you guessed right," suggests that is silly to choose a religion, when many religions claim they are the sacred and prophetic. Religion, such as Christianity asks those to follow (if taken literally) Jesus. Those who not will go to hell. Its generalizing and breaking down a complex topic, but the meme is implying "Good luck, everyone thinks they're right, so why should you?" One person comments essentially saying that there is no "right" religion, because religious practices are often determined on your culture and location in the world. Another person said people might as well close their eyes and put their finger on a colored spinning wheel.

This next two images are "demotivational posters:" which are meant to "diminish morality" or self-esteem. Both images function similarly. Much like Advice God, sarcasm is lays on thick.

The image above is often seen on cloudy days or at sunset. Somehow the light streams from the sky in such a way that it looks ethereal, celestial. The poster functions as a dialogue. The first poster embedded is arguing to atheists that they have seen something from the divine which a miracle. The atheist argument is something scientific. Here they claim "Pareidolia." It's often seen in the news as a the woman who finds Jesus on her toast and claims it was divine works. The atheist claims science, they want rationality to explain that its really just a psychological phenomenon where the brain is stimulated in such a way that something familiar seems significant.

Above, we have two images — Jesus and Godzilla. This poster brings more humor into the discussion. It's still suggesting the idea of pareidolia, or maybe that people fabricate their experiences  with the divine. However, the poster also suggests that believing in Jesus is also quite similar to believing in Godzilla — neither exist.

Listed below are my sample of memes I plan to discuss throughout the duration of this project (including the above three)

Meme 1
Meme 2
Meme 3
Meme 4
Meme 5 
Meme 6
Meme 7
Meme 8
Meme 9
Meme 10
Meme 11
Meme 12

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Facebook community that I chose for this meme series provides content which center around atheism. The Facebook group was founded in 2012. The admins write that because many of them are "Ex-Christians," they feel they are most qualified to mock Christianity. The "About" section also mentions how the vast majority of the audience is also familiar with Christian or western religion. 

Below is the link to this page:

They also give a disclosure that they have posted memes regarding other religions, however, they don't want them sent if the photos "suck." The admins provide many links to videos regarding Atheism (such as: Atheism described in 60 seconds, Atheist make the mistake of reading religious text literally:, What started the big bang, etc.) and is obviously trying to prove their point in the matter of religion. They then go on to provide an apologetic of 20 paragraphs for their reason for being atheists. In the manifesto of defending atheism, an admin talks about why he or she defends science: "For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded."

The admins pose the question "Why do you believe in God" rather than "Why don't I believe in God." They are wanting to express logic and reasoning. Interestingly, the admin goes on to say that he doesn't have a problem with people believing in God, however when religion begins to infringe on people's rights, that is when the admin takes issue. They actually acknowledge that faith exists, however, but "believing in something doesn't make it true."

The admin goes on to recount a persona experience of how he became an atheist:

"But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob,” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.Oh…hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that."
At the end he goes on to note a personal revelation — that honesty is important and that requires the truth — no matter how much the person doesn't like what they hear. 

This is a relatively popular page. It has more than 106,000 likes. People post actively and engage with one another, unlike many of the other Atheism meme pages I have come across. Throughout my time in this series, I'd like to focus on the memes they post and the communities response to those memes.