Do you know about the McGurk effect?
Then give it a look…, and a listen — a careful look and listen.
Recently, Craig Martin and a few others were discussing such effects on social media and it occurred to me that the persistence of this effect, even when you know how it works, was akin to how many who say that they understand (and may even be sympathetic to) critiques of the category “religion” somehow still end up finding religion in what they study.
Sure, they may stop calling it religion but the it formerly known as religion usually remains.
It just gets a new name.
Some call it tradition.
Or belief system.
Or maybe even cosmographic formation.
But it’s the fact that the undisturbed it always remains, forever eluding the labels that we give it, that ought to attract our attention, not what we happen to call it.
It seems that the category religion — along with the attendant view of the human as a physical body that surrounds a dynamic and non-empirical inner domain, a place where meaning, experience, and human nature are said to reside — is so tightly knit into the way that many of us happen to divide and arrange the world (in order to make a world with which we can interact, focus, and move) that we seem incapable of doing without it.
Even when we know that the concept (and not just the word) is fairly recent, has a history, and practical implications, we still seem to go looking for ancient religions and better words to call them — confident that there’s necessarily a them to go looking for in the archives, if we just dig in the right places.
So even those who drop it still end up using it to find it.
It’s effect works no matter how much you know about the effect.