Someone is going to try and correct me on this, so I’ll just be up front about it. Yes, I know lemmings don’t actually tend to follow the leader so much that they all commit suicide. It was a 1958 Disney film, where lemmings were deliberately pushed over a cliff to get the right effect, that burned the idea into our collective conscious. But lemmings are herd animals, and when they have an overpopulation it can lead to substantial deaths due to mass migrations.
But I’m not talking about real lemmings. I’m talking about the moniker that is given to people that follow blindly, based off that inaccurate portrayal. I’m talking about people that will follow a crowd or movement or belief straight toward catastrophe without ever bothering to poke their head up and look around.
It would seem that humans are just as likely to kill themselves or act to their own detriment just as much as the furry rodents that title this article. And to a certain extent, this makes sense. As a herd species, we would never be able to survive, let alone advance enough to invent smart phones, if we didn’t work together. We are medium sized, we lack protective covering, we don’t have natural defense weapons, and at birth we are about as worthless as mammals can get. But we also managed to get something else in the evolutionary lottery: brains capable of complex thought. And this is what separates the people from the lemmings.
Ah, but if only some people would use their brains! Instead, they find a comfort zone in the “herd” part of their instinct. Imagine a frat party where one of the frat brothers is being a little too sexually aggressive with a co-ed guest. That guy is an asshole. Then, there are others around that don’t want to be seen as “uncool”, so they do nothing. They are lemmings. And then, hopefully, one guy will stop his frat and tell him it’s wrong, and get the girl out of there and safely home. That guy is my kind of guy. Choosing the right thing over the easy wrong is something the lemmings are paralyzed against.
But while rape seems like a fairly obvious divider of the lemmings and the leaders, there are thousands of dividers. In government or corporate board rooms, these lemmings are also referred to as “yes men” for their propensity to just say yes to whatever the boss or other elected official wants. They don’t want to work too hard, or are afraid to cause disagreement, so they just go along with it. Lemmings.
Lemmings wouldn’t be so bad if they just admitted they were lemmings. But lemmings are still people, and people have pride. So when challenged, the lemming will justify their actions or beliefs as if they would have independently come to the same conclusion. You can tell if someone came to an independent conclusion, though, by asking few probing questions. If they have the bumper-sticker answer down pat, but start getting confused by even the most precursory dive into the material, you have a lemming.
Even worse is when the lemmings THINK they have dived deep on a topic, but are really just regurgitating a more elaborate bumper sticker. These lemmings are most easily identified when their explanations are copy and paste of propaganda, and detached from reality. It also helps to identify these lemmings when they say complicated things that they actually don’t understand.
How do you know if you are a lemming? Here’s a couple of things to check. First, do you tend to agree with everything your associated group does? If so, you are likely a lemming. Now, it is nice that in a free society we are able to join groups that closely match our interests and beliefs. Indeed, this is how people pick churches. But even in the best groups, there will still be things that the group is asking you to go along with that, under any other circumstance, you would not participate in. If you go along then, you are a lemming.
Have you ever been in a group that you initially questioned some of their beliefs or actions, but kept quiet and now eagerly participate? Pretty strong indication you are a lemming. Keeping your head down, avoiding conflict, and going along with the group are your values. Okay, that’s fine. Just admit it. Admit that what is right or real is less important to you than what keeps you in harmony with your group. Just admit it so that those of us that deal with reality know where you stand, and we won’t have to find out when you are a member of an important project or collaboration. We can hire you to work hard, instead of thinking.
Churches are filled with lemmings. Sure, there may also be assholes. But mostly lemmings. Pew upon pew of lemmings. Independent thinkers are not in the churches, because independent thinkers tend to leave churches, or sometimes are asked to leave politely but sternly. LOL!
Absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt, 100% perfect evidence that you are a lemming is if you “speak in tongues” or fall over when a preacher pushes you to “exorcise” you. Those things are fake. You are going along with the group and trying to keep your head down so you aren’t ridiculed by the other ridiculous morons flopping around on the ground. Good going, lemming.
Do you think Jesus crackers are actually the physical body of Jesus? You are a lemming. Do you think the bible is inerrant? Lemming. Do you find yourself defending slavery to atheists? Lemming. When you find something of the faith that disturbs you, do you look for an easy excuse and then just forget about the problem? Lemming. Do you cry when you think your beliefs might stand in contradiction to your church? Lemming. Do you think god hates condoms? Lemming. When faced with a biblical or theological contradiction, do you ignore it as much as possible? Lemming. Do you think your holy book solves modern scientific problems, but we didn’t interpret it right until science just did it without your religion? Lemming. When your brain is screaming there is a problem with this religion, do you solve it by throwing yourself into it even more? Lemming.
If you aren’t welcome in a church, you are my kind of person. You think for yourself. You don’t buy the bullshit, and you believe knowing the right answer is more important than having fake, judgmental friends. You are the kind of person that will speak up in a meeting if something is wrong, and so you are also the kind of person I would hire. You have what it takes to be a leader. It’s no wonder so many atheists are outspoken, they are not afraid to take charge and do what is right.
I’m not going to tell you that navigating peer and community pressure is always easy. And I don’t have a problem with people being lemmings, per se. But lemmings will never admit to themselves they are lemmings, because they are lemmings and admitting your a lemming could get you booted right out of your crowd. So all the lemmings circle their ranks and tell each other they are actually not lemmings…. right before they all walk off a cliff together.
The Spartan Atheist