The pursuit of pleasure
seems to be the goal of most people, whether physical or intellectual, within the constraints of what they perceive as "right" or "wrong," or at least "acceptable" and "unnacceptable."
This constraint can be as broad or narrow as a person perceives it; some people seek to fulfill their goals in such a restricted sphere
that they have already excluded their goal, and others leave everything so open
that as they pursue their "long term goals," they are constantly distracted by whatever they feel is pleasureable. The two extremes are similar in that both restrict the ability of a person to achieve what they want.
The goal of organized religion, in this context, is to artificially restrict what is and is not allowed, in order to further the ability of people to achieve meaningful long term goals (which, seemingly, bring more pleasure.)
To put this in context of memes, what this seems to say is that if a set of memes is able to facilitate goal-oriented behavior that leads to pleasure, the meme thrives, and the meme spreads.
Of course, if the meme restricts behavior significantly more than is necessary, or useful, it will eventually lead to the meme being abandoned, or modified.
For the vast majority of people, religion functions as an "opiate for the masses," allowing them to ignore their biological imperatives and immediate desires long enough to remain happy in the long term.
For a minority, it hinders the ability to achieve goals, and is counterproductive in terms of total happiness. Essentially, religion as an agent of enforced mediocrity has allowed the majority of humanity to either remain non-destructive, or more frequently, be useful.
The minority, however, have been hindered by a system which intrinsically cannot allow for great change.
More recently, the loosening of religious forces in modern societies has led to large segments of society being freed from these artificial boundaries. The new individual is free to sneer at societal norms, behave as s/he sees fit, and produce nothing in the world, if not being specifically counter-productive.
The chaos that resulted allowed for more freedom of choice for everybody, but left the world a more loose, less stable, less structured, and less safe place, in many ways.
The resultant uncertainty, thankfully, has not led to the halt of scientific advance (though with new non-judgemental school curriculum it may lead in that direction in the not-so-distant future, and art is already shot to hell.) The casualty of this revolution away from unchanging values and ideals is the common man, no longer able to function in a stable society. As religion fails, society devolves into meaningless choices about what to wear, who to sleep with, and what to eat. The great goals remain, perforce, unaccomplished. What is being accomplished? This very surfeit of freedom has made it impossible for a normal person to accomplish anything significant with their lives.
I just finished watching "Dead Poet's Society," with some people who I am beginning to think might be better off mediocre. Not to mention that they completely missed the point of the movie. I'm in a really pessimistic mood.