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Dr. Darrel Ray, psychologist and lifelong student of religion, discusses religious infection from the inside out. How does guilt play into religious infection? Why is sexual control so important to so many religions? What causes the anxiety and neuroticism around death and dying? How does religion inject itself into so many areas of life, culture, and politics? The author Dr. Darrel Ray, psychologist and lifelong student of religion, discusses religious infection from the inside out. How does guilt play into religious infection? Why is sexual control so important to so many religions? What causes the anxiety and neuroticism around death and dying? How does religion inject itself into so many areas of life, culture, and politics? The author explores this and much more in his book The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. This second-generation book takes the reader several steps beyond previous offerings and into the realm of the personal and emotional mechanisms that affect anyone who lives in a culture steeped in religion. Examples are used that anyone can relate to and the author gives real-world guidance in how to deal with and respond to people who are religious in our families, and among our friends and coworkers.


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Dr. Darrel Ray, psychologist and lifelong student of religion, discusses religious infection from the inside out. How does guilt play into religious infection? Why is sexual control so important to so many religions? What causes the anxiety and neuroticism around death and dying? How does religion inject itself into so many areas of life, culture, and politics? The author Dr. Darrel Ray, psychologist and lifelong student of religion, discusses religious infection from the inside out. How does guilt play into religious infection? Why is sexual control so important to so many religions? What causes the anxiety and neuroticism around death and dying? How does religion inject itself into so many areas of life, culture, and politics? The author explores this and much more in his book The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. This second-generation book takes the reader several steps beyond previous offerings and into the realm of the personal and emotional mechanisms that affect anyone who lives in a culture steeped in religion. Examples are used that anyone can relate to and the author gives real-world guidance in how to deal with and respond to people who are religious in our families, and among our friends and coworkers.

30 review for The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rod Hilton

    I wasn't expecting much from this book. I thought the title alone was problematic: it seemed like another intentionally incendiary title along the lines of "The God Delusion" and "God is Not Great", intended to arouse controversy and enrage believers. Yeah, I get it, religion sucks so bad it's like a virus, right? Very original. But I decided to give it a read anyway, suspecting it to be some angry PZ Meyers-esque tirade about how stupid religion is and so forth. Boy, I was completely wrong. This I wasn't expecting much from this book. I thought the title alone was problematic: it seemed like another intentionally incendiary title along the lines of "The God Delusion" and "God is Not Great", intended to arouse controversy and enrage believers. Yeah, I get it, religion sucks so bad it's like a virus, right? Very original. But I decided to give it a read anyway, suspecting it to be some angry PZ Meyers-esque tirade about how stupid religion is and so forth. Boy, I was completely wrong. This book is fantastic. First, Dr. Ray doesn't mean "God Virus" to be pejorative, he means it literally. Ray describes properties of viruses in nature, and explains how religions exhibit these exact same behaviors. The analogy is unbelievably useful, and it provides a very interesting and useful perspective on religious belief. This comparison provides a model that makes tons and tons of sense of behaviors we see in religious individuals, providing a framework for understanding how religions work, how they spread, and how they affect the religious. I was consistently stunned at how perfectly this analogy described confusing things I've seen in the real world, and how much sense it made of things for me. A great deal of the book is spent explaining how perfectly this model fits. I'd argue the bulk of the book is spent really just convincing the reader that talking about theism in this way provides explanatory power that would otherwise be lacking from the conversation. One example I really enjoyed was how it made sense of something I've always wondered. As a nonbeliever, I've always found myself curious about how a religion like Christianity could come to exist if untrue. It seems almost perfectly formed to conquer the globe, and I've wondered how I could be expected to believe that a person or a series of people could form a religion so perfectly; how could any one person be so forward-thinking as to design a religious belief set so ideal? Well, this framework provides a simple answer that I never really understood before: there have been many many religions, each of them tuned in different ways almost at random by the people who created them, but most of them have died out, leaving only the "fittest" religions around in the modern day. Thinking of religions as memetic organisms struggling to survive in the environment of culture clears this question up entirely, and provided me with a great deal of insight. The rest of the book, which assumes you've seen the usefulness of this model, explains how to use this understanding to influence how you interact with the world around you, particularly with religious people in your life. This advice is absolutely indispensable, both explaining surprising things I've seen from the religious, as well as giving me useful tips for future interactions. As someone who is nonreligious but has extremely religious in-laws, I cannot express how incredibly useful this advice is, and how it's fundamentally altered my approach for dealing with this delicate subject matter. The incendiary title is unfortunate, but frankly given what it describes, I think it's unavoidable. But I don't think the title is meant to anger believers, in fact the book isn't even for them. Ray specifically advises AGAINST giving this book to religious relatives or friends, knowing how they'd react by being informed by his framework. Instead, this book is for nonreligious people, particularly with those who struggle understanding or relating to religious people in their lives, such as family or friends. For those people, I literally cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is an absolutely essential read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This is probably the best book on the subject of religion that I have ever read. The book explains how religion does what it does. The book uses the term "god virus" as an extended analogy for what happens when a person becomes infected by religion. There are many parallels between viruses and religion. Ray uses terms such as vectors, binding, and uncoupling (from culture) to describe what happens to the individual who falls prey to a god virus. A god virus is able to disable the critical This is probably the best book on the subject of religion that I have ever read. The book explains how religion does what it does. The book uses the term "god virus" as an extended analogy for what happens when a person becomes infected by religion. There are many parallels between viruses and religion. Ray uses terms such as vectors, binding, and uncoupling (from culture) to describe what happens to the individual who falls prey to a god virus. A god virus is able to disable the critical thinking skills of its host so that one's own religion appears to be without error, while at the same time errors in other approaches to religion are obvious to the host. Just as when a body weakens it becomes more susceptible to infection, the same thing happens with regard to a god virus. Emotional turmoil and distress may bring out the vectors for infection. Whenever there is a tragedy, it seems to bring out the religious because they see the opportunity to be had to spread the virus. Ray gives advice on living a virus-free life. "Freely and openly acknowledging your own death as the ultimate end is the first step in virus-free living," writes Ray. Comparing science to religion, Ray notes that "Science has a built-in error correction mechanism that does not exist in religion." I think this goes a long way to explain why there are so many denominations, while science is more unified. "Progress in science is demonstrable. The progress of religion is non-existent." The analogy between viruses and god-belief helps us understand the way religion operates. I strongly recommend this book to those with an interest in religion.

  3. 5 out of 5

    هبة النيل

    the parasite nature of religion , and how it become more like the vampire bite once u were bitten u will complete ur entire life bite and drink blood , it talks about the thoughts viruses its about the dark maze of myth where most of 70% of the world live in . i loved the book it made me feel FREE

  4. 4 out of 5

    Debbie "DJ"

    This book relates religion to a virus. The author is very through in his analysis of all religions and how they have played a negative role throughout history. I wanted to read this to get some insight into my fundamentalist family. I now have a deeper understanding as to how intrenched religious beliefs are, how they are promoted, and a history of religion itself. While this book may not be for everyone, it certainly is an eye-opener.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    At first I was wondering where the author was going with this. Sure, I understood the concept of memetic "infections" etc., but sometimes I find that people latch on to science and some "pop-psychology" ideas to explain positions or social movements, etc. that really have nothing to do with the actual basic concepts of underlying science. I think of "Social Darwinism" for example of where adherents don;t really "get it" and of quantum mechanics as some way to explain "new age" bullshit (think At first I was wondering where the author was going with this. Sure, I understood the concept of memetic "infections" etc., but sometimes I find that people latch on to science and some "pop-psychology" ideas to explain positions or social movements, etc. that really have nothing to do with the actual basic concepts of underlying science. I think of "Social Darwinism" for example of where adherents don;t really "get it" and of quantum mechanics as some way to explain "new age" bullshit (think Deepak Chopra here). However, the author (Ray) does start to gain the traction I was hoping for once I got about 50-75 pages into the book and I could see where he was going. Ray's examples were solid and he questioned his own suppositions and claims. The fact that he is of the "religiosity reformed" type -- my phrase for people who finally see that religion is basically a bunch of superstitious ideas created by our Iron Age and Bronze Age ancestors and then start to "convert" others which is another avenue of exploration altogether -- actually serves him well here, plus the fact that he is a psychologist and practicing psychotherapist lends some weight. Further, that he actually started as a "Christian Counselor/Therapist" is even more intriguing and provides deepr insights. I recommend the book to anyone who was raised in a religious way and is not really come to realize that maybe all of that stuff that was literally "stuffed" into their heads as a child and young adult was maybe so much crap, but they still can't quite shake the fear and doubt and the potential "loss" that they still find themselves bargaining with "god", praying, and reverting to old ways when under stress or around "the faithful" and then afterwards feeling foolish again. This is the book for you. I think it will open your eyes and let you see that actually you're "infected" with an idea and that you've been conditioned and had that conditioning reinforced over the years both subtly or overtly. Just be sure to give it at least 75 pages. One nice feature to me of the book is the lots of footnotes and great quotes about religion, etc. all in great context for the discussion in the book. It also one of the few books in recent years in which I highlighted a lot of lines, passages, etc. within my Nook.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susi Bocks

    Once I started, I could not put it down. The material covers every aspect of why religion is literally like a virus. The comparisons made to how real viruses work illuminate how easy it is to become infected. It details why they remain infected and, in a common sense, easy to understand fashion, make the statements plausible and, furthermore, accurate. I would highly recommend this to anyone who understands the premise, but wants his/her own thought process validated. I would also recommend this Once I started, I could not put it down. The material covers every aspect of why religion is literally like a virus. The comparisons made to how real viruses work illuminate how easy it is to become infected. It details why they remain infected and, in a common sense, easy to understand fashion, make the statements plausible and, furthermore, accurate. I would highly recommend this to anyone who understands the premise, but wants his/her own thought process validated. I would also recommend this to those who identify as believers. Or if you have any close family or friends who are religious and would be open to reading it, pick up a copy for them! They just might have some light bulb moments to understand why THEY are infected. Excellent read!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eric Moyer

    I was disappointed in this book, it could have been so much more. However, it is marred by two great failings: the author's negative tone and his habit of stating without proof. First, the author is so full of bitterness and vitriol that he cannot give a balanced account. For example, virus could have been just a metaphor to help us understand the ways in which religion is like a reproducing organism and subject to selective forces. Instead the word virus is used as a pejorative. He repeats it I was disappointed in this book, it could have been so much more. However, it is marred by two great failings: the author's negative tone and his habit of stating without proof. First, the author is so full of bitterness and vitriol that he cannot give a balanced account. For example, virus could have been just a metaphor to help us understand the ways in which religion is like a reproducing organism and subject to selective forces. Instead the word virus is used as a pejorative. He repeats it endlessly underlining his hatred and opposition. People don't believe, they are "infected." People don't choose to preach, they "become vectors." I paid and am still paying a high price for my mistaken belief. It appears that Mr. Ray was an active believer himself. So, I can sympathize with his feelings of betrayal. However, bitterness and anger are not constructive in this context. (Are they in any?) Second, the author frequently makes assertions with very little evidence. For example, he states that religions control sexuality so that they can control human propagation and thus have a better chance of infecting the next generation. To me, this is a possibility, but it is not at all obvious. Maybe religions control sexuality because in the times when they developed, sexual control controlled financial flows and ensured more income for the gods and their workers. Maybe they control sexuality because people are constantly confused about sexuality and thus were more accepting of a religion that offered rules that made it seem less confusing. To my memory, he cites no studies and references no textbooks to back up his claim. At best he tells anecdotes or appeals to the reader's intuition and/or experience. Mr. Ray denigrates Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family as "Focus on the Virus". However, I remember Dr. Dobson citing scientific research in his books many more times than Mr. Ray cited serious study in his. The only silver lining to Mr. Ray's poorly-supported claims comes from a change in viewpoint. If I think of him as suggesting hypotheses to test, rather than asserting them as fact, the book becomes very interesting. It proposes many ways in which religions might be shaped by their need to propagate and their need for physical, mental, and temporal resources to do so. As such, this book could provide many social-science PhD students with their dissertations and with years of interesting research during their careers if they were interested in testing his claims.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Mind blown. The author relates being religious as being infected with the virus of religion. While the idea made me uncomfortable and I thought it was blasphemous, it was an interesting argument. It suggests being infected with one religion inoculates you from another. For example, a Catholic would never decide to become a Muslim. It also had interesting religion history lessons to back up arguments. For example, as the U.S. got bigger and churches could not maintain control over its believers, Mind blown. The author relates being religious as being infected with the virus of religion. While the idea made me uncomfortable and I thought it was blasphemous, it was an interesting argument. It suggests being infected with one religion inoculates you from another. For example, a Catholic would never decide to become a Muslim. It also had interesting religion history lessons to back up arguments. For example, as the U.S. got bigger and churches could not maintain control over its believers, new religions popped up in the U.S. in the 1800s, such as Seventh Day Advents, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. My hubby found it interesting that a study showed the non-religious had the lowest divorce rate while the highest was smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. The author suggests even if you are not religious, religion infects culture and politics which can also have influence over people's lives. Was a very interesting read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This is a really good book. I have an interest in psychology, so really appreciated the insights that Dr. Ray brought using his psychology background. His discussions on how guilt and fear are such a strong motivation for the infected to stay infected was particularly illuminating. The book is not written in complicated, technical terms, which makes it an easy and accessbile read to everyone. The virus analogy is sometimes, a little over done, but mostly perfect. I was extremely impressed with This is a really good book. I have an interest in psychology, so really appreciated the insights that Dr. Ray brought using his psychology background. His discussions on how guilt and fear are such a strong motivation for the infected to stay infected was particularly illuminating. The book is not written in complicated, technical terms, which makes it an easy and accessbile read to everyone. The virus analogy is sometimes, a little over done, but mostly perfect. I was extremely impressed with this book!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Milo

    vitriolic even by my standards and noticeably self congratulatory. There is valuable information on offer here, the only issue is you may have to sift through plenty of dubious narrative to find it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark Lawry

    I grew up in the Christian faith and have become a secular humanist over the decades. I've had the chance to travel a bit in my life. This has given me the chance to sit down to have tea in Buddhist temples in the mountains of Korea, talked politics with Muslims in mosques in several countries, explored Spanish chapels on Pacific Islands. I know how much faith means to people. This book will annoy and offend you if you are a person of any faith. If you are a fellow secular humanist you will nod I grew up in the Christian faith and have become a secular humanist over the decades. I've had the chance to travel a bit in my life. This has given me the chance to sit down to have tea in Buddhist temples in the mountains of Korea, talked politics with Muslims in mosques in several countries, explored Spanish chapels on Pacific Islands. I know how much faith means to people. This book will annoy and offend you if you are a person of any faith. If you are a fellow secular humanist you will nod your head in agreement with much of it. Ray made a point that those who were against the communists were only anti-communists because they were affected by the God virus. I think he was making the point that only American Christians were against communism. I'm very anti-communist myself and for secular humanist reasons. I don't think this book will convince one person of his points, if that was his intent. It seems to have been written to start a debate by offending as many as possible. Towards the end Ray wrote, "Non-believers have figured out there is no second coming, but there may be an apocalypse of viral stupidity." After a few military deployments I will admit this is something I think about quite a bit myself. I don't actually get into debates about faith myself. I know people's faith is too important to them and any such conversation would be of no value. If one is interested in what led me to my current opinions I would recommend books like Constantine's Sword by Carroll, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer, The Better Angels of Our Nature by Pinker, Europe's Tragedy by Wilson, among many others. While you're reading these I would also recommend travel. A lot. Get to know and have coffee with as many people from as many places as possible.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I completely forgot to write this review immediately after I read it so the best I can do is write about why it earns 5 stars and an unhesitating strongly-recommend: Darrel Ray, using the language of infectious disease and bacteriology, lays before the reader a clear explanation of how, even if you are a non-believer, religion affects your life. He addresses the "hot buttons" of sex, gender, politics, and family. The strength of this book, as I remember it, is in the academic rigor of his work. He I completely forgot to write this review immediately after I read it so the best I can do is write about why it earns 5 stars and an unhesitating strongly-recommend: Darrel Ray, using the language of infectious disease and bacteriology, lays before the reader a clear explanation of how, even if you are a non-believer, religion affects your life. He addresses the "hot buttons" of sex, gender, politics, and family. The strength of this book, as I remember it, is in the academic rigor of his work. He is not satisfied to give general explanations but goes deeper and maintains his conceit of religion as an infectious disease in need of treatment. Strongly recommend, and am considering a re-read myself.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Faye

    The author delves into the mind of the fundamentalists and the religionists, exploring the various psychological mechanisms that make them behave the way they do for their religion. Dr Ray likens religion to a virus that disables rational thought and, in some cases, produces extremist behaviors in an infected person. It is a very chilling read. The book was written many years ago, and the things the author predicted are happening in the world right now.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Debora Williams

    Wow great book

  15. 5 out of 5

    Winston Jen

    Renowned psychologist Darrel Ray likens religion to a virus in this complex yet accessible tome. One of his first examples is the Toxoplasma Gandii parasite, which will override a mouse's instinctive fear of all things feline and seek out their natural enemy (the parasite can only reproduce inside cats). Likewise with the god virus, religion can cause humans to commit genetic suicide (think terrorist bombers, priests and nuns) in the service of their religion. The overreaching theme of the book Renowned psychologist Darrel Ray likens religion to a virus in this complex yet accessible tome. One of his first examples is the Toxoplasma Gandii parasite, which will override a mouse's instinctive fear of all things feline and seek out their natural enemy (the parasite can only reproduce inside cats). Likewise with the god virus, religion can cause humans to commit genetic suicide (think terrorist bombers, priests and nuns) in the service of their religion. The overreaching theme of the book is that religion (and those most heavily infected with the virus) do not care about their flock. All they care about is spreading their religion, and damn the consequences. As a fundamentalist Baptist for two decades, Ray is perfectly placed to examine and dissect the flawed arguments and effective tactics of religion. And, as a psychologist, he is able to give an objective, scientific illustration of why religions act in the way they do, how they have become so extravagantly successful, and what can be done to combat it. Darrel Ray opens his book (written for non-believers) with a suggestion: talk to a Christian friend and ask their permission to record and/or transcribe the conversation. Ask them to explain their theistic beliefs in detail. Then, a few days or weeks later, repeat their statement of faith to them after replacing Jesus with Mohammed. The inescapable conclusion is that while religious individuals can see through the gimmicks and nonsensical arguments of every other religion (and schisms within their own, such as Mormonism). These schisms and inconsistent beliefs are not only powerful evidence against the truth of any one religion, but have also led to countless intra-faith and inter-faith conflicts throughout human history. Chapter One details the spread of viruses in the natural world and through cultures. Viruses are spread by vectors (mosquitoes for malaria, priests, imams and rabbis for religion). Because of the enormous investment of time and money that training these individuals require, the virus will instinctively protect its vectors in the face of scandals. The recent surfeit of child rape atrocities in the Catholic church is a contemporary case study here. Religions will frequently use meaningless rituals to reinforce their beliefs in the mind of their believers. Why would Islam require five daily prayers (facing Mecca, no less) if their deity was actually real? Why the cultural and social practice of weekly sermons and proscriptions against masturbation in many religions? If it's good for the virus, it will spread and remain as long as it remains useful. They also tend to be very specific as to what constitutes "charity" (the ACLU typically doesn't qualify). Contradictions are rife, but the virus neuter's its host's capacity for critical thinking and reason (except where "heathen" faiths are concerned). Martyrs can be profitable "fruit" for sects, as was the case of Joseph Smith and Mormonism. Chapter Two details religion's natural tendency for schisms and conflict. Sunnis and Shi'ites just can't seem to get along. Al Qaeda seems to loathe both groups equally. As an example, Iran has tried to keep fundamentalist Islam contained, but it continues to flare up violently on occasion. Religions can be grouped into three categories - parasitic, symbiotic and a hybrid of the two. All religions have some tangible benefits for their societies; they would not have survived very long without them. Jehovah's Witnesses can be very parasitic at times, especially since their dogma forbids blood transfusions. The harm that this can cause led to Russia clamping down on their religious practices to protect children and families from splitting apart. Chapter Three begins with a description of early tribal religions and how it is the goal of most religions (at least in Europe and the US today) to seize control of the state (which will lead to further control as the two institutions become indistinguishable). Not only does this violate the protections of the US Constitution, but if successful, would threaten the religious freedom of every religion not in power. The myth of religious organisations doing more good than secular ones is smashed to smithereens here. Studies have shown that only around 5% of donations to churches and other religious institutions actually goes to benefit impoverished individuals (building wells, farming, education etc.). The vast majority is wasted on bibles (unless you're a goat), preaching, church buildings and instilling religious rituals and teachings, which have no benefit here on Earth. By stark contrast, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders and other charities motivated by a desire to reduce suffering spend close to 80% on directly helping communities, with most of the remainder on administrative costs. No plush, extravagant mansions for these altruists. Chapter Four deals with repressive sexual teachings, and how they can instill individuals with guilt (which is covered in detail later) for normal desires such as masturbating and fantasising about attractive adults. The contradictory messages of religion are shown here, and are so transparent all but the most brainwashed (or willfully ignorant) can and will see them. Misogyny and emotional blackmail are also rife. I would go through the chapters individually, but I'm already starting to ramble. It is safe to say that scientific education is the best vaccine we have against theism, as showcased in Japan and Europe, where creationism has been held at bay, more or less. When dealing with the infected, be polite and do not ridicule their beliefs. Notice when they have put up a wall or are unwilling to discuss certain subjects. This will often be in a different tone, glance or personality. When dealing with grief, be tactful, and put your own skepticism aside to comfort them. If they need a priest or rabbi at their deathbed, arrange for it. Compassion is crucial in such situations. Honesty is once again the best policy; do not indicate that you might be interested in converting (unless, of course, you actually are). The myth of objective religious morality is exposed as a fraud and a sham. Not only do evangelical Christians divorce more frequently than atheists and agnostics, but their own preachers, held up as paragons of virtue, often and even when they fall (Satan must really be going after them since he's doing such a good job of winning souls for Christ). Furthermore, even such things as the definition of "murder" have changed through history. In Old Testament times, certainly, it was not murder to beat your slave so badly that he or she died after a few sunsets. Black lynchings were accepted in racist portions of America in past decades. As Matt Dillahunty eloquently put it, religion has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Enlightenment ideals led to more humans laws and compassionate societies, not religious edicts that cannot be empirically verified and must be taken on faith. This book is a must-read for anyone incredulous or concerned at religion's pernicious and near-ubiquitous influence in modern society.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    Preface: Yes I am an atheist. It's very clear from the first chapter that Ray thinks religion is nothing but a disease with no positive qualities. He compares religion to Lyme disease, malaria, chicken pox, smallpox, rabies, HIV, the common cold, Ebola, bubonic plague, the flu, the lancet fluke, herpes, toxoplasmosis, a disability, alcoholism, West Nile, demonic possession, and the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Religion is never something you freely choose, but something horrible that Preface: Yes I am an atheist. It's very clear from the first chapter that Ray thinks religion is nothing but a disease with no positive qualities. He compares religion to Lyme disease, malaria, chicken pox, smallpox, rabies, HIV, the common cold, Ebola, bubonic plague, the flu, the lancet fluke, herpes, toxoplasmosis, a disability, alcoholism, West Nile, demonic possession, and the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. Religion is never something you freely choose, but something horrible that happens to you. Religion is an infection that turns you into a slave. People have no agency when it comes to religion in Ray’s world. He seems to be under the impression that religion (literally) disables parts of your brain and turns you into a faith spreading zombie. It apparently turns off the parts of the brain responsible for critical thinking, rationality, and science comprehension (I didn’t know there was a “science” lobe). For Ray, Religions are dangerous pathogens to be wiped out through inoculation. He even seems to speak positively of Russian and Chinese human rights violations, as if infringing on freedom of religion was sound public health policy. The metaphor is stretched way too far and is little more than a polemic repackaging of memetics. It’s amazing to me that Ray, as a psychologist, considers religions to be like diseases needing to be stamped out, and not a normal part of the human condition. The pathologizing of religious belief is ignorant, irresponsible, and even potentially dangerous, especially coming from a trained (and I assuming practicing) psychologist. Worse the book is riddled with simple factual errors. At times Ray comes off as extremely Islamophobic, although I suspect he's simply just ignorant of the non-Christian religions. Ray’s historical examples are all gross oversimplifications, completely one dimensional, highly selective, and often totally incorrect. He invokes the long discredited and debunked idea of the “alpha male”. At other times he insinuates Jesus was homosexual because he was unmarried and charismatic. Rays use of “statistics” is also egregiously misleading. Finally, the latter half is riddled with typos and grammatical errors.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Schultz

    I enjoyed the topic of this book and think that the analogy drawn is helpful for perspective, however some of the conclusions drawn by Darrell Ray are not factual and should only be taken as conjecture. I feel that Ray generalized too often which can, at minimum, lead to inconsistent assumptions, and at worst, be harmful when engaging the religious. No doubt, religion permeates society and can be detrimental to those who operate under faith epistemology, but we need to be careful not to use the I enjoyed the topic of this book and think that the analogy drawn is helpful for perspective, however some of the conclusions drawn by Darrell Ray are not factual and should only be taken as conjecture. I feel that Ray generalized too often which can, at minimum, lead to inconsistent assumptions, and at worst, be harmful when engaging the religious. No doubt, religion permeates society and can be detrimental to those who operate under faith epistemology, but we need to be careful not to use the same methods the religious use when approaching us and instead meet at the individual level.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    I really found this book thought-provoking! I have not really thought about Religion being a virus but Dr. Ray explained it in a way that made a lot of sense.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ghufran

    What a fucking freaky fustard guy is the writer. He does not have the knowledge about even the basics of a religion (particularly Islam). The crazy guy writes that THE KORAN WAS CLEARLY WRITTEN BY MOHAMMAD AND NOT BY ALLAH. He is unaware that Quran was written neither by Muhammad (PBUH) nor by Allah. It is a revealation from Allah to Muhammad (PBUH). Earlier these verses were learned orally by prophet's companions and later all the verses were compiled in a book. In next line the writer writes IT What a fucking freaky fustard guy is the writer. He does not have the knowledge about even the basics of a religion (particularly Islam). The crazy guy writes that THE KORAN WAS CLEARLY WRITTEN BY MOHAMMAD AND NOT BY ALLAH. He is unaware that Quran was written neither by Muhammad (PBUH) nor by Allah. It is a revealation from Allah to Muhammad (PBUH). Earlier these verses were learned orally by prophet's companions and later all the verses were compiled in a book. In next line the writer writes IT IS LUDICROUS FOR HIM TO CLAIM THE HE IS THE LAST PROPHET AND THAT ALL OTHER ARE FALSE. Once again writer proves his ignorance about Islam. Muhammad (PBUH) had never claimed about other prophets to be false. Even Quran too mentions the name of prophets so such blames on Muhammad (PBUH) are baseless and just a matter of ignorance or hate or mala fide intentions. Further the writer writes NEITHER YOU NOR YOUR (Muslim) FRIEND CAN BELIEVE THAT HE (Muhammad (PBUH)) FLEW TO HEAVEN, LET ALONE ON A HORSE. If one would have said in 16th century that A person can travel to the moon or land on any other celestial body, no one would have believed and made him a laughing stock. But now science has progressed a lot and reaching to Moon is not a hard nut to crack. Now that statement seems to be true which was once a laughing stock. Almost 80% of the facts about science, mentioned in the Quran have been proved true and the rest 20% are yet to be proved. When science comes to a progress point that it could develope a machine which would run/fly at an amazing speed then science would believe that actually Muhammad (PBUH) had travelled to heaven with that speed. There is no need of reading this book further anymore. The writer does not have knowledge about religion (especially Islam) so reading his baseless blames/claims is a waste if time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Chuha

    Full disclosure, I am a practicing Catholic.  I am also an avid student of world history, world religions and ideologies, and science.    I did not find this book to be a good representation of the atheist view point.  I would not recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a balanced view of the atheist argument.  It had several flaws.  First, the vitriol of the author is very evident.  Obviously this gentleman had a painful upbringing and is emotionally scarred from his experience.   He Full disclosure, I am a practicing Catholic.  I am also an avid student of world history, world religions and ideologies, and science.    I did not find this book to be a good representation of the atheist view point.  I would not recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a balanced view of the atheist argument.  It had several flaws.  First, the vitriol of the author is very evident.  Obviously this gentleman had a painful upbringing and is emotionally scarred from his experience.   He depends too heavily on religious stereotypes and his personal negative experience.   Like other reviewers, I feel that he takes the analogy of a viral infection too far.   Instead of being a clever way to explain how religious ideas spread, he hurts his own argument.  It is also obvious the author has a poor grasp of world history, world religions, and even how to understand scientific studies.   I'm actually surprised his editors/publishers allowed so many errors to stand.    After reading his book, I explored his website, facebook page, and several pod casts.  I had hoped the book I read was just a bad example of his work.   After additional reading, I feel that this book is very representative of his work.   Personally I think there are much better book out there for atheism.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karim Bayer

    it was really nice and good for a change to read for someone who isn't considered a militant atheist, although the title might mislead you to think it another angry atheist book like "the god delusion" or "God is not great" (which I liked by the way) but once you dive into the authors thoughts and ideas in the book you will realize he is not angry at all. actually chapter 9 was such an eye opener on how to deal with religious people (specially if the majority of the society are) and I just regret it was really nice and good for a change to read for someone who isn't considered a militant atheist, although the title might mislead you to think it another angry atheist book like "the god delusion" or "God is not great" (which I liked by the way) but once you dive into the authors thoughts and ideas in the book you will realize he is not angry at all. actually chapter 9 was such an eye opener on how to deal with religious people (specially if the majority of the society are) and I just regret that I haven't read this a year ago, it would have saved me a lot of hatred and useless arguments with people who now consider me the enemy. I enjoyed the authors way of describing the symptoms of a religious person and how it is similar to an infected host of a virus. it made a lot of sense. one of the very few books that I can recommend reading it for a religious friend without fearing they might get offended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    The book acts as an immunization against those who are infected with the religious virus. The author is never in your face and is mostly about giving the non-theist a way to think and understand the thinking behind the theist believers. I found this book a much better listen than Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith". They cover similar material, but I found better arguments (through the metaphor of the virus) in this book. The author even has a section on how to talk with religious people if you The book acts as an immunization against those who are infected with the religious virus. The author is never in your face and is mostly about giving the non-theist a way to think and understand the thinking behind the theist believers. I found this book a much better listen than Sam Harris' book, "The End of Faith". They cover similar material, but I found better arguments (through the metaphor of the virus) in this book. The author even has a section on how to talk with religious people if you must (okay, the author doesn't say 'must', that's not his style at all). For example, if a believer says he'll be praying about you, just reply and say 'thanks, I'll be thinking about you". A non-confrontational approach which doesn't compromise your belief system is always preferable to pointless arguments. The author reads his own book. He does a good job. He's not a great reader, but by having the author read his own book, I the listener get a better interpretation of the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I would have given this book a 4 were it not written like a high school text book. I don't really need a summary section at the end of each chapter to re-read the all of the main points which also happened to have bold headings. I did find Ray's virus analogy for religion as a virus an apt device to explain the ways in which a religion spreads across cultures and works to defend itself from competing ideas as well as adapt to changing environments. One drawback to this "god virus" world view, in I would have given this book a 4 were it not written like a high school text book. I don't really need a summary section at the end of each chapter to re-read the all of the main points which also happened to have bold headings. I did find Ray's virus analogy for religion as a virus an apt device to explain the ways in which a religion spreads across cultures and works to defend itself from competing ideas as well as adapt to changing environments. One drawback to this "god virus" world view, in my opinion, would be an increased intolerance of virtually all religious practice. Though many believers are themselves highly intolerant, it does society no good for non-believers to treat them in kind.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jrohde

    the book is full of excellent quotes and really gives a lot of good evidence of how pernicious and irrational are all religious activities - his comparison to a virus is valid but overdone and gets a bit tiring. Nonetheless, I found it a good book that further underscores the need for thinking people to reject everything about religion and furthermore, to stop giving religion a free pass as "it must be respected" - it should NOT - there is no reason to respect it and every reason to resent its the book is full of excellent quotes and really gives a lot of good evidence of how pernicious and irrational are all religious activities - his comparison to a virus is valid but overdone and gets a bit tiring. Nonetheless, I found it a good book that further underscores the need for thinking people to reject everything about religion and furthermore, to stop giving religion a free pass as "it must be respected" - it should NOT - there is no reason to respect it and every reason to resent its intrusions into peoples lives and anit thinking.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    Though already familiar with meme theory, I was surprised by the personal impact I felt in having my previous religious experiences explained in the terms of a viral infection. Most powerful for me was the freedom it gave me over the most painful experiences by separating myself and others from the religious virus we carried. Meme theory does not, of course, excuse hurtful behavior, but it does provide a means of both understanding and healing. Admittedly, I did find the pacing a bit off, but I Though already familiar with meme theory, I was surprised by the personal impact I felt in having my previous religious experiences explained in the terms of a viral infection. Most powerful for me was the freedom it gave me over the most painful experiences by separating myself and others from the religious virus we carried. Meme theory does not, of course, excuse hurtful behavior, but it does provide a means of both understanding and healing. Admittedly, I did find the pacing a bit off, but I still rate the book as highly recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This was an interesting examination of the ways religion functions in society. The author mostly focuses on Abrahamic religions, but also discusses others, including statist religions. Most interesting is the analogy of how religious belief functions like a virus in that it's primary goal is to replicate and spread to as many people as possible. Understandably, religious believers will find a discussion of their beliefs in these terms derogatory, but the metaphor is compelling, particularly This was an interesting examination of the ways religion functions in society. The author mostly focuses on Abrahamic religions, but also discusses others, including statist religions. Most interesting is the analogy of how religious belief functions like a virus in that it's primary goal is to replicate and spread to as many people as possible. Understandably, religious believers will find a discussion of their beliefs in these terms derogatory, but the metaphor is compelling, particularly because it confirms many of my biases.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Life Without Frank

    I really enjoyed this book, more so than I thought I would. I know nothing about viruses so I thought the book might be over my head but it wasn't. The author put everything in easy to understand terms and used analogies that anyone can relate to. I don't know if he's got me believing that God is necessarily a virus but it's an interesting concept.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Doohan

    Nice followup read for people who enjoyed The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins or similar works. Describing religion as a virus with the main goal being to protect and propogate the virus really encouraged deeper thought for me about my thoughts on religion.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Stangeland

    Didn't like it. I thought it might have some good critiques of religion but it seemed overly negative and kind of vindictive. Not very objective but like the author had some personal issues with apparently all religions.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A book about a bad analogy crammed into as many applications as possible.

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