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Book Review, Religion

Book Review: The God Virus

Most of the recent non-theist literature approaches the topic of religion from a very literal point of view. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett have been champions of the direct approach: Evolution is this. Religion is that. There is almost certainly no god. Secular countries are objectively less dysfunctional than theist countries in quantifiable ways. To be sure, there was and still is a need for this kind of writing. But there has been something missing.

As refreshing as it may be for us non-theists to hear someone tell it exactly like it is, this approach can be daunting. For many people who were not raised in an environment that encouraged scientifically precise descriptions and in-depth analysis of the nuts and bolts of things, it can be a little overwhelming. And frankly, for many non-theists, it’s difficult to make the link between these books and their own lives. Sure, understanding evolution is great, but what good does that do for Joe Non-Theist who is struggling to live in a theist dominated community? In-depth analysis of epistemology is also great, but how does it help Nancy Non-Believer talk to her theist friends about her lost faith?

The God Virus, by Darrel Ray, Ed. D., takes a different approach. Religion is explained as analogous to viruses, viral infection, and parasites. Using accessible language and familiar ideas, Ray gives us powerful conceptual language for thinking of religion as a self-serving “life form” that replicates, spreads through the population, and influences the behavior of its hosts in self-serving ways.




3 thoughts on “Book Review: The God Virus

  1. From reading that review, it seems to me that he claims that the default position is damaging behaviour free and then religion virus comes and infects us and then we degrade.

    That is non-religion and pro-sociality is the default and religion takes that away.

    Now, I would add the disclaimer that I’m haven’t read the book, but I do get that impression from the review and I’ve seen the first few chapters online.

    So from my impression, it seems to go against books that are actually scientific analysis of religion.

    I’ll pick it up one day and see if I am correct.

    Posted by cptpineapple | September 2, 2010, 1:27 am
  2. From reading that review, it seems to me that he claims that the default position is damaging behaviour free and then religion virus comes and infects us and then we degrade.

    No, it’s not. He points out that some viruses are minimally damaging or cause no symptoms at all, even though they’re still behaving like viruses. The main focus of the book is to demonstrate that the viral analogy is useful and accurate, not to prove that religion is always bad.

    Having said that, some qualities of the religion virus seem to have the “neutral at best” model. Most specifically, the “moral” mandates which benefit the virus, not the practitioner.

    Posted by hambydammit | September 2, 2010, 2:43 pm


  1. Pingback: National Apologetics Conference Day One « Life Without a Net - October 15, 2010

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