The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture
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The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,076 ratings  ·  61 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published December 5th 2009 by IPC Press (first published January 6th 2009)
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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 thinkin...more
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...more
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
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.
هبه 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
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,...more
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 De...more
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...more
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...more
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 t...more
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.
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...more
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 en...more
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...more
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 i...more
Ullrich Fischer
A brilliant, compelling and clear exposition of the religion as parasite model

This book expands on Richard Dawkin's explanation of the parallels between the evolution of parasitic life-forms and the ways in which all the world's religions evolve for the sole purpose of spreading themselves as widely as possible. The analogies are numerous and apt. Dr. Ray explores them in detail and provides numerous references to books and papers supporting this enlightened view of the evils of magical thinking...more
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...more
Tariq Mahmood
Its the case against religion I have read thus far written in simple English with the least amount of venom. The book is a welcome relief from the patronising and condescending tone adopted by the Dawkins and Dennetts but still looses the plot for me when it defines Marxism as a religion. I would have hoped that a self appointed and rationalist and champion would be astute enough to note the absence of god in Marxism but was disappointed as the author failed to notice the minor absence. The auth...more
The analogy may be somewhat overdone, but an interesting analysis -- perhaps more so to someone who was raised in a religious tradition. The last few chapters on dealing compassionately and constructively with very religious people are particularly useful. The author, a psychological counselor, was raised a fundamentalist and presumably has had much practice in that area.
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.
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.
Tammy Schoch
Parts of the book were repetitive ... The idea of religion as virus was discussed in so many ways it felt pedantic at times.

However, chapter 9 was so awesome it made up for all shortcomings. The examples and rationale for how to interact with people who infuse religion into otherwise normal conversations were excellent. I love the idea of addressing the person on a level that acknowledges their shared humanity, while simply ignoring the religious ideas within their statements. This empathy for...more
Metaphors are useful in describing any social phenomenon. In the case of Darrell Ray’s “The God Virus”, the metaphor is pretty obvious: Religion is like a virus of the mind. It “infects” the brain and reshapes our thoughts. Just as a virus hijacks the machinery of the host’s cells in order to reproduce more viruses, so does religion cause us to “infect” others with religion by seeking out converts.

Ray compares religion to real life diseases like toxoplasmosis, a disease that causes mice and rat...more
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...more
First of all, this audiobook would have benefitted from a professional reader and better sound editing. The lags between chapters were overly long, and the words often had the quality of echoing from hard walls. With an audiobook, these things matter.

As for the content of the book, it was a high level fly by of how religions spread, how they compete with other relations, and how religion/culture/politics become intertwined. There are some interesting comments about fundamentalism and the move to...more
Ayame Sohma
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...more
Heather Harris
While I enjoyed the initial comparison to a virus, every other sentence begins with a biology comparison. If you are just beginning to study religion then perhaps this is a good introductory book, if you have already read Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc don't waste your time with this one. It is simplistic (though it does have knowledgable history throughout) and reads like a middle school textbook, complete with overviews and summaries for each chapter.
It's an interesting way of looking at the phenomena of religion- though I suppose it could be used to look at other topics as well.
I read the kindle edition and the formatting is terrible.
Nicole Mcguffee
I really liked this book. It didn't necessarily attack religion, but more took it from an observable, psychological perspective, and I appreciate that. I learned a lot about other people, both religious and non-religious counter-parts, as well as myself.
I enjoyed this book, if not for any solid philosophical reasons then for its easy reading style, and to the point attitude. The thesis is that religion is a virus that attacks society in the same way that viruses attack their hosts, the implication being that we ought (a moral judgment in this case) to attack the religious "virus" in the same way that we attack biological ones: with reason and medicine respectively.
Darrel Ray is not a philosopher, nor a scientist, and this is both the strength...more
Robert Mahon
5+ stars. I have, since early adulthood, casually thought of religion as a virus. It always struck me as working in the same manner (finding an opening for infection in the host, replication, extreme difficulty of irradiation once "caught" and shutting off the host's defense against it). Dr Rays' explanation of religion and the concept of "god" as a virus, took much of what I already knew (though in a nebulous form) and crystallized it into a thorough understanding. Recognizing religion as an in...more
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