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The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,806 Ratings  ·  86 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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The God Delusion by Richard DawkinsGod Is Not Great by Christopher HitchensThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganLetter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
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47th out of 337 books — 815 voters
The God Delusion by Richard DawkinsGod Is Not Great by Christopher HitchensThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisLetter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
What is Atheism About?
12th out of 60 books — 61 voters

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Community Reviews

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Dec 08, 2010 Dan rated it it was amazing
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
Rod Hilton
Aug 28, 2013 Rod Hilton rated it it was amazing
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
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
May 24, 2014 Debbie "DJ" Wilson rated it really liked it
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
Feb 20, 2012 هبه النيل rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2013 Nina rated it liked it
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
Eric Moyer
Mar 16, 2014 Eric Moyer rated it it was ok
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
Mar 28, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
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
Jan 31, 2013 Susi Bocks rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 31, 2010 Jane rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2011 Milo rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 17, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2013 ghufran rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
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
May 22, 2013 Winston rated it it was amazing
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
Karim Bayer
Sep 02, 2014 Karim Bayer rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 16, 2010 Jason rated it liked it
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
May 18, 2012 Tanya rated it really liked it
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
Nov 13, 2009 Jrohde rated it liked it
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
Oct 03, 2015 Jude rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I watched one of Darrel Ray's seminars on YouTube, and found it thoroughly thought provoking and entertaining. His book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our lives and Culture, even more so. His model of religion acting on the human psyche as a virus to be far more accessible than the idea of a meme. He works through his analogy of the God virus, from infection to the ways that once established, the virus changes the host's thought processes so they are no longer capable of critically looking ...more
Jason Bock
Apr 14, 2015 Jason Bock rated it really liked it
Last night I finished this book. I have somewhat mixed views on this book. I don't think Darrel W. Ray (the author) means that there's a literal, physical virus that people can catch (like a cold); rather, it's meme-like. I'm not sure I buy this premise. That said, he does make some persuasive arguments on how religion CAN act like a virus, in terms of how it spreads and refuses to let go of its hosts. Parts of the book reminded me of how I used to think when I was a Christian and it was kind of ...more
Jan 29, 2015 অভিজিৎ rated it it was amazing
Darel Ray’s The God Virus and Craig A. James’s The Religion Virus are the two important books that I read recently. Those who are familiar with Richard Dawkins’ revolutionary idea of Meme (a concept introduced in his 1976 magnum opus The Selfish Gene ) are acquainted with the viral metaphor of religious meme. Based on this idea, numerous authors recently suggested the religion memeplex can behave like a ‘biological virus’ acting in a living organism.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett (author of Breakin
Ullrich Fischer
May 26, 2014 Ullrich Fischer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2014 Gary rated it really liked it
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
Rebecca Chuha
Jun 05, 2015 Rebecca Chuha rated it did not like it
Full disclosure, I am a practicing Catholic. I am also an avid student of world history, world religions andideologies, 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
Tariq Mahmood
Jun 23, 2014 Tariq Mahmood rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
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
Life Without Frank
Apr 04, 2009 Life Without Frank rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2009 Kevin Doohan rated it really liked it
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
Aug 10, 2014 Tammy Schoch rated it liked it
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
Jan 18, 2016 Jacqui rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant!!!

While Richard Dawkins's book "The God Delusion" explains mostly the scientific argument against God and all religions in general, Dr Darrell Ray, a psychologist, uses his book "The God Virus" to explain how religion impacts our everyday lives and the unseen negative damage it causes on so many different levels. Dr Ray uses rational, well expressed arguments in everyday language to help his readers uncover the myths and manipulations of all religions and how to live without
Bernardo Moura
Mar 14, 2015 Bernardo Moura rated it liked it
This book is puzzling for non-American readers like myself. The author denounces fundamentalism while being fundamentalist himself too. Religion doesn't need to oppose science nor vice-versa but in several moments it feels like there is a choice to make. This seems possible due to the deep bonds between religion and the American society that aren't valid in the rest of the western world. Religion shouldn't influence the choice of judges, politicians, school boards or science investments like it ...more
John Strubhart
Jun 24, 2015 John Strubhart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to John by: Point of Inquiry
The God Virus: How religion infects our lives and culture (Kindle + Aubible Editions) uses the virus as a metaphor for what religion does to individuals and cultures. The metaphor isn't perfect, but it is frighteningly appropriate. Of course, many aspects of culture act like a virus infecting the mind and strongly influencing individual and group behavior. However, given that religion gets a pass on criticism in American culture, I think that a treatment of this particular "virus" is most import ...more
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“The best prophylactic for god viruses, especially fundamentalist variants, is science education. The more science is taught or discussed, the fewer tools a god virus has to infect populations.” 2 likes
“The beauty of science is that people actually change their minds based on new evidence.” 1 likes
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