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The God Virus: How religion infects our lives and culture

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,774 ratings  ·  124 reviews
Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett opened the door to a hard nosed look at religion in our society but no one seemed to be using their concepts to explain the psychology of religion and its practical effects on people. Dr. Darrel Ray, psychologist and lifelong student of religion stepped into this gap to discuss religious infection from the inside out. How does guilt pl ...more
Kindle Edition, 241 pages
Published (first published January 6th 2009)
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Rod Hilton
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Debbie "DJ"
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
هبة النيل
Oct 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 ...more
Mar 17, 2014 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
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Debora Williams
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow great book
Winston Jen
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
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 happen
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 ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca Chuha
May 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 dep
Karim Bayer
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Teresa  Wright
Dr. Ray is an invaluable asset to the secular community. He brings up fantastic points about religion's infection of society and the ways that it subtly affects everyone, religious or not. My biggest problem with the book is that it read like a high schooler's essay. He's constantly bringing his point back to metaphors about viral infections, which, I get it, is the point of the book, but it just came off as childish. Every paragraph has a reference to the symbolism of an actual biological virus ...more
Nov 13, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 beca ...more
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
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: atheist, own
I think the analogy discussed in this book is very appropriate and accurate. I strongly recommend this book to anyone analyzing religion, society and/or ethics.
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Darrel Ray, Ed.D. is an organizational psychologist and author of three books. His latest book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture is the most ambitious and controversial. A student of religion, Dr. Ray has studied the psychology, anthropology and sociology of religion for much of his life. He was raised in a fundamentalist home with first hand exposure to all the ideas and ...more

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Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
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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.” 3 likes
“Throughout the United States, divorce rates are highest where evangelical religious practices are strongest, in the Bible Belt.10” 3 likes
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