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The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture Format Kindle
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Pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas la théorie des mèmes, une excellente introduction, détaillée et très accessible (Darrel Ray est très pédagogique, à l'anglo saxonne).
Pour les autres : aucune hésitation, un élément indispensable de votre bibliothèque.
Après c'est quelqu'un qui me parait remonté contre Dieu et la foi. qu'importe
il apporte en tout cas sa propre vision de Dieu ou plutôt du non Dieu.
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The idea of ideas or systems of ideas as "viruses" was first described by Richard Dawkins, who coined the term "meme" to mean a "postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, gets transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena". They are analogous to genes (hence the similarity in spelling and pronunciation), in that they are said to self-replicate and respond to selective pressures. In this book, the author explains religion through this viral/meme metaphor.
The author first explains exactly how religion can be appropriately viewed using the viral metaphor, and then uses this metaphor throughout the book, explaining how different religions survive and dominate others, and how some of the strategies religion uses to survive and propagate are very similar to actual, biological viruses. He explains that religious conversion can affect individuals on the personality level, taking over critical thinking and causing an individual to be "immune" to other religions by being able to point out the flaws in other religions while simultaneously being unable to see the flaws in their own religion. The author speaks of the importance of "vectors" (priests, ministers, etc) in propagating religious ideas and how religious people and organizations will protect those "vectors" even in the case of abuse or other crimes.
In the second chapter, the author explains the types of strategies the "god virus" uses to survive and spread, and how advanced religions are more effective than other religions, which is why they continue to survive and replicate. The author says that one of the tools to fight the "god virus" is science and critical thinking education, which is something that religion tends to rally against, especially if the science concerns ideas that seem counter to religious belief, I.E. Evolution.
The third chapter deals with how religion infects and persuades groups and political structures as well as individuals, and underlines religion's influence on public and civil culture. The fourth is about guilt and shame and how religion uses mixed messages to create a cycle of guilt in which the religion reduces feelings of guilt by promising an elimination of it, yet individuals continue to feel guilty and return to religion to have their guilt temporarily suppressed. The author gives a long list of some of the conflicting messages in religion, such as:
*God loves you, but he will send you to hell if you do not do exactly what he says.
*God loves you, but you were born unclean and can never be clean without god.
*Allah loves you and created women as beautiful creatures that you are forbidden to enjoy, except in marriage and behind closed doors.
Similarly, the fifth chapter deals with sex, and religion's attempt to control sex by creating a sex-negative environment. He mentions that even though religion uses positive terminology such as "focus on the family" really the message of "focus on the family" is a message of focusing on the rules and tenets of religion, which cause feelings of guilt and negativity towards sex. The function of this is not to create happy, dynamic family structures, but to propagate religion.
Chapter six is particularly interesting, as the subject is morality and how even though religionists insist that morality is objective and defined in concrete terms by their god, morality is an ever-changing product of culture in which the only way a given religion can survive is by adopting and changing its morality to fit in with the culture enough to continue to propagate. People who are religionists find it difficult to see this changing morality and believe they are more moral than others, and this blinds them to real-world data which shows that religionists are nor more or less moral than atheists. The author specifically shows how various studies such as studies on divorce and prison populations how that religion has little effect on morality and even that non-theists may be slightly more moral.
Chapter seven is about American Evangelism and how it has spread to the point where mega-churches are dotting the US landscape chapter 8 explains why some people are drawn into religion and others are not, and the role that intelligence and personality plays in religiosity. The second to last two chapters deal with unbinding oneself from religion and breaking free of "the virus", especially in deprogramming ourselves of the ideas that have been taught to us since an early age.
The last chapter concerns the difference between science and religion: in short, science has error-correction mechanisms and thus builds up a continuity of knowledge based on previous work, and this knowledge can be objectively tested. Religion, on the other hand, does not have these errors and instead has built-in mechanisms to change with the cultural climate. Because science is so powerful, many religions have adopted scientific language while simultaneously decrying scientific methods.
I found the structure of the book to be well-organized and accessible to individuals who are not well-voiced in formal argumentation. Rather than approach the god problem from a logical or hypothesis perspective A la Victor Stenger's God: the Failed Hypothesis, it approaches the problem of religion's impact on the individual and society. Thus, while it is aimed at non-theists, those who believe in god but are opposed to religion (and no, I don't mean evangelical Christians who insist they aren't religious because they really have a "relationship" with god - those people are just being deceptive) such as my friend Alien, who is a spiritualist or my friend Tim, who is "Christian" but perfectly comfortable at our local atheists meetup in St. Louis. It may not be so appealing to people who are intensely literal or who take the metaphor of the god virus as an argument rather than as a mechanism or metaphor for explanation. It is also important to note that other ideas act as "mind viruses" as well (like empiricism!), but that the religion virus acts in a particular way that is unlike other "mind viruses" - the particulars of which are outlined in the book. I think that individuals who do consider themselves religious might be offended at the negative connotations of the word "virus", and so I urge religionists who might come across this book to consider what I have said above about other ideas spreading like viruses as well. One could say that atheism is a type of mind virus, and my feathers would not be ruffled. I think that it is very accessible to people who are capable of stepping outside of religion and looking at it objectively. I think that the book could have also been titled "the religion virus" without much harm.
The God Virus, Darrel W. Ray, How Religion infects our Lives and Culture.
The WOW! Book!. Get ready for an epiphany!
This book impressed me so much that I would like to encourage people [and challenge others] to consider this metaphor concept that examines and explains how the God Virus functions in our minds and culture.
This book examines the similarities of religion to viruses closely.
Learn how to recognize and understand strategies used by both religion and viruses to infect, survive and dominate.
Learn the role of sex, guilt, morality, even a persons personality and intelligence.
This book lifts up the curtain of mystery and provides some tools for understanding the power and impact of religion on all our lives, It provides a framework to enable us to see and analyze religious behaviors, even our own.
Have you ever wondered about these questions?
1. How can otherwise intelligent people justify being selectively rational, that is - rational in parts of their lives but also hold belief in absurd, sometimes harmful and contradictory religious dogmas, and even fall for outright manipulations of their religion ?
2. How can people hold deep beliefs and at the same time, be so unclear of their own religious dogma? Mostly they are unable to explain their particular religious dogma in their own words - but regurgitate, parrot, meaningless phrases.
3. How can the religious instantly, without examination, dismiss all other religions as false. Or they see the faults of other religions, and remain blind to the irrationality, inconsistencies, contradictions, and, again, the manipulations of their own religion?
4. How are the religious able to ignore clear, demonstrable evidence even if it is contrary to their beliefs? And why do they spend so much time at church?
5. Why is their sometimes trance-like, defensive, angry behavior so quick and predictable?
6. Why is there [ among the religious] such wide spread and frequent hypocrisy of words and actions which betray, even contradict, their very own deeply held beliefs?
7. Why the intolerant, compassionless, uncompromising, mental thought processes that lead some religious people to disassociate from their children or parents, to cut away, to ostracize long time friends, and members of their family?
8. What place has science in this sea of religion?
9. How can the rational [ non-infected] cope, survive and promote tolerant relationships in a non-rational culture? See 4 principles of interaction, 182
10. Can the Infected be talked out if their infection? See 171, Defensive people....
Get the answers, explore social, political, psychological and personal aspects in this easily understandable 240 page book.
-Dangerous only if one would try to tell the truth. The God Virus does exactly that.
There is a strangeness that overcomes people infected with religion when asked tough (but logical) questions about there religion. They all seem to go into the same thought mode and instantly begin to babble incoherently about 'faith'. Then suddenly they snap back to reality. It's as if they suspend time from the moment they realize that they've been asked a question that needs a answer based on logic but there is no logical answer in their head so they begin spewing the rhetoric taught in Sunday school, once done -POOF!- they're back!! When confronted that there response was completely devoid of logic, they have NOOOOOO idea what your talking about.
This book answer's that question! Darrel Ray's explanation is undeniable, comprehensive, and brutally accurate of what religion REALLY IS. Those who are infected will not understand his analogy, and will by definition try to protect there infection as instructed.
You will read this book cover to cover,(without a break) and come away with an epiphany. And a feeling of foreboding -because just around the next corner is another infected mind, waiting to deny logic and reason...
Most viruses (slow viruses like Multiple Sclerosis being exceptions) are hit and run. They are over within a short period of time. That is nothing like religion. To be fair, the author did mention that the analogy would would work better with parasites - and he is right. Parasites spread insidiously and the host might be infected for life. Religion works like that, but the connotation of the parasite word, although appropriate, gives an immediate impression different from what the author wants to convey - whereas the viral analogy readily conveys his idea.
The more I read, however, the better the analogy seemed to work. I began to recall otherwise rational friends and acquaintances who are "infected" to the extent that they become irrational only when talking about their religion. They immediately reject Mormon founder Joseph Smith's having found revelations from God on golden tablets but completely swallow Jesus's virgin birth. They don't believe for a minute that Mohammad got his information from an angel but have no problem with Paul's visions.
From page 163: "If a person of average intelligence is given the tools of critical analysis or is not infected early in life, she is often able to ward off infection as an adult.....In most cases, intelligence and critical thinking seem to disappear at the church door.....nothing seems more pitiable that otherwise intelligent people gathering every Sunday to struggle ever so hard to understand something that is unintelligible."
I particularly liked the chapter about science and religion: "Science has continuous error correction where religion has no such method.....scientific ideas also infect minds but with one caveat: those ideas have to create a link to objective reality in order to survive.....If a scientific idea cannot be tested or if it repeatedly fails testing, it won't last long.....how does one test at the god, angel, Jesus, or prophet Mohammmad level?.....Religion has no way to correct errors or make statements about the relative truthfulness of one god virus over another....How does one test Islam against Christianity or Mormonism against Catholicism?"
In short, this book caused me to keep reading at the expense of a good night's sleep. Certainly, though, it's preaching to the choir - that is, unless maybe I find the right places to leave it lying around.
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