IAF Book Discussion Group – Session 6

The IAF Book Discussion Group has been formed in an effort to continue the long tradition we have within the organization of interesting and stimulating conversations on topics relevant to the Secular movement.

For this session J will lead our discussion of ‘The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives And Culture’ by Darrel Ray.

Just so there is no confusion, the reading assignment for this session will cover the entire book. This is a little more than twice what we would normally tackle for a session but it has been recommended that we devote no more than a single session to the text as a precursor to his subsequent book. Be prepared, if possible, to present things from the reading assignment that stood out for you so that we can gain a good cross-section of individual perspectives where the reading is concerned.

Here is a description of the book from thegodvirus.net –

Is religion a virus that infects otherwise healthy individuals? That is a question raised by a provocative new book entitled, The God Virus. It is by noted psychologist and student of religion, Dr. Darrel Ray.

In a cogent and highly readable analysis, Dr. Ray traces the contagion course of religion as it enters the lives of countless individuals, beginning in childhood and infecting their behavior, professions, sex lives, and virtually every aspect of living. And Dr. Ray knows whereof he speaks, for he is the child of fundamentalist, evangelical parents, who frequently took their young son to Bible thumping religious revival meetings.

‘At the time that my parents began taking me to hear ministers, I was just old enough to understand the words that they preached at us,’ said Dr. Ray. ‘From those experiences, I learned who was good and who was bad: people of other religions or of no religions were sinners who would wind up in Hell. Such teachings infected my young mind and had a profound effect on my life, at least until I outgrew my impressionable teenage years and was sufficiently determined to think for myself. The degrees that I earned in religion and psychology immeasurably helped me to see through prejudice, myth, and superstition. My situation is not uncommon, but my book is. And I believe that people who want to think intelligently and rationally about religion, whether they are believers or non-believers, will find my book a useful resource.’

The God Virus carefully details the practical consequences of fundamentalist religious beliefs, infecting personalities, families, and cultures. It deals with the superstitions of religion propagated by clerics who, for example, told congregants that cancer and other diseases were the results of sinful living. As science became more sophisticated and was able to explain the causes of past diseases, such as the Black Plague, religious figures had to back off their initial pronouncements. Such a paradigm continued as researchers discovered the non-divine causes of yellow fever, polio, small pox, pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, influenza, etc. Such discoveries, unfortunately, did not prevent religious leaders from condemning evolution, homosexuality, aspects of astronomy, anthropology, psychology, and even economics. Blind belief in the righteousness of one’s beliefs have caused fundamentalist Christian leaders to claim that that the attacks of 9/11 were caused by the sinful behavior of Americans. Such a pronouncement was not different in intent or origin from fundamentalist Muslim clerics who declared that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God as a punishment to America.

The conference room that has been reserved at Kirkendall Public Library has a maximum capacity of 20 so RSVP early to get a seat. Social time will be available from 6:30 to 7 PM if you want to come and just chat before the discussion begins. We’ll see you there. 🙂

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