An Oldie but a Goodie: “Why I No Longer Believe Religion is a Virus of the Mind”

Are religions viruses of the mind? I would have replied with an unequivocal “yes” until a few days ago when some shocking data suggested I am wrong. . . .

It seems I was wrong and the idea of religions as “viruses of the mind” may have had its day. Religions still provide a superb example of memeplexes at work, with different religions using their horrible threats, promises and tricks to out-compete other religions, and popular versions of religions outperforming the more subtle teachings of the mystical traditions. But unless we twist the concept of a “virus” to include something helpful and adaptive to its host as well as something harmful, it simply does not apply. Bacteria can be helpful as well as harmful; they can be symbiotic as well as parasitic, but somehow the phrase “bacterium of the mind” or “symbiont of the mind” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

“Why I No Longer Believe Religion is a Virus of the Mind” | Comment is Free

This post is really interesting. The author, formerly a Dawkins-esque anti-theist, was convinced — by empirical data at a scientific conference — of the evolutionary value of religiosity. However, even though she no longer thinks that religion is a Bad Thing, she still speaks in negative terms about it.

Go check it out.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “An Oldie but a Goodie: “Why I No Longer Believe Religion is a Virus of the Mind”

  1. Why is everyone obsessed about religion and God? Religion is simply a function of human nature and psychology. God, we will never know.

    • Thanks for the comment, chicagoja.

      You’re right; religion is “simply” a product of human psychology, specifically humans’ ability to easily find patterns and ascribe agency and meaning to those patterns. Religion is an integral part of the human experience, and so while it may simply be part of human psychology, it is also worth serious consideration, just like any other area of psychology. For whatever reason, humans have a strong urge toward the sacred, and religiosity has been part of the makeup of Homo for at least 130,000 years — if not longer, even pre-dating rational thought.

      You may as well ask, though, why everyone is “obsessed” with sex, for example, or with any other subject that has a long standing in human evolutionary history. Religion’s roots run deep. It’s part of what makes us human, and that causes people to attach a strong value to it and thus to find it worth talking about.

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