Friday, February 10, 2006

Religion as a virus

I think it's useful to think of religion as a virus that has to be caught in childhood or else one is immune to the disease. I have noticed that very few people who were not indoctrinated in a religion as a child turn to religion as adults. On the other hand, many people who caught the 'religion disease' as children choose to free themselves from superstition as adults. Religion maintains a powerful hold on people, however, as evidenced by the number of formerly religious people who turn back to their childhood religion for comfort in times of extreme stress.

I would like to think of myself as immune to the siren call of religion but I suspect that it is more accurate to think about religion like a disease such as alcoholism. Although I have been 'dry' for several decades, there is always the danger that I will 'fall off the wagon' in difficult times. I have a cousin in his eighties who has been a missionary all his life and is very disturbed by my agnosticism. He prayed over me one day and essentially asked god to send me some kind of affliction that would drive me back to christianity. Needless to say, I was appalled and offended but it illustrated the extremes to which true believers will go to promote their religion. What he did makes a kind of twisted sense because he cares for me and truly believes that I will burn in hell for eternity if I don't return to christianity. Preventing that justifies anything - including insulting me, hurting my feelings, and creating bad blood between us.

As an interesting sidelight, I have developed a couple of physical problems since that prayer by my cousin and have had to fight the thought that he somehow 'cursed' me in his prayers. That is a perfect example of the power of religious superstition. Even after all these years it still has a hold on me. I suspect that I will never be free of the ill affects of my exposure to the religion virus as a child.