Some Atheist Governments Take “Faith Virus” Problem Seriously

[I thought this comment below from Dhay deserved more attention]:

John Loftus, reviewing Peter Boghossian’s “A Manual for Creating Atheists”, OP > So he’s calling on a potential legion of people who are willing to help cure believers of their faith virus. He calls them “Street Epistemologists” who are equipped with the tactics he presents in his manual.

Faith virus, eh. By serendipity I’ve just read a Guardian article which discusses how the Chinese Government is dealing with the “faith virus” allegedly infecting the Uighur, Kazakh and other Islamic minorities.

Local officials in Turpan in Southern Xinjiang have been instructed in writing to tell university students returning home in the holidays that their loved ones, now imprisoned in “re-education” camps had been exposed to “religious extremism” and were receiving “concentrated education” to eradicate “violent terrorist thoughts.” They were instructed to employ medical terminology to justify the students’ families’ imprisonment and their lack of access to their families: “Freedom is only possible when this ‘virus’ in their thinking is eradicated and they are in good health” (ie are no longer Muslims.)

So who else has been banging on about the “faith virus” and the need to quarantine it so it cannot be passed on to youths still in education? Well, Richard “God Delusion” Dawkins, for a start. Of course, just referring to a “faith virus” or “delusion” implicitly medicalises (or at any rate pseudo-medicalises) his anti-Christian (etc) rants.

Another “faith virus” culprit who implicitly medicalises or pseudo-medicalises his anti-Christian rants is Loftus; see the quote from the OP.

A “faith virus” and “delusion” culprit who openly and explicitly medicalises or pseudo-medicalises his anti-Christian rants is Boghossian, who in that book devotes several paragraphs to bemoaning how progress in his project to get rid of religion and Christianity is blocked by the religious exemption from “Delusion” and the, er, lack of any DSM entry for “God delusion” or similar. He would evidently just love to get every Christian declared mad, mad I tell you, and medically treated … simply because “God delusion.”

And he is explicit that his trained (cough!) Street Epistemologists will be pseudo-medical pseudo-practitioners using “clinical tools” — unethically, of course.

The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community—into any and every place the faithful reside…
[My emphasis.]


There you have it, there’s quite an overlap between the wishes of some New Atheists and the brutal and repressive actions of the authoritarian Communist Chinese government.

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13 Responses to Some Atheist Governments Take “Faith Virus” Problem Seriously

  1. Kevin says:

    Most of those atheists are on the political left, so it is hardly surprising that they bear a striking resemblance to communists.

  2. jim- says:

    I think China issuing reincarnation permits is pretty funny. They seem pretty serious about curbing the virus. Honestly though, I’d never heard the term til now. The APA already has religion divided into categories for believers. Delusional vs functioning delusional. They don’t make too much noise about it but it’s in there.

  3. Dhay says:

    Several hooks there: “China issuing reincarnation permits”, which is not in the Guardian online link or paper original; a naked insult, “curbing the virus”; the insinuation (without evidence) that the American Psychological Association has divided religion into two and only two categories, both of which are “delusional”. These are all hooks for a derail.

    This is behaviour which has been repeated across multiple threads. I call it trolling.

  4. TFBW says:

    It might be trolling, or it might be just an ordinary mix of smug superiority leading to a bad case of confirmation bias. There are trolls aplenty on the Internet, but there’s also Richard Dawkins to explain, and he seems to be quite convinced of his own intellectual superiority, despite everything.

  5. pennywit says:

    Daniel Dennett analogized religious faith to a virus in one of his books. I am not sure which one offhand.

  6. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: Probably Breaking The Spell. At the very least, I can confirm that it discusses memetics.

  7. Mel Wild says:

    Boghossian’s “manual” is a perfect example of futile thinking that comes from a darkened heart (Rom.1:21). I would say to these aspirations: prepare for disappointment.

  8. jim- says:

    I call it reading APA studies on google scholar. Your trolling is tagging atheism and closing your mind by beliefs

  9. Dhay says:

    jim- > The APA already has religion divided into categories for believers. Delusional vs functioning delusional. They don’t make too much noise about it but it’s in there.
    … I call it reading APA studies on google scholar.

    I strongly suspect that the APA (and DSM) will have categories for delusional people who (for example) are convinced they are Jesus Christ returned, listen up guys (functioning delusional) and for that subset who are convinced they can walk on water, splosh (clinically delusional.) I expect people falling into APA (and DSM) categories of delusional (and possibly the local river) will be a very tiny subset of Christians, and a very tiny subset of religious people.

    Replying to you, I challenged what I took to be your “insinuation (without evidence) that the American Psychological Association has divided religion into two and only two categories, both of which are ‘delusional'”. But instead of acknowledging that there are non-delusional religious people you have doubled down by claiming there are “APA studies on google scholar” which, when read, would support your very strong claim.

    Perhaps there are, and if so I would like to see and evaluate the studies. On past experience of searching Google Scholar for evidence for an earlier claim of yours (that pre-verbal infants have been raised by bears (or by assorted other animals) — I instead found only contrary evidence) then challenging you to find the evidence you had claimed was definitely there and getting back crickets! — on that past experience I’ll not bother to waste my time again but simply challenge you to identify and link to those APA studies.

    jim- > You and everyone else shape their behavior because of what others think. If not—you would not have a secret life (with only god watching) where you do things you’d never do in public, or even in front of the most vile humans.

    Ah, you believe Christians — “everyone” of Christians — have a secret life doing things they’d never do even in front of the most vile humans but would do with God watching.

    That’s quite a fantasy life you’ve got there. It’s a weird claim even without the ‘God watching’ bit, and doubly weird with. Are you sure you yourself are not delusional.

    What else is delusional fantasy in your posts? I’ll quote part of your ‘bears’ post and link to my reply:

    2. Another fine example of god placing morality in the hearts of men; virtually all accounts of feral children show quite clearly that morality is a learned behavior. Some find that homeostasis in a tribe of monkeys, pack of wolves, even an antelope herd and bears that have adopted pre verbal humans show quite clearly that morality is learned, and seldom unlearned.
    [My emphasis — Dhay.]

    Perhaps you are not deluded after all. Perhaps these accounts, findings and clearly shown conclusions do exist; albeit not where they can be found by you and me by using Google Scholar to search for research on feral children, for research showing that in animals morality is learned (and seldom unlearned), or for APA studies; instead, they can be found written in the Akashic Records.

    Akashic Records? No, I’ll run with your being delusional.

  10. Isaac says:

    Jim, just an fyi,

    if you make silly claims which you then defend by saying, “I saw it on Google Scholar”…it’s really not hard to just post links. Or, better yet, provide direct quotes.

  11. Dhay says:

    I’d want both. As Isaac points out, it’s easy enough to do.

  12. Dhay says:

    pennywit > Daniel Dennett analogized religious faith to a virus in one of his books.

    Dennett was much taken with the idea of memes, and he launched a journal, the “Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission”, in which to publish scientific papers on Mimetics research. The Journal ceased publishing in 2005, apparently because the flow of papers dried up.

    The website states that although “there was to be a relaunch…after several years nothing has happened”.

    That probably summarises the scientific view of Mimetics — there’s nothing that can be fruitfully investigated. Or in other words, it’s unscientific.

  13. Dhay says:

    jim- > … China issuing reincarnation permits …

    I’ll comment on this because I’ve commented previously on how reincarnation or “reincarnation” of the previous set of leaders into the next set of leaders – it’s supposed to be the same leaders, no change, no possibility of challenging their authority – perpetuates the existing power structure in Tibetan Buddhism; and this reply is an opportunity for a recap.

    Basically, the Tibetan Buddhist idea of reincarnation has been used by Tulkus (think Archbishops) and Rinpoches (think Abbots), ie the aristocracy in charge, to perpetuate the aristocracy in charge. The Chinese aren’t going to tolerate that any more, and they are certainly not going to permit the government-in-exile led by the Dalai Lama to appoint his guys, from now on it’s going to be their guys:

    State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 states that a Reincarnation Application must be filed by all Buddhist temples in that country before they are allowed to recognize individuals as tulkus (reincarnated teachers).

    Because of the Chinese veto (which is what it amounts to), in time all the senior Tibetan Buddhist leadership posts — those within Tibet at any rate — will be filled by Chinese appointees, Chinese-friendly and under Chinese influence. When the current Dalai Lama dies, the Chinese will want their man in that role, too.


    There’s differences between the various monastic lineages as to how they select their next “reincarnated” Tulku or Rinpoche, but I note that the Tibetan Buddhist aristocracy has a strong heredity element:

    …a little bit of digging in Wiki reveals that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had four sons…, namely Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche, as well as two grandsons, Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche. Golly gosh, all Rinpoches. I have read [link] that Japanese Zen Buddhist monasteries are effectively family businesses, passed down father to son; it looks very like Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are also family businesses, passed down from father to millionaire son.


    Tenzin Gyatso [today’s Dalai Lama – Dhay], however, has stated that he will not be reborn in the People’s Republic of China, though he has also suggested he may not be reborn at all, suggesting the function of the Dalai Lama may be outdated. The government of the People’s Republic of China has stated its intention to be the ultimate authority on the selection of the next Dalai Lama.

    I’ve read elsewhere that he’s considering reincarnating into his intended and pre-identified successor before his death, presumably to get in first before the Chinese can announce one. If so, that will be very interesting.


    Sam Harris likes to talk and write of the Tibetan Buddhists’ advanced science of the mind. Ummm, this ‘advanced science’ includes the Nechung Oracle, which is sometimes used to help find the next Dalai Lama, and the universe (or perhaps just the dead guy) sending visions to those searching for him:

    It was here [at a pretty lake – Dhay] that in 1935, the Regent Reting Rinpoche claimed to have received a clear vision of three Tibetan letters and of a monastery with a jade-green and gold roof, and a house with turquoise roof tiles, which led to the indication of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

    I’ll emphasise: the Tibetan Buddhist advanced science of the mind includes reincarnation, the truth of oracles, the truth of visions; I opine that that’s political science, but also that Harris cannot pick-and-choose which parts of his Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen religious tradition to accept and which to ignore without becoming/being one of those religious “moderates” he has so railed against. He wouldn’t want to be a “moderate”, now would he.


    I don’t know why it takes so long to find a reincarnated Dalai Lama – three or four years, typically, before the searchers find what body it was, and where, that the previous one redirected his consciousness to – when it would be so easy for such spiritually advanced searchers to just look it up in the Akashic Records. Eh, jim-?

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