Saturday, August 9, 2008

Computer Viruses vs. Mind Viruses

We treat computer viruses and religion very differently. If I write a computer virus and it copies itself across the Internet, I will probably be arrested, fined, and imprisoned, and quite likely denied basic civil rights if the authorities are panicked and clueless enough. If I create a new religion and it spreads across the world, I will probably be at least tolerated, and if such a thing happened long ago, celebrated in the name of multiculturalism and religious tolerance and freedom.

It struck me that computer viruses and mental viruses ("memes") are possibly more similar to each other than are memes and biological viruses. Certainly all three are very similar, and at some basic level are just propagations of information with different storage devices.

The question that comes to mind is, can religion be harmful? I don't think there can be that much doubt about that (although most people would strongly suggest that it's everyone else's that is harmful and not their own). So, why don't we treat harmful religions the same way we treat harmful computer viruses and harmful biological viruses? To me there seems to be a significant difference between requiring the state not to mandate a specific religion and the state protecting us from fraud or other harm under the guise of religion.

I have perhaps a few theories as to why, though each is more inflammatory than the previous, and that would simply distract from the point.

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