Faith is a group VI reverse transcribing DNA virus that is responsible for the human mental disorder called religion, which is the chronic form of the lesser affliction called gullibility. Symptoms range widely among the diseased and can include headaches, nausea, suggestibility, lack of reason, hallucinations, paranoia, euphoria, depression, and genocidal tendencies. Humans are the only known host of the virus. Other animals may not have the necessary brain capacity for self-delusion.
The "Faith" virus commonly enters the human vessel via the optical and auditory systems. It is then carried via the blood to the brain where it infects the neurons of the cerebral cortex in the region of the frontal lobe. New findings indicate it could also infect the sex glands, the seminiferous tubules (in males) and the ovaries (in females). As a result of this, the ovum and sperm of those people can be infected, allowing the "Faith" virus to be easily carried to the next generation. As well as person to person transfer of the virus, the other major danger is infection via contaminated paper. The "Faith" virus can be harbored for many years on the surface of the paper itself, laying dormant and resurrecting itself at the touch of human flesh. Although paper is the main vector for the virus today, it was once transferred by papyrus, animal skin and clay.
The virus seems to have started out as the archetypal "Faith" virus "Generalis religica"; which begat "Generalis judaica"; which begat "Generalis christianica"; which begat "Generalis catholica" and it's brethren; which begat "Generalis protestantica"; which begat "Generalis puritanica" about the time it was carried away to the Americas; and so on and so on.
Offshoots of these viruses include the more serious genus types of "Fundamentalis"; A species example being "Fundamentalis islamica", a virus type which has recently undergone multiple population explosions.
As mentioned previously, symptoms range widely amongst different people and only a few symptoms are common to all those infected.
- Suggestibility - This symptom often occurs at the point of contact, weakening the brain and making it easier for the virus to infect it's victim. Interestingly, this symptom gradual decreases as the Religion disease itself takes hold, rendering the infected resistant to logical reasoning and in extreme cases impassive to the cries of "Mercy! Mercy!" from those about to be stoned, burned, eaten by dogs, slandered publicly, or if in the U.S. slandered Republicanly.
- Paranoia - Sufferers are often convinced someone is watching them.
- Delusion/Hallucination - In many instances, delusions start out fairly innocuously, such as attributing a common occurrence to the will of a divine benevolent overlord. Throughout history these attributions have included such things as the rising of the sun, the setting of the sun, the resurrection of his son and the headlines of The Sun. These delusions can quickly progress to the point where people believe they have actually seen this overlord, heard his voice and even drunk the blood of his only child - Jesus.
- Lack of reason - Often one of the saddest parts of the Religion disease is the inability of the infected to form simple logical conclusions from everyday data. Examples include the belief of sufferers that they survived, got helped, got maimed, or won an Oscar because an external overlord was watching. Often they point to their debilitating infection as a direct help, saying that to succeed they had to have "Faith" in themselves.
- Genocidal tendencies - While not common in itself, in recent years this symptom appears to be on the rise in certain "Faith" sufferers. This has been traced to an increase in the type "fi" form of the virus, "Faith fi" being Fundamentalis islamica. Paradoxically, this has also caused an increase in type "fc" (Fundamentalis christianica). Research shows that these virus types can work together in a positive feedback loop which is as self-sustaining as it is mutually destructive.
Scope of infection
The level of infection is global although there are signs of it's hold weakening, notably in mainland Europe and some parts of Australasia. As you can see from the map below showing the distribution of those infected by Generalis catholica (the more benign version of Fundamentalis catholica), there are clear geographical links between most areas of infection. The infection of other areas can be attributed to missionaries who despite the best efforts of the W.H.O continue to spread this terrible virus throughout the land.
Until very recently it was thought there was no cure, however, in areas which have had the most exposure to the Faith virus (e.g. Europe) it appears as though some people are finally becoming resistant. Although there are many types of general anti-viral which work on the Faith infection (such as "Bolloxaway" and "Atheismatol"), only one type of anti-viral which specifically targets "Faith" has so far been isolated. It was discovered by renowned biochemist and anti-Faith activist Richard Dawkins and was in fact harvested from his own blood after prolonged exposure to an Anglican Bishop. It seems to work by breaking down the Faith virus and rendering it into a benign mixture of useless parts.
A strange chemical, it consists largely of Selenium (Se) and also contains Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen (N), Molybdenum (MO) and and possibly Magnesium or Manganese ("M-"). The theorized chemical formula is shown on the right. There is, sadly, some uncertainty about the first "M" element, as most of the laboratory in which the compound was discovered, and where this sole surviving scrap of paper was found, was destroyed by several massive yet very localized lightning strikes.