I recall a section in a Neal Stephenson book where a couple that secretly went to church (or at least didn't make it known) with their kids. As I recall it, they did this not because they were particularly faithful, but because they viewed it a kind of inoculation / vaccination / prophylactic against falling for cults and other bad ideas. I thought the passage was from Cryptonomicon, but I had no luck finding any similar passage using Google Book Search.

A good answer would identify the book and provide a page reference (and an edition in case it matters). A great answer would include the full quote.

  • 2
    Page reference may depend on the edition?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 19, 2020 at 17:41
  • 1
    That sounds like something that would have shown up in Snow Crash, where religion is portrayed as a memetic virus, but I can't find it in my copy.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:08

3 Answers 3


The closest I have found to this is indeed in Cryptonomicon. I don't have a page number because this is a Kindle book, but it is towards the end of the chapter titled Home, a little over halfway through the book. The passage is:

The friendliest and most sincere welcome he’d gotten was from Scott, a chemistry professor, and Laura, a pediatrician, who, after knowing Randy and Charlene for many years, had one day divulged to Randy, in strict confidence, that, unbeknownst to the academic community at large, they had been spiriting their three children off to church every Sunday morning, and even had them all baptized.

Randy had gone into their house once to help Scott wrestle a freshly reconditioned clawfoot bathtub up the stairs, and had actually seen the word GOD written on actual pieces of paper stuck to the walls of their house—like on the refrigerator door, and the walls of the children’s bedrooms, where juvenile art tends to be reposited. Little time-wasting projects they had done during Sunday school—pages torn from coloring books, showing a somewhat more multicultural Jesus than the one Randy had grown up with (curly hair, e.g.), talking to little biblical kids or assisting disoriented Holy Land livestock. The sight of this stuff around the house, commingled with normal (i.e., secular) kid-art-junk from elementary school, Batman posters, etc. made Randy feel grossly embarrassed. It was like going to the house of some supposedly sophisticated people and finding a neon-on-black-velvet Elvis painting hanging above their state-of-the-art Italian designer furniture. Definitely a social-class thing. And it wasn’t like Scott and Laura were deadly earnest types, and neither were they glassy-eyed and foaming at the mouth. They had after all managed to pass themselves off as members in good standing of decent academic society for a number of years. They were a bit quieter than many others, they took up less space in the room, but then that was normal for people trying to raise three kids, and so they passed.

Randy and Amy had spent a full hour talking to Scott and Laura last night; they were the only people who made any effort to make Amy feel welcome. Randy hadn’t the faintest idea what these people thought of him and what he had done, but he could sense right away that, essentially that was not the issue because even if they thought he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions. To translate it into UNIX system administration terms (Randy’s fundamental metaphor for just about everything), the post-modern, politically correct atheists were like people who had suddenly found themselves in charge of a big and unfathomably complex computer system (viz. society) with no documentation or instructions of any kind, and so whose only way to keep the thing running was to invent and enforce certain rules with a kind of neo-Puritanical rigor, because they were at a loss to deal with any deviations from what they saw as the norm. Whereas people who were wired into a church were like UNIX system administrators who, while they might not understand everything, at least had some documentation, some FAQs and How-tos and README files, providing some guidance on what to do when things got out of whack. They were, in other words, capable of displaying adaptability.

However this is taken no further. There is no mention of going to church acting as a protection against cults.

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    I would add the next paragraph, which talks about how their religion allowed them to "even if they thought he had done something evil, they at least had a framework, a sort of procedure manual, for dealing with transgressions." In the spirit of the original question, an inoculation enabling them to deal with things.
    – gowenfawr
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:37
  • @John Rennie, Can you please update this with the second paragraph mentioned by @gowenfawr? I think that this is likely it, this paragraph would cinch it. My copy isn't here or I would check myself.
    – BKay
    Jun 19, 2020 at 19:37
  • @BKay I have added the following paragraph, though it's not obvious to me that it helps otherwise I would have included it from the start. Jun 20, 2020 at 4:32

I think the OP is conflating the passage from Cryptonomicon which @JohnRennie posted, and a passage from chapter 61 of Snow Crash between Hiro and Juanita:

"Why? Why doesn't [the cult of Asherah] work on you?"

"I've spent the last several years hanging around with Jesuits," she says. "Look. Your brain has an immune system, just like your body. The more you use it – the more viruses you get exposed to – the better your immune system becomes. And I've got a hell of an immune system. Remember, I was an atheist for a while, and then I came back to religion the hard way."


I hesitate to offer yet another answer; this does seem to be something of a theme in Stephenson's writing. But I found an actual reference to intellectual inoculation in Fall, or, Dodge in Hell, albeit in a negative sense.

In Book 1, Part 1, chapter 3 Corvallis is reflecting on his upbringing:

They didn’t go to church, which—never mind what you actually believed, or didn’t—inoculated children with a steady low-level exposure to christenings, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals.

(Emphasis mine)

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