Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. DennettAn innovative thinker tackles the controversial question of why we believe in God and how religion shapes our lives and our future.
For a growing number of people, there is nothing more important than religion. It is an integral part of their marriage, child rearing, and community. In this daring new book, distinguished philosopher Daniel C. Dennett takes a hard look at this phenomenon and asks why. Where does our devotion to God come from and what purpose does it serve? Is religion a blind evolutionary compulsion or a rational choice? In Breaking the Spell, Dennett argues that the time has come to shed the light of science on the fundamental questions of faith. In a spirited narrative that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. Deftly and lucidly, he contends that the belief in belief has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need.
Breaking the Spell is not an antireligious screed but rather an eyeopening exploration of the role that belief plays in our lives, our interactions, and our country. With the gulf between rationalists and adherents of intelligent design widening daily, Dennett has written a timely and provocative book that will be read and passionately debated by believers and nonbelievers alike.
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All human societies have some phenomenon that can be described as religion. It is difficult to understand why religion is so pervasive in human culture. Some theories suggest that religion is a byproduct of evolution. However, no other animal group has anything that even remotely resembles the concept that has been labeled as religion in anthropology. Unlike other social animals, humans are very good at establishing and maintaining relations with agents beyond a physical presence. From childhood, humans are capable of forming enduring, stable and important social relationships with fictional characters, imaginary friends and super heroes. Thus, for humans, it is not difficult to imagine a god who is although invisible and intangible, yet somehow involved with them.
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Dr. Daniel Dennett — Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon is a book by the philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett , in which the author argues that religion is in need of scientific analysis so that its nature and future may be better understood. The "spell" that requires "breaking" is not religious belief itself but the belief that it is off-limits to or beyond scientific inquiry. The book is divided into three parts. Dennett's working definition of religions is: "social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought". He notes that this definition is "a place to start, not something carved in stone".
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The stated aims of his new book are also eminently reasonable: "For many people, nothing matters more than religion. For this very reason, it is imperative that we learn as much as we can about it. That, in a nutshell, is the argument of this book. It's been called "insidious", a "prejudiced" attack on religion in which the Tufts University professor "betrays his academic standards"; and his casual dismissal of the standard Christian arguments for the existence of God has been labelled "amazing". In his mild-mannered way, Dennett admits that he expects to be attacked; and so far his contention, that to some people, the very act of holding values they believe to be sacred up to the light of enquiry is in itself offensive, seems to have been born out.