Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

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Atheist Republic's picture
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Breaking the Spell

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

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This book is Daniel Dennet's purely scientific take on religion. Dennet, a cognitive scientist and a philosopher, contends that a scientific analysis of religion could actually help predict the future of the phenomenon.

Innovative thinkers question the reason behind most people’s belief in a god, and how religion influences and shapes lives. This is apparent in how religion is an integral part of marriage, raising children and social structure.

In a bold move, Dennett takes a closer look at the phenomenon and asks the big question: "Why?". He tackled questions such as the following: Where does devotion to a supreme being come from and what do we get out of it? Is religion brought by an evolutionary compulsion or is it a coherent choice? In Breaking the Spell, Dennett implies that he intends to come up with a solution to not to break faith but to break the belief that religion should not be subjected to scientific inquiry.

The book features a vigorous narrative that ranges from history, philosophy and psychology, where the author discusses how organized religion has developed from folk beliefs, into the potent force that it is now. He argues that this "belief in belief" has actually blurred man's attempt to sensibly consider the existence of God, as well as the dynamics of divinity and human needs. The author makes it clear that book is not really anti-religious. It is merely an exploration of how religious belief affects our lives, our relationships, the community and even mankind as a whole.

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Zaphod's picture
I personally would like to

I personally would like to read a well thought out book that supported religious views by seeking ways the views were possible with science.

SammyShazaam's picture
That's a really interesting

That's a really interesting concept, this "belief in belief" I can see it acting through many areas of our society, and even many atheists I know seem to have a hard time shaking the basic assumption that faith and unfounded certainty are good things to have in the rational world.

Zaphod's picture
I do think it can apply in

I do think it can apply in certain cases even in science to work under the assumptions of unfounded faith there are things people don't understand but are certain they work why throw out the baby with the bath water? I have said before when it comes to religious faith specifically it can be useful a coping mechanism. In science faith in a concept can serve as a placeholder until sufficient evidence is found where consistency exist.

SammyShazaam's picture
Good point there. Humans do

Good point there. Humans do have natural instincts that often show us what to do, even though our "thinking" selves have no idea why or how we know. There's valuable info there, so I suppose having faith in oneself is a good trait. Still, I think some people take it way too far.

Zaphod's picture
While I do think a little

While I do think a little self placed faith is a good thing, I was actually referring to faith in in scientific result there are for example things that have been done in science many many times people may not know why for example a certain reaction occurs but they do know it happens when certain controlled variables are put into place time and time again often enough for it to be considered scientifically like to occur when certain conditions are put in place. So in such cases they don't know why it happens besides it was set up to, all they know is it does and they then have reasonable expectation or even faith that this will happen when the conditions are meet. But a good scientist still always test the end product no matter how much faith he has that things will turn out a certain way.

Keith Raye's picture
Your argument is an

Your argument is an interesting one, Zaphod. By 'argument' I mean logical inquiry, What it seems to point up is that religion and faith are not at all the same thing. One of things that get thrown at atheists is that we have no faith because we don't believe in gods. But that, of course, depends on how you define 'faith'. Is faith only applicable to belief in things that can't be proven to exist, or does the term apply to other things as well?

Zaphod's picture
I am surprised Natureman has

I am surprised Natureman has not commented on this one yet! I wonder if he has read the book?

efpierce's picture
"A boring book that mostly

"A boring book that mostly devoted to a self-serving explanation of why it should be written and then says little to keep the reader's interest." This is just one of the many reviews about the book on Amazon. I usually give a book a chance, especially if it is religious and has gotten bad reviews just because of the zealots, but this one is really very difficult to read. It doesn't go anywhere with it's own explanation and the structure of the book definitely shows that it was written by a scientist/philosopher. It is available as an ebook but still overpriced at $12.

Zaphod's picture
Yeah, I feel $12 is

Yeah, I feel $12 is overpriced for an e book as well.

mattyn's picture
I have read this book and

I have read this book and have seen the many negative comments about it. I feel they are unfounded as this is one of the better books on the subject. Yes, it's pricey, but it's worth it if this book gets you to think and exercise your brain for a while.

Zaphod's picture
I hear that! Was this book

I hear that! Was this book really that mind bending?

mattyn's picture
Yes it is. Some parts of the

Yes it is. Some parts of the book will hang with you throughout your day no matter where you are. I believe that is what makes a good book become an excellent one, when it can take hold of your mind and really make you think.

efpierce's picture
I broke down and bought the

I broke down and bought the book today on Amazon. I'm going to take mattyn's advice and read it this week to see if it really is as good as everyone else is saying.

firebolt's picture
Belief in belief, what an odd

Belief in belief, what an odd concept to base a book on. It's almost like something he read on a cafe wall covering and decided to base a theory about it.

efpierce's picture
It's better than basing a

It's better than basing a theory on what's written on a bathroom wall! :)

Fizicks's picture
I know i'm late to these but

I know i'm late to these but i just signed up to AR lol. I found Dennett's book to be a really good 200 page book trapped inside a 400+ page one. I felt that his points were strong, but there was far too much meandering, over explanation and the like which ultimately came off as a drawback to me. Worth reading but the least so of that flurry of atheistic books being released at the time.

bigbill's picture
I read portions of the book,

I read portions of the book, As to why mankind practices religion and why it appeals to him I think religion gives a kind of solace to people. And some become very such righteous, Which it wasn`t intended to be. People feel that just there humanity can`t explain away why they do and feel the way they do.That there is a reason behind there existence. When you look at all the living condition has to offer good and bad, I think we all question our origins. Is there something more to life out there? Since it is undetermined what that it is, People were a tribal people they huddled into groups where superstitions evolved over time. The jewish faith is quite long over 5,000 years while Christianity is over 2,000 years of age.People support there local religions because they believe it will do some good to them, Not only a tax writeoff. Some people believe in pray no matter if it`s once in a while or everyday. They find comfort for there endeavor.Some people have unsumountable problems in there lives physical monetary family relational etc.I believe these are some reason why people turn to religion.

Keith Raye's picture
Indeed. Religious beliefs are

Indeed. Religious beliefs are a great comfort to many people. We shouldn't try to take that comfort away from them because then, we simply become evangelists for anti-religion. Instead, could we say that all people should be free to follow whatever belief they feel comfortable with as individuals, so long as that freedom does not interfere with, or detract from, the similar freedoms of other people?

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