Charles's Reviews > Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

Breaking the Spell by Daniel C. Dennett
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Jan 12, 09

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Recommended for: Open minded people who care about the state of our world.
Read in January, 2009, read count: 1

Daniel C. Dennett is a professor of philosophy so, as might be expected, he doesn't offer many answers in this book. He does however present more than a few questions and interesting ideas. Many of which I feel should be given more than just a casual glance.
The book is divided into three parts:
Part 1 Opening Pandora's Box
- What is the definition of religion?
- Can science study religion? Should science study religion?
- Cui bono? Who benefits from religion as a whole? Individuals? Society? Or "religion" itself?
- Is religion a sort of cultural symbiont that managed to thrive by leaping from human host to human host? If so, is it a beneficial Mutualists, neutral Commensals, or detrimental Parasites we might be better off without?
Part 2 The Evolution of Religion
- In this section Dennett offers an interesting hypothesis for evolution of religion from tribal "folk religion" to the large organized religions of the modern world.
- Did religion as we know it start as a way to get groups of non-related people to work together?
- Did it evolve a "market model" way in which the more you have to "pay" for religion the more implied value or product you received? A goat sacrificed for good crops, a life of servitude for eternal afterlife?
Part 3 Religion Today
- Is religion good for you?
- Should it be the basis for moral values?
- Why does it matter what you believe?

In a time when religion (and religious extremism) has as great an impact on public policy and politics as any in history these kinds of question need to asked.
If religions are worthy enough to survive in a modern age they need to stop playing the "sacred card" and open themselves up to an honest rational scientific inquiry as to their value in modern society.
It is time not only to ask people what they believe but why they believe it and to tell them when those answers are no longer good enough.
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01/07/2009 page 157
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