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Original Essays | September 30, 2014

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Breaking the Spell : Religion As a Natural Phenomenon (06 Edition)


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Synopses & Reviews

Please note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.

Publisher Comments:

For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask why—and how—it has shaped so many lives so strongly. Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett charts religion’s evolution from “wild” folk belief to “domesticated” dogma. Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.


An innovative thinker tackles the controversial question of why people believe in God and how religion shapes lives and futures by taking a look at history, philosophy, and psychology.

About the Author

Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor, professor of philosophy, and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His books include Consciousness Explained and Darwi‛s Dangerous Idea, a finalist for the National Book Award.

Table of Contents

Breaking The Spell Preface


1. Breaking Which Spell?

1. What's going on?

2. A working definition of religion

3. To break or not to break

4. Peering into the abyss

5. Religion as a natural phenomenon

2. Some Quesions About Science

1. Can science study religion?

2. Should science study religion?

3. Might music be bad for you?

4. Would neglect be more benign?

3. Why Good Things Happen

1. Bringing out the best

2. Cui bono?

3. Asking what pays for religion

4. A Martian's list of theories


4. The Roots of Religion

1. The births of religions

2. The raw materials of religion

3. How Nature deals with the problem of other minds

5. Religion, the Early Days

1. Too many agents: competition for rehearsal space

2. Gods as intersted parties

3. Getting the gods to speak to us

4. Shamans as hypnotists

5. Memory-engineering devices in oral cultures

6. The Evolution of Stewardship

1. The music of religion

2. Folk religion as practical know-how

3. Creeping reflection and the birth of secrecy in religion

4. The domestication of religions

7. The Invention of Team Spirit

1. A path paved with good intentions

2. The ant colony and the corporation

3. The growth market in religion

4. A God you can talk to

8. Belief in Belief

1. You better believe it

2. God as intentional object

3. The division of doxastic labor

4. The lowest common denominator?

5. Beliefs designed to be professed

6. Lessons from Lebanon: the strange cases of the Druze and Kim Philby

7. Does God exist?


9. Toward a Buyer's Guide to Religions

1. For the love of God

2. The academic smoke screen

3. Why does it matter what you believe?

4. What can your religion do for you?

10. Morality and Religion

1. Does religion make us moral?

2. Is religion what gives meaning to your life?

3. What can we say about sacred values?

4. Bless my soul: spirituality and selfishness

11. Now What Do We Do?

1. Just a theory

2. Some avenues to explore: how can we home in on religious conviction?

3. What shall we tell the children?

4. Toxic memes

5. Patience and politics


A. The New Replicators?

B. Some More Questions About Science

C. The Bellboy and the Lady Named Tuck

D. Kim Philby as a Real Case of Indeterminacy of Radical Interpretation




Product Details

Dennett, Daniel C.
Penguin Books
Daniel C. Denne
Philosophy & Social Aspects
Religion & Science
Religion Eastern-Philosophy General
Edition Description:
Mass Market
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8.33x5.70x1.01 in. .94 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Humanities » Philosophy » Atheism and Humanism
Humanities » Philosophy » General
Reference » Science Reference » Philosophy of Science
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Religion » Eastern Religions » Philosophy General
Religion » Western Religions » General and Comparative Religion
Religion » World Religions » Religion and Science

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"Synopsis" by , An innovative thinker tackles the controversial question of why people believe in God and how religion shapes lives and futures by taking a look at history, philosophy, and psychology.
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