Synopses & Reviews
For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask whyand howit 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 religions 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.
A Tufts University professor explores the nature of faith and how religion shapes everyday life and the future, addressing controversial issues about the relevance and rational qualities of faith while tracing the history of organized religion from its roots in folk beliefs to its key role in modern issues. By the author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Reprint. 100,000 first printing.
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 Darwins Dangerous Idea, a finalist for the National Book Award.
Table of Contents
Breaking The Spell Preface
PART I: OPENING PANDORA'S BOX
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
PART II: THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGION
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?
PART III: RELIGION TODAY
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