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Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006)

av Daniel C. Dennett

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
2,683364,143 (3.81)38
An 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 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 a 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. 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.--From publisher description.… (mer)
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» Se även 38 omnämnanden

engelska (32)  nederländska (2)  finska (1)  Alla språk (35)
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He brings up a valid point on scientific means of investigating religion. But it's a hard read. It is, after all, written by a philosopher, and as such, each and every nuance is carefully based upon, and built upon, each preceding argument. There is a lot of back and forth, and make sure to keep an extra bookmark in the appendices. The only gripe I have is that his thesis will probably never reach fruition. ( )
  awisdom01 | Jul 28, 2021 |
Door het nogal breedvoerige eerste deel gaf ik de lectuur van dit boek bijna op. Gelukkig deed ik dat niet, want in het tweede deel geeft Dennett een interessant overzicht van een aantal theorieën over het ontstaan van religies. Het zal niet verwonderen dat zijn voorkeur uitgaat naar bio-evolutionaire theorieën, die telkens de vraag naar het evolutionair nut (cui bono?) van een bepaalde evolutie centraal stellen. Dat is het grote verschil met Dawkins “The God Delusion”: Dawkins focus op de waarheidsvraag, Dennett op de vraag of religie goed is voor de mens of niet.

Ik mistte in dit boek wel de directheid van Dawkins, en het speculatief karakter van de vele theorieën en hypothesen die Dennett op de lezer loslaat ging me op de duur wel wat tegenstaan. Maar zeker het tweede deel heeft me ervanovertuigd dat Dennett absoluut de meer genuanceerde, intelligentere denker is van de twee. Vooral het onderscheid dat hij maakt tussen ‘geloven in een God’ en ‘geloven in geloven in een God’, vond ik een eye-opener waar gerust verder op doorgegaan mag worden. Maar je ziet Dennett in dit boek duidelijk ook worstelen: hij heeft oog voor de goede en slechte kanten van religies, maar tegelijk laat hij geregeld doorschemeren wat voor onzin religies verkopen en hoeveel kwaad ze aanrichten, en dat het er dus op aan komt de ‘betovering te doorbreken’. Zeker in zijn laatste hoofdstukken zie je de slinger in zijn tekst voortdurend over en weer gaan, en dat geeft het boek een warrige ondertoon.

Uiteindelijk onthou ik van dit boek vooral het warm pleidooi om religies te onderwerpen aan wetenschappelijk onderzoek. En ik vind dat maar logisch: alles moet en mag de zorgvuldige screening door de wetenschap ondergaan. Ik kan Dennett absoluut volgen in zijn schets van hoe voorzichtig wetenschap daarin te werk moet gaan, stap per stap en met veel inleving, kritisch en ook open voor zelfkritiek. “I would like nothing better than for this book to provoke a challenge—a reasoned and evidence-rich scientific challenge—from researchers with opposing viewpoints”. Maar tegelijk is Dennett een kind van zijn tijd, met een rotsvast geloof in de ultieme waarheid door wetenschap. Ook dat is zijn goed recht, maar dat sciëntisme zal er naar mijn gevoel nooit in slagen het échte waardevolle in het leven tot zijn recht te brengen. ( )
1 rösta bookomaniac | Aug 3, 2020 |
Daniel Dennett is an American writer and cognitive scientist. He is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Source: Wikipedia
"Religion has elicited the best and worst in the human character, from selflessness to fanaticism. But until now few books have tried to investigate it in a scientific manner. 'Breaking the Spell' is the daring and--inevitably--controversial exception. Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett asks: Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Is religion good for you? Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy.The result is essential reading for believers and skeptics alike." Source: the book's back cover.
  uufnn | May 22, 2018 |
This was a challenge. I kept putting it aside after reading a few pages, picking it up and digesting a bit more, until about six years ago when I tucked it in my night stand for what I thought would only be a little while. Well...nearly five years ago we had a fire. This was one of maybe 19-20 books I salvaged out of our 5,800 books in our library that were damaged severely due to smoke and soot. After a couple of years of airing out, I let it sit still longer until I picked it up again last year. I had to start over, having most of the thoughts and memories shoved aside, though I kept my flags and my margin notes were intact.

I like Dennett. I think he made a lot of sense, but I also get the sense that this was not as rigorous as his other offerings. Still, I adjusted my perspective on religion years ago because of it (and another book by Pascal Boyer). While I still consider religions and associated beliefs irrational, I have come to an understanding that such is genetically encoded - humans are primed to believe in that which makes no rational sense. That helps me sleep better at night (cliche...I still suck at sleeping) - even if I still don't get it.

This is not a "review". Just a short observation of something that will take much more thought. I owe Dennett a full review, but I admit I'm not up to it right now. ( )
  Razinha | Apr 23, 2018 |
The author attempts to kindly encourage religious people as well as non-religious people to read his book. He spends a great deal of time trying to be pleasant and thoughtful of those who are religious. I think his efforts while in some ways noble are inappropriate. While he exposes the fallacy of religion to be considered as a motivating factor for morality he does not clearly indicate that religions are detrimental to society and are pernicious. Much of the authors words in the book are spent providing efforts to explain his thoughts by example. I found this somewhat of a waste of words, since much of the examples are not needed to make the point. I suppose that some may find it helpful. I am glad the book was written and applaud the overall concepts and principals of the book. ( )
  GlennBell | Sep 2, 2017 |
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He quotes himself (approvingly) as follows (p. 302): ‘‘Yes we have a soul; but it’s made of lots of tiny robots.’’ Thus, for Dennett, our beliefs reside not in our verbal and nonverbal behavioral patterns but in a set of mechanisms (the tiny robots) in our brains.... But, granted that no complete understanding of human behavior can be achieved without understanding internal mechanisms, if you knew everything there is to know about those tiny robots (and the tinier robots inside them, and those inside them) you would still not understand why people do the things they do and why they say the things they say. You will have ignored the most important scientific fact—the most important Darwinian fact— about those patterns (including religious patterns): their function in the person’s environment (including the social environment).
 
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Preface
Let me begin with an obvious fact: I am an American author, and this book is addressed in the first place to American readers. I shared drafts of this book with many readers, and most of my non-American readers found this fact not just obvious but distracting—even objectionable in some cases. Couldn't I make the book less provincial in outlook? Shouldn't I strive, as a philosopher, for the most universal target audience I could muster? No. Not in this case, and my non-American readers should consider what they can learn about the situation in America from what they find in this book. More compelling to me than the reaction of my non-American readers was the fact that so few of my American readers had any inkling of this bias—or, if they did, they didn't object. That is a pattern to ponder. It is commonly observed—both in America and abroad—that America is strikingly different from other First World nations in its attitudes to religion, and this book is, among other things, a sounding device intended to measure the depths of those differences.
Chapter One

Breaking Which Spell?

1 What's going on?

And he spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. —Matthew 13:3-4

If "survival of the fittest" has any validity as a slogan, then the Bible seems a fair candidate for the accolade of the fittest of texts.—Hugh Pyper, "The Selfish Text: The Bible and Memetics"

You watch an ant in a meadow, laboriously climbing up a blade of grass, higher and higher until it falls, then climbs again, and again, like Sisyphus rolling his rock, always striving to reach the top. Why is the ant doing this? What benefit is it seeking for itself in this strenuous and unlikely activity? Wrong question, as it turns out. No biological benefit accrues to the ant. It is not trying to get a better view of the territory or seeking food or showing off to a potential mate, for instance. Its brain has been commandeered by a tiny parasite, a lancet fluke (Dicrocelium dendriticum), that needs to get itself into the stomach of a sheep or a cow in order to complete its reproductive cycle. This little brain worm is driving the ant into position to benefit its progeny, not the ant's. This is not an isolated phenomenon. Similarly manipulative parasites infect fish, and mice, among other species. These hitchhikers cause their hosts to behave in unlikely—even suicidal—ways, all for the benefit of the guest, not the host.¹
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An 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 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 a 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. 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.--From publisher description.

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