Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon - Daniel C Dennett

A history of belief that combines humour and argument and would entertain even the casual reader.

Book Review by Ali Maloney | 16 Apr 2006
Voltaire said that if God did not exist, it would be necessary for us to invent him, and this is the main thrust of Dennet's history of belief. Dennett brings to life the debate over whether or not religion is a natural human need in a colourful and entertaining manner. Despite his questionable definitions of religion and consciousness - wholly dismissing the possibility of consciousness in animals, for instance – his take on religious belief is captivating. His combination of humour and argument will entertain even the casual reader, rare in a philosophy book this thick. The book is neatly divided into manageable chunks – Why don't other species have art? What connects religion and morality? – making it perfect for dipping in and out of. It is the traditional function of philosophers to question the status quo, and Dennett does this beautifully, although he doesn't supply any definite answers. But this avoidance of firm conclusions (again, a philosophical tradition) can be seen as a strength of the book. As Dennett himself states, "people who study religion usually have an axe to grind." [Ali Maloney]
Published by Allen Lane. Out Now. (Cover Price £25)