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Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Majikthise
complete-review.com
Kenan Malik
Daylight Atheism
Anthony Campbell
Madeleine Bunting

Daniel C Dennett

Breaking the Spell

C.S. Lewis said 'You cannot go on explaining away for ever', i.e. there has to be something at the root of what we believe. In Breaking the Spell Daniel Dennett seems to have turned this argument back on itself, saying in effect, OK if that's the case then it won't harm for us to go on trying to explain things such as religion. I can't help thinking that he's trying to pull a fast one myself (if you can use the word 'fast' in relation to Dennett's long books). But if you're interested in the status of religion then it's definitely worth taking a look at this book.

I would say however that although the stated aim of the book is to justify the scientific examination of religion, Dennett does seem to be trying to do other things as well. One is to improve the status of atheists (or 'brights') in the USA, and another is to impress on the more moderate members of religions that they have a responsibility to keep the more extreme factions in check. This means that there is less space to devote to the central argument. Dennett describes the work of previous writers who have supported this argument, but there doesn't seem to be much mention of their critics (who I'm sure must exist). I found this rather surprising, as a hallmark of Dennett's books on consciousness is detailed replies to critics of his ideas

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Paperback 464 pages  
ISBN: 0143038338
Salesrank: 80917
Weight:0.85 lbs
Published: 2007 Penguin Books
Amazon price $10.39
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Hardcover 464 pages  
ISBN: 0713997893
Salesrank: 418474
Weight:1.81 lbs
Published: 2006 Allen Lane
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 464 pages  
ISBN: 0143038338
Salesrank: 41891
Weight:0.85 lbs
Published: 2007 Penguin Books
Amazon price CDN$ 11.96
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 11.96:Used from CDN$ 6.24
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Product Description
The New York Times bestseller – a “crystal-clear, constantly engaging” (Jared Diamond) exploration of the role that religious belief plays in our lives and our interactions

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.

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