Breaking the Spell

Breaking the Spell

Infobox Book
name = Breaking the Spell
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Daniel C. Dennett
cover_artist =
country =
language =
series =
subject = Religion
genre =
publisher = Viking (Penguin)
release_date = 2006
media_type =
pages =
isbn = ISBN 0-670-03472-X
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" is a 2006 book by the American philosopher Daniel Dennett, which argues for a scientific analysis of religions and of the pros and cons of this action, in order to predict the future of this phenomenon. Dennett implies that the spell he hopes to break is not religious belief itself, but the conviction that religion is off-limits to scientific inquiry.


The book is divided into three parts. Part I discusses the motivation and justification for the entire project: "Can" science study religion? "Should" science study religion? After answering in the affirmative, Part II proceeds to use the tools of evolutionary biology to suggest possible theories regarding the origin of religion and subsequent evolution of modern religions from ancient folk beliefs. Part III analyzes religion and its effects in today's world: Does religion make us moral? Is religion what gives meaning to life? What should we teach the children? Dennett bases much of his analysis on empirical evidence, though he often points out that much more research in this field is needed.


Dennett's working definition of religions is, "social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought." He notes that this definition is "a place to start, not something carved in stone."


*Part I: Opening Pandora's Box
*:1. Breaking which spell?
*:2. Some questions about science
*:3. Why good things happen
*Part II: The Evolution of Religion
*:4. The roots of religion
*:5. Religion, the early days
*:6. The evolution of stewardship
*:7. The invention of team spirit
*:8. Belief in belief
*Part III: Religion Today
*:9. Toward a buyer's guide to religions
*:10. Morality and religion
*:11. Now what do we do?
*Appendix A: The new replicators
*Appendix B: Some more questions about science
*Appendix C: The bellboy and the lady named Tuck
*Appendix D: Kim Philby as a real case of indeterminacy of radical interpretation


Greek translation by Dimitris Xygalatas and Nikolas Roubekas as "Απομυθοποίηση", Thessaloniki: Vanias 2007. ISBN: 9789602881989Spanish translation by Felipe de Brigard as "Romper el hechizo: la religión como un fenómeno natural", Madrid: Katz 2007.


* George Johnson: [ "Getting a Rational Grip on Religion"] , "Scientific American"
* Leon Wieseltier: [ "The God Genome"] , The New York Times
** [ Dennett's letter to the editor of "The New York Times", with Wieseltier's reply]
* Adam Kirsch: [ "If Men Are From Mars, What's God"] , "The New York Sun"
* David B. Hart: " [ Daniel Dennett Hunts the Snark] ", "First Things"
* James Brookfield: " [ Dennett’s dangerous idea] ", World Socialist Website
* Armin W. Geertz: " [ How Not to Do the Cognitive Science of Religion Today] ", paper read at University of Aarhus seminar.

ee also

*Religious studies
* Evolutionary psychology of religion
*"Religion Explained"
* Scott Atran, author of "In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion"
*"The End of Faith"
*"The God Delusion"

External links

* [ "Breaking the spell" panel] -- Audio recording and transcript of panel organized by Royal Society of Arts with Daniel Dennett and Alister McGrath


Harvard reference
Author=Dennett, Daniel C.
Title=Breaking the Spell
SubTitle=Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Publisher=Viking (Penguin)
ID=ISBN 0-670-03472-X

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