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Excerpts from Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett

Chapter One: Breaking Which Spell?
"Tentatively, I propose to define religions as social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought." (p.9)
This quote helps Dennett define religion. In previous paragraphs he mentions the other religions of the world such as Buddhism, Wicca, and other New Age Phenomena. By this definition religion is more of a social structure having a supernatural being as one of it's core tenants.
"The principle is unassailable: we others have no right to intrude on their private practices so long as we can be quite sure that they are not injuring others." (p.14)
Setting up a central philosophy of religion. Precursor to admitting that uncovering religion is often looked at as taboo as it may "take away" from the effect and/or role religion plays as a comfort device.
"Eventually, we must arrive at questions about ultimate values, and no factual investigation could answer them. Instead, we can do no better than to sit down and reason together, a political process of mutual persuasion and education that we can try to conduct in good faith." ..."Those who refuse to participate (because they already know the answers in their hearts) are, from the point of view of the rest of us, part of the problem. Instead of being participants in our democratic effort to find agreement among our fellow human beings, they place themselves in the inventory of obstacles to be dealt with, one way or another." (p.14)

"It is high time that we subject religion as a global phenomenon to the most intensive multidisciplinary research we can muster...Why? Because religion is too important for us to remain ignorant about. It affects not just our social, political, and economic conflicts, but the very meanings we find in our lives" (p.14-15)

"Some see religion as the best hope for peace, a lifeboat we dare not rock lest we overturn it and all off us perish, and others see religious self-identification as the main source of conflict and violence in the world, and believe just as fervently that religious conviction is a terrible substitute for calm, informed reasoning. Good intentions pave both roads" (p.16)

"Those who are religious and believe religion to be the best hope of humankind cannot reasonably expect those of us who are skeptical to refrain from expressing our doubts if they themselves are unwilling to put their convictions under the microscope. If they are right-especially if they are obviously right, on further reflection-we skeptics will not only concede this but enthusiastically join the cause." (p.17)

"If the traditional cloak of privacy or 'sanctuary' is to be left in place, we should know why we're doing this, since a compelling case can be made that we're paying a terrible price for our ignorance." (p.19)

"...perhaps some cancer cures are miracles. If so, the only hope of ever demonstrating this to a doubting world would be by adopting the scientific method, with its assumption of no miracles, and showing that science was utterly unable to account for the phenomena." (p.14-15)

Chapter Two: Some Questions About Science
"Is religion out-of-bounds to science? It all depends on what you mean. If you mean the religious experiences,beliefs, practices, texts, artifacts, institutions, conflicts, and history of H. sapiens, then this is a voluminous catalogue of unquestionably natural phenomena" (p.29)


"The logistics of holy wars do not differ from the logistics of entirely secular conflicts" (pg.30)

"I am not suggesting that science should try to do what religion does, but that it should study, scientifically, what religion does." (pg.30-1)

"Many people think they know which is true, but nobody does. Isn't that fact, all by itself, enough reason to study religion scientifically? ...It would be useful to your hopes, whatever they are, to know more about what is likely to happen and why...They think there is a reason to investigate the future of religion, and they don't even think the course of future events lies within human power to determine. The rest of us have all the more reason to investigate the phenomena, since it is quite obvious that complacency and ignorance could lead us to squander our opportunities to steer the phenomena in what we take to be the benign directions."(pg.37)

"We wouldn't permit the world's food-producing interests to deflect us from studying human agriculture and nutrition, and we have learned not to exempt the banking-and-insurance world from intense and continuous scrutiny" (pg.38)

"The only arguments worth attending to will have to demonstrate that (1) religion provides net benefits to humankinds, and (2) these benefits would be unlikely to survive such an investigation." (pg.39)