2013 Book Report 8: Breaking The Spell – Daniel Dennett

I read the paperback version of this book available here.

It is also available as a Kindle book.

Daniel Dennett is a philosopher and writer. When the ‘New Atheist’ movement reared up a few years back he was one of the oft cited representatives of that group, and this book is the reason why.

The book is quite dense, but strangely, it isn’t a hard read. This might seem surprising, encompassing as it does subjects including philosophy, psychology, sociology and many others. The approach is to use the diagnostic tools of these various branches of science to prod and probe at religion, and to conclude that in a time when we didn’t know how the world works it made sense to hypothesise gods and spirits. But our knowledge has flowed in and filled those spaces, and it is time to throw away the crutches, throw our shoulders back and proclaim ourselves a logical, reasoning species that has survived for long enough to become self-aware and capable of things beyond our forefather’s imaginations.

We should be proud of ourselves, not cowed by talk original sin. Yes, we should wonder at the world, but that should be a springboard for our curiosity, the starting point for a billion questions. And for not being satisfied with the ‘God Did It’ answer.

The obvious question is how does this book compare with others in the ‘New Atheist’ canon. It is obvious that it is written by an American author because it shows much more care in how it challenges religious belief than either Dawkins (The God Delusion) or Hitchins (God Is Not Great).  But this also results in a far less bombastic style throughout the book.  I missed the bombast, but at the same time I could read chunks of this without feeling like I had to come up for air (not so with Dawkins’ book).

A good read, and an interesting addition to the collection.