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Publisher's Summary

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 creed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.

©2006 Daniel C. Dennett (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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Great Reader Actually Enhances A Great Book!

If you could sum up Breaking the Spell in three words, what would they be?

Insightful, Accessible and ... Spell-binding (not to be too cheeky)

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Thoroughly, this book hits the points so often touched upon by his contemporaries (M. Shermer, J. Campbell, K. Armstrong, S. Pinker, etc.) without getting too off-topic or muddled down in details. Colorful analogies and examples abound.

What about Dennis Holland’s performance did you like?

I am always wary of readers compromising a beloved author's book. Here, Holland (who already sounds quite a bit like Dennett) speaks with personality and style that capture Dennett's wit and adds the punch it deserves. A+

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This book attempts to explain religion, not scold it. No play for emotions here, as in the tomes of his fellow "horsemen" (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens), the mood is that of a philosopher, calm, serene and much more respectful. (not that that's much of a competition) This is, perhaps, the best of the four for a believer taking their first skeptical view.

Any additional comments?

Recommended follow-up/ companion audio-book:The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. (read by another talented reader Arthur Morey).

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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An excellent introduction to be origins of religion and belief

Excellent introduction to the objective study of religion and belief. Dennett is surely the most gentle of the new atheists, almost annoyingly so to someone like myself who read happily through Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens. I realize I am not the only audience here, however. Dennett doesn't spend much if any time making the atheism argument - the book is an intellectual defense of his proposed study of religion as a natural phenomenon. Rather than a book about atheism, this is more like a book on the lens through which atheists see the world and the great problems of civilization. I would definitely recommend Dennett to someone interested in non-religious thought, but for whom Harris/Hitchens/Dawkins might be to shocking at first.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Ted
  • Scottsdale, AZ, United States
  • 06-27-15

Amazing insights!

This is nothing less than a path of inquiry to cure the most dangerous disease of humanity. We can win the War on Terror by finding the cure to a shared delusion that threatens our very existence: Unbridled Religiosity!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant but too long introduction

Too cautious to foresee all the possible objections that believers may have, the author introduces his subject on at least four chapters before actually addressing it. They are four very interesting chapters, though.

Save that little critique, Dennett makes a very good case for the scientific study of religion as a phenomenon.

A must for every intellectually honnest citizen of the world.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Timely and Powerful Theory

Dennett has written brilliant books in the past, but none with greater importance for the persuit of peace in this world.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Some content gems but general tone disappointing

Is there anything you would change about this book?

A lot of the content was interesting, which kept me reading despite the fact that the author seems overly defensive and even a bit contemptuous at times. As an atheist, I was hoping for a very neutral look at religion in a scientific context, but Dennet's anti-religious bias is just as pronounced, and just as annoying, as "objective" views written by the devoutly religious.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Some interesting concepts were explored - such as the difference between the belief in god vs. the belief in the belief in god, and examples of religion as being evolutionarily advantageous or deleterious. The least interesting parts are definitely his passages defending himself, defending his book, and defending his field. He seems to assume the reader is either a religious fanatic reading his book with flaring indignation or a fellow religion-basher gleefully poking fun at all religious ideas. I was hoping for a more academic approach, perhaps looking at the role of religion in various societies both historically and currently. This book is more about how and why people believe the things they do, and the author's judgments on it.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Didn't care for narration

Any additional comments?

The book was okay, but I didn't care for the narration. The narrator has a great voice, but there was something about his narration that just didn't fit with this book. Sometimes it was the inflection that was off. Perhaps it was just that I could "hear" Daniel Dennett's voice and would have preferred him to this narrator. This narrator is probably great on other books.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very Thoughtful and Well Reasoned.

Very Thoughtful and Well Reasoned. Dennett leads the reader through the minefield of supernatural faith adroit rationality and articulates his philosophical arguments common-sensically.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Breathtaking clarity!

Breathtaking clarity on a subject almost never openly discussed. He approaches the topic of religion from many different angles, using history, interesting facts I wasn't privy too, and candor, but with a love of truth as opposed to a hatred/condemnation of religion.

I wish I could share the joy this book brought me with my religious friends/relatives, but I suppose they'd say the same thing about their relative religious texts.

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Great book, as always from Daniel C. Dennett.

This book calmly explains how religion could be perceived as a natural phenomenon evolving in our minds through thousands and thousands of years of our history. If you like Richard Dawkins, you will love this. Comparing to authors like Sam Harris, Dennett is much more sophisticated and his explanations are deeper, which does not surprise, as he is a highly trained philosopher. Reading performance suits the book and its profound and calm nature very well. Highly recommended.

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  • Robert
  • 12-04-16

Poor narration cheapens an otherwise great book

Daniel C Dennets book is well thought through and follows a process much more clearly that other in the genre. Unfortunately the narration is monotonous and such poor pronunciation as Kooee bono for Qui Bono grates in ears used to Latin. Please can Audible create a new edition read by a more adept reader and offer to upgrade people who own this edition for free?

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  • matt123
  • 02-21-15

Interesting Let down by narrator

Struggled to finish.Ifound the narrator incredibly boring. Didn't make it interesting at all. Shame Dennett doesn't do it

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 03-11-14

I just can't get past the condescending tone

I am open minded. I listen to books by authors from all walks of life on a variety of subjects. I am interested in humanity and what makes the species tick. I particularly enjoy books on religion by philosophers because they ask questions which open my mind to new possibilities, make me think and expand my world. This book assumes too much. The author spends too much time at the beginning of the book telling me what I would not be willing to do and trying to justify the way he writes without telling me a damn thing. This author claims to be open minded and yet is more pious about his standpoint than most religious advocates. Worse still, the narrator has chosen a condescending tone to voice the authors ideas. Disappointing and hard to listen to.

5 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Annika
  • 02-08-15

Style guide needed

Interesting substance lost in style meltdown. Dennett would do well to read Pinker's The Sense of Style.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful