Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Words All Around Me

Originally, I thought I might entitle this post, My Bedside Table. However, I sleep on the floor and so the carpet serves as my table! Anyhow, the area around my "bed" has become littered with books. Hardbacks. Paperbacks. Some mine; the others from the library.

As I've noted in this space before, I've become my mother. Gone are the days when I would religiously read one and only one book at a time. Now, I'm at various stages in several books. I have three copies of the Zhuangzi with different chapters bookmarked. I've got two books from blogging compatriots nearby. Scattered around are three books about Taoism and my newest book -- the one I've been reading for the past two days -- is Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett.

Here's a short blurb from
In his characteristically provocative fashion, Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, calls for a scientific, rational examination of religion that will lead us to understand what purpose religion serves in our culture. Much like E.O. Wilson (In Search of Nature), Robert Wright (The Moral Animal), and Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene), Dennett explores religion as a cultural phenomenon governed by the processes of evolution and natural selection. Religion survives because it has some kind of beneficial role in human life, yet Dennett argues that it has also played a maleficent role. He elegantly pleads for religions to engage in empirical self-examination to protect future generations from the ignorance so often fostered by religion hiding behind doctrinal smoke screens. Because Dennett offers a tentative proposal for exploring religion as a natural phenomenon, his book is sometimes plagued by generalizations that leave us wanting more ("Only when we can frame a comprehensive view of the many aspects of religion can we formulate defensible policies for how to respond to religions in the future"). Although much of the ground he covers has already been well trod, he clearly throws down a gauntlet to religion. (Feb. 6)
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This is a topic -- the philosophy of religion -- that I've become quite interested in. Why do people feel the need to believe in something supernatural?

Hopefully, Dennett will provide a sliver of the answer. We'll see.

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