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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

One of the greatest thinkers of our age tackles one of the most important questions of our time: why people believe in God and how religion shapes our lives and our future. In this lecture, based on his new book of the same title, Dr. Dennett shows that for the vast majority of people there is nothing more important than religion. It is an integral part of their marriage, child rearing, and community. Dennett takes a hard look at this phenomenon and asks: Where does our devotion to God come from and what purpose does it serve? Is religion a blind evolutionary compulsion or a rational choice? In a spirited investigation that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. Deftly and lucidly, he contends that the ‘belief in belief’ has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need.

Dr. Daniel Dennett is a professor and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, and the author of the highly acclaimed Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Consciousness Explained, and Freedom Evolves.

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