This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Breaking the Spell

Professor Daniel C. Dennett of Tuft's University has written a compelling treatise entitled Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. I just finished reading it last week - it goes a bit slow about a third of the way through - which is why I am writing this entry now and not last fall.

Dennett asks, but does not definitively answer the question of whether religion is a harmful, useful or neutral parasite. He begins an examination of this question using the tools of natural history, specifically examining how religion evolved from the time that language could be used to express folk religion until the present day using the tools of natural science, specifically the theory of evolution. Instead of genetic means, he indicates that the best method of transmission of religion is through meme's or thoughts which are learned from generation to generation and have an existence and evolution on their own. As expected from a philosopher, he calls for further research and more questions, rather than giving answers.

While not a believer in religion or any god, he does treat the topic with respect and does put in a plug for love as his highest value (without personifying it as a deity) (253). I think Jesus of Nazareth and and Paul of Tarsus would agree with him on the preeminence of love and would likely favorably compare his personal practice of this value with many religionists who prevert the word of God for their own personal ambition and authoritarianism.

Before taking this book back up, I read Gary Wills tome What Paul Meant. It is interesting to compare and contrast their viewpoints and values. If I had a show, I would love to put them together on the same radio program. It would be a fascinating discussion.


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