Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Breaking the Spell:


Dennett's book is good. There's no working around that. In fact, his writing style is so lively written that I can actually feel the energy he put into the words, the desire for them to make sense and be as reasonable as possible. I think that's what I may be enjoying the most, honestly, over the ideas he conveys. But he does make sense, and the picture he paints is a very pragmatic one. Impassioned logic, I suppose. From his demeanor in the videos, this would not be apparent. 

From an integral point of view, I'd like to believe Dennett is one of the most comprehensive out of the "New Atheists," despite the fact that Sam Harris isn't truly an atheist. There are times when yes, he reduces everything to the physical world, and yes, he doesn't necessarily address the deeper, mystical religious experiences, leaving many people like me wondering if there even is a good scientific, rational-based answer to them yet. (I'm not looking for an answer, just curious what they have to say about it... I don't think they'll find an answer). Harris mentioned this deeper, mystical state and related it to consciousness, but did not make a case against it, in fact he outright said it was elusive and not truly related to religion as a majority. Dennett doesn't appear to address it yet. What he does address is the mythical attitudes, their origins, and a call to question them, if for a moment. He proposes a means to view religion: aesthetically, like music art and literature. Things we appreciate and that enrich our world.  He then asks whether the pros of this aesthetic view outweigh the cons (This is what I'm at). And that we must be daring, brave and mature enough to question it, to break apart the aesthetic piece. 

In a metaphor, he compares it to music. He argues that by analyzing it thoroughly and critically, he is not going to destroy its value. Not anymore than understanding the science behind a musical composition destroys the beauty of the song. If anything, he hopes it will 'break the spell' on religion, and help us truly appreciate its place without blowing it up to such an unquestionable and blinding level. This I can understand is necessary, for the majority of the world's population, to undergo.

So, if he's writing exactly what the mythic-based majority needs to hear, and as carefully and comprehensively as he can, what's wrong with that? I don't feel that the new atheists are necessarily beating a dead horse and cashing in by repeating the story of past scientists and philosophers regarding religion. If anything, a rebirth of critique on the mythic world religions needs to be done in order to help "break the spell," which, for all intensive purposes, has not yet been broken.

If you're interested in him, here are some more videos:



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