Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel C. Dennett

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  1. I recently finished this book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel C. Dennett (well worth the time).

    In it, the author asks us think about the future of religion, and to consider five wildly different futures:

    “1. The Enlightenment is long gone; the creeping ‘secularization’ of modern societies that has been anticipated for two centuries is evaporating before our eyes. The tide is turning and religion is becoming more important than ever.

    2. Religion is in its death throes; today’s outbursts of fervor and fanaticism are but a brief and awkward transition to a truly modern society in which religion plays at most a ceremonial role.

    3. Religions transformed themselves into institutions unlike anything seen before on the planet: basically creedless associations selling self-help and enabling moral teamwork, using ceremony and tradition to cement relationships and build ‘long-term fan loyalty.’

    4. Religion diminishes in prestige and visibility, rather like smoking; it is tolerated, since there are those who say they can’t live without it, but it is discouraged, and teaching religion to impressionable young children is frowned upon in most societies and actually outlawed in others.

    5. Judgment day arrives. The blessed ascend bodily into heaven, and the rest are left behind to suffer the agonies of the damned, as the Antichrist is vanquished.”

    He acknowledges that many other futures exist but notes that “these five hypotheses highlight the extremes that are taken seriously. What is remarkable about the set is that just about anybody would find at least one of them preposterous, or troubling, or even deeply offensive, but everyone of them is not just anticipated but yearned for.”

    Thoughts? Which is most likely? Other possible futures?

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