Summary and Info
Unlike the arrogant and aggressive approach of most militant atheists, Dennett's approach to critiquing religion is quite diplomatic and respectful. He seems to be aware that to address religious folk in an arrogant and haughty manner is to alienate the religious reader straight away.So rather than verbally bashing the religious reader into submission, Dennett strives to convince the reader instead. This was quite refreshing.To a large degree he is successful in departing from the traditional approach of the new atheists. There were very few times that I found myself rolling my eyes in reaction to the typical atheist drivel that is found in abundance in Dawkins and Hitchens works. Dennett seemed to have set the bar a bit higher.Dennett makes the point that Christians need to make their religion less of a "sacred cow", and more of a "worthy alternative" to all other worldviews. As a Christian myself, I have no doubt that this would be a virtuous exercise. Christianity could gain a lot from a critical examination, and a subsequent purge of all the dross that has infected it from the wider society over history.But one must not make the mistake of rejecting religion outright simply because it contains a few faults.Ultimately, if Christianity is the one true religion, then it will emerge from such a critique much stronger.I was very surprised to see that Dennett departs from the standard antireligious dogma of the other militant atheists who demand that religion should be totally wiped from schools. In contrast to this draconian position, Dennett believes that more religion should be taught in schools.He believes that students should be taught about all religions, not just the one that they have been brought up in. I think that in the multicultural society that we live in today, it would be highly beneficial to teach about the most prevalent faiths.He also believes that, contrary to the absurd claims of the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens, that parents should teach their children whatever they want - within reason- as long as it doesn't "close their minds through fear and hatred or disable them from inquiry."Despite the refreshingly tactful approach that Dennett took, he still managed to fall into some of the same old traps.One of the usual dirty tricks that other militant atheist authors are guilty of is overstating the validity of evolution.And Dennett is no less guilty of this. At one point he actually says that "Evolution is about as well established as the fact that water is H2O." Suffice it to say that no event of prehistory can ever be as scientifically established as water is H2O.Another dirty trick - or maybe wilful ignorance - is his comment that there are no reputable scientists who reject evolution. Lists of reputable scientists, such as from Creation Ministries International or the Discovery institute, amply refute this claim.Overall this book was a refreshingly diplomatic break from the usual antireligious diatribe of the new atheists. Dennett's exploration into "religion as a natural phenomenon" was quite genuine and thought provoking. But it's major downfall was that it is quite boring. Something about Dennett's writing style left me rather flat and unenthused, which is quite odd for an antireligious book.So based on the content of the book I would give four stars, but on style two.This leaves an average of three stars.You can find my more comprehensive review of this book at my website, a link to which is on my profile page.
More About the Author
Daniel Clement Dennett III (born March 28, 1942) is an American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science.
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