Daniel & Religion as Natural phenomenon

Daniel C. Dennett is an accomplished name in the field of philosophical domain who wanted to investigate whether the religion is a natural phenomenon and for this he tried to explain religion through the lens of being “not an artifact, it is not artificial, and it is not natural as in the sense of sneezing, coughing or hunger”. He says that the religious domain is filled with phenomenon but they all comprise natural phenomenon. As a matter of fact, he adds

“Religion can certainly bring out the best in a person, but it is not the only phenomenon with that property. Having a child often has a wonderfully maturing effect on a person, …but for day-in, day-out lifelong bracing, there is probably nothing so effective as religion: it makes powerful and talented people more humble and patient, it makes average people rise above themselves, it provides a sturdy support for many people who desperately need help staying away from drink or drugs or crime.”

Main Body:
His idea could be compactly explained in the phrase best espoused by the philosophers of that era, in a way that Dennett proposes a variety of theories: First, “sweet tooth” theories. We have evolved a receptor system for sweet things, and in a similar way we might have a “god center” in our brains. Such a center might depend on a “mystical gene” that was favored by natural selection because people with it tended to survive better. Second, religions might be memes that infect our brains. They are not necessarily parasitic, but could be symbiotic, conferring advantages on those who are infected. Third, religion might be favored in sexual selection by females. For example, women might have preferred men who demonstrated sensitivity to music and ceremony, thus spreading genes for religious behavior within the population. Fourth, religions may be cultural artifacts, like money. They could have evolved because they make social life more harmonious, secure and efficient. Or else they could have evolved because they enable an elite to prey upon the ill-informed and powerless. Fifth, religions may be rather like pearls, beautiful by-products that arose in response to irritants, which then captivated human beings for no good reason. These theories are evidence-free and wildly speculative. By several criteria, they are pseudoscience. Or they are intellectual games.

In any case, Dennett goes on to speculate further. For example, in shamanic cultures, there might have been natural selection for a “hypnotisability gene” that affected brain chemistry, making people more prone to suggestion by shamans, and hence more likely to survive ill health because of a greater placebo response. This explains his unbreakable stand that even though the mysteries and mysticism in religion is perpetually present, we can say this with utmost assertion that religion is not supernatural activity as it has been explained by many critiques of religion.

In addition to this, he makes the claim that religion is not to understood as the asset of the hereditary and lineage wherein the parents have transferred this trait to their offspring during gestation period and it is not to be understood as the the gene mutation or product of random gene selection, it is not to be understood as the acquired or educated taste like in the case of reading books. It could be explained in the lens of the fact that if the person is devoted towards religion then he or she is having a sign of such type of upbringing. He explains it further that religion could be viewed through the eyes of what David Hume, the great empiricist, how he viewed it is example from his books on religion, the first one: religion as natural phenomenon and second book: concerning natural religion; he talks about He talks about the fact that there is a specific type of a religion that is called as the scientific religion which is having critical basis, logical segments as well as thoughtful measures for each and every of its practice. The natural religion must have all of those rules, regulations and procedures which could be explained, analyzed as well as investigated, critically scientifically and logically. This manifestation of religion is an indirect juxtaposition To the other category of religion, which is the revealed type of the sect, wherein It is based on mysticism, miracles, and supernatural domain of practices.

Daniel be that nearly two millennia of time period. The so-called philosophers who were trying to investigate religion and determine the substance of truth within it. They have turned up line towards the ultimately essential question that is what are the activity which are so much important to so many people, and that is other than the God himself in their religion; This particular question which has been kept in oblivious ignorance could be attributed to the further counter effect, which is visibly evident in the manifestation of inability and incapacity of people to rightly assert as to whether whether their religion is a natural phenomena or the supernatural projectile.

“Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them” (Dawkins). It is not surprising, then, to find religious leaders in every part of the world hitting upon the extra authority provided them by their taking on the title “Father.” says Daniel. What Daniel wanted to assert was simply this fact that religion is following the lines, thoughts and trajectory of events, historical happenings, structures, systems that duly stand in cognizant as well as consonance of the laws of physics and much like the laws of biology. Therefore, it is a natural phenomena.

Daniel Dennett (2006); Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Russell, B. 1935. Religion and Science. Oxford University Press, London.


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B.A Philosophy (Hons.) from Hansraj College, University of Delhi


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