Dan Dennett and I agree on a few things…

I was trying to find some easier ways to talk about the origins of religion with my students when I came across this TED talk by philosopher Dan Dennett, where he challenges Rick Warren’s A Purpose-Driven Life, makes a case for teaching world religions to all students (love!), and provides a brief look into the evolutionary aspects of religion.

I decided against using the video in class, as I think presenting the attacks on Warren would be a little unfair without also introducing his point of view, and the discussion of the evolution of religion a bit hard to follow for teenagers. But Dennett’s insistence on teaching all children about the world’s religions (around 4:16) and his statement that good can exist without god truly resonated with me. At the end of his talk, he states:

If you are like me, you know many wonderful, committed, engaged atheists, agnostics, who are being very good without God. And you also know many religious people who hide behind their sanctity instead of doing good works.

Is it wrong to state that one of my goals in this course is to help students learn to see past the labels we place on people (both good and bad) and simply see them for not only what they believe, but what they do?

Has anyone read Dennet’s book, Breaking the Spell? It’s on my list now.


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