"Breaking the Spell" is Daniel Dennett's most innovative and important work yet; it offers a profound challenge to society and a compelling new history of belief. Few forces in the world are as potent as religion: it comforts people in their suffering and inspires them to both magnificent and terrible deeds. In this provocative and timely book, Dennett seeks to uncover the origins of this power, and discusses why and how different faiths have commanded allegiance and shaped so many lives. He does not contest these beliefs. Rather, he argues passionately for the need to understand this multifaceted phenomenon, and he offers a truly original and comprehensive explanation for religion. What was the psychological and cultural soil in which it first took root? How did it evolve? Is it the product of blind evolutionary instinct or of rational choice? Dennett shows how these ideas could have spread from individual superstitions, via shamanism and the early wild' strains of religion to today's institutionalized systems. Dennett's extraordinary achievement is to weave such a richly detailed narrative, to imagine it so vividly, and to argue for it so forcefully. He brings religion into the realm of real public debate and, in so doing, he breaks the spell.