More on 'Breaking the Spell'
The author of this book finishes Chapter 1 'Breaking Which Spell?' with a section entitled 'Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, is which he basically lays out the goals/synopsis of the book. Like a good philosopher he goes through a series of meanings of the word natural, and the best that can be said for this is that it shows philosophy at its best in not taking a word or phrase at face value. "Natural" is a very misused word in (especially) North American society today.
A few good quotes from this section:
"Miracle-hunters must be scrupulous scientists or else they are wasting their time- a point long recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, which at least goes through the motions of subjecting the claims of miracles made on behalf of candidates for sainthood to objective scientific investigation"
I think the operative phrase here is "the motions" as standards of the miraculous are often bent for "political reasons" in the process of beatification and canonization. Some saints have a harder time getting recognized that others.
Also, concerning arguments for or against the existence of God, he says,
"I decided some time ago that diminishing returns had set in on the arguments about God's existence, and I doubt that any breakthroughs are in the offing, from either side".
He concludes by saying,
"What is this phenomenon or set of phenomena that means so much to so many people, and why-and how- does it command allegiance and shape so many lives so strongly ?"
This will be the focus of his book. The "why" and "how" of religion rather than its truth or falsity.
Thus ends chapter one.