“Religion From the Outside” by Freeman Dyson essay

Traditionally, religion was one of the primary concerns of ordinary people as well as the most outstanding thinkers of different epochs. At the present epoch of the dominance of science and modern technologies, religion is often viewed quite skeptically and atheism is widely spread. At the same time, the attitude of people to the problem of atheism may vary consistently. In this respect, it is worthy to refer to Freeman Dyson’s Religion From the Outside in which the author criticizes a convinced atheist Daniel C. Dennett and his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. In fact, Freeman Dyson states that Dennett uses a totally wrong approach to religion viewing it from outside, instead of viewing it from inside that, according to Dyson, would be more consistent and lead to more objective understanding of religion.

Speaking about Dyson’s article, it is primarily necessary to point out that he basically distinguishes two types of atheists. On the one hand, there are ordinary or moderate atheists, who simply do not believe in God are not going to change their position. On the other hand, there are more radical atheists who, being convinced that religion as well as supernatural at large has nothing to do with the real, objectively existing physical world, perceive religion very seriously in terms of its impact on other people. In fact, they do not simply reject God and religion but they also attempt to save people from being fooled off by religion. Dyson argues that this radical type of atheist stands on the ground according to which God is practically their personal enemy (4). It should be said that in Dyson’s article these atheist are juxtaposed to the most passionate believers whose faith is really blindfold.

In his article, the author argues that Dennett belongs to the class of the most radical atheists. According to Dyson, Dennett suggests the idea common to such atheists that science can really change the attitude of people to religion. To put it more precisely, Dyson notes that when the scientific analysis of religion has been completed, the power of religion to overawe human reason will be broken (6). In general, the author attempts to critically evaluate the position of Dennett that leads to certain disagreements of Dyson with the latter. On the one hand, Dyson agrees that the Dennett’s views on the development of religion are basically right, but the author points out that his criticism of religion is a bit exaggerated as Dennett makes fun of religion and is very skeptical about modern churches.

At this point it should be said that Dyson arrives to the main problem of his article, to the problem of the view on the perception and analysis of religion. In fact, the author disagrees with Dennett’s approach to religion and its criticism since, according to Dyson, he views religion from the outside. Instead, the author suggests viewing religion from the inside that reveals the respect of Dyson to religion, which he views as precious and ancient part of our human heritage (6). This is why he cannot agree with Dennett who perceives religion as a load of superfluous mental baggage which we should be glad to discard (Dyson, 6).

In general, Dyson views religion and science as two different approaches to understanding the universe since science is a particular bunch of tools that have been conspicuously successful for understanding and manipulating the material universe (7), while religion is another bunch of tools, giving us hints of a mental or spiritual universe that transcends the material universe (7).

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