(New Statesman) Nelson Jones—Is there a religion for atheists?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Alain de Botton, probably the closest thing Britain has to a celebrity philosopher, has a Big Idea. Religion, he asserts, isn't "true", but its lack of truth is the least interesting thing about it. Instead of indulging in the dogmatic anti-theism associated with the likes of Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, why shouldn't atheists just "enjoy the best bits", as the publicity for his new book Religion For Atheists has it?

Many of us love Christmas carols, after all. Bach's cantatas are more profound and moving than anything written in the cause of atheism. Think of all those wonderful cathedrals, mosques and temples. Religion's power to transport the human spirit, to offer consolation and hope, to create a sense of belonging and inspire ethical conduct is undeniable even if you don't subscribe to the doctrines of a particular belief system. So let's work out precisely what gives religions their strength, "steal" it, bottle it and create a kind of transcendent secular humanism that will speak to people as deeply as religion does. Only without all that embarrassing dogma, not to mention the baggage of misogyny, homophobia, parochialism and intolerance with which most bona fide religions tend to come lumbered.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism

Posted January 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. MargaretG wrote:

They really are getting desperate!

January 29, 10:16 pm | [comment link]
2. Charles52 wrote:

Catholics do this all the time - take the bits they like and leave the hard parts. We call them “Cafeteria Catholics”. Oddly, the bits they really like are the wretched music, banal sermons, and ugly barns… I mean churches.

No accounting for taste, I guess.

January 29, 11:53 pm | [comment link]
3. Jon Edwards wrote:

The most dangerous thing about secularists is that they do not seem to realize that they too have dogmas that can be just as dangerous as the worst “religion” (whatever they mean by that term) has to offer.Unfortunately, this means there’s no internal (or external) system to check their dogma.

January 30, 12:32 am | [comment link]
4. paradoxymoron wrote:

An Episcopalian chiding Catholics for liking buildings too much? That’s rich! The entire Anglican communion is being torn asunder because in choice between drafty buildings with a charming window or two, or Jesus, most pick the building.

January 30, 4:59 am | [comment link]
5. Charles52 wrote:

I’m Roman Catholic.

January 30, 10:30 am | [comment link]
6. MichaelA wrote:

I thought the article was describing the current leadership of TEC…

January 31, 3:25 am | [comment link]
7. Gnu Ordure wrote:

Bad idea. Not so much the structure itself - which might have some validity as a work of art - but de Botton calling such a thing a ‘temple’.

As Richard Dawkins has already pointed out about this proposal, a ‘temple of atheism’ is a contradiction in terms.

February 1, 10:04 pm | [comment link]
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