Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton - review
A banal and impudent argument for the uses of religion
Why Evolution is True
January 21, 2012
In this TED talk, Alain de Botton (an author who specializes in popular philosophy) proposes “Atheism 2.0,” which rejects all deities and supernatural acts but caters to the “ritualistic side” of some atheists.
This is all a facile attempt to appropriate the trappings of religion as something essential to an atheist world. But do we need sermons and the endless repetition of “lessons”? Secular Europe does just fine without these things. What we need, as sociological studies indicate, is not stained glass, potted lilies, and a gasbag orator, but a society that cares about its citizens. For, as those studies show, societies that tend to be healthy are also the secular ones, and their citizens need not turn to sky-fathers for solace. Yes, we can have our rituals of marriage and funerals, but ritual baths? Calendars marking when we should observe what? I think not.
Doone posted a discussion on de Botton's group a few days ago, here. Most of us thought he was not very illuminating.
I had posted this on doone's discussion:
I like how Eagleton starts off his review (I highlighted the key phrases):
A banal and impudent argument for the uses of religion
The novels of Graham Greene are full of reluctant Christians, men and women who would like to be r
id of God but find themselves stuck with him like some lethal addiction. There are, however, reluctant atheists as well, people who long to dunk themselves in the baptismal font but can't quite bring themselves to believe. George Steiner and Roger Scruton have both been among this company at various stages of their careers. The agnostic philosopher Simon Critchley, who currently has a book in the press entitled The Faith of the Faithless, is one of a whole set of leftist thinkers today (Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben) whose work draws deeply on Christian theology. In this respect, the only thing that distinguishes them from the Pope is that they don't believe in God. It is rather like coming across a banker who doesn't believe in profit.
Such reluctant non-belief goes back a long way. Machiavelli thought religious ideas, however vacuous, were a useful way of terrorising the mob. Voltaire rejected the God of Christianity, but was anxious not to infect his servants with his own scepticism. Atheism was fine for the elite, but might breed dissent among the masses. The 18th-century Irish philosopher John Toland, who was rumoured to be the bastard son of a prostitute and a spoilt priest, clung to a "rational" religion himself, but thought the rabble should stick with their superstitions. There was one God for the rich and another for the poor. Edward Gibbon, one of the most notorious sceptics of all time, held that the religious doctrines he despised could still be socially useful. So does the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas today.
Read it all here.
Thanks for the link, very interesting. Though I did roll my eyes a couple of times, I like him though he might be something of a pragmatic opportunist. At the risk of sounding like an apologist, he is saying don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. It isn't as simple as throwing out religion or even being moral without religion. I'm a strong atheist but miss community and ritual. Secular Europe often still does the old rituals and calendars, yule, xmas, easter, etc... The baths idea may be hokum, but the concept of marrying up body and mind is appealing, meditation or yoga or even tattoos or baths etc. I also agree that art is totally misunderstood and underrated.
The lillies and gasbags (lol) might help us achieve a society that cares. Most people need help creating a community.
Yes, the community aspect is no doubt important. I think nobody wants to do away with family holidays such as Xmas, Easter, Passover, Id, etc. Most atheists on this site celebrate one or other of these holidays. In Manhattan, there is a Jewish secular community who gets together, celebrates holidays, etc., and cultural aspects of Judaism without any mention of god.
But this guy sounds like a reluctant atheist. in my philosophy, life is too short, why be a reluctant anything?
Increasing numbers of people are now growing up without any religion: for them, their sense of community is going to come from other of the many institutions that have get-togethers of people with common interests, I think.
There are even groups whose common interest is based on a certain ethics; for example, I'm friends with a group of people who do dog and cat rescue, they have fund raising events, events at bars, get-togethers to have dinner and chat, etc. One can say the same of most humanist organizations, too. Our tendency to be part of a group or community is too strong, too ingrained in us by evolution, to disappear with the disappearance of religion.
I haven't heard the term reluctant atheist before. De Botton sounds like he regrets not believing in god. It's kind of sickening.
I made up "reluctant atheist." I thought it fit this guy well.
Atheists should decree that Wednesday is the atheist day off =)
How about Mondays? 3 day-weekends! Yay!
what about a 3 day week? then we get rest on the 3rd day because three is acording to pythagoras of some significance.
I may be getting old, but a 3 day working week sounds good right now...
The Chinese think 4 is bad luck. They'll never go for it and keep on working seven days a week. Outworking us into insignificance.
hey i live in japan. i said day 3 is the sabbath. i thot the chinese had already made us insignificant.
actually , i believe the idea of an atheist org with "halls and ritual" has been tried. thing is. atheists are, by there nature, largely skeptical, so we don't join it in sig numbers. we also have various differing economic and philosophical viewpoints, so if we met we'd prolly be at each others throats in 5 minuts.