The Guardian shows its colors: an editorial praising Alain de Botton

This is not some weirdo sounding off at the Guardian‘s “Comment is free” section, but a editorial, meaning that it reflects the sentiments of the paper’s editors. And those sentiments are strongly in favor of Alain de Botton, decrier of Dawkins and of atheist shrillness, and purveyor of the Temple of Atheism.  Just to show you how accommodationist the Guardian has become, I reproduce in its entirety “In praise of Alain de Botton”:

Religion without faith may seem about as pointless as non-alcoholic beer, but Alain de Botton’s latest project to build a series of secular temples suggests a new mood in the angry standoff between belief and non-belief. Not everyone will agree, of course. Richard Dawkins was characteristically trenchant: “Atheists don’t need temples.” Even so, isolating all the best bits of religion is an interesting exercise. Ritual and ceremony are useful ways of giving structure to our moral commitments. And many see churches and cathedrals as valuable places of community gathering and sources of awe and edification. But all this has been tried before. The French revolution had its temples of reason and Felix Adler’s godless sermon of 1874 inspired a whole movement for ethical societies. De Botton’s project may well be a glorious flop in the making, but there is certainly space for a more creative conversation about the purpose of religion.

Yes, it is a glorious flop in the making, and many, many people, most eloquently the atheist Philip Kitcher, have pointed out the social advantages of religion. And the “creative conversation” has already taken place. Some people claim that atheists must adopt some formalities of religion (Botton suggests things like temples and sermons), while others—many on this site—don’t feel they need them.  It’s clear that we are social beings, and do need to interact with our fellow humans and to feel supported by them.  But, as the example of secular Europe shows, that can be done successfully without borrowing any of the rituals of faith.  There’s nothing more to be said. Putting away temples and sermons, even when we are atheists, represents the last act in discarding our childish things.

h/t: Occam

148 Comments

  1. Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I thought it was pretty evident from religion that artefacts, temples and rituals can take on a life of their own and detract from the original points being made.

    Jesus, for all I know, may have been a really cool activist in the context of his time, even if he was religious. But there’s no evidence that the words attributed to him were actually his. That there can be so many Christianities that are based on suppose miraculous events and not just on arguments of social behaviour he may have made, is a pretty good indication that we should reject such dumb ideas as Botton’s.

    Just look at the Roman Catholic church, for Christ’s sake. What has that got to do with the political activities of some Jewish guy from 2000 years ago?

    Do we really want to risk that two millenia from now Dawkins’ mother will have statues celebrating the divinity of the virgin birth of her son Richard Christ?

    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      But there’s no evidence that the words attributed to him were actually his.

      There is also no evidence whatsoever that Jesus is anything more than a crudely improvised cobbled-together concocted crock.
      And a mountain of missing evidence that indicates that he is, in fact, very clearly, a poorly pastiched fabricated fiction.

      The day that we discard with the “polite pretense” that this Jesus, or Yeshua, character is anything but stolen legend, and call him for what he plainly is: a very convenient infantile invention, is the day that we start to grow up.

      • Dermot C
        Posted February 1, 2012 at 3:33 am | Permalink

        So, I take it, Michael, that you don’t believe in the historicity of Jesus.

        Of course, it would be so much easier, in countering Christianity, if He could be proven not to have existed, but I don’t think we can. The question is contested, I suspect always will be, and will remain possibly unaffirmable, one way or the other.

        Contra the

        poorly pastiched fabricated fiction

        , Bart D. Ehrman posits the rather ingenious and historiographically valid ‘argument against interest'; to be crude, at the centre of the later, theologically-inspired accretions, there may have been a real Yeshua. Robert M. Price, on the other hand, flat out goes with you, in accepting the fiction of the Christ; Carrier, by the way is due to publish a book in April proving the Anointed one’s legendary nature, using Bayesian analysis. But I very much doubt whether that will be the end of the question.

        Yes, rhetorically, Jesus is a

        very convenient infantile invention

        , in the manner of Hitchens, but the story itself is far from infantile; infantilising nowadays, maybe.

        I think we should accept that we can aver that Jesus’ existence is highly contested, more than reasonably open to question, and start from there.

        • Dermot C
          Posted February 1, 2012 at 3:37 am | Permalink

          Apologies for the useless and irritating html. tagging; neophyte entropy.

        • Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:10 am | Permalink

          Well, of course it’s highly contested: Who who believes in Jesus wouldn’t contest the idea that he didn’t exist?

          Yes, there could well have been a real Yeshua (it’s not an uncommon name) at the centre of the later, theologically-inspired accretions, but that Yeshua was not actually the Jesus Christ of the New Testament, did not actually do what Jesus is said to have done. At this point Ben usually leaps in with his observation that there is not one account of anything that he did – and the Jesus was hardly low profile… – among a library of contemporary works.

          Just as a putatively real Saxon bandit called Robert was not actually the Robin Hood of Piers Ploughman and a putatively real Romano-British warlord called Artōrius was not actually the King Arthur of Le morte d’Arthur.

          /@

          • Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:11 am | Permalink

            *and the Jesus was hardly …

            • Dermot C
              Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:39 am | Permalink

              Yes, Ant Allan, but I’m referring to the discussion amongst those who don’t believe in Christ’s divinity.

              I hope ben goren does jump in because I have an extraordinarily interesting and geeky little nugget for him on Apollonius of Tyana.

              How dare you allege that Robin Hood didn’t exist? I saw him in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on December 23rd last; played as not the Marian kind,

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:45 am | Permalink

                But the Jesus Christ of the Bible was divine.

                Once you let that go, you’re talking about the historicity of someone else entirely…

                /@

                PS. “not the Marian kind…” <groan/> Hmm… is there any slash fiction about him and Little John… or maybe Will Scarlett?

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

                Imagine in a few hundred years’ time the cult of the divinity of Sathya Sai Baba was global. Now you and I know he was a charlatan, but that he existed. Same sort of idea with Christ, the Christian gospels etc. and the thousands who still believe in SSB’s godliness.

                ‘It’s pahssible’, as Ehrman would say.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink

                Not up to the mark on mythical homo-eroticism, I’m afraid. Do I detect the spirit of Finbarr in the references to Little John and Will Scarlett?

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink

                PS. “Prove to me that you’re divine / Turn that water into wine!” ;-)

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

                I take your point, but SBB-the-charlatan would be the historical figure, not SBB-the-divine. That’s part of the point of Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, I think.

                Re Finbarr, I’m not up to the mark on literature (?), but if you meant, “Are John and Will phallic names?”, that thought had crossed my mind, but only after I’d written that.

                /@

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

                When I first encountered you I assumed you were American and posted something to you (about Ant ‘n’ Dec), taking for granted that you wouldn’t know about English culture; it’s bugged me ever since, so apologies for that.

                Anyway, Finbarr Saunders and his double entendres? Viz magazine? Hi-falutin’, it ain’t.

                On SBB the human vs. SBB the divine, I agree. And that’s the nub, I think, of this Christ question.

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

                Well, I am a Brit, but only vaguely familiar with Viz and some of its characters. (The Fat Slags, for example, which surely informed Hitchens’s controversial description of The Dixie Chicks.)

                I’ve been “Ant” since the time I appeared on The Crystal Maze in 1992 (well, since it was filmed, in November 1991). But more than once an American has assumed I’m a myrmecologist called Allan.

                And that’s exactly my point.

                /@

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

                You see my ‘psephologist’ and raise me ‘myrmecologist’. Trumped.

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                I went to a talk once where it was claimed that the names in Robin Hood are all meant to repeat the same meaning twice. It was common for real people to be referred to in this way at the time. Thus King Richard was not referred to as “The Lion Heart” because of his brave deeds but because Richard is a Germanic name that actually means lion’s heart. Thus Robin is a diminutive of Robert which means famous, in the sense of being easily recognised and Hood derives from the Saxon hrod that has the same meaning. The root meaning of John is young or little hence Little John and Marian is a diminutive of Mary who obviously must be a virgin hence Maid Marian.

                However the names are meant to suggest the opposite of what they mean. Thus Robin can go unrecognised into Nottingham, John is is actually big and strong, as for Maid Marion…

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

                Bogus… 

                “The name John derives via Latin Iōhannēs and Greek Ἰωάννης from the Hebrew name יוחנן (Yôḥanan, also transliterated Yochanan), a short form of the long name יְהוֹחָנָן Yehochanan, meaning “Yahweh is merciful”.” [Wp]

                /@

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

                Oh well, it’s a nice story! As is the legend itself.

              • Kharamatha
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

                Adding to the gallery: Johan, Johanna, Hannes, Hans, Hanna; Jöns.

                Gratuity!

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                Not to mention Jan, Jean, Ian, Iain, Ewan, Euan, Evan, Ivan, Yannos, …

                (My father, great uncle, uncle and cousin were/are all called John … and my grandfather was Jan.)

                /@

        • Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:42 am | Permalink

          So, I take it, Michael, that you don’t believe in the historicity of Jesus.

          How very, very perceptive of you.
          And that absence of belief is the distilled result of 40+ years of biblical study, including learning to read as close to the originals in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Coptic etc.
          Having eyeballed & formally translated many of the earliest extant biblical documents in the world.
          But that may pale into insignificance as opposed to your masterly scholarship in this arena, which is what, exactly? Remind the multitude of your scholarship, if you might deign to do so, please.

          Of course, it would be so much easier, in countering Christianity, if He could be proven not to have existed, but I don’t think we can.

          Whoa! Goal-shifting extraordinaire!
          Hooly-intercoursing-dooley! I don’t think that I have ever encountered such a blatant attempt at a logical fallacy as this one!
          OK: I’ll bight: whaddya got?
          (He asks, expecting no rational reply)
          I am not attempting to ‘counter’ Xtianity, whatever that may mean, but am merely suggesting that Yeshua is a complete and crude myth, and expecting such learned intellects as yourself to proffer ACTUAL EVIDENCE of his existence, which you have signally failed to do.

          • Dermot C
            Posted February 1, 2012 at 5:33 am | Permalink

            Michael,

            So, I take it, Michael, that you don’t believe in the historicity of Jesus.

            ..is an attempt at starting the post, setting the context and using humorous under-statement. Apologies, if this did not come over.

            Believe me, I was unaware of your expertise and have nothing but admiration for your academic prowess; I have made similar points to other biblical scholars in private correspondence.

            My scholarship pales into insignificance compared to you, but I do follow the debate, through reading as much as I can.

            Of course, it would be so much easier, in countering Christianity, if He could be proven not to have existed, but I don’t think we can.

            Perhaps,’countering’ is imprecise. Argue against, challenge, dispute, oppose, contest. But I fail to see why this is a ‘logical fallacy’. If Christ didn’t exist, the resurrection falls, as well as one of the few evidential claims which Christianity makes. I can not see how this can be viewed as ‘goal-shifting’ Unless, of course, one can claim to be a Christian without affirming His actual existence.

            I remain unconvinced that Jesus’ non-existence has been proven, but am eager to research more, having read Ehrman, Crossan, Price, the Bible, and as much around the subject as I can; Avalos is on the to read list.

            Finally, my point was not to offer evidence that He existed, but rather to note that within the secular debate His existence is contested, and I think that is obviously a reasonable position to take. It matters little to me, as an antitheist, whether He existed, apart from the inherent fascination of the subject, but yes, I do want to study it further in as dispassionate and temperate a way as possible.

            All the best.

            • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

              Your humble apology is accepted in the best of “faith”.
              I feel that with your revised outlook, you are bound to arrive at a similar conclusion to mine, if you should seek the evidence, or more aptly: the evidence that *should exist*, but is conspicuous by its entire absence.
              Although I have a niggling doubt:
              That you capitalise the ‘H’ in ‘he’ and ‘him’.
              Quite disturbing, given your eminently reasonable “I do want to study it further in as dispassionate and temperate a way as possible”.
              I trust that we might remain in contact, nonetheless.
              I hereby give permission for Prof. Coyne to relay my email address to you, as a measure of my bona fides, and as an invitation for us to exchange potentially fruitful interactions.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

                That would be great, Michael.

                The capitalised ‘H’ is residual politeness.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

                However, the apology wasn’t humble; it was as one human being to another. I assure you that I have not ‘revised my outlook’ for I do not feel that my substantive point changed.

                All the best.

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

                In always capitalise pronouns referring supposed deities when I can remember to. Religionists find it mighty confusing.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

                In anticipation of that correspondence, I did a quick search for your publications, but, to my disappointment, couldn’t find them; could you point me in the right direction? I must say that I was frapped, on coming across your knowledge of bio-medical sciences and your admission of being a mathematician.

                You can’t imagine how much your polymathism impresses me.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                On 1st Feb., I posted to you:

                ‘So, I take it, Michael, that you don’t believe in the historicity of Jesus.’

                You replied,

                ‘How very, very perceptive of you.
                And that absence of belief is the distilled result of 40+ years of biblical study, including learning to read as close to the originals in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Coptic etc.
                Having eyeballed & formally translated many of the earliest extant biblical documents in the world.
                But that may pale into insignificance as opposed to your masterly scholarship in this arena, which is what, exactly? Remind the multitude of your scholarship, if you might deign to do so, please….’

                I can find no record of you as a Biblical scholar, so I have these questions.
                Why can I find no record of a publication by you in the Biblical Studies field?
                Or was it a lie?
                Can you translate texts from Biblical Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Coptic into English?
                Or was it a lie?
                Have you seen and ‘formally translated many of the earliest extant biblical documents in the world.’?
                Or was it a lie?

                Other things don’t add up. Are you a reverend or not? Why did you not mention that you were a Biblical scholar in the context of the (very brief) article you wrote on Palestine and Israel? Why do you, in academic style, append letters to your name for organisations to which you have to buy membership (MRiAus)? I could mention more.

                It is our duty, especially on the internet, to be honest as to the facts. If we are not, then the dishonest can abuse a forum in order to appear to win an argument. If one can not trust someone then the debate is not a true exchange of ideas. And if that person loses their reputation for honesty in one area, then ALL of what they say becomes suspect.

                Michael, I’m afraid I find it ‘highly unlikely’ that I can trust you.

            • GBJames
              Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

              This: “I remain unconvinced that Jesus’ non-existence has been proven…” seems odd wording from an atheist who would likely decline to replace the word “Jesus” with “celestial teapot”.

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:21 am | Permalink

                An astute observation, if I may be permitted to say so.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

                Yes I would decline the replacement, because the celestial teapot refers to God.

                All the best.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:37 am | Permalink

                Got it. And Jesus refers to the catcher for the Seattle Mariners who, according to Wikipedia, does in fact exist.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

                So perhaps the man Jesus was of Hispanic origin; get Dan Brown on the case.

                All the best.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

                GB,

                The “I remain unconvinced that Jesus’ non-existence has been proven…” construction is in answer to, and in the context of, the assertion that He didn’t exist.

                I don’t know whether Jesus lived and I certainly don’t think he was God, because I don’t believe in God and haven’t done since the age of 12.

                And if the honest Biblical scholars still dispute the Christ’s existence, then I reiterate my original point which encapsulated the factual statement that within the secular debate, Jesus’ lack of historicity is not securely established.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                Dermot C: You allow much ambiguity in your statements, in particular given with habitual use of the capitol “H”. Most people (I assert), when talking about whether or not there was a “real” Jesus, are assumed to be talking about a deity, demigod, or prophet-like person, not an average Joe who, if transported in time, might play baseball in Seattle. This is why I pull at your leg. One can be a reasonably agnostic atheist concerning the existence of a carpenter with the name “Jesus”. (Sure, why not? And one called NovShmovKapov, too! The name isn’t important.) Being agnostic about a deified human like the one in the Bible is another matter entirely.

              • Dermot C
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                GB,

                Re: your 1.06 p.m. post. Fair enough about capitalisation; I note that the current trend is away from it, so maybe I’ll change the habit of a lifetime.

                Your point about most people assumimg that I was talking about some form of deity in discussing Jesus’ existence, I just don’t recognise; my default position, and that of the people I know, is that one would absolutely not have a god in mind. Different experiences.

                I have posted before that, as far as I can see, the Christ was an Apocalyptic Jew, of minimal contemporaneous influence. He may or may not have existed; neither of which state is necessary for my antitheism.

              • Posted February 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

                I think capitlisation is useful in that it makes it clear what is being asserted. Thus I can claim that He did not exist without committing myself to whether he existed.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

                But.. I think you are crashing through an open door. Nobody really cares whether there was an Apocalyptic Jew running around in 25 BCE. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t, given the rampant apocalyptic religious activity at the time. It only matters once you start deifying things, adding capital letters, using the the religious term “the Christ” and so forth. When you start using messianic labels for the dude it moves out of the common sense physical realm where maybe such a guy was there (but who cares because it doesn’t matter), and into an religiously-tainted zone where lots of people care but it just can’t be true because it doesn’t make sense. Who cares if the first option can’t be disproved?

  2. Chris Easterday
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Don’t excellent schools and the arts serve that function already?

  3. Jer
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Replace the temples with lecture halls and the sermons with talks.

    I could seriously get into going to see a decent lecture series that meets on Sunday mornings, where every week there are lectures on different topics followed by group discussions.

    That’s the benefit of religion – the evangelical religious folks in the US do this every week on a single topic of “religion”. If atheists feel the need to ape the social aspects of religion, pick up the good bits and set up a community around those.

    Don’t waste a lot of money on gawd-awful spectacles like a monument to atheism. What a waste.

    • Ed Stephenson
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      “I could seriously get into going to see a decent lecture series that meets on Sunday mornings, where every week there are lectures on different topics followed by group discussions.”

      What you’ve described is pretty much modern-day Unitarian Universalism.

      • DV
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        Sounds like a weekly TED.

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      SPES has been running a lecture series like this for years:

      http://www.ethicalsoc.org.uk/spes/index.php

  4. Schenck
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Fascinating that they’re saying ‘we need to have a conversation about religion’, but what they’re really saying is ‘get on your effing knees and stop being shrill’.

  5. Schenck
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Also: “[...] many see churches and cathedrals as valuable places of community gathering and sources of awe and edification”
    So go to a church or a cathedral. Why build some hokey phallic monument to atheism?

    In fact, isn’t Dr. Coyne a ‘non-religious’ jew? Doesn’t that show a more sensible model of accepting /some/ aspects of tradition and culture and ritual, than to go off an invent new ones?

    I suspect that the ‘Noveau Atheists’ above (as opposed to the New Atheists)will just end up being a sort of New-Agey weirdness in the end.

  6. Onkel Bob
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    The link is old, but the commentary is truthful, accurate, and well, comes from the Guardian:

    The art of drivel

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2005/jan/01/tvandradio.screenburn

    And I must highlight my favorite passage:

    “…yet if you pick up one of his books and read it cover to cover, you’ll come away with less insight into the human condition than if you’d worked your way through a copy of Mr Tickle instead.”

    • sasqwatch
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Leave it to Charlie Brooker to speak truth to drivel. We need a boatload of Charlie Brookers to emigrate to the US. I wonder if the Brits can spare a few… ;-)

    • bric
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Ah, those were the days . . . ‘the aspirational tosspot community’ is so very true

    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the link. Old, but aged like a fine wine.

    • Llwddythlw
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      Bleeding marvellous, especially the references to “an inverted black-and-white minstrel”. As far as characters in Viz are concerned, I would suggest that he’s closer to Roger Irrelevant than to Mr. Logic.

  7. Derek Vandivere
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Watching de Botton’s TED talk, I was reminded of one of Hitchen’s claims that his attitudes were generally driven by antiauthoritariansim. I think maybe it’s worth thinking about it in two dimensions – one from rational to mystical, and one from authoritarian to anti.

    De Botton, then, would be a rational authoritarian; he doesn’t believe in God but he sure does believe that everyone ought to read Austen (interestingly, he pretty much only mentioned art from a Western European perspective).

    • Dermot C
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      “Elinor did not reply, for she did not consider his conversation worthy of rational opposition.” (Sense and Sensibility – from memory)

      If she can write like that, why not believe that everyone ought to read Austen?

      • Dermot C
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Essai no. 2; I think I’ve got it.

        Elinor did not reply for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition. – that’s better.

      • Derek Vandivere
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        It’s the authoritarian side of it: here’s the canon and you must read it. Personally, I can’t stand Austen or the Brontes; I find all their characters basically useless people.

        My point was that he seems to want to impose one top-down idea of what culture is and what values all humanity should emulate. I’m guessing that he’s one of those people who would still say, for example, that hip hop isn’t music. Or that video games can’t be art.

        I actually don’t mind the idea of temples to thought and culture – but agree that (at least here) the Rijksmuseum, the Concertgebouw, the Vondelpark, and Felix Meritus cover those needs.

        Basically, I think he just really like cathedrals and other such monumental structures and is looking for an excuse to build one.

        • Dermot C
          Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

          And the Brontës couldn’t stand Austen. Poor old Jane’s coming in for a bit of a kicking this afternoon.

          • Derek Vandivere
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

            S’pose you could add Wharton to the list, although I enjoyed the descriptions of Gilded Age New York. I think it’s the attitude of ‘boo hoo, I’m sad because society’s expectations won’t let me do what I want without losing status or excessive wealth.’ I just keep muttering ‘oh, grow a paír’ when I’m reading books like that.

            • Dermot C
              Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

              I’m not sure what ‘growing a pair’ would mean in relation to Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, Jane Eyre and Cathy but I suspect you could have chosen a less infelicitous phrase, unless, of course, you wished to marry the spirit of Finbarr Saunders with the imaginations which satirised the British class and hereditary systems, in Austen, the inhuman rigidity of Non-conformist clergy, in C. Brontë, and with the genius who constructed the labyrinthine structure of Wuthering Heights – all 3 from a feminine perspective.

              All the best.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

                Ovaries come in pairs.

              • Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                Don’t egg him on.

                /@

        • Sajanas
          Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          I enjoy a good monument or pretty building too… my girlfriend and I have continued to be impressed by how beautiful some of the newer Asian cities have become while still seeming ultra-modern, and I can’t help but think that there is definite psychological benefit for producing beautiful, impressive architecture rather than purely utilitarian ones. And it doesn’t just have to be governments that do it… recently a statue of Robocop was funded by $1 donations on the internet, and placed in Detroit. Going back further, my donors from own state of NC purchased and restored our battleship from WWII, the USS North Carolina.

          But yeah… while I understand the need for a canon of classics, I think everyone needs to realize that there is no work that will be loved by everyone, and that disliking Austin (or in my case, Herman Melville), doesn’t make you uncultured.

          • Derek Vandivere
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            Well, a ‘canon’ does imply just that, pretty much.

  8. Sunny
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    The editorial board of The Guardian can be the priesthood and elect de Botton as Mr. Pope. And like all good religions we will also need ‘The Book’ mostly likely one by de Botton.

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      and edited and published by The Guardian (perpetual copyright reserved, if you please).

  9. Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I can understand the idea of wanting to do things like mark important occasions in life such as birth, marriage and death but people can already do that in a secular way that doesn’t require an atheist organisation or a church.

    For the social side, it just needs more things like skeptics in the pub to take hold.

    As for a temple? What a waste of money.

  10. Wayne Tyson
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Botton-pfishing?

  11. agentwhim
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Isn’t this just the philosophical equivalent of Madonna kissing Lady Gaga? He’s got a new book out and wants publicity.

    And we’re providing it.

  12. Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Am I imagining it, or does every sentence in that rambling drivel just scream “Andrew Brown”.

  13. GBJames
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Botton’s idea remains as bad as it was when he proposed it. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

  14. Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I can isolate all the best bits of religion — there , done it!

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Here’s one: without religion there wouldn’t be any J&M cartoons. You would be on a new avitar hunt.

      • S A GOULD
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        There would be no Exorcism movies.

        • Claimthehighground
          Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

          and Jerry’s website would be all about cats and views of Chicago

          • Chris Granger
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

            And food, and boots.

    • Derek Vandivere
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      I don’t think that’s quite fair – humanity wouldn’t have invented religion and kept it around for so long if it didn’t have some benefits (fellowship, comfort, etc.).

      • Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Yes, of course — only religion provides fellowship, comfort, etc. …

        /@

        • Derek Vandivere
          Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

          Did I say that? No.

          • Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

            Did I say you did? In fact, you clearly don’t believe that from your reply to #17.

            But why, then, would those benefits be the reason that humanity has kept religion around for so long? That was my point.

            /@

            • Derek Vandivere
              Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

              Your wording sure implied to me that you’d inferred that I was saying only religion can provide those benefits. That’s why I was surprised by your comment.

              I’m not sure I get your question – the reason humanity’s kept religion around. Is it not just blindingly obvious that the vast majority of people find the benefits of religion to outweigh its drawbacks? There’s certainly organizational inertia at play as well, since religion is often associated with (political) power. But I think it’s pretty clear that at the individual level most people feel religion is a net benefit for them.

              • Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

                It was just a rhetorical device.

                But then, if we agree that it is not only religion that can provide those benefits, and if we agree that at the individual level most (religious!) people feel religion is a net benefit for them, the question remains: Why do people stick with religion — rather than going to concerts and lecture series, doing volunteer work, &c., &c. — if religion has those drawbacks, and the alternatives, lacking those drawbacks, would thus have a greater net benefit?

                I don’t think that’s so blindingly obvious.

                /@

      • Kevin
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        Yes, that whole “believe or be burned at the stake” thing had nothing to do with it.

        • Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Stick: “believe or be burned at the stake”

          Carrot: “believe and have everlasting life”

          /@

      • DV
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        That’s like saying humanity wouldn’t have kept the common cold around if it didn’t have some benefits.

  15. Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    No, it is an inglorious flop in the making

    FIFY!

    /@

  16. Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Richard Wiseman on Blog special: Alain de Botton on his ‘temple of atheism’

    Botton’s views on architecture are linked to his views on taking lessons from religion: Philosophy Bites.

    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      So, reading Wiseman’s blog, de Buffoon is distancing himself from the idea of a “temple of atheism” …

      I suspect that this was a deliberate piece of self-publicity. Whatever his faults, he is too clever, I think, to “have explained it extremely badly” and likely deliberately put out the “temple of atheism” idea knowing that it would be provocative and get people talking… about him.

      We’ve all fallen into his trap…

      /@

  17. RandomCommenter
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Somehow, the atheist community manages to wring every drop of nuance out of the conversation….

    Let me be clear: I think an atheist temple is a pretty silly idea and potentially quite counter-productive — It would muddy the waters.

    I don’t think, however, that there is anything particularly remarkable about this question de Botton’s basic questions: “Hm. Maybe something that billions of people have been doing for thousands of years somehow meets their needs?”

    By example: what do non-religious _in _fact _do, by the millions, while they’re not busy at church? One thing they do is attend collective gatherings that have labels like Origins and Skepticon and TED and AAI, and sit in big rooms while noteworthy speakers hold forth in front of them, after which they eat lunch and celebrate their commonalities. In doing so, they are the proud and progressive denizens of an evolved and evolving culture. BUT, should one do the same thing in a venue that has “methodist” or some similar label in any way attached to it, well, that’s just silly, wrong, ridiculous and childish!

    But that’s just one example, by the by. We should let ourselves get distracted by the silliness of the temple idea from considering what the atheist community could be doing _for _community and other things that people use religions for. De Botton says that pointing out the ridiculousness of religious belief is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel http://bit.ly/AvrYxS A friend of mine says that losing his religion was “like the death of a parent”.

    The atheist movement is not picking up the hard work of creating space for my friend to go to — it’s too busy with ridicule. Talk about childish things.

    • Derek Vandivere
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I think the point is that it’s your friend’s responsibility to find those groups that fill the needs that leaving his church hadn’t. Plenty of concerts, lecture series, volunteer opportunities, and so forth.

    • GBJames
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Dear RandomCommenter,

      I don’t understand your point. You say “I think an atheist temple is a pretty silly idea and potentially quite counter-productive — It would muddy the waters.” but fail to explain what waters are being muddied. And while you assert that we atheists are are doing these things community-things “by the millions”, you follow it up by complaining that we aren’t doing the hard work of providing your friends with something they need.

      I don’t think that is coherent.

      • RandomCommenter
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        I think that’s a fair observation, GBJames, and thanks for it. Another thing that wrings the nuance out of conversation is the brevity of blog comments….

        As to “muddying the waters”, google “atheism is a religion”. Here’s a top hit http://bit.ly/zPX1Rr One of the most frequently-used tools of religious demagogues is the accusation that atheism is just another religion, or that it requires as much faith as religious belief. I think that’s inaccurate, simplistic — and unfair, because to a first approximation, every person’s worldview is as complicated and subtle as the next, and atheists have the broadest possible range of reasons they claim for their non-belief. By taking on the trappings of religion by name, we’d give examples to those who speak against us.

        As to “the hard work” of creating space where my friend can go and there already being venues available for the non-religious, there are venues: lectures, meetings, conventions… But these appeal to the confident, committed skeptic, and not to everyone who might be looking for the next step in their life after eschewing religion. For example, where are the secular community centers that are there not only when a convention is in town (or to which one has to travel), but where a person can go for the social and personal connections they offer all the time — and which aren’t just for ardent atheists and skeptics?

        If American Atheists is right, there are countless non-religious people in church pews every week http://bit.ly/zeALiT That’s a gigantic marketing opportunity for those of us who favor a pluralistic society that allows people without god-belief to live as equal partners in culture and who promote the secularization of public policy. So it’s incumbent on us to ask, “why are they there?” Why don’t they come out of the church and help us demonstrate how numerous a constituency is not being served in politics and society?

        One answer (there are many): they’re getting something there that they don’t get elsewhere, and it’s as simple as that.

        • Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          But atheism isn’t a worldview. It’s a single idea. Often the necessary consequence of a fully-fledged worldview.

          Confusion arises, as Blag Hag noted {more or less}, because “{some} atheists are constantly promoting {some of} [the] tenets [of secular humanism] under the guise of atheism”, among other things.

          /@

          • RandomCommenter
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

            “But atheism isn’t a worldview. It’s a single idea. Often the necessary consequence of a fully-fledged worldview.”

            I agree with you. One’s worldview may or may not include atheism. I also agree that religon-like but nontheistic organizations can sometimes confuse people.

            I hope that the diversity of views on offer at the upcoming Reason Rally in March will create opportunities for the nontheistic community to make its views clear, and help us to organize for greater effect. http://bit.ly/w7wY6b

            • Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

              I’d love to be there. But an ocean stops me.

              /@

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            Thanks! I was getting there, but needed the nudge.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

          RandomCommenter said: “…where a person can go for the social and personal connections they offer all the time — and which aren’t just for ardent atheists and skeptics?“.

          To which I would respond: “The Internet. Universities. Museums. Libraries. Bridge clubs. Neighborhood groups. Local park support groups. Political organizations.” What exactly are we missing? Perhaps Come-Meet-an-Atheist dance mixers? The world is full of stuff to do when you aren’t in church.

          If there is hard work, it is (IMO) providing a list of missing opportunities for the uncommitted atheist.

          • RandomCommenter
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            ““The Internet. Universities. Museums. Libraries. Bridge clubs. Neighborhood groups. Local park support groups. Political organizations.””

            Again, fair enough. But if you imagine that the opportunities market is as attractive and saturated as it can get, then why are so many atheists still going to church?

            I’m merely saying that the possibility that opportunities are being missed is worth thinking about.

            And if there are overlooked opportunities to be listed, I’d be interested in seeing the list! I’m quite confident that there are no secular community centers where I live.

            … Will someone please tell me how to get italics here? I don’t want to SHOUT, but the usual hotkeys aren’t working. Thanks.

            • Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

              <i>Like this<i>! » Like this!

              /@

              • Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

                :-/

                Oops! Messed up the closing tag: </i>

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                Thanks!

                test
                bold?

                Ah, now I get it :-)

            • GBJames
              Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

              You ask: then why are so many atheists still going to church?

              I answer: Mostly for fear of losing family and community respect. The solution for this is not an Atheist Dance Contest. It is for the rest of us “out of the closet” types to be visible. That requires, IMO, a willingness to be called “shrill” and “strident”, because that is what you will be called regardless of how polite you are.

              You said: I’m merely saying that the possibility that opportunities are being missed is worth thinking about.

              To which I respond: If you think so, fine. Go think about it, make a list and bring it back to enlighten us all. But don’t ask the rest of us to create the list for you. We aren’t claiming there is a need for it.

              • GBJames
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

                damn. screwed up a closing tag!

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

                I’ve been a forums moderator for years, but it still never fails to amaze me how quickly a quest for emphasis leads away from accuracy ;-) I’m not talking about atheist dance parties — I’m wondering whether there is value in something like a community center that operates without regard to god-belief (or other special interests!), and whether such a thing would meet a collection of needs not currently met — at least for some people — outside of churches. Nor am I suggesting that other people should do my work for me by compiling a list of such organizations that already exist, and I have also not suggested that atheists shouldn’t be visible as such and risk being branded with the usual negative labels.

                But it seems we approach an impasse.

                I am curious about one thing, though. It begins to seem as if you find my hypothetical maunderings actually offensive in some way, and I wonder if you’d say whether my perception is inaccurate, or, if not, why that is?

              • GBJames
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

                Because your presuppose that things like: “community center that operates without regard to god-belief” don’t already exist. They do. So that leaves me mystified as to what these things you are suggesting we need to create actually are!

                And no, hypothetical maunderings are not offensive. But you keep saying/implying that we (the atheist community) are failing to do something. That we are not doing the hard work. But you have not identified what those things are.

                I’m of the opinion that the lives of closeted atheists will not be improved by the creation of kind of new church-like buildings or club. The reason I am of this opinion is that nobody seems to be able to articulate what these valuable nuggets-to-be-mimiced are, or to demonstrate that these missing diamonds don’t already exist outside church.

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

                “Because your presuppose that things like: “community center that operates without regard to god-belief” don’t already exist. They do.”

                OK. I’m not asking you to make a list ;-), but name one. Can you name an organization that’s neither a church nor a special-interest venue that puts in one place, for everyone who cares to show up, all of the services provided by pretty much any church with more than about 50 members? I’m talking shared space, child care, elder involvement, counseling, social gatherings, cultural events, organized civic service, a calendar of activities, collective charitable giving, and the rest of that gamut — again, for everyone who cares to show up, without regard to special interest.

                I’m fully aware that all of those things can be had cafeteria style from other outlets. But why is consolidation of them necessarily a bad idea?

                And no, hypothetical maunderings are not offensive. But you keep saying/implying that we (the atheist community) are failing to do something. That we are not doing the hard work. But you have not identified what those things are.

                No, I said it once.

                I think that non-faith organizations have been very successful at providing community opportunities for atheists. I think it’s a fair observation, though, that while there are options for theists and options for atheists, and quite a lot of overlap between, there aren’t consolidating organizations that provide options for people, regardless of what labels they adopt.

              • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

                Why do you insist on a one-stop shop? All these things are out there, some places already described.

                But a mall seems pretty much what you describe.

              • GBJames
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

                Nobody has suggested that consolidation of social services is a bad thing. Nor is it necessarily a good thing. Nor is it true that every church with more than 50 members provides all of these services to anyone who shows up.

                This conversation (I thought) was was about whether you had provide services of some sort that could currently only be found in churches. If you are actually saying it is about providing some particular basket of services, then that’s a different subject. And if that’s the subject, then why are you saying “I think that non-faith organizations have been very successful at providing community opportunities for atheists.?

                If we have these atheist support services, what on earth would preclude middle-of-the-road, closeted atheists, from availing themselves of it?

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

                GBJames said: If you are actually saying it is about providing some particular basket of services, then that’s a different subject. And if that’s the subject, then why are you saying “I think that non-faith organizations have been very successful at providing community opportunities for atheists.?

                If we have these atheist support services, what on earth would preclude middle-of-the-road, closeted atheists, from availing themselves of it?

                The day before yesterday, I had a nice talk with someone who had spent 10 years in church after he no longer believed in its religion — no naif, simpleton, or shrinking violet, mind you — a person fully aware of the internet and confident enough to pursue an option that he found attractive. This person spoke of numerous acquaintances he’s met since leaving the church who no longer agree with their faith tradition, but would never, ever involve themselves with anything like the issues organizations that are popular with committed atheists.

                I am not at liberty to identify these people specifically, so I can only tell you that I have an existence proof, on what honor attaches to an anonymous blog commenter :-D

                Of people who are of a secular mindset but still going to church despite dissatisfaction therewith, I say that they exist, and they are ill-served by both churches and by the support systems currently available to the “atheist” community.

                FWIW….

              • GBJames
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                I do not doubt in the least that there are nonbelievers who feel trapped in churches for social reasons. Dan Dennett has shown that many of them are even priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams.

                You continue to assert the existence of service communities that are available to atheists that are somehow denied to these people. That simply doesn’t wash. And changing the subject by moving the goalposts (they have to be full-service!) doesn’t or pretending that we’re discussing the existence of “closeted atheists” doesn’t make your case.

                You can’t have it both ways. You can’t assert the existence of these non-church entities and simultaneously assert that that they don’t exist because we haven’t done the hard work of even figuring out what they are. It is not coherent.

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

                You continue to assert the existence of service communities that are available to atheists that are somehow denied to these people. That simply doesn’t wash.

                Uh, that’s a negative, Ghostrider ;-) I am saying that there are communities that are attractive to atheists as such that may not be attractive to all atheists. I hypothesize a community center that would meet need of church-going atheists that are currently met by churches and not elsewhere, and contending that such an option could be useful for secularism.

                And changing the subject by moving the goalposts (they have to be full-service!) doesn’t or pretending that we’re discussing the existence of “closeted atheists” doesn’t make your case.

                I’m sorry if I’m not being sufficiently clear, but that’s not what I said either.

                You asserted that community centers exist; I am just noting that they (self-evidently!) don’t attract church-going atheists out of the churches, or consolidate services in quite the way that churches are wont to do. I didn’t mean to move any goalposts by challenging you to identify an organization that could (hypothetically) replace what church-going atheists are getting from the churches.

                You can’t have it both ways. You can’t assert the existence of these non-church entities and simultaneously assert that that they don’t exist because we haven’t done the hard work of even figuring out what they are. It is not coherent.

                I’m not trying to have anything two ways.

                Again, it is self-evidently true that atheists in churches are not getting met the needs that they are getting met in churches outside of the churches. Agreed? What I assert is that — while there are non-church entities that do attract the kind of people that are attracted to them — it’s conceivable that some other kind of entity could exist, and also be useful to people who have not been attracted to the entities that exist, and to secularism.

                I don’t think we’re talking for the same reasons. I’m just trying to explore an idea.

              • GBJames
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

                OK, RandomCommenter, after you formulate your hypothesis into a testable proposition please return and let us know how the Hard Work went. I have no idea what your dance hall will will look like, perhaps like the Mall of America? Do send pictures.

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

                OK, RandomCommenter, after you formulate your hypothesis into a testable proposition please return and let us know how the Hard Work went.

                I think the only possible test is “build it, and see whether they come” :-D

                Anyway, thanks. It’s been stimulating.

    • Occam
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      “Maybe something that billions of people have been doing for thousands of years somehow meets their needs?”

      It did. Until sanitation was invented, and plumbing installed.

      A friend of mine says that losing his religion was “like the death of a parent”.

      The process of dealing with that, like dealing with the death of a parent, is part of growing up.
      It can be delayed, it can even be eschewed: with pathological consequences.

      • RandomCommenter
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        “A friend of mine says that losing his religion was “like the death of a parent”.

        “The process of dealing with that, like dealing with the death of a parent, is part of growing up.”

        Well, for godless’ sake, don’t let’s help anybody with it!

        • Occam
          Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          By all means do.
          But is a worship ersatz a good way to help? I don’t think so. Certainly not the way I would help a friend — and help a friend I certainly would.

          Some seem to think that people bereft of their former religious faith are in need of structures akin to Alcoholics Anonymous. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t have sufficient evidence, either way.
          But let’s not multiply entities, institutional or otherwise, beyond necessity.

          • RandomCommenter
            Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            By all means do.
            But is a worship
            ersatz a good way to help? I don’t think so. Certainly not the way I would help a friend — and help a friend I certainly would.

            When did I talk about worship? Or, are you contending that De Botton argues that atheists should “worship” at “temples”? It’s not clear to me.

            “Some seem to think that people bereft of their former religious faith are in need of structures akin to Alcoholics Anonymous.”

            In fact, there are even counselors who offer services to people who have left their faith tradition. Dawkins interviewed one such (for Root of All Evil, I think, but I didn’t save the link). Their clients certainly perceive the need for that!

            No, I agree with your “Occam’s Razor of civic institutions” argument. But if the need exists (and I think at least that such a thing might be useful), I don’t understand why anyone in the atheist community would be hostile to the creation of secular organizations that consolidate services in the way of a religious institution.

            • GBJames
              Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

              You said: “I don’t understand why anyone in the atheist community would be hostile to the creation of secular organizations that consolidate services in the way of a religious institution.

              To which I answer: Because doing it “in the way of a religious institution” is at best meaningless and at worst foolish. What does it mean? Are we to understand that there will be congregations sitting in pews with books of song? Will there be vestments? Will there be a moment where all are asked to turn to a neighbor and wink? Will there be magic tricks?

              What does “in the way of a religious institution” mean to you? Because it bring to my mind nothing I want anything to do with.

            • Occam
              Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

              - ‘Consolidating services’ akin to religious institutions: a firm and definite NO. These reflect a long history of power structures. Impossible to break the habit whithout stopping the subservience to such power structures. If we’re to have secular organisations, they certainly must not be mapping religious ones.
              – Re professional counseling, I’m willing and happy to go along as and if required. My experience is simply that of helping my friends, 1:1.
              Ersatz worship: communal gatherings, if intended in the perspective you describe, are in my view precisely that. The ‘temple’ meme irrevocably carries with it the idea of worship. And de Botton’s ‘basic questions’, as spelled out by you between quotation marks, clearly qualify as ersatz worship. The operative vocable is ersatz.

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

                “‘Consolidating services’ akin to religious institutions:”

                OK. Try this: I’m observing that churches consolidate services to an extent and with a comprehensiveness that other organizations don’t do.

                These reflect a long history of power structures.

                Obviously, every organization (and its membership) needs to be on the lookout for abuse of power to some extent, so I don’t think that distinguishes my hypothetical community center from other kinds of organizations, in principle.

                Ersatz worship: communal gatherings, if intended in the perspective you describe, are in my view precisely that.”

                I don’t recall describing the nature of any communal gatherings….

                So, would you say that a coffee klatch is “ersatz worship”? A singing club? Is a bowling alley a place of worship, or a museum? Is it worship when a senior center shows a movie for its members? I think not, and I’m merely talking about putting such things and opportunities for such activities in one place for all comers, regardless of special interest.

              • RandomCommenter
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

                “Re professional counseling, I’m willing and happy to go along as and if required. My experience is simply that of helping my friends, 1:1.”

                Admirable!

                Imagine if you will that person in the church pew who’s lost her faith but feels badly about it: she feels isolated, alienated, alone. Her whole life and community are wrapped up in the church and its community. She’s not happy there, but she also doesn’t want to involve herself in any “issues” organization that provides an alternative place for community.

                I’d be inclined to befriend and help such a person, but we’d never meet, because I don’t go to church, and she doesn’t know where else to go. If she did know where else to go, we might meet each other, and she might become visible as a non-faith constituent of society and a possible ally for secularism.

                What’s wrong with that?

              • GBJames
                Posted January 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

                RandomCommenter, you said: “Imagine if you will that person in the church pew who’s lost her faith but feels badly about it: she feels isolated, alienated, alone.

                This person needs to be introduced to The Internet. It is a ready resource for learning about all kinds of opportunities and meeting all kinds of people.

                The idea that we need to create a batch of fake churches where people do (what exactly… take their kids to child care?) so she has a place to turn is not realistic. It would be far more effective for atheists to just wear their little red “A” pins so that this lady became aware that she already knew atheists.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      See my comment below. In today’s society, physical places are expensive, superfluous, and anachronistic.

      There are plenty of physical places to meet, if you feel the need. Your local library will probably give you a meeting room for quite a reasonable rate.

      There is precisely zero need in the community for a dedicated building that says “atheist” on it.

  18. sasqwatch
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Perhaps then, a temple to agnosticism? Or not.

    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Oh… I don’t know… 

      /@

      • sasqwatch
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        How could you? How could anybody?

      • sasqwatch
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Right on, brother. Frankly, atheists who are absolutely sure that a temple dedicated to their religion would be a waste of time are just as fundamentalist as theists who are absolutely sure that temples to their god are necessary. Or not.

  19. billzfantazy
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    @Stooshie “For the social side, it just needs more things like skeptics in the pub to take hold.”
    I’m with you there, with the caveat that it needn’t be only skeptics. Much better to debate with a wide cross-section of humanity than preaching to the converted (so to speak)

  20. Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    There already is religion without faith: eg Unitarianism, Reconstructionist Judaism, and some variants of Buddhism all could be described that way. So the waters are already pretty muddy.

    I don’t quite understand the opposition to these, or to de Bottom, coming from here. If these groups makes no extraordinary claims about the natural world or its underlying metaphysics, why should scientists or rationalists object to them? If they don’t appeal to you personally, you don’t have to participate.

  21. Sajanas
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Religious people would *love* for atheists to have temples, because it would put them on an even standing with any other religion, and thus allow them to use the same techniques to dismiss atheism that they use for every other religion.

    But its not really the same at all. I’d say that even if atheists *did* have temples to reason or what not, there is still a big difference because it is providing a service to the community, rather than being a requirement of that community and an end onto itself.

  22. Occam
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    A series of secular temples, now?
    Mr. de Botton must have caught the franchise bug.
    Let’s contribute to the architectural concept of his Grand Central, then.
    Clearly, the first structure must be Kantian: one tower for <i<Pure Reason, another for Practical Reason.
    The Twin Towers of Reason.
    Unassailable.

    All things considered, the only architectural structure commensurate with Mr. de Botton’s awful farce is an equally atrocious pun:
    a Botton-less pit.

  23. Kevin
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Hasn’t de Botton ever heard of Facebook?

    I’ll bet a nickle he’s older than me. Because he’s proposing an old-fashioned “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Yes, we’re social beings…however, solid research has shown that participation in extra-household activities is on the wane and has been for several decades.

    Whether it be the Kiwanis, Rotary, Barbershop Harmony Society, or any religious denomination, membership is declining and attendance among the membership in weekly meetings is declining further than that.

    There are other demands of peoples’ time, and other ways for them to meet their “socialization” needs.

    The very very very very last thing atheists need is a “temple”. Especially since it would only be in a single physical location — what good does that edifice do to an atheist in Debuque? Or, for that matter, anywhere outside of a 30-minute drive of the thing?

  24. truthspeaker
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Even so, isolating all the best bits of religion is an interesting exercise.

    I’ve already carried out this exercise. Listed below are the best bits of religion:

  25. rez imotoboleht
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Why couldn’t they just raise money to build an awesome new research institute, where they could host interesting public lectures throughout the week? New atheists just need something interesting to think about and rally around, and atheism itself is inherently uninteresting. What do people do at an atheist temple anyways, sit in a circle telling stories about how they deconverted? Sorry, I’d rather stay home and watch youtube. This whole thing seems akin to finally moving out of your parents house, only to set up camp in their garage.

  26. Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    “Richard Dawkins was characteristically trenchant: ‘Atheists don’t need temples.’”

    I wonder if the writer realised he was complementing Dawkins with that word?

    trenchant adj. 1 vigorous or incisive in expression or style [NOAD]

    He probably thought it meant “shrill”.

    /@

  27. Dale Edwards
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I see a Templeton Prize in de Botton’s future.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I’m guessing he’d then want to erect a Templeton Temple to it.

      • Occam
        Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Who’s talking dirty now? :)

    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      That’s impressive Dale, I reckon you deserve a Templeton Prize.

  28. yesmyliege
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I think a Museum of Atheism would be a great idea.

    Somewhere where someone could go in and learn about the history of religions, and explore the arguments for atheism, learn about critical analysis of the origins of the Abraham religions.

    It would have to have a great bars, wi/fi coffee shops galore, movie theater and a large auditorium for a continuing series of educational lectures. A cool place to wander into, and a great place to hang out for conversation, and hopefully a hub for social action.

    If we had one in every major city it would completely freak out the ecclesiasts, and would certainly put a face to, and improve the public perception of, atheism.

  29. AnthonyK
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Surely we have plenty of temples to Atheism in Britain: we call them “cathedrals”.
    They inspire me with awe and wonder whenever I visit one, demonstrating beautifully just what can be made by man alone, entirely without god.

    • GBJames
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      +1

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 1, 2012 at 4:00 am | Permalink

        Apropos of that, I can’t resist quoting ‘Sionnyn’ from the Guardian thread: “If de boton feels the need for a ‘temple’ and litany, why doesn’t he do what so many other non-believers do, and just join the CoE?”

  30. Posted January 31, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Let’s assume such temples and rituals are shorn of gods. Sounds like they might still require some magical thinking and superstition to function. Would they in anyway be consdered ‘sacred’ or special? Away with these notions too. Are not our universities our temples? (Or at least some departments). And are not kindness, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion all the ritual we humanists need?

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted January 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Our local art gallery/museum precinct I’ve called my ‘temple’ for some years. It offers a space for extra contemplation about humans and their place in the world (mind you I think about that lots anyway).

      I can imagine a place of historical contemplation of all the morality which has preceded the people of The Book. I’d like to see something along the lines of ‘THE RELIGION VIRUS’ which traces the history of the ‘God Meme’. Now that would instruct. However, I can imagine it being blown up by fundies of all persuasions. A.G. Graylings ‘Good Book’ could be discussed in accompanying coffee shops.

      Hubby and I are reading The Religion Virus on our iPads and enjoying our coffee shop discussions. Its only $5 on the Kindle app.

  31. Kaoru Negisa
    Posted February 2, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but does de Botton have no friends? That’s how I satisfy my need for social contact without having pointless ritual involved. Yes, we generally meet in familiar places at specific times, but I would hardly call my best friend’s house a temple and I seem to do just fine.

    What his stupid ideas are calling for is not ritual but meaningless drivil. It’s just more ways of trying to show that we’re not all bad. See? We really are a religion. You can relax now.

    Perhaps de Bottom should

  32. GBJames
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    We can all relax. Alain de Botton has blogged a clarification. He only meant to say that he thinks good buildings are nice things to visit.

    Of course, saying that wouldn’t be very helpful for book sales.

    So either he meant to say something stupid (to which we all responded), or he meant to say something so pedestrian that nobody really would care. He might also turn out to enjoy, queue the drumroll…, ice cream!

    http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/blog-special-alain-de-botton-on-his-temple-of-atheism/


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