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.