Atheism as self-help

Alain de Botton is about to unleash another bout of Religion for Atheists on us—in fact, that’s the title of his last book, and I suppose his principles are summarized in this handy little “Manifesto for Atheists.”

Call me a curmudgeon (on second thought, please don’t), but do we really need these bromides, posted yesterday afternoon on his Twi**er feed?

Screen shot 2014-03-23 at 5.11.19 PM

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Read and be virtuous! My own Manifesto for Atheists would be much shorter:

1. There is no evidence for gods. The rest is commentary

The rest you can find in the “self help” section of any bookstore. The ten above are in fact qualities for anybody to aspire to, not just atheists.  In fact, their connection to atheism is obscure to me.

106 Comments

  1. Woof
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget “Don’t be a dick”, which pretty much covers that more famous list of 10 items regarding how you live your life.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      There are times when being a dick isn’t merely okay but it’s the only responsible thing a moral human being can possibly do.

      Rosa Parks, for example, was just about as dickish as she could possibly be when she refused to give up her bus seat. We could use a few more dicks like her.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        And, actually, reading that poster a bit more carefully…it’s all about being a good little nigger and not upsetting your masters even if they beat you more than you’d like. There’s not a single mention on that list about fighting injustice or actually doing something to overcome adversity; just be meek and hopeful as you politely and generously give your bus seat to your betters.

        Fuck that shit with a rusty Leica. Sideways, and with no lube, even.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Kevin
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          My sentiments exactly. No progress was ever made on any front having to do with the advancement of human rights via “politeness”.

          What a worthless waste of tw***er space.

        • Sastra
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

          What about “Confidence?” Risking everything on great projects and schemes doesn’t sound like meek acceptance. Same for Resilience, to keep going despite setbacks. Not the same as mute endurance of the status quo. I think you’re over-interpreting a bit.

          • Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

            Bruce Gorton’s detailed point-by-point analysis a short while after your post is a pretty good match for my objections to those. Yes, there’s use for confidence and resilience, but in the context of the rest of the piece de Botton is arguing for the type of confidence and resilience a master demands of his slaves.

            b&

      • thh1859
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Ben, I doubt if Woof meant don’t stick up for human rights.

        • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps not, but the omission on de Botton’s part is most glaring. And it’s also the case that “Don’t be a dick” has been used regularly by accommodationists (see Phil Plait, for example) to beat up us gnasty stridegnt gnu atheists for having the temerity of telling the religious that there ain’t no sanity clause.

          b&

          • gbjames
            Posted March 26, 2014 at 4:56 am | Permalink

            I thought “being a dick” was when you tell other people not to speak their mind! Oh, well. There goes my refrigerator feel-good note.

            • Posted March 26, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

              In my experience, being a dick is simply the act of not conforming to the a-dickist’s preferences for how others should be. Therefore, all atheists are dicks as far as many Christians go merely for failing to fall on their knees and recite the Sinner’s Prayer. They’re even more dickish for having the temerity to tell Christians, “You first,” when Christians righteously (and, of course, entirely non-dickishly) tell atheists that atheists are going to Hell.

              In other words, “Don’t be a dick,” generally translates to, “Shut up. Just because, that’s why. And stop being so much of a Christ-killer / nigger / faggot / feminazi / socialist, while you’re at it.”

              b&

  2. Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    But the scrolly stuff around the manifesto is sort of pretty. I think I’ll keep it (and wipe out the inside).

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 26, 2014 at 2:15 am | Permalink

      Very William Morris.

      As for the stuff inside, it reminds me of a poster that used to hang on a remarkable number of toilet doors – Desiderata.

      A collection of well-intentioned platitudes, designed to avoid giving any possible offence to anybody (and thereby causing extreme offence to me 😉

      I’m sure they’re all admirable advice (not that I can stand to read them all without barfing), just the concentration of so much well-intentioned admonitions resembles Robert Townsend’s description of company magazines – “Like going down in warm maple syrup for the third time”.

      It makes me want to scream and break something. I’m evil.

  3. Chris Carter
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s not so much “connection to atheism” as “disconnection from religion” that is of interest to de Botton.

  4. Sastra
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    “Bromides?” Maybe. But lists like this which allow us to “flex our ethical muscles” and move on or away from a simple “God does not exist” are valuable exercises in life philosophy.

    I have a signed copy of Paul Kurtz’s “Affirmations of Humanism” hanging on my wall. Do I worship it? Hell no. But if it’s a conclusion then being an atheist is imbedded in other values, and being a humanist involves a larger view on how to live.

    I don’t much like de Botton talking about “religion for atheists” but I have no quarrel with his 10 Virtues for the Modern Age. As long as you don’t go overboard in interpreting them, they seem like reasonable guidelines.

    • brandon
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if “Moses” had similar thoughts…

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I just don’t see why this has to be marketed to atheists. Do any of us seriously think any atheist – actually any human – on the planet, regardless of what culture or country or religion or non-religion they grew up with, haven’t had to deal with all of these listed virtues all the time?

      We’re not a bunch of wolves in an anarchic failed state. Wherever we live, we have laws, courts, charities, universities, histories, libraries and over all, society.

      • Sastra
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        There are younger atheists or atheists who grew up in religious areas who don’t know how to seek out or put together a secular list of positive virtues and will perhaps be grateful for this one — especially if they’re being taunted by theists who equate morality with spirituality. You have the Ten Commandments? I prefer this.

        It’s possible that I think de Botton did fine here because my expectations for any list of “Ten Virtues for the Modern Age” is pretty low. He’s marketing to atheists because that’s his perspective.

        Alain de Botton seems to like himself a little too much, but if that was all it took to dismiss someone’s views then there goes most public figures, including some of those in atheism.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          I just don’t think it’s true that younger atheists or atheists in religious areas can’t put together a list of personal guidelines for life. They’re doing it all the time, sometimes without even thinking about it.
          Nobody grows up in a vacuum so completely devoid of humanity that they can’t figure this stuff out for themselves. Well, North Korea, perhaps. Otherwise, I just don’t buy it.

          That isn’t to say that there aren’t some people who won’t print this out and stick it on their fridge door. But even if they do; it’s probably because they already live their life by these ideas and they just like that someone has made a neat list of them.

          My point is not that there is anything wrong with the list. It’s that this list is utterly unoriginal. There wouldn’t be any society in which de Botton could write books in if everyone didn’t already adhere to these ideas in the first place. He’s reinvented the wheel. A reasonably well-adjusted ten year old could probably come up with a list that looks remarkably similar.

          • Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            Agree.

            Much of this list isn’t even anything you would consciously have to figure out. For instance, I don’t know how one could not hope for the things they would like to see happen.

            • darrelle
              Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

              “Much of this list isn’t even anything you would consciously have to figure out.”

              That seems to be the precise characteristic that certain types of people equate with profundity.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      But this is a uselessly facile thing to call a “life philosophy”.

      I’d be very interested in reading truly insightful ethical philosophy.

      This ain’t it.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      But Kurtz is talking about humanism, not atheism. (And he and the various humanist societies have already done a much better job of whatever it is Botton is trying to do, beyond keeping his name out there and making money writing books).

  5. Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Why is this a manifesto for atheists? Surely it’s merely decent advice for everybody? De Botton is a twat.

    • bric
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      ‘too many twits make a twat’ – David Cameron

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted March 26, 2014 at 2:03 am | Permalink

        And in his case the maxim “it takes one to know one” is most apt.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Actually, that’s probably his point.

  6. kevinj
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Him, and some others, seem rather keen on atheism becoming a complete replacement for religion.
    I thought that would be better placed for humanism or similar with atheism being kept to your single point.
    The most annoying bit is some religious types point at his stuff and go “ah ha see atheism is a religion”.

  7. Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I don’t forgive the intentional lies of others. Honest errors, yes; intentional lies, harm and horror, no. I find that many people, especially theists, depend on that, and they do not deserve it. They only deserve to always be held accountable.

  8. gbjames
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Some people feel a need to hang stuff like this on their walls. I’m not gonna call them out for it since it harms nobody. And it is nice that he used a nice William Morris Arts and Crafts style design for the poster. But I’m with agileatheist, above. The title is wrong. It should simply be “Ten Virtues for the Modern Age”. Calling it a “Manifesto for Atheists” is offensive. As if atheists are in more need of this than anyone else.

    • Scientifik
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      >Calling it a “Manifesto for Atheists” is offensive. As if atheists are in more need of this than anyone else.

      I agree. It’s utterly arrogant of him to school atheists on, for example, “forgiveness” when there are so many religion-driven conflicts in the world today, with no end in sight. Muslims vs Jews, Christians vs Muslims, Sunni Muslims vs Shia Muslims… They really should start to practice what they preach before they attempt to boast their superior morality on tw*tter.

  9. Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Can I just remind everyone that de Botton is also the author of How to Fix Your Life with Proust…
    He’s addicted to gimmicks and won’t give up until he reaches Deepak Chopra status.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Well, I enjoyed The Consolations of Philosophy.

      But I’m less and less inclined to read anything else of his, especially his recent stuff.

      /@

  10. JBlilie
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    We have Dawkin’s list of “commandments” posted in our home:

    1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you

    2. In all things, strive to cause no harm

    3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

    4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

    5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder

    6. Always seek to be learning something new

    7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

    8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

    9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

    10. Question everything

    He adds four more, which we have on our list as well; but I can’t lay my hands on them right now.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Dawkins’ of course …

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      My list only has three items (and one exception) on it:

      I. Do not do unto others as they do not wish to be done unto.

      (The First Rule may be broken only to the minimum degree necessary to otherwise preserve it.)

      II. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

      III. An it harm none, do what thou will.

      The rules must be applied in that order. For example, following the second rule is not permissible in circumstances which require violating the first rule (except as provided for by the Exception).

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        ‘A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
        ‘A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
        ‘A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.’
        That’ll do.

        • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

          That’ll do great for robots we create to do our bidding. I don’t want people blindly obeying orders given to them by their superiors, even if they’re precluded from hurting others in the process.

          b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          Good one!

      • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        Mine, one.

        Be excellent to one another!

        /@

        PS. “…, do what thou wilt.” But then you slipped from formal to informal between II. and III. And archaic to modern and back again in II. So… Emerson!

        • darrelle
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Would that be a Bill & Ted quote by chance?

          • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

            Well, let’s see… 

            /@

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

            Yes, yes it is.

            • Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              And note that “excellence” is of course one translation (in addition to “virtue”) of “arete” …

        • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          In case it wasn’t obvious, the first is a variation on the “silver rule,” one I’ve not come across as being formulated like that elsewhere. The other two are the Golden Rule straight from the Gospels and the Wiccan Rede, respectively.

          The quotation of established religious traditions was intentional, of course….

          b&

          • JBlilie
            Posted March 26, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

            That really does cover it all, from as moral standpoint. The others are good reminders of how to make the most of life.

      • JBlilie
        Posted March 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        The main reason we posted these is so my young son would see these rather than, for instance, the “10 commandments”, which I’m sure he will encounter in other people’s homes.

        These do show our attitude to life. I want him to take them in and use them well.

        We’ve spoken with him many times about other people and their religions.

        I try to always answer him truthfully, to the best of my knowledge, tell him, “I don’t know” when I don’t, and to be comfortable questioning anything. (Though sometimes the answer really is: Because we’re in charge here.)

  11. Posted March 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    This is the product of a man who desperately wants to sell some ideas but doesn’t actually have any.

    From the manufactured controversy over “virtuous/wicked” to the bloody obvious list of helpful characteristics, there’s nothing here.

    He might as well admonish us to “Breathe air! It’s good for you!”

    • ladyatheist
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      + + +

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      As soon as I saw that list I had a sudden urge to be wimpy, heartless, impatient, avaricious, impolite, humorless, clueless, merciless, despairing, and unsure.

      • Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        There’s a reason we call it, “catherding.”

        b&

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

          😉

      • darrelle
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        How appropriate that I just saw Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers on the Tonight Show just before reading your comment. I’ve always had a soft spot for sarcastic irreverence, and the Butthole Surfers rock.

  12. dev41
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s directed towards atheists because the religious among us have their own set of rules which excuse them from even attempting to follow the 10 virtues listed above.

    • gbjames
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      I think it is directed at atheists because de Botton thinks it demonstrates some kind of profundity. And I suppose it does to some people.

      I think Wheaton’s Law does just as well, is easier to remember, and offends only those who should be offended.

  13. Kevin
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I like George Carlin’s list better.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 26, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      First:

      •THOU SHALT ALWAYS BE HONEST AND FAITHFUL, ESPECIALLY TO THE PROVIDER OF THY NOOKIE.

      And second:

      •THOU SHALT TRY REAL HARD NOT TO KILL ANYONE, UNLESS, OF COURSE, THEY PRAY TO A DIFFERENT INVISIBLE AVENGER THAN THE ONE YOU PRAY TO.

  14. ladyatheist
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Oh cripes. Just what we need – an atheist calling atheism a religion??!?!?

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that little thing in the corner is annoying. It tarnishes the whole list.

  15. hank_says
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Glad I’m not the only human in the universe who sees de Botton as a pompous two-fisted wanker. I’m sure he means well, but every one of these new revelations he has for atheists just reeks of a fresh wank.

    • darrelle
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      “two-fisted wanker”

      Surely that is being overly generous?

      • hank_says
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure Alain thinks it’s the bare minimum that he deserves.

        Oh, right, you meant me

        • darrelle
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          For some reason I nearly snorted my fresh-baked homemade chocolate-chip cookie through my nose. What an odd sensation. Thanks!

          • hank_says
            Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

            🙂

      • Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        lol

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I agree. I find his list condescending – as if we atheists are incapable of figuring out how to live in a civil society. Better give us a list or we’ll go back to eating babies again!

      • darrelle
        Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Can we use the Sriracha this time?

        • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          If you like. I’m thinking more along the lines of chipotle en adobo as the base….

          b&

          • hank_says
            Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            I’m thinking a roast with root vegetables and herbs, then a very slow reduction to make a baby master stock.

            • Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

              Sounds more suited for dark meat. I think the baby either needs something more delicate — like a white wine sauce — or something in the barbecue style with a bit of kick.

              But I’m certainly willing to give it a try!

              b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                Needs cranberry sauce!

              • Posted March 25, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

                Somehow, applesauce seems more suited for baby sauce….

                b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Mmmm yes! Definitely!

      • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        When they were very little I would tell my kids where ‘baby oil’ comes from. ‘Corn oil comes from corn, and baby oil comes from…’.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha! It’s like when you see a picture of a baby on baby food. Maybe it’s not food for the baby.

  16. Bruce Gorton
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    About the only one on Botton’s ten that I don’t take exception to is 2: Empathy. For the rest, here’s my take:

    1: Resilience

    Is overrated. If things are shitty, it doesn’t do anybody much good to be resilient – set out to change them. If things get tough – sometimes it is better to change tactics or change direction, it might be getting tough precisely because you are going the wrong way.

    3: Patience

    Much like resilience, is overrated. There are times when patience is good – but always remember that it does no good waiting around for things to happen, most of the time you have to make them happen.

    4: Sacrifice

    Whenever somebody else tells you to do this? They aren’t planning on doing so themselves. Always treat calls for sacrifice with suspicion.

    5: Politeness

    The call for politeness is more often than not a call to shut up those with legitimate grievances. Every movement for civil rights or even basic truth in the history of ever has been accused of being strident, shrill and most definitely rude. Fuck politeness.

    6: Humour

    Generally those who demand others have a sense of humour don’t have much of one themselves, and have just said something horrible.

    7: Self awareness

    Never let it get in the way of being aware of others.

    8: Forgiveness

    Making a virtue of forgiveness ultimately adds feelings of guilt to people who are already hurting, because suddenly now they’ve not only been wronged, they are wrong to feel wronged.

    You forgive when you are ready to forgive, if you aren’t, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You have the right to not like people who have hurt you.

    9: Hope

    Things to remember about hope – it is generally the same thing as anger. We aren’t angry about the things we know we can’t change, we are angry about the things we can.

    10: Confidence

    It ruins nations and starts wars, it creates dogma and denialism, it is ultimately how a dictator can order his best friend’s death and sleep like a baby that night. Confidence is in short, what makes monsters. Temper your confidence with doubt and always be willing to change your mind in the face of evidence.

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Good list.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Well put.

      b&

    • hank_says
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      Good counter.

      Your number 10 has highlighted the problem with lists of commandments (which this essentially is): they invariably don’t include one that says “temper your behaviour” or “know when to walk away” and just look like lists of absolutes.

      De Botton’s list appears for all the world to have been written by an insulated and highly privileged dilettante. It’s like a modern Desiderata to be stuck to a fridge with a magnet – a light n’ fluffy feelgood message to be glanced at once a day but mostly ignored.

    • Posted March 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Bottom line:

      None of De Botton’s virtues are absolutely virtuous. Context is key.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      Applause.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      “Every movement for civil rights or even basic truth in the history of ever has been accused of being strident, shrill and most definitely rude. Fuck politeness”

      and their accusers were wrong … Why actually make the lie fit?

      • Bruce Gorton
        Posted March 27, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

        No, the accusers were actually right.

        Consider what politeness is for a second – it is a set of conventions which society considers to be ‘good manners’.

        Thus for example, it is polite within an Islamist society to don the burqa or niqab if you are female.

        Of course the result of that particular form of ‘good manners’ is that in a lot of Islamist societies women virtually disappear, and the majority of Muslim voices that get any coverage tend to be middle aged, male and deeply conservative.

        With regards to gay rights, you could call it ‘polite’ for gay people not to ‘flaunt’ their relationship – except that by making homosexuality invisible, it ends up being that much easier to persecute gay people.

        What society considers to be ‘good manners’ is almost always designed specifically to maintain the status quo, the ‘general comfort’ of those around you.

        Even with regards to modern atheism – take disaster relief as an example.

        Atheists rallied to provide help after the Oklahoma got hit by some particularly bad tornados – a journalist wrote an article for Time Magazine which disparaged atheists for not being there whenever that sort of crisis hits.

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/06/27/time-magazine-just-doubled-down-on-joe-kleins-inaccurate-anti-atheist-statements/

        Atheist groups complained but so far as I am aware, Time Magazine never issued a correction.

        How could Time Magazine get away with it? Because we generally don’t consider it good manners to make a big deal out of our atheism when somebody’s house has been knocked down, the way the religious do whenever something goes wrong.

        Which means to the casual observer you have religious people helping – and people who are just folks helping, but where are the atheists?

        Those who speak up about this sort of thing are being rude – because that is ultimately what it means to try and change things for the better. Challenging things, is by its nature impolite. It makes people feel bad, it upsets people.

        And it is absolutely necessary.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Confidence, as “they” say about pilots and surgeons: Always confident, sometimes correct.

  17. Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine, currently in Turkey, asked me about how to get around fearless leader’s tw*tter ban. I gave him some pointers, plus this piece of advice: “be careful what you wish for”.

  18. Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I’d add a number zero —

    0. Check with others before hitting publish — it could save you some embarrassment.

    That would take care of the rest.

  19. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Platitude attitude for atheists.

    *Yawn*

  20. Barry Lyons
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    “The rest is commentary” — very good. But I do like “Don’t be a dick” as someone noted above.

    You ask a good question: what do these bromides have to do specifically with nonbelief? I don’t know.

  21. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    An atheist without religion is like a bald guy without one of those hair scrunchies.

  22. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    My list would be: try not to be a French shower, think about a problem from all angles and consider all perspectives, including the feelings of others. Don’t make condescending lists.

  23. AdamK
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Allie Buttons should try some silent, wordless meditation. For a few years.

  24. Tien Song Chuan
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    This is book is very important. It will make the public change their view about atheism as something ugly to something beautiful!

    • thh1859
      Posted March 27, 2014 at 5:42 am | Permalink

      I agree; but I also adore Sarah Silverman. Look her up on YouTube. You’ll find that her character and approach is the diametric opposite of Alain de Botton’s. (I’m not sure what “diametric” means but it sounds important when coupled with “opposite”.)

  25. Kevin
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    “Each of us is capable of more than we know.”

    Potential is unlimited.

    0. There are no gods.
    1. Empathy
    2. Potential

    The rest is comentary. (JAC)

  26. Steve Gerrard
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Might as well top it off with a bit of Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley:

    “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

  27. SinSeeker
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    For an alternative point of view, see:

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/fisun-guner/2014/03/if-alain-de-botton-thinks-museum-captions-can-heal-us-hes-a-moron/

    🙂

    • bric
      Posted March 26, 2014 at 1:36 am | Permalink

      Thanks that was fun, as it’s the Spectator (many of whose readers still struggle to escape the 18th Century) don’t miss the comments – ‘The persistent and erroneous description of de Botton as ‘philosopher ‘ really, really gets on my teats. He has no philosophical qualifications and has written no philosophical texts. Quite how he has convinced a significant proportion of the metropolitan media to award him the appellation is perplexing; particularly when Roger Scruton is often simply described as a ‘writer’. At best, de Botton is a modern day doxographer’

  28. religionenslaves
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Alain de Botton has a book to sell and if a few platitudes help, why not?
    If only he had paused for a moment and asked himself: can I improve on W.K. Clifford’s simple but effective suggestions?
    “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” […]
    “In regard, then, to the sacred tradition of humanity, we learn that it consists, not in propositions or statements which are to be accepted and believed on the authority of the tradition, but in questions rightly asked, in conceptions which enable us to ask further questions, and in methods of answering questions.”

  29. Christopher
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Alain de Botton is a running joke in our philosophy department. Having attended various philosophy conferences and public lectures, I have since learned he is a running joke in the philosophy departments across England.

  30. Posted March 26, 2014 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I agree with musical beef’s comment to Bruce Gorton’s list – every rule has a context so no-one should stick to written instructions and expect them to apply in every circumstance and expect it to fit. We know where that gets us.

    • Posted March 26, 2014 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      My one liner would be ‘don’t be an evil dick’.

  31. Chris
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    I made the mistake of buying one of de Botton’s books once, a mistake that I don’t plan on repeating.

    Nothing that I’ve heard from him since has changed that opinion. It’s just unfortunate that other people on my T***er feed retw**t him occasionally. Annoying.

  32. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 26, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Maybe Botton is trying to put the “creep” into “creepy accommodationist notions”?


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