From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Atheist Temple: Church minus God?

Gonville and Caius (a de Botton alma mater)
Planning to build a temple is not usually big news.  On the other hand, planning to build a “temple for atheists” ups the ante – especially when the planner’s name is Alain de Botton.

Wikipedia describes Alain de Botton as a “writer, television presenter and entrepreneur” whose works apply classic philosophy to everyday life.  Wikipedia also mentions that he comes from an atheistic Jewish (contradiction in terms?) family.  He was born in Switzerland (the only son of banking magnate Gilbert de Botton), and currently lives in London (city of his
proposed atheist temple).  His prolific output includes the following:  Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion and Are Museums Our New Churches?.

The latter BBC transcript (subtitled Why are museums so uninspiring?) explains some of the rationale behind de Botton’s thinking.  He points out that although art is featured in secular museums, it is featured in “bland academic ways that fail to engage with the real potential of art, which is… to change us for the better.”  De Botton then praises Christianity’s way of encouraging art to be “a medium to inspire you to faith, to remind you to be a healthy-minded, good and godly person.”

If this sounds quite different from the atheism espoused by the likes of Richard Dawkins, then de Botton would likely be pleased.  The Guardian quotes de Botton as saying that Dawkin’s type of atheism is “aggressive” and “destructive.”  De Botton is therefore encouraging a “new atheism” that draws upon some of what he thinks religion has to offer, while leaving aside the “God” part.

De Botton’s “tower of atheism” would thus “borrow the idea of awe-inspiring buildings that give people a
better sense of perspective on life.”  He wants to erect it within a financial center because he believes that’s  
“where people have most seriously lost perspective on life’s priorities.”


Copyright January 28, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

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