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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A temple for atheists

On the face of it, this seems like a crazy idea to me. Atheism isn't a belief system in itself, and atheists should not be acting as if it is by mimicking the trappings of religion. I suppose I should read Alain de Botton's new book, when it is finally published (it's getting a helluva lot of advance publicity), but what I'm reading about it so far doesn't sound useful or plausible.

Pity - I quite liked some of his earlier work. But this seems like he's going off on a frolic of his own.


Jason Streitfeld said...

Sounds like a monument, not a temple.

Anonymous said...

If he wants monuments or temples to the values we hold precious, he should ride the Tube out to Kensington and visit the Natural History Museum. The place in general reminds of a cathedral, and specifically there's the "Tree" (ie. of life) installation on the ceiling of one of the rear halls. And of course, the figure of Darwin presiding contemplatively over the main hall.

(Anyways, his proposed design is horribly derivative: time-as-length, with humanity a little sliver at the end, and the DNA code, has been done to death!)

Anonymous said...


Previous comment was me, Eamon Knight. Don't know why Blogger is neither picking up my Google ID, nor asking me to log in.

Myron said...

How about a temple of nature?
There is such a thing as religious naturalism:


* Stone, Jerome A. Religious Naturalism Today: The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.

Anonymous said...

Atheists already have temples. They're called Libraries, Science Museums, and Universities.

Svlad Cjelli said...

There is no Alain de Botton. He is now Alain of Many Colours.

Anthony said...

A quick google search led to a brief article dated June 2008 at a location called "Standpoint" with a title all but identical to de Botton's new book. As best I can tell, it declares atheism to be correct about all that God business (rendering all further argument on that point dull and of interest only to fanatics) but then declares our contemporary liberal states to be in need of a godless religion with a transcendent core that tells people how to live. This is needed as the vast majority of people are doomed to find love and work meaningless or unattainable, and so they need the consolation of religious trappings which, history shows us, are more important to people than the actual beliefs. If this is a fair synopsis of the book I think I'll pass.

Anthony said...

And at first glance the religious naturalism site is interesting, but as I understand de Botton's article, he wants rituals, ceremonies, bibles and korans and talmuds, cathedrals and temples and mosques, feast days, and inspiring art and stories about saints and heroes.

Anonymous said...

I think there is something to the idea that there are some worthwhile things that are worth saving from religion. It has insinuated itself into many parts of our lives. Secularising charity and holidays for instance is good work, I don't think these should be casually done away with because religion likes to claim them for its own. But from what I hear Alain de Botton (whose books I have read and enjoyed) seems a little off beam of what he thinks is worth saving.