Atheists: Borrowing from Religion?

Atheist Alain de Bottom has written a new book titled:  Religion for Atheists:  A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.  His premise is that religion stripped of the supernatural has elements to offer atheists; that there are some things that religion gets right.

“The error of modern atheism,” he writes, “has been to overlook how many aspects of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed.”

Here are 4 things that de Botton feels that atheists can borrow:

  • Temples:  As religions have always known, a beautiful building is an indispensable part of getting the message across.  You can construct a temple to anything that’s positive and good.

    Le Corbusier's Chapel in Ronchamp, France

  • Museums:  The museum should not be a neutral place for displaying works of art; it should be a place to convert you to something noble.

The Guggenheim Art Museum in Bilbao, Spain

  • Meals:  To help build a sense of community, there should be weekly, communal meals like those found at the heart of the Catholic mass.

    Leonardo de Vinci's "Last Supper," Milan, Italy

  • Pilgrimages:  Not to religious sites, but to places of renewal and meaning, such as a place of great natural beauty or silence or a secular retreat center.

    Modern-day Pilgrims on the "Camino de Santiago"

The book has received mixed reviews.  David Brooks, columnist for the NYTs praised some of de Botton’s idea–like his suggestion that museums be organized on universal themes, such as compassion, instead of time periods.  He calls others “silly.”

P.Z. Myers, an American atheist and biologist, wrote, “I’m rolling my eyes so hard that it hurts.”

This entry was posted in Art, atheism, Books, pilgrimage, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

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