Alain de Botton Highlights 5 Religious Concepts That Atheists Can Use

Author Alain de Botton (Image Credit: AlaindeBotton.com)

These days, it seems atheism is increasingly adopting religious elements. The Blaze has already covered the fact that some atheist scientists bring their children to church and that skeptics are actively advocating for the installation of atheist military chaplains.

And who can overlook the recommendation — and active plan — by author and atheist Alain de Botton that non-believers construct their own “worship” temples? In a new op-ed on the Huffington Post, de Botton takes his quest to utilize religious tenets to new levels.

In an article entitled, “5 Religious Concepts That Atheists Can Use,” de Botton, the author of the new book, “Religion for Atheists,” highlights five faith elements he says non-believers can benefit from. Clearly, such recommendations would make famed scientist and skeptic Richard Dawkins cringe (Dawkins recently called de Botton’s plan for temples an “aggressive” and “destructive” approach to atheism).

De Botton starts his article by highlighting a battle that he believes to be unfolding between “a hardcore group of fanatical believers” and “an equally small band of fanatical atheists.” At issue in his piece isn’t whether God exists (this is something he has already personally answered for himself). Instead, de Botton covers what he believes needs to happen once an individual determines that he or she is a non-believer.

Alain de Botton Highlights 5 Religious Concepts That Atheists Can Use

“In a world beset by fundamentalists of believing and secular varieties, it must be possible to balance a rejection of religious faith with a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts,” he writes. “The error of modern atheism has been to overlook how many sides of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed.”

He’s essentially saying that there are beneficial elements of religion, even for those radical non-believers who attempt to dismiss any and all portions of faith. Thus, he highlight’s religion’s “ingenious concepts” that can be used, he believes, by secularists as well.

First, he highlights education. De Botton praises the methods the religious use to teach children and says that the success of religious education is inherent in its reliance upon repetition, oratory structures and calendars. “The Jewish or Catholic calendars are masterpieces of synchronisation: every day brings us back round to some important idea,” he writes.

Then, he highlights the religious focus on the mind and body. Rather than focusing solely on the former, de Botton praises the notion that believers take into account the body’s impact over the mind and the role that emotions play in the process. If one wants to reach the mind, taking the other elements into account, he argues, is prudent.

Alain de Botton Highlights 5 Religious Concepts That Atheists Can UseThe third element he offers praise for is community. While the secular world has its hangouts, de Botton says that atheists and non-believers are horrible at finding a “regular way of turning strangers into friends.” It is this element that most meshes with the author’s proposal that secularists embrace atheist temples, as these are localities where community can be built.

De Botton’s fourth chosen tenet is the presence of arts and museums. “Christianity never leaves us in any doubt about what art is for: it is a medium to teach us how to live, what to love and what to be afraid of,” he explains. Here, it seems the atheist philosopher is encouraging the use of art in secular circles to speak more about the lessons various artworks teach about mankind.

And last on his list is pilgrimages — the trips the religious take to commemorate and celebrate their faith. De Botton honors the fact that the faithful know how to allow travel to change them (i.e. the trips that are mandated by a faith or taken to celebrate a belief in the Almighty have a profound impact on the individuals partaking in them).

“Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone,” he concludes, taking a sharp and divergent tone that would likely make Dawkins and the members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation cringe.

(H/T: The Huffington Post)