"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Why I won't beta test atheism 2.0

Alain de Botton is an atheist philosopher who has come to the conclusion that religion has, after all, got it right. Not in the sense that gods exist you understand; Botton is still an atheist, but in the rituals and institutions that he claims help us mark the passage of our lives and stop and recognise our humanity and place in the order of things. There is a certain appeal to this, but only I think because we are immersed in a society that still sees religion as the default custodian of the "spiritual" in our lives. Botton thinks it is time to develop Atheism 2.0 a less materialistic and confrontational atheism than the one epitomised by the Dawkins, Hitchens approach, which he sees as "destructive" and to build an atheism built on the religious model but without the inconvenience of gods. The problem with this as I see it Is that without the imperative of a religious dogma to demand the observance of a particular calendar of rituals, who is going to agree on what to do when and why. For sure we could be named, marry and die according to some secular creed I suppose, but Botton is also arguing for equivalents of lent or Diwali etc. And he is even suggesting building a temple
"Normally a temple is to Jesus, Mary or Buddha, but you can build a temple to anything that's positive and good," he said. "That could mean a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective. Because of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens atheism has become known as a destructive force. But there are lots of people who don't believe but aren't aggressive towards religions."
But defining atheism within a religious context is actually to miss the point. There are plenty of secular institutions and places that nourish our humanity; art galleries, museums, drama and music societies, football stadiums and theatres to name a few. Humanists are also already adept at organising their own naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals without recourse to a creed or prescribed ritual. Also there is a particular danger to building atheism as a secular religion, in that it would be vulnerable to actually becoming a religion with its own dogmas and heresies and "priesthood" determining what freethinkers should actually be thinking, which kind of negates the point. So no thank you Alain, I won't be "upgrading" to atheism 2.0 just yet as my current version works just fine and doesn't require the investment in hardware that yours appears to need.

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