TED published a video today by Alain de Botton, suggesting a “religion for atheists”. Basically, atheism that “incorporates religious forms and traditions to satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence”.
I must thank Alain for thinking of us atheists, but his views are myopic. Bollocks, even.
He goes on to say that education does not provide true guidance and that humans need (spiritual?) “help” all the time. Weird, because I don’t really need any of that kind of help — not any more than my normal relationship with my partner, family, or friends provide. I’m glad that I live in one of the most progressive places in the world, so people here are smart & intelligent to provide me with tangible, objective, no-bullshit advice should I need one.
I practice love, generosity, and forgiveness on any chance I get. I’m not trying to boast, but now that my major health adventure is over, I do try to help out my community (I teach free filmmaking classes for kids, and I have other plans too). But I need no God, or church, or priest, or doctrine of any kind to tell me to do these things. I know them in my head to be right because they make perfect sense, not because a deity said so. When I left Christianity back (I used to be religious in the ’90s), my opinions about love and forgiveness didn’t change. Becoming an atheist did not make me unethical. It made me more objective, and more analytical instead. But the compassion remains, I did not become empty. In fact, I see more inhumanity within religious groups today than I see between atheists.
Alain de Botton makes the mistake of thinking that atheists need extra guidance, that their education is dry and sterile, but this is not the case. While there are certainly atheists that are assholes, at least the kinds of atheists that I know are extremely smart, humane, understanding, and true freedom/liberty fighters. Societal progress is one of our major objectives of course, be it via fighting for universal healthcare, anti-corruption, environmental etc. If our society becomes more free, humane and open-minded, the citizens will be happier, that’s the idea behind our “movement” (personally I don’t see us as a movement at all, but some do). We must endlessly continue moving towards a society that’s for each-other rather than against each-other. In other words, true love. Not love instigated by a deity, or fear, but true human love.
Regarding “transcendence”: You want to transcend? Listen to music, take LSD. Or wait for future technologies. But I don’t see how trying to reach a mythical being transcend us anywhere other than the abyss. It’s just a state of mind, and in our current situation, I find it not helpful. Maybe in the future we find a technological way to save our conscious forever, or able to communicate with a higher being (e.g. a Type III civilization alien) or something like it, but today we don’t have this technology, so it’s counter-productive trying to get “high” (basically that’s what it is), instead of actively helping one-another.
Regarding “ritual”: Not only I don’t need rituals, I in fact hate rituals. It is stupid play-acting bullshit. From all his arguments, this was the dumbest one.
Regarding “connection”, it’s the only legitimate point Alain has. But I don’t need to have calendar days (as he suggests) where I join others to do specific useless things (“staring at the moon”, really?). True connection comes when people come together to solve problems, or to help one-another. Not at certain dates, but all the time. When the one becomes many, but is still singular and free. But again, I need no God to do all that. What I need is a goal (== problem that needs fixing), and a few other people who would join in the effort.