Atheism 2.0 is ridiculous

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.


Sex Mahoney wrote on January 18th, 2012 at 12:03 AM PST:

Whether it’s how they make their toast or how they entertain guests, everyone has their rituals. Some religious rituals make practical sense. One not mentioned in the talk, but perfectly relevant, is Valentine’s. For an agrarian society, it makes sense for people to have a romantic, or “baby making” holiday in the late winter/early spring so that a woman would enter her third trimester after the harvest.

The thing is, as these holidays become less relevant they become more emotionally important, but a ritual robbed of its practical applicability is not long for this world. It is subject to the whims of cultural memory and dies with the tribe.

On a smaller, more personal level, ritual is necessary if for no other reason than to systematize our behaviors. My favorite ritual is the order in which I tend to each task in the shower. Shampoo, face, conditioner, body. Hallelujah, hallelujah!

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on January 18th, 2012 at 12:25 AM PST:

Then I must have no ritual in my life, I can’t think of any. The bath example is not a ritual, it’s just some practicality in the order of doing things.

Luishp wrote on January 18th, 2012 at 3:36 AM PST:

I have thought a lot about all this stuff as i am atheist myself.
As a biologist i know there exists a part of our brain, as it exists for vision, or language, etc. that is used for transcendental feelings. Probably it is there because it has been useful for our survival as specie. It is not difficult to imagine how, under very hard circumstances like war, hunger, disease etc. some people could become overwhelmed to the point of depression or even suicide feelings. Losing any strenght to fight against adversity. At this point, it makes sense to have transcendental feelings or the idea of God support as a way to keep hope alive. Even as a way to feel part of a community and all the safety feeling it gives you.
So i think religions exist just because they have been useful for our survival, at least until now.

Jim wrote on January 18th, 2012 at 8:46 AM PST:

I am a recovering Christian, atheism makes no sense to me. Nor does any organized religion. Often I wish I could go back to where religion was all laid out for me and all I had to do was believe.
I think this discussion is personal, much like our private use of toilet paper. It is something we have to figure out for ourselves. However, I am glad Eugenia has raised this issue in that every time I learn of anothers views, it makes me confront my own views.
The problem with religious dogma is that when its beliefs start to crack a little, the whole thing falls apart. Maybe I wander in the ruins of my belief.
I don’t know (ignorance)

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