In this TED talk, Alain de Botton (an author who specializes in popular philosophy) proposes “Atheism 2.0,” which rejects all deities and supernatural acts but caters to the “ritualistic side” of some atheists.
- 0:32: Implicit snark directed toward Richard Dawkins
- 4:00: Begins tirade about how education, in contrast to religion, fails to provide guidance for how to live (e.g. how can we be moral?). Here de Botton neglects the fact that in countries where religion has taken a nosedive, morality remains high—indeed, often higher than in religious countries.
- 7:00: Says that we need to “structure time” through calendars, so we can think about certain things at certain times.
- 7:50: We need rituals.
- 8:30: We need to learn the art of oratory, which supposedly is so important in religion.
- 9:40: We need to adopt ritual baths from the Jews: a fusion of brain and body.
- 10:40: We need to learn how to use and interpret art as propaganda: art should be didactic, and explicitly so.
- 12:30: We need to learn how to foster sociality by forming institutions. The Catholic Church is his example; all we need is a secular institution like the Vatican: multinational, branded, and with a clear identity.
This is all a facile attempt to appropriate the trappings of religion as something essential to an atheist world. But do we need sermons and the endless repetition of “lessons”? Secular Europe does just fine without these things. What we need, as sociological studies indicate, is not stained glass, potted lilies, and a gasbag orator, but a society that cares about its citizens. For, as those studies show, societies that tend to be healthy are also the secular ones, and their citizens need not turn to sky-fathers for solace. Yes, we can have our rituals of marriage and funerals, but ritual baths? Calendars marking when we should observe what? I think not.