Desiring the results of religion without the dogma: Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0


TED Talks: “Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0”

“Now religions have a much saner attitude to art. They have no trouble telling us what art is about. Art is about two things in all the major faiths. Firstly, it’s trying to remind you of what there is to love. And secondly, it’s trying to remind you of what there is to fear and to hate. And that’s what art is. Art is a visceral encounter with the most important ideas of your faith. So as you walk around a church, or a mosque or a cathedral, what you’re trying to imbibe, what you’re imbibing is, through your eyes, through your senses, truths that have otherwise come to you through your mind.”

I really enjoyed this talk as de Botton is an easy listen. He is very conversational and humorous. He’s not the angry atheist of a past generation. However, could have de Botton has missed the point? All the things that he values about religion are expressions of dogma. Dogma was a necessary ingredient in their formation. If one removes dogma, the motivation to express the ideas one values is also removed. The area of art might be the easiest area to evaluate. Artists are motivated (inspired) by many things, however what happens to an artist’s work when the inspiration is removed? The artist can still perform the technical movements: brush strokes, writing melodies, etc., but there is something different about their work. Inspiration is the intangible that makes great art great. It seems that once one removes the “inspiration” for liturgy then it becomes a mechanical process that no longer emits the energy that made it attractive.  The real question seems to be why are people attracted to the practices of religion is the first place? Could this point to a deficiency in their world, a yearning for an authentic encounter with the divine?

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Filed under Aesthetics, Community, Ethics, New Atheism, Spirituality

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