Atheism 2.0 | Alain de Botton

One of the most common ways of dividing the world is into those who believe and those who don’t — into the religious and the atheists. And for the last decade or so, it’s been quite clear what being an atheist means. There have been some very vocal atheists who’ve pointed out, not just that religion is wrong, but that it’s ridiculous. These people, many of whom have lived in North Oxford, have argued — they’ve argued that believing in God is akin to believing in fairies and essentially that the whole thing is a childish game. Now I think it’s too easy. I think it’s too easy to dismiss the whole of religion that way. And it’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. And what I’d like to inaugurate today is a new way of being an atheist — if you like, a new version of atheism we could call Atheism 2.0. Now what is Atheism 2.0? Well it starts from a very basic premise: of course, there’s no God. Of course, there are no deities or supernatural spirits or angels, etc. Now let’s move on; that’s not the end of the story, that’s the very, very beginning. I’m interested in the kind of constituency that thinks something along these lines: that thinks, “I can’t believe in any of this stuff. I can’t believe in the doctrines. I don’t think these doctrines are right. But,” a very important but, “I love Christmas carols. I really like the art of Mantegna. I really like looking at old churches. I really like turning the pages of the Old Testament.” Whatever it may be, you know the kind of thing I’m talking about — people who are attracted to the ritualistic side, the moralistic, communal side of religion, but can’t bear the doctrine. Until now, these people have faced a rather unpleasant choice. It’s almost as though either you accept the doctrine and then you can have all the nice stuff, or you reject the doctrine and you’re living in some kind of spiritual wasteland under the guidance of CNN and Walmart. So that’s a sort of tough choice. I don’t think we have to make that choice. I think there is an alternative. I think there are ways — and I’m being both very respectful and completely impious — of stealing from religions. If you don’t believe in a religion, there’s nothing wrong with picking and mixing, with taking out the best sides of religion. And for me, atheism 2.0 is about both, as I say, a respectful and an impious way of going through religions and saying, “What here could we use?” The secular world is full of holes. We have secularized badly, I would argue. And a thorough study of religion could give us all sorts of insights into areas of life that are not going too well. And I’d like to run through a few of these today. I’d like to kick off by looking at education. Now education is a field the secular world really believes in. When we think about how we’re going to make the world a better place, we think education; that’s where we put a lot of money. Education is going to give us, not only commercial skills, industrial skills, it’s also going to make us better people. You know the kind of thing a commencement address is, and graduation ceremonies, those lyrical claims that education, the process of education — particularly higher education — will make us into nobler and better human beings. That’s a lovely idea. Interesting where it came from. In the early 19th century, church attendance in Western Europe started sliding down very, very sharply, and people panicked. They asked themselves the following question. They said, where are people going to find the morality, where are they going to find guidance, and where are they going to find sources of consolation? And influential voices came up with one answer. They said culture. It’s to culture that we should look for guidance, for consolation, for morality. Let’s look to the plays of Shakespeare, the dialogues of Plato, the novels of Jane Austen. In there, we’ll find a lot of the truths that we might previously have found in the Gospel of Saint John. Now I think that’s a very beautiful idea and a very true idea. They wanted to replace scripture with culture. And that’s a very plausible idea. It’s also an idea that we have forgotten. If you went to a top university — let’s say you went to Harvard or Oxford or Cambridge — and you said, “I’ve come here because I’m in search of morality, guidance and consolation; I want to know how to live,” they would show you the way to the insane asylum. This is simply not what our grandest and best institutes of higher learning are in the business of. Why? They don’t think we need it. They don’t think we are in an urgent need of assistance. They see us as adults, rational adults. What we need is information. We need data, we don’t need help. Now religions start from a very different place indeed. All religions, all major religions, at various points call us children. And like children, they believe that we are in severe need of assistance. We’re only just holding it together. Perhaps this is just me, maybe you. But anyway, we’re only just holding it together. And we need help. Of course, we need help. And so we need guidance and we need didactic learning. You know, in the 18th century in the U.K., the greatest preacher, greatest religious preacher, was a man called John Wesley, who went up and down this country delivering sermons, advising people how they could live. He delivered sermons on the duties of parents to their children and children to their parents, the duties of the rich to the poor and the poor to the rich. He was trying to tell people how they should live through the medium of sermons, the classic medium of delivery of religions. Now we’ve given up with the idea of sermons. If you said to a modern liberal individualist, “Hey, how about a sermon?” they’d go, “No, no. I don’t need one of those. I’m an independent, individual person.” What’s the difference between a sermon and our modern, secular mode of delivery, the lecture? Well a sermon wants to change your life and a lecture wants to give you a bit of information. And I think we need to get back to that sermon tradition. The tradition of sermonizing is hugely valuable, because we are in need of guidance, morality and consolation — and religions know that. Another point about education: we tend to believe in the modern secular world that if you tell someone something once, they’ll remember it. Sit them in a classroom, tell them about Plato at the age of 20, send them out for a career in management consultancy for 40 years, and that lesson will stick with them. Religions go, “Nonsense. You need to keep repeating the lesson 10 times a day. So get on your knees and repeat it.” That’s what all religions tell us: “Get on you knees and repeat it 10 or 20 or 15 times a day.” Otherwise our minds are like sieves. So religions are cultures of repetition. They circle the great truths again and again and again. We associate repetition with boredom. “Give us the new,” we’re always saying. “The new is better than the old.” If I said to you, “Okay, we’re not going to have new TED. We’re just going to run through all the old ones and watch them five times because they’re so true. We’re going to watch Elizabeth Gilbert five times because what she says is so clever,” you’d feel cheated. Not so if you’re adopting a religious mindset. The other things that religions do is to arrange time. All the major religions give us calendars. What is a calendar? A calendar is a way of making sure that across the year you will bump into certain very important ideas. In the Catholic chronology, Catholic calendar, at the end of March you will think about St. Jerome and his qualities of humility and goodness and his generosity to the poor. You won’t do that by accident; you will do that because you are guided to do that. Now we don’t think that way. In the secular world we think, “If an idea is important, I’ll bump into it. I’ll just come across it.” Nonsense, says the religious world view. Religious view says we need calendars, we need to structure time, we need to synchronize encounters. This comes across also in the way in which religions set up rituals around important feelings. Take the Moon. It’s really important to look at the Moon. You know, when you look at the Moon, you think, “I’m really small. What are my problems?” It sets things into perspective, etc., etc. We should all look at the Moon a bit more often. We don’t. Why don’t we? Well there’s nothing to tell us, “Look at the Moon.” But if you’re a Zen Buddhist in the middle of September, you will be ordered out of your home, made to stand on a canonical platform and made to celebrate the festival of Tsukimi, where you will be given poems to read in honor of the Moon and the passage of time and the frailty of life that it should remind us of. You’ll be handed rice cakes. And the Moon and the reflection on the Moon will have a secure place in your heart. That’s very good. The other thing that religions are really aware of is: speak well — I’m not doing a very good job of this here — but oratory, oratory is absolutely key to religions. In the secular world, you can come through the university system and be a lousy speaker and still have a great career. But the religious world doesn’t think that way. What you’re saying needs to be backed up by a really convincing way of saying it. So if you go to an African-American Pentecostalist church in the American South and you listen to how they talk, my goodness, they talk well. After every convincing point, people will go, “Amen, amen, amen.” At the end of a really rousing paragraph, they’ll all stand up, and they’ll go, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Christ, thank you Savior.” If we were doing it like they do it — let’s not do it, but if we were to do it — I would tell you something like, “Culture should replace scripture.” And you would go, “Amen, amen, amen.” And at the end of my talk, you would all stand up and you would go, “Thank you Plato, thank you Shakespeare, thank you Jane Austen.” And we’d know that we had a real rhythm going. All right, all right. We’re getting there. We’re getting there. (Applause) The other thing that religions know is we’re not just brains, we are also bodies. And when they teach us a lesson, they do it via the body. So for example, take the Jewish idea of forgiveness. Jews are very interested in forgiveness and how we should start anew and start afresh. They don’t just deliver us sermons on this. They don’t just give us books or words about this. They tell us to have a bath. So in Orthodox Jewish communities, every Friday you go to a Mikveh. You immerse yourself in the water, and a physical action backs up a philosophical idea. We don’t tend to do that. Our ideas are in one area and our behavior with our bodies is in another. Religions are fascinating in the way they try and combine the two. Let’s look at art now. Now art is something that in the secular world, we think very highly of. We think art is really, really important. A lot of our surplus wealth goes to museums, etc. We sometimes hear it said that museums are our new cathedrals, or our new churches. You’ve heard that saying. Now I think that the potential is there, but we’ve completely let ourselves down. And the reason we’ve let ourselves down is that we’re not properly studying how religions handle art. The two really bad ideas that are hovering in the modern world that inhibit our capacity to draw strength from art: The first idea is that art should be for art’s sake — a ridiculous idea — an idea that art should live in a hermetic bubble and should not try to do anything with this troubled world. I couldn’t disagree more. The other thing that we believe is that art shouldn’t explain itself, that artists shouldn’t say what they’re up to, because if they said it, it might destroy the spell and we might find it too easy. That’s why a very common feeling when you’re in a museum — let’s admit it — is, “I don’t know what this is about.” But if we’re serious people, we don’t admit to that. But that feeling of puzzlement is structural to contemporary art. 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. Essentially it’s propaganda. Rembrandt is a propagandist in the Christian view. Now the word “propaganda” sets off alarm bells. We think of Hitler, we think of Stalin. Don’t, necessarily. Propaganda is a manner of being didactic in honor of something. And if that thing is good, there’s no problem with it at all. My view is that museums should take a leaf out of the book of religions. And they should make sure that when you walk into a museum — if I was a museum curator, I would make a room for love, a room for generosity. All works of art are talking to us about things. And if we were able to arrange spaces where we could come across works where we would be told, use these works of art to cement these ideas in your mind, we would get a lot more out of art. Art would pick up the duty that it used to have and that we’ve neglected because of certain mis-founded ideas. Art should be one of the tools by which we improve our society. Art should be didactic. Let’s think of something else. The people in the modern world, in the secular world, who are interested in matters of the spirit, in matters of the mind, in higher soul-like concerns, tend to be isolated individuals. They’re poets, they’re philosophers, they’re photographers, they’re filmmakers. And they tend to be on their own. They’re our cottage industries. They are vulnerable, single people. And they get depressed and they get sad on their own. And they don’t really change much. Now think about religions, think about organized religions. What do organized religions do? They group together, they form institutions. And that has all sorts of advantages. First of all, scale, might. The Catholic Church pulled in 97 billion dollars last year according to the Wall Street Journal. These are massive machines. They’re collaborative, they’re branded, they’re multinational, and they’re highly disciplined. These are all very good qualities. We recognize them in relation to corporations. And corporations are very like religions in many ways, except they’re right down at the bottom of the pyramid of needs. They’re selling us shoes and cars. Whereas the people who are selling us the higher stuff — the therapists, the poets — are on their own and they have no power, they have no might. So religions are the foremost example of an institution that is fighting for the things of the mind. Now we may not agree with what religions are trying to teach us, but we can admire the institutional way in which they’re doing it. Books alone, books written by lone individuals, are not going to change anything. We need to group together. If you want to change the world, you have to group together, you have to be collaborative. And that’s what religions do. They are multinational, as I say, they are branded, they have a clear identity, so they don’t get lost in a busy world. That’s something we can learn from. I want to conclude. Really what I want to say is for many of you who are operating in a range of different fields, there is something to learn from the example of religion — even if you don’t believe any of it. If you’re involved in anything that’s communal, that involves lots of people getting together, there are things for you in religion. If you’re involved, say, in a travel industry in any way, look at pilgrimage. Look very closely at pilgrimage. We haven’t begun to scratch the surface of what travel could be because we haven’t looked at what religions do with travel. If you’re in the art world, look at the example of what religions are doing with art. And if you’re an educator in any way, again, look at how religions are spreading ideas. You may not agree with the ideas, but my goodness, they’re highly effective mechanisms for doing so. So really my concluding point is you may not agree with religion, but at the end of the day, religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they’re not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone; they’re for all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause) Chris Anderson: Now this is actually a courageous talk, because you’re kind of setting up yourself in some ways to be ridiculed in some quarters. AB: You can get shot by both sides. You can get shot by the hard-headed atheists, and you can get shot by those who fully believe. CA: Incoming missiles from North Oxford at any moment. AB: Indeed. CA: But you left out one aspect of religion that a lot of people might say your agenda could borrow from, which is this sense — that’s actually probably the most important thing to anyone who’s religious — of spiritual experience, of some kind of connection with something that’s bigger than you are. Is there any room for that experience in Atheism 2.0? AB: Absolutely. I, like many of you, meet people who say things like, “But isn’t there something bigger than us, something else?” And I say, “Of course.” And they say, “So aren’t you sort of religious?” And I go, “No.” Why does that sense of mystery, that sense of the dizzying scale of the universe, need to be accompanied by a mystical feeling? Science and just observation gives us that feeling without it, so I don’t feel the need. The universe is large and we are tiny, without the need for further religious superstructure. So one can have so-called spiritual moments without belief in the spirit. CA: Actually, let me just ask a question. How many people here would say that religion is important to them? Is there an equivalent process by which there’s a sort of bridge between what you’re talking about and what you would say to them? AB: I would say that there are many, many gaps in secular life and these can be plugged. It’s not as though, as I try to suggest, it’s not as though either you have religion and then you have to accept all sorts of things, or you don’t have religion and then you’re cut off from all these very good things. It’s so sad that we constantly say, “I don’t believe so I can’t have community, so I’m cut off from morality, so I can’t go on a pilgrimage.” One wants to say, “Nonsense. Why not?” And that’s really the spirit of my talk. There’s so much we can absorb. Atheism shouldn’t cut itself off from the rich sources of religion. CA: It seems to me that there’s plenty of people in the TED community who are atheists. But probably most people in the community certainly don’t think that religion is going away any time soon and want to find the language to have a constructive dialogue and to feel like we can actually talk to each other and at least share some things in common. Are we foolish to be optimistic about the possibility of a world where, instead of religion being the great rallying cry of divide and war, that there could be bridging? AB: No, we need to be polite about differences. Politeness is a much-overlooked virtue. It’s seen as hypocrisy. But we need to get to a stage when you’re an atheist and someone says, “Well you know, I did pray the other day,” you politely ignore it. You move on. Because you’ve agreed on 90 percent of things, because you have a shared view on so many things, and you politely differ. And I think that’s what the religious wars of late have ignored. They’ve ignored the possibility of harmonious disagreement. CA: And finally, does this new thing that you’re proposing that’s not a religion but something else, does it need a leader, and are you volunteering to be the pope? (Laughter) AB: Well, one thing that we’re all very suspicious of is individual leaders. It doesn’t need it. What I’ve tried to lay out is a framework and I’m hoping that people can just fill it in. I’ve sketched a sort of broad framework. But wherever you are, as I say, if you’re in the travel industry, do that travel bit. If you’re in the communal industry, look at religion and do the communal bit. So it’s a wiki project. (Laughter) CA: Alain, thank you for sparking many conversations later. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Atheism 2.0 | Alain de Botton”

  1. He is so, so wrong. Those of us who know God are not, in his words, "fighting for the things of the mind…", rather we are fighting for the things of the soul, the thing that makes you, you. Have you ever even considered if have a soul?

  2. I'm an atheist and I don't agree with him. It's like he's a theist acting like an atheist to catch atheists' attention.

  3. 4:25 – I get that this is from seven years ago and it's been over twenty years since I was in college, but are you telling me these institutions don't have a humanities department? No degrees in philosophy being awarded? I find that hard to believe. I majored in philosophy for a few of semesters to spend some time studying and thinking about questions of metaphysics, morality, ethics and other ideas over the ages and from around the globe. I changed my major because I used to joke that the only things you could do with a philosophy degree is teach and stand-up. I wish I had majored in philosophy now because I just might have KILLED doing stand-up. Between my wacky childhood and the right early education – Monty Python and Cheech and Chong (both albums and TV/film), Dr Demento, SCTV and SNL from the first episode – I suspect I've got plenty of material And some of them make decent money once they get going. I just don't like being on stage. Thus this Internet post and not a YouTube video. But I digress.
    The study of religion was an element in some of my courses, but was generally approached from the standpoint agnosticism – mostly. There was one professor who had spent too much time in India so it wasn't really his fault. Point is people have to choose what value they want to get out of a college experience. Are they just going somewhere to make a career happen? What a waste of an opportunity – sometimes it might pay to get your bachelors at a college you can spend the extra money and time at instead of the fancy schmancy schools – or transfer after a year or two if that's possible. options people, there are always options.

  4. This is a thoroughly a good stand up but all the arguments made here come from his perspectives mostly and not the facts which are established through studies. Me an Atheist BTW.

  5. All opinion. No information. Jane Austin replace John's Gospel for morality and guidance? What a fool! Obviously he loves to hear himself talk. Too bad he doesn't have anything worthwhile to say.

  6. The above video is utter ignorance… You don't need to borrow from religion. You have to stop denying that God exists — and look around you at the heavens and Earth.. What are the odds of decillions of identical, functional and inviolable atoms making themselves? … What are the odds of Earth's distance from the sun and orbit around the sun being so accurate? … What are the odds of nuclear fusion at the sun's core giving Earth just the right amount of warmth, light, photosynthesis, vitamin D and other benefits that life on Earth needs for survival for billions of years? … What are the odds of Earth having the necessary electromagnetic field, atmosphere, plate tectonics, ecosystems, weather patterns, moon, and everything else we need for survival?

  7. Religion is a form of art, and therefore a form of culture. But we in the 21st Century are also aware that a religion, like Judeo-Christianity, is based in symbolism, and moral teaching, but not in actual historical events. True: the greatest movements of the 19th Century were about both national identity, and national culture.

  8. It's questionable whether Atheism even needs these structures because it's philosophy is temporal. Why bother? You live for 75 years and then you die and cease to exist, or at least your consciousness ceases. It's as though you never existed; in fact, it's exactly as though you (or anyone else) never existed. Do you really need so much structure for what would seem to be such a Nihilistic view of life?

  9. Looking at churches, the Bible, and all of that doesn't make you less of an atheist. We just don't believe in God.
    Think about the concentration camps. Of course we don't like what happened there and OF COURSE we don't like Hitler but we are interested in learning more about it and seeing with our own eyes. The same with religion. It has been around for soooo long that it bring with it information about how people lived and thought back then. It's interesting. Don't disrespect us just because we don't believe in your God but we are interested in learning more about what makes people believe in it.

  10. Samuel Stephens replied to my below comment and said — "What are the odds that a God exists? What are the odds said God has the ability to create reality as we know it? What priors are you drawing from? I'd love to know how you have determined those odds and deemed them to be more likely than a naturalistic explanation." …..
    The odds that God exists are 1/1… He's the only possible explanation for Earth's extravagantly ordered and complex ecosystems … the sun's indescribably precise and complex process of nuclear fusion that gives us just the right amount of light, warmth, photosynthesis and vitamin D … and the fact that our distance from the sun, orbital speed, axis tilt, etc. are all perfect … our moon, which helps regulate our tides, orbit and rotation also has the perfect mass and orbit … and many other things that are so well ordered and functional ….. Having never seen a human, you wouldn't look at an automobile and say… "Wow — there has to be a naturalistic cause for that car, because a human being is far more complicated and couldn't possibly exist."

  11. Instead of being called an atheist 2.0, a better alternative would be human 2.0 or human+. Atheism should not even be a word, just as there are no words for disbelief in fairies, unicorns, etc.

  12. lesson 2 Exodus 21:20-21 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

  13. lesson 3 Deuteronomy 25:11-12 If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her.

  14. I cannot blame both the religious and the atheists people 'coz they're simply all hungry seeking for the truth which offers a culture of a quality-kind of life we are all pursuing after ! … ✌️✌️✌️

  15. The essence of Christianity is knowing that there is God and we want to have a relationship with Him. That’s all.
    I don’t think I can ignore the fact that God exists.

  16. Atheism is childish. Not one atheist has a good reason for not believing other than he/she doesn't give a damn about what is called Revelation. So it's like arguing there's no past because I'm not interested in history and especially not in verifiable historic facts. Revelation is historic. Jesus Christ has lived. He has also died. He was crucified. And he even resurrected. Cf. the shroud of Turin: it tells it all, you just have to pay attention. Oh, I forgot: you've chosen to be that child that just doesn't give a damn. That said, Atheism 2.0 is pathetically childishly wrong.

  17. Any conviction about God, including the one that there is no God, is a faith. Philosophers of our days do not understand such simple thing. In the antiquity people knew almost nothing, but could think philosophically. Nowadays, knowledge is overwhelming but the ability to think philosophically is at pitifully low level. Seems that all-powerful science is like an elephant in a china shop. It ruins faith, the very ability to believe, while itself remains obscure to the masses, who in the absence of convincing religion(s) turn to ideologies, those pseudo-religions that possess all bad features without whatever good there was.

  18. You can be an Christian Atheist, Christian Buddhist, Christian Hebrew, Christian Muslim, etc… because The Way of Love as taught by Yahshua Messiah places Human Empathy FIRST as the focus of your life. Set LOVE as your 'god'.
    Love LOVE with all your being. Love All Beings. Love your Self. Love enemies and create new friendships.
    Be Helpful, healing, kind, compassionate, caring, understanding, Loving Kindness and Mindful Mercy improves the quality of life.
    Yahshua Messiah replaces the obsolete 10 commandments with ONE new commandment: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

    And yes, this is an easy system even kids understand: Be Kind. Share. Play Nice. Make Friends.
    No Magic needed, just kindness:
    No matter what you THINK, if you have Human Empathy, helping others, you are living as a Christian:

  19. Hey, religious cherry pick their holy texts, let’s cherry pick the best bits out of religion. Gospel singing instead of gospels, being kind to each other instead of just banging on about it, not judging instead of judging … 😇

  20. Just what little we know of the universe is so vast, so vertiginous times infinity, not only are we minuscule so is/are god(s).
    Even a tree makes the god of Abraham look small.

  21. Culture is exactly why we need. Unfortunately, the Americans have crushed culture, at every turn, and in every form. Americans have replaced culture with HIP-HOP. At the same time, Americans have opened up their border to primitives out of every corner of the Third World. ISLAM and HIP-HOP, threaten to bury all of Western Civilization. The Nazis were the only ones who actually offered a viable replacement for religion: They invented Fanatical Nationalism, which included Ancestor Worship, Nature Worship, Brotherhood, Family Unity, as well as the ancient values of Health, Strength, and Beauty!

  22. Karl Marx admitted that militant atheism is the same as Marxism when he said, "Communism begins where atheism begins." The Chinese Marxist leader Zhou Enlai said, "We Communists are atheists." When Marxists take over a nation, they torture and kill people to force their conversion to atheism. A brief history of militant atheism can be found here:

  23. The brother of Christopher Hitchens was an atheist, until he went to Moscow as a journalist. Peter Hitchens saw first hand the results of militant atheism: alcoholism, riots when vodka rations were cancelled, thefts, mistrust, surveillance of everyone by the government, and bribes in order to get antibiotics and anesthetics in hospitals. Peter renounced atheism as a failed philosophy and he embraced Protestant Christianity as the better alternative for prosperity and progress in this world. Find his observations here:

  24. Dear Alain, there are people who are not religious but believe in the other world. I mean, we don't need to be part of a religion to believe in something. Religions call for 2 things: 1- spirituality 2- Social norms. Although believing, why limit oneself to a single specific religious norm? Spirituality is not a social norm, but to believe in the other world. Please keep in mind that these people exist, and it is not right and misleading to tie spirituality with religion.

  25. Atheists are weird, ignorant and bigots. Why worry about climate change and waste time trying to make the world survive beyond my lifespan?  Why not kill my own parents as soon as I am sexually mature so that I can inherit their fortune?  Why bother with friends and family instead of mixing with people I can cheat on and thus take advantage of them?  etc., etc., etc.
    Theism is not necessarily a religion. Religions are human-founded spiritualistic Institutions that teach humans how to live and behave in large social groups without annihilating each other. All religions profess the possibility of the human spirit to transcend the material/temporal life of the body, even though they vary in doctrine and in the interpretation of God.
    Where does conscience reside if not in a spiritual world?  How can quantic particles entangle, tunnel, etc. if not in a timeless world?  What, if not bigotry, makes atheists believe that our science applies beyond our tiny observable universe? 
    I find it very weird how atheists so firmly believe in Little Green Men out there, of whom there is Zero evidence, yet they pretend to mock at the spiritual beauty of this wonderful world, which is right in front of our eyes.

  26. We've 'secularised badly' because religion has been allowed to keep its grasp all over the world. It's not the fault of current or previous atheism. People are idiots and they like to follow a point of authority. Religion is undeserved of the tolerance atheists give it. I'm not inciting violence of course, I'm saying we need more people to oppose it and remind supporters that how much faith they put into fantasy is their choice, but they should lose respect for manipulating others into believing the same. It's the imposition of belief that's problematic. Get it out of schools. Educate people with facts, not badly-written stories.

  27. This argument could easily be twisted into a premise to bring in a one-world religion. The argument is that we are divided based on religious dogma. There is great animosity between Christians, Jews, and Moslems. Even within Christianity there are scores of cults and sects. The idea would be to unite us, against a foreign invader, an invasion from off our world. Thus a false flag alien invasion could fuse religions. The next premise could be that an invading army of aliens tells us they made us, by genetically modifying more primitive beings, and all the religious scriptures are accounts of them, actually. They told our ancestors they were gods and angles, and since our ancestors were so primitive they believed it. That would tend to force us to toss out all religions.

  28. I remember the good ole day when Atheists said Atheism wasn't a belief system. Alain de Botton is fighting hard for it to be one.

  29. For anyone interested, check out Sunday Assembly, it's a growing Atheism 2.0 community.

  30. So-called atheists are probably the most humane and philanthropic of the 3 categories. I'm not into beliefs of any kind, including the belief there's no so-called God. If I find myself overwhelmed via getting lost in the existential drama, I just conjure the myth of the Goddess Kali, destroyer of illusions past present and future. "Supernal" Attenuator of the necessary-evil mechanism of the ego-Mind. Otherwise I know coz I experience that I Am That (That Consciousness and That Thing Out There [It seems] Manifest), which are both simultaneously in here .

    To think we're the result of some random freak accident of colliding quantum particles devoid of any organized intelligence, is presumptuous at best.

    Consider the many Nobel physicists and poets, who postulated some form of a causal intentional domain of awareness, unhinged to any anthropomorphic entity. Tesla, Einstein, Planck, Penrose, Newton, to Goethe, Emerson, Melville, Neitzsche, etc

  31. Well, it sounds just like a startup for a new sect. Art "should" nothing. Anything "should" anything. Anybody "should" nothing.
    Learning from history and experience is obvious.
    I think this gentleman is massively over complicating.

  32. Harmonious Disagreement—an essential stepping stone towards diverse Unity. Thank you for words, Alain.

    Pat O’Neill

  33. Faith in God is bigger than ever globally and will come back in Europe, for good. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Spacetime exploded into being. There must be a reason. A prime mover. A Logos. Something initiated it all. This is not God of the Gaps, but a necessary eternal ultimate cause. Without God there’s no ultimate hope. You’d expect us to be fine with that. But we’re not. We’re wired to have hope. Because “God has set eternity in the human heart.” Because God used his wisdom to invent the laws of physics, initiate the Big Bang, and use evolution to create life, in all its diversity, including humans, the most complex things we know of in the cosmos, beings that hope, love and delight in the creation, and honour their Creator. Emptiness is a feature not a bug of atheism. Materialism does not ultimately satisfy. Most religions bark up the wrong tree. Real connection and authentic freedom only happen in family with God via Jesus. All good is from God. All evil is against God. Slough off enticing lies like a dirty rag today and embrace the God who knows you better than you know yourself. Deep down in the most secret thoughts of the bottom of your heart, God is real. He loves you. He wants the best for you. He died to save you. Talk to him. Trust him. Doubt and fight him. Then give in to God. Surrender every little part of you. He’s worth it.

  34. I would not want to be instigated how to interpret or see a work of art. I want to go in open and have it hit me for that moment.

  35. I'm a secular atheist desiring a pilgrimage to the place where the answer to chronic physical pain is something other than medication and not just temporary relief. And not just therapy. And not just exercise. And not just eating right. And not just sleeping right. And not just meditation. True relief of pain. I know pain is more or less a warning sign…just like a swollen painful ankle keeps you off it until it heals after an injury…but when there is no cure for what ails you, it would be nice to find that place of no pain along with this fact. Why does there "have to be" pain in the human and animal physiology? Just saying. I'd take that pilgrimage. I guess, people who suffer chronic pain, do a mental pilgrimage on and off while they are awake, but it can't possibly be as much fun as seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Sigh.

  36. Christianity in thenUS doesn’t have this love and let mentality. You have people like Crank Turek trying to ban LGBTQ relationships of any kind and other evangelicals trying to enact legislation to restrict the freedoms of others based solely on their faith. The US will be a theocracy if we’re not careful.

  37. So TED bans people with 'scientifically spiritual' perspectives but embraces those with unprovable spiritual denial ? Atheists are total cowards, unwilling to question things beyond 'measuring' because they're afraid of getting results they can't explain. GOD is simply "G-O-D" – Generator, Operator, Destructor, aka the Tao. It had to start somewhere folks. Where did the big bang come from? If its a hologram where is the software written? Listen to some Alan Watts, practice mindfulness for a few months and then get back to me.

  38. "That's not the end of the story." Yes, it is. I do not believe in god, and that is all that I have in common with other atheists, because it is the only common defining characteristic. Anything beyond that falls not into the category of atheism. I am an atheist and appreciate art, culture, rituals and so on but it could also be the opposite. Atheism says nothing about your values, beliefs and character beyond: "Does not believe in god(s)." Other than that I can be a scholar, a brute, a psycopath, a hero, right wing, left wing… It is fine if you want to connect and socialize with other atheists, but do not be disappointed if you find that you do not have as much in common with other atheists as you thought. Besides, it is not like religion has a monopoly on ritual or art. I appreciate the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example and nobody is stopping me from doing so, and I also share my appreciation for it with anyone who cares to listen, religious conviction does not even come up in this context. No Atheism 2.0 required. I like the ideas, but they belong more into the category of living well and wholesomely.

  39. You want the benefits of faith without acknowledging it's reality. Sounds like that's both hypocritical and insane – the two things that atheists accuse the faithful of.

  40. Holes in atheism? Hmm, there is nothing wrong with being atheist. And usually atheists ARE among the first to acknowledge culture and art that came from our religious past, only that we also hold it responsible for all the violence it created. There is no need for what Botton promotes here.

  41. WE do not need didactic lectures on any morality. We need to teach people to think. The Royal Society’s motto is “Take no one’s word for it” (Nullius in verba). Religion has no ownership of morals. The dogma was indoctrinated into society and punishment was meted out to any heretic. The Inquisition murdered people who thought for themselves for nine centuries and millions died. How can society just forget this? Now is the time for people to think, not blindly believe. The fact that religions are just man-made stories is just basic truth. The horrifying belief that they own morality is criminal when we see the abuse of children and women and this will have been hidden within the ranks of the brethren since its beginning. Morality does not come from religion; it comes from secular common sense. Yes, the churches and religious monuments are quaint, but remember, they are built on the backs of murder, power, money and hate. Children of God, sheep of the shepherd or just slaves of the religion?

  42. How many people have atheists murdered in the name of their Marxist political system? Historians and researchers agree that the total number killed by atheists in the 20th century was more than 100 million people, which is about ten times more people killed than by all Crusades and Jihad during the previous 1500 years. So atheists set a new world record for mass murders, which is why anyone who values their life must not only reject atheists' politics, but oppose and exterminate it from the earth along with other mass murdering terrorist gangs.

  43. Unfortunately, all those goodies Alain de Botton is mentioning here were meant and are still meant to please the super boss who then might let little mortals into a place of eternal pleasure or otherwise throw them away into a place of eternal pain. The castles were built to please the kings and cathedrals were built to please the king of the kings. Those guddies were not meant to please an average mortal because an average mortal can't afford them.

  44. Speaking as an ex-atheist, we all have our beliefs. What we accept as evidence, and what we reject.

    I rejected religion, as ridiculous, contradictory and delusional.
    I found atheism to be ridiculous, contradictory and delusional.

    I found my atheists beliefs to be no different in their level of ludicrousy, as my old religious beliefs.

    Thankfully, God was gracious to me, and showed me my error, in irrefutable ways. He has since proven, beyond all doubt, His existence, and His religion.

    To those who earnestly seek, I do not need to tell you of God. He is capable of speaking for Himself, and He will, if you will listen. Of course, if you ask me, I will give my testimony. You can decide for yourself what it's weight is.

  45. Scientists tell us that the entire universe of a billion galaxies was once the size of a grain of sand, or that all the "matter", that ever existed, was no larger than the smallest atom.

    And, what about a billion universes and, perhaps, dimensions outside of "time"? But, in all of this wondrous space there is no room for a "plan" or "purpose"? Why are self-creating or "eternal" matter and "natural laws", steeped in Milky Way of happenstance, palatable to quasi sophisticated humanists, while the idea of a purposeful creator (s), outside of time, an anathema?

    I suspect that there is a purpose somewhere in eternity. Further, I fancy this power is "good" and "knowable" and wants us to know "Him"-"Her", or, for that matter, "It".

    It is also enlightening to note that Mohamed and Christ are perfect and absolute polar opposites. Now, what might that mean?

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

  46. The problem atheists have is that they think to be a Christian means that they have to believe something that they don't believe (which is impossible!)! God doesn't expect people to believe in him for no reason, with no evidence. He just asks that you seek him and he will give you evidence (seek and you shall find).

  47. "Religion is a snare and a racket." But that does not prove there is no God. Just because God is misrepresented by self-serving religionists does not mean we have to accept their worldview.

    Here's the truth: Every church survives by attracting enough followers to pay the guy who wants to be their minister. So he or she has to say whatever resonates with his flock. The Bible itself says that " For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled;"

    The truth is, when someone is motivated by material gain, objectivity and honesty become secondary to survival.

    Religious schools are notoriously secular and hypocritical.

    If there were a true religion, its members and its leaders would all be volunteers. It would not be tied to any political group or ethnicity. There would be no tithes or dues. There would be no person in charge. There would be a worldwide unity regardless of class, race, geographical location or any other division.

    Keep looking.

  48. False dichotomy. God ? Gods ? No Gods ? What does it matter ? Do you live a kind, helpful, and loving caring empathetic life ? No ? Well you should, because it is motivated self interest. Yes ? then you already are living as Jesus taught people to live: Yahshua Messiah simply asked people to LOVE ONE ANOTHER Yahshua literally means Shua Yah – Salvation FROM Yahweh, freedom from superstition, and liberation from mythology. Yahshua's teachings obliterated the pantheon of Egyptian, middle eastern, Roman and Greek deities, as well as erased major sections of European, North American and South American belief systems.
    Right or Wrong – that is how CHRISTian teachings are very different than Zionism, Catholicism, Islam, Hindu, or many other 'religions'. It is perfectly fine to be an atheist Christian – because if you are a kind person that helps others, no body cares what cultural background you come from. You are Kind. You are helpful. You Love people. This is Good ! 🙂
    If you want to build a temple to Scientology – go right ahead, just Do No Harm, and promote Loving Kindness…

  49. your beliefs are your business (if they are not hurting anyone).I personally don't believe that a god exists or is a logical thing to believe but I try to be a good person because it makes me feel good about myself.I do not like to be put in a group.I only identify as an atheist because I don't like to explain to everyone that I don't believe in god,afterlife blah blah.I'm an atheist is much easier to say.

  50. Absolutely fascinating. A guy who beautifully speaks on transcendence but then denies it exists. If you are an atheist, then your references should be material things. But they aren't of course. Most of what human beings cherish and value are not material things… but non-material things like hope, love, loyalty, kindness, valour. Our life would be meaningless without them. But they have no height, width, shape, or color. They can't be located in space and time. Amazes me that intelligent humans, with our complete lack of understanding of our world and its origins, could conclude that a world absolutely bursting with design had no designer.

  51. Impious: not showing respect or reverence, especially for a god. Just in case there are other people, besides myself, who didn't know. LOL!

  52. Now wait.  If the doctrine is false, then singing, poetry and "help" is not likely to be worthwhile.  What kind of help do you get at church?  Follow the doctrine and everything will be better.  Ok, help can be better, but it isn't likely.  Do we need all these things that religion gives?  I can replace without much effort.

  53. There are the Religious (frightened fantasists) and the Clear Thinkers (worried truth seekers). Atheism turns people off. I tell people I simply think clearly about the world and problems (concepts that disagree with reality). Once you see reality, it's easy. Don't bother with the zombie rabble in their religious muddle. Just stand aside and slowly shake you head at human stupidity.

  54. I don't believe in Santa Claus, yet I like christmas presents… what's wrong about that??

    Religious people have a lot to criticise about science and the products of science, yet use the products of science, and I think there is nothing wrong about that either, so long as they are able to live with that contradiction. It is a much bigger contradiction than liking cake but not birthday parties.

  55. Alain de Botton is pretending to invent something that has always existed. Even Richard Dawkins (like all intelligent atheists) appreciates religiously inspired music and art and architecture, he even regrets the paucity of atheist language when it comes to births marriages and deaths. Obviously religions have expressed the yearning and the pain and the hope of centuries of human existence and so they contain many precious things. But they are also "nonsense" that is today being used by some to bolster some really oppressive and disgusting social and personal policies. So we HAVE to prevent our appreciation of the positive things that religions have sometime inspired in the past, from blinding our eyes to the really horrible things still done in the name of religion today.

  56. Is this guy being serious? Is he just pulling my leg? Is this satire? Does he try to piss me off?

    Listening to this talk makes me think of Daniel Dennett's "deepity".
    "Generally, a deepity has two (or more) meanings: one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound & would be important if true, but is actually false or meaningless."

    But maybe he is just talking BS (for the most part): "… reject the doctrine & you're living in some kind of spiritual wasteland under the guidance of CNN & Walmart [2:12] … the secular world is full of holes [2:50] … I think we need to get back to that sermon tradition … because we are in need of guidance, morality & consolation [6:00] … so religions are cultures of repetition. They circle the great truths, again & again & again. [6:40] … it is really important to look at the moon [7:55] … … …"

    MfG, Egooist

  57. I don't think it needs debate or analysis.
    It is like trying to convince me I like liver because it is a good food.
    I can't eat it no matter.

  58. Religion has the perfect business model; sell an invisible product ,nobody can come back for a refund and it`s all tax free !

  59. There is no real Athiest in the World.He may conceptually vary to descibe the reality.Who dont belive in God his concept fall from the devine and adress nature natural rule as God. But there is no scope to describe the reality avoiding An All knowing entity. They may give another name to describe it.No body belive 0+0+0+0…….+++++0=1,Or imagine about a cat and its baby in womb. The baby dont know there is light and need eye, there is sound and need ear,there to inhale oxygen and need nose and The mother cat also not aware of its development.If This two party not control this than Who this all knowing. May say God, atheist may say nature. Its falling of conception not real atheism

  60. I've been waiting for evidence of the existence of a deity for many years. Either cough up scientifically acceptable proof of your god or go away and leave me alone. And leave public schools alone, as well.

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