Alain de Botton Wants a Religion for Atheists: Introducing Atheism 2.0

Last summer Alain de Botton, one of the better popularizers of philosophy, appeared at TEDGlobal and called for a new kind of atheism. An Atheism 2.0. This revised atheism would let atheists deny a creator and yet not forsake all the other good things religion can offer — tradition, ritual, community, insights into living a good life, the ability to experience transcendence, taking part in institutions that can change the world, and the rest.

What he’s describing kind of sounds like what already happens in the Unitarian Church … or The School of Life, a London-based institution founded by de Botton in 2008. The school offers courses “in the important questions of everyday life” and also hosts Sunday Sermons that feature “maverick cultural figures” talking about important principles to live by. Click here and you can watch several past sermons presented by actress Miranda July, physicist Lawrence Krauss, author Rebecca Solnit, and Alain de Botton himself.

If Atheism 2.0 piques your interest, you’ll want to pre-order de Botton’s soon-to-be-published book, Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.

Thanks to Elana for sending this our way.

Related Content:

Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, with Jonathan Miller



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  1. downtown dave says . . . | January 26, 2012 / 10:00 am

    Black would be a good color.

  2. Paul Dodenhoff says . . . | January 26, 2012 / 11:00 am

    Although not an atheist, I find this very encouraging and exciting. One minor point I would like make regarding Open Culture’s intro to this piece: O/C states: “This kind of sounds like what happens in the Unitarian Church…”
    It is true that within Unitarian Universalist churches there are many atheists. However, there are also humanists and theists of many stripes. UU’s are each enjoined to follow their own “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Many find that as atheists and others find in in other ways. In any case, UU’s welcome anyone who is willing to follow their own path, receive encouragement in doing so, and who will encourage others on theirs.

  3. Fred says . . . | January 26, 2012 / 3:46 pm

    You can see Alain de Botton discuss religion with the Rabbi Jonathan sacks, the chief Rabbi of the UK, here : http://youtu.be/VXPA0BGSWLI?t=8m35s

  4. Dan Colman says . . . | January 26, 2012 / 4:15 pm

    Thanks Fred for adding that link. Looking forward to watching it.

    Dan

  5. Karen says . . . | January 26, 2012 / 6:40 pm

    As Paul Dodenhoff stated, Unitarian Universalists do have some atheists as congregants, but know this. Many Unitarian Universalists (UUs) are theists, some are Christian, some consider themselves as adherents to the Buddhist way of life, some consider their inherited heritages as sacred, some believe in an earth centered path, many do not wish to be defined in any of the above ways as their beliefs are DEEPLY personal. Unitarian Universalism is firmly rooted in Western Christian philosophy and beliefs, originating in the 3rd century AD, or perhaps more politically correctly stated, CE, and also in the transcendentalist movement more or less lead by Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldoe Emerson, who were philosophers and/or Congregationalist ministers in New England in the 19th century. To equate UUs with atheism is misleading.

  6. Ralph Haygood says . . . | January 27, 2012 / 10:46 am

    I find this curious. I grew up with religion; I was sent to a church and schools operated by fundamentalist Christians from kindergarten through high school. In college, I experienced some more intelligent varieties of Christianity too. However, for the past fifteen years, I’ve had almost nothing to do with religion, and I really don’t miss it at all. I’ve never cared for ritual, nonreligious community isn’t too hard to find in my experience, and there are plenty of nonreligious institutions that can improve the world (perhaps even including TED). So, although I don’t condemn this idea, I’ll be surprised if many atheists are interested in it.

  7. Stephen says . . . | January 27, 2012 / 12:56 pm

    So as Christians increasingly remove themselves from the institutions, rituals and denominational rules (religion) of their faith — and refer to themselves as “followers of Jesus”, rather than the highly politicized word “Christian” — atheists are running the other way.

    Seems ironic. Especially being one of those Christians myself.

    Well, good luck to them. Personally, I can’t imagine I would be interested even if I were an atheist.

  8. Terry says . . . | December 28, 2012 / 10:57 am

    Humanism already does this and is in the process of creating fellowship

  9. Sal says . . . | January 28, 2014 / 8:32 am

    I hate to break it to everyone but everyone believes in God. They just call it different names-God, Reason,Science, Logic, Theist, Atheist etc…My definition of God is awareness of the highest Good in your life. Just call it what it is God and transcend your life. Go within, you will find God. Read author Eckhart Tolle.

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