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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Comments (10)
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  • Black would be a good col­or.

  • Paul Dodenhoff says:

    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.

  • Fred says:

    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

  • Karen says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Stephen says:

    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.

  • Terry says:

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

  • Sal says:

    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.

  • chris reed says:

    Sal. Thanks for telling me what I beleive. I shall make a note.

  • um says:

    I thought that the point of athe­ism was to. . you know…not be a reli­gion.

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