You know, I’m an odd guy. I mean odd beyond my sex acts with furries and constant need to chew my socks. I’m odd because I’m one of those assholes who think it’s kind of important if something is true or not, making me the total opposite of chrome-dome philosopher Alain De Botton.
I didn’t think I was that odd until I saw de Botton’s TED lecture on Atheism 2.0. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, though watching Alain’s lecture, you might be forgiven for thinking it stood for Twit, Egregious, and Disgusting. For you see Alain has invented this weird kind of atheism that involves things that are the opposite of being an atheist. Like, temples, for example.
Anyway, Alain thinks that the most boring question you can ask is not “have you considered Rogaine?” but whether or not religion is true. Which to me, if you’re going around calling yourself a non-believer, seems to be very important. Maybe not as important as hating someone till you die, but it’s real close.
Of course, if an atheist points out to Alain “I am not Larry Fine“ de Botton on how important this question actually is he will label you the Godless version of Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson, the 9/11 hijackers, and Jackie Mason.
According to his article in The Huffington “A Vaccine Ate My Baby“ Post, he prefers to take a different tack than that descendant of slave owners, Richard Dawkins. De Botton wants to remain a committed atheist while at the same time embracing also sorts of things that churchie people are into. Personally, I thought people who swung that way called themselves Unitarian, but I guess not.
So what does he have in mind? In the Huffington piece, he listed five things.
The first was education. Which he says religion is supremely effective at. Though, I think he maybe confusing education with indoctrination. Since he’s awfully keen on the idea of “rehearsal, repetition, oratory and calendars.” Which is great when your holy book never changes and December 25th is always dead-Jew-guy-whose-death-made-everybody-not-Jewish’s birthday. But actual education allows for new ideas. Not a repeat of the old, dumb ones. By de Botton’s reckoning an “important truth” is always an important truth. But at one time, the “truth” said that is was okay for Richard Dawkins’s ancestors to own my ancestors. At some point, probably around the time the shooting started, that stopped being “truth.” If education is just about repeating shit, then the actual truth (as opposed to stupid things we believed at one time) would never emerge.
Next on Alain’s list of atheism-gone-godly is the mind and body. Allie says atheist should do stuff like the Buddhist’s do with their tea ceremonies, or the mikveh baths which is all the rage in Judaism. Apparently, the cue ball philosopher thinks secular types should integrate not believing in God with some type of physical actions. I don’t mind this, actually. However, my psychical action involves my middle finger but when I do that I’m accused of cursing the discourse. Look, if people want to throw back some Long Island Ice Teas, or bathe in whatever the hell mikveh is, that’s fine. Not sure what it’s got to do with being secular, though. Or not secular for that matter. See, the nice thing about atheism is you don’t have to get mikveh up your pee-hole to be one. Its only requirement is a lack of belief in Gods and maybe a support of the separation of church and state. Though, strange women like S.E. Cupp might object to that last point.
The next thing this member of one of the wealthiest families in Europe would like to see is more community among, we, the damned. Just like the Lord lovers. I don’t know anyone who would object to this. However, the main bond that exists among (and I’m speaking as an ex-Christian) Jesus freaks is the idea that everybody else is going to hell. There is a very strongly implied (and sometimes not-so-implied) punishment in religion that, as a community, we Godless Sodomites are never going to be able to compete with. The best we can hope for is that we all want to work toward reason, but what weapon could we employ if someone goes off the reservation? Deny him access to the next Sam Harris debate? Get real.
The Fourth item on Alain de Botton’s bid to be the Uncle Tom of Atheism is his hang up about art and museums. For some reason, De Botton really has a bug up the pooper about Christian art. Christian art is genius, he says. Christian art is saying vital things, he says. He seems not to notice that Christian art is this:
Pope Alain’s final communion wafer of bad ideas is the pilgrimage. He writes: “We want travel to change us, religions honour this wish.” I know people go to Mecca or pop over to Jerusalem now and then, but I’m not sure it’s fair to suggest that travel is especially the purview of the religious. Though, I can understand if you’re into it to get your luggage lifted. Beyond that, though, there is nothing especially divinely sanctioned in travel itself. Despite what all those rent boys might tell you.
Honestly, atheism might be dangerous, it might ruffle feathers, but what it isn’t is complicated. Leave the ritual shit to the faith-heads. There is no price of admission to this dance. You don’t believe in the supernatural? You’re in. What you do with the rest of your time is up to you, but if you want to spend it recreating something a lot of us were happy to abandon the first place, then please count me out.