Hmm, I don’t know. It’s very sweet of Alain de Botton, but I don’t know. A temple to atheism…
The philosopher and writer Alain de Botton is proposing to build a 46-metre (151ft) tower to celebrate a “new atheism” as an antidote to what he describes as Professor Richard Dawkins’s “aggressive” and “destructive” approach to non-belief.
One, De Botton is not a philosopher. (He writes poppy books that mention philosophers here and there. That doesn’t make him a philosopher.) Two, as we all know to the point of mind-numbing tedium, Dawkins’s approach is not destructive (destructive of what? what’s he destroyed?) and it’s usually not all that aggressive. Forthright, yes; sometimes acerbic, yes; but aggressive, no, not really.
So we don’t really need an “antidote” to Dawkins’s approach. If we did it’s not clear that we would need De Botton to do it. If it were and we did, why would we want a tower, anyway?
“Normally a temple is to Jesus, Mary or Buddha, but you can build a temple to anything that’s positive and good,” he said. “That could mean a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective. Because of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens atheism has become known as a destructive force. But there are lots of people who don’t believe but aren’t aggressive towards religions.”
Sigh. Same old shit. He makes the mostly-false smear true merely by repeating it. Atheism “has become known as a destructive force” because people keep recycling the boring and mostly wrong claims that it is. You would think De Botton could avoid such an obvious banality.
De Botton revealed details of a temple to evoke more than 300m years of life on earth. Each centimetre of the tapering tower’s interior has been designed to represent a million years and a narrow band of gold will illustrate the relatively tiny amount of time humans have walked the planet. The exterior would be inscribed with a binary code denoting the human genome sequence.
Well that sounds quite appealing, De Botton’s silliness aside. It sounds like the theme song for The Big Bang Theory.
Humanists said it was misplaced for non-believers to build quasi-religious buildings, because atheists did not need temples to probe the meaning of life.
“The things religious people get from religion – awe, wonder, meaning and perspective – non-religious people get them from other places like art, nature, human relationships and the narratives we give our lives in other ways,” said Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Society.
De Botton has insisted atheists have as much right to enjoy inspiring architecture as religious believers.
Well of course we do, but then we already do that – including churches and cathedrals, not to mention mosques. Inspiring architecture?
George Pitcher, on the other hand, thinks it’s a great idea.
“Building a monument acknowledges that we are more than dust. Whether we come at that through secular means or a religious narrative, it is the same game.
“This is a more constructive atheism than Dawkins, who is about the destruction of ideas rather than contributing new ones.”
See? Destruction. Dawkins is all about destruction. People keep saying so, so it must be true.