Because we’ve been given so much to laugh at »« I need more torsos!

More criticism of Alain de Botton

Have you ever noticed the phenomenon where one person throws up, then everyone around them gets queasy, and then they start retching, and pretty soon everyone is having a pukefest? My emesis yesterday seems to have triggered a wave, with both JT and Martin geysering on cue.

Hmmm. That wasn’t exactly an enchanting analogy, I guess. But you know what I mean. And I think it’s perfectly appropriate to regard de Botton as an emetic.


And a defense! Hemant Mehta thinks Stedman and de Botton aren’t really that bad. It’s too bad none of his arguments actually address why some of us despise Stedman and de Botton, but OK. You play that game, the next thing you know, we’re siccing Ian Cromwell on you. Really…you don’t want to get on Ian’s bad side.

Comments

  1. says

    de Botton needs to tell us why the Creation “Museum” being voted #1 of the 15 places a kid needs to see before 15 is a good thing.

    Or was it the pro-stupidity ritual that was actually good, not the results?

    Glen Davidson

  2. frog says

    It’s certainly more of an emetic than Kennedy’s “I won’t let my Catholicism run my presidency” speech.

  3. says

    Slightly off topic:

    Bryan Appleyard (yes him) is attacking PZ Myers in the New Statesman. Predictably, the piece is stupid and profoundly dishonest:

    Myers the provocateur announced that he had no intention of reading [What Darwin Got Wrong] but spent 3,000 words trashing it anyway, a remarkably frank statement of intellectual tyranny.

    Fodor now chuckles at the memory. “I said we should write back saying we had no intention of reading his review but we thought it was all wrong anyway.”

    The fact that PZ was reviewing Fodor’s piece in (the sad decaying remnants of) New Scientist wasn’t even mentioned. Appleyard also tells multiple lies about Dawkins.

    Needless to say, there’s a flock of simpletons in the comment section, eagerly lapping up the faith-affirming lies, like the good little sheep they are. It’s almost adorable, the way in which some of them think that they have the intellectual upper hand. Less amusingly, this means that the propaganda is working.

  4. julian says

    And, on the same topic, Hemant “Friendly Atheist” Mehta is defending de Botton (as well as Uncle Tom atheist Chris Stedman) on his blog.

    sigh

    It would be nice if he’d at least accurately represent the criticisms leveled against the people he likes. I suppose that’s to much to ask from the ‘Friendly’ Atheist.

  5. says

    It’s never difficult to seduce people we aren’t attracted to.

    Ignoring for a second that it’s false, what the fuck is that even supposed to mean?

  6. =8)-DX says

    It’s never difficult to seduce people we aren’t attracted to.

    Ignoring for a second that it’s false, what the fuck is that even supposed to mean?

    I think what is meant is the highly (or deeply) philosophical primary-school concept of what it’s like when someone has a crush on you and you don’t. And how you can make use of that to be a manipulative asshole.

    I’ve just been reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and am coming to the conclusion that a lot of stuff that gets sold as deep philosophy is actually stuff you realise as self-evident in your teens.

  7. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I noticed that Mehta quotes de Botton (relying on Mehta for accuracy here):

    “To say something along the lines of ‘I’m an atheist; I think religions are not all bad’ has become a dramatically peculiar thing to say and if you do say it on the internet you will get savage messages calling you a fascist, an idiot or a fool. This is a very odd moment in our culture. Why has this happened?”

    Hmph. I have been quite open about the fact that I have deep connections with Judaism and in some senses, though my home wasn’t a “Jewish home” when I was growing up, one might certainly call me culturally Jewish or even a Jew. When I don’t have time to explain myself to any significant degree and the complex web of ideas I draw from Judaism, Animism, and atheism, I simply call myself an atheist, a Jew, or a Jewish atheist. I’ve said this before. On Pharyngula.

    More than that, I’ve mentioned that I actually go to friday services sometimes. Lately I’ve even been going less than I’d like. Sure, I’ve been explicit at least some of those times that I go because the community is important to me and people that I love attend rather than because I believe anything supernatural occurs there or anywhere. But it seems patently obvious that even with that phrasing I am saying that explicitly Jewish gatherings that are explicitly religious “are not all bad”.

    How was I repaid for my heresy on this famously confrontational website?

    Well, no one said a word of disapprobation that I might go hang out for an hour an a half with friends, sing a few familiar songs, and use the opportunity to both try to let go of unproductive feelings of regret over events now passed *and* renew connections to people about whom I care very much. No one said that because this opportunity was presented in a religious context I was wrong to have taken advantage of it.

    In fact, I was given a Molly after participating on Pharyngula for barely 6 months.

    I don’t bother keeping up with de Botton, but it would seem that it should be (at minimum) obvious that more is required to attract the attention of negative argumentation on the part of fellow atheists than merely asserting that religion has some benefits. FFS, I’ve heard Dawkins do this through video and read both Dawkins and PZ saying this on the net (and Dawkins in print as well). The fact that both of them go on to mention that they believe those benefits can be achieved in secular ways and that religion isn’t worth preserving for those benefits alone isn’t irrelevant, but in the context of a body of work, nor is it manifestly necessary in every case.

    Arguing for a preservation of lies at the expense of truth, however, will prick up the ears of the Cape hunting dogs in our midst.

    And, it seems to me, that the thing that really brings down the ire of fellow atheists is arguing for systems of advancing lies at the extent of systems of discovering and communicating truth.

    I wonder if de Botton can possibly, truly, understand that?

  8. noname says

    It might be the conjunction of my opioid pain killer with the zopiclon I took 20 minutes ago (almost midnight here now) but I actually expected to see a picture of vomit in a bucket when I clicked on “emesis”. And now I have to laugh about what I thought.

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Ing @12 –

    I really don’t get that quote. Is it supposed to be saying the falsehood will be revealed or that people will accept falsehood as truth?

    It can be interpreted as both P and ~P, which makes it hard to falsify and thus qualifies it as a deepity, IM um Perception.

    What were you trying to get at?

  10. says

    If “religions aren’t all bad” were all that de Botton was saying, he wouldn’t be attracting so much abuse.

    It’s when he takes it to the next level, as in: atheists are scared of morality, we lack the tools to appreciate art, community, or to give gratitude in our lives. We must get those from religion, their only source. But because we are all, by choice, cold and emotionally barren little Mr. Spocks, we deny ourselves these uniquely religious wonders.

    That’s why he’s getting called names.

    His willful lack of self-awareness demonstrates the kind of head-up-ass, navel-gazing-from-the-inside thing that may be popular among his academic clique of pretentious philosophers, but will get you laughed at by people who don’t actually find truth “boring.”

  11. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Ing – LOL.

    Okay, so **now** I understand the point. Apologies for myopia.

  12. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    oops –

    And, it seems to me, that the thing that really brings down the ire of fellow atheists is arguing for systems of advancing lies at the exPENSE of systems of discovering and communicating truth.

    FIFM

  13. Sastra says

    “To say something along the lines of ‘I’m an atheist; I think religions are not all bad’ has become a dramatically peculiar thing to say and if you do say it on the internet you will get savage messages calling you a fascist, an idiot or a fool. This is a very odd moment in our culture. Why has this happened?”

    It’s not the phrase (or the concept) “I’m an atheist; I think religions are not all bad” which causes the problem. It’s what you think this implies that matters.

    If your point is that religions contain many values, morals, and elements co-opted from our common human heritage, no problem.

    If your point is that atheists need to borrow some the values, morals, and elements which religion came up with — problem.

    Not that hard, I think. Or, shouldn’t be.

  14. jacobfromlost says

    I find de Botton’s ideas absurd, but are there any numbers on how many self-described atheists agree with him? Or would agree to sign on to whatever rituals, practices, or whatever, he comes up with? (Are there any polls that use procedures to weed out theists who taint the poll?)

    And I don’t really understand who it is who will be going to his Temples, writing or singing his songs, writing or reading his new myths, or saying they enjoy the new myths and songs that he approves with his “atheist” stamp because he stamped them…or whatever.

    Basically, I don’t much get it at all, and am wondering about the people who say they do get it. Who are they? What are they saying? And, maybe most importantly, what are they doing? Are they actually doing things that might be considered some kind of secular religion?

    It just sound like the beginnings of a really weird cult to me…not that other cults are not weird.

  15. Ichthyic says

    but are there any numbers on how many self-described atheists agree with him

    does it matter?

    argumentum ad populum and all.

  16. jacobfromlost says

    It doesn’t matter in terms of whether he has a good idea or not.

    It only matters to me because I’m curious, the same way I’m curious how many of my countrymen think the earth is 6000 years old, lol.

    Seriously, though, it is politically relevant (and consequential) to know some of these numbers. If, say, 1% of self-described atheists sign on, that’s one thing. But what if it’s 20%? 30%? 40%? I can’t imagine those numbers, but SOMEONE must be supporting his initial ideas if they are building some kind of giant temple. Who are these people? What do they think? What are they doing? Why are they doing it?

    Just curious.

  17. jacobfromlost says

    I visited the link, but I’m not sure it tells me anything. I can easily imagine a self-described atheist often take part in those humanist rituals, sometimes taking part, never taking part, or taking part in other humanist rituals, and being perfectly able to disagree with de Botton in all of those circumstances.

    I’m wondering what the people think and do who agree with de Botton that we SHOULD emulate religious practices. I could take my baby to a humanist naming ceremony and still think de Botton is wrong to think atheists SHOULD do the same, or that everyone would be better off if they did. If de Botton is not saying something along these lines (ie, we SHOULD have certain secular rituals, gatherings, culture, etc), I’m not sure he is saying anything at all.

  18. redhill says

    I am surprised that someone as emollient & soothing & comfortable as de Botton should create such excitement.

    He is such a mild mannered chap, always seeking to console rather than to confront.

    Sure, an atheist temple would be a waste of money and an exercise in fatuity. And hasn’t it been tried before with rather mixed results – the Temple of Reason in 18th century France and the League of Militant Atheists in 20th century Russia?.

    I think other atheists should just say who cares, fund it yourself if you like the idea, you can afford it.

    All the expletives and talk of spew and claims to a superior grasp on truth sound more like a touchy reaction than a reasoned response.

  19. consciousness razor says

    I am surprised that someone as emollient & soothing & comfortable as de Botton should create such excitement.

    When you make him sound like a lubricant, it doesn’t surprise me that he could create excitement. Still, I’m not sure it’s the most apt description.

    He is such a mild mannered chap, always seeking to console rather than to confront.

    That’s one of the things I find annoying about him.

    Sure, an atheist temple would be a waste of money and an exercise in fatuity. [...] I think other atheists should just say who cares, fund it yourself if you like the idea, you can afford it.

    We should not care about people foolishly wasting resources? I happen to think one ought to be opposed to “an exercise in fatuity,” as there are better things to do and limited resources with which to do them.

  20. avh1 says

    Jacob

    I can’t speak to how he’s perceived abroad but here in the UK he’s been lapped up by the media. A lot of journalists here in Britain are the sort of people you in the State’s call faitheists – they’re agnostic or atheists themselves or just cultural religionists, they think criticism of religion is ‘colonialism’ or ‘elitism’, they now see religion as a pseudo-ethnicity etc.

    It’s anecdata but no-one I know, be they theist, agnostic, atheist or whatever seems interested in him and what he’s selling. Without the media he wouldn’t be going anywhere is my assessment.

  21. Johann says

    He is such a mild mannered chap

    Which does not in any way excuse his suggestion – among a veritable bouquet of similar ideas – that we should pattern university class sessions after sermons. That’s when he lost me completely and irretrievably.

    As I see it, de Botton’s appreciation of religion is mostly that of an aesthete, and that would be perfectly fine as a personal quirk – making a career out of it seems more questionable to me, but whatever, let him build a museum and be its curator if he wants. But in between admiring the paintings and the cathedrals, he also puts in his approval for the religious techniques of indoctrination and enforced conformity as a way of life, and that shit will not stand.

  22. jacobfromlost says

    avh1,

    Thanks for the insight. I only know of de Botton because I read all these atheist blogs, and someone sent me the TED talk from youtube. It seems like there was an article in the NYTimes about him, but I can’t remember. If so, that would have been the only place in the American media I read about him.

    slightly off topic…

    Sounds like de Botton might be a media story in England the way the “contraception debate” is in the US. There is no debate, but you wouldn’t know that to watch the news. (Everytime someone mentions “98% of Catholic women have used birth control”, the talking heads in the “debate” just shrug it off as if it means nothing. Apparently the only poll that matters is that only 43% of white Republicans agreed with Obama that religious institutions should provide contraception coverage, since ALL THE OTHER NUMBERS indicate everyone agrees, as they have for decades. The next thing they’ll be doing is debating the Abolition of Slavery–was it really the right thing do to? lol Santorum already used the “dog whistle” for those crazies when he said this was the most important election since 1860; sane people hear it as “yeah, Lincoln was pretty great”, but the crazies hear it as, “Yeah, the entire country fell apart when Lincoln won that War of Northern Aggression, and now look who’s in the White House!” *facepalm*)

  23. says

    He is such a mild mannered chap, always seeking to console rather than to confront.

    Calling others sub-humans is not consoling thank you very fucking much.