Religion for Atheists: A Secular Church

Alain de Botton, in an article titled Religion for Atheists, endorses the idea of a secular church:

In this new secular religion, there would be feast days, wedding ceremonies, revered figures (secularised saints) and even atheistic churches and temples. The new religion would rely on art and philosophy, but put them to overtly didactic ends: it would use the panoply of techniques known to traditional religions (buildings, great books, seminaries) to try to make us good according to the sanest and most advanced understanding of the word.

…there are certain needs in us that can never be satisfied by art, family, work or the state alone. In the light of this, it seems evident that what we now need is not a choice between atheism and religion, but a new secular religion: a religion for atheists.

He goes to write:

A secular religion would hence begin by putting man into context and would do so through works of art, landscape gardening and architecture. Imagine a network of secular churches, vast high spaces in which to escape from the hubbub of modern society and in which to focus on all that is beyond us. It isn’t surprising that secular people continue to be interested in cathedrals. Their archi­tecture performs the very clever and eternally useful function of relativising those who walk inside them. We begin to feel small ­inside a cathedral and recognise the debt that sanity owes to such a feeling.

In addition, a secular religion would use all the tools of art in ­order to create an effective kind of propaganda in the name of kindness and virtue. Rather than seeing art as a tool that can shock and surprise us (the two great emotions ­promoted by most contemp­orary works), a secular religion would return to an earlier view that art should improve us. It should be a form of propaganda for a better, nobler life.

Here’s my earlier post The Secular Church and my post about Sunday School for Atheists.

Some of the features of the secular church that Chris and I will co-found includes:

  • Chris Yeh as featured choir boy
  • No sexual abuse of the children from priests
  • Adequate leg room in the pews
  • Gatorade instead of wine and Clif bars instead of stale crackers served during communion

Note our church will not be a proactively anti-God institution. It will instead appeal to my fellow pro-religion non-believers.

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