|ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- For many atheists, a belief in a supreme being is not only foolhardy, but it also is dangerous. According to these disciples of unbelief, the religious doctrines that flow from the idea of God -- particularly from the adherents of Christianity -- are chiefly responsible for most of the ills on earth.
Alain de Botton does not agree with many of his fellow atheists on the subject of religion. In fact, the Swiss-born, London-dwelling author believes many teachings found in religion hold the keys to a better world.
In his most recent book, "Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion," de Botton, "suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it -- because the world's religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies," according to a description on Amazon.com.
In de Botton's view, religion was "invented to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill...."
The first of the two needs de Botton acknowledges is "the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses."
De Botton believes the second necessity of mankind is "the need to cope with the terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise."
In grappling with these needs, de Botton attempts to deal with age-old questions for which the belief system known as atheism has no real answers.
"The real issue is not whether or not God exists," he writes, "but where to take the argument once one decides that he evidently doesn't."
"Religion for Atheists" is de Botton's attempt to create a moral construct for a society where God does not exist -- amorality that he believes is a necessity based on human need.
"The premise of this book," writes de Botton, "is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling -- and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm."
Apart from "Religion For Atheists" and perhaps because of the book, de Botton has authored a brief "Manifesto for Atheists" where he espouses 10 virtues that would help better society,: Resilience, Empathy, Patience, Sacrifice, Politeness, Humor, Self-Awareness, Forgiveness, Hope and Confidence.
De Botton's list is far from original. The Bible exhorts us to embrace theses virtues. However, I find one articulated by de Botton particular interesting, especially against the backdrop of atheism. In explaining the reason for hope, de Botton writes, "Pessimism isn't necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow." Remember, according to de Botton, one of the needs of humans is to cope with the many pains of life, such as the death of a loved one and the realization of one's own demise.
I commend de Botton's attempt to be respectful to religion -- Christianity in particular. However, it is precisely here that I believe his ideas hit a snag.
When one rejects the existence of God, the reality of a Creator is utter nonsense. Hence, all that is in the earth, including human beings, is the product of matter or energy shaped by chance. There is no other explanation for the atheist. Continued...