War of the atheists

Posted on February 6, 2012 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

I am a bit reluctant to talk about religion on this blog as it is a sensitive subject (along with politics), but I cannot bear the ongoing religious debate anymore. I think it is a propaganda started by Richard Dawkins to divide our society into two groups: believers (in his eyes: ignorants) and non-believers (intellects/ rationalists like himself). The debate seemed to have cooled down until philosopher, Alain de Botton (who is everywhere these days) joined in, and now it is back in the limelight.

In many ways, I am glad that someone non-radical has spoken out against Dawkins because I am sure there are many of us who do not think that science has all the answers and that religions are complete nonesense. However, I am not entirely convinced by De Botton's plan for an atheist temple. He is making a loud statement against Dawkins, but is this adding fuel to a rather tedious and unnecessary debate?

I went to De Botton's talk on 'Religion for Atheists' last week, a talk to promote his new book of the same title. It was a longer version of his talk on Ted, however, I do agree with him on many points. i.e. atheists can learn a lot from what religions have to offer. One remark stuck in my head afterwards was his suggestion for 'religious tourism'. He asked, "Since culture has almost taken over as the new religion in our secular society, why can't we pick and choose what suits us best from different religions (without being disrespectful) like we do with culture?" Good point. I feel that I have been doing that for the past few years as I became more interested in Buddhism and Daoism. I do not consider myself a very religious person but I try to understand and integrate different ideas, teachings, values and practices i.e. meditation into my daily life (without being dogmatic), which subsequently, I think has made me a happier and better person. ( N.B. The concept of a belief-free and agnostic Buddhism is discussed in the book, "Buddhism without beliefs" written by former Buddhist monk, Stephen Batchelor.)

Naively, I wish that all human beings can live peacefully in spite of each others' skin colours, classes or religions, but I know it won't happen because of our egos and need for power/control. We always believe that we are right or know better and constantly want others to agree with us. If only we could see how pointless this is. Whether Dawkins likes it or not, religions are here to stay esp. during difficult times like now. Science cannot give support or comfort to those who are experiencing crisises or bereavements, whereas religions or their communities can. Sometimes, even spending ten minutes in a religious sanctuary such as a church, temple or mosque can be incredibly peaceful and healing regardless of your belief system. What Dawkins lack is empathy and tolerance, ironically, these are the qualities that many religions try to install in us.

Looking at it objectively, we can see that the fundamental issue is not to do with religions nor science but with us, human beings and our limited and egocentric mindsets.

Alain De Botton's Atheism 2.0 on Ted:




This post was posted in Talks and was tagged with talks, Alain de Botton