Alain de Botton doesn’t believe in supernatural beings, but suggests that non-believers should change the way they think about religions and their followers. Through their religions, followers are seeking many of the sorts of things the secularists seek, or should seek.
Many people enjoy Christmas carols, old churches and the ritualistic and community aspects of religions, but don’t believe in any sorts of fairies. Until now, they were forced to live in “a spiritual wasteland” in order to partake of the parts of religion that they enjoy.
In this TED talk, De Botton suggests that atheism should be about sorting through religion and picking up the things that are worthwhile and ignoring the rest. Secularists intend to replace scripture with culture, but higher institutes of society, including institutes of learning see humans as rational adults needing only information and data rather than guidance and didactic learning. We do need guidance, though, and this is best delivered through some sort of scheduled and somewhat repetitive sermons rather than mere lectures (which deliver merely data and information).
We all need ritual, which can be a simple as scheduling that we look at the moon on a regular basis, to remind ourselves that we are small in a vast universe. In a religion, the ideas are delivered through a particular type of rhythmic talking, and physical actions and movements. Religions also recognize the importance in art. The modern world, through our system of museums and schools, puts art in a hermetic bubble and tries to explain art rather than allowing it to become a visceral encounter. Religion allows art to be didactic. In the modern world, artists tend to be isolated individuals, not collaborating their efforts through an organization. He adds that religions are big well-monied machines that can encourage this sort of collaboration–the secular world should consider similar collaborations for spreading ideas of higher meaning. He adds that there need not be any particular leaders for this effort–he offers that perhaps it can be done though a wiki.
Religion offers powerful communal advantages, even for those who don’t believe any of religious dogma. Religion offers a highly effective mechanism for spreading ideas. Atheism 2.0 can use these techniques to cultivate the idea that the world is about much more than any particular person.