art & photography discussions

Temple for Atheists

I tweeted this earlier:

Plans to build a £1m “temple for atheists” among the international banks and medieval church spires of the City of London have sparked a clash between two of Britain’s most prominent non-believers.

The philosopher and writer Alain de Botton is proposing to build a 46-metre (151ft) tower to celebrate a “new atheism” as an antidote to what he describes as Professor Richard Dawkins’s “aggressive” and “destructive” approach to non-belief.

Rather than attack religion, De Botton said he wants to borrow the idea of awe-inspiring buildings that give people a better sense of perspective on life.

I found the backlash against it rather strange and misguided, because I think at heart it’s such a wonderful idea.

Put aside what one thinks atheists should or should not believe (a rather ironic debate, I find); and, put aside the word ‘temple’, which I think most atheists seemed to get upset about. What a great structure – something with purpose: to focus a sense of awe of the world and one’s place in it (where otherwise that might be forgotten easily), or to a sentiment such as love, while still adhering to our current understanding of physics or evolution (even though science and religious faith are not mutually exclusive anyway). It’s a union of science and the artistic soul, and does not force these ideas upon others.

I think we might also put aside the ‘oh but money can be better spent elsewhere’ argument, too – the temple will not be built with our taxes, and besides, that attitude can be applied to most things in our lives. If only we all spent our money (or even banked our money) in such profound ways… Finally, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to enter it.

De Botton said he chose the country’s financial centre because he believes it is where people have most seriously lost perspective on life’s priorities… This is a more constructive atheism than Dawkins, who is about the destruction of ideas rather than contributing new ones.

Is that so bad, to encourage people to look at life in a different way?

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

16 replies on “Temple for Atheists”

Me, I’m an atheist, and consider much ‘religious’ belief delusional.  Mind you, I tend to think that believing you can build a nearly 50m tall tower on the most expensive real-estate in the UK for only a million pounds is also delusional.

I’m not hot on the design, although maybe it would look cool when finished. It looks kind of like a Giant Black Pylon of Doom, which is probably not the image we atheists want to convey.

It’s not so much the inevitable phallic nature of a tower as the fact it is serves no purpose other than to act as a monument to one man’s deluded vanity. It is pointless and self-important – just like de Botton.

If it does somehow get built, we totally need to have someone do a Laser Rock Show on top of it, complete with huge amounts of smoke coming out of the top.

The skyline is littered with monuments to deluded vanity (which then later becomes something more), but I disagree with its pointlessness. Debate, discussion, a fertile zone for ideas… those are not bad things.  

Not a bad idea, since century-old cathedrals are still some of the most beautiful buildings in the Western world, and most modern architecture looks as though created by happenstance by animals that poo concrete. I guess you could say we need a… SENSAWUNDA.

Ah, but I like to think that modern buildings grow over time. People thought Brutalist architecture was terrible in its day, but I think it’s rather lovely… (That’s probably not the best example.) 

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