5 February

Location: ANU Chaplaincy

Time: 10:30 am

The plan is to listen to Alain de Botton’s talk (‘Religion for Atheists – Atheism 2.0′; 19 min) at:

The talk is pretty much complete in itself.  I have downloaded an audio version that we can play at the meeting.  This may be a good ‘test the water’ exercise, for deciding whether we want to go further and look at the book, or others of Botton’s TED talks.
Botton’s talk raises interesting and I think important issues, some of which feature in the Holloway review at http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/holloway_02_12.php.  Questions that occur to me, interspersed between quotes from Botton, are:
A) Botton’s starting premise is “Of course there is no God?” In fact, Botton’s comments have relevance for all who reject dogmatic aspects of religion, whether or not they accept the label “atheist”.  There is here, maybe, a discussion for another time.
B) Botton suggests that religion has much to offer:
  1. “Where are we going to find voices of consolation, morality, guidance?”  Where, indeed?
  2. Is is true that current education is not about how to live?   Is it true that “we are only just holding is together?”
  3. How do you respond to the comments about Wesley?   Do we need to get back to sermons?
  4. What can we learn from religions as cultures of repetition? What are the uses and abuses of repetition?
  5. “We need to synchronise encounters”.  What are the encounters that, as UUs, we think really important?
  6. What ideas can we usefully take on board from the Pentecostal churches of the US South?
  7. “Bodily actions back up important ideas?”  What ideas might it be useful to back up in this way? What actions?
  8. Bad ideas are: ‘Art is for art’s sake.’  ‘Art should not explain itself.’  ‘For religion, art is telling you what you should love/hate.’  ‘Art should be didactic.’  Do you agree?
  9. “If you are involved in anything communal, look at what religions do.”  What are the positive lessons for communal action?
There is too much here for one session.  I suggest that we focus on 1, 2, 3 and if time permits 8.  It is open to the meeting to make a different choice.
C) Botton argues that there is room for something bigger than ourselves in Atheism 2.0, for ‘spiritual moments’.  What does he have in mind?
Botton’s conclusion: “Religion should not be abandoned to the [traditionally?] religious alone.”
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