This guest post comes to you courtesy of Chris Pappalardo, The Summit’s Pastoral Research Assistant.
I listened to this Ted Talk recently from atheist Alain de Botton entitled “Atheism 2.0.” It’s a fascinating little piece, as de Botton argues (convincingly) that current secular atheism leaves people feeling empty. This is not terribly surprising for Christians, but is striking coming from a professed atheist.
What’s more, even though de Botton finds belief in God absurd, he recognizes that there are a lot of benefits to religion that secular atheism simply fails to deliver. People seem to require community, morality, and connection with something transcendent. And despite his objection to the underlying doctrines of Christianity, de Botton sees that Christianity provides these in ways that atheism has not.
De Botton incisively describes the existential problem of atheism: something within us inherently revolts against the idea that we are just a mass of cells, drifting from a random birth to a meaningless death. So he tries to co-opt the meaningful aspects of religion while ditching the foundational beliefs. He would like to see us pursue community, morality, and transcendence even though there is no basis at all to any of them. He wants the fruit of Christianity, but he is also busily hacking away at its roots.
This is, ultimately, a futile quest. I do not see how you can tell people that their existence is essentially identical to that of an animal, and then expect them not to live like animals. But judge for yourself: does he make a compelling case for “Atheism 2.0?”