Atheism 2.0: Alain de Botton on

Posted by: Ben Lillie

What aspects of religion should atheists (respectfully) adopt? Alain de Botton suggests a “religion for atheists” — call it Atheism 2.0 — that incorporates religious forms and traditions to satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2011, July 2011, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Duration: 19:20.)

Watch Alain de Botton’s talk on, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 1,000+ TEDTalks.

Comments (23)

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  • John Brown commented on Aug 23 2012

    Very amusing, particularly the application of concepts from commerce, like “branding” to religion.
    But what I find is that there is just so much Science out there that I need to know about, that I don’t want to spend time on systems of thought that are 1400 years or more old.
    I need to know about machine learning, Bayesian statistics, anti-oxidants, neuroscience, ontologies, linguistics, mathematical evolution, and lots more.
    What we need are more scientists who can explain how the way they look at the world is motivated by the theoretical models they learn within their specialist fields.
    We are getting there, slowly. Discovery TV no longer tells us more about sharks than we want to know, but does now explain how ecosystems function.
    Give us diversity in modelling. That way we can switch our models of the world to find those that work, and to develop new ones. Look what a mess the climatologists have made of selling us their current models. I cringe every time they assure us that “all 6 of the main climatic models agree on climate change”, without ever explaining the fundamentals of these models. Climatology already wants to be a new religion. We should discourage that sort of thing. And as for Economics, well all predictions have turned out wrong, haven’t they?

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  • Lynn Sawtelle commented on Jun 24 2012

    Refreshing to hear an atheist acknowledge the strong points of religion. As one who thinks the jury is still out on this issue, it’s good to see an intelligent argument from an atheist that we should avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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  • commented on Mar 17 2012

    Reblogged this on sunkissedmandarin.

  • commented on Mar 17 2012

    Reblogged this on Finding the "I". and commented:
    Alain de Botton, one of my favourite writers on TED, talking about the new atheism. He calls it Atheism 2.0.
    It is indeed a new way to look at things.

  • Joe Coffee commented on Feb 29 2012

    Terrible idea IMO. The minute atheism becomes a club with rules and guidelines and traditions with which members can judge, oppress, and terrorize each other, then it becomes a religion, whether god is involved or not. The beauty of atheism is that it’s not a club. It’s not even really a philosophy. It’s just a simple assertion–that there is not god. It’s that simple. I know our monkey instincts demand that we elaborate on that idea and turn it into an excuse to hate, control, and exclude, but we have to fight that urge, The day I have to listen to other atheists lecture me about the “rules” and how I’m not a “proper” atheist is the day this wonderful thought becomes just another church

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  • Abdelrahman Abudayyeh commented on Feb 19 2012

    We in islam we don’t get bored listening to the same verses for weeks!
    Indeed The Holy Quraan contains the things we seek to know in this life,
    it is intrepreting all of whats happening in the real life..
    Evidence, each friday, Muslims are advised to read Surat AlKahf (
    each time we read it, we feel we wanna repeat it, because it discuss 4 major things we face
    in life…

    And pls no that, with Islam there are no mystry… all explained in Holy Quraan…
    and our relegion didn’t ignore the disagreements, all discussed

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  • NICK PARADIS commented on Jan 28 2012

    This is an interesting video that goes to the heart of what motivated atheism. The speaker centers his talk on the premise that atheists do not accept or believe its teachings and so in rejecting religion also miss out on the good practical benefits of religion. The speaker goes on to suggest that atheism should try to create these good benefits of religion outside of religion so as to not miss out on them. This is an interesting proposal. However, wouldn’t a better solution be to examine why you can not accept the teaching of religion? and see if perhaps you could find a way to accept them? Wouldn’t that be a much better way to be able to receive the benefits of religion? The reality is that the perceived benefits of religion flow from the doctrines of religion. They are not incidental. Without the doctrine, atheistic people will never be able to achieve the same kind of peace they would within religion. It is foolish to think that atheism will be able to create the same kind of motivation and devotion that religion can.

    Furthermore, it seems obvious that the reason that atheistic people can not accept the doctrine is not that its irrational or implausible, it is that it will require a submission of their will to a higher standard and radical change in their lives. In defending a sort of false personal autonomy or individualism, they explain away the basis of religion to discredit it so they don’t have to accept the consequences of believing it. As a result, they miss out on the practical benefits of religion. The answer is not to try to create these benefits outside of religion but to find a way to accept the religion in the first place.

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  • commented on Jan 17 2012

    Question: if we construct a “religion” to “satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence” can it really satisfy. Or can only something given to us do that?

    • Ross Bagley commented on Jan 23 2012

      Since the simplest explanation for all existing religions is that they were constructed to “satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence”, I would say “Absolutely yes.”

      What Alain suggests is to simply strip out the mysticism (i.e. the arational, unverifiable and sometimes dangerous assertions) without losing the actually important parts of what religion provides to people.

      I’m a non-believer, but I’m also convinced that when we as a culture try to eliminate or trivialize ritual social interactions from our lives, we actually weaken ourselves as individuals and as members of communities.