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Atheist Temples

Atheist TempleHere's a hell of an idea. A philosopher, Alain de Botton, who already has earned a bit of a questionable reputation for saying that atheists should copy the trappings of religion, has pushed this idea even further into the ridiculous. He thinks there should be atheist temples. He's proposing a 46 meter tall black tower - 46 meters to symbolize the 4.6 billion year age of the Earth, with a millimeter thick band of gold at the bottom to represent humanity's existence.

I find this to be incredibly silly, and I'm not alone. The comments to the article linked to above are nearly all atheists ridiculing the idea. Pharyngula also has a blog entry on it, with over 100 comments so far saying how stupid they think the idea is.

I touched on this before in my review of The Year of Living Biblically, but it's worth repeating here since it's so relevant.

Atheism is only a big deal in the present, because religion is such a big deal. There are lots of other things people don't believe in, but nobody notices because there's no countering belief. Let me use an example. I realize there are still a handful of people who believe in fairies, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most people are a-fairiests. But nobody would propose building a museum or a temple dedicated to the non-belief in fairies.

Right now, us atheists are vocal because religion has so much undue influence in society. But if society gradually shifts to become more atheistic, as appears to be the case, eventually being an atheist will just be the default position, and nobody will make a big deal of it.

In my case, and in the case of many of the 'new' atheists, atheism is really only a side effect of other, positive values. We're committed to rationality, critical thinking, evidence, the wonders of the universe. But there are already grand buildings dedicated to those values - museums, universities, libraries. These aren't like temples in that people go there to worship, but they do provide a setting for those values to thrive. I'd much rather see money going to support those existing institutions than see it go to some cockamamie temple of non-belief.

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