Athiesm and Secular Religion

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As we move into an increasingly Secular age, the questions raised in this article by Alan de Botton Comte’s Secular Religion are very timely.
As someone with an avid interest in Philosophy and Religion, I find it very uplifting to notice that huge swaths of people are reading Hitchens, and there is renewed interest in even Papal texts. Perhaps this is a post September 11th thing, or perhaps there always was the market for these sorts of ideas, its just that in a TED World, these ideas are easier to access.
However the points raised by Comte in regards that we should see what the beautiful and useful parts of Religion are, are powerful, creative and tolerant. Words which we don’t associate with some of the polemicists in the ‘New Athiests’ camp. Learning compassion, morality, and extending our sphere of concern (a la Peter Singer to other parts of the world. For instance many of my Catholic family members and friends give money during Lent to the Third World. And some of the most efficiently organised charities are of a religious bent. There is more to life that Rationalism, the pursuit of Financial Reward and the pursuit of Romantic Love. There is Maritial Love, Brotherly Love, Empathy, Charity, Courage and Duty. If we live increasingly Secular Lives, this doesn’t mean that we need to live increasingly selfish or amoral lives. Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes the point in some of his writings on ‘Black Swans’ that Religion protected us from our Selfishness, Ignorance and Egotism. I don’t know how true that is, but I don’t know how else people develop wisdom and morality – essential things which we’ll need more of in the 21st century, without some sort of structured contemplation.

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