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Atheist Temple: An Oxymoron?

Author Alain de Botton has plans of building a series of atheist worship temples around the city

Written by . Published on January 27th 2012.

Atheist Temple: An Oxymoron?

WHEN thinking of contradictions, a temple for atheists would surely come at the top of the list. Yet philosopher and writer, Alain De Botton, has proposed a series of temples to be built around the City, where atheists can go and worship er, science?

"Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?" he asks, "It’s time atheists had their own versions of the great churches and cathedrals."

In his most recent book, Religion for Atheists, de Botton calls for non-believers to demand the same grand architectural buildings as all the major religions to help inspire a sense of perspective in people. He chooses the financial heart of the capital because he believes it is where most people have seriously lost sight of life’s priorities.

"Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?" he asks, "It’s time atheists had their own versions of the great churches and cathedrals."

We’re all for equal rights, but what exactly are these temples for? 

"You can build a temple to anything that's positive and good... that could mean: a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective."

De Botton argues that in order to make atheism more attractive, supporters should feel free to pick and choose the aspects they like about religion and incorporate them into atheism. There should be less damnation of the unrighteous and a little more spectacular landscaping.

"Even the most convinced atheists tend to speak nicely about religious buildings," said De Botton. "They may even feel sad that nothing like them gets built nowadays. But there's no need to feel nostalgic. Why not just learn from religions and build similarly beautiful and interesting things right now?" 

Plans for the first shrine, Temple to Perspective, designed in collaboration with Tom Greenall, are already underway. De Botton’s 46-metre-tall black tower will commemorate more than 300 million years of mankind's existence. Each centimetre of the tower's interior has been designed to symbolize a million years and a narrow band of gold will portray the relatively brief amount of time humans have walked the earth.

Sounds like the beginnings of an art installation, unlikely to nudge any agnostic Londoners in the direction of atheism, or convince religious advocates to ‘see the light’ as it were.

If permission is granted by the Corporation of London, construction could start by the end of 2013.


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